My name is Judith Fitzgerald and I’m from Timberville, Virginia.
I remember times that I wished my father wouldn’t come home because of the chaos that I grew up in. There was alcohol, drugs, domestic abuse and domestic violence in my household. Going through life, that made things pretty difficult, made it hard to trust people. I eventually was in a relationship that I was going to put my life into. That relationship ended and along with that, I lost a child in the relationship. That caused me to spiral into some significant depression.
One day, I happened to be walking through Walmart and I ran into a friend of mine and she told me she was gonna give my number to a friend of hers. A couple of days later, the friend called me and we met for dinner. She took me over to a women’s campground. She kinda just took me there and dropped me off and said, “Here, take her. I can’t do anything else with her.”
CampOut is a women’s-only campground and it’s, like, 80-plus acres of fields and woods and rustic cabins – basically four walls and a ceiling. I started going back every weekend and I met a lot of wonderful women there who were very successful. We had psychiatrists, nurses, just people who had gone to school, educated themselves and, you know, made a difference in their lives.
We have a kitchen there, we prepare meals for everyone to eat and I was in the kitchen with Terry and she asked me if I’d ever thought about going to school. At that point, you know, I hadn’t because it just wasn’t a priority in my family.
I was like, “Nah, I really hadn’t thought about it,” and I didn’t think it was ever an option for me, you know, financially. It would have been a struggle.
She was like, “I think you should, you know, pursue this and check into, you know, loans and assistance and see if you can get in and start doing something different.”
So I started looking into it and I decided in 2005 that I was going to go to school.
We would go out during the day and we would do yard work around the place. We would build and we would spend evenings at the campfire. We had done some work. Everybody had showered. We were sitting down for dinner. Some people were playing games and I wanted to join in.
One of the ladies, Terry, was questioning me about my school work, “Do you have any homework that you need to do?”
I was like, “Yeah, I kinda have stuff.”
She was like, “Okay, you need to go to your camper. You need to get your homework done. And then once you’re done with that, you can come out and join us and, you know, play.”
During mealtime, they would talk to me about school, ask questions, and I’d fill them in with what I was doing, what classes I was taking, and, you know, they offered so much encouragement that I don’t feel that I got anywhere else.
After I got my Associate’s degree, I went a little bit further and got my Bachelor’s degree. That took me 12 years. It was a very long process.
I work for a pharmaceutical company and I feel that I will stay there and probably use my degree in some sort of position. I have a beautiful partner and a wonderful son at this point in my life. I don’t think that I would have been in the position that I am now as far as being settled, educated, had it not been for the support of all the women that I met at that camp. They really took me under their wing and I learned something from everyone that was there. It’s brought me to a wonderful place in my life and I’m very happy to be where I am.
Some people don’t have the support of their family and that’s very unfortunate, but just because your family’s not there for you doesn’t mean that there are not other people out there to support you.