Denise Hammond is most definitely the coolest mom I know, hands down. I’m pretty sure my kids would agree. Denise is a 100% cowgirl. That takes her to the highest level of cool in my book. You don’t find too many of those gals around here.
I had the privilege of meeting Denise last fall and she is one of those people who you just adore the first five minutes you spend with her. Her personality is infectious, she’s always smiling and she loves her critters more than anything on the planet. Denise lives on a full-on farm in South Charlotte for nine months of the year. The other three? She hauls her brood up to Boomer, NC and runs the only certified dude ranch in the SouthEast, the YMCA Camp Harrison at Herring Ridge.
Denise’s passion for her animals, children and faith resonate in everything she puts her hands on. You know when you meet someone who is PERFECTLY placed in her career? That’s Denise. She makes Camp Harrison the best it can be each and every single day.
I will have the joy of being a part of the second annual M.O.M. on the Mountain program at Camp Harrison the first week of August (more on that to come!). And I cannot wait. Neither can my kids. My girls are thrilled beyond belief that they are spending seven days with horses. They asked for nothing other than cowboy boots for their birthdays this summer – real cowboy boots.
Smarties, it’s my honor to introduce you to Denise Hammond!
Denise’s Smarty Mom Stats
Mom of: Hunter (Sophomore, age 16) Cole (7th grade, age 13)
Married to: Ken for almost 19 years. Best husband ever!!!
Years in Charlotte: Since 1990
Hood: Ballantyne (we live on a farm just 1 mile from Ballantyne Country Club)
Hometown: Born and raised in Hudson, Ohio
Occupation: Associate Executive Director of Camp Harrison
Tell us how you started with Camp Harrison.
After retiring from the YMCA in 2000 as the Dowd Y’s Health Enhancement Director, I started a Women’s ministry with Forest Hill Church and later Farm Camps for both adults and kids. When a previous YMCA boss approached me regarding coming back to the Y’s, specifically Camp Harrison, I knew this was a way to do both ministry and Farm life all at one place. I have always loved the Y’s and now I get to have all my loves in my life at once!
Tell us about the different tracks at Camp Harrison.
As a parent with two totally different kids, with different interests we at Camp Harrison (CH) knew that was the case in most families. Camp Harrison decided to offer different mountain “Tracks” to appeal to kids with different passions. All of the different tracks will experience the water activities in the afternoon yet focus on their areas of passion in the morning.
•The Dude Ranch is a total working farm and homestead experience. Ranchers will experience life on a farm, collect eggs from the hen house, feed, groom and condition farm animals, horseback trail riding, fishing, creeking, hiking, gardening, picnicking and lastly, Ranchers will sleep in the Tee Pee Village at least once a week.
•Farm To Feast: “Taste and See that it is good”, is our motto! Campers will work the gardens at the Dude Ranch, learn not only garden skills but also culinary skills as well. These campers will have the opportunity to work with professionals in both the culinary arts as well as horticulture. They will make fresh salsa, hummus, lemonade, smoothies (after gathering fresh berries),learn the art of grilling, learn knife skills, make a cowboy breakfasts after a night of sleeping in the Tee Pee Village and finally, bake a surprise for the entire camp for closing camp fire and Friday night banquett. We love our FF track, as the rest of the camp benefits from these future chefs and master gardeners!
•BTR: (Beyond The Ridge) Teen Leadership backpacking adventure. Teens (13 and up) set up at base camp on Sunday, pack and redistribute weight among each others pack, eat a hardy meal together then head out on Monday morning for a 4 day backpacking/hiking trip, covering the ridge line, then make their descent on Thurs. evening; take showers in the waterfalls and meet the rest of camp for evening programming at main camp. Teens will learn not only camping and survival skills but more importantly, they will learn to own their faith and gain great social and life skills.
•Vet Camp: These future vets will love the educational side of Camp Harrison. This track is taught by our DVM and they gain up to 30 credit hours towards vet school. These future vets will learn anatomy and physiology, medicine administration, witness and participate in a surgery and of course RIDE our beautiful trails!
