Reflections on Mini Camp

Whenever Joanna and I are going over the camp calendar and we get to the last week— and then the last day— of camp, her eyes well up and she can barely speak. I have learned from her, as well as from my kids, that on the last morning of camp, we play Taps instead of Reveille. That it’s the quietest day of the entire summer. That except for the crying, you could hear a pin drop. Most of us here are still experiencing what we would consider “the beginning of camp,” but tomorrow is our first “last.” Mini Camp is over. And I miss these boys already.

We introduced Mini Camp this summer with the intention of bringing in new kids to experience Bauercrest for the first 10 days of camp. If we’re being honest, I’ve had mixed feelings about this program from the start. I know that there are kids on this Hillside right now who probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for this very abbreviated session. We’ve got kids who weren’t sure they were ready for the overnight camp experience, and kids whose parents weren’t sure they were ready to let their sons go. But on the flip side, there is still so much camp left to come, and they’ve only just gotten a tiny taste. By the time they’re really used to the routine and to each other— which is happening, oh, right about now— it’s time to leave. So while we are so grateful to have had these Mini Campers for 10 unforgettable days, we are now left with a hillside full of campers and staff who are nowhere near ready to let them go.

Almost every Mini-Camper struggled with the decision of whether or not to extend. I have spoken to every single one of them about how much they love camp. I have also spoken to many of those same kids about how much they miss their families. I’d point out that it’s pretty awesome to want to be in two places at once, and they’d look at me like I was crazy. Because the reality is, you can’t. You have to choose. And that’s a very big choice for a little boy to have to make. So no matter how much they love camp and how desperately they know they’re going to miss it, the majority will choose what they miss the most at that very moment. And what they miss the most when they’re here is you.

When our oldest son came to Bauercrest for the first time, he was signed up for two weeks with the option to extend. I had promised myself not to allow his decision to mean something it didn’t. He was 8 years old, and he had never even slept at a friend’s house before coming to camp; that he’d gone at all was a win in and of itself. He perseverated for days; I couldn’t get an answer. He ultimately decided he was ready to come home after the two weeks, and that he’d definitely be back for the full session the following summer. It was all good. When we picked him up, he talked a mile a minute about all of his amazing experiences. We had never seen him so animated. We weren’t on the road for even half an hour when he started to cry that he wanted to go back. He had needed to see us; and as soon as he did, just like that, he was over it. We didn’t bring him back. He went to day camp like we’d planned. It didn’t compare. It didn’t even come close. After seeing what I’ve seen these past 10 days, I’m pretty sure nothing ever will.

So our Mini Camp parents will get their boys back tomorrow, and a new group of campers will be descending upon the Hillside. To the naked eye, camp will look exactly the same… boys everywhere… in the bunks, in the water, on the fields, on the courts, in the Mess Hall. But please know that to us, it’s not the same. Not one of them will replace your sons and what they’ve meant to us this summer.

