We could not of asked for a more perfect day as our Olympics hit full stride. Today, our campers are participating in many of the core athletic sports, and the games have been incredibly close. In the Camp Takajo Olympics, every boy competes in every sport. Our counselors created teams that have been evenly matched, and every boy is playing against opponents of a similar ability level. Only a few points separate our Olympic teams with just a few events remaining. Tomorrow morning, we will host our song competition followed by the Warrior and Junior “whacked-up relays.” The Senior competition will extend through Tuesday, and their relay will take place on Wednesday.
As I sit in my office and I take a moment for private reflection, I am drawn to some of the pictures that hang on my wall. In particular, there are photos of three men that have had a profound impact on my life. Morty Goldman was the founder of Camp Takajo, where I had the privilege of spending eight summers as a camper and another twelve as a counselor before purchasing the camp in 1988. As a young boy, I idolized Morty. During the summer he was my surrogate father, and I always felt happy and safe under his care. As a young man, I paid careful attention to how Morty conducted himself, and I strive to emulate his example everyday. When Morty passed away in 1989, I had only been the owner of camp for one summer.
I have a vivid memory of my last meeting with Morty before he passed away. I was only twenty-eight years old, and I had the overwhelming responsibility of continuing the legacy he built. When I last saw Morty, it was obvious that this would be our last time together. He had just suffered a stroke and would often drift in and out of coherency. I had so many questions to ask him and wanted to soak up his wealth of knowledge. I asked Morty how he was guided into making so many correct decisions during the course of his career.
His response would be his last words to me, “Whatever decisions you make will be the right ones.”
For a moment, I thought he had drifted away. But, as I drove home from our final time together, I realized that he was saying that as long as I remained a morally and ethically sound person who was willing to put the needs of others ahead of my own, then any decisions I made would be the correct ones. This all centered around Morty’s Arch and the Takajo Ideals that he prominently posted there. His final message to me was that if I lived a life of integrity, camp would remain in good hands.
Also on my office wall is a picture of my father, who was the first camper enrolled at Takajo in 1947. My dad was a phenomenal athlete, and Morty often referred to him as one of the most gifted athletes to ever attend this camp. I am blessed that my father is alive and well and spends his summers here at camp with my mom. My dad loved Morty Goldman and takes great joy in knowing that his son has the unique privilege of following in his footsteps. My dad is my role model and my hero. Every summer when I begin our staff orientation, I lead with a quote that my father told me when I was a little boy.
He told me, “Go through life, make decisions and behave as if I was standing over your shoulder at all times.”
He told me that, if I would not do an act in front of him, then I should not do it at all. I tell the staff to treat each camper as if that child’s parent were watching at all times. This pearl of wisdom provided to me by my father has been a guiding principle for the way we treat children here at camp.
Included in the photo on my wall is my brother Kip, immediately after the closing of Camp Takajo season on August 29, 1988. Kip, my older brother, would have turned sixty years old today. My brother passed away very unexpectedly on October 4 of this year, and his loss has been devastating for my family. Had it not been for Kip, I never would have purchased Camp Takajo. It was my brother who convinced me that I could assume this enormous responsibility at the young age of twenty-eight. It was he who guided me through the process of raising the finances in order to purchase the camp. It was Kip again who negotiated the deal and handled the closing on my behalf. Kip’s encouragement and belief in me is a significant reason why I am in the position that I am today.
As a director of a boys’ summer camp, I recognize the tremendous need of today’s young boys to have heroes, men they look up to, who they respect and aspire to emulate. One of the quotes hanging on the wall in my office reads, “For our children, the road to happiness and success is usually paved by our example.” As I consider this meaningful day, I hope that in some small way I am able to make an impact on your boys, just like my heroes have done for me.