The sound of reveille echoed across Camp Takajo at 7:45 this morning. There were many boys who came charging out of their bunks, heading straight to the waterfront for a morning dip. The Dippie Club has been in existence since the inception of the camp back in 1947, rain or shine, a true Dippie prevails and makes his way down to the lake every morning for an exhilarating start to his day.
Overcast skies, cool temperatures and a little spotty rain did not stop our boys from enjoying their first full day in camp. While each boy has to tolerate a head to toe body and lice check from our medical staff, we still managed to find plenty of time for the first day of hobby class and organization of our team games.
As I reflect on the past 24 hours, I think of the countless conversations that I have had with so many of you as you have expressed your own anxiety about your son’s transition to camp. While the boys were departing from West Chester yesterday, I received a call from my head escort, who indicated that a first-time camper was reluctant to get on the bus. It was a heartbreaking experience for the child and his parents, as no one wants to imagine their son heading off to camp in tears. This afternoon, while making a lap around camp, I caught the tail end of a Crow (boys who finished 1st or 2nd grades) soccer game. These are our youngest boys at camp. To my great delight, was this little boy, fully integrated into the game, who was convinced just a day ago that summer camp was not for him.
The game was tied, and with only two minutes left to go, this little boy dribbled down the left side of the field and kicked a beautiful shot into the upper right-hand corner of the goal. His jubilation was infectious, and his entire team ran over to hug and congratulate him.
As parents, our natural instinct is to protect our children, and we would do anything to shield them from unhappiness. Fortunately, in this case, this boy’s parents recognized that some of our greatest triumphs often come after we overcome our fears.
As the day came to an end, each group enjoyed a movie night, which is the perfect way to unwind after a great first day of camp.
I woke up this morning to bright sunshine and a cool breeze coming across Long Lake to us at Camp Takajo. I could hardly control my enthusiasm knowing that opening day was finally here. Before heading into the office, I took one final lap of the facility and enjoyed the calm serenity that I knew was about to be replaced by the invasion of happy campers.
Throughout the day, busloads of campers arrived, and they were greeted by an enthusiastic group of counselors. Every child was cheered, hugged and welcomed to their summer home. By mid-afternoon, the tennis courts were filled with campers eager to show off the skills they learned during the offseason, basketball courts were in full swing, and our soccer fields were the sites of some impromptu pick-up games. Our boys enjoyed chicken tenders and french fries for dinner, a camp favorite, and spent the evening meeting with their group heads, as well as being introduced to our wonderful staff.
We explained to the boys that camp is rich with tradition. One of the more iconic rituals is the sound of Tattoo. This bugle call signals a time of reflection when the whole camp pauses and looks back on the day. It amazes me how a community that is filled with such activity and laughter can come together for a moment of silence as this beautiful bugle call echoes across our campus. As I made my rounds to each Warrior Group bunk, I witnessed many happy boys playing with their counselors and settling into their summer home.
As you put your head on the pillow this evening struggling with the separation from your amazing son, please know that he is here rekindling old friendships and feeling welcomed in our community. He is preparing for a great season. He will create memories that will last a lifetime.
As I sit down to write the first Tak Talk blog post for the 2018 Camp Takajo season, I am filled with excitement and anticipation for our opening day. We have assembled a great group of young men and women who have demonstrated that they are ready to commit their summer to create a safe and healthy environment for your children. We are so blessed to have a 100% return of our administrative staff:
Warren Davis, Associate Director, 46 years
Bob Lewis, Waterfront Director, 30 years
Hank Fortin, Warrior Group Leader, 48 years
Neil Minsky, Junior Group Leader, 27 years
Patrick Mohan, Senior Group Leader, 33 years
They assume critical roles, which help create a fun and safe environment that will allow your boys to thrive this summer.
I still remember arriving at Camp Takajo on my first day as a 9-year-old, first-time camper back in 1970. I have a vivid recollection of seeing the Camp Takajo sign for the first time from the window seat of a yellow school bus driving down the road and meeting the owner, Morty Goldman, at the welcome arch.
I was mesmerized and perhaps a little nervous when Morty looked me in the eyes, put out his hand and welcomed me to camp. Behind Morty, was a warm and engaging staff that immediately made me feel like Takajo was my home.
After 48 years of being at camp and never missing a season, I continue this tradition of welcoming each child as they get off the bus and arrive for the summer. I am honored to follow in Morty Goldman’s footsteps and provide the same level of love and encouragement to every child who spends the summer at Camp Takajo.
