Summer Camps!

One of the cool parts of my job as Director of Activities Ministries at St. James UMC is hosting/running over 20 camps during the summer. Each summer, our church partners with several different companies to run everything from drama, science, soccer, basketball, volleyball, music and more. In fact, this summer, 9 of our camps are being run in house by our Children’s, Music and Activities Ministries.

Today begins the first week of these camp offerings at our church. 

Club SciKidz Camp


Dos Santos Soccer Camp


From now to the end of August, we will have over 1,000 campers (from ages 9 months to 18 years old) come through our building. And while it’s a very busy time in my world, it’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Here’s to another great summer!

May 2018 Florida/Disney Trip Recap

A couple of weekends ago, Rachel and I headed down to Florida for a few days. We spent the first day with my brother, Warren,and his family, before heading down to Disney for another quick visit. We typically like to get down to Disney at least once before the summer crowds/heat take over.

My nephew, Trey (Warren’s oldest), is graduating from high school at the end of this month, and we aren’t able to make the actual ceremony. But I knew I wanted to have some time to celebrate with him, so we decided to head down to Tallahassee to visit with them for the day/night. When we got there, we ended up getting to watch our niece, Ansley, ride horses and play polo for a little while. For not knowing very much about polo, I thought she was excellent! I was super impressed for sure!


We had a wonderful time hanging with my brother’s family, and as an added bonus, my dad and Suzanne came down for the day as well! I’ve said it before, I’m so blessed to have a wonderful and loving family who genuinely likes to be together.

After spending the night in Tallahassee, we headed out and made our way down to Disney for the next 3 days. We were excited for several reasons…

  • Copper Creek (Wilderness Lodge) We ended up staying at our favorite resort, Wilderness Lodge, for the nights we were down there. In fact, our friend,Nick (who works for Disney Corporate), got us a great deal in the new section, Copper Creek. It was absolutely amazing! The rooms were so nice and updated. We ended up with a corner room that overlooked the private DVC pool and was within shouting distance of Geyser Point and Grill, one of our favorite new restaurants at the resorts. I told Rachel, once we’ve had a chance to stay at all the Disney resorts, Wilderness Lodge will more than likely be our go to from then on. While a little pricier than the moderate resorts, it’s worth it for the overall experience!
  • Flower and Garden Festival Epcot has become one of our favorite parks at Disney. I think one of the main reasons is the festivals (including Food and Wine, Flower and Garden, and Festival of Arts) they have throughout the year. We love exploring the different food and drink offerings throughout the World Showcase. Plus, this year, Annual Passholders received special Flower and Garden Festival-themed magnets!
  • Friends We ended up having some solid quality time with our friends, Nick and Ciara, who live literally right behind the Magic Kingdom. We love having time with them. They have truly become some of our closest friends.
  • Disney Parks And, of course, being in the parks! We ended up spending time in the Animal Kingdom (especially Pandora!), Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. We always have a great time just being in the parks. It’s become one of our true happy places! No wonder they call it “The Most Magical Place On Earth!”

All in all, we had a wonderful trip to visit family and the Walt Disney World Resort! Until next time…



Adventure Is Out There

Rachel and I love to travel. And yes, while Disney is our top destination…we love to get out of town, even for just a few days. We decided years ago that we value experiences more than just accumulating a lot of stuff.


Now, of course, we buy the necessities and even treat ourselves to material possessions…but experiences are always going to be of great importance.

Inevitably, whenever we are getting ready to head out of town for a quick trip, someone always comments, “Didn’t you just go out of town?” I always smile and say YEP! It makes me happy to know that we are known as a couple who enjoys traveling and being together.


I will say, we are incredibly fortunate that we are able to get away several times a year. Both of us have great jobs with a lot of flexibility. Plus, we are financially able to make it work, while still being able to live and save money. Also, it doesn’t hurt that we are able to make a lot of our trips cheaper by using points, staying with friends, buying annual passes, and not going overboard with food and drinks.


All in all, I love experiencing new (and familiar) places with Rachel. I believe it allows us to get away from the craziness of life from time to time and just be together. And I figure as long as we can make these trips work out with our schedules and finances, we will continue to place a high priority on them.

