When Christen Sharpe first arrived at Pine Cove to drop off her 12-year-old daughter, Ellis, at the Ranch in 2013, she was apprehensive and filled with anxiety for her daughter, convinced Ellis was going to be lonely.
“Ellis had friends in her cabin the last two years at the Towers, Pine Cove’s elementary-age camp, but now that she was at the Ranch, she didn’t know anybody,” Christen said. “I was pretty anxious the first few days. This was before the Camp Life app, so when I got the email with pictures of Ellis, I was so relieved. I saw this same girl with Ellis in almost every picture, and it was such an answered prayer.”
Ellis Sharpe and Kylee McNutt have been best friends ever since.
“I remember finding out she was from College Station, and I grew up an Aggie even though I’m from Atlanta. So really we bonded over the fact that we were both Aggies,” Kylee recalled. As the pair reminisced, they were transported back to their first week together. “We definitely hit it off, and people would say, ‘Hey you’re friends with the red curly haired girl,’” Ellis said.
Ellis and Kylee attended camp every summer together as campers through the Ranch, Timbers, and eventually finishing at the Shores. Outside of camp, Kylee would fly to Texas to visit Ellis during the school year and holidays. “We went through the acne phase, the braces phase… all the phases,” Kylee reminisced. The girls laughed on Kylee’s bed as they recounted the awkward middle school years, seeming caught up in all the memories they could share, but knowing there was too much to share in one interview. “She loved me at the lowest of lows and in the most awkward stages of my life,” Ellis said.
“It was such an unexpected blessing from the Lord that He provided Ellis a friend as a middle-schooler,” Christen said. “The joy they had together was all over their faces, and throughout the years it’s proven to be a beautiful friendship rooted in His truth.”
After graduating high school, Kylee and Ellis both accepted Counselor in Training positions with Pine Cove City. But despite their deep Aggie roots, the school search was difficult for the girls. During their senior year, Ellis had flown into Atlanta during their senior year to tour Auburn and stay at Kylee’s house.
“It was funny because we had grown up as Aggies, but Ellis’ mom went to Clemson, and I really liked Clemson. So there was a time where we both thought we would end up there,” Kylee explained. “We weren’t really basing our decision on the other, but after both of us toured Auburn and loved it, everything fell into place.”
Kylee and Ellis committed to go to Auburn and became freshman roommates. “We also didn’t know what it was like to do life in the same city,” Kylee said. “Growing up she was always my go-to person, but we were states away. So now it was so sweet to finally be in the same place.” Kylee and Ellis laughed over their “smelly” dorm room, and the great lengths at which they went to decorate it, telling a story about hand drilling hooks into the cement walls to hang lights. “I’m just remembering how much fun we had freshman year now that we were breathing the same air and not buying plane tickets,” Ellis shared. “Now I had my best friend sleeping ten feet from me.”
Since starting college, Ellis has worked two summers at the Ridge, and Kylee has worked two summers at the Timbers. “There’s a huge Pine Cove community at Auburn which makes it super fun, and it’s pretty unified,” Kylee said. “Most of us have the Pine Cove backpack, and so when we study together we always end up mixing our stuff.” There were 113 summer staffers from Auburn University in summer 2021, making Auburn the third most represented school of all Pine Cove staff. “I go to class and sit with people from camp,” Ellis said. “It’s fun to go from working camp to everyday life with these people.”
Kylee and Ellis had the unique opportunity to not only experience camp as a camper, but also as a counselor. They both got to serve the ages of campers that they were most impacted by when they were at camp. “As a camper, I was blinded to the fact that people were chasing me down day in and day out to share the Gospel with me,” Ellis said. “Then as a counselor it was a daily sacrifice to chase my campers and realize that I had so many people chasing after me at camp all those years. And now I get to do the same thing.”
Ellis and Kylee reflected on the contrast of both sides of camp. “It felt like a dream to be a counselor because I remembered as a camper looking up so much to my counselors,” Kylee said. “It was really humbling to be in that role and to be able to empathize with the campers because I knew what it was like to be in their shoes.”
As juniors at Auburn they live just a few houses apart and continue to build a friendship that will last a lifetime, or as Ellis’ mom remarked, “Can’t be duplicated.”
God is clearly weaving an amazing story in Ellis and Kylee’s lives, and has used Pine Cove to play a small role in the chapter of their friendship. It will be incredible to see the Lord continue to use them for His purposes and His glory for years to come.
Posted May 18, 2022