Category Archives: Camper

Campfire Tales | 7/1/22

By Aaron Selkow, Owner/Director

We often say that a day at camp is like a week, a week at camp is like a month, and a month at camp is like a year. If that’s true – and it does feel that way thus far in our 2022 camp season at Chestnut Lake – we’ve had one amazing month in the last week here in Beach Lake.

There has been so much activity, so much that our campers have had a chance to already try for the first time, and so many things that our returning campers may be returning to from previous years. There are relationships that are growing deeper, and countless new ones are taking shape. Counselors and leaders of programs are working so hard and the impact of that is being seen visibly on the faces of kids, and it’s being felt by the vibe around camp. The vibe is…pretty amazing.

That was evident last night.

The Tribal Campfire is one of the truly special moments of the summer, as it represents the intersection of camp tradition, ritual, community, history, and the welcoming of new members into our family. Coming together last night at the Campfire site was the pinnacle of a week’s worth of activities. But the anticipation of kicking off our Tribal War (color war) experience brought even more energy. Campers were seated wearing their Green Unami Turtles or White Minso Wolves spirit gear unless they were a new camper or staff member wearing red. The campers at Chestnut for their first summer had the chance to don their red Tribal t-shirt that was sent to them during the year after they enrolled in camp. The cheers from the Unami and Minsi teams – I continue to be amazed that campers away from Chestnut for 10 or 11 months can remember the many ridiculous and intense cheers that they learned in the previous summer! – were loud and passionate. I quieted the crowd, stepped to the podium in front of our entire community, and began…

“Long ago on this very land…”

You can read the rest of the tale (click here to access the Tribal Campfire Story) to get a sense of the context of Tribal’s beginnings and the essence of the program for our campers and staff that begins soon.

Ann and I are really proud of the staff here at Chestnut that has contributed to each and every aspect of our first week’s strong beginning. The team of people that leads Chestnut, supports Chestnut in every area, and is on the ground with campers being Chestnut is outstanding. As we move from the first week – or the first month! – to the next, we know that the new fun that campers will have can be layered onto a strong foundation.

We can’t wait to share more insight into what your children are up to here at Chestnut Lake, and we hope that our camp parents at home are starting to settle in as well. Thank you for letting your kids be here with us, and stay tuned for much more to come…

 

Campfire Tales | 6/26/22

By Aaron Selkow, Owner/Director

I look forward to sharing some thoughts each week before the Chestnut Lake Camp community gathers for our Campfire. For those of you that may be newer to Chestnut, our Community Campfires are usually held each Friday after dinner, and they are a very special part of the program here. There are other times that our campers might gather for Campfires, like our extra-special Tribal Campfire that launches Chestnut’s inimitable Tribal (Color) War experience, but the Friday night gathering is a tradition in Beach Lake.

Tonight we will soon gather for our Opening Campfire after a colossal day. The campers arrived (some actually got here yesterday from very far away places), our staff began to finally get the chance to do the work they came here to do, and as I write this I’m watching kids playing in the pool just yards away. Camp has started. And tonight we will officially usher in the start of our First Session and the 2022 season at Chestnut Lake.

This is not in a typical year. Since March 2020, the normal that we might remember is gone. Some kids have thrived during this period and may have shown incredible adaptability and resilience. But the interruption of routine, an emphasis on technology for connection, more time spent at home and with adults, less in-person interaction and socialization, and other aspects of the pandemic have forged a new normal for countless children. And in an immersive and intensive environment like ours, sometimes these small wrinkles that kids experience can either be easily ironed out or can be more pronounced.

Even the greatest experience ever dreamed up – a summer at camp – has been impacted. Looking back to the summer of 2021 when Ann and I had our first chance to join and lead this camp family, there were challenges that we had never seen before. Our staff worked so hard, but we were paddling upstream on many days. In the end, the time at camp was an antidote for children that just needed a break and craved the chance to be with each other and free from some of the real world’s worries. But as we walked away from Beach Lake at the end of that summer, we were immediately focused on this summer. This is the summer to show what Chestnut Lake is all about and how much joy, inspiration, growth, and ridiculous fun there is here. And now we’re here, and the magic has begun.

