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, 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 130 strong, range in age from 16-72 and come from backgrounds ranging from high school students in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin to retired rabbis. For some, this is their very first summer in the North Woods, and for others it is almost their 40th. 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 about being up here and they cannot imagine a summer doing anything else.
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. It is our caretakers that wake up each morning to engage in the inglorious task of cleaning our bathrooms, then spend the rest of their day fixing things that we break, and then spend the entire winter fixing the things that we broke that were too broken to fix during the summer! It is our office staff that keep us organized and do whatever it takes to make sure that the staff outside have everything they need to provide fun and productive summers…..not to mention organizing the incredibly complex travel days! 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. They look after us omnivores who love all of the wonderful creative things they come up with, they look after those of us who never though a summer camp experience would be possible because of dangerous food allergies, or dietary restrictions. It is our amazing infirmary staff that works behind the scenes to ensure that we all stay healthy and fixes us up when we slip. It is our mature administrative staff who works 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, photography, cooking, climbing, target skills, or nature. 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, that 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 here. They are dedicated to the boys, dedicated to each other, and dedicated to the ideals that we work so hard to promote here. There can be no underestimating the rigors of all of that work. Sure, some of it involves tossing a football around with a kid, banging a tennis ball around with a boy, or having a captive audience to tell jokes to (my favorite part of the job!), but, any of you who are 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. 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) every day. 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 young men 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. 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 it was high time to give credit to the folks that are making it all happen here.
Here is to the staff…magicians indeed.
All is well in the North Woods…