[Did you see the Week 1 video yet? Click here to watch it!]
By Aaron Selkow, Owner/Director
When the summer of 2022 ended, Ann and I felt great relief. After two years of hard work during the unique transition into being new camp leaders guiding a young camp through a global pandemic, we were so relieved that the kids had the summer that they deserved. After a season lost in 2020 followed by another that still had us working out some kinks, we just wanted a more normal, fun, and meaningful summer for our community. It happened. Our staff leaders made sure of it. And after we all took some deep breaths and allowed ourselves a moment to appreciate how good it felt to be here at Chestnut Lake, we started working toward 2023.
Our first two years at Chestnut featured plenty of laughter and great programs, but as camp professionals for a few decades, we came here to make our camp the very best. Since the last campers boarded the buses last year, we have been committed to making 2023 a different summer, an even better summer, and maybe even the best one ever for each of our campers.
A great summer doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of planning, time, coordination, talent, leadership, and even luck. Seven days of a camp summer are not enough to determine whether you’re having the best summer ever. But without question, we are experiencing some big moments in just one week. We have wonderful staff, the activities have been awesome, and we’re growing as a community and institution right before our eyes. The energy here is high, and even though campers and staff are still settling in and the typical bumps in the road are there for some, Ann and I are feeling more and more proud to be part of this special place.
Yesterday provided great examples of what has us so excited. Before breakfast had ended, we were told which campers had been named as Directors of the Day from each of the three campuses (Boys, Girls, and Varsity). This is an honor bestowed on kids weekly by their staff, and since we introduced this in 2021, the opportunity to empower campers to take part in leading Chestnut has yielded great insights. Based on the feedback gathered and provided by our Directors of the Day, changes have been made to the camp menu, we have added water bottle filling stations across the property, there have been various facility improvements both big and small, and other ideas that have become realities meant to enhance Chestnut Lake. The campers chosen this past week were two first-time Chestnut Lakers and a sixth-year teen from our Varsity program. Each was recognized as a peer leader, and as is the case whenever we spotlight community members that are living CLC values like these three great kids, they have already inspired others.
Friday evening brought our first Community Campfire, and it was a powerful sign of our continued growth. The ritual of the “Tribal Campfire” – when our first-time campers and staff learn whether they will forever be a member of the Unami Turtles (green) or the Minsi Wolves (white) – was awesome, and the moment was compounded by celebrating in our new outdoor space: the Great Lawn. As the new campers and staff (wearing red) came through the green and white procession, they arrived to find Chestnut’s new performance stage and amphitheater that will be used for campfires, camp musical shows, and so much more. We retold the story of Tribal as we lit our first giant campfire in the new steel fire ring featuring the Chestnut logo etched into the side. Campers and staff found out their Tribal assignments with deafening cheers from their teammates and the Unami and Minsi mascots dancing across the stage. The lore of Tribal mixed with coming together at the Great Lawn for the first time made for a spectacular activity and a fitting end to the first week.
As Ann and I have shared before, we are dedicated to the children, families, and staff at Chestnut and to the camp, itself. We are honored to help – along with so many other leaders and staff members – with Chestnut’s development into a “forever” camp. For the last ten months, we have worked hard to ensure that the 2023 season in Beach Lake would be our finest of all time. And after one week, we’re proud to be seeing that we are on our way.