Dear Mom and Dad,
No words can really describe how thankful I am that you sent me back to camp for my sixth summer. Last summer (when I was not here) I made many memories but none of them can contend with Camp Manitou. I missed this place deeply.
As I move through the second half of my final year as a camper, a strong feeling of sadness – that the end is near – seems to be growing by the second as I reflect on my time spent here. Every memory as a camper whether I was smiling with joy or crying uncontrollably is something that I will carry forever. Every day at camp is precious.
My Manitou journey began when you guys shoved me away and I stepped up into the bus at the age of ten. I could have sworn I was going to disappear in the middle of nowhere Maine. Actually, it was the opposite, but more on that later. Little did I know that for 7 hours of awkward silence I sat next to someone who would become one of my best friends, Henry N.. I would then arrive at camp to find out I was in bunk 20D, where Micheal Gould was my counselor, and kids like Jonathan G., Zeke, Matthew B., Hayden, and Josh N. surrounded me – and still do today. These kids along with all the other CITS and high seniors, shaped who I am now. Their actions and opinions influenced me forcing me to learn and grow into a better version of myself, the same way I hope I have aided them. Although Camp Manitou could never be duplicated, I have found that a huge part of the camp experience is the people. Those that care for you, watch your back, support you always and tell you when something is not right are the people I have found at camp. There is no place on earth I could find such a concentrated group of people that possess all those qualities. Around the world, I could never find a place where I couldnʼt contact a fellow camper, counselor or director nearby. This family, unwavering, doesnʼt need the lake, alumni, Rec hall or a bunk. Manitou has an address, but the kinship is boundless.
Then, the concept of College League came into view. The camp crammed into the Rec hall while counselors and older campers jumped around in a mosh pit. The sight was invigorating, but it scared me too. Of course, eventually, I began to love what I could see.
In 2012, I became part of my first team ever – the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. An incredible team no matter what the scoreboard showed.
In 2013, through five weeks of a relentless fight, I learned the concept of brotherly love on the PHILLY U RAMS. Although winning was a nice bonus, passion and compassion for all of my teammates on the field and bunkmates around camp taught me competition at its purest. To play for the game and then shake hands and share a meal at dinner is a hard skill to master. Through the good and bad, Brotherhood lives forever.
As a high inter I formed a connection with my dean which still holds strong. Daniel Stern led the USC Trojans into battle and made it a mission to connect with every single camper on a one to one basis. The tireless effort he threw into every little event of College League and every Trojan, showed me what giving your all for something looks like. That effort is required to achieve greatness in anything. Prove yourself.
The Texas Longhorns were a force to be reckoned with. To win college league, energy is vital and no one could teach me energy the way John Fernandez did every time he showed up to the meeting place. His enthusiasm could never be outdone. Be passionate and confident in everything you do.
In 2016, Stepʼs Boston College was the team to be on. Nothing could break the Eagles spirits even if 4th place was imminent. I learned to lose while making the most of every opportunity. Family will always be all I need.
Each of these teams taught me how to be better – a more efficient worker, a more driven competitor, a more loyal friend, a more respectful man. Through the exposure of competing, laughing, crying, fighting, winning and losing I have become engrossed in Manitou magic. The drive to win is high, but the love shared between all 500 people is higher. In other words, a family is impenetrable.
There is one more team I havenʼt mentioned- the University of Alabama. On this team the one skill I have developed more than any other is how to lead. By speaking to the team, making lineups, and leading cheers, I have taken on a role that I never had before. The way I see it, I am giving back what was given to me. I want the younger guys to buy into a team and have the memories I acquired on Philly and USC. I want them to love college league, learn to compete, win a bunch of games and maybe lose a few too. I want them to receive the full College League experience – the full Manitou experience. My position as a CIT is merely a name that facilitates my influence to make camp as incredible for lower camp as it was when I was in lower camp looking up to the CITS. That is the greatest challenge I face this summer.
To wrap up a letter that just barely elaborates on the power of Manitou, all I can say is, I love you. I love all the campers that come to camp and buy into the spirit, making camp so much more than just some games and activities. Those who give it their all and still find the opponent’s hand to shake, despite the outcome of the game. I love all the counselors that set this place up and make sure we have a safe place to socialize, laugh and complain. Living in a bunk is hard enough as a camper, so I really donʼt know how counselors manage to stay sane. I love all the directors who deal with our nonsense after making a call we disagree with but always come back to ref another game. I canʼt imagine the work that goes into keeping Manitou running as smoothly as it does. Finally, mom and dad, I Iove you. Sending me to camp was the best decision you ever made for me and there is nothing that could have been half as beneficial. Although I donʼt say it much, I was wrong. I couldnʼt see the potential in Manitou and you could. I believe camp has far reached past what you thought it could do for me. Although it may be hard for you to read, keeping in mind this is not a reflection of your parenting skills or the environment at home, the best part of my year is the time I spend at camp. Thank you for everything you have provided for me. See you in a few weeks and I love you.