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Dear Chippies, Parents, Family and Friends,

I am writing to you all for the final time from #TheRanch2023 and I find myself repeating the same words I have typed over and over this summer, especially in this last week. How did we get here? Way back in June I made a joke to some Lakeview campers that camp was basically over…it had barely begun but one of the things I have learned over the past thirty years is that time seems to move at the speed of light at 8258 County O. While I have joked about camp being over as soon as it starts for years, this summer really seemed to go faster than I remember, and more rapidly than I could have imagined (or would have liked). With that being said, despite the speed with which this summer flew, when I really take the time to reflect on our past eight weeks, I know that there were meaningful connections formed and strengthened, there was significant individual growth from Chippies young and old, there were momentous experiences that in the moment seemed both big & small, and there were core memories created that will without question last a lifetime. So I am left feeling saddened that this phenomenal…dare I say the very best…summer is behind us, but I am also feeling incredibly grateful, proud and inspired by all that has transpired on these hallowed grounds throughout the summer of 2023.

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And so as I sit at my desk with a pit in my stomach missing the constant camper traffic that is typically swirling through the office, and wishing I could hear the happy screams of campers out my window from across camp, I want to take a moment to really dig into the connection piece of this summer and of the Chippewa community…after all, 2023 was absolutely the summer of connection for us.

Yesterday we ate our final meal in the Adler Lodge, and as Sophie, Lisa and I sat at our table in the center of the room, we couldn’t stop watching Lakeview. They were singing a song at the top of their lungs with ginormous smiles on their faces, and were looking at one another seemingly knowingly. Knowing how special it is that they have a place where they can feel so uninhibited to be their authentic selves. And knowing how unique it is that they have a genuine bond with the thirty two girls and four counselors they shared a cabin with this summer. And not just a typical friendship-like bond…this bond knows no boundaries…through thick and thin, the good times and the bad times, the highs and the lows, literally no matter what, these girls have each other…and they know it. This is connection at CRC- this is what it feels like to be a part of this community and this sisterhood…and it’s forever. As we watched these girls in action, soaking in their last hours as campers at their favorite place in the world, at first I felt a twinge of dread…I felt so sad that these truly amazing young women who have been outstanding role models, demonstrated immense kindness and created a fantastic energy for our campers all summer long, were going back to the “real world” of teenage life…we all know what that can mean for some kids, and in that moment, I didn’t want them to have to return to the challenges that present themselves outside the gates of CRC. But I was quickly reminded that they are ready for those challenges because they’ve got each other. And it’s so true- this group of girls is silly, they are Chippewa weird (I mean that as the highest compliment), they are loud, they are confident and they have a strong moral compass- and they know that no matter what, they have their summer home and they have their summer sisters.

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For each age group at camp this looks a little bit different- of course our eight year-old first year campers are still building these kinds of camp friendships. And even for our 39 fourteen year-olds, who came together beautifully in Trailriders, the dynamic isn’t the exact same. But no matter the age or the number of years spent at camp, each Chippy (both past and current) has this safety net- a safe space at CRC and a safe community full of people who care about her unconditionally. And this is one of the big things I hope #TheRanch2023 campers take away from this summer- that no matter where life takes them (though we hope it’s Chippewa for many years to come), there is a connection that is lifelong once you spend a summer here. Anytime a Chippy needs to be re-centered, re-charged or built-up, they will always have Chippewa to fall back on…a community of people who love and support them no matter what. I hope that our campers go out into the world with a certain confidence in knowing this…that they can take some risks just like they do at camp, they can face some challenges just like they do at camp, they can go out of their way to make a new friend just like they do at camp, and they can be their truest selves just like they are at camp…they can do all of this even when they are not at camp- because they have camp.

And in return, as we talk about consistently around here, there is a responsibility in being a part of this extraordinary community. That responsibility is to take care of the others in this community- and it is not a responsibility we take lightly. To know another Chippy is to care for them…and this is essential…this is how the safety net of Chippewa can function…it’s the only way it can function. We are all connected to one another, we can all count on one another and we will all be there for one another…Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall :).

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So those are my thoughts and those are my feelings. I am beyond grateful for each and every moment of the summer of 2023…for the obvious accomplishments, for the small but significant daily interactions and even for the obstacles that sometimes popped up. And I am grateful for the people. The staff of 2023 was outstanding- they fostered an environment of love, support, kindness, accountability and structure for their campers. I say it all the time but we are fortunate beyond words to have such a committed, loyal and compassionate staff team…it is so unique and we are so appreciative! As for the campers of 2023, they blew me away…their energy knew no bounds, their love for CRC was exceptional, and the genuine care that they shared with others in this community was remarkable. And I mean this…like for real…some of what I witnessed this summer (without campers knowing I was watching) was heart-warming and inspirational…I believe that this camp was filled with some of the kindest humans on this Earth.

Now it’s time to look ahead as our connection with Chippewa and the Chippewa community is evolving…not breaking, just changing. My wish for the Chippies of 2023 is this…I wish for each and every one of you to know how strong and capable you are- that you can do hard things, achieve greatness and make a difference in the world around you…I wish for each and every one of you to have the confidence to know you matter, to be yourself, and to take care of yourself & others…I wish for each and every one of you to throughout your “off-season” find the inner peace and happiness that certain moments at camp have made you feel…and I wish for each and every one of you to remember that you are connected to one another, and that you are a part of something important- the Chippewa community.

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Thank you all for reading- for allowing me the opportunity to take some time each night to reflect on all of the goodness that materializes constantly on Dam Lake…each night I love looking back at photos and recalling just how special our moments at Chippewa are. I hope you have a fantastic year ahead…please keep in touch, and remind your campers to do the same. That’s all for now- thank you, #TheRanch2023!

Happy Camping and Love,