Month: January 2020

Fun summer camp experiences

Which Are You?

Our kids (and our staff) arrive at Weequahic ready to have a remarkable experience. New experiences, new friends, new activities…. So much fun!

At Weequahic, we get to enjoy things we never would back home. Not many of us have an 85-acre lake with huge trampolines and climbing towers. Unless you are really lucky, you don’t have a Ceramics Studio next to a Fashion Design Studio next to the Woodshop. Very few of us can move seamlessly between a baseball game to a basketball tournament and then jump in the pool to cool off, all before lunch.

Not many of have parents who would welcome a three- or six-week sleepover. And, very few of us get to enjoy so much attention from so many great ‘near peer’ counselors.

We GET to do these things. And, we get to do them WITH a ton of old and new friends. While all of this presents an amazing opportunity, it also hides a significant risk: that you become a consumer or camp rather than a part of it.


We are all consumers. Our lungs consume oxygen moment to moment. Our bodies food and liquids each day to keep everything going. We do a bit (or more) of shopping for groceries and things. Media is consumed in the form of news, entertainment, and education.

All this is well and good. And, if kept in balance, being a consumer is useful.

However, are the moments of consumption memorable? Here’s a question to find out: what did you eat last Tuesday? When was the last time you played with the most recent birthday gift? What show did you watch last Thursday and what was it about?

Consumption, unless it’s a truly special thing like going to a wedding or having a very special meal at a very special spot, is rarely memorable.

If we aren’t careful, we can become consumers of camp, too.

Being a Part

So, what’s the alternative from being a consumer of camp?

Becoming a part of it.

‘Don’t I do that by simply showing up?’ you ask. No, not really. Your body will be there, yes. And, you’ll have all the opportunities to enjoy all the activities. You can eat the food you want, choose the activities you enjoy, and sleep in a comfortable bed.

But, here’s a secret of camp few people will tell you: 

Camp is not all about you. Rather, it’s about all of us.

I had a great conversation LaDarrius Calvin, a wonderful young man who has been connected with Weequahic for a long time. When he arrived at camp, he thought “What the heck can I bring to this place? It’s so beautiful and so many great people – they don’t need me.”

And then he decided, “I’m going to leave this place better than when I found it.”

Rather than becoming a consumer of camp, going through the motions and following instructions, he connected widely with those around him, cared wisely for himself and others, and committed wholly to what we attempt to do each summer. Three years later, his decision proved prophetic. He has made Weequahic better. And, in turn, himself as well.

How About You? 

Are you just going to enjoy camp and all it’s bells and whistles? Or, are you going to get out of your comfort zone and connect. Are you going to become a part of the fabric of camp or remain content to skip along the outside? Are you going to commit?

Either way, you get to choose. You can decide to consume camp this coming summer. You’ll have fun and meet some nice people.

But this approach won’t lead to many connections, many memories, many lasting connections. If you instead decide to dive-in with all your worries and expectations and excitement and connect and become a part of Weequahic, you’ll become a part of something larger than yourself… and be all the better for it.

So, which will you be – a consumer or a part of camp? We’ll find out this summer!

we are all neighbors

Seeing the Essential

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

If you are of a certain age, you may remember this quote from Le Petit Prince. I struggled mightily through that short book under the watchful eyes of Monsieur Mencin, my high school French teacher. I’ll admit, I didn’t enjoy the book at that point.

Having re-read it since (in English), my opinion has changed. It’s a lovely book.

The quote above was brought to my attention by a podcast series I’ve been enjoying about Mr. Fred Rogers, Finding Fred. It turns out the quote above was one Mr. Rogers went back to often. It’s easy to tell why.

What’s Essential at Camp?

During the off-season, we spend a lot of time thinking about the physical property of Weequahic. What do we need to do to keep the buildings and grounds safe? How can we improve their look? Are there program areas or bunks or boats that we need to add or change? Where do we need to re-grow or fertilize the grass?

In other words, we focus on what is visible, the outward appearance and offering of Weequahic. Are these essential aspects of a thriving camp?

In a word, ‘No.’

It’s About…

We’ve said for many years that you can enjoy a great camp in a parking lot if you have the right people. But it’s not really just the people, is it? It’s actually the community which they build together, the feeling of togetherness they create.

It’s all the things invisible to the eye that matter most.

Commitment to treating each person with care. Connecting the campers to each other in all the positive ways. Assuming the mission of the community into yourself and transmitting it to those around you through your actions. Taking the values to heart and living them out.

We can’t see the invisible bonds of connection and kinship our campers develop and enjoy with each other and the team. No one can see what drives the intention of the leaders. You can’t see the clean air, the welcoming attitude, or the courage our kids (and staff) develop.

But all of these things are always at camp. When you are there, you’ll know it… as soon as you let your heart ‘see.’

Our Gang

Our youngest son recently started a new book in his middle school English class, The Outsiders. It’s a wonderful read and great story. I read it at the same school, in the same grade, a hundred years ago and still remember Ponyboy, Sodapop, and Two-Bit. I’m excited for Luke to enjoy it and talk with him about it.

On the evening I learned about his new book, I was listening to a podcast in which the guest was talking about gangs. I’m not sure about you, but my mind immediately goes to the detrimental side of gangs – violence, hazing and other bad outcomes.

While the guest spoke about the ‘bad’ of gangs, he also spoke of the positive aspects: a natural feeling of community and an identity with in it being the chief benefit. As anyone with a 10 to 15-year-old in the house knows, having a place and fitting is high on the order of wants.


The greasers and the Socs from The Outsiders were certainly gangs. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, we heard often about the Crips and Bloods. There were the Hell’s Angels, the Cosa Nostro, the Backstreet Boys….

You may have been a part of a gang in the past. Along with a few like-minded friends in middle school, I formed a gang called the Volcano Boys. Entry required that you eat a slice of Domino’s pizza and chug a Coke in under 90 seconds. We even made a sign… in colored pencil. On ruled paper. Yes, it was that serious.

While the Volcano Boys did not do much more than fill Friday and Saturday nights with pizza parties, great 80’s movies, and the occasional prank, we felt a specific sense of belonging, of being a part of something different.

It didn’t outlive puberty when a few guys became more interested in girls and others got jobs. But it was fun while it lasted.

The Weequahic Gang

Having just returned from our first Winter Gathering Bowling Party of 2020, the ‘gang’ idea came at me again. We had campers fly in or drive hundreds of miles to see their friends. We young men and women who’ve been with us for almost a decade laugh and scream at seeing their friends.

That’s when it hit me: our kids have formed a gang of sorts. It’s one predicated on connection and community, driven by the values of showing gratitude, choosing your attitude, and building your courage.

The gang is overseen by long-time counselors, many of whom were campers themselves. There is a vocabulary you use only when speaking of or living at camp. There are traditions that are important and expected. While all are welcome, staying means living up to the expectations of the gang.

The result is an excited group of kids who want nothing more than to connect with each other again and again and again.

Joining Up

The hard part? It’s feeling on the outside. Try as we might first time campers arrive at one of our bowling parties and feel a bit on the outside. The older the first-time camper, the more powerful that feeling. Thank goodness for our amazing CITs who helped welcome so many into the ranks. And, thankfully, our parents are patient with the process.

We can’t wait to ‘get the gang back together’ this summer. The connection to one another and something larger than oneself is a powerful thing in all of our lives. Our new campers, with the help of their new-found friends, will fit right in.

Ah… it’s going to be a great summer! See you in six short months!