I started at Camp Takajo in 1970 when I was nine and have been here every summer since! When my camping career ended (after my sophomore year at Blind Brook High School), I returned to teach basketball and live in Takajo's Junior age group. During my four years at Lehigh University, I came back to Takajo each summer and became the Junior age group head counselor and later the Senior age group head counselor. After graduating from Lehigh, I worked for six years as associate director with Morty Goldman, who founded Camp Takajo in 1947. In 1988, I purchased the camp from Morty. I remain committed to the traditions and the values that have epitomized Camp Takajo since its inception.
My wife, Joan, and I live in Greenwich, Connecticut, with our four children, Max, Kate, Jack and Kim.
A few days before I was scheduled to leave for Maine to prepare for the upcoming summer, my wife and I decided that we should take our son Max to the pediatrician for a checkup because his energy level was low, and he just seemed off. Max’s birthday is on June 10, so he was two weeks away from his annual physical, however, I did not want to depart for Camp Takajo without knowing that he was okay. In the pediatrician’s office, we described Max’s symptoms, and a blood test indicated that his blood sugar level, which should be in the 100 range, was over 700.
The pediatrician looked at Max and without hesitation said, “You are diabetic and need to go directly to the emergency room.” As you would imagine, my heart sank as I tried to compose myself and process this very upsetting news. Max and I drove directly to the hospital where he was admitted, and we spent the next four nights together learning about type 1 diabetes, blood sugar levels and how to inject insulin into the body. I remember Max saying to me, “Dad, I’m just 15 years old. Does this mean I can’t just take something from the refrigerator or the pantry and eat like a normal guy for the rest of my life?”
During our hospital stay, there was a constant stream of endocrinologists, nurses, and nutritionists that came to the room to educate us. We were not going to be released from the hospital until we understood how to read blood sugar levels and inject insulin into Max’s body. When we left the hospital, Joan and I felt like we were bringing home a newborn all over again. We were going to be experiencing something for the first time. Caring for our child was taking on an entirely new meaning. This is Max’s Okee summer, his final year at Camp Takajo. The entire year, we spoke about his goals, aspirations, and his sheer excitement to finish his camping career with the lifelong friends he has created here at camp. Those plans were in jeopardy; and, ironically, had I not owned the camp, I wouldn’t have had the comfort in sending my son away to manage this disease on his own, just two weeks after this diagnosis. Max’s first two weeks have been met with many challenges. He has had great difficulty sleeping in the bunk, he is struggling to navigate in the dining hall even when our amazing chef plates his food and gives him his carb count so he is able to inject the proper amount of insulin into his body.
As Max navigates through camp and plays in sporting events, his blood sugar levels plummet, requiring him to take frequent breaks to boost his energy level with drinks and snacks that refuel his body. As a Dad, I feel somewhat helpless. My son is physically hurting, which is creating a great emotional strain on his psyche. I remain strong and positive for two reasons. Because while diabetes is a life-altering disease, it’s not a life threatening one when managed properly. Secondly, I believe the way I react to this situation will directly impact the way Max reacts. If I become emotional and feel beaten by this diagnosis, how could I expect my child to remain positive? Furthermore, someday Max may be a father, and he will be faced with his own struggles as a Dad. In turn, he will have to set the example for his son.
Why is this relevant to you? For one, we are all now intertwined in each other’s lives. I have your son(s) in my care, and I want you to know about my son and what is going on in my life. More importantly, I want you to know that as a parent, I appreciate your struggle to manage the situation and help your child whenever he is having a difficult moment at camp. Of course, our children need us to advocate for them, and I am always here for you if you receive a concerning letter or if he doesn’t sound right during a phone call.
As a parent, I am learning first-hand the importance of allowing our children to stand on their own two feet and develop self-reliance. I would do anything to take away my son’s diabetes, but I can’t. Therefore, I need to teach him to hold his head high, to face this adversity with strength, dignity, and courage and learn how to manage his blood sugar levels so that his body remains healthy. As helpless as I may feel, the best thing I can do for my son is to teach him how to stand on his own two feet.
