Adam's Summer Updates

1000 Words are Worth a Single Picture

Greetings from camp!

As many of you know, yesterday we sent out an email to all of our current families which included biographies about each of the boys’ cabin counselors and their village directors.  All humility aside, as I read through those biographies, I am always amazed by what an impressive crew we have here.  These people are not only talented folks with children, but are also quite accomplished in the “off-season.”

You may have also noticed that in addition to the biographies, we also included a PHOTO(!!!) of your son’s cabin group.  We began sending this single photo out about four years ago so that families could attach faces to the names that your sons will be referencing in the voluminous letters home you will be receiving. (Unless your son is like my sons, in which case the first line of this update roughly equals the total word output you will receive per letter this summer….only with better spelling and grammar!  Sorry for the public shaming boys….a dad needs to use whatever tools are at his disposal!)  The response to receiving these photos has been very positive.  It is clear that people really appreciate them.

Which begs the question as to why we do not post more photos, even daily photos, on our website.  It is something that I have thought a lot about and about which I have spoken with several other camp directors.  Some directors have chosen to go with photos and some have not.  As far as our choice not to post daily photos, here is the rationale:

There is the philosophical rationale:

Many camp directors that do this report that often times folks read too much into the expressions on the kid’s faces.  Parents see that for the 1/100th of a second that the camera captured, their child was not smiling and get worried that something is amiss.  “That is not Johnny’s REALLY happy face, that is just his kinda happy face…what is wrong with him?  Why is my child in a sling and crutches?  (Just kidding!  We would, of course call you if this were the case!)  This creates unnecessary stress for parents as they get these images and interpretations stuck in their minds….  (I get several of these phone calls each time we send out just that one single photo.)
I guess I believe that to a certain extent, the time up here at camp should be the kids’ own time.  I think it should be their experience as much as possible.  One that we hope they will share with their parents through letters. (One of the eternal struggles in camp directing is getting the kids to write letters in the first place….let alone quality ones.)  But the introduction of daily photos would obstruct that a bit.
We strongly encourage parents that have worries, concerns, or just need to know how their son is doing, to call us here.  Speaking to a real person, that is in regular contact with the boy, is, in my opinion, a far better way to know how he is really doing.
Then there is the nuts and bolts rationale:

It would be enormously time consuming; we make a choice to use our staff time in ways that more directly benefits the kids in camp.
The need to fairly show each camper a relatively equal number of times is a pretty daunting task when dealing with such a large number of kids.
I, of course, realize the potential fun and benefits of photos on the website, but after weighing the issues, at least at this point, we choose to not post them.  And while we deal with some camper homesickness here, one cannot underestimate the challenge that giving up one’s son for the month can present.  Parent homesickness is a real thing too.  I know it is hard.  I can’t imagine how hard it will be when my daughter goes off to camp….then again, I purchased a camp to avoid just that heartache with my boys!

These every other day updates are meant to not only give you writing prompts for your letters to your children, but also to give you our own version of snapshots of life at Camp Nebagamon.  Here are five of today’s snapshots:



Two days ago, two boys, one a veteran, and one a brand new kid, were standing outside the Jop (our bathroom) in quiet conversation just after the wake-up bell.  Assuming we had a sad new boy, our Axeman Village Director headed over to see if he could be helpful.  As he approached, he started to overhear snippets of the conversation.  Turns out that this was not a case of homesickness at all.  The new boy had realized that he was scheduled to be the KP (table setter and food getter) for the cabin at breakfast that morning and didn’t know how to do it.  He was feeling nervous about it.  Our veteran camper was walking him through what he needed to do so that he could tackle the job with confidence.  Now I realize that this act does not rise to the level of pulling someone out of a burning building or even consoling a homesick boy, but this quiet conversation was a simple and beautiful act of kindness.  The sign in front of the Big House says This Shall Be A Place Of Welcome For All.  And this snapshot shows that even in small ways, we all embrace that sign.



