This morning as I left my office making my way over to breakfast, I noticed a large group of young men making their way from the Senior Quad over to the dining hall. What caught my attention was that many of these campers were arm in arm, making their way towards the dining hall. These boys are the oldest campers, our Okees, who are embarking on their final summer at Camp Takajo.
We have a remarkable group of Okees this year. Forty-eight 15-year-old boys, who have just completed the ninth grade, made the decision to return for this right-of-passage. I am a firm believer that the Takajo experience is not a summer experience but rather a life experience. The relationships that form over the years of living and playing together are likely to truly last a lifetime. I have vivid memories of these Okees when they arrived seven and eight years ago as little Warrior campers. Some were homesick and; for others, it was their first time participating in organized sports. To witness the growth that has taken place, as well as the deep bonds of friendship, warms my heart.
During the early years of attending camp, many campers and parents are fixated on bunk placement. The Okees consider themselves one unit, one family, and understand that this final season is about sharing this experience and the importance of setting the right example for the other campers to follow. The Okees have some great privileges. They can spend their evenings in the Senior Rec Hall, enjoy the use of our indoor or lighted facilities after taps, and have weekly excursions out of camp to explore Maine. With the culmination a week-long trip out West, what is most meaningful about these experiences is that they are sharing them with the guys who they have known since they where young Warriors at Takajo.
When dealing with socialization issues at camp, it is important to recognize the different ages and developmental stages of those who are in my office often. We want to resolve our children’s dilemmas, when in reality their growth and development only takes place when they experience situations outside of their comfort zones.
One of the greatest skills that our boys learn at camp is learning how to pick up social queues, patience, teamwork and a sense of fair play. The love and the respect these Okees share for each other did not evolve overnight, nor is the respect given to them because they are in their final year. Their final summer is the end of a journey that began the moment they arrived at Camp Takajo.