Meet Our Camp Directors:
Larry Dawalt, Co-Director
After serving as co-director in 2000, Larry Dawalt has been at the helm of Chameleon’s Journey as Camp Director for the past 22 years, leading the camp from its small beginnings into one of the larger grief camps in the country. As part of his duties as Senior Director of Spiritual & Grief Care Services for VIA Health Partners (formerly known as Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region), Larry oversees general camp operations, leads the CJ Steering Committee’s behind the scenes planning throughout the year, and serves as host and Master of Ceremonies at the camp. He has a heart for those who are hurting and is a friend and resource to campers, parents and staff. He also represents Chameleons Journey in the community, maintaining relationships with a variety of strategic community partners who support the camp.
Over the years, he has watched grieving children move through the grief process and increase their coping skills while building significant relationships with those who are also on the grief journey. He has also watched some of those campers turn into members of the camp staff, returning year after year to share their experiences with others who are now walking the path.
Larry has received the designation Certified in Thanatology from the Association of Death Educators and Counselors and is also a Certified Trauma Services Specialist. In 2018, he received the Professional of the Year Award from the North Carolina Association for Home and Hospice Care.
This year, Larry is moving back to a co-director role as he is being joined at the helm by Walt Windley, VIA’s Spiritual Care Preceptor. Together, they will continue to provide help, hope and healing for grieving children and their families throughout the organization’s 32-county service area through the work of Chameleon’s Journey.
Walt Windley, Co-Director
Coming to work for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region in 2012, Walt immediately got involved in Chameleon’s Journey, with staff members joking that he looked more like a camper than a staffer. In many ways, Walt has grown with the camp, overseeing our oldest students through their journey of grief over the last decade. He comes with an extensive background in summer camp experience, directing Passport Camps for both children and youth across the Southeast, often housed on college campuses and putting students to work volunteering in local not-for-profit service agencies. He was also a part of Passport Liberia, taking the camping experience across the Atlantic in partnership with Ricks Institute outside of Monrovia to work with orphans following more than seven years of civil unrest and war. At VIA Health Partners (formerly Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region), Walt currently serves as Spiritual Care Preceptor, providing education and direction to our chaplains located throughout the organization’s 32-county service area.
But for Walt, Chameleon’s Journey is much more personal! Having lost his father when he was a teenager, Walt understands the importance of building a community of support and meeting students with an openness to their grief and expression of pain. Walt says that times of knowing that you are not alone, experiencing healing, hope and even fun with campers who understand where you are and what you have gone through are valuable times that words cannot totally describe. Walt loves those moments when campers begin to open with one another, watching instant connections and friendships form that will last a lifetime. As a part of camp, Walt also pushes for education around responsibility – responsibility to self, responsibility to each other, and responsibility to the world through one’s actions and choices.
In 2022, Walt moved from working with just our older campers and the steering committee to serving as Assistant Director. This year, he will join Larry as Co-Director of Chameleon’s Journey. Walt’s training is in healthcare chaplaincy with additional education in Play Therapy and Critical Incident Stress Management. But even more than his training, he has a heart for those who are hurting, and we are fortunate to have him as one of our leaders!