It’s a Wonderful Life

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It is hard to believe that we have arrived at the eve of our closing day of the 2021 season. Since opening the August session just two weeks ago, the past 12 days have flown by for all of us.

When you run a summer camp, you feel like you have lived an entire lifetime in the course of a single season. The constant busyness combined with the level of responsibility you feel for all of the lives in your care is profound. Each summer, you come into the season with confidence based on your experiences in your previous seasons. No matter how many years you have under your belt, and for me this was year 38, each season presents new challenges. Perhaps that is why we stay in the camping business so long! You always learn something new. You have to solve a problem you have never encountered before, and you get to develop a team from a slightly different group of people each year. There is no true “normal” in camping.

I have been very open in the past talking about the calculated risk we assume at Keystone each year. There has never been a guarantee of perfection. We strive to do our very best to care for the physical and emotional well-being of every person at camp, but being risk-free is just not an available option. Without risk, there are fewer rewards, for us and for our girls.

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In so many ways, assuming responsibility for others’ children is the highest level of commitment that can be offered by another person, and how we each feel that responsibility every day, all summer long. We work to think through risk management. We strive to prioritize safety in every aspect of camp. We worry, and we ruminate. What is reasonable and rational as we direct a summer camp? How do we make a session at Keystone special and meaningful for each of our girls? We spend 9 months of the year preparing for our 9 weeks of operations making intentional decisions from who greets you at the gate to how many counselors we need to make the summer run smoothly. In between, it is deciding on new construction projects, equipment acquisitions to menu planning and months of hiring incredible staff. Summer camp is a complex business operation!

Oh, but the rewards of running Keystone! It is hard to imagine a more meaningful job. We invest of ourselves in our girls. We give them time, understanding and encouragement. We watch them enter into new situations and find success. We see them make new friends and learn new skills. We are there as they conquer physical and emotional challenges. We get to celebrate their achievements with them. We help them up when they fall, and we cheer them on when they soar.

We are lucky to have so many of our girls return year after year. Keystone becomes an integral part of their lives. Even after our girls move on to adulthood and families of their own, they continue to return to camp on visits or in sending their own daughters to Keystone. How incredibly rewarding it is to have an opportunity to have the daughters of campers I worked with early in my camping career send their own girls to Keystone. I often have to catch myself as I call the current camper by her mother’s name!

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We are so fortunate at Keystone. We have now operated through two seasons of a global pandemic. We weighed our risk and decided that giving our girls summer camp was worth whatever it took to make camp happen. We leaned on our incredible counselors, our wonderful nursing staff and our camp families. We all jumped off the ledge together to give our girls the summers of community, friendship and success they needed. To see the joy on our girls’ faces makes every risk taken worth the stress and the worry.

Neil Gaiman said, “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you have gained.” We have all taken risks, most especially these last 18 months, and the current risks of the pandemic are still not behind us. Life will always be a calculated risk because there is no perfection in living. As we make our own calculations of risk, we achieve; we develop resilience, confidence and a strong sense of self. That is what we do at camp for our girls and for ourselves. What a wonderful life!

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved.

With gratitude for your willingness to share risk with us for the benefit of your girls,

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