Over the past 20 years, siblings James Sarah, and Matt Leonard have had a relative either working or attending the Loras All-Sports Camp . In many of those years, it was in both of those roles.
“Sports Camp definitely extends beyond this five weeks for us,” Matt said.
Finishing up her eighth year as a camp counselor and head counselor, Sara Leonard (’15) has been involved with the camp every year she has been eligible.
“I was going into third grade when I first came here as a camper and then every year after that going into high school. My older brother went and all of our cousins attended so at a few points there may have been 12 of us here at the same time because we were always here the same week. To see my brothers and cousins around was great.”
After she was too old to attend as a camper, Sarah bided her time until she could get back to Sports Camp.
“As soon as I was eligible, I knew I wanted to come back here as a camp counselor so after my first year in college, I applied, got the job and I haven’t left since.”
Her experience as a camper, along with her family history, also played a role in her decision to attend Loras College after high school.
“We always knew Loras was a family school. Our grandpa went here and worked here. Our great uncle went here. Our mom went here. So when I made my college decision, that history and my experience at Sports camp had a big impact so attended Loras and graduated from here.”
The youngest Leonard sibling, Matt, followed a similar path.
“I came here from 8 years old until I was too old to go any more,” he said. “All of our cousins went and our older cousins were counselors when we were campers so it was cool to see them around. I even had one of them as my counselor, which was great.”
Like his sister, Matt was eager to get back into Sports Camp as soon as he could.
“My first year after high school I tried to work as a counselor but I wasn’t old enough so I worked as a photographer instead,” he explained. “The next year, I was finally old enough to be a counselor, then had to miss one year due to an internship so I had to watch it on all on Snapchat and Twitter, which I really didn’t like. I was back the next year as counselor and then spent the last two as head counselor.”
The family tradition was fostered by their grandfather, Gerald “Bud” Noonan (’51). A graduate and now-retired employee of Loras College, Noonan paid for his grandchildren to attend the camp every year.
“My grandparents have never missed an Olympics that we have been a part of,” Matt said. “For grandpa’s 80th birthday, we got him a paddle as a gift. He always paid for us to come to camp so that was our gift back to him.”
The Leonard family connection goes back to the first camp in 1982. Their mother, Anne (Noonan) Leonard (’83), worked as tennis coach for the first two All-Sports Camps.
“I asked her what it was like to work at the first one and she said it was very different back then,” Sarah said.
James, the oldest, spent eight summers at the camp like his siblings. After a break, he has returned the past three years as a counselor.
“It is just a part of our lives,” James said. We come here every year. Everyone in our family comes here. Every year we try to come back and be involved in some way.”
Matt estimates that his family has worked 40 years combined since its founding.
This year, Loras All-Sports Camp extends one more day for the Leonard’s, who are attending the wedding of two former camp counselors the day after the final Camp Olympics. The wedding party is made up almost entirely of friends who met through Sports Camp.
“The best thing about camp is the relationships that are formed,” Sarah said. “These weddings turn into camp reunions and we are really excited to attend and have that be our final celebration of camp this year. They met at camp so it is an example of the great relationships that are formed here.”