One of the joys of working with children is it gives me an incredible opportunity to meet and interact with so many wonderful families. These relationships are deep, meaningful, and transcend the summer. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, they persist long into the future. Clearly, one of the most meaningful relationships that I have maintained is with a camper from Baltimore named Evan Weinberg. I went to Evan’s home and met with his family in Owingsmills, Maryland when Evan was just eight years old. I had the distinct pleasure of watching Evan grow up into a fine young man and called upon him during his Junior year at the University of Pennsylvania when my wife, Joan, and I were moving our daughter Lindsay into her freshman dorm at U Penn. I asked Evan to meet us at the curb to help me move Lindsay’s clothing into her freshman dorm. When the move was complete, Lindsay asked me to invite Evan to dinner. Ten years later, they were married at Camp Takajo. While Evan is the only one of my boys that I can truly now call my son, I have enjoyed countless deep friendships with so many others over the years.
It has often been said that one of my former campers in particular looks like me. So much so that he has been stopped in the airport and asked if he was me. I’m always flattered when he says this because I find this individual has movie-star good looks. Over the years, we’ve always gotten a good laugh from this uncanny connection. This good friend has two nephews at camp. The older nephew had a couple of rocky moments during his early teen years at Takajo, and his brother-in-law, the father of the nephew, wrote his son one of the most profound father-son letters that a Takajo camper has ever received. Upon receiving the letter a few years ago, the camper did an about-face that gave him the self-reliance, strength, and courage to persevere and overcome his sadness in camp.
That child is now an Okee camper, surrounded by forty-six of his closest friends and thriving in his final summer at camp. My friend and lookalike finds himself in a similar place, where his amazing son is seeking traction. Therefore, my friend pulled out the letter that his brother-in-law wrote to his son and reworked it so that it was appropriate for his child. I share this letter with you because I have to believe that there are other boys who may need to read it. If you need any evidence that the Takajo experience will pay dividends for your son, then I welcome you to speak with Evan Weinberg or this incredible Okee, who is flourishing in his final year.
You need to understand that our job as parents is to recognize when we need to push you outside your comfort zone to take on challenges/uncomfortable situations that will help you grow and develop and to be prepared for the real world as you grow up and ultimately become an adult. You obviously know that we would never put you in a situation or ask you to do something that is not in your best interest. This summer is no different.
So that you understand from our perspective, why we send you to camp, what Takajo offers, and what it is all about, we want to share the following…
As you know, camp is about playing sports, spending time with friends, being in a beautiful place, and having fun. But at the heart of it, it is really about much, much more. The skills you have are, and will, continue developing and preparing you for life.
Camp is an important and valuable influence and is helping you build the foundation of who you are/who you will become. . .
- You are learning to be independent
- You are learning to solve problems on your own and with the help of your peers in a safe environment
- You are learning that life is not always fun or easy
- You are learning to build deep – 24 hour and 7 days a week – relationships with individuals and groups of friends, younger and older
- You are learning to deal with uncomfortable situations
- You are learning to advocate for yourself
- You are learning to persevere and deal with difficult situations
- You are learning to be a leader AND learning to be a follower and a listener
- You are learning about who you are, what is important to you and to work on areas of improvement (both on and more importantly, off the playing fields)
- You are learning that you can choose to look for the best in a situation and find joy/happiness in the hand you are dealt
- You are learning how to rely on yourself, how to rely on others, and how to ask for help when you need it and when you don’t want to
- You are learning what you are capable of and what the sense of accomplishment feels like
These are just a few things that come to mind. Not all of this will happen at once and not all of it will happen every summer, but I am certain you will learn these lessons over the fullness of your camp experience.