Meet Tammi Leader Fuller, one of our OTB Sisterhood Founding members, and founder of Give Her Camp and Campowerment. In November 2018, her business lost everything in the Malibu Fires. She’s sharing her story of how One Tough Bitch got her through, and continues to lift her up during this difficult time of rebuilding.
From the moment I heard about One Tough Bitch, I knew I had one living deep inside me, usually rearing her lovely head to take me out of mine in the 11th hour of whatever crisis was in front of me, when I really need her to comfort my crazy, like last week as I headed up to Malibu to see the remains of a dream I’ve had, reduced to ashes in those horrific fires last month. I threw on my One Tough Bitch jean jacket the moment I got in the car, hoping she would come through for me as I prepared to walk through the destruction on that hilltop.
I’m not sure I could have endured this without her.
For 34 years, I was a TV News Producer, and in 2013, walked out of the control room and into the woods to create Campowerment, a life-altering, expert-led, summer camp-inspired, weekend retreat, wrapped around the power of playtime. My daughter, mom and I created Campowerment to help people disconnect and reconnect, to themselves and a community of people focused on living life better. That’s what we do: we build communities, and help purpose-driven people find insight, connection and new beginnings. Outside in nature. Sometimes with a shaving cream covered shower cap on their heads and war paint on their faces.
Six years, 23 camps and thousands of happy campers later, with shout outs from Oprah, More and Parade Magazines, as well as the NY and LA Times, what started as a weekend retreat for women has morphed into powerful, culture shifting co-ed program, custom curated for companies and organizations looking for ways to unite their people around a shared mission.
Starting a business from scratch has not been easy. The road has been bumpy at every turn, because when you build a dream from a blank piece of paper, there is no map to follow. Just One Tough Bitch nudging you to keep plowing forward, even when your brain tells you to surrender and give it all up, and go back to what you know. The safe route.
Our brains are not designed to keep us happy. They are designed to keep us comfortable. And scared. I’ve been afraid of failing many times on this Campowerment journey. But I never considered walking away. Because my One Tough Bitch wouldn’t let me.
Last month, we were setting up atop that magical cliff we love, overlooking the Pacific, awaiting the arrival of 160 women for our 17th Campowerment weekend retreat in Malibu, when we were evacuated, as the Woolsey fire moved in.
Then, 16 hours later, the camp we called home was decimated, taking with it every material possession Campowerment owned.
It paralyzed us for a moment, and then our community moved in, to wrap its arms around us with love and support and promises to help us rise from the ashes.
In the first 24 hours, our people had donated $20,000 to help us rebuild. The One Tough Bitch sisterhood, our partners in our nonprofit Give Her Camp that sends deserving women to Campowerment, rallied around us too, auctioning off those fabulous works of art created on the OTB jean jackets.
Our people sent hundreds of love notes, and shared our story on Facebook more than a thousand times. The message came through loud and clear.
But before I could find the strength and the insight to fully move on, forge on and do whatever it took to move this Campowerment movement forward, I had to close this chapter, to open a new one. That meant I had to go up to Malibu and assess the damage.
It was brutal. As I walked up to the fireplace in what used to be the center of the Dining Hall where we’d roast s’mores and chill, my eyes focused on all the chairs, still set up in formation for the panel we were to do on the first night of camp, melted like chocolate over their indestructible metal legs. Then I collapsed and cried like a baby. After about a minute, I pulled my shit together and quickly marched myself out of there, heading down that mountain, surrendering to the notion that I had no choice but to carry on. For all the people who need Campowerment. And there are millions of them.
Making change happen is never easy. I have learned that sometimes you just have to put your head down, push yourself hard, do the work and have faith. For me, it’s about believing in what we do and trusting the process, fully aware that most of the things we think we’ve got under control toss us out of the driver’s seat. And when that happens, I highly recommend trusting that One Tough Bitch who never fails you, and letting her take the wheel. She may not show up when you call for her, but believe it Dorothy, she’s always there.