It's the end of an era at a popular Vermont summer camp

By  | 

SHARON, Vt. (WCAX) Today is the last day of the season at Camp Downer in Sharon. The co-ed camp is extremely popular. When registration opens, all 1,000 spots are filled in less than 10 minutes.

Sherry and Mitch Mitchell

But Friday marked the end of an era at the camp. Our Olivia Lyons spoke with beloved camp directors Sherry and Mitch Mitchell as they prepared to hand over the reins.

Camp Downer is a fun, safe place in the Downer State Forest in Sharon where kids totally unplug, can be themselves, take on responsibilities and learn new skills.

"I'm proud of this camp and I'm proud of the people, I'm proud of the staff, I'm proud of the kids and I think it's going to go on for a lot more years," Harold "Mitch" Mitchell said.

"Agreed," Sherry Mitchell said.

In 1980, the camp was having financial and maintenance issues. Sherry and Mitch said they would run it for five years; they didn't expect to stay for 40 summers.

"It's been a wonderful thing for us," Mitch said.

"Forty years went by very quickly," Sherry agreed.

Emily Myers went to Camp Downer for 14 years-- first as a camper, then as a counselor. Mitch and Sherry are training her to take over as director.

"The buildings will always be here, camp is always going to be here, but they're the ones who created that, fostered that and through their love and support, it's still growing," Emily said. "So I want to thank them for making camp what it is today and what it will be in the future."

The Mitchells figure they've seen about 30,000 kids over the past 40 years and they say even if you came only one time, you're still a part of the Downer family.

"They're awesome. They're just like such nice people and like whenever I see them around they're always like smiling or just having a great time with what they're doing here," said Ryan Vallee, a fourth-year camper. "I'm gonna miss them a lot."

Several former campers met their spouses at the camp and now send their kids.

"You don't know how many weddings we've gone to," Sherry said.

"Sometimes two a day," Mitch said.

Reporter Olivia Lyons: How does it make you feel knowing that you've created this special home for people over the past 40 years?
Mitch Mitchell: Wow, you just brought some tears.
Sherry Mitchell: Sorry.

Mitch and Sherry say it's time for a new director. They're in their 70s. They say they can't physically do everything they used to and that's not fair to the campers.

"The camp needed some new ideas and new blood," Mitch said.

This is not goodbye forever for the Mitchells, they will continue to stay involved with the camp they call paradise.