As you prepare your child for his departure to camp, please recognize that it is completely normal to be nervous. However, remind your son of the first time he walked into a classroom or joined a new team and how that trepidation turned out to be a place where he met some of his greatest friends and where he developed a great sense of confidence. As difficult as it may be for some of you, try not to show any fear or emotion that you may have as you separate from your son. It is often those upset feelings that trigger an emotional reaction from our children.
Please know that I am here and will devote 100% of my time and attention to helping your son develop lifelong skills, a greater sense of independence, and self-reliance. You are giving your son a wonderful gift and the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am truly honored that you have entrusted your son to my amazing staff and me.
I will be in touch with you via my daily blog posts, but please know I am always available to you in person should you need me. Here is to the start of a wonderful season.
The most important factor for our campers to have a fun and successful summer at Camp Takajo is our experienced staff. We are proud to publicly post the current list of veteran staff members who will be working at Camp Takajo for the summer of 2018.
Staff members who appear on this list have worked at Camp Takajo for at least one season in the past and have been invited to join us again for another great summer in Naples, Maine!
Do you know someone who would be a great fit for Camp Takajo?
We are still looking for a few, good men and women to fill positions this summer. Please contact our staffing director, Bob Lewis, and direct your candidate to this information: Takajo Staff
I just wanted to let everyone know about my nephew, Ben Konigsberg, who is working as a real estate agent for Next Step Realty in NYC. Next Step Realty focuses on finding post-grad students the appropriate housing at a discounted rate, while providing concierge level service.
Ben grew up right outside New York City in Westchester County and has been working in real estate since 2016. He is incredibly knowledgeable about both Manhattan and Brooklyn real estate and will find you a great place to live at the best price.
Here’s some additional information about Next Step Realty and how to get in contact with Ben.
Wakey, wakey, rise and shine! It’s Takajo Madness time, 2018.
Are you a fan of college basketball? Are you excited for March Madness? Are you looking for a pool to join? Would you like to be connected with a large Camp Takajo community?
Look no further! Camp Takajo will be hosting the sixth annual “Takajo Madness.” All campers, staff, parents, and alumni are welcome to join. If you are interested, please join our official Takajo March Madness group event on Facebook, where you will find information on how to sign up and how the pool will be run. Exclusive Camp Takajo prizes will be awarded to the top brackets- Don’t miss out!
NCAA Selection Sunday 2018 is March 11. On that day, the tournament field will be set and the Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick’em brackets will become active for people to make their picks. Yahoo! will email all users who’ve chosen to receive this notification to tell them that the field for this year’s tournament is set and that their brackets are now editable. Remember that you can make and change your picks as often as you’d like, but your final bracket must be submitted by tip-off of the first game on March 15. Your brackets are set in stone after March 15, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. PDT.
This will be my final blog post of the season. It has been an honor and a privilege to give you a first-hand look into your child’s experience here at Camp Takajo. We often say that, while some of the days feel long, the weeks fly by.
During this condensed period of time, your son has had to challenge himself physically, socially, and emotionally. Living among your peers twenty-four hours a day for this extended period of time, while very gratifying, can also be challenging. Children are forced to learn how to navigate through all kinds of social situations.
Living in a camp setting teaches one empathy, compassion, and a respect for their surroundings. Living away from home fosters accountability for one’s actions without the safety net of those who shield their loved ones in their moments of need. Camp allows every child to develop strong friendships, overcome personality flaws, and provides them with an opportunity to become the best that they can be.
This growth and development can only happen in a traditional, full season setting. When your boys return home to you, they are going to be exhausted. It will almost be hard for you to comprehend that just one day prior they were running and participating in the camp program at full speed.
Many of these boys will settle into home life and may need a few days of concentrated rest. I often use the analogy of an athlete running in a marathon being able to sprint to the finish, only to collapse upon completion of the race.
Because you are so excited to reunite with your child, you are likely to pepper him with questions about his experience. Please do not be surprised if your son is less communicative than you might expect. He has just created hundreds of memories, and these stories and anecdotes will likely come out over the course of time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued trust and confidence. It is an honor and privilege to be able to spend my summer with your sons, and it is one that I never will take for granted. On behalf of Warren and my entire staff, I wish you a safe and happy end to your summer. I am already counting down the days until we meet again.
