Archive for December, 2017

Out with the Old, In with the New (Year!)  

Posted Sunday, December 31st, 2017 by

I’ve spent the last several days thinking on the past twelve months. They’ve been among the most exciting and interesting I’ve enjoyed. It’s been a year marked with a lot of positive experiences, moments, and memories.

It’s also been a year marked with failures from which, I sincerely hope, I’ll learn.

The Positives

Lots of great new camp families joined along with a couple of amazing full-time staff – Scrappy and Maintenance Director Alex.

We created a brand-new program (and huge new building) for our Senior Campers. Based on the comments and the returning campers, it’s been very well received.

It looks like our our campers and staff enjoyed an amazing summer. This thought comes from enjoying the highest return rate on record for both campers and staff members. Wow – that’s pretty awesome! Thank you to all!

We also hit on a few new ideas at Weequahic that look to last:

  • What will be your September Story?
  • We either win or we learn.
  • Don’t let the small rope hold you back.

Areas for Improvement

We want to be better at communicating with our camp families and our staff and will continue to work on ways to improve. Better systems and technology to support the fantastic people we have with us will make a positive difference.

We’ll continue to update the bunks. Inter and Senior Girls – you all get brand new bathrooms, siding and windows for Summer ’18. Gentlemen, you’ll be next. (Ladies first, after all!)

New ideas for activities, special events, and evening activities for our campers are high on the list as well. Thankfully, we have an amazing group of people thinking on this very subject. We can’t wait to watch everyone enjoy this coming summer!

Finally, we want to be better at staying in the moment and enjoying every aspect of the camp experience. The more we model this for our campers, the more they’ll do it themselves.

Welcome 2018

I enter 2018 with a full and grateful heart. Thank you to all who were a part of our community in 2017. We’ve learned so much from so many, it would take too long to list everyone. But, we certainly appreciate everything you’ve done to be alongside us.

It’s going to be an amazing year. Why? Because we’ll make it so… together!

As far as resolutions, I have two that I’ll share:

First, I want to know the people’s names who I see all the time at the grocery store, our UPS person at home, our dry cleaner, etc. Why? Because we interact often enough to know each other’s names.

It’s something we pride ourselves on at camp. I want to make it a bigger part of my home life, too. So, that’s one.

The second? Lay off the Canteen!

I hope you and your family has a wonderful end to 2017 and a safe start to the New Year. See you in 2018!

Can’t wait for camp,

Cole

A Camp Ode to Joy

Posted Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 by

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in…that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” – Jack London, Call of the Wild

I love this quote from Call of the Wild. It encapsulates what one sees walking around Camp Weequahic during our evening activities, seeing the kids in the dance hall performing with their friends, sliding around Sly Lake on the tube, and dashing up the sidelines with the ball in hand:

Joy.

The gift of camp is, for many, the experience of joy. While we can’t live at camp year-round (mores the pity), it doesn’t diminish our need for joy. So, in a season that talks about joy often, the question is a natural one: how do we get to ‘joy?’

Here are a few ideas from some authors (and campers) who often teach me.

It’s About the People

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

When our campers do something amazing, they share it with their friends. Most of the time, their buddies are right there alongside them to celebrate. However, our choice-based program allows great friends to try different things – a little separation is a good thing!

Walking through the Dining Hall at lunch illustrates this perfectly. The conversations are full of laughter, cheers, and wonder. “You did that?! That’s amazing!” Campers are not bragging – they are searching for joy by sharing it with their friends.

This is why we spend so much time and effort helping campers build friendships at Weequahic. First-time campers are justifiably nervous about the new experience. Once they have some friends with whom they share their joy, the first-time camper blooms.

Have something joyful? Get the most out of it by sharing it with a friend who’ll love it, too.

It’s About the New

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” – John Krakauer

With the holidays upon us, there will be many gifts given and enjoyed. So many will be treasured and loved for a long time. Other gifts won’t be so lucky in their length of service.

There are many times that I received a gift that brought some joy quickly. However, once the ‘newness’ of the thing – a video game, a toy, etc…. – wore off, it was no longer fun and quickly forgotten. I see it in our own boys from time to time.

Joy comes from exploring and finding something new. Discovering something you did not know before brings delight – a new skill, a new idea, or a outlook. Pushing past (normally self-set) boundaries opens up new realms of joy because you now have a larger world.

Combine these new discoveries with those close to you and you’ve got a potent ‘joy mix’ on your hands!

It’s About the Attitude

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Let’s be honest: sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Here’s my train of thought on this point.

Point #1: Our minds are set up to ‘value’ negative things three times more than positive things due to our needing to survive way, way before Starbucks and cell phones. While saber-tooth tigers are no longer a threat, our brains haven’t much changed their weighting system.

Point #2: We’ve gotten to a place of ‘happy stimulus overload.’ As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying at 35,000 feet from Tel Aviv to London (and then, hopefully, to Atlanta!) I’ve got 42 moive options, a whole host of tv stations, books, newspapers, and games at my fingertips. Meh…. It’s ok.

We fail to notice the pleasures around us because there are so many! (Personal note: As someone who travels a lot and has been incredibly lucky in life, I find myself being ‘meh’ too often about these incredible experiences. I’m a work in progress, too!)

Point #3: When you smile (with both your mouth and your eyes), you physically and chemically alter yourself, if ever so briefly, into a new state. You become happier along with being more receptive, patient, and empathetic. It also changes the sounds coming out of your mouth.

What do these three ideas have to do with joy? They tell me we have to decide to battle our natural setting (attending to the ‘bad’ a lot more than the ‘good’), treat the world around us with more gratitude, and smile. That combo will give joy a great chance to enter our lives.

