Sunset from boat launchI know that I said that I was through writing, but I had to share some last words with you.

These words, however, are not mine.  They are those of some 8th grade young men.

Each session, we nominate a handful of campers for our highest honor – the Spirit of the Torch (girls) and the Bearer of the Torch (boys).  I like to say that the Spirit and the Bearer are the first among equals.  As a community, we are the flame that is the Camp Champions torch.  Our love is its warmth, our ideals are its light.  We then choose two individuals to hold the torch for all of us – the Spirit and Bearer.

Each nominee for the award writes a letter to the camp that we read at the awards ceremony.  As I was reading through the Bearer letters, I thought that you might enjoy hearing some of what they had to say.

Here is the first:

“Six summers ago I was first stepping foot on camp and so much has changed since then. I’ve seen hundreds of new faces, jumped on summits, climbed a pirate ship, but one thing will always stay the same about camp. Whenever I’m here I will always be happy. Camp holds a very special place in my heart. It is a place where I can be myself and try new things. I enjoy creating memories here that I will never forget. I enjoy making new friends that will last forever and I enjoy learning skills that I use outside of camp. One of these skills is learning to feed my warrior and deny my worrier. This is advice I would like to give to every camper. Whenever you are thinking about not doing something that you want to try, do it. Feed your warrior because the more things you try, the more experiences you will have and the more experiences you have, the more memories you make. You never know what life has in store for you the next day, so it is important to live every day to the fullest. Camp is a place that is easy to describe to other people. The activities are great, the special events are fun, but most important the people here are like no other. The people at Camp Champions are the reason I keep coming back year after year. I am excited to become a senior camper but also sad that I will never be a camper again. One more word of advice I would like to give is to enjoy every second you have at camp because one minute you’re here and the next minute you’re gone. Always keep a positive attitude about everything and always strive to do your best when you’re at camp. Thank you Camp Champions for all that you have done for me. I can’t wait for next summer.”

Here is part of another:

“As amazing as camp is, in reality, it is just a place. Don’t get me wrong, it is a FANTASTIC PLACE, but it is the people that make camp so special. Over the last 75 summers, the people at this camp have helped me become the Champion I am today and they have been a vital part of the amazing journey I have gone on as I have transformed from a scared, shy child to a confident young man.”

Here is one that really made me smile:

“My mom used to always refer to me as “barnacle boy” due to the fact that I clung to her at all times. I did this because I was afraid of the monsters out there. I was afraid of being alone.

Whenever I watched my sister leave us for camp, I always wondered still by my mother’s side, how she could so easily abandon the safe confines of home for this place. I wondered this until I was forced to retire my title of “barnacle boy” and left to discover for myself how when I came here I wasn’t leaving home, but coming home.

I have to admit, my first two years were anything but a great example of me at my best, I cried and cried, refusing to receive the outreaches of those around me. Those, who I failed to understand then cared for me. I couldn’t wrap my head around why my parents put me through this, until my third year, when something clicked. I took a step back and finally put it together in my mind, I loved these people and they loved me. It was a great realization because I didn’t cry that year.

But what I did do was let the four R’s shape my new self, the person I am today. I got Torchlighter that year thanks to what camp had taught me, that I was never alone. Once I got LTC, my 5th year, I learned that this wasn’t my doing, that camp was the reason I wasn’t “barnacle boy”, a scared little kid anymore, but the young man before you and I hope all of you realize how capable camp is of changing you for the better. This is my last year as a regular camper and even though I came a different term, it has been an amazing way to go out, so thank you to everyone who made this summer a great tone.

Next year I will be faced with many challenges on the journey to manhood, but I will gladly take them on because I, like you all, am a champion. Good luck to the other nominees. Thank you and know that you all and this place will always hold a special place in my heart.”

I love seeing campers grow in capability and confidence, but this growth can be elusive at times.  After all, a camper does not grow in hours or days, but over time.  These letters act as a testimony of growth.  And as such, they make this camp director smile!

Steve Sir

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