If you ever want to picture your child having the perfect day at summer camp, today was that day. Camp Takajo woke up to bright sunshine and cool temperatures. For the first time in weeks, the boys reached to the back of their cubbies to find a sweatshirt that was only needed until mid-morning. Today was picture day so we took the morning to spend time with our bunks, take individual and bunk photos, and shoot short bunk videos, which you will have the opportunity to see when our yearbook video comes out in the fall.
As silly as it may sound, the preparation for shooting the bunk videos is very entertaining. The boys have to come up with an idea that speaks to the uniqueness of their group but that can only last 15 or 20 seconds. They have to agree on one idea and then execute the skit. It’s great to see the interaction between the boys and the fun they have collaborating. The afternoon temperature reached the low 80’s, and every facility in camp was in use.
Our 11-year-old boys in Junior camp played inter-camp basketball games, home and away. Our 13-and-under campers also participated in soccer inter-camp home and away, and our 15-and-under baseball team took the diamond at home, while displaying incredible talent against a neighboring camp.
Hobby Lane was in full swing throughout the day as our boys take great pride in the projects they create. All four sides of our climbing wall were in use, as well as our giant swing. The finishing touches were put on projects in ceramics. These works of art were glazed, put in the kiln and will be on display for our art show that will take place in a few weeks. Woodworking remains incredibly popular, and our boys love the opportunity to work with their hands and build fun projects such as Takajo spinners, boxes, and paddles. There was a great breeze coming across Long Lake, and every sailboat was in use throughout the afternoon. Our ski boats made the rounds as they constantly pulled into our shoreline to pick up campers, who enjoyed water skiing, wakeboarding, and wake surfing on our beautiful, eleven-mile long lake.
No matter what your child’s passion is in camp, today was the perfect day to seize the opportunity to experience something they love. It was Saturday night at the movies, and all three groups retired to their respective rec. halls to relax, unwind and watch a movie with their friends. Tomorrow is Lazy Man’s Morning, which means Dunkin’ Donuts will be in the house. All is well at Camp Takajo.
This morning at breakfast, I shared with our campers and staff the long-range forecast. The humidity is on its way out, and bright sunshine along with cooler temperatures will be with us for the foreseeable future. I commended everyone for the way they handled this heat wave. It was not easy sleeping in the bunks, and the high dew points took a little bit of the enthusiasm out of our program. Nevertheless, the Takajo community prevailed, and we look forward to cooler days ahead.
Our intercamp schedule continues. Today, our swim team traveled to New Hampshire to compete in our first swim meet of the summer. Our 12-year-olds competed in hockey, 14 year-olds hosted a lacrosse tournament, 11-year-olds traveled to a local camp to compete in tennis, and we hosted our own 13-and-under tennis tournament to fine-tune our skills before we host our Takajo Tennis Invitational next week.
While we pride ourselves on an excellent sports program, we have had great success partnering with some professional coaches that come to Takajo and provide our boys the opportunity to train and specialize in their favorite sport during the season. For the next seven days, we have Mike Turtle, owner and director of Soccer Specific Training in New Jersey, here to train our boys. Mike competed at a high level himself and is one of the best coaches I have ever encountered. He has the unique ability to make the game of soccer fun and challenging regardless of one’s ability level. Whether your son intends on playing fall travel soccer or just wants to build his confidence in the sport, I would encourage you to write to your son and suggest he takes advantage of this very special opportunity.
Over the past week, we were not only challenged by intense heat, but we also approached a time in the season where campers become so comfortable that they sometimes test boundaries. As parents, we all know the problem of communicating with our child when they become emotional or become set in their ways. I often refer to this experience as the point of struggle. We have had our share of moments during the past week when campers have become defiant, whether it is claiming there is nothing to eat in the dining room or getting upset if they are asked to do a simple chore in the bunk. It is to be expected that our boys can be a challenge to deal with when asked to do things that they do not want to do.
