TAK TALK The Latest News from Camp Takajo

About jeff

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.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 11, 2017

July 11, 2017 by

Today, the campers who have finished fourth grade (Indians) participated in intercamp competitions. Camp Takajo hosted a field day with Camp Winaukee, and it was a huge success. Rather than selecting certain boys to represent the camp, we invited Camp Winaukee’s fourth graders to spend the day with us.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysIn the morning, our campers competed in basketball. After lunch, we hosted our counterparts from New Hampshire in soccer, street hockey, flag football, and gaga. All of our Indians participated in three sports throughout the day and felt great pride representing Camp Takajo.

During the day, I received an unexpected visit from one of our thirteen-year-old campers. This camper came to me for advice because he was troubled by certain events occurring in his bunk. He felt that a boy, who he likes very much, was being insensitive towards one of their bunkmates. The boy he was referring to is not known to cause any trouble in camp, but this thirteen-year-old was uncomfortable with what he saw in his bunk so far.

The camper referred to the opening campfire, the camp’s message of inclusion and the importance of treating everyone with respect. He was struggling because he wasn’t looking to sever his relationship with the bunkmate in question; however, he realized something needed to change.

I shared with this camper something that I spoke to the staff about during pre-season orientation. It is a term called “point of struggle.” A well-known child psychologist named Bob Ditter, who has spent his career working with summer camps, recently spoke at a camp conference about this approach. There are moments in every relationship, both personal and professional, when we are frustrated, agitated, and realize something must change. The most challenging time to implement that change is during the point of struggle.

For example, when a child walks into our dining room and digs his heels in, saying that there is nothing to eat, he may become so set in his ways that no matter what we offer, it will not appease him. Rather than creating a lengthy debate during the point of struggle, we have found much greater success talking to that child when he is not in the dining room. Talking to that child when he is further removed from the situation often creates a healthy exchange of ideas and leads to a better resolution.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysI suggested to the camper who came to me today that he talk to his bunkmate during a time other than the point of struggle. I suggested that he talk with him at a time, perhaps, when they are walking to an activity or enjoying some quality time together. This camper felt empowered and was excited to use this approach when confronting his friend.

Later in the day, the thirteen-year-old boy came back to my office and said that he had found the perfect time to confront his friend. He was amazed at how receptive his friend was when receiving his feedback. The friend even commented that had he been called out publicly in the bunk, he was sure his reaction would have been more defensive and confrontational. Camp is a microcosm of the real world; and, in life, there are times when we all wish that people would be more receptive to how we feel. Having that conversation not during the point of struggle will often lead to a better outcome.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 10, 2017

July 10, 2017 by

This morning, as Camp Takajo was preparing for one of our busiest days of the season, I had a flashback. I remembered one of my first years as owner when I was asked by a top trial lawyer if he could shadow me for the summer as he was thinking of a career change. This gentleman packed his bags, drove up to Maine and rented a home on Long Lake. He was excited to have the opportunity to experience the life of a camp owner.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysOn his first day, the attorney, who was dressed and ready to go, showed up at my morning meeting in khaki shorts, sneakers, and a polo shirt. He listened in to the countless details regarding the needs of many of our children in camp. He heard about those who had special dietary restrictions and needed to be monitored by a staff member during each meal. He listened to how we managed boys who were sleep walkers, experienced night-terrors, and our procedures for those who occasionally wet the bed.

In the middle of our first morning activity period, the attorney was with me when I received my first radio call from the health center. A nurse told me that a child had misjudged a fly ball in the outfield and was being brought to the health center with a possible broken nose. The next morning, the trial attorney showed up for my morning meeting, this time wearing khaki slacks, loafers, and a button down dress shirt. When I asked him why he was no longer wearing camp attire, he responded by saying that this job simply was not for him.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysThe logistics and the attention to detail could only be achieved by surrounding yourself with highly motivated and loyal staff. During today’s morning administration meeting, the following activities were on the agenda:

  • The Crows (youngest campers) departed after breakfast for a beach trip to Sebago Lake State Park, where they enjoyed swimming in the lake, playing in the sand, and a picnic lunch prepared by our kitchen staff. After a fun afternoon in the hot sunshine, our little guys made their way to a local movie theater, where they watched Despicable Me 3. The Crows topped off their afternoon with some ice cream and made it back to camp in time for dinner.
  • Our pioneering staff hosted the annual Takajo Invitational Climbing Competition. Five local camps attended, bringing their best climbers for a day of competition on our four-sided, fifty-foot high climbing wall. The competition was intense and after the last climber had finished, our Camp Takajo team had prevailed.
  • We had a soccer inter-camp tournament for our boys twelve-years-old and younger. We sent two teams to two neighboring camps to allow more boys the opportunity to participate.
  • Our eleven-and-under boys competed in a tennis tournament today which gave many of our Junior campers the opportunity to test their skills against local competition.
  • Our fourteen-year-old boys who love roller hockey competed in a tournament, while some of the other fourteen-year-old boys participated in a separate street hockey tournament.
  • In preparation for the Takajo Tennis Invitational taking place this Thursday, our thirteen- and fifteen-year-old tennis players had one final warm-up tournament hosted by a neighboring camp.
  • In addition, our fifteen-year-olds who love football were thrilled to play in a flag football inter-camp tournament, where they competed fiercely and made us all proud.
  • After a hard-fought day of inter-camps, our boys hit the showers before dinner and our eleven-year-old boys prepared to host a dinner dance with Camp Vega.
  • Our thirteen-year-old boys made their way over to Tripp Lake Camp.
  • Meanwhile, our fourteen-year-old boys went to Camp Vega for dinner and then headed north to the Kennebec River, where they will camp in tents overnight, awaiting the morning arrival of the girls from Camp Vega, who will be joining them for their co-ed whitewater rafting trip.
  • Finally, our fifteen year old boys met up with campers from local boys’ and girls’ camps for a senior social. This event highlights the importance of maintaining the great relationships that we have with other camps in our area.
Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boys

As the day came to an end and I thought back on the myriad of events that had taken place and all of the logistics required for it to run smoothly, I thought of my trial lawyer friend and imagined his head spinning in every which direction.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017 by

It was yet another beautiful day at Camp Takajo. Our boys enjoyed the extra hour of sleep this morning as well as a slower-paced and less-structured morning. The beautiful breeze on Long Lake was perfect for our boys who elected to sail. One of our ski boats pulled campers on our banana boat, and the campers’ squeals of delight echoed across campus.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysEvery building on Hobby Lane had campers working on creative projects, many of which will be displayed at our camp’s annual art show in a few weeks. Our tennis courts were full with boys who elected to take lessons with members of our tennis staff as well as others who were out there having a good time with friends.

Perhaps my greatest focus during this time in the season is spending time with individual campers and bunks discussing their socialization skills and the importance of adapting to living together. Many aspects of summer camp have changed over my twenty-eight years as owner and director, but the one thing that remains constant is the challenge some face living in a bunk setting.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysWhile many parents comment that they wish they could go back to summer camp for just one more summer, in reality, adults would struggle far more than their children in adapting to the bunk setting. Camp teaches patience, empathy, compassion, and self-reliance. There is no better environment that fosters this experience than living in a bunk.

One of the challenges a child faces when living in a bunk is that he often only sees things from his own perspective. We are constantly trying to teach children how to pick up on social cues. For example, a child at camp may not be aware that the boy sleeping next to him may be exhausted from a long day while he is continuing to be rambunctious after lights out. A child may be interested in playing knock hockey but may not have the patience to wait his turn. A child may say things in hopes of being funny and popular without necessarily realizing that his words may be inappropriate and hurtful towards others. Teaching children how to be aware of their social surroundings and how to communicate well with others is a skill far more valuable than anything they can learn on our athletic fields.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 8, 2017

July 8, 2017 by

You can never get enough beautiful weather at summer camp. Temperatures climbed into the low-eighties at Camp Takajo, and humidity levels rose as a warm breeze moved across Long Lake. Today, our boys participated in intercamp basketball and baseball. All had a good time.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boys

