Greetings from the North Woods!
I just returned from Rec Valley and breakfast announcements. Now admittedly, sometimes announcements can be a bit of a chore. During the first few days of camp while we are all still getting to know each other, the announcements have to be presented in a straightforward way so that our brand new campers can get comfortable with how it works. The announcements can sometimes take too long, and the lion taming exercise, that is maintaining the attention of 208 boys and 130 staff members, can get to be frustrating. Not today though. Today, it was just fun. It was a fun borne out of the community camaraderie that is developing. You see, after a few days, you start to get to know the personalities of the folks that are consistently up at the microphone, and that beautiful thing that happens at camp better than anywhere else is born…the inside joke. Whether it be particular chants that erupt when certain people approach the microphone, or funny reference points from previous announcements, or inventive camp lingo, we are starting to shift into that groove that makes being at camp such a unique experience…the world of “you had to be there.” Unfortunately, it makes writing these updates a bit challenging since…well…none of you are here. But, trust me, if you had been here listening to me tell the “I have to go to the dentist at 2:30” joke five times in five meals, you would think I was a riot, JUST like the entire camp family does. And speaking of inventive camp lingo, there is a new one this summer that I am discovering. I will share it with you. If you tell a joke and the entire camp family groans, rolls their eyes, and begs you to stop, it means that they think it was the absolute pinnacle of hilarity…it’s the vernacular of the Gen-Z’er. At least that is what I am told. And I am proud to say that I get that exact laudatory response each and every time I tell the “I have to go to the dentist at 2:30” joke. Take that Henny Youngman!
Today is our first Cruiser Day of the summer. Cruiser Days are unlike any other day at camp. Our normal project periods, that are a part of the daily routine and full of instructional time for the kids in our various programs, are cancelled. Instead, a day is planned that involves either a series of activities done in cabin groups, or a series of activities done in village groups. Today is a classic!
During the aforementioned announcements, our Swampers were in the middle of being promised Accounting Day complete with lessons on W-2s, tax shelters, and I-9 Forms (again met with the eye rolls and groans) when Harry Potter and company descended upon all of us firing off spells and chasing after He Who Must Not Be Named. Harry and his friends enlisted the Swampers to spend the day fighting off the arch villain. Luckily, they were willing to forgo Accounting Day to join the forces of good and save the world! Thank goodness for Swampers, huh?
The Loggers were treated to a hilarious announcement from Super Mario and Penelope Peach (a counselor who was way to big to fit into the peach-colored pants suit he donned for the announcement!!!) They were all entreated to play a camp version of Super Mario and Mario-esque games for the day…crazy and SUPER fun stuff!!
The Axeman Village director came to the mic next to explain that the entire Axeman Village was going on vacation, an all-inclusive trip involving mini-golf, spa treatments, shuffleboard and other leisurely pursuits. It sounded like a ball…UNTIL the Village Director announced that the all-inclusive luxury vacation was going to be paid for with MY CREDIT CARD!!!! Needless to say the boys went bonkers at this gift and I fired the Village Director on the spot. Job applications will be accepted through the end of the week!!
In the Lumberjack Village, today was Decades Day. They were told that they had access to a time machine and would be visiting Camp Nebagamon at various eras during the 93 years of camp to engage in some of the activities and fun of these different times. While I am not sure that too many of the Lumberjacks bought the time machine ruse, they were psyched to play along and enjoy some of the more fun and quirky moments of Nebagamon’s past.
In the afternoon, all of the campers headed to town for a Dairy Queen treat. I will write about that experience another week.
Cruiser days are great punctuation marks for the boys’ summer. They are totally unique days that shake up the routine and create a ton of fun. As a camp director, it is really fun to see our counselors in action on Cruiser Days. Their incredible creativity, energy, buy in, and spirit make these fanciful days…magic. These are the kinds of days the kids will remember for a long time.
In the land of Covid, we ran a full test of all campers today. As we suspected, this resulted in more positive tests. These campers now enter our Covid program which is basically a second camp in which they do activities together. We have a staff member whose entire job is to basically be their “cruise director” and provide fun and NORMAL camp activities for the boys. Today they went canoeing, played ultimate Frisbee, and will be going to the Dairy Queen tonight after dinner. Certainly, no kid wants to land in the Covid camp as it is not what they were expecting, but they are discovering that there is certainly fun to be had there and a community rapidly developing among them.
For those keeping score at home, most of our cases have been contained within the two older villages (the Axemen and Lumberjacks) and, within those villages, just a few cabins have been affected. We have just three Logger cases and ZERO in the Swamper Village. A total of 17 kids and four staff have tested positive. We have been cohorted by villages in terms of activities, so this makes sense.
I just need to say how amazed I have been with every corner of Nebagamon with respect to the Covid curveball. I am surrounded by an incredible and brilliant team of senior administrators that problem solve every issue and make sure we are doing things as well as we possibly can here. They are tireless and thorough and are just such an unspeakably valuable asset to camp. Our medical team, made up of our doctor and nursing staff, have been remarkable in ensuring that all the boys get the care and attention that they need. They haven’t batted an eye and are delivering beautifully. Our caretaking crew has had to quickly change several spaces into special housing and has expended more elbow grease than any of them knew they would have to. And they have never once hesitated or flinched. They have done it all with a smile and a commitment to the kids. The staff in general have performed wonderfully. I always brag about the quality of the Nebagamon staff, and in moments like this, I am reminded of just how right I am to be bragging. Whether they be the ones working with the Covid camp, or the ones carrying our the “normal” camp, they have just been incredible. They perform at a high level and make Camp Nebagamon as special as it has ever been…in fact, maybe even more special because of the Covid challenge.
And there are two more groups I need to recognize. First is the parents of the boys that have entered the Covid protocols. To a person, they have been amazing. I can only imagine it was frightening when they saw my number come up on their phone. They ALL took the news unbelievably well. They asked about their kids, asked about the plans, and then expressed gratitude. EVERY ONE OF THEM. Imagine that…your kid gets dealt a tough hand and one of your first instincts is to thank those around them…Nebagamon families are just the best.
And finally…I need to acknowledge the kids. Without a doubt, none of them came to camp hoping to enter into the Covid protocols and participate in the Covid camp I spoke of. But, they have just been so incredible about it. While in the first moments of receiving the news some are shocked and saddened, they all shift gear so quickly and throw themselves headlong into their new situation with positivity and optimism. Though, if I am being honest, most just wanted to know if they could get extra money at the Dairy Queen today! Priorities ya know?! (And the answer was, of course, YES.)
I guess the last grateful person I want you all to know about is me. I have always known that I was gifted the opportunity to serve a special community. It has never before been made more clear to me than right now. I wish I had the right words to express how lucky I know I am….
All is well in the North Woods….