I tell my staff to not engage during that point of struggle but to find a calm moment when they can recollect that experience in hopes of coming up with a better resolution. I watched this at work the other day when a little Warrior camper sat at his dining table with his arms crossed and head down claiming there was nothing to eat for dinner. The counselor patiently said, “If you don’t like the chicken, how about the pasta bar? And, if you don’t like the pasta bar, how about if the chef makes you a grilled cheese sandwich?”
The more the counselor offered suggestions, the more the child tuned him out. At that moment, there was nothing that was going to satisfy that little boy. However, the next day, the counselor approached him outside the dining hall down by the waterfront, and this time he was armed with a pad and a pen. The two sat on the wall and created a list of all the foods this boy likes to eat. Removed from the point of struggle, he was only too happy to engage in this conversation and participate with a list of foods he enjoys. This was a great lesson for this young boy and for the counselor.
When you are living in a community in close proximity with others, there are always going to be moments when one becomes frustrated. With a little patience and consideration, there are always ways to solve our issues.
Rumor has it that we are nearing the end of this humid spell and that temperatures may fall into the mid 70’s on Friday. I am very proud of our campers and staff at Camp Takajo for persevering through this brief heat wave.
Our intercamp schedule remained in effect as our 13-year-old boys represented us in a baseball tournament, and our 15-year-old boys participated in soccer tournaments. Our fourth grade campers had a blast at the beach with our annual beach party, hosted by our in-house DJ extraordinaire Shad. He is the only guy that I have ever met who can successfully moonwalk on the sand. He had this entire age group singing, dancing, building sand castles and doing the limbo. As a special reward for the way we managed the heat, I had a massive raffle in the dining hall which brought the campers on their feet. I introduced some new Takajo swag that included some very cool hoodie and zip-up sweatshirts and an awesome Takajo baseball hat.
The highlight of the evening was when our oldest campers assembled their Takajo families and met with them on the senior baseball field to talk about their experiences as a Takajo camper. This is an opportunity for our oldest boys to spend quality time with their younger counterparts and share the traditions of this camp. Our youngest boys sat in awe as they had this unique opportunity to rub shoulders with the leaders of our camp. It is events like these that make our camp feel like a family.
As the sunset over Long Lake, our Okees brought their families down to the beach for an Independence Day ceremony. This included speeches from an Okee camper, American counselor, and an overseas counselor. We all listened to each speaker’s perspective on what Independence Day means to them. When the speeches concluded, the sky above our waterfront lit up as we enjoyed an amazing fireworks display. As the sound of the fireworks erupted and the beautiful colors illuminated the sky, I looked back at our boys with great pride knowing that these moments will leave an unforgettable mark on their minds.
As the great Yankee baseball catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s deja vu all over again.” We woke up to another beautiful day at Camp Takajo despite humidity levels that could almost take your breath away. Nevertheless, many of our amazing staff (dressed in their finest red, white, and blue colors) came to breakfast ready to celebrate our Independence Day. There were many campers that expressed pride for their country and reached into their cubbies to wear their patriotic colors throughout the day. For the first time since I purchased Takajo in 1988, our Warrior campers stayed back and did not participate in the Naples Independence Day Parade. With temperatures reaching the 90’s, we anticipated that the march through town would potentially be unhealthy for our campers and staff. As one might imagine, there was no pushback, only smiles, and we created impromptu games to manage the heat.
Our Warrior campers challenged their counselors to a game of kickball that turned out to be one of the highlights of this summer. We turned on the sprinkler system on the field which kept everybody cool and refreshed throughout the game. The waterfront was opened after breakfast until the sound of taps and just about every camper and counselor took advantage of a refreshing dip in Long Lake. As a matter of fact, while I was making my evening rounds to say goodnight to the Warriors, I surprised our youngest campers and offered them an impromptu “midnight” dip. Our little guys were already in their pajamas ready to retire for the night, but the thrill of running down in a bathing suit with a towel for one last jump in the lake was simply too enticing for them to resist. It was a great way too cool down before they put their heads on their pillows for the night.
