Dear Camp Jewell Staff,

It is hard to conceptualize what has been accomplished after a summer at Camp Jewell YMCA. We are not a factory where you can measure input and output. Even great efforts, like organizing an all-camp activity or turning around the most homesick of campers can go unrecognized in the hustle and bustle of camp. It is also hard for those of us new to this place or new to a work environment to put into perspective what our own efforts have been and what the reasons for those efforts are. Often there is no time to reflect on what has been done as our summer draws to a close. What little time we have to ourselves in these last days gets eaten up by thoughts of what comes next when camp is over.

So I ask you to think about this…

On Saturday when all the kids have gone and you have cleaned your cabin for the last time, you will sit at the beach and watch a slideshow of our time together. And as you do that, there will be kids out in our world that will be setting the dinner table for their family for the very first time, and they will ask that the whole family sit together like they did at camp. There will be kids staring at camp photos on Smug Mug looking for images of YOU! wanting to hang YOU up on their bedroom walls next to the latest pop music icons. There will be kids dreaming of real possibilities for their future, possibilities that until they went to camp they did not even know existed. Possibilities like a life outside of Hartford, going to college, or maybe just a world where peers can be nice more than they are not.

And in September as kids head back to school, there will be kids that will walk into classrooms all over our community that will stand a little taller, that will raise their hands to answer questions they would not have answered in June because of the confidence YOU gave them in themselves. There will be kids who will tell their teacher when they see someone getting bullied because they have a new found connection to the adults in their lives and believe in their ability to help, thanks to YOU. There will be kids who will try harder when they fail a test because of the resiliency and grit YOU gave them when they failed the first, second, or 17th time here at camp.

And in October as the weather grows colder, there will be dads enlisted to build a fire pit in the back yard so that the family can make hobo dinners together because the ones on the grill or in the oven just didn’t come out the same. There will be kids teaching capture the flag games and knockout to their friends at home, and maybe even inventing some new games like YOU did that one day when you were out of the usual ideas. And there will be at least one carpet ball table built by a parent who had to call me up for the design.

In the dark of winter there will be kids that squeal with delight and will think of YOU first when they open the gift of camp during the holidays. There will be kids more willing to try something new like ice skating or skiing because of the successes YOU gave them at trying new things this summer. There will be kids organizing magic card tournaments, or D&D get-togethers, and at least a couple of Dads will sigh and roll their eyes when their kid explains what the term LARP means and begrudgingly will go to the hardware store for pool noodles, pvc and 6 roles of duct tape.

And as spring comes, kids will be checking camp’s website for the countdown to camp. They will Facebook their friends to see what sessions they are going to, and they will email Craig to find out if YOU are coming back in 2015. There will be kids and parents organizing little get-togethers with their friends from camp, and at those get-togethers they will tell stories of YOU and the times you all spent together, and they will be cementing friendships that will last all their lives. We also know there will be kids who will stand stronger against the negative influences of bullies, gangs, and abusers because they know in their hearts they are loved by YOU, and it is only 2 months and 17 days until the sweet relief of going back to camp.

And 20 years from now there will be teachers and nurses, doctors and social workers, politicians and activists that are doing what they are doing because of the seeds YOU planted this summer. They will still be getting together with those same friends that will stand by them through the toughest times in their lives and will celebrate with them in the greatest moments in their lives. The world will be safer, more at peace, and a better place. And you should know…

YOU did that. You did that over and over and over this summer. Even when you thought you weren’t doing anything, you were doing that. There is no way to measure the lives you touched this summer, but there are thousands of lives that each of you reached this summer, lives of people most of whom you will not ever meet. I can say this to you with great certainty because I have seen the future. I have seen the future in the stories of campers and staff from the past. I have seen the future in letters and emails from parents. I have seen it in my own life, and in my own reality, and I have seen it in YOU. I saw it all summer long, often when you didn’t even know I was there.

So I say to you… Thank you

Thank you for the sacrifices you made to be here, thank you for all you did in these last 8+ weeks.

I will not be with you on Saturday, so please be safe and get some rest. You deserve it.

Camp will always be here for you and those you love. Stay in touch.

Ray