I have a vivid memory of arriving at Camp Takajo my first summer in 1970 as a nine-year-old camper. I was nervous at the airport as we met a large group of parents and campers who were congregating until the escorts told us it was time to give that final hug and kiss before we made our way to the gate. I was acutely aware of trying to remain stoic so that I wouldn’t upset my parents; knowing that final image would linger for days to come. The flight was quick but my mind raced as I sat next to another boy who appeared equally nervous on a yellow school bus driving from the Portland Airport to camp. The nerves quickly dissipated when the bus drove down the camp road and stopped in front of Camp Takajo’s welcome Arch. There to greet us was Camp Takajo’s founder and director Morty Goldman. Morty didn’t have time for a long welcome, but he did make it a point to look every camper coming off that bus in the eye as he extended his hand, creating an instant connection. That brief exchange let me know that Morty was “the guy,” the man I could go to if I needed him, my surrogate dad for the summer. Behind Morty was a large group of enthusiastic counselors who shared a genuine desire to make us feel welcomed, safe, and at home.
This Summer, I have that incredible opportunity to welcome your boys to camp. Like Morty, I am surrounded by a devoted group of people who are compassionate, enthusiastic, and committed to providing your son with a safe and enriching summer. As you read this, I would have to imagine that, while your heart is full, there is a level of anxiety that creeps into your innermost thoughts. I’ve spent the last two weeks preparing our staff for this moment, impressing upon them the importance of that first impression. I’ve shared in bunk meetings everything that I know about your child and your family, his interests, personality traits, idiosyncrasies, favorite activities, and goals for the summer. In my opening remarks to my staff, I suggested if they remember one thing about the orientation, it’s that they should treat each camper as if that child’s mother and father were there to witness the exchange. We stand in loco parentis; it is our responsibility and duty to care for your child as if he were our own.
As I walked around the campus today, I visited counselors in bunks as they put the finishing touches on making beds and putting those last-minute clothing arrivals away in the cubbies. The land sport counselors completed lining the fields. The hobby counselors have filled their cupboards with art supplies and materials that should last well beyond the season. The waterfront staff have rigged every sailboat, raked the beach, and eagerly anticipate the hot, humid weather that will be here to greet your sons as they arrive on Saturday.
Here is my pledge to you. We will work tirelessly to provide your son with an incredible summer. We will support his passion for athletics or the arts and challenge him to step outside his comfort zone and expand his horizons. We will cheer for him when he succeeds, and we will pick him up and nurture him when he struggles. I thank you for your trust and confidence and remain available to you whenever you need me. Here’s to an incredible summer.