Our Okees have been enjoying some head-to-head competition against our senior counselors. After loosing in a flag football game earlier in the week, they redeemed themselves by beating their counselors in gaga. The hot weather cannot detract from the fun and excitement that this competition has created amongst our oldest boys and staff.
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As you would imagine, the humid weather has presented some difficulties. For some, sleeping has been a challenge, and we know the importance of staying hydrated when dealing with extreme temperatures. I think back to fifteen years ago when we built a new dining hall and decided to put central air conditioning into the building. There were many that questioned this move and said, “It’s just not camp.” However, my primary focus as a camp owner is the safety of my campers and staff. The dining hall is the one facility in camp that every camper and counselor visits three times a day, every day of the summer. The air conditioning allows us to take the humidity out of the air, creating a welcome respite for our hard-working staff and active campers. Our boys are walking into the facility feeling refreshed and refuel their bodies with the nutrition and fluids they need to battle these long days.
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Seeing our boys chow down during this heat spell reinforces the importance of reinvesting in our beautiful facility. It is not enough to just focus on a child’s emotional well-being, it is also our responsibility to never lose sight of their physical health. As the boys retired for the evening, they could hear the sounds of fireworks coming from the town of Naples. We will have our Takajo firework celebration tomorrow evening. As we take a moment to celebrate our independence, I count my blessings including the opportunity to spend the summer with your son and watch him thrive in your absence.
The heat wave has finally made its way to Maine. For the first day at Camp Takajo this summer, we felt the heat wave that the East Coast has been feeling for the last several days. Nevertheless, there were still a lot of activities taking place at camp.
Our Junior campers, finishing 5th and 6th grades, had their first field day competition against a neighboring camp. Our entire fifth grade division played on the road, while our boys finishing sixth grade hosted our friendly competitors. Our boys competed in baseball, basketball, soccer, and tennis, and every boy had an opportunity to play in two competitive games throughout the day. We are making a great effort to offer golf this summer to those boys who have expressed an interest. Several Junior and Senior golf enthusiasts had the opportunity to play today at Point Sebago Golf Course.
We have always taken great pride in our pioneering and tripping program and provide a wonderful opportunity for our boys to explore the beautiful state of Maine. We feel that teaching children the skills to camp outdoors is the responsibility of any high quality summer camp. Our pioneering staff consists of sixteen counselors who arrived at Takajo weeks prior to opening day. These counselors were trained in CPR, first aid, and passed a course in emergency rescue. They also earned their certifications as trip leaders in the state of Maine.
Many of our Crow campers have already had their first experience sleeping outdoors in our tree houses, which are nestled in the woods on our 100-acre facility. Our little guys enjoyed roasting marshmallows over a roaring fire and sleeping under a starlit sky. Today a group of 14-year-olds traveled to Frankenstein Cliff and Arethusa Falls. This trip gave the campers the chance to hike one of the most scenic vistas in New Hampshire that overlooks the White Mountains. After this rigorous hike, our boys made their way to the Arethusa Falls, where they enjoyed a refreshing dip before making their way back to camp.
Camp life can create a multitude of challenges. Living in a bunk in close proximity to one’s peers requires patience but when you factor in stifling heat, it can make bunk life that much more difficult. Over the last few days, I have watched a group of 11-year-old boys face this challenge.
This group has lived together for three summers, and they have a genuine love and affection for one another. However, over the last few days, they seemed a little out of sync. Last night, when their counselor was going back into the bunk, the group of boys was huddled together in the back corner of the cabin, deep in conversation. Two of the boys very politely asked if they could have some privacy because they wanted to work out their differences. When the counselor closed the door, his curiosity got the best of him. He remained outside within earshot to make sure everything was okay.
This morning at breakfast, this counselor asked for a moment of my time and told me he had never experienced a more mature, articulate and brighter group of young men. He listened to them express their feelings and resolve their issues.
As one would imagine, a few letters have gone home, and there were some nervous parents calling to check on their boys. Because this bunk has lived together for years, the parents have also become close. They were trying to figure out what might be going wrong in camp. To the boy’s credit, they used their words, expressed their feelings, and they resolved their issues without the assistance (or interference) of their parents.
