On behalf of the counselors of Camp Che-Na-Wah, we would like to propose a toast to the summer of 2021.
I keep thinking about this moment when I was on OD for my campers, and they asked me to tell them a funny story about camp. My mind went blank. Ten summers here and I couldn’t think of a single moment to share? It’s not there weren’t inﬁnite belly-aching, tearful, backroom laughs ﬁlling those ten years, but rather that there were too many to single out.
Returning to camp this summer, circled up with my best friends once again, we smiled at each other as we realized it was the happiest we had been in two years.
Part of the magic of camp is how hard it is to describe.
You leave camp and can try to picture the mountains and the lake, but you can’t put your ﬁnger on the exact angle of the slanted tree as you try to catch a wind on a sailboat. You can’t remember the speciﬁc shade of pink of a sunset as you walk away from a talent show singing California Dreamin’.
The same is true of the job of a Che-Na-Wah counselor. We go back home, and life and school and our futures pick up, and we know that we want to go back to camp, but we can’t exactly remember the feeling of meeting your new campers at the buses for the ﬁrst time. Or, putting “counselor” on the job wheel instead of your name, or looking for “Sadie G” on the schedule instead of your bunk number. Or, watching people lead a marchdown who just yesterday were holding on to your pinky and thumb at the front of the line. The pride and love of being a Che-Na-Wah counselor are just too big to hold in your hands, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever feel in your whole life. And it’s our co-workers, who are really our family, who make this place what it is.
You don’t know how many days you’ve brightened with your funky t-shirts and gym teacher jokes. You hold our days together with your excitement for athletic activities and Che-Na-Wah traditions. Your spirit and stamina are contagious. Thank you for pushing us to excel, regardless of our experience level. It might not always seem like it, but your high standards for us are motivating and don’t go unnoticed. You see an All-Around Athlete in every Che-Na-Wah girl, and we can’t thank you enough for that.
During orientation, you introduced yourself to the staﬀ as “Head Counselor,” a title that we honestly had never heard before. But, after seven weeks of working by your side, that description couldn’t be more accurate. You are the link between the counselors and the administration, the one we turn to when we need to talk things through or devise a game plan. Even after weeks of rain, you made every day uniquely the best day ever. Summer to summer, we have watched your family grow and have been more and more amazed by you. We have so much respect for you in the moments when you steer us in the right direction, and we couldn’t do this job without your guidance.
It’s funny to see how our relationship with you has changed as we’ve grown from camper to counselor. When we were younger, you always put us ﬁrst and showed us endless compassion, teaching us how to be good counselors before that was even on our minds. As counselors, we’ve watched our campers turn to you just like we did. At moments this summer, we’ve all been stretched thin, and your helping hands have always been there when we needed them. In such a fast paced two months, your camera and your appreciation for the little things have helped us to slow down time and really enjoy our summer. We love you.
We are writing this as we watch you paddle board solo across the lake, which truly sums it up. From your ﬁrst day at camp, we have witnessed your love for Lake Balfour and your dedication to the waterfront. It doesn’t even feel like this is our ﬁrst summer with you at camp because of the mutual trust between you and the counselors. In the most important moments, you have been an inspiring role model. Despite the new dock and other adjustments, you have led the waterfront seamlessly. We love you. Thank you.
We know that this summer in particular has been stressful at the inﬁrmary. We appreciate the sacriﬁce you have made to keep us all healthy and to keep camp running. Thank you for everything.
As campers, our eyes lit up every time we saw “Arts and Crafts” on our schedule. Obviously, our time there has been limited as counselors, but we are so impressed with how you keep pushing the program forward with your creativity.
Thank you for coming up to me with a tray of tofu at every meal. Your dedication and ﬂexibility have been essential to the dining hall and to camp this summer. We know waitress counselor is not in your contract, but honestly you look great in green. In our counselor years, we have come to love your humor and wit, and we know you have our backs. We love you.
To Barbara and the Wortman family,
How can we thank you enough? We can’t begin to understand the work that went into opening camp this summer. Missing the summer of 2020 was a huge loss to all of us, and we know it hit you the hardest. We are eternally grateful for the ability to hide from the real world in our perfect bubble. For years, you have guided us through Che-Na-Wah traditions, but this year you taught us that part of tradition is change. With each year at camp, we’ve gained more respect for you and what you do. Thank you for everything.
To the waitresses of 2021,
Believe it or not, we know exactly how you are feeling right now. We’ve been in your shoes, desperately trying to make every moment a lasting and special one while you still live with your bunkmates. At ﬁrst, the transition is deﬁnitely diﬃcult— ask any ﬁrst year counselor. There is a sense of uncertainty as you feel your place at camp shift. But, we are not here to make you cry. We want you to be excited because being a counselor is amazing, and that’s the truth. This job means expanding your role at camp past the camper experience. It means learning leadership and initiative, earning respect and becoming an inspiration to campers. It means becoming best friends with people you’ve known your whole life, but have barely spoken to. Because when you’re a counselor, it’s no longer the 17’s, the 18’s or the 19’s, it’s just the pink team. Although it’s a lot to take in right now, I promise we’re right. You might be worried about whether you’ll be a good counselor, and this much is true: if you care about being a good counselor, you will be. Just continue to love camp as much as you already do, and the rest will follow. We have so much conﬁdence in the fact that you guys will be the best addition to the pink team. And who knows, maybe you will live with one of your bunkmates again (we both did). We love you guys and we are so proud of you.
To the pink team,
I think we can agree that the beginning of this summer was nerve-racking to say the least. We kept counting and recounting the counselors that we knew were coming back, out of fear of being understaﬀed and overworked. With only two to three counselors per bunk, we entered bunk dynamics that were diﬀerent than what we were used to. We also welcomed a group of new counselors that truly saved camp. That original period of uncertainty was soon replaced with conﬁdence earned through hard work. When we walk through camp, we see everyone we grew up with stepping into leadership roles with grace. We cheered each other on as we became heads of activities, group leaders, and judges. What we thought would be our greatest challenges were what really provided the space for reinvention and creativity. We are so proud to be members of a staﬀ that cares so deeply about each other and our jobs. From J-Row to Senior Hill, we’ve watched you provide your campers with patience, kindness, and loyalty. Reﬂecting on this summer, we have found that the circumstances gave each counselor a chance to shine. Our numbers were a blessing in disguise, gifting us friendships that we never saw coming. For the ﬁrst time, we wholeheartedly believe that every staﬀ member has our backs, and we have theirs. You all bring humor and light to the darkest of days, including July 27th. I feel so lucky that even on the home stretch of my camp career, I got to make new best friends to cry as I say goodbye to. And to the girls that have always been by our sides, each year that we grow, we love you more than we ever thought possible. And it was from you guys that I learned why I couldn’t answer my campers’ request that night on OD. You don’t pass on your camp legacy by sharing your old memories. You do it by giving campers the space to make new memories.
To the summer of 2022 and the job of a lifetime, thank you. Love,
Hillman & Sadie