Today was another beautiful day on Long Lake. Our weather at Camp Takajo has remained in the mid-seventies with beautiful sunshine and low humidity. It’s perfect weather for our daily program. The forecast indicates that temperatures will rise over the weekend, and a warm, humid front will move into our region. The change in temperature will perfectly coincide with changes in our program that will be occurring over the weekend.
After a great week on the fields, we will look forward to spending the weekend on the waterfront as we approach July 4. Today, we introduced our boys to their “Takajo Families.” Shortly before dinner, our oldest boys in camp, the Okeechobees, were given a list of campers in each age group throughout the camp. Each Okee went to the bunk of an eighth grader to welcome him into their family. The two boys then went together to the bunk of a seventh grader, then a sixth grader, and so on, picking up family members along the way until they reached our youngest campers, the Crows, who are finishing first and second grades.
You can only imagine the delight on the faces of our youngest boys when they are greeted by a member of their family from each older age group throughout camp. The families met in groups on the Senior Baseball Field, where the leader of the family introduced himself and spoke about the valuable traditions in camp. For our oldest boys, this responsibility is a right of passage. Many of them remember that feeling of being introduced as little boys to their older camp family members.
While many camps boast a “big brother” program, we prefer the concept of the Takajo Family, as it enables children to connect with boys in varying age groups. This creates a seamless bond throughout our community. After a series of introductions and icebreakers, each family went to a cookout together on the Commons Deck, overlooking the lake. As comforting as this experience was for our youngest boys, it was just as equally meaningful for our oldest campers, as they established their leadership roles at Camp Takajo.
Our boys enjoyed a delicious french toast breakfast this morning and made their way out to the fields for team games. The wind was brisk coming across Long Lake, and our fleet of Takajo sailboats looked as if they could keep pace with our speedboats. We had our first rain at four o’clock in the afternoon today; which, quite frankly, gave our boys a chance to take a deep breath and relax before dinner.
The energy is great in camp, and you can feel the campers and staff starting to bond. As the boys begin to familiarize themselves with their coaches, they have begun preparing for inter-camp games that will take place over the next few days. At the same time, our pioneering staff has been preparing for their first few excursions. Beginning tomorrow, our campers will have the opportunity to enjoy trips that consist of hiking, canoeing, and exploring this beautiful state where our camp resides.
While my focus and attention is on all of the positive aspects of our program, I must admit that I am a little bit upset and discouraged by the lack of compliance from some of our families regarding the issue of phones at camp. While one may feel that they need to offer their child this connection, they fail to understand the negative implications that these phones have on the rest of our community. When one or two boys in a cabin have a cell phone it changes the entire dynamic of the group, and it entices boys to call home, text friends, play mindless games, and disengage from camp altogether.
I have received a number of calls from parents who embrace the camp’s cell phone policy and are frustrated that their sons are being surrounded by peers who have refused to unplug and are dangling their cell phones right in front of their noses.
For some, transitioning to summer camp is a challenge. For an adolescent boy leaving the creature comforts of their homes where they have constant access to instant communication can often be difficult. For these boys, a cell phone in the bunk, whether it belongs to them or not, hinders their ability to become fully engaged in camp. As a parent, there have been many occasions where I have had to look my own children in the eye and tell them that upon reflection, I think I made a poor decision.
Now, as I appeal to your sense of reason by sharing with you how harmful these phones are to the overall experience of a child in camp, I urge you to do the right thing and tell your child to turn his phone into the office. While I’ve always prided myself on speaking to the majority in this particular case, I feel it is necessary to appeal to the few in order to preserve the integrity of the institution that I hold so dear.
Another picture perfect day in Maine. Bright sunshine, magnificent blue skies, and warm temperatures make our waterfront attractive to all comers. As we reach the halfway mark of our first week of camp, it is easy to notice how our boys are settling in.
