Gloomy skies and light rain gave our boys an excuse for a well-deserved slow start to the day. As they trudged to the dining hall, the weather matched their mood as they sensed the transition from wearing face paint and bandanas during the Olympic Whacked-Up-Relay yesterday to seeing duffels appear today. As they have done every day this summer, our Okees sat together, eating French toast, in no rush to leave the dining hall. No talk of Olympics, no gloating about who won. That was yesterday’s focus. Today is about soaking up these last remaining moments together.
I have never viewed the Takajo experience as “transactional.” Our boys create deep and meaningful friendships that truly last a lifetime. In my thirty-four years as a camp director, I have witnessed bunkmates become roommates and fraternity brothers in college, groomsman in each other’s weddings, and business partners in startup companies. The bonds that are formed at camp are often the deepest and most meaningful friendships a child will create in his lifetime. This is when boys have a seemingly innate ability to seek out their “wing men,” the guys who pick them up when they’re down, the guys they know they can depend on when the chips are down.
I am confident that this graduating group of campers will remain in touch as they have shared incredible moments together on the playing fields, around camp, and on extended trips.
When tomorrow’s final campfire ends, our Okees will turn the leadership of camp over to the Sub-Seniors, their younger brothers. Our Subs have learned from our oldest boys what it means to be a leader, how to show empathy and compassion to younger campers, and how to lead by example. Our graduating Okees leave a wonderful legacy and have made sure the camp is in good hands going forward.
This evening was a time of celebration as we came together for our Final Banquet in our magnificent dining room overlooking Long Lake. Every camper showered and managed to find a clean shirt to celebrate the occasion. Our head chef and his team prepared a delicious chicken parmesan dinner that was devoured by all. The night was capped off with heartfelt speeches by a beloved staff member and an admired and revered Okee camper. We presented three campers with their coveted nine-year toilet seats, a camp tradition that comes with a picture of the camper on top of the lid and each of his nine bunks listed inside.
Our incredible photo staff created a slide show to music capturing all that has taken place in the last seven weeks. There were many tears shed, especially by our Okees who watched arm and arm with their buddies. We have one more day left, and the forecast promises to give our boys a day filled with bright sunshine and clear skies, followed by a perfect evening for our Closing Campfire.