Tak Talk Blog- Camp Takajo – August 7, 2022

By August 7, 2022 Tak Talk
Junior Olympic Swim Meet

As I made my way over to the office this morning, I could feel the incredible heat that had already perpetrated our campus. We knew we were in for it and our only saving grace was that this was predicated to be the last unseasonably hot day of our summer. Our boys didn’t seem fazed as they sprinted down to the Takajo dining room for their Dunkin’ Donuts. After the morning lineup, we jumped right into Olympic activities. All three age groups came together to rehearse for a song competition, which is only a day away, followed by another round of Olympic land sports competition.

For me, August 7 is a day of reflection. Today is my brother’s sixty-fifth birthday. My brother Kip passed four years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. My brother was my hero. One of three heroes in my life. The other two are my father and Takajo’s founder, Morty Goldman. Each of these men has played a huge impact on my life and through their actions has taught me what it means to be a father, a brother, a spouse, and hopefully, someone who makes a small impact on those around him. As a camper, I idolized Morty. I saw him as a leader of men, and I respected his ability to manage camp without ever raising his voice. He was so revered and admired that no one ever wanted to disappoint him, and he somehow always managed to say the right thing at the right time, which just seemed to make sense at that moment.

I remember seeing Morty for the last time when he was in hospice, only one year after I had purchased Camp Takajo at the age of twenty-seven. I was so sad at the thought of losing my mentor and couldn’t imagine having the ability to follow in his footsteps and run his camp without having his constant tutelage. When I saw Morty already in a weakened state, we engaged in a conversation about camp. After a short exchange, I looked Morty straight in the eyes and said, “There are so many decisions I will have to make during one summer, how will I know what to do?”

Morty looked back at me and in his weakened state whispered, “Whatever decision you make will be the right one.”

Driving home from this visit, my confusion went to clarity. What Morty was telling me was that if I am a morally and ethically sound person, and I am willing to put the best interests of those around me ahead of my own, then whatever decisions I make will, in fact, be the right ones.

My dad just celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday, and I have the distinct pleasure and honor to live a few miles away from him in the off-season and a few steps away from him during the camp season. My mom and dad live in the cottage that Morty and Elise lived in (albeit renovated) and spend their entire summer at camp. When I was a little boy, my father said to me, “Go through life doing things, making decisions, and treating others as if I were with you at all times.” That advice has guided me my entire life. As a matter of fact, every year during the first day of staff orientation, I share with my staff the advice that my father had given to me, and I suggest that the staff treat each child as if that child’s parents were there watching as they interacted with that camper. My father’s advice has been a guiding principle on how we treat one another in camp.

Camp Takajo in Naples, Maine summer camp for boysWhen I was twenty-seven years old, Morty Goldman approached me about purchasing Camp Takajo. With no money and no business experience, I turned to my brother who looked at me and said, “Bro, you belong in camping, and I’m going to help you figure out how to make it happen.” My brother’s belief in me inspired me and empowered me to follow in the footsteps of a giant at a time in my life when I was too young to understand the enormity of the task I was about to undertake. Nevertheless, my brother understood it and gave me the confidence that I needed to start the journey.

I believe we all need heroes. We all need people to look up to, to admire, and to emulate. As I reflect on my brother on his sixty-fifth birthday, sitting behind Morty Godman’s desk, looking out my window to my parents’ cottage, I feel grateful for the heroes in my life.