No different from when we as adults first meet, that first exchange between campers is always pleasant and upbeat because they know to be on their best behavior. However, once they feel “at home” and settle into our routine their true personality begins to come out. This is a phase in camp that must take place in order for meaningful relationships to develop. As the relationships in each bunk take shape it becomes easy for us to see which boy looks for the laugh, seeks extra attention, or requires a little more nurturing and help picking up on social cues. A trust forms in each bunk.
The boys become a family and look out for one another as they develop their own unique routines and rituals that will stay with them throughout their lives. Regardless of how much time has passed, when I connect with my old bunkmates from Camp Takajo we laugh about the same silly stories. The OD who pulled us out of the bunk and made us hug a tree because we were keeping the whole quad up after taps is one memory that comes to mind.
The relationships that are formed during the seven weeks of the camp season create a trusting bond that is impenetrable. This evening was our opening campfire. This was the first time that the entire camp came together to participate in one of our most valued traditions. Each year, we keep coals from the final campfire of the prior season and pour them into the opening campfire of the current season in order to create a seamless transition from one summer to the next.
Our campers and staff were introduced to the camp’s iconic arch ideals, and twelve campers and staff members were selected to participate in a candle lighting ceremony in which each arch ideal was defined. What I love most about the opening campfire is that the summer is in front of us. Our hopes, our dreams, and our aspirations can all become a reality. It is within the campers’ control to treat others with kindness and humility and to recognize that how they respond to a person or a situation can have a great impact on that person’s self-esteem. As we left the campfire, we made a pledge to learn the Camp Takajo Arch Ideals and to try to implement them into our daily lives.
We woke up to a beautiful morning with bright, sunny skies, and a warm breeze coming off of Long Lake. Temperatures eventually reached the low eighties. Sunday mornings are special at Camp Takajo because the boys enjoy a later reveille time (known as Lazy Man’s Morning) and a breakfast that includes Dunkin’ Donuts.
Since we are only in our third day of camp, we decided to forego the later reveille time. However, the boys were delighted at the sight of Dunkin’ Donuts as they walked into the dining room for breakfast. Today was the first day of our regular program. It amazes me to see how quickly the camp can fall into a routine.
Our youngest campers (Warrior Camp) participated in six activities during the day. There were two team sports, a hobby, including woodworking, crafts, ceramics, a skill activity, which includes waterskiing, sailing, archery, and canoeing, free swim, and instructional swim. Our land sport counselors basked in their glory as they got their first opportunity to teach their craft to your boys. Our hobby counselors were excited to see the projects they had envisioned begin coming to life. Camp Takajo’s founder Morty Goldman used to say that your “vocation should be your avocation.”
As I walked past the Warrior basketball courts this afternoon, I noticed a little boy who was struggling to make a basket. With a huge smile, full of optimism, he looked at me and said, “I’ve never played basketball, and I have no idea what I’m doing.” I seized the opportunity, and with great delight I showed this little boy how to shoot a basketball with proper form. As we began working together, a crowd of boys gathered and encouraged the camper as he came closer and closer to making a basket. Within a few minutes, this little camper developed his shooting technique and was experiencing immediate success. As we high-fived and celebrated his success, it reaffirmed for me the importance of giving every child the opportunity to develop new skills and the confidence necessary to succeed. As I made my rounds bunk by bunk at the end of a long, fulfilling day, I took great pride in what our boys accomplished today.
The weather gods are smiling down on your boys. While rain was in the forecast, we enjoyed warm sunshine and temperatures reaching into the eighties. We believe that the key to a successful transition to camp is getting into the structure of our program as quickly as possible. However, there are a few important formalities that need to take place before our program can really be put into full swing.
Every camper has met with a member of our medical staff for a quick health check up that included a weigh-in and a head-to-toe examination. We repeat this protocol every week throughout the summer to make sure that we keep our boys happy and healthy throughout the summer. Every camper has taken a swim evaluation and our younger campers will be grouped for swim classes that begin on Monday. We are fortunate to have sixteen certified lifeguards on staff, and we take great pride in their ability to teach these important life skills to your children.
