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Dear Chippies, Parents, Family and Friends,

It is hard to know what to say on this day- the 11th of August, 2022. By now you are all reunited with your campers, and hopefully hearing amazing stories of their summer experiences at #TheRanch2022. I imagine you felt all sorts of emotions as you embraced your daughters for the first time after four weeks. And that your homes feel more complete with your Chippies back in them. I am also confident that your campers were excited to see you- to receive a hug from their parents after a full month of independence definitely felt good. And for each of them to have the chance to decompress from this extraordinary but intense camp experience in their own unique way is so healthy and important. I know objectively that camp being only eight weeks long is what makes it so special. But life isn’t always objective, and right now, at 8258 County O, things are quiet, and honestly, things are sad.

The last day of camp is always challenging. And after many years of waving goodbye to buses full of crying campers, you might think that I would just get used to it. But that is not the case…it is possible that each year, it only gets harder. Maybe that’s because each summer truly seems to be the very best one ever, or it might be because I am getting older and more reflective, or possibly it’s because each summer I see new ways in which camp is so impactful on all of us, or it could be because seemingly each year, there are things I wish our campers could be protected from by living in our camp bubble all year round. It is likely a combination of all of the above, but regardless, the calm and quiet today is just not doing it for me!

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The Sari Diaries is typically a rundown of what we did during that day at camp, and I always do my best to give you the highlights. But today, there isn’t too much to tell…we woke up, we ate breakfast, we said, “Goodbye,” we hugged, we cried, and then we watched the buses pull away. It certainly did not feel like the best day of camp BUT the sadness of today is proof of how lucky we all are to have lived on Dam Lake for the last four or eight weeks. And so, instead of just ending this entry with that lame rundown, I am going to debrief the summer a little bit…after many nights of sharing the details of our day with you, today I am going to share what I think it all means and why it is all so meaningful…

As I looked on last night during the awards ceremony at banquet, I was in awe of our campers. Awards on banquet night are lengthy, and last night was a late one! Additionally, each activity only gives out three awards. What that means is that most of our campers were a part of a long and late awards ceremony in which they did not receive an activity award. But I was astounded at our campers…for each camper who was called up to be honored for their efforts and achievement at an activity, there were five to ten of her friends giving her a standing ovation, welcoming her back to her seat with hugs, and showing her genuine support. Sure, the campers who won the awards were visibly excited and smiling, but the incredible part was that the friends of that person every single time appeared to be just as proud. What I witnessed last night was further confirmation of something that I have always said to be true, and that I have always felt to be true. The connections we form with our camp friends are so deep and so authentic. And last night demonstrated to me that this happens much earlier in a camper’s Chippewa career than I think I realized. There were nine year-old campers under that tent last night who impressed me beyond belief…the love, compassion and joy that they showed toward and for one another was magical.

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So then I got to thinking…how does this happen and why does this happen so often and so powerfully at Chippewa? I believe that there is something about the physical space of Chippewa- its beauty, its serenity, its location…it cannot be beat, and when we drive through that gate and walk on the ground that is CRC, we get a certain feeling, we become a little lighter and we breath a little easier. But what I know and feel in my heart of hearts is that the staff at Chippewa is actually how & why the magic happens. They are the people who create a space, and foster an environment for our campers to let down their guard, to know they are safe and to be the best versions of themselves. And this allows our campers to form these profound bonds and connections. This is how campers feel at home so quickly at Chippewa, and how they know immediately that they are a part of a strong community- the Chippewa family. I feel so fortunate that we have the kind of staff culture that we do at CRC- that our counselors are so dedicated and committed to the Chippewa experience, and to our campers.

As human beings in the world we live in today, there is nothing more important than human connection. The feeling of belonging, and the confidence that you have your people is essential to our existence, to our happiness and to our success. And all those who experienced this summer at Chippewa have that in spades. They have their cabinmates who they worked together with, and lived alongside in “campy” conditions. They have their counselors who they look-up to, and who they leaned on all summer long for all sorts of things. They have their big or little sisters who they got to know all about in preparation for Big & Little Sister Night. They have the friends they made at activities- who they randomly ended up with on a sailboat or who they painted next to at painting. They also have their Tan & White teammates and sachems who they got to know during Realm and Songfest Practice and Capture. The list of potential connections that campers formed and built this summer could go on and on. But hopefully you are picking up what I am putting down…the opportunities to grow close with all sorts of Chippies throughout a summer are endless, and for that, we are unbelievably lucky!

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As we all attempt to acclimate back into life in the off-season at home, I hope that we will be mindful of the privilege we had this summer…to live with one another, to breath the Chippewa air, to dance like nobody was watching (even when everybody was watching), to jump in Dam Lake on a daily basis and to know the feeling of a camp friendship…that is privilege. No, it wasn’t all perfect- there were cabin arguments, days we didn’t feel like swimming, meals we didn’t love, nights we were tired and goals we didn’t quite achieve. But these imperfections in our summer, and our overcoming these hard moments, are what we needed in our safe camp space surrounded by our people. We needed these because we will remember these challenges when we face something similar at home. And we will recall how we navigated through, and how we leaned on our friends for support. My wish for our campers and staff over the next ten months is that they can live with the confidence they demonstrate at camp each and every day. It is that they continue to grow as young adults knowing that they have a home at CRC that will always be here for them. And that the connections that they have formed over the past eight weeks will help them to go into the “real world” and be SO CHIPPEWA…to share what we are and who we are with the world. And then, of course, that they show up back here in June of 2023 ready to rock it once again!

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I will end with one final thank you…a long one though:

Thank you all for reading this- for indulging me in my reflection of the very best summer in Chippewa’s history. Thank you for being a part of the Chippewa community in whatever way you are…Chippies, Parents, Family and Friends alike- thank you! And thank you to the staff of 2022…new staff, Ten Year Girls, CITs, admin…every single one of you made this summer what it was. Thank you for leading by example…I hope you feel proud and accomplished- you made a difference in our camp, in our campers and beyond. Finally, to the Chippewa campers…THANK YOU. You are funny, you are kind, you are curious, you are compassionate, you are brave, you are silly, you are strong, you are independent, you are nothing short of amazing. Thank you for spending your summer at CRC, for hanging out in the office, for dancing on Sophie’s Center Stage, for trying waterskiing for the first time, for IAing in archery, for cheering your hearts out in the Adler Lodge, for loving each other unconditionally, and most of all for being unapologetically YOU.

Happy Camping and Love,