I am still trying to absorb the 20th summer of YLCC.
I am sitting in my kitchen at my big island with a cup of coffee. It’s really good coffee, unlike camp coffee that is really bad. I miss it though. The camp coffee. I miss the rush to the coffee pot and the hustle around the tea station every morning. It’s the sign of a new day. New camp opportunities about to unfold for hundreds of amazing young campers and enthusiastic staff.
Now, I leisurely stroll downstairs, brew my coffee and read the morning news. There is no one asking me any questions, no 7:55 staff meetings, no good mornings from campers, no tight bright outfits from Ash Baer and Larry. There is not theme for my day. No fun announcements and no house point updates. Sadly, there is less reflection.
Yes as camp ended last Saturday after 12 weeks (8 in Orillia and 4 at Pigeon Lake) and I hung up my name tags for another year. I was full of mixed emotions. Full of pride, joy, sadness and a bit of relief. Yes, I was relieved. It has been a long twenty years. I am so proud of the accomplishment. The fact that truly YLCC could of ended SO many times in the past. There are at least 5 distinct times when it was close. Where I was faced with a hard choice. Sometimes, I was stubborn and just said no, I am not ready to give up. Other times, someone swooped and helped me in the form an ORNJ. I never thought I would be doing this two decades later. Never.
Camp is a young persons game. I am now in my forties, the opposite of young. I am not saying I am old, just not young. As I looked out over my staff on the last day as we sat in a circle on the floor of the dining hall. I realized that that was me. I was that age when I started all of this. When I turned to my friend Andrew and said I want to run a summer camp for leaders. Luckily for me, there was Andrew who was organized, Ian who loved to make manuals and Dwayne who had more business sense then the three of us combined. So it happened. It was a little magic, set in to action 20 years ago.
On the final night of camp, Larissa, our amazing Assistant Camp Director and Kaila, our equally amazing Pigeon Lake Summer Camp Director put together a video to honour the 20 years of YLCC. There were so many familiar faces from the past. One in particular hit me hard. Jen Martyniuk a former camper and amazing counsellor from way back at camp sylvan. She was in Australia and she had her little baby running around her. When she spoke I teared up. Jen was just a kid when I met her. Doing the famous “Pinecone Stomp”, running around with such camp spirit. Now, she is a mom. She said something that resonated with me. She said, “I hope camp is around in 10 years so I can send this one to camp!”
I hope so too. The challenge is, finding that camp joy for me. Jen reminded me of a time when camp was, for me, fun. When I ran sessions, knew all the campers names and I played. These days, I find myself dealing with septic tank issues, building permits, leaky buildings, angry parents, budgets, two very old facilities and through all of this trying to be a dad to three amazing children. Not to mention the amount of amazing people that pass through my life, I get close to and then disappear. Plus I have lost some great friends too. Those parts of running a camp are hard. It’s like I stand still and watch a very long movie. Some say it’s no different than being a teacher. I disagree. Only because some of these campers and staff come to camp when they are 11 and leave when they are in their twenties. We don’t spend a class a day together, we spend 24 hours a day together, we live together, we eat together, we cheer, celebrate, learn and cry together. They become part of your family. Maybe, more accurately, in some ways they become your family.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love my camp more than almost anything in the world. It reaches more children then I ever could of imagined. this year with school programs it’s over 10,000 people. That’s bigger than any other leadership development program in Canada. That’s awesome. I am truly grateful to the amazing staff that work so hard and have made YLCC their own. It actually makes me get emotional when I see these amazing young leaders have such passion for a camp that I started SO long ago.
So as we are already being overwhelmed with registrations for 2013 and the new camp flyer will soon be in the works. I sit back and summarize my summer in 3 words. Proud, grateful and hopeful.
Thanks to every camper, staff member and parent that has not only kept YLCC going but has helped it flourish beyond my wildest dreams. Here’s to 20 years!
I actually want a camp coffee right now. ;)