By Alyssa Kress
Think back to your first day ever at camp. Maybe it was just a few weeks ago, as you arrived for your first summer as a camper. Maybe it was in June, when you traveled from around the world to be here. Maybe it was 3 or 5 or 10 years ago, but you can still remember the butterflies in your stomach as you anticipated your parents dropping you off at this unfamiliar place. Everyone told you this is where friends become family, but you didn’t even know who your friends were yet. You were probably just wondering whether you’d even make it through the summer, whether “welcome home” would be real for you and not just a catchphrase, whether Camp Harlam would be a place where you could be yourself and be accepted. I can pretty much guarantee that when you came through camp’s gates for the first time, feeling excited and uncertain, you probably weren’t thinking about where camp could take you or how many years you’d spend in Kunkletown, and for most of you, that’s probably still not on your mind.
As a kid, coming back to camp is generally an easy decision for a while – of course you’re going back to camp, maybe even for both sessions. But as you get older, things start to make that decision harder. High school sports tryouts, band camp, family trips, college prep, study abroad, internships, summer classes, the list of competing priorities is endless. As we heard at the Chavurah service this morning, once you’ve spent time in this sacred place, camp is always a part of you, but as time goes on, you have to figure out for yourself how spending summers at camp fits into the life you’re building. Deciding to be a staff member at camp may seem like a simple thing when you’re a kid but it’s a thoughtful, intentional decision that people do not make lightly. People outside of camp ask you, “You’re spending your summer at camp…again?” or “Why would you work so hard for so little money?” or “You should really do something more with your summer.” Every person on staff here has probably heard some version of these questions, and it can feel draining to try to explain the value of working at camp, to articulate to non-camp folks the immense responsibility of taking care of other people’s children, the problem solving and conflict resolution skills that develop every single day while working at camp, and most importantly, the incredible reward of positively impacting a child’s life.
Which is why it’s so remarkable to have a group of six amazing people that we are presenting five-year staff sweatshirts to, and an additional two who received them earlier in the summer. This group of staff have made working at camp an essential part of the lives they’re building.
They’ve worked in every unit of camp, from Carmel through Gesher, and have probably done every activity in camp, both the longtime favorites like lake and adventure, and the activities of blessed memory, like the soccer field zipline. I did some rough math and calculated that between the six of them, they’ve worked with somewhere around 2,000 campers combined and supervised nearly 300 staff members. Sure, there’s some overlap there, but it’s obvious that their impact on camp runs deep and spans multiple generations of campers and staff. Camp Harlam has had immense impact on their lives, and they have given their everything in return.
My hope for all of you, as you listen to each of our honorees recognized, is that you start to think about where camp could take you. Perhaps it will be up on this stage being handed your five year staff sweatshirt surrounded by your own staff and campers, or maybe it will be returning to camp as an alumnus, a faculty member, or even as a parent, or maybe it will just be taking the lessons you’ve learned here – about being your best self and being a good person – and making the world a better place. We are grateful that for many summers, camp has taken the six people we honor tonight back to camp. We are immensely grateful for their dedication and commitment to Harlam and feel blessed to be able to celebrate them with all of camp.
Thank you to: Josh Anoff, Sam Blum, Becca Carlin, Sydney Gluck, Sam Kelly, and Casey Quinto for all you have accomplished during your time on staff.
Alyssa Kress is one of our Assistant Directors at Camp Harlam. She oversees Camp K’ton, Senior Camp, the CIT program, and communications. Alyssa is a former camper and staff member. This his her 7th summer as part of the pro-staff.