In an effort to make our in-house league teams fair and balanced, we observed each child as he played various sports throughout the day. League teams will be announced tomorrow, and the games will commence shortly thereafter. Hobby groups have been created, and our boys will have an opportunity to explore their creative side. These hobbies include art, crafts, ceramics, woodworking, radio/electronics, photography, videography, music, camp newspaper, and pioneering, which is the site of a 50-foot, four-sided, state-of-the-art climbing wall.
I have been amazed at how smoothly the season has started. Needless to say, there are always going to be moments when a boy misses his parents and feels insecure. Yesterday, as we walked into dinner, I was talking with a camper who is here for his first summer and was having such a moment. While I was trying to encourage this camper to join me in the dining room, I was amazed as I witnessed all of his bunkmates, who have known him for merely a few short hours, coming out of the dining room in order to check on him. These acts of kindness and compassion are heartfelt. It is these moments that come to define the essence of Camp Takajo. While we pride ourselves on our program and look forward to providing excellent instruction in a wide range of activities, it is these relationships created in camp that leave an indelible mark in both our minds and our hearts.
We woke up this morning to overcast skies and the threat of rain on the horizon. But, almost fittingly, as the busses started to roll down the Camp Takajo road, the sun emerged. The camp burst to life.
There is something magical about seeing a camper’s face as he comes off the bus for the first time; his eyes filled with excitement and yet a bit of nervous anticipation. He simply can’t help but smile as he’s greeted by the cheers from our amazing staff. Watching friends reconnect as if no time has passed is an incredible sight to witness. The friendships that formed while living in a bunk and playing together have grown only stronger with time.
I empathize with how you must be feeling at home. Your last memory of your son is of the emotional hug goodbye that you wish could have lasted a few seconds longer. I would imagine when you returned home, you could not help but enter your son’s room, stare at his unmade bed, and wonder how he was doing without you.
The image at camp is very different. Bright sunshine, eighty-degree temperatures, and a warm breeze coming off Long Lake. Every tennis court is filled with campers and counselors. The Takajo basketball courts are in full-swing with pickup games, while impromptu games are already underway on the soccer and baseball fields.
While it is reassuring to see so many happy campers, we never lose sight of the fact that we can tell how a chid is adjusting by simply watching his body language and looking into his eyes. Over the next few days, we will enter the normal routine of our program while keeping a watchful eye on every child’s individual adjustment. As you put your head to your pillow this evening, please know that we appreciate your trust and confidence and that we will do everything in our power to provide your son a healthy and memorable experience.
Just a reminder, parents can access hundreds of photos from each day of camp by logging into their myTakajo.com accounts. The first set of images is waiting for you now.
It’s with great excitement and anticipation that I write my first blog article of the summer. Over the past two weeks, I have enjoyed getting to know our staff as they have participated in our rigorous staff training. Our waterfront staff has been certified in CPR, first aid, and WSI under the leadership of our waterfront director, Bob Lewis, who is returning for his twenty-ninth season. He is being ably assisted by Craig Parker, who is returning for his nineteenth season. Our pioneering staff has been trained in CPR, first aid, and wilderness survival under the leadership of Hal Williams, who is returning for his twenty-third year at camp. We are blessed to have Hank and Jane Fortin as our “Dynamic Duo,” running Warrior Camp for our boys who have just finished grades one through four. Hank is returning for his forty-seventh season and Jane for her thirty-sixth. Jane fell in love with Hank while at Takajo and has not missed a summer since they were married.