At tonight’s Campfire, I will welcome your children to this special place. They will be seated together, shoulder-to-shoulder, beneath a darkened sky with glistening stars. We will sing, we will cheer, and we will introduce our campers to all the staff members that will be devoted to them throughout the summer. Individuals (like our Junior Counselors) that grew up here at Chestnut Lake, young adults that have traveled across the globe and have brought incredible life experience to this work, and so many immensely talented people that have already shown a capacity for caring and spirit at a very high level. Towards the end of the program, we will teach and then join in for Chestnut’s alma mater in an effort to ritualize the first night of an extraordinary summer:

Summer
Days spent creating
Friendships
Lifetimes awaiting
Here with you, dear Chestnut Lake

Memories
Scenes on a postcard
Moments
Cabins and ballyards
Always true, dear Chestnut Lake

Kinships old and new
Spirit shining through

Sundown
Nights ‘round the campfire
Dreamlike
Flames dancing higher
Always true, dear Chestnut Lake 
Here with you, dear Chestnut Lake

These words are important at Chestnut Lake, but it’s less so what we say and more so that we are together and all saying the same thing. This sense of togetherness and unity represents the best at Chestnut, and this is the moment I am looking forward to more than any other. This is what we came to do, this is what your kids richly deserve.

Enjoy your first night of camp at home, and know that we will be enjoying ours. Always true, dear Chestnut Lake.

2022 Camp Handbook

Whether a child will be heading off to Chestnut Lake Camp for the very first time or they are returning after many summers spent with us in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania, preparation and planning are a big part of a successful summer. Our camp leaders spend over 300 days getting their staff team, programming, facilities, and every detail ready for a spectacular season of fun and friendship, but the support from and partnership with our camp families all along the way can make such a difference, too. Throughout the off-season, we tour families on-site, spend countless hours on Zoom and phone calls, and introduce and gather our campers and families together. We also share updates and resources, require forms and registration to be completed for various camp services, and continuously look for ways to help campers get excited and prepped for a terrific experience.

One new element of camp prep and support for families that we are introducing this year at Chestnut Lake is our 30+ page, comprehensive, 2022 Camp Handbook. This resource is a significantly expanded version of our form Portfolio document, as we have tried to amass many different aspects of camp preparations, policies, and answers to important questions in one place.

The Handbook does not provide everything under the sun, but it does cover a great many elements of the summer program and many critical considerations for parents and campers to consider before the summer. We look forward to using our periodic Chestnut Essential e-mails and other means to fill in blanks and highlight and amplify key pieces of information, but the Handbook consolidates many relevant and key insights. Especially because this is a new tool for our families this year, we are asking all parents to take some time to review the Handbook as soon as possible. We will also add more information to the Handbook prior to the summer, and when we do, we will notify families and will use some very obvious notations in the Handbook to indicate any new material.

Click here to review or download the Handbook 

Enjoy the use of this document on your camp journey, and please contact Aaron or Ann if you have any additional questions or suggestions.

A Lesson (Re)Learned About Camp Counselors

The summer of 2021 at Chestnut Lake Camp was an intense experience for me. Even after 45 years spent at camp — including 27 years as a director of camps or leading camp programs across North America — the combination of being in a new camp with the influence of COVID-19 presented complex challenges. I expect to be reflecting on the lessons learned from the summer for the rest of my career, and though many elements of this pandemic-impacted season were unique, I continue to feel that the biggest takeaway from the summer is one that I had appreciated already for a very long time: nothing matters more at camp than a great staff team, especially a camp’s counselors.

While we are working on many dimensions of camp preparation with a greater sense of preparedness in a world that has changed in real ways forever, nothing is a higher priority for us than identifying and developing the very best young adults and professionals for 2022. There are real obstacles making this hard due to the upside-down nature of our current climate, but it is critically important to overcome these at all costs. Staff members make camp work, and that begins with the counselors that care for children at a vulnerable time (for the kids as individuals, and for the universe that surrounds all young people today). In thinking about how important this is, I am reminded of a story from my childhood that speaks to this in a very personal way.

It was 1982. I was spending another summer at my summer camp, and I never coveted anything as much I did the pair of high-top Converse Weapon basketball sneakers that my counselor, Todd, wore. Todd was more of a tennis player than a basketball star and I already had more than a few pairs of sneakers of my own. But what I wanted more than anything else was to actually be Todd, and the Converse sneakers that he wore seemed to be the easiest way to make that transformation happen.

