My first camp staff training was one of the best weeks of my life. I came up knowing only one person and came away with more friends than I could have imagined. I had grown up as a jock in Newington,CT and didn’t know anything outside of that; I’d never interacted with people from different places or who were older than I was. It was fascinating to me to see their thought processes and how they solved problems. I learned how to work with other people that summer, I developed such a strong sense of camaraderie with other people here, and I caught the camp bug.
Paul Berkel, the camp director at that time, went to the same church I did. After a Youth Group led service, during which I gave the Sermon, Paul approached me and asked if I was interested in being a summer camp counselor. That first summer changed my outlook on life. Paul is the kind of leader who inspired you to do something before he asked you to do it, which is one of the many reasons why Paul and his summer camp assistant Gordon Hodne are receiving this years’ Scoobie Award at Corn Roast. I learned to anticipate what the needs are before you need them, and that’s something I aspire to do to this day.
I held several different jobs at Jewell during seven years as an employee, including counselor, LIT assistant director, Outdoor Center staff and full-time maintenance staff. Paul asked me to come to Woodcutter Weekend in 1978 after my first summer at camp and I’ve been to every one since then. I have also participated in most of the work weekends that are held in the spring. As a result there are a lot of places around camp where I feel connected and it gives me great satisfaction to see the areas I’ve helped build and maintain. Another great joy for me is that my daughters, Brianna and Jocelyn, also participate in as many as they can get, offering them the opportunity to give something back and understand the personal satisfaction that volunteering can bring.
I really enjoy coming up for Corn Roast and actually roasting the corn (instead of boiling it) with Bob Stearns, Doug Malins, Tom Eng and Jerome Alper. Bob and Doug kick started the old tradition that had waned a bit. The fourth session LIT’s help us out quite a bit and some have told me Corn Roast is the highlight of the session for them. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk to the campers these days, so that’s another reason I enjoy coming to Corn Roast, along with meeting alumni, both those I knew back in the day as well as some new faces. It reinforces that there’s plenty to do and lots of ways to stay involved at camp.
More than a decade ago, Gary Forster, the executive director at that time, asked me to join the Board of Managers and I was honored to do so. Being on the Board is a way for me to further my involvement with camp and to continue to be a part of giving kids a place where they can be together to talk, make new friends and to be exposed to new things. I served as Vice Chairman for a number of years, and now I have the opportunity to share my expertise as Manchester’s municipal waste water treatment plant supervisor by heading up the Board’s Property Committee.
Another satisfaction I get from camp is having shared it with my family. My wife, Sheryl, worked as a camp nurse at Jewell, and Brianna and Jocelyn grew up as Bandits and Nit Nois. When Jocelyn was old enough, she got to go where she really wanted to be: Ranch Camp. She thrived there, has been a Ranch counselor, and this summer she’s back as Ranch Camp Coordinator. This position has been a goal of hers for years, she worked hard during her previous summers and now she has attained it. I am so proud of her.
Camp grabs you. I see the stories from other kids and counselors and what it means to them and it feels good to be able to relate to them based on my own experiences at camp. Some Board Members come to the check-in area on the first day of a summer session and talk to parents and campers. I high five every one of the campers that tell me they want to meet new friends; this is one of Camp Jewell’s many goals for a summer camp experience here. I also really appreciate the stories from kids who attend camp on scholarship thanks to the generous donations of many alumni and friends of camp to our Strong Kids Campaign.
Participating in the Camp Jewell Cabin Rebuilding Campaign will be an exciting long-term goal of mine—imagine what it will be like with new cabins with lots more bathroom space. I was honored when Kari Trost and I were asked to lead the beginning of the project. We worked over two great weekends at camp with 100 participants where we dreamed, brainstormed, drew and refined ideas for what the future of camp will look like.
Though the details have changed, camp is still the same as it was when you were here. I hope you’ll consider joining us here again one day soon.