Last night, Camp Takajo hosted our closing campfire of the season. This traditional event has taken place since the very first season in 1947. In the final campfire, a few campers are selected to join the administration and read about the heritage of Camp Takajo. Campers in each division are selected to represent their peers. This is an honor bestowed upon a few that has created cherished memories over the years. All campers also had the opportunity to watch a traditional, Native American hoop dance performed by some of our counselors. These counselors have carried on a tradition of dancing through a flaming hoop in front of mesmerized onlookers. We end the campfire each year with a traditional, Native American squat dance, when campers and counselors are selected by our “Big Chief,” Neil Minsky, creating some of the funniest moments of the season.
This afternoon, I hosted a lunch for our graduating Okeechobee Campers, who are forty-eight hours away from the conclusion of their time here as campers. After a great barbecue lunch out on my deck, I sat down with our boys to reflect on their years here at camp. It is at this time that our oldest campers had the opportunity to ask me any questions they wanted and were given unfiltered responses.
After some great laughs and some heartfelt stories, we surprised the boys with a video created by photography counselor Amy Carton to display images of these boys dating back to their earliest years in camp. The afternoon came to a close with the traditional hot tub picture when all the boys jump into my hot tub for this keepsake photo.
The Takajo Senior Olympics ended after their whacked-up relay finished with the pie eating contest. This poetic completion was capped off by the captains hugging each other out of mutual love and respect, before making their way down to the waterfront.
In the evening, we held our final banquet in the dining hall. It was a special night, and campers and counselors got dressed up for dinner and dined in a more formal setting. This white tablecloth meal was the perfect conclusion to a fulfilling summer. Campers and counselors were selected to speak, and they provided heartfelt accounts of what the Takajo experience means to them.
As we left the dining room after this special meal, we all assembled out on the beach to watch a slide show presented by our photography staff. These images captured the love and emotion that is cultivated here at camp. As our boys returned to their bunks, you could sense their disbelief that the season was coming to an end.
This morning, Camp Takajo came together for the Olympic Song Competition. What I love most about our song competition is that it is an event that includes every camper. There is something magical about seeing the camp split into two groups and dressed in their uniforms when our youngest campers get to participate in a meaningful event with their older comrades.
The two teams lined up in single file and made their way into the Indian Council Fire Amphitheater, where they sat by age group, each Olympic team across from one another. Each team sang four camp songs, including the camp alma mater and then performed one original song using the melody from a popular song, with re-written lyrics that define their camp and Olympic experiences. All of the counselors were in attendance and took great pride watching our campers performing.
In the afternoon, the Warrior Olympics reached a climax with their final event– the whacked-up relay. In this relay, every camper on each team was given a task that they had to complete as quickly as possible. Designated runners run throughout the entire campus, reaching each participant as they are performing their assigned task. Events include foul shooting, throwing three consecutive strikes in baseball, bed making, bed stripping, just to name a few, with it all eventually ending with a crescendo at the pie eating contest. Keeping with tradition, after the champions were crowned, everybody from both teams was invited to jump in the lake for a celebratory dip.
The other night after taps, I hosted a get-together for the Takajo Administrative Team to thank them for their hard work and dedication to camp. In attendance was my associate director and my sidekick, 45-year veteran Warren Davis, Warrior Group Leader Hank Fortin (47 years) and his wife Jane Martin-Fortin (37 years), Facility Manager Gerry Simpson (40 years), Senior Group Leader Paddy Mohan (33 years), Junior Group Leader Neil Minsky (26 years), Staffing/Waterfront Director Bob Lewis (29 years), Don Matthews (41 years), IT Director Nick Andreacci (26 years), Waterskiing Director Liam McHugh (23 years), Assistant Warrior Group Leader Harrison Manchel (10 years), Pioneering Director Hal Williams (24 years), Head of Hobbies Stacy Tell (7 years), Athletic Director Jeff Cunjak (21 years) and camp doctors, Rick Warner (27 years) and Rich Garber (27 years). Also in attendance were our new administrators, including Head of Tennis Mike Barnes and his wife Cara, as well as Assistant Tennis Director Steve Olivas along with his wife, Samantha, a valued member of our tennis staff.
During our time together, we reminisced about the good old days. We reflected on the thousands of children that have flourished during their formative years spent here in camp. We spoke about the countless alumni that visit every year who yearn for one more summer at camp. It was at this time that we came up with an idea to provide an opportunity for those who wish to preserve their Takajo memories in the form of art.
Many of you may not know that Paddy Mohan is a professional artist, who has created some memorable keepsakes for our campers to enjoy over the years. I have been the recipient of some of Paddy’s incredible work, and they are among my life’s most-prized possessions. On my fortieth anniversary at Camp Takajo, Paddy drew a picture of me from a photograph that was taken during my very first summer at camp, when I was only nine years old.