Todd was from Maryland, many miles from where I grew up in Philadelphia. He was gregarious and intelligent – qualities that I couldn’t claim as great strengths of mine at the time. Todd was seven years older than me and knew so much stuff that I didn’t. We were not very similar, but I wanted to be just like him. And why did I feel this way?  Because Todd was my camp counselor. For the previous six summers at camp, I had enjoyed many of the counselors that landed in my cabin. And while a number of them had done a good job overall to take care of me and my friends, no other counselor was like Todd.

The real connection I had to Todd was born out of the way that he spoke to me and the way that he treated me. He shared his passion for various things in a way that was enthralling, and he was an incredible storyteller who had the ability to draw me in. He would share tales from history, from the wide variety of musical interests that he had, from his travels around the world, and he taught me about morals and ethics that were important to him and that he felt should be important to me. Todd kept much of his personal and family life totally private – I don’t remember if he was an only child or had siblings – but he seemed to care about everything I was willing to share with him. He advised me when I struggled with things, he gave me a shoulder to cry on when Heather told me that she wouldn’t go to the dance with me, he protected me from Charlie when he assailed me after a basketball game, and Todd let me know of his displeasure when a few of us stepped outside the lines and got caught sneaking out to another cabin in camp.

The sneakers were not so remarkable, but I thought they represented Todd’s essence. Todd knew that I liked them, and for the big game against Camp Akiba he let me wear them (I had to put on a couple of extra pairs of socks to make that work.) And then camp ended in that abrupt way that it always seemed to, and as usual, I was not ready yet to say goodbye. We streamed out of the cabin to high-five each other, without so much as a hug because we were 12-year-old boys and we didn’t do that. I was the last one there when it came time to leave with my parents. Todd came over to me and I gave him a hug. He comforted me after letting go as he saw the tears welling up in my eyes. He told me that he’d see me next summer and he reminded me of some of the things I had learned, how I had done a great job, and that he was proud of the leadership I showed over the previous weeks. I left sad for the sake of losing this time with him, but full of strength for the guidance he had provided.

Todd was not so different than some of the counselors and role models that spend their summers at camps near and far. In fact, there were staff members that were even more incredible and talented than Todd was at all sorts of camps, including Chestnut Lake, this past summer. I looked around as our campers were preparing to leave on buses at the end of our sessions and saw many of our campers holding onto their staff members that cared for them, desperately wishing that the camp season would not end. In that embrace, they were quite literally holding onto the role model that they found who could understand them. If given the choice, many campers would have forgone getting onto the bus to instead tag along with their counselor for just a little bit longer. Some campers would rather stay at camp, hugging their counselor, somehow putting off the inevitable end to a relationship that mattered to them in a deeply meaningful way.

In 1982, saying goodbye to Todd was a separation that could not be avoided – at best, I could hope to see Todd again in ten months or beg him to respond to a letter that I would send to Emory that he would almost certainly ignore. Today, campers may try to stay connected to counselors through social media (even when we advise their counselors to maintain a relationship only at camp). But when the summer is over, the summer is over. The impression that a great counselor has made may only sustain through the memories of a child who is soon going to be in the position of giving back to an even younger child in much the same way. But that impression, in and of itself, can be so profound.

The most valuable asset that our camps have are those young adults and older adults who have committed themselves to lead through their direct work with children while they’re miles away from home. The staff at camp will never be perfect, and they won’t always say what a camp director wants them to say. But they can be such great teachers and coaches for kids, and they are still able to be eager learners themselves. They should have boundless energy, and they can be deeply spiritual and inspiring. They will soon understand the responsibilities they have in the demanding position of caring for campers, and if we do a good job in guiding them, they can feel unaffected by the pressure from parents while still delivering exactly the experience for that child that every parent desires. Like Todd, they could become the person who by the end of the camp season makes all the difference to ensure that a child’s summer is the very best it can be and in some way helps to support real growth. This is what makes the job of a camp counselor so important, and it is our responsibility to find and honor these individuals at our camp. This has our full attention now, just as it should.

And maybe, if we can find more people like Todd, a Chestnut Lake counselor will find a discreet moment to slip their pair of white and red Converse sneakers into a camper’s duffel bag before they leave so that they can find an extra-special gift when they get home. I remember opening my bag back in 1982 to find those shoes, and that’s why I’ve kept them for 40 years.

From the CLC Porch | FINALLY!

