It has been an emotional day at camp. On the heels of an amazing final campfire, I woke up this morning to the threat of rain, but once again it avoided us. We spent the morning in the bunks organizing for packing day tomorrow. As one might imagine, it is a tedious job. We have boys staying for Father Son Weekend who need to leave certain items out to play with their fathers. We have more campers who are heading out on vacation with their families and need to be packed and ready to go upon their return home. We have boys starting soccer practice on Monday, who need to be reminded to pack their cleats as a carry-on. We have boys who take medications, and we need to make sure it’s packed with them in case their parents don’t have a supply when they return.
I took a break from the monotony of the packing details and invited our thirty-six graduating seniors (our Okeechobee Campers) down to my house for our traditional “swan song” lunch. We ate burgers straight off the grill and enjoyed some great quality time together, away from the rest of the camp. Each year, I gather with our graduating boys and give them the opportunity to ask me any questions they want about camp. In past years, I have been asked questions like, “If I were traveling on a boat with Warren Davis and Bob Lewis, and the boat capsized with only one life jacket, who would I give it to?” Typical of boys who want to rank the importance of my key staff, but in reality, that one is a very easy question to answer. Warren would get the life jacket because I assume that my head of the waterfront would be able to swim to shore.
This year Okee’s asked me what capital improvements I planned on making in the future, what it was like to purchase camp at the age of 28, and how does one determine which profession he would be best suited to pursue. Sitting with these boys in my living room, I think of the bright futures that are in store for these incredible, young men. Some of them are bound to end up at the same college or university and will most likely be roommates or fraternity brothers. Some of these boys are likely to be groomsmen at each other’s weddings or work together on a professional level, down the road. The bonds that have been created over the past several summers are based on trust and love. There is no greater connection than the ones that form at an early age, living in a bunk at camp.
Tonight, the camp celebrated the success of our summer at the final banquet. The boys put on their nicest clothing and came to dinner showered and ready for an enjoyable meal. We enjoyed a delicious steak dinner and listened to campers and counselors recount moments about their summer. At the end of the evening, the campers watched a slide show of the best photos taken over the summer. Every camper appeared in the show, and it brought back great memories from the past seven weeks.
As your boys prepare to head home, let me share one final thought. As parents, you are eager to hear about every moment that has taken place in your absence. However, your boys are coming home incredibly satisfied and tired from this summer. It is analogous to playing a long, hard game; only to collapse from exhaustion when it is over. Give your boys a chance to rest. Try not to over scheduled them their first days home. Provide them with the opportunity for unstructured down time. However, within a few days, get back into your family routine. Over the course of the next few weeks and months, your boys will start to share some of the amazing moments of the summer. The silliest things will remind them of events. But this is likely to happen organically rather than in a “forced” conversation. With just one day to go, I have already started to say my goodbyes, give my hugs, and to tell these boys how proud I am of them, and how fortunate I am to have played a part in their summer.