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Dear Chippies, Parents, Family and Friends,

How did we get here? How did we get to Pony Express? And how did we get to Request Night? It’s weird because the first day of camp feels like it was years ago, and yet this summer feels like it flew by in a second…how can both of those things be true? That is one of the great mysteries of life but especially of summer…each second feels like an hour, each hour feels like a day, each day feels like a week and each week feels like a year. So much happens within a summer at CRC but it goes by in a flash…it is insanity!

This morning felt kind of normal- I did a Chippy one-miler, I jumped in the lake with Avery K and Emma H, we had breakfast, we had a morning full of activities, I got to walk around with the camera- got some good action shots, and I even I tried out the high ropes course with Julia P, Ava M, Samantha D and Skylar C. At skiing, the achievements continued…Ava M got up and around on two skis, Riley L, Maddie Z and Skylar C crossed the wakes on two skis, Haddie I lifted a ski for ten seconds, Logan W dropped a ski and stayed up on one for ten seconds and Willow K crossed the wakes on one ski. All across camp, the typical camp stuff was happening and it felt good!

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The normal-ness of the day changed though when morning activities concluded. We had an amazing Pony Express practice to prepare for the afternoon…campers were excited to learn who they were running against, and how the relay would map out. When lunch began, Sophie, Lila, Sam and I headed to Watermelon Island to hide the Pony Express greasy watermelons. This is one of my favorite annual traditions- it is always fun to witness the neutrals planning the hiding spots of each watermelon…the strategy of figuring out if they should hide them together or if they are better in different but similarly challenging spots…it is taken very seriously and I appreciate that. After the hiding was complete, we rushed back to the Adler Lodge for the final Tan & White cheering of the summer. The lodge was rocking….nearly shaking due to the noise created by the Tans & Whites today…it was crazy!

And then Pony Express began…the relay that includes each and every member of the Tan & White teams…the Tan & White game that completes the summer…the famous one where after every Tan and every White has either run between events or participated in an event, the Grand & Chief Sachems canoe to Watermelon Island as the entire camp cheers them on from the beach. It was an epic Pony Express with a ton of back and forth. A couple of highlights include Raquel W hitting six free-throws in a row, Scarlett C climbing the wall soooo quickly, Sadie Gr building a fire incredibly fast, Lily A & Stephanie S eating a pie like it was going out of style and Amelia E doing the very last run of the race from Flutter Kick to the Sachems Canoeing. In the end, Avery & Hope (Tan Sachems) found their watermelon first and made it back to camp just a couple of minutes before Julia & Sadie (White Sachems). The smiles on all of their faces though as they brought the baton and watermelon across the finish line was like no other- there was genuine elation plastered across their faces and the hugs that ensued were just so real and full of pure love. These four sachems did a fantastic job of leading by example this summer…they played their hearts out in every single game- they were competitive and they clearly wanted to win. But they also enjoyed every second of it- they had actual fun…and they didn’t let the competition get in the way of the experience…it was part of the experience. Kudos and thank-you to these girls! As for Sam & Lila- as I told them this evening, they ran a flawless program all summer long. They were thoughtful in their planning, in their execution, and in their follow-through. They ensured that one of our most coveted and popular traditions continued to provide the Chippewa community with a summer-long competition full of spirit that we crave all year long. For those peeps out there wondering about who won the summer, it was crazy close…the Tans won the summer with 1,666 points and the Whites were a very close second with 1,575!

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After the entire Tan Team plus the Honor Cabins (Boots & Bowed Legs) returned from Cathy’s, we enjoyed a BBQ dinner before preparing for my very favorite evening program…Request Night. Request Night has been a second to last night tradition since 1979 (I believe). It is a night that is a legitimate emotional roller coaster…it goes from high energy to serious energy to dare I say sad energy…but it is an incredibly meaningful night. The program began with requests…campers and staff had the opportunity to request others to get on stage and perform fan favorites. The performances vary, but tonight there was one common thread- each person or group who got up on stage reminded all of us at #TheRanch2023 just how special and impactful the Chippewa experience is.

As Timber Walk was on stage re-living their lip sync from second session, I couldn’t help but smile at the variety of personalities on that stage unified as one. There are clearly some legit dancers in that cabin but there are definitely others who reserve dancing solely for Sophie’s Center Stage. Regardless of their talent, and honestly interest in dancing, every single one of them was dancing their heart out…literally without a care in the world…feeling connected to one another. And I am confident that if and when those girls hear that song when they are home, or likely any time in the next twenty years, they will do this dance (at least in their heads) and smile at this memory and the feeling of togetherness that they feel through this song.

