The Edmond Sun

Features

March 29, 2013

Kamp Kanukuk: A place where dreams are made

EDMOND — A former Edmond resident is living her dream.

For Susan Vermillion following her sister, Anne, to Kamp Kanukuk in Branson, Mo., when she was 9 years old was a dream come true. Anne had attended the year before when she was 9, and after going with her parents to pick up her sister when camp had ended, Susan knew that was where she wanted to go the next year.

“My sister and two friends of the family first went to Kamp Kanukuk when she was a 9-year-old camper and Kanakuk was a huge part of her life,” Susan said. “When I went with my parents to pick her up she was so excited about camp, and she was full of energy as she showed us everything she had done the previous weeks.”

Susan said she saw the longest water slide she had ever seen and the swimming pool was awesome — wonderful things to turn the head of a 9-year-old.

Susan’s camp experiences started when she was 9 years old, like her sister, and lasted until she was 17 years old. After graduating from Memorial High School in 1999 she was a Kanukuk staff counselor in Training School. She attended the  University of Oklahoma for a year and then served as a Kanakuk staff counselor for the next two years.

Susan graduated from OU with a degree in advertising and went to work in the marketing field and joined Kanakuk Leadership in 2012.

“The experiences I had and the people I met have helped shape my life and those things have continued to shape my life,” Susan said. “I moved to Branson in December, and I’m the communications director for Kamp Kanukuk.”

Susan said she made friends as a Kanukuk camper that she still corresponds with including friends she made in her cabin.

“I still keep in contact with three of the girls,” Susan said, and she still remembers the fun she had during those summers and looks forward to camp beginning this summer.

“There are so many activities to take part in including participating in the challenge course or gymnastics, riding zip lines, practicing on the archery range or playing tennis, water skiing and canoeing to name only a few,” Susan said.

Susan said although she has worked for other companies she always knew she wanted to work for a brand she truly loved, she just couldn’t decide which one.

Prior to joining the Kanakuk team, Vermillion served as a senior director of client partnership at Ansira Partners LLC (formerly Razor) in Dallas, leading the Domino’s Pizza account. Other notable experience includes her position as management supervisor and associate director of client services at Ackerman McQueen Advertising Agency. She also is the principal of Vermillion Consulting + Coaching, her own consulting firm that she launched after working as a brand manager at Sonic Drive-In Industries, both in Oklahoma City.

“I always believed in the mission of Kanukuk and when this opportunity presented itself I said, ‘What brand do I love more than the brand that changed my life?’” Vermillion said.

“I am excited to start a new chapter of my career within Kanakuk,” Vermillion said. “Having the opportunities to facilitate and lead a team to shape national brands communications has been invaluable and I am looking forward to using my experiences at Kanakuk.”

Campers are as young as 7 years of age who come for as little as one week or for as long as 28 days.

“As a camper gets older they may want to choose a tri-athlete schedule to participate in,” Susan said.

As a younger camper Susan said she cried every night for four years, usually after letter writing.

“My parents knew it was part of the character building process that I was going through,” Susan said.

There are five main campgrounds nestled in the hills surrounding Branson, Mo., and the camp capacity is 10,000 throughout the summer months. All 50 states are represented. In one camp the campers live in teepees that hold 12 campers.  

 “We have a lot of parents who give the gift of camp as a birthday or Christmas present,” Susan said. “Our parents sent us for the first two weeks, but after the first two weeks in order to stay two additional weeks, my sister and I did extra chores to pay for those.

“All of the counselors have to attend one year of college, and we have a lot of staff interacting with the campers.”

Susan said working at camp in the summer prepared her more for life by learning conflict resolution, interacting with others, multi-tasking and about being a mom.

Susan’s mom, Sarah Vermillion, is a first-grade teacher at Chisholm Elementary and Susan said her mother is a “huge advocate” for Edmond Public Schools and Kanakuk.  

Sarah said she appreciated the counselors and their encouragement and discipleship.

“The staff at Kamp Kanukuk supported the same things I believed in,” Sarah said. “My girls got really good advice from role models closer to their age. I was a big time camper when I was growing up. I wanted a Christian camp they would enjoy and this Christian Sports Camp met the criteria. After we met the camp leaders we wanted it and they did also.”

Susan said that as a staff leader she is excited and ready for the campers to arrive this summer.

FOR MORE information about attending Kamp Kanukuk, go to kanakuk.com.

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