Following is Dan Stephen’s amazing sermon from services this morning…

“Good Sabbath. I feel so honored to be able to stand here and deliver some of my memories and lessons that I’ve learned at camp over the last nine years. I also want to give a big thanks to Matt for giving me the opportunity to speak to the camp as a whole. In my opinion, giving a sermon is the greatest honor someone can get at Bauercrest. It’s a time when the camp is giving their undivided attention to someone who has had a lengthy experience on the hillside. My first year at camp was in 2008, nine years ago. Luckily for me, my older brother Ben was in his seventh year at camp and was a staff member. Before my arrival second month he ‘encouraged’ my bunkmates to be nice to me and be friendly, although I could see him actually intimidating them. Needless to say when I showed up, I was initially greeted by Trevor Kaplan who immediately sparked a conversation with me. I can’t remember what we could have possibly talked about, but that’s not important, what’s important is that camp was already beginning to open up its arms to me. Our GL Josh Keezer then offered to play lacrosse catch with me and he was another reason I felt so comfortable at camp right away. The Soph ATL still to this day is my favorite group name ever. I really hope that board with T.I. on it is still somewhere on campus because it’s quite fitting that a camp of Jewish boys is characterized by an Atlanta rapper. A few memories that stick out from my first year is Rosenberg’s Itimar trap that ended up cutting my leg, throwing up outside the grove because I had the stomach bug, and watching Zoolander at camp for the first time, even though it would be the first of 58 times here. Leaving camp that year I was not really that sad because I didn’t fully understand Bauercrest yet, but I still yearned to return the next summer.
Junior B year came around and I manned up and decided to stay 2 months. This gave me the amazing opportunity to meet the great kids that came first month such as Harry Copeland, Jeremy Rubin, and the honorable Natan Bussel. I honestly don’t remember much from Junior B year and it was rather uneventful. So that’s that. Junior A year was up next and I was so excited to get back to camp. Junior A year could be the second best year of camp, so you current Junior A’s don’t take it for granted. You guys get to run league, get to participate in big color war events and you get to really become yourself at camp. Junior A year and above is when your personality really starts to emerge and you become unique. Some of my favorite moments at camp would come daily during Junior A year. One specifically was playing Euro for league in the morning. During this time my brother and Weiny were CI heads for 09 and they would do trash duty while I was holding down my league team’s defense along with Chuck. They would stop on the road in the truck yelling “Hey Danny, make a move out there Danny” and I would feel obligated to do something athletic. Back then no one kept records, but I do recall recording the most amount of blocks in a league season in Euro. That summer I really started to feel like camp was becoming my second home and that the guys in my bunk could really end up being my friends for life. Being on Kutchin’s Blue Pride team that year was one of my favorite color wars and it was an amazing experience to play some sports in front of the whole camp. Ben Ullian still reminds me to this day how my putback in Junior B hoops was the greatest play in the history of sports he has ever seen.
2k12’s senior year at camp was the most important year for our group by far. Kutchin crafted the amazing idea of putting together 26 kids in one giant bunk to create one ruthless fire-hazard of a bunk. This bunk was crucial to our years development, because it allowed the 2 or 3 bunks that we normally had to clash and become friends. Luckily for us, there were not many issues and this assimilation went well. Never before had I bunked with the likes of Adam Green, J dawg, and Ben Shapiro. A full waiter years potential can never be seen until all the kids are in the same bunk. The big bunks are a gift to camp and help bring groups together for the better. Unfortunately, our waiter year, we got split into 2 of the big bunks, but we still remained close as a unit thanks to the previous year. This was the first year we had Josh Levy as our counselor. I remember feeling a little confused when I received the news that Shmumbles would be leading us in the Mess Hall, but all that changed when I stepped foot on the hillside once again. Our whole waiter staff was Levy, Dovev, Ben Slepian, and Danny Neiterman, but being shorthanded didn’t stop them from leading a great summer and I give them a lot of credit for that. Sure, Kaufman and I gave Levy a ton of crap and even stole his French flag a few times, but we did it out of love. That color war is still my favorite war today. Up until that point I had barely ever talked to Mike Blatt, but as soon as he was my captain he took it upon himself to know everyone and encourage us to do our best. If this isn’t what a good captain, or even leader should do then I don’t know what other qualities they should posses. The White Shiver ended up coming from behind and winning by a few points, and I swear to God it was because Jared Berson was screaming his face off during songs. Waiter and CI year are when you make your best memories at camp both on and off the field. When Levy came up to visit camp the other day we just sat in the amphitheater and went back and forth talking about all the funny things that happened during my final years as a camper.
