Reflections on an Extraordinary Career
For the past 37 years, from 1980 to the present, I’ve directed Camp Chi. This has been more than a job, but a labor of love, an experience that has provided my greatest life memories. Just like all of the campers, staff and alumni, I cherish the friends that I’ve made and the fun that I’ve had.
Camp Chi has been a central part of my life as well as that of my family. My wife Fran, known by many as Franimal, a nickname acquired because of her ability to sprint up the climbing tower faster than any camper, or out perform everyone in sit-ups and push-ups. Where does she get the strength? Fran managed the canteen located across from the courtside pool. The canteen was appropriately dubbed, the “Franteen” after Fran. Everyone always wonders why do they call the canteen, the Franteen? Well, we left it up to the campers to come up with a name and that’s how it all went down.
All three of my daughters, Melissa, Jackie and Jessie grew up at Camp Chi starting as the youngest age campers continuing through Habo, Noar, the Western or PNW Teen Trip, the SIT program and staff. Each of them had their Bat Mitzvah at Camp Chi and two of my daughters got married at camp. So, I believe that speaks to how important camp was in my family.
I will always remember the crisp smell of the country air, the sounds of laughter and singing, the beauty of the sun rising or setting over the lake, the feeling of ruach (spirit) around camp.
Camp Chi is a home away from home for hundreds of children. Over the years thousands of kids have said the same thing to me… “I’m counting down the days until I can be back at camp.” “I’d rather be at camp than anywhere else.” “There’s no place I love more than camp.” I continually hear great stories of campers opening up to their counselors and sharing their souls with them. At camp, the kids are known and loved for who they are.
When I put the words “summer and “camp” in the same sentence everyone immediately gets in touch with how special camp was for them. Why? Because camp creates a deep sense of belonging, happiness, friendship, love, caring, comfort and a place to be yourself. When a child conquers a new adventure at camp, especially one he or she thought could not be done, the camper walk staller, feels a sense of pride and stores it away as a reminder of his or her courage. I’ve been asked countless times, what we do that makes camp so magical. We help kids grow up! The power of that should never be underestimated.
I remember my first year as a camp counselor. I remember Johnny and Stu, Milton and Larry. Young twelve year olds that were fun loving and eager to enjoy all that camp had to offer. We had so much fun playing ditch (hide and seek) telling stories, playing our weekly cabin basketball game every Saturday morning before Shabbat services, chanting our cabin cheer and creating a deep bond of friendship.
About ten years ago, while in a Deli, a man walks across the restaurant toward me and as he approaches he gives me a hug. He quickly says, you were my camp counselor and you changed my life. It was Milt. He said that I created the best memories of his childhood and for the next hour we shared stories of the old days. WOW! What a special feeling that was for me.
Everyone has their camp stories. That is why this is such an important space to be filled by every child fortunate enough to attend overnight camp.
I’m a lifelong believer in Jewish overnight camping. I will retire from camp with a tremendous sense of gratitude. I’m extremely grateful for the many friends I’ve made and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m grateful to feel appreciated by the people I’ve worked with and the people I’ve worked for. I am honored and privileged to have served in this position for all of these years. To all of the campers, alumni, families, colleagues and community members… I want to thank you for your friendship, support and kindness. My one special request is that you continue to “Keep the Camp Chi Flame Burning” ………Forever!
Sincerely and Respectfully,