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Oak Crest Day Camp Blog

Getting Ready for Challenges Outside of Camp

Friday August 20, 2021

Sorry to all for the delay on this week’s newsletter and video, I usually get this out on Saturday morning, but I needed just a little more time this week to gain some perspective on this past camp season. 

From what I saw firsthand, and have heard from across the camping spectrum, it was a very challenging season for almost everyone I talked to.  In terms of overall difficulty, it was the hardest summer of my professional career.  So, my first order of business is an apology to all of you.  If any of the issues of camp that are routinely dealt with, fell through the cracks this summer, it was only because we had to prioritize issues.  With the logistical supply chain problems, the rise of the Delta variant, bus driver shortage, and a myriad of repair issues that in a normal summer would not have been a big deal, it was a much harder push to keep the wheels turning than usual. 

With that said, what did we see at camp this summer? What was different? What was the effect of the pandemic on our children?  In years past, I have written about the loss of interpersonal skills, the dangers of screen time, the importance of play, to name a few.  Whatever was happening prior to COVID has been magnified by the fear, isolation, and anxiety we all felt during this ordeal and the aftereffects were not lost on both our children and staff.  A colleague of mine wrote, “it’s as if we told them they were going to be in a piano recital or important sports match, the build and excitement was there, but we didn’t give them enough time to practice.”  

We saw way more behavior issues than usual, more boundary issues, more anxiety issues and perhaps more concerning, more resiliency issues than ever before. But here is the good news….

Camp is a place where children (and staff) CAN practice the skills they need to grow and become better humans.  Perhaps the greatest loss we saw this summer was the loss of empathy, the ability to feel with each other, as we all were forced into our individual shelters during the lockdowns and home schooling.  In the end I saw how powerful the human connection is and how much it means to be able to see someone’s face and hug them without fear.  

This thing will eventually end, although I fear we have more to get through this school year.  Let’s remember a few things as we go forward. 

1) Be Brave:  Have the courage to live your life outside of fear.  If your life was a movie and you were the hero of that movie, what would you want that hero to do?  How would you want them to act? BE THAT PERSON! 

2) Use words and be direct, people will trust and connect with you when you show them how you feel. 

3) Connection is everything: Life is all about the lives we touch and the relationships we make along the way. 

Finally, I am not sure some of you will agree with this last one, but here it goes.  Sometimes, in life, we don’t need understanding, we need direction.  It’s not about how you feel when you win or lose, or get disappointed, frustrated, or hurt by an event or someone’s actions.  It’s about having someone there to push you forward and say, “I have been there, I know what you’re feeling, and it will be ok, just keep going.”  The operative part of the word COUNSELOR, is COUNSEL.  That means to help, to direct, to empathize, not to solve, push away, or avoid the things which ultimately make us stronger. 

“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are, when you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” 

Lao Tzu

A heartfelt thanks to all of you who entrusted us with your children and all of you who make summer 2021 possible… 


The Struggle Together, Creates the Everlasting Bond

Friday August 13, 2021

I have not seen many weeks like this one in my tenure as Camp Director!  First off, huge shout out to the Red Komodo Dragons for winning this week’s color war, and thanks to all the team captains who worked so hard and so long making the experience memorable for all the campers! 

Week 7 marked the third week this summer of over 100-degree temperatures. My camp thermometer read 102 at dismissal on Friday!  I jokingly say to parents in the off season, do you know why you must be 18 to be a camp counselor? Because if you were any older, say in your 40’s or above, it would kill us!  Make no mistake whether you’re a counselor, lifeguard, or specialist this is a HARD JOB!  It figures in this most challenging year, that Color war would land right on the worst heat wave of the summer! 

Last week’s letter was about disappointment, and the role it plays in our lives, this week I would like to talk about adversity.  As I watched the teams incubate in the summer heat, I am reminded of the ancient story of the boy and his butterfly.  A small boy one day found a caterpillar cocoon in the woods.  Not knowing what it was he brought to the village wise man.  He smiled and told him he had found a beautiful butterfly.  If he was patient and kept it warm, the butterfly would emerge and bring happiness to all who saw it.  He warned the boy of one thing, he said “as the cocoon begins to open do not help the butterfly get out, no matter how hard it struggles.”  The boy followed the old man’s advice and waited.  Sure enough one day the butterfly began to emerge from its resting place.  As it struggled and worked to free itself from the cocoon, the boy (with all good intentions) got two sticks and helped pry the cocoon open to free the insect.  

The butterfly fell to the ground and died.  Heartbroken the boy went back to the old man and asked why.  To which the old man replied, to be beautiful, the butterfly had to emerge from the cocoon, the struggle was what made his wings strong so he could fly on his own, by helping it too much, you never gave it the strength to fly.

