Our Staff

John Gordon – Executive Directorjohn-family-pic

John is originally from Clover SC and has been the Director of YMCA Camp Cherokee since April of 2012. John previously came to Cherokee from the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, where he was the Raft Operations Manager. Before the USNWC, John held an array of jobs at YMCA Camp Thunderbird in Lake Wylie, SC where he finished his time there as the Director of Environmental Education. John’s wife Ally works in HR at the USNWC where they met. John and Ally have a wonderful daughter Aila Kay and two dogs, Leeda and Shiner.

When asked why he works at Cherokee, he admits “Cherokee is a place that is like no other. Residential camping is one of the most formidable experiences of a child’s life and I like to be a part of that. Being a positive influence, directly or indirectly is what makes the world a better place.” Contact John Gordon.


Nell Pears– Director of Environmental Education and Outdoor Leadership Development

Nell began working for the YMCA at Camp Hanes in 2009, img_7401it was there that she fell in love with the YMCA, and outdoor adventure education.  Nell later decided to pursue a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate level Academic Certificate in Environmental Education from University of Idaho. While earning her Master’s, she taught residential Environmental Education at the McCall Outdoor Science School in McCall, Idaho. Nell moved from Idaho to work as a Program Coordinator at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in the mountains of Black Mountain, NC, and came from Y-Blue Ridge to work for Camp Cherokee in November of 2015!

Nell and her husband, Micah have two dogs named Delmar and Dingo and a horse named Missy. Nell enjoys hiking with her family, camping, backpacking, horseback riding, traveling and working out.

When asked why Nell works at YMCA Camp Cherokee, she admits “I chose to move from Black Mountain, NC to work at Camp Cherokee because Camp Cherokee has an unmistakable exceptional quality. The property is in such an unique location (within TWO parks!) and has so much to offer both geographically and resource-wise. Knowing that UP YMCA, and Camp Cherokee, care about their communities first and foremost was another reason I was drawn to this association. In short: Camp Cherokee was simply the RIGHT choice for me!” Contact Nell Pears.


Will “Happy” Gilmore – Associate Resident Camp Directorfullsizerender

Will started his Cherokee career at the ripe old age of six years of age and hasn’t missed a summer yet!  Will has been associated with Cherokee for the past 17 years as a camper, counselor, administrative staff member and now a full time staff as the Associate Resident Camp Director.  Will graduated Clemson University in May of 2016 with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.  While in Clemson, Will worked for the Foothills YMCA as an Assistant Program Director.

When not at Cherokee Will can be found at Clemson football games, catching up on professional and college sports and playing disc golf.

When asked why he works at Cherokee – “Camp Cherokee has been a second home to me throughout the years and is where I discovered my personality as a young adult. Every summer I strive to give the same experience I received as a child at Camp Cherokee. Every camper deserves the right to grow as an individual and watching kids achieve their goals is truly a blessing.” Contact Will Gilmore.


Amy Counterman – Administrator13533074_10210229634206051_4247503855522793970_n

Amy began working for YMCA Camp Cherokee in 2013 and has been a cornerstone of Cherokee ever since.  If you have called the main number, you have probably spoken to her!  Amy is originally from Chester, SC and works currently at our Charlotte Ave. office in Rock Hill, SC.  If you need information regarding any program at Cherokee, she’s your woman!  Amy works long hours to ensure registrations are complete and our campers and guests have the best experience possible.

While not working, Amy can be found spending time outside with friends and family on their farm, or watchiing the Clemson Tigers play. As a farmer’s daughter, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty out at camp as well, which is an added bonus!

Amy came to us from the medical field and while she stepped into this position not knowing much about Cherokee, she quickly learned and fell in love with the mission and what Cherokee can do for young people. Contact Amy Counterman.


About Our Staff

1476420_10151976403385423_1091062730356282432_nCamp Cherokee is an ACA certified camp, which verifies that our camp complies with up to 300 individual standards that promote camper safety. Staff are trained to ensure that the programs and facilities are safe for your child in all aspects of camp.

Staff at Camp Cherokee are the most important part of a great camp! Their skills are the foundation of safety in our programs. Our Staff team is comprised of college and high school individuals who have a love for kids and a dedication to our camp.

Each cabin has one counselor (Head, Double-Senior or Senior) and either one C.I.T. (counselor in training) or Junior Counselor. Head Counselors are rising Sophomores in college. Double-Senior Counselors are rising freshman in College. Senior Counselors are rising seniors in high school. Junior counselors are rising juniors in High School. Upper Staff members (Area Supervisors) are minimum rising juniors in College.

Approximately 95 percent of each year’s staff are returning members. Most of our counselors began as campers and grew up at Camp Cherokee. Many stay through their university years, gaining experience as they return each summer. Their compassion for the campers is magnified because they have shared the same experiences as the campers. No other camp in America can match our commitment to safety or dedication to children!

How Are They Chosen?

All staff participate in an application and interview process (including drug-testing and criminal background checks) before being hired. Once hired, all staff members complete extensive training prior to the camp season. Camp Cherokee maintains a staff-to-camper ratio of 1 to 4.

If you’re interested in becoming a staff member at Camp Cherokee, the process is simple. Visit our Employment page to find more information about requirements and responsibilities.