Community Gathers for Annual “Turkey in the Hole” Ritual

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 will be 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. 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