Before I share my excitement and joy for the arrival of our campers 2021 camp season at Chestnut Lake Camp yesterday, I want to take us back in time a little bit…

The final day of a camp summer is bittersweet. The hard work of an entire year combined with the joy that is felt when you send the campers and staff back to their families and their real-world lives bring so many feelings. Even though there’s sadness mixed in with all the joy at the close of the season, I’ve always taken for granted that we would be back soon. The close of camp would give way to the first stages of preparation for the following year; processing and evaluating would start right away, and then off we would go to start getting ready once again. Only 10 months stood between the celebration of one great summer and the opening of yet another.

In August 2019, Chestnut Lake’s campers and staff gathered for their final Campfire, and then hours later started to board buses to head back home. Everyone assumed they would be back in less than one year to pick up where they were leaving off. Goodbye hugs and tears were tempered by the subconscious understanding that the camp cycle would recharge us before we lost track of the friendships, lessons, and memories found in Beach Lake, PA. But then a lot of things happened.

Months of planning moved along, but we were about to find ourselves at a crossroads. As our camp family looked ahead to 2020 for another amazing summer at CLC, our founding directors contemplated a big change for their own family. And then we learned of COVID-19. And then camp was closed for 2020. And then…well, the world went a bit haywire. Now let’s fast-forward back to June 27, 2021.

I started my first post From the CLC Porch (a metaphor for the vantage we have as leaders at camp, and the literal front porch that Ann and I have at our house here, where we will host campers most days of the summer for treats and fun) with reflection because it’s impossible to appreciate the power and meaning of yesterday’s arrival day without looking even further back. Last night, as we gathered for our Opening Campfire, seated on the log benches, we invited some of our youngest campers to help us with a traditional ritual at CLC. Passing a shovel from Ciqala camper to Ciqala camper, the boys dug up the metal can that held the ashes from the Closing Campfire of 2019. Never have the ashes been buried underground for 22 months – as we sprinkled them over the top of the fire, you could appreciate that this was a poignant moment symbolizing our own process of rejuvenation.

The time away from camp has certainly had an impact. The trees on our site are a bit taller, and so are many of the campers. Nearly two years of development has returned campers and staff to us looking a bit different, but I think they are also wiser. Many have developed more grit, and the events of the last 15 months have stretched your children’s capacity to adapt. But they’re still kids. We can see some of the familiar signs of adolescence and our counselors are supporting the typical feelings of separation from home, as we know that it takes a little while to get into the groove at camp. But being able to see campers here – to see them walking, running, hanging out, eating, playing – is such a gift. Their spirit and laughter are contagious, and we’re ready to leverage and celebrate it every day this summer.

Ann and I are thankful for all the support, and we are grateful for having so many talented and dedicated staff members here to work closely with your kids. This crew of Chestnut Lake staff are very special, and we are having a great time watching them maintain the greatness of Chestnut while simultaneously growing it.

We’re back. Finally.

 

Aaron Selkow and his wife, Ann, are the owners/directors of Chestnut Lake Camp in Beach Lake, PA.

Memories from a Summer Lost

By Aaron Selkow, CLC Owner/Director

In her book, A Manufactured Wilderness, Abigail A. Van Slyck refers to summer camps as, “ …a central feature of North American life – for the children who attend them, for the adults who work at them, and even for the former campers of all ages who cherish vivid (if not exclusively pleasant) memories of their camp experiences.” Van Slyck’s examination provides many other insights into how camps became such a valued and dynamic asset to the American experience, but at a time when we watch the summer come to a close after most camps (including Chestnut Lake) were unable to operate for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 crisis, I underlined this sentence while searching for some inspiration.

