While in college in 1989, Bunkie native Chris Roy became a summer camp counselor in New Hampshire, thinking an outdoor job might help him rehabilitate an injury.
He loved it so much, he returned year after year.
In 1997, Lynn Peterson, a New Yorker, took a job at the same camp because she was tired of waitressing.
They met. They fell in love. They married. With a summer camp story like that, it’s no surprise they would encourage others to give it a try.
And they do — by the thousands.
From their home in Bunkie, the Roys operate CampStaff, a web-based business that connects prospective camp counselors with camps all over the country. When those camps open this month, between 12,000 and 14,000 of their counselors will have come through CampStaff, said Chris Roy.
The selling point for potential counselors is opening a door to a world that, while not entirely foreign, is new to them.
Todd Politz, 41, went to Camp Walt Whitman in Piermont, New Hampshire, in 1997, the same year as Lynn, and he remains in touch with staff and campers he met.
One of the campers, Rob Cohen, now is a writer for the TV drama “Law and Order SVU.” A counselor, Charles Socarides, is an actor whose TV credits include “When We Rise,” “Madam Secretary,” “The Good Wife,” “Elementary” and “Person of Interest.”
“It was probably the best college-age experience I could ever ask for,” said Politz, digital media director for LSU Sports Properties.
And he didn’t even get a spouse and a career out of it.
Elise Pearce, who grew up in Bunkie, spent three summers at camps in Massachusetts, which gave her friends across the globe.
“Before I went to camp, I felt like I lived in this box that I didn’t even know existed,” said Pearce, 30, an occupational therapist in New Orleans. “When I got back from camp, I just had a whole new perception on the world.”
The Roys found it eye-opening, too.
Although many camps are designed for weeklong stays, there are a number of New England camps where campers stay for almost two months. Such camps cater to an upper-class clientele, costing as much as $13,000 per camper, but provide plenty of amenities, including a lot of camp staff.
“Part of it is cultural, and it’s hard for us down here to fathom the idea of sending our kids away for that long,” Chris Roy said. “It would be the equivalent of my New York friends not understanding how I could take our girls to deer hunt.”
As for the business, after returning to Camp Walt Whitman for several years, Chris Roy, 49, went to work for the camp full time at its New York office in 1993, handling camp staffing. The website he built for the camp was so successful in increasing job applications that he created CampStaff in 1996 to help other camps connect to applicants. It was a sideline business for several years as he continued to work for camps.
He was working at the New Hampshire camp in 1997 when Lynn Peterson called seeking a position. She fell in love both with him and camp life, a big part of which was the natural beauty of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
“Every summer when I go back to camp — I think this happens for Chris, too — we get there and for the kids and the campers, that’s how they feel about it. Oh, this is amazing!” said Lynn Roy, 40.
The Roys were directors of Camp Mah-Kee-Nac, an all-boys sports camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, from 2004 to 2010 before moving to Bunkie, where Chris Roy is executive director of a law firm while Lynn Roy handles CampStaff full time.
“Lynn spends a lot of time helping the camps understand this current market,” Chris Roy said. “CampStaff lets them go in and basically recruit. In today’s job market, if you’re a 22-year-old male who teaches water skiing, which is always a hot commodity in camps, you can basically write your own ticket. The camps … they’re trying, like any other job, to get the best talent.”