So there’s this place on a lake in south west Michigan. The water is blue and tickles the shore each time a boat passes by. The sun shines down and dances with the waves until the moon takes her turn. The air smells fresh and clean like after a good rain every day.
Take a boat around the lake and you will see beautiful houses, incredible resort style living and beach front restaurants. You will hear bird’s chirping, fish splashing and families spending time together and loving each other.
As you make your way to the western shore of the lake, you start hearing echoes of hundreds of kids laughing and screaming. You will see beautifully, colored sail boats and wind surfers dotting the horizon as the sun plays in the sails casting colored light onto the kids captaining them. You will smell the wonderful scent of campfire as hundreds of kids gather around to take in every second they get to spend with their friends before school starts again in a couple of weeks.
You will hear the laughter, no, the screams of delight as young ones are thrown off inflatable water toys by their older friends and you will hear the occasional “che che kolay” as Jade Dampies and Devin “Mouse” Morgan lead campers in a repeat after me and a do as I do song from their native South Africa.
If you dock your boat and step on shore, you will find what makes this place on the lake so special. It’s not the activities like archery or rock climbing, water skiing or flag football or even the three day celebration at the end of camp. It’s the people.
Depending on the day, you can find any number of incredible counselors dedicating every waking moment they have to their kids, not their campers, their kids.
You can walk to the basketball court and see Mikey Cronk running a practice for his basketball leagues team and pushing his kids to always do better than they did the day before.
Inside the rocketry shed, Michael Potts helps teach his kids about rockets, how they work and the best way to build them for a successful launch at the end of the summer. If you’re lucky, you might see Jordan Ross, a 14 year old camper who teaches the instructors a thing or two.
For the briefest of all moments, you might catch a glimpse of Daniel Lebovitz running from one side of camp to the other to set up for the evening program, probably something he has spent WAY more time preparing than the kids will spend participating in. It took him 3 days to plan and set up the survivor themed activity and the kids finished it within an hour. And he is okay with that.
Oh, and he always has time to have fun with the kids.
If you walk to the back of camp, you will find the music studio where Sam Bond-Kendall spends hours helping produce a rap song written and performed by a camper rap group, JWAP (Jews With a Purpose).
Next door, Anthony Martin, or Ant spends his days teaching kids how to cook incredible dishes ranging from British Yorkshire puddings to red velvet cupcakes and so much more. And this is all before lunch AND it’s not even the thing that makes camp so special. In all honesty, the activities at camp are the least important and least impactful parts of the camp experience.
Ask any former camper what their favorite memory from camp is and nine times out of ten it did not happen in an activity, rather, it likely happened in or around the cabin or mess hall. It could be Cole Buschbacher giving a wonderful example of what it means to be “camp cool” when he dresses up in a dress and wig, stands on a podium and allows his kids to throw water on him while the sound track from Disney’s Moana plays in the back ground (yes, this actually happened.)
It could be Darragh Hassey starting a chain of campers and counselors running up and down the mess hall screaming “What do we do with the Mayonnaise?!” Maybe it is the memory of Florian Ortner who could never throw up the Mohawk cabin chant quite right no matter how many times Stephen Knobel, Matthew Shapiro and other senior campers gave him the chance. We can give him a pass on this one because he was born and raised in Italy and is still learning English.
Every week or so a very important question arises. What’s Arrowhead?
It could even be refusing to get up in the morning so your counselor had to physically pull you out of bed every morning and your name becomes a verb for just that, shout out to Mason Coles Blackhawk East 1st session 2019.
Even with all the inside jokes and funny memories that can only be explained to others as “it was camp” the experience would not be complete without the last three days before heading home. At the end of every session, the camp is split into two teams and they spend three days competing in activities and challenges ranging from capture the flag and ultimate frisbee all the way to extreme rock, paper scissors.
These three days are when you can really see the true heart of camp. These three days are when you truly see camp for what it is, a brotherhood and a family. Even though every camper is giving everything he has to the competition, the spirit of sportsmanship and compassion is never lost. There is never any animosity to the friends on the other team and there is never any tension between the captains or advisors. The last three days of camp are without a doubt the most magical of the 4 weeks most kids spend at camp.
When it’s all over, when the rope has been burned and the late night talks about baseball and everything under the sun have ended, when the final head hits the pillow and falls asleep on the last day of camp, there is a bitter sweet smile on almost every face. The kids get to see their parents tomorrow! But they have to say goodbye to their friends. Well, It’s not goodbye. It’s “see you later” or in the words of the program schedule posted in the window of the Program Cabin on day one of camp “see you next summer.”
On the western shore of this lake in south west Michigan, you have found home. You have found sanctuary. You have found family. You have found Lake of the Woods and Greenwoods summer camps.
If someone asks me what I did with my summer 2019 my answer will be simple. I went to camp and had the time of my life.