My memories of camp – as a child tugging at the leg of my parents to let me stay, as a camper for ten summers, as a young adult staff member for four seasons, and as a camp professional for more than 25 years and counting – are vivid, and as Van Slyck suggests parenthetically, they are not exclusively pleasant. As a young child, I made a friend that is still the person I turn to when I need to laugh. In subsequent summers, I would arrive as an only child to find my brothers waiting for me at camp; ten months apart without so much as a call could do nothing to dim the powerful glow of positive energy, shared exploration, and reinforcement that we offered each other. I found my first crush at camp, stumbled through my first kiss on the bridge after a dance, and learned to make a fire. Of course, I also had other experiences in my youth at camp that counter-balanced those idyllic ones. I upset other campers by excluding them from our inner circle. I told untruths to counselors to get out of trouble, and I flexed my ego in ways that have led to a lifetime search for more self-awareness and humility. And while I may have learned to build a fire – once even starting it with a homemade bow drill – I also threw caterpillars in a few. And once, after an overnight trip with my own campers as their beloved role model and counselor, I was the one that encouraged us all to throw eggs from the van while I stood atop the moving vehicle. When we returned to camp, a phone call from a civilian with great vision and a pencil landed our group in a conversation with the camp’s director. He threatened to send the kids home if they didn’t confess, and he meant it. As my co-counselor and I watched our boys stand up to the pressure being asserted by a man who once served as a translator in a Japanese POW camp, we felt pride to see them protecting us. Later that day, however, we cracked. As we walked to the director’s house – certain we would be sent from our summer home – we felt the weight of our poor decisions and anticipated the course of our lives veering towards a much darker and lonelier place. I have wondered for years what might have been different had we actually been fired that day. He must have somehow known that the second chance afforded us as 18 year-olds would contribute to our rehabilitation into upstanding adults, professionals, spouses, and parents.

That was not a high point in my counselor career, though it taught me a valuable lesson. Better memories were formed and more lessons learned when I bonded with children that continue to reach out to me today to share good news and tough times because we trust and respect each other. In my first summer as a counselor in 1987, I was shifted to live with a group of 14-year-olds at my ripe-old-age of 17 and – for the first time – allowed myself to be truly vulnerable. When I said goodbye to them, I let tears flow freely. For all of the years since then, I’ve become more aware and protective of the need for being real, allow my emotions to show, and provide a counterpoint to the toxic masculinity that can be absorbed by kids when they’re so impressionable. When my role shifted to leadership in the summer, I suddenly understood that camp was not only just for me any longer – I was there to serve others and my job was to be a protective factor that could help the next generation of campers make their own memories in an environment that was safe: safe for them to try new things, to be open to new people, to fail forward, and to be given second chances to discover the best versions of themselves that were somewhere amidst the woods, lakes, cabins, dining halls, and other architecture of these intentionally-constructed, but still simple, environments.

Now fast-forward to the summer of 2020 and a virus has ruined these kinds of experiences for too many of our children.

There are camps that ran this summer despite the restrictions and hurdles of COVID-19, but not enough to serve the needs and desires of all children, young adults, and parents across North America who want the memories due to them this year. Those camps did so at great risks and costs, while others – like Chestnut Lake Camp – made their own decisions to shutter for the season to protect our campers and staff from those very same risks. Each camp needed to assess the massive complexities of this moment and be true to their mission and character, as our leaders did at Chestnut Lake. Never before was the very existence of summer camps threatened in this way; no time before forced the passionate and dynamic leaders of camps to make the choice of camp or no camp for families.

The advent of technology and a digital age that has altered how our children learn and connect to others, the greater risks of liability and security that plague society, the high costs of operating immersive programs, and even the destruction of nature and resources could not keep camps from opening before 2020. Camps and camp leaders adapted, innovated, and worked their way through contemporary challenges to ensure that another generation of children could discover themselves and each other at camp. While the pandemic outbreak we continue to navigate may have stolen the opportunities for countless campers, staff, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders to create new, vivid memories at camp in 2020, the very existence of this extraordinary catastrophe has become an opportunity for a true camp memory to form.

In years from now, our children will remember the summer that was lost to COVID-19. Some children and adults will actually look back at this summer as one where they felt like a Trailblazer if they happen to be at one of the camps that has found a pathway through the logistics, limitations, bureaucracy, and understandable concerns to operate in chaos. There will be memories therein for a relatively small group of children that will be able to look back on being among the first to wear a mask at Color War, to have temperature checks become as common as water breaks, and to submit COVID test results as a means of admission to their Happy Place. But it’s as much a memory for the exponentially greater number of people who have had to adjust to a summer without – what greater story of resiliency have we ever had than the need to cope with a summer of camp denied?

