Dear Takajo Families,
I hope you were able to join us for our Closing Campfire this past Thursday, August 13. If you missed it or would like to watch it again, it is available on our Camp Takajo YouTube Channel. The final campfire marks the culmination of the camp season. It is a time for reflection on the lessons we’ve learned during the summer, the passing down of the Heritages from the current generation of campers to the next, and some fun Native American dances with our younger boys. The final event is always the Flaming Hoop Dance where two of our more fearless counselors do a series of acrobatic moves through a flaming hoop. Yes, it is as spectacular as it sounds!
In a normal summer, the list of people to thank for providing our campers with a safe and enriching experience is endless. This summer, we had a skeleton crew at camp who kept the office running and enabled us to stay in touch with our campers and our extended Takajo family through Zoom calls and social media posts. Harrison Manchel, Tori Perez, and Annie Brisbane kept us connected through our Instagram posts and Zoom calls with our Warrior Campers. Nick Andreacci, our IT manager, was indispensable in overseeing the logistics and technology behind the scenes to make sure everything ran smoothly.
The man who “put it all together” was our Junior Camp Group Leader, Neil Minsky. Neil was a Takajo camper in the ’80s, returned as a lacrosse counselor in the ’90s, and has run our Junior program for the past ten years. A professional musician, Neil’s artistic skills were on full display this summer as he oversaw the creation, filming, and editing of all the videos we posted, starting with the Opening Campfire, all the Monday funny videos, and finishing with the Closing Campfire. Neil’s vision for these projects and his ability to put them together from conception to finished product were truly awe-inspiring. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude, and I want to thank him here on behalf of the entire Takajo community.
Now that we’ve come to the “end of the 2020 season,” I can’t help but reflect back to the decision not to open camp. It was the toughest call I’ve ever had to make. At that time, after speaking with many of our camp parents, I referred to the camp’s collective heartbeat not being in sync. This was ultimately the critical factor in the decision not to move forward. In the spring, as schools closed and businesses shuttered, families across the country started to feel the impact of this pandemic. Little did we know back then that it would become far worse and last for many more months.
For many of us, the impact on our children was and continues to be, the most heart-wrenching part of this whole ordeal. Having to forego the normal rights of passage – high school and college graduations, proms, spring and fall sports – was tough enough. Having to miss camp, after being quarantined at home for months, added to the emotional toll. Too many children across the country lost the opportunity to reconnect with their friends and spend a precious few weeks together reveling in the healthy, simple existence that camp provides.
As the summer winds down, it appears the country’s collective heartbeat is not in sync. There are those who want to forge ahead and open schools regardless of what we continue to learn from top epidemiologists from around the country. While I made a conscious decision to accept my fate this summer and embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a quiet summer with my parents, wife, and children, I am now, like many of you, struggling with the decision whether to send my children back to school when so much is still unknown.
I have always said that camp is a microcosm of the real world. The success of our community relies on trust, faith, love, compassion, and working together for the greater good. As we spend these last few weeks with our families, enjoying the beautiful end-of-summer weather, I pray that our country will come together and unite in common purpose so that our children may return to their normal routines and the simple joys of everyday life.
I send my love and virtual hugs to all of you.