What a great example for parents to see that what they are teaching in their homes can be implemented in their absence. That same bunk of boys competed in intercamp games today and did it shoulder-to-shoulder, representing each other and our camp. After a long, hot day, they were thrilled to retire to their bunk, their home for the summer.
Today was an amazing day at Camp Takajo. It was a warm, sunny, and breezy day, and our program was in full swing at all age levels. We have managed to escape the intense heat and humidity that has invaded the East Coast. However, we are bracing ourselves for what is expected over the next few days.
Our 12-year-old boys participated in a tennis tournament in New Hampshire as well as in a lacrosse tournament in Maine. Our 13-year-olds represented us in a football tournament at a nearby camp. We also participated in two 14-and-under basketball tournaments. One was hosted at Takajo and one at a nearby camp, giving our boys more of an opportunity to compete in round ball. In addition, our 15-year-old boys took part in a beach volleyball tournament. In all events, our Takajo boys showed amazing effort and great sportsmanship.
Some of our boys took advantage of this beautiful day and went to Point Sebago Golf Course to play 18 holes. Point Sebago, which is located just 5 miles from camp, was the home of the Maine Open just a few years ago and is considered one of the best courses in the state.
After a well-deserved shower, our 12-year-old boys headed over to Tripp Lake Camp for the first social of this season. Meanwhile our 13-year-old boys met the ladies of Tripp Lake at Spare Time Bowling for some co-ed fun on the lanes. As one would expect, our waterfront was overflowing with campers, who could not wait to take a refreshing dip in our magnificent lake.
I cannot end this blog without reflecting on a great conversation I had with a really wonderful camp mom earlier this afternoon. She credited our camp tutors for helping her child with his writing skills and then proceeded to tell me she was able to read for the first time his legible letter, which indicated he was not having fun. We chuckled over the fact that she actually enjoyed when her son’s letters were illegible because she never worried about his happiness at camp. However, this one line made her go into detective mode. She searched through every camp photo looking to see who her son was standing next to, what activities he was taking part in, and whether he was smiling.
We discussed the bunk, counselors and a host of other things. This mom is an awesome lady, and our conversation was admittedly tongue in cheek. She hated feeling like she was one of “those” moms, but she needed to make the call. I promised to check on her son and report back as soon as possible. Because he was out on a trip with his bunkmates to the natural water slides, I would not be able to investigate his unhappiness until he returned gleefully and enthusiastically from this amazing trip. These moments in time are going to happen at camp, in school, and even in our homes.
Unhappiness at camp is like the weather in Florida. You might experience a brief shower but it’s always followed by bright sunshine and clear skies.
There is something special about Sundays at Camp Takajo. The sound of reveille is not heard until 8:30 in the morning, giving our campers and staff an extra hour of sleep. Campers have the opportunity to go into the dining hall in pajamas and bathrobes for a buffet breakfast that includes their favorite, Dunkin’ Donuts.
Campers can sit anywhere they want in the dining hall and always feel welcome to pull up a chair next to some of our oldest boys or their favorite counselors. We ease our way into the day by having our first official lineup at 9:45 AM, at which time the boys are given the opportunity to select any activity that Takajo offers for the remainder of the morning. Lazy Man’s Morning is the perfect chance for our boys to specialize in the activity of their choice.
Every sailboat is in use, and campers congregate on the swim dock for the opportunity to ski or go on a banana boat ride. The hobbies are open, and many campers take advantage of this quiet morning to express their artistic side. Those who are interested in spending more time training in land sports head to the fields to work on their skills. Lazy Man’s Morning is a welcomed break from our routine and a great way for our boys to ease into their day while focusing on what is most important to them.
We hosted our campers’ sisters and cousins from Tripp Lake Camp for lunch today. Witnessing the connection between your children would bring tears to your eyes. As a father observing my own children, I was incredibly touched by the intimacy of their connection when they do not have the opportunity to be distracted by their cell phones. I am sure you fight a similar battle in your home as we find it harder for our children to live in the moment rather than trying to live in someone else’s.
