A well-trained, enthusiastic staff is the key to a positive camping experience. Camp Widjiwagan counselors are chosen for their maturity, skills, patience, enthusiasm, and desire to be good role models for children. Staff undergoes extensive professional training, emphasizing safety, child growth and development, teaching methods and group dynamics. At Camp Widjiwagan, we make the health and safety of each camper a prime concern. Counselors are trained in safety, first-aid and CPR, and they place heavy emphasis on accident prevention by supervising all activities closely.
We are so blessed to have such enthusiastic, energetic counselors that choose to mentor those younger than them. The caring and concern last a lifetime. Widji does make a difference to kids.
-Julia & Marty Ozburn
Meet Our Full Time Staff Team
Each summer over 130 dedicated, kid-loving staff return or are newly hand-picked from over 50 colleges. They are carefully interviewed, chosen for excellence, then trained by our leadership staff to provide world-class mentoring during your child's stay. A heart of service takes priority as they seek to meet the unique needs of every camper.
Mark Weller grew up as a "Y kid" and has spent his professional career serving others through the YMCA camping ministry, beginning in 1982. In 1997 Mark and his bride, Laura, were invited to Nashville to develop the dream of a YMCA camp. The property on J. Percy Priest Lake had already been secured by volunteers, and Mark had a vision to reach thousands of youth by linking arms with the community to develop the finest summer camp in the state of Tennessee. Mark and Laura took on the loving task of building this wonderful Outdoor Center, partnering with dozens of key volunteers and community organizations. Their children, Elizabeth, Jacob, Jillian, Hannah and Molly have grown up at YMCA camps and it is common to see them around camp any session.
Vince's camping career began in 1979 as a dishwasher at Camp Tecumseh YMCA in Brookston, Indiana. He served as a cabin counselor for several years while finishing his education degree from Purdue University. Vince met and married his wife Kirsten at camp where they raised their son Josiah. Vince continued on to become the Equestrian Director for two years and then the Outdoor Education Director for eight years before accepting an Associate Executive Director position at Camp Jewell YMCA in Colebrook, Connecticut. He returned back to Camp Tecumseh in 2006 and made a lateral move to YMCA Camp Widjiwagan in December of 2012. Vince and Kirsten believe in the powerful impact that camping can have on a person and look forward to what God has for them in Nashville.
Laura Johnson is the Girls Camp Director and the director of personnel. She is responsible for the summer seasonal personnel including recruitment, selection, training and supervision of the outstanding Widjiwagan staff. Before joining the Widji Team in 2008, Laura earned a B.S. in Recreation Management from Illinois State University. Laura spent eight years of her career teaching swim lessons, coaching a swim team, training lifeguards and managing community pool programs and water parks. She got her start in camping with Girl Scouts, where she spent eight years as a camp counselor, waterfront director and camp director. Laura enjoys swimming, sailing, waterskiing, canoeing, biking, hiking, camping, sewing, photography, travelling and most of all spending time with family and friends.
Marc's rookie season with YMCA camping was in 1996 at Camp Lakewood in Missouri. It didn't take long for him to realize that being a professional in camping was his calling. "I was in constant awe with how overnight camp could change the lives of kids and teens. They would show up at check-in unsure of where they were or what to do. By the end of the 2 weeks they were independent, confident and they had GREAT stories to share." He dedicated the next 16 years to learning how the science and art of program leadership could lead to "the magic of camp."
Michael first started working at Camp Widjiwagan as a boat driver and lifeguard in 2008. Since then he spent one summer as the Boat Director and two summers as the Water Director. Some of his favorite camp memories are sharing his love of water skiing and wakeboarding with campers while teaching ski school. During a semester away from college, Michael decided to go to Estes Park, Colorado to work at the YMCA of the Rockies for the winter season. After graduating from Tennessee Tech University, he began working as the Program Director. When Michael is not enjoying working at Widji, he loves to snow ski, hike, play music, and travel.
Chrystal started with the YMCA as a volunteer for the Earth Service Corps, a Teen Leadership program in her hometown of Forest Grove, Oregon. Through her experience she was offered a scholarship to attend a resident camp in Portland at YMCA Camp Collins and it forever changed her life. Since 2001 she's taken on various challenges & positions with the Y including being an Office Manager at the Conejo Valley YMCA in Thousand Oaks, California; a Senior Program Director at the Westchester Family YMCA in Los Angeles, California; and the Youth & Families Program Director in Clarksville, Tennessee. She is very proud (& often giddy) to continue her career with the Y at Camp Widjiwagan.