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And when first session Rafter^X from 2022 got on stage to perform their lip sync, I kind of chuckled to myself. This group of nine year-olds has grown so much over this last year. Last summer they were the babies of camp- the youngest cabin in camp and I have a vivid memory of them on stage in their animal onesies giggling and dancing (kind of in unison). This summer though, even though they are still quite young in this camp world of ours, they spent time helping this year’s Rafter campers find their way. And when they were on that stage tonight, they basically looked like old-school Chippies…they were so excited to show off their dance that they performed sooooo long ago (aka in 2022). It was adorable and it was so camp!

Julia H was then requested to sing “Shallow.” She really wasn’t sure at first what the request was all about. But then she was reminded of the show that she put on in the storm shelter just a few weeks ago. I wasn’t in her shelter but I guess in order to get the campers’ minds off of the storm, she started a singalong…but it really turned into her showing off her unknown singing talents. When she was up there on stage tonight, it was amazing to see her really get into it…and equally as amazing were the campers screaming their heads off to cheer her on for this new-found skill…one that proved to help campers through a challenging time…and one that was clearly quite memorable to them!

Lily R gave us a replay of her “Cotton Eyed Joe” dance and Mackenzie A beautifully sang “Cups.” These have become staples…signatures for these two campers. That can happen sometimes at camp…skits, dances and songs can take on a life of their own…help campers form their unique camp identity. There are tons of examples of things like this throughout Chippewa history, but currently, these are two of our favorites!

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Bowed Legs 2022 and Blackfoot 2022 both got on stage to reunite and lip sync…and the thing I really, really love about this is the way they so eagerly called their last summer counselors up on stage to join them. This was the summer of connection and these two dances were reminders that every individual at Chippewa has their own Chippy network…they are creating and expanding their web of relationships every summer…their cabinmates, their counselors, the campers & counselors at their activities and their big/little sisters are just some of the ways Chippies are connecting with one another each summer.

After these requests and various others that were entertaining and heart-warming, we sang “I Was Here In” and “No More Saddles.” Sadie So, Sydney L and Julia P then sat on stage to share their Camper Farewells. These three Lakeview campers were selected to represent the entire camper population to bid #TheRanch2023 farewell. Each of them wrote a letter to their first summer selves from their current self. They identified a compass characteristic that their Chippewa experience has helped them develop, and described what it means to them, and how it has impacted their lives. These farewells were outstanding- they were articulate and introspective, and they really tugged at my heart-strings! The camper farewell was followed by Samantha Graines sharing her staff farewell. She talked about the mosaic of her camp experience…about how the relationships that she developed create the mosaic of who she is as a counselor, and as a person. This was one of the most unique farewell speeches I have ever listened to- it really got me thinking about what an extraordinary community Chippewa is…about the generations of Chippies who are connected through various people’s mosaics…that my camp experience is intertwined with that of my counselors’ counselors, and that our first year campers will one day connect me to Chippies who may not even be born yet.

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Following the amazing farewells, we watched the Request Night Video! This video, created by Cliff, is a recap of the summer…from pre-camp through today’s Pony Express finale. While every summer the content of the video changes, the songs within the Request Night Video have remained the same for a loooooooong time. From “Happy Endings” and “Changes” to “Danny’s Song” and “Goodbye Again,” there are some real tear-jerkers that serve as the soundtrack of our summer. The video included exciting moments from the summer such as the buses rolling in and Egg Marathon. But it also included some “between the bricks moments.” There was footage of campers on Main Street- playing teatherball, gaga, and just hanging out living the Chippewa life. And what my final realization was tonight…well it’s actually something I have known but it’s something that I was happy to be reminded of…is that there are no small moments at camp- be it crossing the center line with the flag during Capture the Flag or shaking Cliff’s hand after your cabin gets a 100 on cabin clean-up or playing four square before evening program begins, everything matters here…each interaction and each experience is a building block that helps mold us into the humans we are becoming.

So here I am, at my desk as midnight is quickly approaching…I truly cannot believe that tomorrow is the last day of camp. Tomorrow is the final day that this exact group of Chippies as a cohesive unit will call these grounds home. I do not know where the time has gone, or how we got here but I am certainly grateful for these magnificent eight weeks at this special place with these incredible people. So with barely more than twenty-four hours to soak it all in, here we go- the final leg of #TheRanch2023 is upon us…the next time I write to all of you this magical summer will be in the rearview…gulp! Thanks for reading and have a good night.

Happy Camping and Love,