Last Days of 2017

So, in these last of 2017, join me in taking a few minutes (or more) to reflect on joy. Watching our campers each summer has taught me a lot about the subject. Their joy has reminds me that sharing new experiences with friends (both new and old) brings even more joy. And, smiling will help joy walk into my life more often.

I hope these ideas will help you en-joy the last handful of days in ’17. Have a great week!

Are You Trying or Doing?

Posted Friday, December 15th, 2017 by

We’ve done a bit of a movie marathon in the Kelly house lately. Cold days coupled with a few sick kiddos made it a good use of our time.

With the new Star Wars coming out, I thought it helpful to walk the boys through a few of the great ones, just to prime the pump, so to speak. “The Last Hope”, “Empire Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Jedi” got us ready. (No, we didn’t watch the ‘first three.’)

For those who don’t know, Yoda, the Jedi Master and teacher extraordinaire, features prominently in the latter two as he prepares and guides Luke Skywalker towards his confrontations with Darth Vader and the evil Emperor.

Luke trains. He listens. He sweats. And, like any student, he whines, pouts a bit, and questions.

When tasked with something seemingly insurmountable, Luke sullenly replies, “Ok, I’ll try.” Yoda, not waiting a bit, jumps on this waffling with:

“No. Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’”

Ok, I’ll Try….

Why do we use the word ‘try?’ I think it has a lot to do with setting ourselves or others to

be ‘ok’ with our failure. We are putting our toes half into the water, risking a little rather than a lot. Rather than diving in a getting after whatever it is in front of us, we waffle.

I’ll try to climb the wall.

I’ll try to be nice to her.

I’ll try that new food.

All of these are said in a way that is half in, half out. When you put yourself into such a situation, you go at ‘it’ with half a heart, half a mind – and normally get half the result.

Wax On, Wax Off

If you’ve not seen the classic ‘Karate Kid,” you should. (The new version is good, too, but I’m partial to the older version.)

It’s a true underdog, ‘hero’s journey’ story. Teenager Daniel moves to a new state and new school, wants to fit in, and gets bullied. Daniel then stumbles onto a wise teacher who helps him gain both the tools necessary to defend himself and the wisdom to know when to use those tools. Daniel is challenged and comes out the other side victorious… and different.

In the middle of the dark period, our young hero is trying to make a deal on something big. “Maybe I can do just this much and that will be ok,” Daniel is saying. His teacher, Mr. Myagi replies:

“Daniel-san, walk on one side of the road, ok. Walk on other side of the road, ok. Walk down middle… SQWEECH! Crushed like grape.”

Let’s Do

When we decide to do something, we aren’t always successful. We can put every ounce of effort into the task, do all of our homework, have a great attitude and… we do not succeed. That’s just life. And, you know what? That’s totally ok!

At Weequahic, we’ve adopted a saying that fits: ‘Either we win or we learn.’

The key is to really get after it – whatever that is. To DO. When you approach tasks this way – leaving nothing in the tank – you not only give yourself the best chance of success, you avoid the mean big brother of “I’ll Try”: “What if…”

You want to have a lot of friends? Then be a friend. You want to climb the wall? We’ll support you all the way up (and down!). All you have to do is commit. Trying a new food? Act like you are going to love it.

And, should things not go the way you wanted, then you’ve learned. Keep learning! It’s the only way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Go on. Give it your all. To borrow Yoda’s voice, ‘happy for it, you will be.’ Have a great week!

A GAC Swim

Posted Friday, December 1st, 2017 by

When I visit a family in their home, we sit together and look through a big book of pictures from camp. Arriving at the picture of our big, beautiful Sly Lake, I normally make the joke, “As long as you have on your life-vest (which is required, by the way), the only thing you really have to worry about is the shark.”

Sure, it’s corny but more often than not I get some huge eyes and a ‘REALLY?!?’ from the camper. “No, I’m just teasing,” I tell them. “There is no shark in our lake. (The monster squid however….)”

We laugh a bit about it and keep on going.

But, in reading a book by Mark Batterson lately, I’ve learned the story about one person who really did swim with the sharks.

Gratitude, Attitude, Courage… and Sharks

Diana Nyad wanted to see Cuba when she was 9 years old. Looking out from the beach in Fort Lauderdale, her mother pointed her in the right direction and said, “It’s there. You can’t see it but you could almost swim to it.”

Fifty-five years later, and after several attempts, Diana did just what her mother said – she swam to Cuba. At 64 years old, she had become the first person to swim the 110 miles, shark and box jellyfish filled waters between the US to Cuba… without a shark cage.

But, she didn’t do it alone. And, she did have a message to share. Upon completing the feat, Ms. Nyad had three things to say:

“First, we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Here is a person who had just swum over 55 hours straight to cross 110 miles from Florida to Cuba, and she is passing along wisdom and drawing attention to the 30-odd people who helped? Incredible.

Swimming, Laughing, and Learning

At Weequahic, we have a tradition of swimming the lake during our Olympic Session. A flotilla of lifeguards patrol the path and over 100 kids a summer take the plunge during the early morning hours. While there are no sharks (I promise!), it takes a lot of courage to even attempt.

When the campers complete the feat, they are greeted with hot chocolate, warm towels, and high fives. They have swum together with friends, showed a ‘let’s get this done’ attitude, and accomplished something memorable.  All are grateful in the end and thank everyone who helped.

So, take a page from Ms. Nyad. Never give up. You are never too old (or young!) to chase your dreams. And, remember: this thing we are doing here called ‘life?’ It’s a team sport.

Have a great weekend.

Cole