Adam's Summer Updates

It’s the staff, stupid!

I realize that much of my focus in these updates is, as it should be, on the kids’ experience here at camp. I realize that for the most part, the readership of these updates is simply desperate to get some sense of what their child’s experience at camp is like given the typical quality of the letters home! But, as we come barreling towards the end of the summer at breakneck speed, I would be extraordinarily remiss if I did not dedicate at least one of these updates to the folks that make it all happen here…the staff.

Our staff, over 120 strong, range in age from 16-71 and come from backgrounds varying from high school students in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin to a retired rabbi from San Francisco. For some, this is their very first summer in the North Woods, and for others, it is their 32nd. For some, coming to camp this summer involved making some tough choices, forsaking that seemingly crucial internship or some other “get ready for the real world” job. For others, the choice to come to camp this summer seemed like the ONLY thing to do. To them, summer is Camp Nebagamon and they couldn’t imagine a summer doing anything else.

I have spoken several times in these updates about the MAGIC of camp.  The reality is, all of the magic that happens here is not magic at all. It is the result of the hard work that these folks put into camp every single day of the summer. It is our incredible kitchen staff that work from 5:00AM to 9:00PM literally every single day to provide what EVERYONE agrees is great food. It is our amazing infirmary staff that work behind the scenes to ensure that we all stay healthy and fix us up when we slip. It is our crew of year round caretakers that spend these two months turning all of the hair brained ideas of our staff into reality, fixing all the things that we break, and taking on the arduous task of cleaning our bathrooms every morning without a word of complaint.  And then they spend the next ten months setting the table for the next crew of hair brained idea generators, item breakers, and bathroom dirtiers!  It is our office staff who provide huge amounts of assistance to us all summer long, from organizing travel, to making copies, to making sure the staff soda machine is stocked; we would be lost without their support.  It is our mature administrative staff who work hard every day to plan the program that the rest of the staff so tirelessly executes on a daily basis. It is the specialist staff who are completely committed to teaching the boys about their passion, whether it be art, soccer, photography, sculling, cooking, climbing, target skills, camping skills, water skiing or nature, to name a few. It is our unbelievably proficient trippers who assume the awesome responsibility of taking the boys out into the wilderness to provide them with truly once-in-a-lifetime experiences in self-reliance and immersion in nature. It is the cabin staff…those incredible cabin staff that live with the boys virtually 24/7, and provide them with both the rousing energy and fun that keeps this place moving and the gentle counseling that helps the boys out in their most trying moments.

Truth be told, the magic here really does come from the day in and day out efforts of the staff. They are dedicated to the boys, dedicated to each other, and dedicated to the ideals that we work so hard to promote. There can be no underestimating the rigors of all of that work. Sure, some of it involves tossing a football around with a kid, hitting a tennis ball around with a boy, or having a captive audience to tell jokes to (my favorite part of the job!), but, all of us parents also know that there are other moments too. Those moments involve knowing when to give the boys some slack, and when to rein them in. Those moments involve being able to talk them out of that down and out funk that is sometimes the result of a negative interaction with a peer, or sometimes the result of the internal chemical reactions that thirteen year olds are forced to endure on a regular basis. These staff members need to be able to adjust and empathize on a dime…and they do it for every kid in their cabin (and sometimes for kids in other cabins), for every kid that shows up at their project, for every kid that shows up at the infirmary, and for every kid everywhere in camp…..and they do it every day…every single day. And again, as we parents know, this can be grueling work.  Yet they do it with smiles, energy, creativity, compassion, and kindness.  They absolutely amaze me every summer.

Still, let’s not feel too badly for the staff. While they doubtlessly work very hard, the rewards of this job are immeasurable. They get to do a job in which they know, with absolute certainty, that they are making a difference in the lives of others. They have the opportunity to serve as role models for children who absolutely idolize them. And, what they discover is that, despite the fact that the magic is the result of incredible amounts of work, the sum of the magic is so much greater than the parts that go into it. That part actually is MAGIC.  The rewards that they earn (apart from the MASSIVE salaries that I offer) through these efforts change them as well. They learn about themselves, push themselves, and discover things about their abilities that they never knew were there.

So, sorry if this update is not as newsy as you were hoping for, but credit has to be given where credit is due before it is too late…and as much as it hurts to admit it, it is almost too late.

Here is to the staff…magicians every one of them.

All is well in the North Woods…