Last Wednesday, the 2017 summer staff gathered on the front lawn of the farmhouse, lingering for more than an hour to share memories and notes of gratitude before huddling together, leaning in, and lifting a foot for the final heartfelt Grace and Peace of summer 2017.
The first few staff to pull out of the parking lot had their cars chased by 4 or 5 of their brothers and sisters, a ritual not available for the final departures of Zach and Hannah in the late afternoon.
Throughout the day, as cars turned left and headed towards 104, I was reminded of how it felt to drive down Upper New Hampton Road after my first summer on staff. I felt those same emotions, 11 years later. Feelings of overwhelming, visceral loss and finality, made well by a profound sense of gratitude for memories and relationships that will live forever.
This is my second time being the person who stays behind when late August arrives and camp goes quiet. I can say with certainty that it will always be the weirdest, most bittersweet day of my year. This staff did incredible things and worked phenomenally hard. They share an unshakable dedication to Wanakee, it’s people, and one another. I’m so grateful to them collectively and individually. Specifically:
- Abby - for the leadership you provided in earning Wanakee a perfect score on our ACA re-accreditation, and for tackling thankless behind-the-scenes jobs with focus and rigor, thank you.
- Alison - for your good nature, kind heart, consistency, and flexibility, thank you.
- Amelia - for the passion for Wanakee that you wear on your sleeve, and the way in which you channel that passion into loving and supporting your campers, thank you.
- Andrew - for your reliability, hard work, steadfast nature, and routfit leadership, thank you.
- Anna - for your work ethic, and the introduction of “yummy chicken” (and yummier potatoes?) to the Wanakee menu, thank you.
- Bethany - for your energy, quirky humor, and the joy you exude, thank you.
- Billy - for the unique and present way you engage with your campers, thank you.
- Brad - for your willingness to roll up your sleeves and tackle the jobs that many would hesitate to do, thank you.
- Danny - for helping us to appreciate Shrek, for your desire to learn and improve, and for the many ways your humor and joy was felt by campers and staff, thank you.
- Emma - for working incredibly hard in a multi-faceted and essential role, and for being reliably self-motivated and focused, thank you.
- Hannah - for your incredible organization, reliable presence, professionalism, and leadership, thank you.
- Holly - for your skill with young campers and inter-generational programs, and the creativity and leadership you brought to day camp, thank you.
- Ian - for the countless ways you’ve impacted campers over your four years of counseling, and the way you grew and shined as a leader among your peers this summer, thank you.
- Laura - for your willingness to take a leap into a new and different side of camp, and for your focus on safety in all forms, thank you.
- Leslie - for your understated humor and reliability, for the ways your presence and consistency inspires other staff, and for your growth as a facilitator, thank you.
- Mara - for doing whatever it took to push our ropes course forward, and for effectively using your incredible breadth and depth of knowledge about the many sides of Wanakee to lead and do, thank you.
- Olivia - for providing a welcoming and professional face of Wanakee, and enthusiastically jumping into situations outside of your core job duties, thank you.
- Phoebe - for keeping campers safe at the waterfront, and for providing important and heartfelt leadership to Morning Watch and Celebration, thank you.
- Robby - for taking the Milkshake Song to Australia, for being welcoming to all, and for being a shining example of what it means to be a good team member, thank you.
- Rose - for your focus on fostering deep conversations and deeper relationships among the campers you counseled, thank you.
- Shannon - for the corn zodiac, for being highly effective in the kitchen, and for being so willing to jump into other areas of camp, thank you.
- Zach - for being reliable and unflappable while offering a quiet humor and warmth to your campers, thank you.
At camp and everywhere, no season is perfect, no day without it’s challenges, no team without it’s disagreements. How those struggles and challenges and disagreements are handled are what define a team’s effectiveness, and this family excelled. They relished the trials of an intense summer season, supporting one another and shining no matter the weather. The work was not meaningful and rewarding in spite of the obstacles, but because of them. In Ian’s words on our last morning together, “this staff was perfect.” In it’s way, it really was.
To those who spent time at camp this summer or heard stories from the campers in your life about the ways this team impacted them - please add your notes of gratitude in the comments on the Facebook page!
In a moment of incredible wisdom, and of stillness and contemplation, when summer camp magic really shines, one of our longtime campers ruminated; “at camp, every minute feels like an hour, every hour like a day, and every day, like a minute.” I’m so grateful for the hours, days, and minutes I got to spend with each of you. I am moved and inspired by my complete confidence that the world will be a better place because of your love, passion, selflessness, and Faith. As your necklaces will remind you, Wanakee is, and always will be, your home.
Grace and Peace,
James Tresner, Executive Director