Your children are blessed to have many educators at camp who are committed to the campers’ growth and development. Neil Minsky returns to Takajo to assume his role as the Junior group leader, his twenty-fifth season at camp. A former camper, counselor, and now division leader, Neil relies on his years at camp along with the experience that he brings as one of the deans at Brunswick Middle School in Greenwich, Connecticut. This makes him a perfect leader for our boys who have just finished fifth and sixth grades. Paddy Mohan returns as the Senior group leader and his thirty-second year at camp. As a teacher in the offseason and a father of two boys, Paddy has the education and the first-hand knowledge of what it takes to manage this exuberant group of adolescent boys.
I have fond memories of the ritual that my parents created before my first day of camp each summer. I remember my parents always letting me choose what we were doing that final day at home and where we would go for that last meal together. Upon reflection, I didn’t realize that my parents were creating a great distraction by allowing me to celebrate my last day at home. I am sure many of you have come up with your own way to ease your child into the transition before heading to summer camp.
The other day, when I was addressing the staff I reminded them of a conversation that I had with a child struggling to adjust a few years back. I asked this child, “Do you like swimming in the ocean?” to which he replied, “Yes.” Then, I asked him how the water felt when he first put his feet in the water. He replied, “Freezing cold.” I quickly followed up with a question asking him how he felt thirty seconds later to which he replied, “The water felt warmer.” The child allowed me to ask him the same question when he went in up to his knees and then to his waist. Each time, he replied that it was cold but quickly began to feel warmer as the seconds went by. I explained to this camper that the water temperature was not changing however his body was adjusting to the water. If he allowed himself to dive in, he might feel a sudden shock to his system but would quickly experience the joy that comes from swimming in the ocean. This analogy holds true with camp life.
Your son may be nervous as he wakes up tomorrow but at the moment he meets our counselors and begins connecting with other boys, he will be overwhelmed with comfort. He may be nervous when the buses roll down the camp road, but at the same time, he won’t be able to contain his excitement as he is greeted by cheers from our enthusiastic staff. He may be nervous walking into the bunk for the first time, but he will feel relaxed and at home when his counselor points out where he will be sleeping and introduces him to his bunk mates. Before we experience our happiest moments in life, we often must face our anxiety and our fears. Camp is a wonderful place to help children develop self-esteem, confidence, and independence. Warren and my entire staff cannot wait for the much-anticipated arrival of your children. Here’s to the start of an amazing 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 2017.
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
‘Tis the season to reflect on the events of the past year and look forward to the opportunities and challenges that are sure to come our way in the year ahead. We are so grateful to the wonderful families who entrust their sons to us each summer, and we reaffirm our commitment to providing another amazing experience in 2017 that is full of fun and friendship and that strengthens the values you are teaching in your home.
As a special remembrance of a terrific summer, we have sent each of our campers a copy of our Video Yearbook commemorating all the wonderful events of the 2016 camp season. This year, we put the video on a flash drive (just keepin’ up with the times!) so you can watch it from multiple devices. (And a note for our current parents…if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer or Hanukkah gift, consider an iPod Shuffle, which is the only electronic device allowed in camp!)
A final note…there is no greater feeling than seeing the relationships forged at camp that lead to enduring and cherished friendships. It is impossible not to be optimistic for the future when we witness firsthand the spirit, enthusiasm and compassion that our campers and counselors exhibit every day of every summer.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season and all the best in the New Year!
We have always maintained the virtues of a well-rounded athletic program in youth sports. It is so important, especially for pre-high school children, to cross train and play multiple sports to develop their motor skills and athleticism. Now that the world of “early sport specialization” has been around awhile, studies are showing that concentrating in one sport is detrimental to a child’s physical – and emotional – development for a whole host of reasons. This article from Changing the Game Project speaks to the perils of the “early sports specialization madness.”
Excerpt: “According to all the expert evidence linked to above, evidence provided by actual specialists in sport science, medicine, and psychology, any organization that is allowing, encouraging or forcing a child to play a single sport prior to age 12, and is not actively developing that child in functional movement and all around athleticism, while also mandating rest and time off, is creating a dangerous situation for that child. They are taking huge risks with his or her health, well-being, and lifetime love of activity. End of story.”