In addition to our athletic program, we run a very extensive pioneering program throughout the summer. Each summer, we hire sixteen counselors to work specifically in this program. These staff members arrive in camp two weeks prior to opening day and undergo an extensive training process that includes certifications in CPR, First Aid, wilderness emergency rescue, and trip leading. While many camps have cut back on their wilderness trips, we firmly believe that camping is an integral part of our program. We feel it provides great value for our boys to take a day away from the athletic fields and explore the wilderness here in this magnificent region of Maine.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysNestled between the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the rocky shoreline of coastal Maine, our camp is perfectly located for day trips for campers of all ages and interest levels. Our younger campers enjoy day hikes and beautiful walking trails where they camp out for lunch. As our boys get older, they get the opportunity to paddle down the Saint Croix River for four days, climb Mount Katahdin (highest peak in Maine), and visit one of the most majestic sights in our beautiful state, Acadia National Park.

Our alumni have often said that their greatest memories from camp come from their time spent on hiking trails, canoe trips, and their time spent around a campfire. We offer trips to our youngest campers in hopes that we can  their interest in preparation for some of the opportunities that will be available to them as they get older.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysAs we turn the page and begin the third week of our summer, most of our boys relaxed at camp for our Saturday movie night. Our eighth and ninth grade boys (Subs and Okees) made their way in the afternoon to Portland to catch a Portland Sea Dogs minor league baseball game.  As the day came to an end and the boys retired for the night, they dreamed of Lazy Man’s Morning, Dunkin’ Donuts, and more excitement to come.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 7, 2017

July 7, 2017 by

There are days in camp that create those special moments that grown men reflect upon years after they leave camp. Today was one of those days. Takajo hosted a tennis tournament for thirteen and fifteen-year-olds, a fourteen-and-under hockey game and a fourteen-and-under lacrosse tournament.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysAs we enter the third week of camp, our boys have really had a chance to get to know each other on and off the fields. You can see the confidence our boys have when they step into a game, and they look around and see that they are surrounded by their camp brothers. They trust each other. Our boys know that their teammates are their bunkmates, the guys they sit with for three meals a day, the guys that keep them up telling funny stories after the lights go out, and the guys who give them a pat on the back, just at the right time.

As I walked into the dining room this morning for breakfast and looked at our boys in their Takajo uniforms preparing for this full day of intercamp, I could tell they were ready. They were not just excited to compete, but they were excited to compete together. When the competitions came to an end, our boys were victorious in every sport. We will have our share of highs and lows during the athletic competition against our friendly rivals this summer, but what makes these moments so iconic is the fact that it requires a true team effort.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysOur boys were hot and sweaty as they walked off the fields and courts and made their way down to the waterfront for a refreshing dip in Long Lake. As their bodies hit the water, you could see the competition was now a distant memory, and the silly, playful campers reemerged. By the time our boys reached the dining room for dinner, you could see the sense of pride our boys have in each other and in representing their camp.

I surprised our older boys with a raffle at dinner, where new Takajo apparel was proudly on display. Boys stood on benches cheering, in hopes that their names would be pulled out of the raffle bag, and they would win one of the coveted items.

As the sun set on Long Lake, and taps echoed across the campus, our boys put their heads on their pillows knowing that they had one of those special days.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 6, 2017

