On many levels, visiting day weekend already feels like a distant memory. Today, I reflected on what I believe speaks volumes about Takajo. Some may think that it makes more sense to alter the program by allowing our boys to leave camp due to the heat. I believe that running normal camp activities demonstrates our ability to manage adversity and highlights the flexibility of our core program.
It is a true testament to a camp when you witness how it functions while hosting visitors on an unusually hot and humid day. We did modify our program do adapt to the conditions, but I believe parents come to Maine to see their children in their summer home and not outside the camp environment, such as at the Maine Mall, in Portland, or at the Walmart in Windham. A few parents asked me if I felt stressed throughout the day, and I remarked that I am surrounded by a loyal and devoted staff who went above and beyond the call of duty to make this day special for our guests. No matter how hot it was on the fields and courts, or even at the art center, hobbies, and waterfront, our staff never stopped smiling in an effort to make the day enjoyable.
At the very end of the day, an awesome family came into my office with their two sons. One boy is thirteen and has been with us for four summers. However, their younger son is barley eight and is here for his first year. The little guy was not happy that his parents were about to leave. The younger boy was making a passionate plea for his parents to take him. While the parents were steadfast in their conviction to keep their son in camp, I could see the anguish on their faces at the thought of leaving their son so distraught. Sitting closely with the parents and the younger child, I notified the family that it was time for the last hug and for their departure. I whispered in the father’s ear that I was once bitten in my forearm as I tried to gently restrain a child at the end of a visiting day and that the little boy calmed down almost minutes after the parents left. In this case, I wasn’t worried about bite marks, but this little boy was relentless in his pursuit to hop into his parents’ car. After announcing this was the final hug and asking the parents to leave my office, I informed the father, “This is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Both parents took my lead, walked out of my office, and left me in the room with their younger son, his big brother, and his favorite counselor. I offered the camper a sports drink and within seconds he allowed himself to get distracted and lost the focus that he had about leaving camp. Before the parents turned on their car’s ignition to leave camp, I was able to send them pictures of their son smiling in my office and getting a piggyback ride to dinner by his big brother. While you may harbor a mental image of your son in distress at the end of your visit, please know that he too has bounced back and is settled back into the fun camp routine.
We woke up this morning to bright sunshine and warm temperatures. Throughout the day, we could feel a shift in the wind. The breeze picked up, and I could actually feel the humidity in the air starting to dissipate. When our boys made their way to line-up after breakfast, they caught a glimpse of the senior baseball field being set up for a massive camp laser tag game. Throughout the day, all campers at every age division had the chance to suit up in their laser tag armor and compete with friends and bunkmates in this fun activity. It was the perfect distraction for our boys after back-to-back visiting days. All morning our ski boats pulled every Junior bunk on the banana boat. You could hear the screams and sounds of laughter as our boys glided across our shoreline.
Our Senior boys started their morning by having meetings and attending to final preparations before they depart on their big trips tomorrow. They took a break in the afternoon to play some basketball and ultimate frisbee, but the highlight for many of our Senior boys was having the opportunity to meet and train with one of the top track athletes in Maine, Kate Hall. Kate Hall is the niece of our facility manager, Gerry Simpson. Kate holds just about every state record in women’s track and field in Maine. She pursued her track and field career at the University of Georgia, where she led the Georgia Bulldogs to two NCAA track and field championships. Kate is training for the Olympics and took time out of her busy schedule to work with some of our oldest boys on techniques to increase speed and quickness.
At the end of the day and after a delicious dinner, I pulled out the raffle bag, which brought the boys in the dining room to a unified roar. The excitement builds as each boy hopes to hear his name called as the “Takajo Swag” is put on display for all to relish. It’s hard to imagine that we are entering our fifth week and while we can feel the pace of the summer increasing, we know that our best days are still to come.