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Coming to Camp Duncan was like coming home

Cassie “Adair” Brown stands in the empty room gazing up at the vaulted ceiling and thinks to herself, “This is home.” She feels ready for the challenge and knows this is where she wants to be.

On this day, Brown visits Camp Duncan for Girls in Aberdeen as a prospective Chief. Seeing online that Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) was searching for women chiefs for the girls camp surprised her; she did not know that Camp Duncan existed. But the boys wilderness camping program had figured largely in her growing up years.

Pans rattle in the nearby kitchen. The familiar sounds transports the 23-year-old recent North Carolina Central University graduate to her childhood when she went with her grandmother, Lucy Kelly, to Cameron Boys Camp (CBC). “Mom Lucy” served 20 years at the camp cooking meals and helping to do the boys’ laundry.

“I learned how to fold towels and wash clothes at Cameron Boys Camp, standing on a stool beside my grandmother,” Brown recalls. “And the smells from the kitchen, I can still smell them today.”

Brown remembers bonfires, party nights and attending family day. Before she started elementary school, she spent lots of time at the boys camp. She knew Chief Paul Daley and his family when he was CBC director and recalls a homemade ice cream social at the Daley’s home.

“What has stuck with me over the years is how the people –– the directors, chiefs and social workers –– helped the boys,” Brown says. “It impressed me how they were family, and my grandmother was part of that family. The boys and chiefs loved her. She loved them. And I felt loved, too.”

The visit comes to a close. Brown gathers with the girls and their chiefs outside for a cookout lunch. BCH president Michael C. Blackwell and his wife Catherine are visiting Camp Duncan, and they join Brown as guests for the noon meal.

Now serving as the director of Camp Duncan, Daley introduces Brown to Blackwell. Chief Paul tells Blackwell about Brown being Mom Lucy’s granddaughter. He shares how the prospective Chief is also an up-and-coming Christian musical artist who has released two singles under her name “Adair.”

“Dr. Blackwell immediately requested that I sing,” Brown laughs. “Talk about putting me on the spot –– I was really honored.”

Brown performs a cappella one verse and the chorus from her first single “Let God In.”

Her audience loves it and Dr. Blackwell gives two thumbs up.

“It was amazing how we all connected,” Brown remembers. “I was so in love with everything by the end of my visit –– the girls, the leaders, Camp Duncan.”

As Brown is leaving, Blackwell catches up to her to tell her that he hopes she is praying about becoming a Chief. “He told me that there was a place for me with BCH. He told me that I would be following in my grandmother’s footsteps – I almost cried.”

On October 4, 2016, Brown officially became “Chief Cassie.”

Now almost two years later, Chief Cassie reflects on both the ups and downs of her experience. “It is hard to find words. My life has been truly touched.”

“Camp has helped me as I have helped the girls,” Chief Cassie says. “I have confronted issues in my heart about being hurt by my own family. God made me a better person and helped me grow deeper in my faith.”

In very real ways, Chief Cassie continues Mom Lucy’s legacy of love.

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