Even her husband, Chris, has worked for the Y! They've been married since 2007 and don't have any kids yet, but one day look forward to sharing that adventure together.
John was introduced to YMCA Camping at Joe C Davis Outdoor Center's Camp Widjiwagan, where he spent three summers as a counselor and nations chief. After graduating from the University of Tennessee at Martin, John worked in membership for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee before returning to the Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center as the Guest Services Director.
Molly "Smalls" Marshall is an Event Coordinator for the Guest Services Department. Originally from Westerville, Ohio, Molly earned her bachelor's degree in Sport Management from Ohio University. She started out at Camp Widjiwagan as a Camp Counselor in 2006 where she met her future husband, Lucas. After working for the YMCA in Michigan for two years in the Youth Department, Molly returned to Tennessee in 2008. For the next two years, she worked as a Site Director for the YMCA's Fun Company during the school year. During the summers she returned to Camp Widjiwagan as a Camp Counselor and Camper Services. She became part of the full time staff at the YMCA Outdoor Center in 2011, stepping into the role of Event Coordinator. Molly and Lucas have a son, Liam, and two dogs, Widji and Sadie. In her spare time she enjoys baking and spending time with her family.
Debbie grew up in New Jersey and went to Ohio State University graduating with BA in communications. After college Debbie married and had three children, Matt, Dan, and Tricia.
Debbie was blessed to be at home with her children while they were young and she volunteered in their schools in many capacities. In 2003, Debbie began working for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee at the Brentwood YMCA. In 2008 Debbie moved to Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center as the Camp Registrar. She enjoys working with camp families throughout the year.
When Debbie is not working she spends time with her family and friends, including her Golden Retriever, Emma! She is active in her church and loves all of Nashville's music venues! She also enjoys all the walking trails and parks in and around Nashville.
Julie first became involved in Camp Widjiwagan in 1998 when she volunteered in the Equestrian Center with her daughter, Christy. Since then she has had various roles including Camp Registrar, Assistant to the Executive Director, Human Resource Coordinator and currently Development Director. Originally from Holland, Michigan, she and her husband Dean have lived next to camp for the last 19 years where they have raised their three children and numerous family pets. Julie feels that camp is a great place to work because she has a passion for families and the outdoors. When not working she enjoys spending time with her family, running, going for bike rides, and doing yard work.
Jim Robinson has been involved with facilities care for more than 20 years. Professionally he has been responsible for care of some of the top tourist retail destinations in the south. He is actively involved in environmental conservation causes, and has led outdoor excursions for Tennessee Trails Association and Sierra Club. He is very active in the outdoors as a hunter, fisherman and backpacker, and has logged more than a thousand miles of backcountry hiking. He is also right at home on the water with extensive kayaking and canoeing experience throughout the south and in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. His passion for fishing is exercised in bass fishing, ultralight fishing, and fly fishing. As an archer, he is very proficient with both compound and traditional bows. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby and has built furniture from tree to finished product.
Andrew Blucker started working at Camp Widjiwagan in 2003. He started out in housekeeping and grounds keeping and is now the Property Grounds Coordinator. For two summers during his time here he worked on the high ropes course as a ropes staff and as the High Ropes Director, which ended up introducing him to his love for rock climbing. He truly enjoys his work in maintenance because it offers him the opportunity to problem solve, be creative, work with his hands and sometimes even witness very unusual things. He attended college for 5 years at Tennessee Tech University for a split degree in sociology and criminal justice before he came to the conclusion that it's not what he wanted to do. He anticipates that some day he will further his education to reveive a degree in something more in-line with his interests and passion. Last spring he married his wife Laura who he had met five years earlier at Camp Widji while he was on the ropes staff and she was a counselor. He feels he is very fortunate to have had the relationship with Camp Widjiwagan that he has had for so long and views camp as his second home.
Larry Chestnut began his journey at Camp Widjiwagan in February 2013 after working in the maintenance department at Bass Pro Shop in Nashville. Larry was born in Ohio and after high school served a five year apprenticeship and worked several years with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The work allowed him to set much of the country and live in five different states before setting in Middle Tennessee in 2004. Larry is married to Dr. Lourdes Estrada who works and is heavily involved in cancer research at Vanderbilt University. They proudly have one son, DJ. Together they like to go deer hunting and fishing, watch Vanderbilt baseball, and just be home working in their barn or spending time with the family.