In 2005, after 8 years of marriage, Jennifer Morris was getting a divorce. “We just weren’t our best selves together,” Morris says. “That was it.”
From friends and family, Morris remembers getting all kinds of well-intentioned advice, but much of it either wasn’t helpful or had roots in protecting the advice givers’ own sense of loss. Morris didn’t find a ray of hope in hired divorce experts either, as much of their advice centered around litigation, retribution and revenge.
The once resourceful problem solver, soon found herself consumed by divorce, and awash in sadness and anxiety. “I was operating from the worst place to make decisions,” she says. “High emotion. Low information.”
Morris never wished for divorce, but she knew that inside were corners of hope and opportunities. She wasn’t interested in tearing down her marriage, but rather in building a new life with new experiences, knowledge and relationships. “I deserve to be happy, and I was going to make my divorce mean something.”
The seed for Daisy Camp had taken root.
A different camp experience
Daisies, with all their resiliency, was the perfect name for Morris’s vision. “That and the fact that no one wants to go to Divorce Camp,” says Morris. As soon as the legal ink on her divorce decree was dry, Morris began reaching out to experts who could offer up high-level information on divorce options that went beyond traditional litigation as well as financial, tax, legal and parenting planning.
Morris learned that only 20 percent of divorce was legal, and the rest was emotional. Finding experts who carried nurturing messages of informational empowerment was difficult at first. “It is fun to plan a wedding, but scary to un-plan a marriage,” says Morris. Daisy Camp would be a place where women could get the information they needed to make sound, confident decisions in an environment that supported friendships, healing and happiness. Social opportunities would encourage campers to get back into the practice of making new friends and saying ‘yes’ to invitations again.
Morris understood first hand that when getting divorced the tendency is to say ‘no,’ but her grandmother pushed her to always say ‘yes.’ “She would tell me that I didn’t have to take my jacket off when I got there,” says Morris. “But I had to go to the party.” To Morris, saying ‘yes,’ coupled with understanding that you are worthy of happiness, is the golden ticket to turning divorce into an enhancing rather than defining experience.
By March 2006, Morris launched the initial Daisy Camp as a one-time event. Women came Friday night and left Sunday. Hosted at a hotel, devoid of mosquitos and tents, Morris put a bouquet of daisies in each of the campers’ rooms. The event sold out and Morris was left with a wait list of women.
Several events later, the wait list didn’t go away. Daisy Camp became a nonprofit. One-day seminars, weeknight events and brown bag lunches helped to lower costs and increase access. Never turning anyone away became a core principle, with scholarships made available to those who could not afford the $25 for evening and brown bag events or $60 for full-day seminars.
A decade of daisies
Today, Morris estimates that somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 women, and a few men, ages 20-80 from all over the Midwest, have attended Daisy Camps in Minneapolis and Woodbury. Some come with first names only; others give fake names. Not all who attend end up divorced. Graduates are called ‘Daisies,’ and many return as speakers, volunteers and financial donors.
Morris embraces the Daisy letters that wrap around the pay-it-forward donations. News on post-divorce transformations feed her. It’s good pay, considering that 11 years into Daisy Camp she still doesn’t take a salary. “I consider it my charity of choice,” Morris says. “We have only one life. People forget about happiness. I want to help people be the happiest they can be.”