New York City Trip Recap (Part Three)

Continuing with Part Three of our New York City Trip Recap…check out Parts One and Two here and here.

After two pretty busy days, our third (and final full day) in NYC was going to be a little more laidback. The only thing on the agenda was the New York Yankees baseball game at 1:00pm. We figured after the game, we would just grab dinner and walk around that evening for our last night. 

But after waking up and grabbing some breakfast, we decided to see if we could find tickets to another Broadway show for the evening. We had several options, although quite a few were pretty expensive. We ended up scoring some tickets to the new Frozen show that opened about a month ago. We had heard good things about it, plus, it’s Disney…so we figured it was a good bet.

Back to the first thing on our agenda for the day…the Yankees game. Now I’ve been to the old Yankees stadium, but haven’t gotten out to the new stadium, so I was excited to see it. We jumped on the subway a few hours before the game and made the trek up to the Bronx. The subway was absolutely packed with people going to the game. And it’s not a short ride. I was definitely ready to be off the train when we finally arrived.


The stadium was a short walk from the subway and very easy to navigate. We ended up with absolutely wonderful seats in the outfield right behind the bullpen. Plus, with the weather still a little chilly, it was great to be in the sun (especially for Rachel).

We had a great time at the game. The fans were all super nice and super into the game. It’s definitely a different environment than going to a Braves game. Plus, the Yankees won, so everyone was in a good mood.

Around the 8th inning, we decided to cut out and head back towards the hotel. Once we got back down to the hotel area, we walked around for a bit and even found another Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes!

After resting up for a little bit, we headed over to the Times Square area to grab dinner. We ended up at this great burger place (The Counter) literally in the middle of Times Square. It was excellent!


Once we finished eating, it was time for Frozen! The show was really cute. Honestly, I thought it was even better than the movie. The two female leads were fantastic! And, as you might imagine, the overall theatre/environment was very different than the HP show. I was glad we decided to hit up another Broadway show on our last night in NYC. It was the perfect way to close out our amazing trip!

So all in all, we had a wonderful 3 days in New York City. While the weather was definitely cold, we were able to do everything we wanted to do and more. Plus, seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child made the entire trip worth it. We agreed that NYC is a must do at least every 5-10 years. Can’t wait to get back!

New York City Trip Recap (Part Two)

Continuing with Part Two of our New York City Trip Recap…check out Part One here.

After a busy Thursday, we took our time getting out of the hotel on Friday morning. Since we didn’t have plans until Part Two of the HP play, we decided to mainly be tourists in NYC.

We started out by heading down to One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) and the 9/11 Museum area. Last time we were in NYC, they were in the process of building both. It was cool to be able to finally see them in person.


But wow, it was crazy crowded down there. The lines to go up to the top of the tower and the 9/11 Museum were insane. We decided to just walk around and take pictures instead.

Once we finished walking around the Freedom Tower area, we grabbed a quick lunch and made our way over to Battery Park. It was a beautiful walk along the Hudson River. We got to see New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

After a while, we decided to hop back on the subway and make our way up to the Rockefeller Center/Central Park area. We spent some time just walking around and in and out of stores around Rockefeller Center before stopping off at Magnolia Bakery for some baked goods. The line was out the door!

We walked up to Central Park, but not before stopping by The Plaza so Rachel could get a picture. (As a little girl she loved the Eloise books, who lived in The Plaza.)


Even though it was definitely a little on the chillier side, we found a nice sunny spot in Central Park and stopped to rest/hang for a bit.

After spending several hours around this area, we began the journey back down to our hotel to get ready for the show. We were probably 20-25 blocks away, but we decided to walk and just enjoy the sights/stores/sounds.

We stopped in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a few minutes. It was breathtaking!


We even stopped in the Disney Store in Times Square. It was awesome! Easily the biggest Disney Store I’ve ever been in.

Once we got back over to the hotel, we rested up for a bit before heading back out for dinner and Part Two of HP!

