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Canada Conversations with Our Graduating Campers

Our campers went on many trips this week, and my wife Deena and I were thrilled to lead one of them. For two nights and three days we took our oldest Kenwood campers on a trip to Canada to experience the sights and culture of Montreal. This is a trip we both went on as campers, and it means a great deal to us that we get to lead it this many years later. 

In both our girls’ and boys’ camps Montreal is the final overnight adventure of your time as a camper. Our Athletic Directors Jacki and Bob Mitchell are excited to be running the same trip with Evergreen’s Juniper girls next week. 

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The itinerary is pretty jam-packed. Walking the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal. Eating at outdoor Parisian-style cafes. Guided tours of the city’s most beautiful cathedrals and learning about the meaning of the art and architecture. 

A VIP tour through the Bell Centre where the Canadiens play. An IMAX movie. Playing in the largest Laser Tag arena I’ve ever seen. Trying poutine for the first time. 

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Celebrating Carter’s 16th birthday, even though it absolutely was not his birthday and he had no idea that we had planned a celebration in his honor.

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Boating on the St. Lawrence river in a boat powered by two jet engines while 30-foot waves crash over you. Laughing so hard with your camp friends as you get soaked head to toe on one of the greatest thrill rides ever. 

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Start to finish the Montreal trip is pretty amazing, and for both me and Deena our favorite part is always the conversations. Camp can be so busy, and to have three days worth of meals to sit and really talk with these guys is an opportunity not to be missed. As is tradition at each meal we gather the boys around a massive configuration of tables and ask them about their time as K&E campers.

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This year we had an especially interesting mix of boys, with some having spent 8 summers here in Wilmot, and one just having joined us last year. While most came from the Northeast we also had campers from around the country, and one from Europe. And as we asked them to share with us their thoughts on their summers spent at camp a theme emerged that we had not anticipated. 

At the first dinner we asked two questions:

1) What’s your first memory of being a camper, and

2) What’s your favorite memory of being a camper

As they talked about being first-time campers almost every one of them expressed how anxious they had been, and how that nervousness dissipated because of an act of kindness by a peer. Many looked across the table to call out someone and say “I remember that you did this for me and I’ll never forget it”. In almost every case the friend had no recollection of what they had done let alone how impactful it had been for the other person.

As they discussed their favorite memory more than half of them shared a story of when they had done something awkward. Or tried at a new activity and failed. Or done the kind of thing that would have led to embarrassment or shame in another context of their life like school or with home friends. With each of these stories they made a point of saying something like “but you guys made me see that I could laugh in that moment” or “that’s when you gave me a hug and told me it was great that I tried…and that’s when I knew this was my home”. 

We sat at the table a bit stunned by how moving and profound all these memories were, and how much each and every one of them had gotten out of being a part of this community. More than a few had tears in their eyes, as did the two oldest people at the table. In a trip of incredible memories this was my favorite, but by no means the only one of serious gravitas.

I know these same sort of poignant moments will be a part of Jacki and Bob’s trip next week, and I’m jealous that they get to have them each summer with our graduating girls. Sadly, you can’t be on every trip, and it’s so nice that as the leaders of this Camp we all get to have these special moments with different clusters of our campers. I know Scott’s incredibly excited for his multi-day canoe trip with Kenwood’s 2nd Year Seniors next week as well. 

What a wonderful trip to Canada, and what a wonderful group of campers to spend 3 days with. 

RELATED: Our Summer Camp Leadership Team

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