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About the business
The camp was founded on eight pillars of virtue in 1953, and still today strives to nurture a character-building atmosphere. Campers attain personal growth through intangibles--self-confidence, teamwork, leadership, individual identity, and dealing with challenges. Meals are served family style dining, and a tradition of etiquette prevails.
Enrollment is limited to 165 girls per session; campers and counselors come from many countries, and across the U.S. The camp population is small enough to be friendly, yet large enough for good variety.
Activities are fun and instruction-oriented, with all campers encouraged to take horseback riding, Red Cross swimming instruction, and field sports, then rounding out their schedules from a list of more than 40 electives--traditional, plus unusual.
Electives typically include English riding and jumping, western riding, quadrille, polocrosse, fishin', war canoe, canoeing, diving, competitive swimming, synchronized swimming, tennis, volleyball, softball, fencing, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, cheerleading, drama, dance, "Just For Fun", archery, riflery, climbing and rappelling, sign language, "Smoke Signals" and yearbook, pioneering (camp craft, nature, and ecology), calligraphy and papermaking, leather work, ceramics, pottery, cooking, painting and sketching, jewelry making and beading, nature crafts, sewing, needlework.
Heart O' the Hills was built originally to be a resort inn, so "tepees" and dining room are fully air-conditioned. The original hotel rooms house younger girls four or five to a tepee plus a counselor.
"The Heart" is owned and operated by the Ragsdale family. Role model counselors. Four-week and two-week sessions for girls 6-16; 7-day short term for girls 5-11 in August.
Also Ragsdale Family operated is our brother camp, Stewart, just 7 miles away on the North Fork of the Guadalupe. Same dates and rates, just all boys.
Cost & Availability
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Ratings & Reviews
You will make lifelong friends here. Camp friends are different than friends at home mainly because you live with them for a few weeks! All of the girls here are so close!!
The activities are great! They have stuff you can't do at school such as archery, riflery, canoeing, swimming in the Guadalupe River, horseback riding, fishing, wall climbing, etc.
There are a few girls in every cabin, which depends on age, which is clean and very homely. You sleep in bunk beds, and there's indoor refrigeration. (Toilet, shower, sink.)
The meals are homemade and sprinkled in deliciousness!
If you also have a son, Heart O' the Hills has a brother camp, Camp Stewart for Boys!
Overall, this is an amazing place and I highly recommend sending your daughters here!
I thought about sending my daughter somewhere else to give her a different perspective, but have decided against it. She loves the Heart, they know her there, and "Heart Girl" has become part of her identity. Can't ask for anything better.
The sense of community/family for the camp as a whole and the tribes themselves is fantastic.
The activities are superb and varied. The staff (to include many international members) are the best I've seen.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Jane (the owner/director) does everything RIGHT here at the Heart. She puts her own heart and soul into the camp and one can really tell what a difference it makes. The campgrounds are gorgeous. The staff is outstanding (with little to no turnover in the year-round staff... to me, and excellent sign of a well-run operation). Jane, in short, is one of the best people I know. She is an excellent role-model for anyone and the life-skills she teaches the young girls in her care at Heart O' The Hills are invaluable.
The activity choices offered at Heart O' The Hills are top-notch, with emphasis put on each child actually learning new skills and not just playing around (although I suspect there is plenty of "play" time too!).
The best part (to me) of the Heart is the life-long friends one meets. The camp is large enough to meet many people from all areas of the state, country and even the world... yet small enough to feel like you really get a chance to know them well. And the camper return rate is extremely high (close to 100%) so your same friends come back just about every year.
In short, I know there are a lot of good and even great camps to choose from. I have visited several. But I don't know of a single girl's camp better than Heart O' The Hills. I am blessed to be a part of the Heart Family. Go out for a visit and meet Jane. You'll see what I mean!
She's always been my bashful quiet child in any atmosphere other than home, we are very proud that she not only completed the whole term but when asked if she wanted to attend next summer her immediate smiling response was an excited "YES!"
There is no greater gift that we can give our children than the wings they need to fly on their own. The Heart fosters that gift by allowing each girl to be herself and to explore and discover new loves and talents along the way. There are countless activities for every age girl, all teaching them some skill that they will use down the road in their lives. Horseback riding, swimming, sewing, dance, archery, tennis, choir, nature crafts, climbing....the list goes on and on. There is something for every girl at Heart.
My daughter Kathryn has forged friendships at Heart that will stand the test of time. She is still actively in contact with her "big sis" from her first few years at camp and corresponds with several of her counselors and HeartLites both in the states and overseas.
There are no words to express our gratitude to the Ragsdale family and Heart staff for the opportunity that has been given our daughter in attending The Heart for the last 10 years. Katie is a better person for spending her summers immersed in the joy of being a child while learning how to grow into an amazing young woman.
My best childhood memories are of the five years I spent at Heart of the Hills. Camp truly helped shape the woman I was to become. That's why I was honored to return as a counselor when I was older.
As soon as my daughter was born, I called Jane to let her know that we would be sending her to Heart of the Hills as soon as we felt she was ready to go. She started when she was ten, one year older than I was when I started.
If it is at all possible, my daughter loves Heart of the Hills even more than I do. She has been a first term camper for five years now, and she intends to keep going to camp in some capacity, whether it is as a camper, a HeartLite, or a counselor, for as long as she possibly can.
It's always hard to say goodbye when we drop her off at the start of First Term, partly because I wish I could stay, too and lay on the Front Lawn and watch the stars and fireflies, swim in the cold, green Guadalupe River, sing songs around the campfire, and go up on Pawnee Hill just one more time.