July 6, 2017 by

It was another bright, sunny day at Camp Takajo, packed with tons of fun.  While you are awaiting your upcoming phone call with your child, I am sure you hope the call will provide great content. You should keep in mind that you may end up speaking to a child who is more excited to participate in a bunk challenge or game of paddle tennis with a friend. I wanted to share with you a letter that a father recently wrote to his son and shared with me about what he hoped camp would teach his son. I thought this would be appropriate to share with you as you, yourselves, prepare for your first camp phone call of the summer.
Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysOur job as parents is to recognize when we need to push you outside your comfort zone to take on challenges or uncomfortable situations that will help you grow and develop and will help prepare you for the real world as you grow up and ultimately become an adult. You know we would never put you in a situation or ask you to do something that is not in your best interest. This summer is no different. To help you understand, from our perspective, why we send you to camp, what Takajo offers, and what it is all about, we want to share the following.
Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysAs you know, camp is about playing sports, spending time with friends, being in a beautiful place, and having fun, but at the heart of it, it is really about much, much more. The skills you have and will continue to develop are preparing you for life. Camp is an important and valuable influence and is helping you build the foundation of who you are and will become. You are learning to be independent.  You are learning to solve problems on your own – and with the help of your peers – in a safe environment.  You are learning that life is not always fun or easy. You are learning to build deep – 24 hour/7 day a week – relationships with individuals and with groups of friends, younger and older.  You are learning to deal with uncomfortable situations. You are learning to advocate for yourself. You are learning to persevere and deal with difficult situations. You are learning to be a leader AND learning to be a follower. You are learning about who you are, what is important to you, and to work on areas of improvement (both on and, more importantly, off the playing fields). You are learning that you can choose to look for the best in a situation and to find joy and happiness in the hand you are dealt.  You are learning how to rely on yourself, how to rely on others, and how to ask for help when you need it – and, sometimes, when you don’t want to.  You are learning what you are capable of and what a sense of accomplishment feels like.
These are just a few things that come to mind. Not all of this will happen at once, and not all of it will happen every summer, but I am certain you will learn these lessons over the fullness of your camp experience.  My advice is to take a deep breath, reset your perspective, and allow yourself to believe that 2017 is going to be an amazing summer!  I know this is easier said than done, but I also know your general approach to life and how you view most things is with great enthusiasm and optimism.  Let this opportunity be no different.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 5, 2017

July 5, 2017 by

Today was the perfect camp day. Camp Takajo woke up to a magnificent blue sky, bright sunshine, and temperatures that climbed to the high seventies. After a delicious breakfast that consisted of egg and cheese on English muffins, our boys finishing fifth grade (Junior Green division) departed for Camp Winaukee for a full day of intercamp competitions.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysIn the meantime, our boys finishing sixth grade (Junior Grey division) stayed in camp to host Winaukee campers in various intercamp events. I am a big proponent of these all-day field competitions because they promote 100% participation. Today, every boy in Junior Camp was able to experience the thrill of competing against a friendly rival in three sports.

To pause our program and travel a great distance in order to compete in just one sport, I believe, is counterproductive. On the other hand, creating an entire day of competition when our boys get to put their skills and sportsmanship to the test provides great value.

Throughout the day at Takajo, both our older and younger campers took time out of their schedule to catch a glimpse of our twelve-year-olds competing. Their cheers and words of encouragement helped fuel our boys to victory.

After a full day in the hot sunshine, our camp families came together for their second cookout on the commons deck overlooking Long Lake. It was a perfect night for campers of all age levels to relax, unwind, and connect with boys in different age groups.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysAs the sun set below the horizon on Long Lake, the entire camp came together on the commons deck for an Independence Day ceremony. We heard from three speakers, a current senior camper (Okee), and a returning counselor from the U.S. as well as a counselor from overseas. Each speaker provided his perspective on our great country and how camp life is a microcosm of the values our country holds so dear. As the ceremony came to an end, the sky over Long Lake lit up with a magnificent display of fireworks. Our boys sat nestled closely together on the beach and enjoyed this magical moment.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017 by

Happy Independence Day from Naples, Maine. Independence Day is a great time for the Takajo campers to relax and unwind from our fast-paced routine. After breakfast, we took bunk photos that we will post online and individual photos to send home with your boys at the end of the summer as a keepsake. Each bunk created a short video introducing themselves which will be added to our video yearbook that we send out to camp families next fall.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysAfter lunch, our Crows and Braves (campers finishing first through third grades) traveled into Naples to participate in the annual Naples Independence Day Parade.  Our boys were joined by a few of our Okees, our oldest campers, who lead our Warriors in singing and dancing down Main Street. In keeping with tradition, our Takajo band played patriotic songs for all of the onlookers to enjoy and accompanied the marching campers. When we reached the end of the parade, they were surprised with a boat ride back to camp on the Songo River Queen II, a double-decker paddle wheel boat that cruises Long Lake throughout the summer.

