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Community Gathers for Annual “Turkey in the Hole” Ritual

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on November 20, 2017

Camp E-Nini-Hassee hosts traditional Thanksgiving fireside ceremony

For more than 35 years, a small Florida community has gathered at Eckerd Connects’ Camp E-Nini-Hassee to share “gratefuls” around a camp fire. It is a part of the “Turkey in the Hole” ritual that the camp hosts each Thanksgiving holiday. This year it was held on Sunday, November 19 at 5:00 p.m.

“Turkey in the Hole” is a two-day event. Girls at the camp spend an entire Sunday afternoon digging a trench and for a large fire.

Members of the community often arrive to join the girls as they form a circle—each with a stick in hand—and share the reasons they are thankful this Thanksgiving season.

Camp E-nini Hassee campers take turns through the night ensuring the fire stays hot for “Turkey in the Hole.”

Every troop takes shifts throughout the night to monitor the fire, working to keep the coals burning through dawn. On Monday morning, the turkey goes into the pit, and after a few hours of cooking, the girls enjoy the feast they prepared together.

“This is an especially powerful tradition for the girls because it’s very communal,” says Jo Lynn Smith,

E-Nini-Hassee camp director. “They bond while reflecting on all they have, the progress they’ve made, and the people they love. Then we come together to eat delicious turkey they’re proud of because they worked together to prepare it.”

For nearly 50 years, Eckerd Connects’ E-Nini-Hassee Outdoor Therapeutic School for Girls has changed the lives of young women in need of emotional and behavioral support. Since Jack and Ruth Eckerd opened the camp in 1969, thousands of girls have had their lives transformed by the experience.

E-Nini-Hassee remains the most established and trusted outdoor therapeutic school for girls and is consistently identified as one of the most effective programs of its kind.  For more information on the mission and services of E-Nini-Hassee, visit

About E-Nini-Hassee:

E-Nini-Hassee is a program of Eckerd Connects for adolescent girls who are having emotional or behavioral difficulties. Eckerd E-Nini-Hassee Outdoor Therapeutic School for Girls delivers fully-accredited education and counseling services in a therapeutic outdoor environment that fosters personal growth. E-Nini-Hassee was founded in 1969 by Jack and Ruth Eckerd as the first outdoor therapeutic program for troubled girls in the southeast. 

At E-Nini-Hassee, the Eckerd’s created a positive, strength-based environment for girls ages 12-18 to experience nurturing guidance. Students are able to see adults role modeling appropriate behaviors, learn in an educational setting with passionate teachers and participate in therapeutic outdoor adventures during their time at the school. E-Nini-Hassee helps girls fully realize the potential that already exists within them.

About Eckerd Connects: 

Eckerd Connects was founded in 1968 by Jack and Ruth Eckerd with the belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed. The national nonprofit organization has connected more than 200,000 children and families to the help they need through programs in family and child services, workforce development, and juvenile justice services.  To learn more please visit