Summer staff spotlight: Ali Wyland

By Jim Vitale

If you really want someone to do something for you, sometimes you just have to bug the heck out of them. That’s how Ali Wyland started working at Camp Mount Luther.

Or, at least, that’s how she tells it. Ali has been involved in the Upper Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA for many years. Her mom is a deacon and highly involved in synod ministries; and so it was only natural, I suppose, that Ali would end up taking on some responsibilities in the church. For the past several years she helped manage the voting process at synod assemblies, running around helping people sort out the voting app on their phones (among many other things). Executive Director Chad Hershberger, seeing Ali’s leadership in the synod, thought she would be a welcomed addition to the summer staff. So Chad asked. And asked. And asked. And didn’t stop asking until Ali finally said yes. Pressure from Ali’s mom didn’t help her cause.

“Also,” Ali says, “I needed money.”

So last year Ali joined us for her first year on summer staff—apparently a begrudging victim of peer pressure.

But if you watch Ali at work here at camp, her posture is nothing like that of a begrudging employee. She’s energetic, enthusiastic, articulate, funny, and kind. Which leads me to believe that the story she tells might not be the whole truth.

Ali is an athlete. Ever since she was young, she has loved sports and wanted some sort of career in sports management (either managing a team or working in sports marketing). She pursued athletics throughout her school years, even majoring in sports management at Penn Tech. “I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without track,” she says. “My sprint coach in high school was one of my biggest mentors. She helped me build a sense of confidence I’d never experienced before.”

The close community she found on the track team also had a positive influence on her. So much so that she did a little coaching herself, “I went back to coach for a couple years so that students could feel the same sense of community I felt.” Ali’s passion for sports led her to the track team, but she found far more than just a place to run: she found a community, a mentor, and more of herself.

In 2022, Ali went to the ELCA’s churchwide assembly and there, she says, her faith was reignited. It was partly this, she admits, that led her to work at camp. I suspect her experiences at churchwide opened her eyes to the way she might share what she experienced on the track team with others less-inclined to sprint.

One of Ali’s favorite memories from camp comes from her time last year, when she was working with some of high school SALT campers. They were goofing around together and somehow, by the end of the day, she ended up with a mascara goatee. Later, as the campers were enjoying an evening swim in the pool and sundaes in the pavilion, someone flipped Ali’s ice cream up into her face, adding a nice foundation to the mascara goatee.

These are the moments that build community and this is what makes Ali such a gifted cabin leader. On or off the track, Ali works to bring people together, to build community, and to remind people of their immense value.

At the end of the summer our friend Ali will move to Ohio. We will miss having her here on staff, and we know that she goes on to build loving communities and do incredible things. And we know that she leaves behind a profound impression, especially on the hearts of those campers she encouraged, mentored, and loved.

Maybe she came to camp just so Chad would stop asking.

Or maybe, just maybe, she came to camp because God has given her an incredible gift for loving, motivating, and connecting people.