FEYC Director Message
- Written by Nick Miller
As a freshman in college, I played soccer and, consequently, ran a great deal. One of my favorite routes was along the asphalt paths that trekked through the woods around the campus. It was along those paths that I learned a lesson that has stuck with me ever since.
You see, to either side of the tidy, paved path was Florida dirt – what the rest of the world calls sand. As those runs became a routine, I noticed that most days there were tracks in the sand from some madman running off the path. The tracks lasted about halfway through my run, and then they just…stopped.
For weeks, I ran next to those tracks and wondered why someone would punish themselves by running through sand when there was a perfectly easy path just inches away. Nor could I figure out why they ended only halfway through the course.
Then, on a morning following a particularly awful game, I set out to run and clear my mind. The tracks were also out that morning, and needing to burn off my frustration, I decided to run the sand as well. It was tough, but I have to admit, it was somehow encouraging to look back and see tracks of my own being left behind.
The run was going well, and I had already decided to continue in the sand even past where the original tracks stopped. As I reached where the tracks usually stopped, however, I was surprised to find that they didn’t stop. Being off the pavement, I could now see that the tracks continued – though not as defined – in the dirt on the other side of the bushes. Without a second thought, I hopped the bushes and followed the tracks.
The new path was not cleared very well, and you could tell that whoever had been making it had really struggled to fight through the roots and branches of the surrounding trees. Half a mile later, though, a break in the woods appeared at the top of a small hill. There, I came to a stop.
The clearing at the top held a small creek with an incredible view. There wasn’t a mother and baby deer lapping at the water beside a lion or anything, but it was beautiful. It became a very special place to me, and after that day, I went there often when I needed time to myself.
More importantly, though, the entire experience provided me with a valuable lesson. I realized that, while paved paths serve a purpose, they always lead to the same places. Sometimes we need to leave those paths in order to get to something better, even if it’s tougher going. The result benefits not only us but also those who come after us – especially those not able to make a new path themselves.
This philosophy has served me well. It’s the reason I’m even here in this beautiful state. And it was this philosophy that led the Elks of Florida to build this incredible facility. I mean, two state projects? How much easier would it have been to just stick with one? No one would have ever faulted us, and we still would have helped kids.
The Elks of Florida are a special breed, though. Almost 30 years ago now, we stepped off the path and forged a new one, here, through the Marion County wilderness. That decision to build this camp has led us to touch the lives of more than 100,000 children in the last 30 years.
I am truly proud to be a part of this great organization, and I am beside myself with excitement for what we’ll do over the next three decades.
So, please take a moment with me to look back over your shoulder. Smile. Take pride in the tracks we’ve left – at all the children following those tracks to something better. And then, join with us in making new ones.
Nick Miller, Director
Florida Elks Youth Camp