•Sportsman Track: This is for the avid fisherman and hunter, not to mention, one who loves to shoot clays with a loaded gun! These Sportsmen and ladies will earn their Hunter’s Safety certification while at camp. Everyday is a day filled with fishing, target casting and target shooting as well as archery. The Clay shooting range is quite amazing and these sportsmen will learn about gun safety, loading, shooting, cleaning as well as storing guns. This is quite an amazing new addition to Camp Harrison!
•Traditional Camp Harrison: This is a track for those new to camp and those that love a bit of everything! Hiking, zip lines, high ropes course, paintball, arts and crafts, general athletics, mountain biking and more. Age is 6-16 and we can meet each camper at the level they are at.
How have your boys been involved at Camp Harrison?
Last year Hunter volunteered all summer as a CIT (Counselor In Training) and this year he is actively involved as a Jr. Counselor for the BTR (Beyond The Ridge) teen leadership backpacking adventure track.
Cole is very involved with the Dude Ranch and truly is the keeper of the goats and chickens! Cole has been a great student and participant in the launching of the Sportsman Track and is actively involved there as well! Everyday is camp for Cole! We like to say, “A bad day at camp beats a great day anywhere else!”
What differentiates Camp Harrison from other sleep away camps?
We are an outdoor interactive adventure camp and all of our Traditional Camp Harrison activities feed into the Tracks we offer. This allows campers to grow up with us and hopefully become passionate about an area and want to work with us in the future! We are about developing long term relationships and passions/giftedness!
What is a typical day like at Camp Harrison?
We wake early and hit the land activites/Tracks until lunch. After a fun-filled lunch, we take a short relaxing break in our cabins, get recharged by some yummy treats in the Canteen, then hit the water activities until the dinner bell brings us in! Night time is the best! At night we have evening programs and sleep outs. During night programming we develop our message of God’s love for each person. If we send out the message, God loves and knows each of them by name and has created them for a purpose, then we have done our job!
Is financial aid available?
Absolutely, our Board is committed to raise scholarship funds so that nobody is turned away. We are always in the mode of raising money for our YMCA camps!
I am super excited about the M.O.M. on the Mountain program. Tell us how this was born.
If you want the absolute truth, it started because we had such a dramatic change in programming and numbers last year that we needed extra ears and eyes on the camp. We are 2300 acres and as a mom, I wanted that “mom eye” to watch over camp and provide good parental discernment. It has grown into such an amazing program that we now have typically 4 moms on the mountain (M.O.M.) per session that are not only just extra eyes and ears they are also extra loving arms to both campers and staff. These M.O.M.’s are the liaisons to the parents by taking pictures, sending messages and mail to the campers as well as helping with night and daytime programming. We LOVE our M.O.M.’s!
What weeks still have openings? Sessions 5, 8 and 9.
Now for some funnier questions to get to know you…who is your celebrity crush?
I will run away with Keith Urban and want to play guitar like Sheryl Crow.
If you wrote a parenting manual, the title would be…
Small changes make a huge change in lifestyle!… My Dude Ranch team would say the title would be, “YOU CAN DO THIS” that’s sort of my saying at the Dude Ranch and it’s true!
First thing that pops into your head when I say “mom”?
Behavioral trait you hope your children don’t inherit from you?
UUUGH how loud I am…I am told often to use my “inside voice”
Funniest thing your kids have ever said?
This is true…Get the goat out of the refrigerator and back into the shower! They decided to wash Jessie one night and he broke out and stuck his head into the refrigerator…we do live in a barn!
Favorite kid’s movie?
Finding NEMO or UP
Household appliance you could not live without?
Coffee maker or French Press
Truthfully, Red wine and chocolate (my counselors would say caffeine)
Smarties, there are still openings for weeks 5, 8 & 9 (I’ll be there week 8, yippee!). For more information on Camp Harrison, visit:
YMCA CAMP HARRISON AT HERRING RIDGE
7901 S NC Hwy 18
Boomer, NC 28606
OR watch this video, you’ll be hooked!