2021 Reunion, August 18 – 20
Camp Deerwoode for Boys, operated by Bill & Elizabeth Mayes, ran from 1966 to 1991. For 25 years, every summer, boys of all ages, attended camp at Deerwoode. Some began as young as 6 years old, and attended as a camper, then worked their way to JC – Junior Counselor, and then Counselor. The group has been having reunions at Deerwoode beginning in 2003 with the last one taking place in 2019. They honestly thought there would never be another reunion when the Mayes listed their property for sale.
After purchasing the property and learning of the rich history this land and the impact it had on so many men, when they were boys, we absolutely had to keep the tradition of the Camp Deerwoode reunions going. As the 2021 reunion weekend began, we were eager to meet and talk to all the guys. We spent time hanging out with everyone, wanting to hear stories from the old camp days and learn what camp life was like and especially memories they had of Bill & Liz.
We quickly learned this camp was like no other summer camp. It wasn’t about the fun activities, outings, playing with friends or silly childhood games. This camp was serious. In this camp, boys learned how to become men. They learned there are rules to follow, and consequences for breaking those rules. They learned there was no grey area while at Deerwoode; it was very black & white. Many of the guys said that once you passed the front entrance to Deerwoode, they left the uncertainty of the world behind, because at Deerwoode there was only right and wrong, no in-between.
Other principles they learned were problem solving, decision making and how to stand up for yourself. The guiding theme of camp was physical fitness. The daily activities were created to test one’s physical capabilities, they would endure rigorous physical training workouts, and work to improve their skills. Boys would be celebrated as they improved their personal best records. They played sports of all kinds and worked out in the gym. The consequences consisted of “blade duty” where one would have to cut grass in a field manually using swing blade and other physical punishments or extra work assignments.
Don’t get me wrong, these are young boys and there were stories of some crazy capture the flag games across the 175 acre property, canoeing the river, gathering with the girls camp for a dance, sheep riding, lots of other stories that just didn’t make sense unless you were there, and the legend of Cracker Jack. They also fondly talk about Liz, who ran the craft shop, and taught them all how to make pottery, that most to this day still have!
But the overall lasting memory for these men was the “experience” of camp. How it changed them. How it made them look at the world around them. How they problem solved and tried to use the principles learned at Deerwoode in their everyday lives. How to be responsible for yourself and accountable for your own actions. These are the life lessons Bill built into his summer camp program. This was his mission.
Bill is lovingly referred to as T.M. – The Man! Everyone calls him T.M. Bill built a community; a culture at Deerwoode. These “Deerwoode Boys” have remained friends over the years, they keep in contact, and carry with them this bond they have from attending camp that is like no other. All of this is because of one man. The Man. Bill Mayes decided in his twenty’s that he would move his young family from Texas to Brevard, NC, and open a camp to turn boys into men. Bill made this his mission, and he was quite successful as we hear about the impact he had on these men’s lives. Bill was a mentor to all these men, and for some, he was the main father figure in their young lives. He motivated them, encouraged them, he was tough on them too, and he celebrated their successes.
The result is a legacy beyond measure. It is impossible to count the ways Bill positively impacted the lives of thousands of boys who came through the gates of Camp Deerwoode. With just the few we had the pleasure to meet and get to know this weekend, it is evident that Bill lived his mission. He found his purpose and poured his heart into it. The men we met would not be who they are today without the Camp Deerwoode experience. They are successful. They are leaders. They are disciplined. They are driven. They are hard-working. And they all have a deep appreciation of Bill & Liz, and their days at Deerwoode. We heard over and over that this reunion weekend is a very special time for them and the guys look forward to it all year long. We can’t wait to see everyone for the Deerwoode Reunion 2022!
If you visited Camp Deerwoode as a child and would like to tell your story or be added to the reunion email list, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.