As the boys pulled up to our dock, they unloaded onto the beach and joined a rocking beach party, where campers entered sand castle building contests, danced to popular music, and enjoyed cold, refreshing ice cream on this beautiful summer day.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysAfter several days of inter-camp games and camping trips, this less-structured day was exactly what the campers needed. Because the town of Naples hosts a fireworks extravaganza tonight, we are forced to postpone our own Independence Day celebration until tomorrow. Our campers are looking forward to the traditional Takajo fireworks to cap off this patriotic celebration.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 3, 2017

July 3, 2017 by

You can tell the Takajo program is clicking on all cylinders by the number of school buses that drove in and out of camp today. Our intercamp program is underway, and our boys in junior and senior camps enjoyed competing in basketball, lacrosse, and volleyball. Whenever possible, we try to compete in round robin tournaments so that our boys get a chance to play in at least two competitive games. Seeing our boys competing side-by-side in their Takajo uniforms is a sight that brings enormous pride to our community.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysWhile the intercamp games were thrilling and competitive, the most iconic moment of the summer so far was a game that took place last night between our fourteen and fifteen year old boys. In what started out as normal banter between boys, a few of our fourteen-year-old Sub-Seniors called out their older counterparts (the Okees) and challenged them in the dining room to a game immediately after dinner. If the Okees were to lose, they would relinquish their privileges to the newly renovated senior rec. hall to their younger opponents. If the Sub-Seniors were to lose, they would lose their own privileges to the senior rec. hall and would have to retire to bed thirty minutes earlier for three consecutive nights.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysThe word quickly spread throughout camp of this challenge, and hundreds of campers and counselors lined the court to witness the event. Both teams played with great heart and teamwork. By the end of the first half, the score was tied. The cheers and screams echoed throughout campus, and more onlookers continued pouring in as the second half began. After a hard-fought battle, the Sub-Seniors eventually squeaked out a victory, beating the Okees by four points.

While the skill, determination, and competitive style of play was exciting to watch, it gave me great satisfaction to witness our youngest campers cheering on these older boys who they look up to every single day. When the game came to an end and the Sub-Seniors ran off in jubilation, the most dominant player remained on the court and graciously greeted the youngest campers, who were clearly awestruck by his presence. Without mentioning a word, his kindness and humility acted as an incredible teaching moment for our younger boys in camp.

Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017 by

After a fast-paced and fun-filled week at Camp Takajo that was packed with team sports, pioneering trips, intercamp games, and hobbies, our boys had a chance to sleep in until 8:30 AM for their first Lazy Man’s Morning today. Between 8:30 and 9:30 AM, our campers had an opportunity to come to breakfast in a casual setting where they enjoyed Dunkin’ Donuts, cereal, and hot chocolate.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysDuring Sunday mornings, we have a less structured routine thus giving our campers the opportunity to select an activity of their choice. All land sports were open and counselors were stationed at their facilities to organize pickup games or provide extra instruction. Mike Turtle ran an amazing soccer clinic for our boys who elected to take advantage of his coaching expertise. The waterfront was bustling as every sailboat and canoe was in use. Three ski boats pulled campers who wanted to take advantage of the calmer water, while a fourth was allocated for banana boat rides.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine for boysShortly before lunch, sisters and cousins from Tripp Lake Camp arrived for Takajo’s first family day of the summer. There is something very special about sibling relationships when they do not see each other every day. My oldest son once told his twin sister, “Just because I love you, doesn’t mean I have to like you everyday.” I’m sure that sentiment can be echoed in many of your homes. The warmth and intimacy that took place during this get together was beautiful to witness.

In the afternoon, temperatures climbed to the mid-eighties and humidity levels rose as well. This did not stop our boys from playing hard during their team games and in their activities. As the sun dropped behind the White Mountains and the day came to an end, the Warrior campers met at the Snack Shack before going to bed. Showered and clean– the boys told stories about the day’s events as they were sitting on picnic benches enjoying a nice bowl of cereal. In just one week’s time, it is incredible to witness how quickly our camp family is coming together.

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