By the afternoon, we were back to regular program, which included extended waterfront time for all age groups. There is nothing like a refreshing dip in a beautiful lake to cool one down on a hot summer’s day. As the sun set over Long Lake and our boys retired for the evening, we gave thanks for this amazing day.
We awoke to a warm breeze coming across Long Lake. While the rest of the country is fighting this heat wave, we are enjoying a beautiful summer’s day at Camp Takajo. The temperature in Maine is warm but not oppressive. We had a full morning of activities, and every camper participated in his league competition. This afternoon, our 12-year-old boys competed at their first intercamp competition in flag football against a neighboring camp. Similarly, our 15-year-old boys traveled to our friendly competitor’s camp to compete in roller hockey.
For the next three weeks leading up to visiting day, our boys finishing grades 5 through 9 will have the opportunity to represent Camp Takajo and compete in every land sport that we offer. There are two forms of intercamp competitions. We offer “field days,” when an entire age group will compete against another camp in a multitude of sports throughout a given day. These field days provide for maximum participation, as it allows every camper to feel the thrill of putting on a Takajo uniform and competing against another camp while representing the green & grey.
In addition, we compete in many tournaments that are based on a camper’s level of ability. Very often, tournaments are scheduled for boys who play at a high level and for boys who have less experience on the same day at two different camp locations. This also allows for more boys to have the thrill of competing. I think competition, when kept in its proper perspective, is healthy and a valuable component of a young boy’s growth and development. Competition provides our boys an opportunity for them to work, train, play, and experience together the excitement of victory and the humility of defeat.
No matter one’s skill, just about every camper loves the opportunity to put on a Takajo jersey and compete shoulder to shoulder with his friends and bunkmates as he represents Camp Takajo. Over the next three weeks, this competition will create some of your son’s happiest moments and might challenge him to rise above some disappointing outcomes.
The day came to an end, and our boys enjoyed Saturday night at the movies with homemade popcorn furnished to Warrior campers by Takajo’s favorite water ski instructor, Don Matthews. As our boys put their heads on their pillows, they’re dreaming of Lazy Man’s Morning and Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast.
As predicted, we woke up to bright sunshine and warmer temperatures at Camp Takajo today. It was a clear indication that summer is truly here. The long-range forecast indicates that temperatures will reach the high-80’s with dew points making it feel more like the 90’s. We are prepared for days like this. We make sure the boys fill their water bottles, stay hydrated, that they are nourished at all meals and take advantage of our magnificent waterfront to cool off after playing on the fields.
At this point in the season, I can feel the separation anxiety that so many of you are experiencing away from your child. The transition to summer camp is often harder for the parent than the camper. Your son comes to camp and is immediately enveloped in our culture. Whether connecting with his friends or making new ones, there is non-stop stimulation throughout your child’s day.
You are all loving, devoted parents, you spend every waking moment during ten months of your year occupied and preoccupied with managing your child’s needs. Whether it is shuttling them to school, an extra-curricular activity, taking him for his haircut or tending to his personal needs, you pride yourself in giving your child every ounce of your love and devotion. Suddenly, June 22 rolls around, and we strip you of your most important role in life. We deprive you of your daily contact, take away your snuggle time at night and prevent you from managing your son’s needs.
I am here to tell you that while you may experience moments of agony, this is the greatest gift you can give your son. You have placed your child in a healthy, safe, age-appropriate, and controlled environment, where he is taking the skills you have given him over the course of his lifetime. He is now learning how to self-advocate. Your son is learning what it means to live with others, to share responsibilities in the bunk, to have empathy and compassion for his peers and to be self-reliant when something does not go exactly his way.
I believe that our children need to learn these life skills in order to find happiness later in life as adults. It is ironic that camp is such a happy place, yet there is nothing happy about separating from the ones we love the most. As the first week comes to a close, I want to thank you for your trust and confidence. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of your son’s growth and development.