Laughing boy in the Rec Hall at breakfast.  Admittedly, photos like this are a dime a dozen.  But the back story on this one is that this same boy was sitting with me the day before on the Big House porch telling me what a lousy camp this is and how being here is like being in prison for him (my mom always told me she hoped I would grow up to be a warden).  We talked for a few minutes about how he was feeling.  After I made it clear to him that he would indeed remain “in custody” for the remainder of the session, he simply shrugged his shoulders and immediately said “Ok then….In that case I plan on winning the Golden Whistle Award in Athletics and the Golden Spoon Award in MOCA.”  He vowed to get out there and give it his best shot and, surprisingly cheerfully, headed off to his cabin for the night.  By breakfast the next day, homesick boy was uncontrollably laughing and having a ball with his cabinmates at their family table.  (After this discussion, I am resolved that we should change the name of the place that kids come to talk to me about being homesick, so that it is no longer a slang term for prison like Big House and so that I can avoid using prison metaphors in writings that parents read!)



Exultant 4th grade camper in the air with arm thrust to the sky while surrounded by several other boys all cheering.  Again, nothing totally out of the ordinary here.  Just a game of basketball at our athletics project.  In this case, the boy in the air had been missing shots all period long.  He was getting really down on himself but kept plugging away at it.  Finally, in the last minutes of the project he hit a long jumper.  All action stopped as everyone realized this was an important moment.  The boy celebrated, as did all of the others on his team…and the other team!



Camp director barely clinging to life with his head between his knees sitting on the bench next to our 10 foot basketball court.  In an effort to prove one of our most oft repeated slogans here at camp, “Camp is a safe place to fail,” I agreed to participate in the staff 3 on 3 basketball tournament.  My teammates, two athletic 17 year olds, thought it would be fun to drag the old man out there for everyone to see.  And fun was had… our opponents and by the hoards of the camp family that turned up to watch the game (it had been announced that I would be playing).  Just to be clear, a 5’6” (5’7” with the right shoes) 46 year old man that has not played basketball in a decade SHOULD NOT plan his first game against three 18-20 year olds, all of whom are MUCH taller than him and dead set on blocking as many of his shots as possible to exact revenge on him for making them sit through his endless attempts at humor from the microphone on a daily basis!  I really do have no idea how I made it through that game.  But, if I were to be really honest, I would tell you it was among the more fun things I have done at camp in a long time.  It was fun to compete (well….sorta compete), it was fun to be a part of something that so many folks were having so much fun with, and it was fun to hit that one shot (yes….my final stats were something in the neighborhood of 1 for 20!) and have the crowd go wild for me.  It took me back to my youth when I was playing sports and the crowds would……well……ok who am I kidding, this was the one and only time an athletic crowd has ever gone wild for me!  It made the utter exhaustion (That snapshot really is exactly how I looked at the end of the game!) and the fact that I can barely walk today (as evidenced by the length of today’s update!) all worthwhile.



A seventh grade boy at the waterfront with his arm over the shoulder of a scared fifth grader that he has never met.  Yesterday down at the waterfront, a fifth grade boy had a momentary lapse and forgot to flip his buddy tag on the Buddy Board, the system that we use to account for each child that is in the water or on a boat.  The consequence of this type of lapse is that the entire camp shifts into a Lost Buddy Search mode.  This involves many staff members combing the water in a systematic way, as well as multiple runners sent out into the camp to see if the missing boy can be located.  It is an impressive (read: really scary!) protocol.  When the boy was found and brought back to the waterfront, he was given a serious talking to by our waterfront director.  You could tell by just looking at the boy that he understood the seriousness of the situation and was not going to make that mistake again.  You could also tell by looking at the boy that he was on the verge of tears.  This fact was noticed by a 7th grade camper who had never met this boy before.  Upon seeing the boy looking so sad, the 7th grader walked up to him, put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said “It’s ok.  I made that mistake once too.  Everyone makes mistakes.”  Now, as all of our readers know, I am constantly praising our wonderful staff for the incredible role models that they are.  This snapshot shows that what is being modeled and spoken about here really does work.  It sinks into everyone in our community.  We look out for each other.  We understand each other. We protect each other.  A beautiful photo….Ansel Adams would be jealous.

So….sorry, no daily photos on the website.  Just wordy snapshots that help you to imagine what life is like here, but still let HERE be the boys’ experience.

All is well in the North Woods…..