Camper Spotlight: Keith
by Bob Levey
For eight consecutive summers, Keith Herbert has been riding a bus from his home in Maryland to Camp Moss Hollow.
For eight consecutive summers, he has bounced a basketball on the same court, hiked the same wooded trails and eaten the same homemade fruit pies.
You might think it would grow boring after a while. If you think that, you don’t know Keith Herbert and the allure he always finds at “The Hollow.”
“I just love coming back, every year,” says Keith, a smiling, fit 14-year-old who favors blue shirts and black high-top sneakers. “Here, there’s no Internet, no nothing. it’s just you and your friends.”
Keith pauses and recites a slogan that has been part of Moss Hollow since it opened 50 years ago. The slogan is found right near the front gate, etched in wood.
“You can always find a friend at The Hollow,” the sign says.
Keith Herbert nods as he recalls those words. “It’s been true for me, every year,” he says.
Keith lives in Riverdale, MD, a seen-better-days suburb inside the Beltway in Prince George’s County. He is a rising junior in high school.
He shyly admits that he’s a popular person around school-in part because he expects to be the starting quarterback for the high school football team this fall. He loves to start his pre-season training at Moss Hollow, and throughout the summer of 2016, he has been running, stretching and toning. “Getting fit is just one more reason why I love this place,” he says.
Keith doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo about being a young person and being welded to electronic devices. When he comes to Moss Hollow, he is more than willing to set his phone and his games aside.
“It’s most definitely worth” going without electronics for days on end, Keith says. “You get to see the beauty all around you. You don’t need the Internet to have fun.”
As Keith says this, a mid-summer breeze rustles the trees near the amphitheater where he’s sitting. Wildflowers grow right beside his feet. Birds chirp. Insects chatter. Moss Hollow is a very long way from the often crowded, often dirty streets of Riverdale.
As steeped as he now is in the rhythms of Moss Hollow, Keith isn’t too old to remember the first time he arrived there.
“The first time, you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he says. “There are so many new kids. It’s sometimes hard at first to keep a smile on your face.”
But very soon, for him and for thousands of other children over the years, it isn’t hard at all.
“You feel the love,” says Keith. “You feel the friendship. They always greet you with open arms. You just don’t want to go home.”
Next summer, Keith Herbert will be old enough to become a counselor-in-training. He says there’s no question that he will apply.
“Yes, it’s paid,” he says. “But I wouldn’t do it for the money. I’d do it for free.”
In the years ahead, Keith hopes to become a fully fledged Moss Hollow counselor. Then he hopes to join the programming staff. He wants to give back to tomorrow’s young campers what he has experienced himself.
They, too, can get out of the house during the summer. They, too, can meet new people, learn to share, learn to cooperate, learn to work in teams. They, too, can become part of the Moss Hollow alumni club-some 30,000 strong.
“Moss Hollow,” he muses. “You know, I want it to be part of myself forever.”