Dear Mom and Dad,
I want to start off the letter with the two most important words in this entire thing, thank you. Thank you for sending me to camp as a low-sophomore. I got on that bus from New York all alone, completely unsure of what was waiting for me on the other side. Your decision to send me to Camp Manitou is one of the greatest you have ever made. Manitou is where I learned how to cooperate, compete, and care.
When I showed up to camp for the first time, I made my way over to bunk 20A and met people like Josh Brooks, Ben Metzner, and John Benedetto; all of which have become some of the closest friends anyone could ask for within the last eight years. Along with building camper friendships, I also met a counselor who anchored my love for camp and kept me coming back year after year. Lucas Johnston at the time was a new soccer instructor without a clue of how to deal with a bunk of crazy 9 year-olds. Little did he know how much of a role he had in all of our development from boys to young men.
Halfway through 2010 I was presented with 2 options. I could leave half-session or I could stay full and have to integrate with a completely different group of kids. Lucas was one of the main reasons I decided to stay full that year and for that I am forever indebted to him. That decision lead to my first pres night, first color war, and first change-over; but aside from those things that decision is the reason why I eventually met kids like Mack Massman, Taj Pinkner, Alex Aibel, and Harry Fleisig.
Along the years I have been on various different College League teams of all types. Many of my first memories from College League came from the 2011 Emory Eagles as a high-sophomore. Since 2011 that team has gone down as one of the worst ever by the scorebooks, but at the time it seemed perfect. I remember Mack, Benedetto, Metzner and I heading over to the Rec Hall together from bunk 19 every day for loops; I remember Mack’s game winning shot on the alumni mini-hoops, and I remember when we sang the wrong verse in our alma but still won. All of these memories, despite being encapsulated within a team known as one of the worst ever, helped shape who I am.
The very next year I was on the Murray State Racers. Earlier this year I was talking to Ben Pickman, a current dean, about which teams were our favorite and why. When I told him that Murray State was my favorite team despite the fact that I was a low-inter, I gave him the generic reasoning of an enjoyable meeting place, great staff, and competitive loops. As a much older and wiser outsider looking in, he knew that the true reason why I cared about that team was that the team cared about me. Lucas, along with the dean Chris Thurston, and top coaches Dan Stern and Matt Spivak went out of their way to make sure I felt cared for and appreciated despite being a young, somewhat awkward, and not very athletic 11 year old. Their efforts helped me develop the confidence that was influential in the rest of my camp career, as well as my life outside of camp.
This brings me to UCLA. Many of my fellow CITs and High-Seniors know that I tended to be very pessimistic towards UCLA’s chances, particularly toward the end of the year. It was a team full of ups and downs, and I often didn’t know what to think about my experience on the team. This year was the first time I was actually in the play, and that week was not easy. Devoting much of a week of camp to potentially benefit the team by 25 points seemed very insignificant at the time, and I often second guessed my decision throughout the week. By the time it was time to actually perform the play nobody knew what to expect. However, immediately following the play there was an amazing feeling of accomplishment and happiness. The year didn’t end up well on the scoreboard, but UCLA was still very enjoyable. Through my final college league team as a camper, I became much closer with people like Jared Albert and Ellis Wells; that is reason enough to appreciate and be thankful for UCLA.
One thing that I feel separates Manitou from other places is the combination of sports and non-physical/athletic activities. Also, the bonds and relationships people form at camp, and not just with people your own age. The relationships I made with people were what took my camp experience to another level.
It is sad to think that this is my last night as a camper here, and I am so thankful for the past 8 years I was able to spend here. Thank you again for sending me here and supporting me over the years.
I love you.