Zach lived in Colorado his whole life without ever going to the mountains



Zach and his CASA Tonya

Zach is 12 and into all things tech. So when I asked last spring if he wanted to go to camp, he claimed he couldn’t live without his phone for a week and dismissed the idea with a shrug and an eye roll to be sure I understood he was too cool to even consider it. But, since I’m his Court Appointed Special Advocate and too old to be cool, I kept bringing it up. I showed him pictures, pulled up activity descriptions and, eventually, he didn’t dismiss it. By the end of school, he agreed to go and even seemed excited. Milton Foster Children’s Fund approved the request to send him to the YMCA’s Camp Shady Brook, he borrowed a sleeping bag, and he was ready to go.

But when I picked him up on Sunday, his “too cool for camp” attitude was back. As we drove to camp, he didn’t say much, wouldn’t admit to looking forward to anything, and mostly looked out of the window. But, as we drove into the mountains, on the tight, tree-filled switchbacks, Zach transformed. His nose pressed against the window, the questions tumbled out quickly – Is that a deer? Are those cows in that campsite? Look at all those trees! Who lives out here? Look at that water! Are those flowers or weeds? Why are they there? Did someone plant them? Look at those people in the water? Are those inner tubes? Did they have to pay for that? Is it like Elitch’s or can anybody just be here?

As we pulled Camp Shady Brook, he noted the fresh smell, the running water, the cabins, all the kids with sleeping bags. He dropped his suitcase and ran over to a stream to see the flowing water up close and he said he loved the sound.

I told Zach that it seemed like he was in his natural habitat. And that’s when he told me he’d never been in the mountains. Despite living in Colorado Springs his whole life, Zach was experiencing the joy and beauty of the mountains we all love for the first time.

~Court Appointed Special Advocate, Tonya Lark