Today was one of those perfect Camp Takajo days. The sun was shining, temperatures hovered in the mid-seventies, and a sense of calm happiness filled the air. I was able to do what I enjoy the most and get out onto the fields to watch our boys play.
Now that visiting day is behind us and parents have had the opportunity to witness first-hand that their boys are happy and thriving, the amount of phone calls and emails has diminished, allowing me to get back into the trenches with our campers. I watched nine-year-old baseball, and our counselors spent time working with some less experienced boys on their throwing mechanics. It is our hope and desire that every child will leave camp feeling a little more confident having had the opportunity to participate in athletics this summer.
All seventeen tennis courts were filled all day. Head Tennis Coach Mike Barnes has created tennis tournaments in camp for boys of all ability and age levels. This has been a great way for our boys to develop their skills in competition in a friendly setting.
Perhaps the greatest moment that I witnessed today was an impromptu soccer game with our Okees (boys who have finished 9th grade) and our senior counselors. Our senior soccer staff recruited some talented counselors to join the Okees and even teams were created as the game got underway. It was a joy to witness our oldest boys and counselors at play. The skill level was high and was only matched by the intensity level and exquisite sportsmanship displayed.
Our Okee campers have had an amazing summer. This is their final season, and we want to do everything possible to create the greatest experience of their lives. For many, these relationships started over seven years ago when these young men stepped off the bus for their first time and were welcomed into our Takajo Family. Some were shy and many were homesick, but together they learned how to forge friendships and create bonds that will last a lifetime. These boys know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and have now reached a level of maturity where they cheer other campers’ successes and comfort one another when something does not go their way.
Tomorrow, our Okees depart for their trip out west. They will fly into Salt Lake City and spend eight nights away from camp. For the first two nights, they will stay in the dorms at the University of Utah, where they will take in landmarks including the Olympic Training Center, its alpine slides, and all of the other great sights Park City has to offer. They will then continue west to Moab, where they will experience a majestic landscape and go on a thrilling, off-road tour ride in Hummers, one of the highlights of the trip. Next, our boys will continue to Bryce Canyon where they will experience one of the greatest landmarks this country has to offer. Nowhere else on this Earth can you witness so many different layers of extravagant color as you can at this national park.
Finally, our boys will make their way to Las Vegas, where they will experience the famous New York, New York roller coaster as well as all the hot spots on the strip (minus the dancers and casinos.) The Okees will return home in time for their final Olympic Break and their last few days in camp, which will include our Final Banquet and Closing Council Campfire. For our oldest boys, this experience is a well-deserved right of passage.