Meet & Greet: Marty Dunning

 

MartyDunning

Weeklong camps are on the horizon, and we’re ready with an army of roughly two dozen wicked smart, creative, compassionate summer staffers. Here, meet one such all-star—a guy who takes on the business of life-changing with a smile on his face and a tutu around his waist.

Marty Dunning, 25, was recently honored with our Campers First Award. Last year—despite a full-time job in communications—he volunteered at a whopping nine camp sessions. Now, he’s joining camp for the summer as ropes course manager and activity team leader.

“Marty is willing to do whatever is asked of him,” says Flying Horse Farms Chief Program Officer Ryan Brownfield. “And he is always there at the right time.”

We asked Dunning about why camp fuels his fire.

WHAT ABOUT OUR MISSION EXCITES YOU?
Magical, transformative experiences for campers. To me, it blows my mind how much a camper can change over the period of just a few days. Shells can be broken, barriers overcome, friends made and true happiness found. And all it comes down to is being able to feel like a kid who can achieve anything.

THE CAUSE IS PERSONAL, TOO. TELL US ABOUT THAT.
Growing up, my dad experienced health issues that drastically changed our family life. I felt I had to “grow up” all too quickly to be able to help our family remain strong. Although that experience is drastically different from many of our campers, I still feel I truly understand the importance of needing to feel like a kid and forget the woes of the world brought about by illness. I understand why their families need to not think about the next appointment, or if their loved one is going to be happy and healthy. It’s what originally drew me to SeriousFun, and has caused me to want to be at Flying Horse Farms every chance I get.

If dancing around in a tutu while covered in green paint can help these campers feel more like a kid and forget the troubles of the world, I’ll do it every time.

WHAT DOES FLYING HORSE FARMS MEAN TO YOU?
Family. Joy. Growth.
I moved to Ohio about four years ago, which is about a six hour drive to my hometown of Paducah, Ky. Although I’ve worked for my fraternity alongside several close friends and brothers, it wasn’t until I came to camp that I found my home in Ohio. Everyone cares for each other so much. There’s an acceptance here for everyone that you just can’t find outside the gates, and that just allows everyone to be their true selves. Everyone is welcome.

While here, anyone can do anything. There are no limits, except those we set for ourselves. That means you can be as ridiculous as you want, have as much fun as you care to, siesta once a day and try anything you may not have tried before. With that comes the freedom to experience true joy, and depart through the gates a better, stronger person than when you entered.

HOW HAS FLYING HORSE FARMS ENRICHED YOUR LIFE?
Oh goodness, there are so many ways. It’s hard to really think about your own worries at camp. You can’t really have stage fright when you’re pretending to be a camper’s puppet in front of the whole camp. It’s hard to show your fear of heights on the ropes course when a camper is in his stretch zone with every step he takes. And although you usually can’t stand being in front of people, there’s just something about the song “Ice Cream and Cake” that just makes you want to move. Luckily, this extra bit of confidence and almost fearlessness has a way of coming home with me each time, and it’s helped me to be a stronger person (who’s less scared of heights) in my everyday life.

HOW DOES CAMP STAY WITH YOU, EVEN BEYOND ITS GATES?
There’s this one movie “We Bought a Zoo” that I have a particular affinity too. Yes, the animals play a big role, but there’s this incredibly adorable kiddo who completely sells its for me. In one scene, her response to the sound of her noisy neighbor’s party preventing her from sleeping was that “their happy is too loud.”

Here at camp, there’s no noise limit for happy. Actually, loud happy is encouraged. I find that I often reflect on my times at camp—the people, the photos, the notes—and find myself genuinely happy when I’m back in the “real world.” That bit of camp that I keep with me allows me to endure any frustration or sadness, because I know there’s a place I’ll be headed soon where everything is great. My home. My “happy place.”