Simon Sinek – in Together is Better – suggests that, “Our struggles are short-term steps we must take on our way to long-term success.” The story of summer camp – whether one written by a researcher like Van Slyck or as part of a personal narrative – has always been replete with memories of joy as well as struggle. Friendships and broken hearts, successes and failures, and dreams realized and shattered all dot the scatter plots of experiences for camp people. The summer of 2020 should be that short-term, kick-in-the-teeth moment that can lead to even more special long-term success. This is our perfect chance to become stronger, smarter, and more creative. We tend to like the tales of comebacks and rebounds from adverse conditions because they inspire us to believe that things can get better, and that problems can be fixed. This should be a Comeback Story for the ages.

Right now, there are many broken aspects of our lives that are impacting the way that young people will someday grow into older people. Van Slyck describes summer camps as, “fertile sites for examining a constellation of concerns that have informed – that continue to inform – conceptions of modern childhood.” Let this season of missed memories inform conceptions for our children – and for all of us that continue to have a childish spirit that was shaped at summer camp – to help them to be more resistant and strong as they count down the days to their next summer at camp. Until then, let us appreciate the camp memories that are present now. And let’s continue our countdown towards the summer of 2021, when we reopen to families and staff never before more ready to celebrate the very existence of our society’s greatest antidote to a widespread viral threat: summer camp.

And They Lived Happily Ever After

By Aaron Selkow, CLC Owner/Director

Memorial Day weekend in 1994 was a very special time for me. It wasn’t extraordinary solely because of the fun I had with Paul, Michele, and Jill staying in a dilapidated motel in Atlantic City, New Jersey for a few days. The butterflies I was consumed by as I prepared to drive from the Jersey Shore to Pinemere Camp at the end of the weekend for my first season as a year-round camp professional were notable, but it was something that happened while I was walking on the beach with Paul that was the most remarkable. Something that changed the course of my life forever.

I met Ann Kleiner. Some of you know her as your best and most trusted friend, or as the consummate professional that has been the backbone of an organization for the last 20 years that you’re connected to. Ann is my inspirational and tireless life partner, mother of our exceptional daughter, and the catalyst keeping our extended family, friends, and lives together. And now she will be working alongside me as we become the owners and directors of Chestnut Lake Camp in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

That weekend more than 25 years ago was the first chapter in our life together. Before that, Ann and I had grown up two miles and two years apart without knowing how closely-connected and interwoven our experiences had been: mutual friends of our own and through our families, countless seasons on courts and fields playing sports not far from each other, summers at camps just miles apart, the same venue to celebrate our coming-of-age in the Jewish community with friends — Union Fire House in Narberth — and a simpatico that we would discover almost immediately on our first date in November of 1995. That first date was followed by an inseparable bond and relentless laughter that hasn’t stopped, even when our most difficult moments have surfaced since we were married in 1998. Meeting on the beach that day gifted us love and companionship that I have trouble believing anyone else has, and now we’re taking on a new challenge that will test our resolve and relationship while providing us with a too-good-to-be-true opportunity to ride off into the sunset of our lives.

When we asked the tough questions of each other that people raise amid career shifts, we agreed that it was time to prioritize a bit differently. The freedom to imagine new routes and routines can be welcomed and feared at once, but as we navigated those conversations, we found familiar ground. Joining forces to lead a summer camp was not so different, in that sense, from the decision to get married in a backyard tent with origami birds and only a few months of planning, or stopping and starting infertility treatments and an adoption process in the same few minutes sitting in a car on an August afternoon, or buying a house without talking about selling the one we already couldn’t afford. Run a summer camp together? Okay, sure. We can do that.

But like those examples of spontaneity, there was nothing truly astonishing about exploring camp in this way. The foundation of understanding, trust, and the willingness to push each other were just beneath the surface allowing us to feel spontaneous. In actuality, we had been working towards this — separately and together — since we met in 1994. Nine years of co-work at Pinemere while we started to raise our daughter at camp, learning that only one of us was ready to leave Pinemere in 2008 and being okay with that, sustaining love and sanity through almost three years of New York City commuting and lots of travel, and then running two camps 15 miles apart simultaneously for another nine years set us up for being able to pivot like this. There was also a massive amount of good luck, and very special people, that caused this all to materialize.

Running a camp together that has a history but room for growth, and being in charge but with the security of an exceptional family to guide and support us on our journey, gives us confidence in our decision to lean into the unprecedented weirdness and challenge of the present. COVID-19 drove so many camps to close (including those that Ann and I were helping to lead,) but the same pandemic helped to give way to this career needle for us to thread. There are risks and unknowns, just as there are enticements and opportunities. We are just the right mix of scared and joyful about what lies ahead. And off we go.