CI summer our year was once again all together in a big bunk. We lost a few big names after waiter year, but we were back and ready to rule the hillside as the oldest campers. With Levy leading us again we knew we would have a fun year, even if it was at his expense half the time. Being a CI is great because you know that there will be many milestones that you experience. Playing as the older team in the CI waiter game, getting drafted in Army Navy Day, and playing in your last color war are guaranteed amazing memories. For me, each time something big happened CI year it had the same after effect. I would feel awesome playing or doing whatever it was, then I would immediately get sad that it was over, and then I would feel good again after knowing that I was lucky enough to have had that moment. Senior A Euro hit me the hardest. Being on Levy’s White Legion, we were determined to win and honestly thought we had a much better team. The game went by in an instant and it unbelievable to play in. Well, we ended up loosing by at least five goals and once the final whistle blew I fell down. Since Soph A year I had always watched CIs cry after A Euro, regardless of the outcome, and thought to myself I can’t wait until that is me. When the moment finally came I felt terrible. At first I felt miserable because we lost, but I soon realized that didn’t matter one bit. I realized I will never play Euro again, and staff Euro doesn’t even compare. I realized I was done being a camper, and the last six years ended here. I looked up and spotted Rosenberg, Jeremy Conn, and Jeremy Rubin thinking the exact same thing. We all walked over to the back road, sat down, and said nothing for five minutes, complete silence. Suddenly, someone started cracking up and we just burst out laughing. That’s the moment that I became aware you are never alone at camp. I got through that moment and the recognition that my camper days were over with all of my waiter year and that’s something that only camp can offer.
Before I start giving shout outs I just wanted to share a couple things I learned at camp. The first thing I learned is to never take anything too seriously. Obviously there are a few things you need to actually take seriously, but at camp it is at a minimum. Things won’t go your way and the longer you stay mad at it, the longer you will have a bad time. Camp is built around people constantly joking around and poking fun at just about everything. Another thing I learned, and that many people before me have shared, is that camp really is what you make of it. You’re not always going to get to play your favorite sport in league and you are going to have to do things you don’t want to do. Your attitude really goes a long way. Another way to think about it is that someone else on that field might not have that much time left to play that game. Do them a favor and play hard because one day you’ll be in that position and realize how much one game can matter.
To Eric, thank you for the opportunity you have given me to give back to camp and be a counselor. Our year is lucky enough to have started staff along with you, and I think you are doing a great job for camp. Joanna, you always manage to have a smile on your face no matter what you’re dealt with. You’ve been so vital to camp and I appreciate everything you have done. To Lutchen, its great to have you on the hillside once again and I can’t thank you enough for the position you’ve entrusted me with. Henry, you know this place better than anyone else and its made evident daily with what you do. I’m also convinced that if you ever left every building in camp would immediately collapse. To my brother Ben, I can’t thank you enough for finally convincing me to come. You were great to hangout with and show me everything even though you were always with older camp. We also dominated the brothers picture in 2010. To Schreiber, you’re just a great person to be around. It’s great that you found time to make it back this year, and camp couldn’t be more grateful. 2k14, you guys have started off with a great summer and I can’t wait to see what else you can do the following summers. To 2k13, although you lost some guys, your presence has been even bigger this summer and you will be great leaders of camp in the upcoming years. To the group above me, 2k11, I’ve gotten to know you guys the last couple summers and you all are extremely good leaders and role models. It’s been awesome working with your year and your humor never fails to disappoint. To Levy, there is no one else who could have been a better waiter and CI head for our year and me. You’re one of the funniest people I ever met and you brought us all closer together and that’s something that is invaluable. Lastly, to the 2k12 waiters: Harry, Rosenberg, Jeremy, Caplan, Dalpert, Shrier, Shapiro, Adam and Kaufman. You guys are some of my closest friends. I could go on for days about how much you all mean to me and all the memories we have together. There is no other group of people in the world that I can randomly text and immediately feel better in minutes. I have known most of you half my life and its incredible to know that I have friends for life in all of you. Our legacy will continue no matter what and I wouldn’t want to be here with any other group of people. Thank you and Shabbat shalom.”

If you are picking up your son tomorrow and are wondering about tipping, I know we say that $10/week/counselor is the standard, but for Mini Camp, I think it’s more in the $20/week/counselor range. Of course this is a personal choice; but since we’ve had inquiries from so many families, I thought I’d put it out there.

Finally, the entire camp joined together to make this video earlier in the week. Should your sons have a hard time explaining what camp’s all about, this pretty much sums it up. Enjoy!


YouTube video



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Stacy Pollack

Stacy writes our popular Dear Camp Mom blog and works year-round to ensure that Bauercrest creates memorable experiences for parents and campers alike. She also creates photo montages inspired by songs most of our campers have never heard before but make the parents very nostalgic.

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