One of the things we hear often from our staff is how lessons learned from La Vida can transfer to many other experiences and can apply to many different age groups. Staff may work for us one summer and then have various jobs and cross-cultural experiences before they return again. They carry the impact with them in future jobs, friendships and experiences. For Hannah Donnelly, she has found that she’s grateful for how La Vida has impacted her past campers, her family and her perspective on the world.

Hannah’s La Vida experience began with her canoe expedition in the Adirondacks before her freshman year at Gordon College. In May of 2019, she went back to the Adirondacks to serve as a trip leader before serving as a counselor and waterfront specialist for Adventure Camp. Getting to see the campers multiple times a week as a lifeguard gave her the opportunity to help out with camp in other ways when she didn’t have a group. Many activities and games on the waterfront, such as gunnel jumping, were not only fun but a great opportunity for team-building. “I loved teaching the campers to ‘gunnel up’. It’s a relatively simple hard skill that lends itself to so many other lessons. When you yell ‘Gunnel up!’, they have to make a giant raft of boats. It is a skill that forces the kids to literally come together. They need to work together to make their way to the gunnel, face the same direction and hold fast to each other to make a straight gunnel that won’t curve or blow away in the wind.” Lessons like this happen naturally in Adventure Camp, as many of the activities require campers to work together as a team.

Her favorite week, in particular, was when her 12-year old brother, Luke, participated as a camper. “My brother is 12 and a wrestler and football player. He’s a really great kid but also in a stage where deep thoughts are few and far between, yet he was enthralled with his experience at camp. When I asked him about his week, he said he loved mountain biking and faced a major fear of heights on the high ropes course and in the Rock Gym. After a couple of minutes, he said to me, ‘Hannah, I’ve never felt so much love or given so much love at once in my life’.” That moment made working at Adventure Camp especially meaningful for Hannah. “Kids are really drawing deep from the riches that can come through time with people, the outdoors and having fun, all while living and learning together,” says Donnelly.

One of Hannah’s biggest encouragement to campers is to try and connect with those who they may not already know. “I would encourage returning campers at Adventure Camp to go with friends and have a great time with them, but also to look around (especially in your group) for those who are new or seem to be at camp alone. Notice them and invite them into the game or activity that you are doing. Very often these little things can brighten someone’s whole week, and you may even make a new friend too. Adventure Camp is a place to welcome everyone, and it’s cool to remember that you were once welcomed for the first time and then be able to show that to others and share what La Vida and Adventure Camp is all about.”


Hannah just came back from a semester abroad in Seville, Spain. While taking classes in Spanish history and literature, she found that she enjoyed simply being there and sharpening her language and people skills. The values La Vida taught her still lingered as she journeyed through her Spanish experience. Living with people of different backgrounds all summer was helpful, and she found the idea “Be Here Now” was especially useful in Spanish culture. “The entire La Vida philosophy is so applicable to daily life,” Hannah says. “ ‘Be Here Now’ really shaped my goal setting for the semester before I had left the U.S. and grounded me as I navigated Spanish culture which is a much slower and more lingering culture than ours. Before arriving in Spain, I didn’t anticipate how much my life would change– God was truly the only constant and the encouragement to ‘Hold Fast’ to him was crucial to my transition. He certainly held fast to me.”

This summer, Hannah will again be working with La Vida and will continue to implement the lessons she’s learned over the years. This time, she’ll spend her summer in the Adirondacks leading canoeing and hiking trips. For campers planning to do the Adirondack Leadership Program, you can count on seeing her there!

By DJ McCarthy ’20, La Vida Intern