We had found a cool dinner spot the night before that was kind of like a food court of sorts. We both ended up getting tacos, which were awesome!

After dinner, I was super excited to get to the second part of the HP play. Part one was just so amazing…I knew part two would be equally as great!

And friends, it absolutely was! I can’t get over how amazing this play was. The acting, sets, music, and overall magic were second to none. I am soooooo glad we decided to see it on Broadway and with the original principal cast from London. It was an experience neither one of us will ever forget.

We even got a few pictures of the actors as they were coming outside after the show. There were quite a few people waiting on them, but I was able to sneak a few pictures from over the top. (It’s nice to be tall!)

As we did the night before, once we finished at the HP show, we walked over to Times Square for a few minutes. And, of course, it was crazy crowded. But we were able to grab a few more photos before calling it a night.

Stay tuned for the 3rd and final recap post….





New York City Trip Recap (Part One)

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Rachel and I spent last weekend in New York City. We had a great time hitting up the shows, sights and stores. Let’s start from the beginning…

On Thursday morning, we flew out of Atlanta and landed in NYC a little before noon. After grabbing a cab into the city, we checked in to our hotel and made our way out for lunch and some sightseeing. We had to be at Part One of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by 7:30, so we knew we had most of the afternoon to explore.

After grabbing some lunch, we jumped on the subway down to SoHo for some shopping. We ended up hitting several cool stores, including the Jean Shop, which is where I previously bought my favorite pair of jeans in the world! I picked up a new pair and Rachel even got a pair for herself!


We spent a few hours walking around some different stores before making our way back to the hotel. We decided to walk back as it was roughly a 30-45 minute walk, but we figured we could stop along the way for pictures and sights.

Once we got back to the hotel, we cleaned up and rested for a little bit before making our way to dinner and the play. Rachel found a great restaurant that ended up being quite good! After dinner, we walked over to the Lyric Theatre for the HP play.

Now friends, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. Rachel definitely loves it, too, but I think she sometimes appeases my love for this amazing universe. I knew when they released the HP play in London a few years ago that I had to see this on Broadway when it inevitability came to New York. I was thrilled when they announced it was coming to Broadway, and even more excited when I learned 7 of the principle London cast members were coming as well. 

So once we got to the theater, I was crazy excited! Even just the outside of the theater was amazing! After grabbing several pictures, we made our way inside.

Everything about the inside was awesome and themed around the play. We hit up the merchandise booths, where we picked up several souvenirs. We then made our way into the theater and found our seats.

Without giving too much away, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part One was absolutely breathtaking. I absolutely loved it. From the cast and scenery to the overall story and stage effects, it was amazing! When part one ended, I knew part two was going to be just as good. I couldn’t wait for Friday night!

Once the show ended, we closed out the evening by making our way over to Times Square for a few minutes to walk around and see all the craziness of everything. And, of course, there were thousands upon thousands of people. It really is the “city that never sleeps.”


Stay tuned for Part Two of our New York City trip recap…

New York, New York!

I want to be a part of it….

Tomorrow (Thursday), Rachel and I will be heading up to New York City for the weekend. We scored tickets to the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Broadway show and we are super excited! The show is a two-part play that will take place on Thursday and Friday evenings.


Besides going to the show, we will have a few days to walk around one of our favorite cities. We even got tickets to a Yankees baseball game on Saturday afternoon. It’s been over 7 years since we’ve been to “The Big Apple,” so we are excited for sure!

Make sure to follow me on social media to stay up-to-date on all my amazing adventures this weekend!

Instagram: @allenwhittaker
Twitter: @allenwhittaker

Small Blessings…

One of my goals for the month of April is to take some time each week and reconnect with old friends I haven’t seen/reached out to in a while. I mentioned how easy it is to get comfortable with the circle of people around you, but I wanted to make sure I stay connected with those friends who mean just as much to me.

So on Tuesday, I ended up spending almost an hour on the phone catching up with one of my college buddies and groomsmen, Andy Cartee. Andy is one of those friends that even though we don’t talk as much as we use to, as soon as we catch up it’s like no time has passed. Those friends/people in your life are few and far between.


