I am cognizant of the fact that today is visiting day, and I am reminded of an incredible memory one visiting day morning when I walked into founding director Morty Goldman’s office and was captivated by seeing him with his feet propped up on his desk, reading the New York Times. I asked Morty how he could be so relaxed knowing that a thousand visitors were about to commandeer the facility. Morty put the paper down and remarked, “If we haven’t been taking care of our boys for the last four weeks, there’s nothing I can do about it now.” That memory has stayed with me my entire career.
We have operated Camp Takajo this summer the same way we would have if you had the opportunity to visit us in person. While we are incredibly proud of our program, thrilled that we are able to offer great instruction, compete in intercamp games, take our boys off campus for amazing trips, and sprinkle in some fun socials with the girls. Our primary focus is on the emotional well-being of your boys.
There are so many teachable moments that have occurred in the first four weeks of summer. I have witnessed incredible growth and maturation from some of our youngest campers who had never been on a sleep-out prior to coming to camp, to some of our impulsive older boys who have learned to think about their bunkmates and friends rather than just their own needs. Camp provides the opportunity for some healthy separation from one’s parent and the need for young children to advocate for themselves in an age-appropriate and healthy manner. I have learned as a parent that the more I do for my children, the less my children do for themselves.
I have mixed emotions about visiting day. For over thirty years, I have enjoyed hosting families and have loved witnessing parents and their children reuniting after their separation. However, this comes with a cost. Historically, parents have felt a need to bring in tons of candy and other unnecessary gifts. Children become incredibly anxious in preparation for the day and often become very emotional. Midway through the day in anticipation of having to say goodbye, the health center becomes overrun when campers get sick after indulging in too much candy. It takes us days to get back into our routine and, very often, campers and parents feel emotionally drained by the end of the experience.
Today there was a very relaxed feel in camp throughout the day. Our boys leisurely sauntered into the dining room for breakfast, and their demeanor was relaxed as they sat among their friends and enjoyed pancakes in anticipation of another day at home. It was a hot, sunny day which gave credence to altering our program. Our Warriors and Juniors broke from their regular schedule to grab modest bags of candy, assembled by our staff, before enjoying FaceTime calls with their loved ones at home.
We had a cookout lunch where the boys sat with their Takajo families; it was incredible witnessing our 15-year-old Okee campers sitting at the head of the table, surrounded by campers in his family from each age division. Warmth and laughter filled the dining room as our boys enjoyed hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken sandwiches. Later that afternoon, each Takajo family enjoyed a banana boat ride on Long Lake. Squeals of laughter echoed across our waterfront as campers of all age levels enjoyed a thrilling ride together. To cap off an incredible day, all of our boys enjoyed a make-your-own sundae party, filled with every imaginable topping. I can’t think of a better way to end our visiting day.