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Baco Counselor Toast 2023




Dear Baco Family,

Somehow, we’re back here again.

You would think that after 11 years, I wouldn’t be so surprised anymore by how quickly the summer flies by — but honestly, I still can’t believe it’s almost time to go home. Baco has a funny way of doing that to us; we spend all year anticipating these seven weeks, yet we look up when it’s over and wonder where all that time went.

But as tough as these final days are each summer, somewhere deep down, we’re comforted by knowing that we’re really only putting Baco on a temporary hold — because when we return in 10 months, that exact same magic, and these exact same friendships, will resume as though we’d never even left in the first place.

But then take a step back, and put yourself in my shoes. What happens when there no longer will be a “next summer” to look ahead to? It’s a really scary thought, because I’ve come to rely on Baco as my rock. I’ve known that no matter what changes or struggles I went through during the year, camp would always be awaiting me come late June, and it would be just as fun as I remembered. But for each of us, that backbone will one day go away — and we’ll have to discover who we are without camp present in our lives.

I still remember the first activity I ever did at camp, back when I first arrived here here in 2013. Just after my new bunkmates and I finished unpacking, our counselors took us to the upper to play this game of touch football. I probably didn’t know everyone’s name yet or exactly where I even was, but I still remember how that football game not only eased my first-day jitters, but it it showed me that camp had opened up a whole new world of friends and fun — and all these years later, Baco still feels like this secret world we all share, that no one outside of it can possibly understand.

There’s hundreds of small moments throughout my camp career just like that football game — seemingly insignificant at first glance, but when added up in totality, it’s what comes to define our camp careers. And as I stand here today, I would do literally anything to travel back in time and relive any of them again, or even just to get one more day, or one more period to spend with my entire bunk.

But the hard truth is that no matter how badly we want to get these moments back, or how much we wish camp could be extended, Baco always leaves us longing for more — and that’s also what makes it so meaningful to begin with. Our camp journeys are a moment in time, defined by growth, evolution, and eventually learning to let go — and that cycle is not only natural, but also necessary.

Think about the physical components of Baco we all know so well — the bunks, the lake, leagues, Greg’s handwriting on the schedule — they are all virtually unchanged from my first summer, and they probably will look the exact same a decade from now. But this cycle of camp is really about how each of us evolve under the care of camp’s ecosystem during our short timeour time here, and how our relationship to Baco changes as we mature.

When we’re young, camp is our first experience with independence, leaving the comforts of home for a whirlwind of new friends and fun activities. As we grow up, those simpler friendships evolve into close-knit bonds, and once we combine into a single bunk up the hill, those differences from our younger years are replaced by a collective love and unity in our bunk. During our waiter summer, we soak in our final weeks as campers, while living out those bucket-list moments we’d waited our entire careers for. Once on counselor staff, we pass down Baco’s culture and traditions to the campers living out their earlier stages, while still embracing our own friendships. And one day, we will send our kids here, and they will start that same cycle all over again.

To me, the coolest part is that the cycle is forever spinning, no matter when we each hop off. When I first began my cycle as a young camper in 2013, the waiters of 2008 and 2009, who were then the oldest counselors on staff, were likely processing the very same emotions that I am now. And I’m confident that in 2035, those of you sitting in the inner ring today will also come to feel the exact same way, even though I’m sure you don’t yet realize it.

I often hear people say that “Baco’s magic is indescribable,” but I think it’s really this ever-spinning cycle that makes this place so unique. These lifelong bonds aren’t built through any one activity, common interest, or specific moment we can pinpoint. Instead, we grow up and envision ourselves getting to lead camp as waiters, and then one day, we become those waiters. We strive to be just like our counselors we idolize, and then we eventually become those counselors, while new campers are now the ones looking up to us. And as we all experience all these stages of the cycle over the years, we develop feelings of comfort, trust, and family that are unlike bonds formed anyplace else.

And because of the cycle, whether I’m talking to an old alumni I hardly know or the youngest kid in camp, I feel this immediate connection to them — because no matter what our age gap is, or what era of camp we grew up in, we’ve all been raised with the same set of values and experiences that uniquely make us baco boys, and forever indebted to this community.

So even as we let go of Baco for good, those friendships and lessons taken from here never really leave us. And even if certain things change around camp or evolve over the coming years, I have the utmost confidence that Baco’s foundation will remain as strong as ever — because I know that each of you care as much about preserving camp’s cycle as I do. And as long as that dedication and loyalty remains, I know Baco will always thrive.

Now, to the Waiters of 2019: I couldn’t be prouder that 11 of us returned as fourth-year counselors, and were given the chance to be leaders on staff while spending this one last summer all together. The Matty who first arrived in 2013, or even the Matty who was reading all those books in the K-house, is very different than the Matty standing up here today — and that’s because you all embraced me and loved me for who I am, which made me feel comfortable enough to break out of my shell and become a voice in our bunk, around camp, and really in all walks of my life. I’ll never forget how you were all there for me in my most challenging moments, and also for the best moments of my life, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

To the Waiters of 2024: Being your counselor for the past three summers has been the single greatest joy and honor of my camp career. It fills me with so much pride to watch you all grow up and see how you’ve really come together as one bunk this summer. The way you each love and support each other and embrace the best of camp is unlike any bunk I’ve ever seen, and I know those incredible qualities will shine even brighter as waiters next summer. I really feel like I’ve developed as a leader and matured right along with all of you, and I’m so grateful to have gotten a second bunk to grow up through camp with, and share this special connection with.

Of course, Baco wouldn’t be possible without the people who pour so much into keeping it thriving summer after summer. That begins with Greg and Danny, who work tirelessly and often thanklessly to somehow meet the needs of everyone in camp and keep this complex operation afloat, all with a smile on their face. To Allison and the Wortman family, thank you for believing in Baco and understanding what makes it so special, and continuing to make this incredible place possible. And to Mickey, Serwetz, Koretz, Jaclyn, Toc, Jane, Shlomit, Bruno, CJ, Ramon, and all the other admins and staff, your love for camp and dedication to the campers shines through every day, and it’s been an awesome experience to work alongside you all this summer.

There’s really no proper way to put into words my gratitude to a place and community that’s given me so much. And even after all these years, the ride still feels far too short — but isn’t that the beauty of it? We each get only one career to soak in these precious moments, and make our impact felt. Because while the cycle’s natural course may be out of our control, we each have the power to define our own camp cycle. And I hope that after 11 years, I’ve done enough with mine.

So all I ask is that each of you live out your own cycles to the fullest, and continue passing down that magical baco cycle to keep it alive for generations of baco boys to come, just as it was done for me.

I love you all. Baco pride. IMG_5750

— Matty Wasserman, Waiter of 2019

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