The spirit and emotion were at a fever pitch today as we started the morning with Song Competition in which boys across all age groups join with their Olympic brothers and sing the camp songs. Among them are the camp Alma Mater and an original song written by the Okees. In a close contest, the Grey Team edged the Green, but the highlight was the sight of all our boys, shoulder to shoulder, singing together as one, in a touching display of camp spirit that is as emotional an experience as any we have at camp.
And from there, Warriors, Juniors, and Seniors competed in their respective Whacked-Up-Relays! As the name suggests, this is a giant relay race with dozens of activities– including the lemon-suck, flushing every toilet on the quad, making ten layups in a row, hitting a bullseye at archery, and fan favorite, Make Bob Laugh, which typically ends in a scoreless tie. The ultimate event of the relay, and of the entire Olympics, is the pie-eating contest. Surrounded by every camper on both teams, two elite pie-eaters square off as their teams surround them and shout encouragement. When the winner is declared, the Olympic champions run down and jump in the lake for their celebratory dip. And in the midst of the excitement, there is something poignant about the losing pie-eater, slumped alone on his chair, comforted by his captain and his teammates, praised for giving his all. And as with everything at camp, the sadness passes quickly, but the exhilaration of the experience will linger for a long time to come.
And in the midst of it all, the Okees joined me for lunch at my home for a cookout and some private time to reflect on their final summer. After feasting on burgers, we sat together and they peppered me with questions not only about camp, but about life. I was so impressed by their thoughtful questions about the history of the camp, my management style, planned capital improvements, and even my succession plan. But, the most meaningful question was when they asked what advice I would give them as they leave camp and venture into their high school years. I shared with them a “pearl of wisdom” that my dad shared with me when I was their age.
He told me, “Go through life behaving as if I was there with you at all times.”
I explained to them that as they embark on the next phase of their lives, the margin for error gets smaller and the consequences more lasting. I encouraged them to resist the urge to act impulsively and to make thoughtful decisions. If the gathering today is any indication, these extraordinary young men have internalized the lessons we hoped they would learn through their summers at camp and there is no doubt they will make us – and their families – extremely proud.