My daughter has gone to The Heart for the past 10 years (yes, 10 years!!). This summer will be her 11th and final year as a camper. The only reason it will be her last year as a camper is because she will be 16 this summer.
As a parent, there are so many reasons I love The Heart. The camp traditions immerse the girls into the camp experience starting on the first day. The girls begin friendships and camaraderie with other campers and the counselors that can last many years. Younger campers are paired with "big sisters", and the older campers really look out for and help the younger campers. There are many activities and classes that the girls can choose from. The camp is not geared to the super athletes, so all the girls can do things they enjoy doing. The counselors are wonderful, caring, and great role models. Many of the counselors are former campers, and several of the other counselors have been counselors at The Heart for several years. This creates an atmosphere of stability and safety for the campers. Rules are followed, so the campers know what to expect. Jane and Dick Ragsdale and the other camp leadership are phenomenal. They are very "hands on". They interact with and know all the girls, and they know what is going on in the camp. They have created and fostered a fun, safe, and technology free environment for the campers. I feel connected with the camp while my daughter is there. The camp photographer posts pictures everyday on the website, so I can see the fun things that my daughter and the other campers are doing.
My daughter says The Heart is her second home. I think she would live there year-round, if it were possible. The Heart is in a beautiful setting. Whenever I go to The Heart at the end of her camp term, my daughter wants me to walk with her to her favorite places, and she wants me to meet her fellow campers and counselors. Some of her best friends are her camp friends, and she looks forward to being with them. She keeps in touch with them and her former counselors throughout the year. My daughter had the unique opportunity to be a Heart LITE (a junior counselor) for one of the short terms one summer. It was a different experience from being a camper, and she was able to share the things that she loves about The Heart with the younger girls. I felt like it was a tremendous growth opportunity for her, and I could tell a difference in her leadership and problem solving skills after she was a Heart LITE. She hopes to be a counselor at The Heart when she is eligible.
Our experience with The Heart has been wonderful, and I hope many other girls can have the opportunity to go to camp there. My daughter may not be able to go to The Heart every year for the rest of her life, but I know the memories and friendships she has made will be in her heart for the rest of her life.
The short version: I've had two of my 3 girls at the Heart and have been very impressed with the entire experience. When my youngest is old enough she'll go, too.
The longer version: my dad is very old school and wanted his granddaughters to spend time away from the city and all the electronics and their fairly sheltered, closely monitored/managed existence out in California. He kept after me to send my oldest to camp and got her to lobby me, too.
To show me how serious he was he scoured the internet for possibles and visited at least 3 of them in person. After he saw the Heart, he was sold and insisted I come visit. He arranged for me to stop by and meet Jane and tour the camp in the off season.
What a pleasure! No high-pressure sales pitch or advertising verbiage. Jane and her staff are so down to earth and they honestly consider all the girls at the Heart to be family. When we come for closing ceremonies we see families that have had 2 generations at Heart. And Jane knows them all! I can send her an email mid-season about something and she knows exactly who I am and who my girls are. Make no mistake--she views these girls as part of her extended family and cares for them accordingly.
Still--I'll admit I was still reluctant to send my then 6 year old girl who had never been away from home to camp for a month in a place several states away. But wow what a difference!
There are so many important lessons they learn that it's just hard to explain it without talking forever. For me, I'd say the best way to explain it is they learn about winning, they learn about losing, they learn about caring and making friendships, and they learn about being a good citizen.
For my oldest girl, the best thing has been she's learning about being a gracious loser and about continuing to work hard even if it not something she's naturally good at. Don't get me wrong, she wins plenty too and but she's had incredibly poor tolerance for those occasions when she falls short or somebody beats her. At the Heart, there are so many events and contests that there is almost always something a girl is good at and can earn a medal in justifiably (it means more when they earn it). But there are also plenty of times when somebody else gets the award. Since she started camp we've seen a definite increase in her ability to tell somebody else "good game!" or "you played great! I hope I get that good so I can win next time" and MEAN it.
For my younger daughter, it's more about learning to be confident and independent of her big sister (who has never lacked confidence).
As an extra bonus, they both really love the Heart and often talk together about things they share and how they can't wait to go back next summer. It's become a nice shared experience for them as sisters that I really think they can look back on when they are grown up.
Finally, I've been really impressed with their camp counselors. I only wish I could get babysitters of that caliber. They are all confident, polite, hardworking young women that can demonstrate appropriate behavior for my daughters. That's increasingly important to me as my daughters reach the age where Mom and Dad are no longer quite so cool and they are more influenced by people closer to their age.
Bottom line: money well spent. I feel like I get more out of this than the money I've spent on private school and honestly if I had to pick between private school and the Heart (financially), I'd put my money on Heart.
We will be sending all three of our girls as long as we can afford it :)It is by far the best investment we have made in our kids!
Thank you Jane and all of the Heart staff for being a critical part of helping us raise strong, kind, and well rounded women!
Aside from the fact that this camp not only teaches life skills such as table manners, leadership, faith, diversity (her counselor was a law school student in Scotland) and of course all of this is done in the most scenic environment in Texas, save Big Bend National Park.
Who else has daily access to the Guadalupe, horses, archery, arts and crafts, camping and of course field sports?
To summarize, you get daily reports, not just reports but PICTURES and I rest knowing my daughter is experiencing real life events (where not everybody always wins) and in a fashion that will prepare her to succeed in life, that alone is worth the price of admission.
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