College Seniors – 1998

I’m so very grateful for Andy. In fact, when my mom passed away 5 years ago, he was one of the first people I called. We probably hadn’t talked in 6 months, but he was immediately one of the people I knew I wanted to call.

Friends/people like Andy don’t come around very often. It’s why he will always be one of my best friends. Talking to Andy on Tuesday continued to confirm this for me. I’m so grateful for people like that in my life. And I’m so glad I reached out to him. It reminded me that I need to be better about staying in touch with those people who will be lifelong friends. 

In fact, I saw this with Rachel this past Sunday. We celebrated her parents’ birthdays (they share the same birthday!) and several family friends came over to their house. One of Rachel’s oldest friends, Kaylan, was there with her family. I’m pretty sure Rachel and Kaylan haven’t seen each other in over a year. I watched the two of them catch up and it made my heart happy. I know how much Kaylan means to Rachel. I believe Kaylan will be one of those lifelong friends for my wife. 

So…it only took a few minutes…but reaching out to Andy was such a blessing for me this week. I look forward to continuing this goal for the month of April and beyond!

Knoxville Half Marathon Recap (Part Two – Guest Post)

Rachel takes over the blog today for the second half of the Knoxville Half Marathon. Check out part one here

After exploring Knoxville on Saturday, we got plenty of sleep in preparation for a 7:30 race start the next morning. Luckily, our hotel was a five-minute walk to the starting line, so we didn’t have to push ourselves to leave early. It was also fortunate that the nearby Knoxville Convention Center was open for runners, so we didn’t have to wait in the cold.

Having been born in Knoxville (I only lived there for about five months before we moved to Georgia), I was excited to see parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. When we visited the city growing up it was almost exclusively for football games, and we mostly stuck to the University of Tennessee campus, so I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the city.

The race started near the downtown area in the shadow of the Sunsphere (or there would’ve been a shadow if it had been sunny…). We meandered through the campus a bit, before running along the Tennessee River. As Allen commented, there wasn’t much crowd support during this part of the race, but that was coming!

We then ran on Kingston Pike, which is the like the Peachtree (pick your street name) of Knoxville. It also felt like church row – there were tons along this part of the route. We then turned into the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood, where we were for the next several miles.

Not only was there more crowd support in this part of the course, but there were more hills than I’ve ever encountered during a race. (As you’ll see, the theme of this race is Hills.) It was actually very distracting to have some crowds, signs, costumes, and beautiful homes along this part of the course, so it wasn’t quite as painful as it could’ve been.


One of the unique things about this particular race is that there were musical acts around each mile marker during the race. I wasn’t particularly impressed with these interludes, but I could see its merits. (I also don’t love country music, so that could be a contributing factor.) My advice to future musical acts is to play either crowd pleasers or more upbeat songs – runners appreciate some motivation!

After we left Sequoyah Hills (see? Hills again), we actually ran through a wooded area, which was nice but not especially exciting. As it had rained the night before, it was also quite wet and muddy (and hilly, let us not forget). I think I would’ve preferred running in a more exciting area, but props to them for mixing it up.

At one point, after we left the more secluded path, we passed the hospital where I was born – and where my dad was born 71 years ago! Obviously we had to document this part of the race, since I hadn’t been there in almost 33 years.


Toward the end of the race, we made it back onto campus, and it was fun to see some of the areas I remembered visiting as a kid. Let me tell you, these students must get a workout every time they go to class! (Hills, y’all.) Actually, at one point we reached a hill that I finally had to walk – I was exhausted from running up all of the hills to that point.

Finally, we turned a corner and saw Neyland Stadium – the finish line was on the 50-yard line. As soon as we ran into the chute, we saw Smokey – and I had to get a photo, of course. It was fun to run through a stadium where I had spent a lot of Saturdays throughout my childhood.


All in all, even though the hills were brutal, the race was fun! I was happy to spend some time in my birthplace – and this was a good way to see much of it.

I hope Allen and I can visit again sometime soon, whether we’re going to a football game or not. There’s so much more to the city than I realized, and I’m very proud to say I was born there.