Estranged from his family for 25 years, Camp Hope volunteer Gaile Wolfe returns home.
Gaile has been a volunteer at “Camp Hope”, from the beginning. He is always motivated and full of great ideas, helping out in any way he can. Early on he became a member of our “Safety Team” here at Camp Hope and was instrumental in preparing and building our tipi.
Mid December, me and James Vonbehern my “partner in crime” and co-manager of “Camp Hope” were sitting in the Camp Hope rv/office when James received a call. As soon as James answered the phone, I could tell it was an important call, by the tone of his voice and the way he kept saying, “Yes sir” repeatedly. When James hung up the phone he said “wow that was Gaile Wolfe’s brother, who has been trying to locate him for 25 years, and wanted me to tell Gaile their oldest brother died two years ago.”
Gaile’s brother Skip told Jame he was notified about a picture I took of Gaile for our blog. Skip had found James’ contact number on the Hope Village site. Skip said he, his sister and two nieces would be passing through Las Cruces on their way to family gathering in Texas on the 19th or 20th, and to have Gaile call him as soon as possible. Skip also made sure James understood that Gaile might not want to see them or even talk to them, for whatever reasons but to try anyway.
James and I were very excited for Gaile and told him as soon as we saw him. Well his brother was right, Gaile was shocked, angry, and confused about why after all this time, his family would want to see him again. James and I both understood, and tried to encourage Gaile by saying how amazing it was that this had happened. Even after his brother had hired private detectives to find him. We told Gaile we thought his brother seemed genuinely motivated to have Gaile back in their lives.
After weighing the possibilities and some soul searching, Gaile decided to call Skip. He must have been on the phone a good two hours. Outside, walking around the Hope campus, confronting Skip and himself with all the powerful emotions left unresolved for 25 odd years. James and I waited, and watched, hoping their conversation would end positively. Gaile came back to the RV, and James and I could see how overwhelmed he was. Amazingly, he said “well, we got through all the hard stuff, and they want me to come back to California with them. No way am I going to do that, but at least I’ll get a chance to meet my nieces.”
For a week, until his family’s arrival, Gaile did more soul searching. He also talked about events in the past that led to his family’s estrangement, and was opening up to the reality of how special this chance was. I was able to figure out how to set up the video chat on Facebook and Gaile got a chance to spend a couple hours chatting live with his sis. I even got a chance to introduce myself and chat a little. Afterward Gaile seemed much more lighthearted and I could tell he was changing his mind about meeting his family. I was sure to let Gaile know, that no matter what he decided, to stay or leave, that we all supported him fully.
As planned Gaile’s family arrived in a big RV pulling a jeep. Gaile’s brother Skip introduced himself and asked me where he could park, as they wanted to stay the night. I was happy to have space for them and showed them where to park. I went to find Gaile and when I told him his family was here, I could feel how exciting this all was, the anticipation and all. I had a strong feeling that everything was going to be all right. I could see how peaceful and gentle Skip was and hoped Gaile was in the same place. Gaile’s sister, Skip and his two nieces spent the day with him and we all just sat back and enjoyed how awesome it was they were working it out as a family.
We all were teary eyed to witness a real Christmas miracle unfold. By the end of the day, Gaile was rock solid set on returning to California with them and we were all smiles for the grace and fortune of this family coming together here, at Camp Hope.
When it was time for Gaile and his family to leave there were big hugs, big smiles, tears of happiness, and so much gratitude it was almost like believing in Santa Claus again.
A couple of days later on Christmas night, James and I got chance to get away from the camp and spend an evening at our friend Bea’s house. Sitting comfy and warm by the fireplace with my two Puppies, Kebi and Upasha. While eating pizza and watching Animal Planet shows we got a call from Skip. He thanked us for helping reunite their family and we thanked them for letting us be part of theirs. We wished each other a happy holiday and the warm glow of friendship flowed through the air as we said our goodbyes, I could hear Gaile’s laughter over the speakerphone, like one of Santa’s jolly elves. Sometimes, even being homeless is a privilege.
I could have never imagined, that when I got involved with Camp Hope project that we would become a place for estranged families to reunite, but Gaile Wolfe is proof positive of the power of Love, family and community.