As a way of celebrating our nine-year campers, Morty Goldman started a tradition of painting a portrait of the camper on, of all things, the top of a toilet seat. Today, Paddy is the artist who brings these creations to life, and these have become some of the most treasured possessions that our nine-year campers take home with them. During our discussion, we asked Paddy whether he would be open to creating magnificent keepsakes for our alumni or current campers as a way of commemorating this incredible time in their lives.
Through the help of our IT Director Nick Andreacci, Paddy now has a website where you can contact him directly to take advantage of this unique opportunity: http://portraits.camptakajo.com/
I am often asked by alumni to provide a memento for a special birthday or celebratory gift. I cannot think of a better way to preserve this memory than in the form of a custom-created art piece.
We could not of asked for a more perfect day as our Olympics hit full stride. Today, our campers are participating in many of the core athletic sports, and the games have been incredibly close. In the Camp Takajo Olympics, every boy competes in every sport. Our counselors created teams that have been evenly matched, and every boy is playing against opponents of a similar ability level. Only a few points separate our Olympic teams with just a few events remaining. Tomorrow morning, we will host our song competition followed by the Warrior and Junior “whacked-up relays.” The Senior competition will extend through Tuesday, and their relay will take place on Wednesday.
As I sit in my office and I take a moment for private reflection, I am drawn to some of the pictures that hang on my wall. In particular, there are photos of three men that have had a profound impact on my life. Morty Goldman was the founder of Camp Takajo, where I had the privilege of spending eight summers as a camper and another twelve as a counselor before purchasing the camp in 1988. As a young boy, I idolized Morty. During the summer he was my surrogate father, and I always felt happy and safe under his care. As a young man, I paid careful attention to how Morty conducted himself, and I strive to emulate his example everyday. When Morty passed away in 1989, I had only been the owner of camp for one summer.
I have a vivid memory of my last meeting with Morty before he passed away. I was only twenty-eight years old, and I had the overwhelming responsibility of continuing the legacy he built. When I last saw Morty, it was obvious that this would be our last time together. He had just suffered a stroke and would often drift in and out of coherency. I had so many questions to ask him and wanted to soak up his wealth of knowledge. I asked Morty how he was guided into making so many correct decisions during the course of his career.
His response would be his last words to me, “Whatever decisions you make will be the right ones.”
For a moment, I thought he had drifted away. But, as I drove home from our final time together, I realized that he was saying that as long as I remained a morally and ethically sound person who was willing to put the needs of others ahead of my own, then any decisions I made would be the correct ones. This all centered around Morty’s Arch and the Takajo Ideals that he prominently posted there. His final message to me was that if I lived a life of integrity, camp would remain in good hands.
Also on my office wall is a picture of my father, who was the first camper enrolled at Takajo in 1947. My dad was a phenomenal athlete, and Morty often referred to him as one of the most gifted athletes to ever attend this camp. I am blessed that my father is alive and well and spends his summers here at camp with my mom. My dad loved Morty Goldman and takes great joy in knowing that his son has the unique privilege of following in his footsteps. My dad is my role model and my hero. Every summer when I begin our staff orientation, I lead with a quote that my father told me when I was a little boy.
He told me, “Go through life, make decisions and behave as if I was standing over your shoulder at all times.”
He told me that, if I would not do an act in front of him, then I should not do it at all. I tell the staff to treat each camper as if that child’s parent were watching at all times. This pearl of wisdom provided to me by my father has been a guiding principle for the way we treat children here at camp.
Included in the photo on my wall is my brother Kip, immediately after the closing of Camp Takajo season on August 29, 1988. Kip, my older brother, would have turned sixty years old today. My brother passed away very unexpectedly on October 4 of this year, and his loss has been devastating for my family. Had it not been for Kip, I never would have purchased Camp Takajo. It was my brother who convinced me that I could assume this enormous responsibility at the young age of twenty-eight. It was he who guided me through the process of raising the finances in order to purchase the camp. It was Kip again who negotiated the deal and handled the closing on my behalf. Kip’s encouragement and belief in me is a significant reason why I am in the position that I am today.
As a director of a boys’ summer camp, I recognize the tremendous need of today’s young boys to have heroes, men they look up to, who they respect and aspire to emulate. One of the quotes hanging on the wall in my office reads, “For our children, the road to happiness and success is usually paved by our example.” As I consider this meaningful day, I hope that in some small way I am able to make an impact on your boys, just like my heroes have done for me.