People often ask me what is the purpose of Color War?  Why do we turn camp upside down and create this crazy competition?  Because adversity is what makes us stronger.  This week we see staff and campers working together, and not without problems, towards a specific goal.  Organizing a team of camper and staff requires planning, communication, teamwork, and execution.  Add a heat wave to that and what could go wrong?

Regardless of what color your campers were this week, or how their team did, there is a subliminal message embedded in this activity that will resonate for a long time.  No problem can withstand the assault of combined thinking, no condition is too difficult to overcome, and the byproduct of working as a team is not only winning but creating a bond that can last forever. 

 

Sometimes, as much as we want to step in and solve the problem, help with the conflict, or plow the road for our children, regardless of age… the right thing to do is step back and let them struggle a bit, because in the end it’s the only way they will learn to fly. 


Disappointment is Good!

Friday August 6, 2021

I like to watch the weekly video every week before I write this letter, because it helps me gain perspective on what happened at camp this past week.  I often start the newsletter with” WOW what a great week at camp” or something like that.  However, this week’s video speaks for itself.  All I can say is it a PACKED week all the way through with great stuff (you can see for yourself).  We finally got Pool Trash off on Tuesday and every division did great work this week on making Week 6 memorable.  Congrats to the Junior Boys, whose strong man competition brought them home the cup.  I can’t say how many times I was asked this week by Junior campers “Do you even lift bro?”  (Despite the fact that I won the pull up contest against the Junior Boy Staff!)  Special mention to the Explorer Boys and Junior Girls who also had great activities going on all week.

We have seen a great many new things this summer coming out of the pandemic, some good, some bad.  One of the good things is disappointment, I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is actually a positive.  This entire experience has taught us that life will hand out disappointment regularly.  Maybe you didn’t win at something, or get picked for something, or an event you were looking forward to got cancelled.  All this is not necessarily bad.   In the end, if we don’t teach our kids to handle disappointment now, life will teach them eventually.  Learning to deal with disappointment in life helps children with another important skill, resilience! 

I have seen a great many campers and staff become hugely successful in life and it generally has nothing to do with talent or ability, it has to do with effort and resilience.  Getting back up, when your knocked down, taking the important lessons from a disappointing performance or a loss of some kind, are the ingredients of success.  The flip side of that coin is also true.  People who do not learn from disappointment, or who blame others for a bad performance or loss, rarely achieve their goals. 

As we go into week 7 with all it has in store, please remember that winning and losing is part of life, there are no mistakes only lessons… Victory’s glory is short lived, but lessons we get from the journey; win or lose, stay with us forever.  Right now, I know we are all dealing with the disappointments handed to us by the rising cases of the Delta Variant.  This too will pass.  

 

Life is not about fair and it’s not about winning and losing, it’s about grabbing the opportunities to succeed.  There are 4 things that don’t come back…. time, the sped arrow, the spoken word, and the neglected opportunity.  All we do every week at camp is try to set up those opportunities for your children to succeed.  With that, as night follows day, are the disappointments that come with failure. Both are equally important.  As we head into the all-important Week 7 of camp, I hope campers and staff keep that in mind. 


Avoiding Assumptions in Life…

Friday July 30, 2021

Just a random thought for today… There are 15 more flag raising bingo games left, 3 Cup ceremonies, 3 more chicken patty days, 1 pizza day, one Showcrest production, one Color War, and one rescheduled pool trash day!  I have been around camp all my life, and every summer I don’t understand how we get to this point so quickly.  The July Thunder Moon is gone and with it the better part of the camp season.  Time to reflect a little on what happened this week that made it go by so fast.  

In a previous newsletter I talked about gratitude, so I would be remiss indeed if I didn’t thank my age group division leaders for bringing the heat this week!  The Cup competition was fierce and very hard to decide.  So, congrats to the ENTIRE Senior Division for making our annual Cardboard Boat Regatta something very special!  Also, a huge shout out to Victor and Jen the Junior Division heads for planning and executing a fantastic Willy Wonka event.  I was so impressed by EVERY Divisions effort in week 5 as we get into the home stretch of the summer.  Thanks to all of you and your counselor efforts you made this a truly memorable week at camp! 

Friday was one of those acceleration days, where suddenly it was 3:30 and it was time for dismissal!  Perhaps you noticed we ran out of time and got the busses out late.  When you start to feel the acceleration happen at camp, you know exciting stuff is about to happen and the energy from campers and staff is the force that bends the time space continuum.  We successfully completed the first ever all-camp Four-Square Tournament and CONGRATS go out to our all- camp winners!  Michael Haynes who took the first-place medal by coming from behind with a string of great service points, Bryce Williams, who took second and our Third place winner a Junior Girl Alexa Patel! 

