By Shelby Smoak
Perhaps nobody is more grateful for bleeding disorders camps than Christy Tignor. After a history of bruising and nose bleeds, she was initially diagnosed with Type 1 vWD at age 9 and thereafter began her lifelong love affair with camp, and one camper in particular.
Following her diagnosis, Christy’s hematologist connected her with the Kentucky Hemophilia Foundation, and to Land Between the Lakes Camp where at 10 years old, she attended for the first time. Land Between the Lakes was 4 hours from her home and had campers from Kentucky and Tennessee. Even though Christy admits she grew quite homesick that first year of camp, as the week wore on, fun took over so that by the end Christy was eager to go back the next year, and the next, and the next. And then there was David.
Since very few girls attended Christy’s camp in the 1980s, boys could be found a-plenty. And one particular boy from Tennessee, David, took a special interest in Christy by giving her piggyback rides when someone ran off with her shoes or trying to snap her picture. So smitten was David with Christy that, as he himself admits, he even dragged a hair dryer and hair spray to camp to style his hair to look good for her. That’s right: David’s essential survival camp list included a sleeping bag, pillow, toothpaste, snacks, hairdryer and hairspray. The girls were able to ditch the hair dryer and hairspray for the week, but not David!
The budding romance soon flourished at Land Between the Lakes. Each year Christy yearned for camp where her excitement to see David and hang out with him as much as she could, grew into a full-blown crush. Then, at 22, Christy confessed her crush to a mutual friend and her concern that David did not feel the same way. She felt he had grown distant and aloof, and perhaps failed to reciprocate her feelings. Luckily their friend was a born matchmaker and quickly told David of Christy’s crush, which spurred David into action. He called her. And their first conversation outside of camp topped at over 4 hours and concluded with plans for their first date. And it seems David really did have Christy at “Hello,” because she claims that after that first call she knew she was going to marry him.
The next year they got engaged and the year after they tied the knot! And where better to sow the seeds of matrimony than, well, at camp! The day after camp was over, they married at Brandon Spring Group Camp, the spot where, 14 years earlier they had met. Two years after marriage, Christy and David welcomed their daughter, Lily, into the world. After Lily’s birth, Christy found out that she actually has a platelet disorder rather than vWD.Their son Zachary soon followed.
“Even though I do not attend camp any longer, it still has a very special place in my heart,” Christy says. “Not only did I meet the love of my life there, but I also made lifelong friends.” Their daughter now carries on the tradition.
Each year, Lily looks forward to camp where she is a counselor alongside her father. And each year, the happy couple can only wonder what camp may give their daughter. Could a camp romance repeat itself? Is there something special in the water at Land Between the Lakes? Of course, Christy and David think so!
David Tignor, or “Tigger“ as he is more fondly known, has been going to camp since 1981 when he was 6 years old. Today he is, well, an adult. Do the math. And his camp experience is extensive. He attended as a camper until age 17, when he transitioned to a junior counselor.
For the past 26 years, David has served at numerous camps in Tennessee and many other states as a counselor, Leader-in-Training Director and Activities Director, among other roles. David has brought his counselor experiences to hemophilia family camps in Maine, Montana, and Alaska as well as widely known camps like Tapawingo in Oregon and Hot-to-Clot in Pennsylvania. However, Tennessee’s Land Between the Lakes will always hold a special place in David’s heart because that is where he met Christy.
They met in 1985 when both were 10. Since there were very few girls at camp, David admits “they got a lot of attention from the fellas,” but luckily, he — armed with a hair dryer and hair spray, camp essentials in his mind —was able to woo young Christy. That the two could also swim helped as they were allowed into the pool’s deep end where David had exclusive conversation rights to Christy without interruption from other campers. Each year, they returned to their home states— David in Tennessee, Christy in Kentucky—their secret crush burned until summer returned.
In later years both serving as teen counselors and when in their early 20s, Christy was just about ready to give up since she felt Tigger was no longer interested in her. However, a mutual friend had the good sense to intervene. David made the call to set the situation straight and the rest is history; they dated, David proposed, they married at their beloved camp Land Between the Lakes, and soon their family grew. First came Lily, now 17 and a camp counselor having mild hemophilia herself, and Zachary, now 11; a loving son with special needs and a joy to all who know him.
For David camp is more than the educational and learning experiences. It moves beyond swimming, fishing, canoeing, archery, arts & crafts, or carnivals, tournaments, pool parties, and talent shows, or even Gold Rush, an event where campers find “fake” gold that they can spend at the general store and pizza parlor. The real gold for David is the ability to be around children and adults who also live with a bleeding disorder. “It opens doors to lifetime friendships,” David says, and “demonstrates that living with a bleeding disorder is just a normal part of our lives.”
Camp was extremely important to David as a child, but even as an adult, camp thrills him and he grows equally excited to go. “Camp Freedom opened doors to some very amazing experiences and learning opportunities,” he says. “To this day, I still get butterflies when I drive onto the camp ground at Brandon Spring Group Center at Land Between the Lakes where I get to see my second family every year!”