We’re beginning the next chapter in our lives, thankful for all that we’ve experienced so far, and looking ahead to the growth that will come. I can still picture being in my Jeep Wrangler in 1994, sitting on the Atlantic City Expressway in bumper-to-bumper traffic with angry commuters who were sad to be leaving the fun of the weekend behind them to return to the Real World. I didn’t know what would happen in the years to follow, but I must have had a sense that my life was suddenly better. The music was turned up, the time passed easily, and my thoughts of Ann consumed my head and heart on that day and every day since. Here’s to lots more moments like that…including those we will have in Beach Lake with our new family at Chestnut Lake Camp.

A Summer Camp Tradition at CLC

Every summer, Lou and Sue Flego visit Chestnut Lake Summer Camp for one of the campers’ favorite traditions: Square Dancing! Younger campers learn simple calls like “Up to the middle with a tap, tap, tap.” while returning campers perfect calls like “Step to an ocean wave.” For two days, the campers practice in their 8-person sets, preparing for the competition on the final night.

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Once the squares are set, the girls take over and coordinate what each set will wear. The build-up to the final competition is pretty intense. The championship bracelets that the winners receive are highly coveted at Chestnut Lake Camp. The campers show up for the final competition decked out in coordinating outfits…there is plenty of plaid and pigtails!

Before the competition begins, Sue lightens the mood with some line dancing. Staff and campers join in as they slide and turn to “Popcorn” and “Montego Bay.” Once the line dancing is finished, the sets form their squares and prepare for the dance-off. Counselors take their spots outside of the squares, cheering on their campers and coaching them through the difficult calls. Lou, Sue, Debbi and Paul judge the squares and ask the sets that miss calls to sit down. After a while, there are only two sets left. Lou pauses to congratulate the final two squares and then moves them to the center.

As the music starts back up, all of the campers and counselors cheer the final sets on as they concentrate on executing each and every call. After the calls become more and more difficult, Lou finally has one of the sets sit down, which means that the only square still standing has won the special Lou & Sue bracelets!

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Square Dancing with Lou and Sue is a favorite Summer Camp Tradition at Chestnut Lake!

Chestnut Lake Summer Camp 4th of July Regatta

The first week of Chestnut Lake Summer Camp 2015 has been amazing! We started preparing for our 4th of July celebration on Saturday.  The lower campus decorated their bunks in patriotic themes while the upper campus turned our golf carts into parade floats.

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On the afternoon of the 4th, our older campers organized a parade for the younger campers. Kaya, Sani and Varsity marched in formation and drove their floats down Chestnut Lake Avenue. As the procession passed the campers, the Kaya, Sani and Varsity threw candy as everyone cheered. Uncle Sam even made a guest appearance at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

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Next up for our Independence Day celebration was Regatta. Campers organized into their tribes and started preparing to sail their boats in the pool, but first they watched their division leaders compete in a belly busting competition which was amusing as well. Later that evening the whole camp gathered together on the slope.  We all joined in for the singing of the National Anthem. As the National Anthem ended, our annual fireworks display began high above the stage.

Now the campers are anxiously waiting to see their families on Visiting Day at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

Tribal Campfire

Tribal Campfire is one of the most popular traditions at Chestnut Lake Camp. On our first Friday night of the session, after the Community Service Award winners were announced, new campers and staff found out if they would be a Minsi Wolf or an Unami Turtle. The returning campers, who were dressed head to toe in white or green, were bursting with excitement as they prepared to accept new members to their tribes.

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Dressed in red, the new campers and staff were led from the campfire site down to the lake where they stood in a large circle and recited the Tribal Oath with Debbi and Paul. d7290a4e-d25f-4f54-9297-26aab9236e43

As they walked back to the campfire, the Unami Turtles and Minsi Wolves lined either side of the path creating a special and unique atmosphere.

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At the campfire, the two teams sat with their tribes and sang their tribal chants. The new campers and staff in each division were called to stand in front of the campfire while blue team members painted a stripe of their new tribe’s color on each of their cheeks. Excitement grew as they waited for Paul to tell them to face their new tribe. As each group turned around, members of the Unami Turtles and the Minsi Wolves ran to greet their new members. Next up….the first tribal competition.