|Camp Marymount director Tommy Hagey and his wife Margaret are pictured with their eight children in front of the “Hagey hut” where most of them stay during the summer while camp is in session. Pictured in the front row are: Peter, 5; Emma Claire, 10; and Leo, 7. In the back row from left, are: Henry, 13; Mary Kathryn, 18; Margaret, Tommy, Anthony, 15; John, 18; and Philip, 20. Photo by Theresa Laurence|
When Tommy Hagey proposed to Margaret Forsdick in the old Camp Marymount lodge more than 20 years ago, little did the couple know that one day they would be running the camp. And little did they know that in addition to overseeing the care of hundreds of campers every summer, they would also be caring for eight children of their own.
“It is kind of like running a cabin,” Tommy said of managing the Hagey household. “It can be a little bit like controlled chaos,” he joked. “Where most people are playing man-to-man, we’re playing a zone defense.”
Having a large family, Margaret said, “your priorities change, but it’s never been a disadvantage to me. We always knew we would have a lot of kids.”
The Hageys work hard to foster a sense of cooperation, tolerance and independence among the children. The older ones help take care of the younger ones and everybody knows what is expected of them.
With eight children “you can’t do that helicopter stuff,” Margaret said. The children learn early how to pick themselves up and move on from minor scrapes and disappointments. The parents don’t hover over their children; they teach them what they need to know and move out of the way while the children learn from their own mistakes.
Tommy and Margaret’s years of working as camp counselors at Marymount, this year celebrating its 75th anniversary, prepared them well for their role as parents, and their role of parents continues to inform their approach to working with both campers and counselors. They have a better sense of when to step in to help resolve a problem or comfort a homesick camper.
“Watching how campers can go from being the nervous child to an independent child is super rewarding,” said Tommy, who has been director of Camp Marymount for 17 years.
But spending time at Marymount can help children gain more than their independence. “If they’ve grown spiritually, then I know we’ve really done something,” said Margaret, who served as Marymount’s longtime head counselor before moving into a more administrative role as she had more of her own children.
The Hageys, parishioners at St. Henry Church in Nashville, want every Marymount camper to experience the beauty of God’s creation just as their own children do. To them Marymount is a huge, faith-filled outdoor classroom. “We feel really strongly about Catholic education, and Marymount is an extension of that,” said Margaret.
The Hageys have three children who currently attend Father Ryan High School and four at St. Henry School. Their oldest son attends college out of state. “Almost everything we do has something to do with one of these three communities – Father Ryan, St. Henry’s or Marymount,” said Margaret.
The Hagey children, who range in age from 5-20 years old have spent every summer of their lives at Camp Marymount; some of their earliest memories are playing in the mud, catching crawfish, and going for creek hikes.
“It’s a humbling experience to live out here. You really appreciate nature,” said 18-year-old Mary Kathryn Hagey, a senior at Father Ryan.
Her twin brother John agrees. “I think if you took every electronic thing away from me I’d be totally fine,” he said. “I love to hunt and fish and spend time outdoors, appreciating God’s gift to us.”
During the summer, the Hageys stay together in an old camp office building dubbed “the Hagey hut.” The living quarters are cramped; for many years there was no television. “You’re living in a small area without any toys, but you’re never really bored,” Mary Kathryn recalled. “You’re not sitting inside.”
When each of the Hagey children are old enough, they move down to a cabin and join in the Marymount experience like any other camper. “We drew a pretty hard line about it,” Tommy said, explaining that the children are not allowed to break away from their regular activities to visit with their parents.
“It was harder for us than for the parents who drop their children off and leave,” Margaret said. Being in the same place, yet not together, is difficult at times for both parents and children, but they’ve always survived the transition.
“It was not an option for them not to like it,” Margaret joked of sending the children off to join a cabin. Moving away from the “Hagey hut” and into a cabin, “is like you’re going from a big family to being placed into another big family,” said John. Typically, junior camp cabins accommodate 10 campers and one to two counselors.
Once the Hagey children move into a cabin, it’s not unusual for them to feel a greater burden of accountability. “I felt a responsibility because it’s my home,” said Mary Kathryn, who says she always makes an effort to reach out to new people.
Marymount staff members hold the Hagey children to a higher standard as well. “The counselors expect them to know more, to not to get into trouble or be mischievous,” said Margaret.
Even though all the Hagey children loved their Marymount experience, Tommy and Margaret continue to send the older children to a similar Catholic camp in Indiana “to experience another camp that’s not their home,” said Tommy.
Even though the Hageys do not live year-round at Marymount, it is their beloved second home. Their Nashville home may be more spacious, with all the amenities they could want, but the children still hate to leave Marymount and go back to reality. “I still cry every time I have to leave,” Mary Kathryn said.