As challenging as this summer has been with all the snafu’s of a reopening economy, supply shortages and people coming out of quarantine, I asked my leaders this week to focus on finding the good every day.  We so often look for the dot on the white background that we forget that most of the paper is white, and the problem is not the significant thing but rather the 99% of the rest of the paper is what is important!  

One of the negative legacies of the pandemic is that it made us all more isolated, seeing things through our own prism, limiting our own perspective.  I found this week that there is a very simple solution to that problem.  Simply assume best intentions, until you actually talk to that person and know otherwise.  Using our words to actually communicate to others face-to-face is a dying skill.  It is the only way to truly understand someone else’s perspective! 

So, before we make any assumptions about anyone’s motives or actions, let’s try talking to them, and until we do assume that their intentions were not bad in any way or not necessarily directed at you, but rather a product of their own perspective.   

 

Each of us travelling through the summer weeks (and the rest of the year) has a wake, like a boat going down a waterway, the wake can affect the shore and other boats along the way.  It is my hope that living in the camp community, working, and playing in a group makes us all more aware of our own wakes….


FINDING YOUR MOMENT TO SHINE LIKE THE MOON!

Friday July 23, 2021

Did you know yesterday was the July Full Moon??? Pretty rare that the full moon falls exactly on the 4-week mark of camp.   I, for one, will certainly not pass up this opportunity to wax poetic on its meaning!  I still am baffled by the physics of the camp/space/time continuum!  How days can seem long, but weeks so short.  

This past week was packed with so many incredible events that it’s hard for me to start…lets go with the obvious.  There were many outstanding divisional special events this week, the cup win was not an easy one but congrats to the Explorer Girls on their second first place win in 4 weeks!  

As you know this week was our all-camp GaGa tournament.  Campers from each division had to qualify for the all-camp final on Friday and we saw a couple of amazing firsts! Zach Battolgia became the first camper in history to repeat as Oak Crest GaGa Champion!  Early Vegas betting has him as the odds on favorite to win again next year.  Zach won by beating out a very cagey Jack Weintraub who took second place.  In another first, young 6 year old Mason Patel became the youngest camper in Oak Crest history to make the top three in the GaGa Finals.  Congrats to all the divisional winners and all-camp winners! 

When the moon next grows full, camp will be over.  I truly enjoy measuring time by the moon phases, to me they often reflect the phases of life, but in a shorter time span.  This first half of camp, felt full, as we watched so many children get back to what was truly important to them, play, friendship, and connection.  It took a little while but we hit our stride and despite all the challenges, just like last summer, we are now seeing exactly what the essential elements of growing up really are.  When we come to realize that childhood is not about a specific destination, but rather a wonderous journey, we understand that the truly meaningful journeys are the ones with challenges, the ones where you have to rely on others to make it through, the ones where a guide steps in to help you through the tough times.  The meaningful journey is the one where at the end, you have learned some life lessons and more importantly, just how to be. 

 

If you didn’t win Gaga, or get the lead role in the play, or have not yet overcome your fear of the zipline, FEAR NOT!  You will, like the moon, one day shine full.  Life never happens in a straight line, no matter what phase of life you are in, it waxes and wanes, good times and bad, shining moments and dark adversity.  In the end, with a little help from our friends, we can all find our moments to shine.


IT’S ABOUT THE GRATITUDE

Friday July 16, 2021

What an incredible week at camp!  We are all definitely getting acclimated to the seemingly never-ending heat and hitting our stride as summer begins to find its own rhythm. CONGRATS TO THE SENIOR GIRLS for nailing down an incredible week and TAKING HOME THE CUP!!!  Honorable mention also goes to the MUNCHKINS who came in at a very close second place, with a fantastic activity as well.  Thanks to the Senior Girls, I am sure no one will ever view Corn the same way again. 

One of the things I love about camp is that somehow, every summer is different and yet the same.  Each year brings its own set of challenges (and this year is no exception), while at the same time bringing its own set of rewards.  

I don’t know anyone, who can work camp an entire week in the heat, and not be exhausted by Friday, (Waffles and Sundance included), but at the end of this week I was given a special gift that brings me to this week’s newsletter topic of gratitude.  Friday afternoon, at the end of the day, I fielded a phone call from a parent.  Most of the time when a parent calls on a Friday afternoon, it has to do with an unresolved problem or issue.  When dealing with a system like camp, with all the human variables, these things are inevitable.  However, this time, it was just someone saying thank you for resolving an earlier issue and wishing me a good weekend.  In short it made my day, week and month! But more importantly it got me thinking.  

I get around camp a lot during the summer, and what I am seeing this year makes me incredibly grateful.  Yesterday, I saw staff engaging and participating on a hot Friday afternoon in a way that would make any parent or any camp director proud!  When you run or participate in a basketball game at 2 pm on a Friday after 3 hot weeks of camp that is AMAZING! 

I am grateful to be able to firsthand witness the joy of play at camp.  We talk about it so much during the year, and now that it’s here , we can finally witness it firsthand.  PLEASE watch this week’s video so you can see it for yourself.  I see it in the late-night magic, witnessed by the Junior division this week, I see it in the faces of the children and staff every day.  It brings the energy that sustains us, connects us, and is driving away some of the awfulness of the past 15 months. 

 

I am sure this summer will bring some more challenges, supply and labor shortages, a possible ice cream shortage, whatever!  After this week I am not concerned, simply because I first hand can see what is really important about camp.  It is about what happens every day when your children come and interact with their counselors and specialist and are able to get back to the simplicity of PLAY!  It is what children, and all of us for that matter, were made to do.   Let’s all take a minute to remember that joy and play are inexorably linked to happiness in life for all of us.  So the next time you get an opportunity to play, my advice is JUMP IN!!! You may be surprised at how therapeutic it can be.


LEARNING FROM THE JOURNEY NOT THE GOAL

Friday July 9, 2021

What can I say about this week at camp?  I was truly shocked at the level of excitement and enthusiasm, particularly with regard to OC Cup competition!  So many divisions did so many wonderful things, it made the winning choice nearly impossible!  We had our first ever QUAD event as the Juniors and Seniors faced off in an epic battle of youth vs. age… Jen, the Junior Girls division head, even made a joke about my knee replacement!   But in the end the Explorer Girls won with their Un Birthday party, celebrating all the birthdays that do not happen in the summer!

Some campers and staff have been asking what the purpose of the Oak Crest Cup is.  We all know it generates excitement and enhances the camper experience, but winning the cup is not the most important thing.  Every week at camp is a journey, and the destination is not the important part, what we learn and who we connect with along the way is!  Just about everyone I know likes winning more than losing, and in our immediate gratification world, it does give us a boost to win, for about 15 seconds!   But at that 16th second when the thrill of victory often fades, we learn that it’s not the goal or destination that is important, it’s what we learn along the path that counts.

Working towards a goal at the expense of relationships, leaves us alone on a mountaintop, and while the view is fantastic, you can’t live there.  It is too difficult to get what you need up there, and what we need ultimately doesn’t exist on the mountain.  We eventually have to go back down and realize that as human beings, it’s really the connections and relationships that are most important, the friends we make along the journey, the lives we influence. 

So to all the staff and leaders that worked so hard this week, I have to say thank you, the weather and heat was challenging, and you brought your own brand of heat to camp and it TRULY enhanced the camper experience.  And while winning the cup is great, what matters during the summer is not the icy cold thrill of victory from the cup dump, but rather, the warmth of what the children remember about their camp experience.  The power of the connections you create and unbridled joy the campers feel when they are part of your tribe and have a true sense of belonging. 

 

Its hard to believe that we are 1/4 of the way done with the summer, as the enigma of camp time continues to puzzle me… How can it go by so fast and so slow at the same time.  It must have to do with the influence of camp on the time/space continuum.  More on that later in the summer… Until then wishing you all a great weekend.


Friday July 2, 2021

WELCOME BACK TO CAMP!  As I try to collect my thoughts today, this week has truly left me at a loss for words.  I honestly cannot think of a more difficult start to camp, coming out of a pandemic, shortages of everything, and campers, staff and parents alike, in a somewhat weird place after a very difficult year of zoom meetings, home school and COVID fears.  

There are a great many things we can attribute to the pandemic experience, things that have affected all of us in many ways, but from where I sit perhaps one of the most significant things was the sense of isolation.  So many of us have turned in on ourselves and seem to be living in our own silos.  In other words, we are even more about ME and I than ever before.  ( A somewhat natural response to the events of the past year)  

Combine that with 3 back-to-back hot days and it became a most challenging start to the season.  NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS!  Something happened by the end of the week that was truly amazing, despite the heat and early apprehension, the power of play and connection began to break through, we found our summer rhythm and I saw kids playing freely, connecting with their counselors and once again being kids in the summer, enjoying those fleeting moments of childhood when the biggest concern is what kind of ice cream was for snack that day.  The divisions all did a fantastic job forming their respective tribes and getting their kids and staff fully engaged in camp.  To quote one staff member, “I think I am having more fun than the kids, is that ok?”  

Congrats to everyone for hanging tough during a very hot trying week and to the Junior Girls who graduated from Junior Girl University all will go on to achieve greatness in life, I am sure! 

 

I do not know what challenges this summer may bring as we come out of these difficult times, but I can say this, despite the challenges, despite the shortages, despite the fear and anxiety we have had a really great start to camp! AND at least our chicken patties got delivered this week!  Until next week!