Written by Andy Monfre, Camp Horseshoe • Summer 2007
Good Evening, my name is Andy Monfre. This is my second summer here at The Shoe. Unlike most of the other counselors that have spoken here before, I didn’t grow up at a summer camp; some may argue I still haven’t. Last year was my first year ever at a summer camp, and I think that gives me a unique perspective at which to explore just what it is camp does for kids. Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “To truly know how good it feels to be a Democrat, you must first have to have been a Republican.” I think the same can be said for summer camp. To truly know how great the camp experience is, you must first have had to go 21 years without it. What is it about these two months of summer that make me enjoy every minute of it? What is camp?
As I pondered this question during my Property Law class, the answer was literally thrown at me. It was my first day of law school and the professor was asking anyone in the class to define “Property.” All the “smart kids” shot their hands up to guess, but of course no one got it right. The professor explained that property is not things, objects, possessions, or money, but rather a “relationship among people as to things.”
I think the same thing can be said about camp; it cannot be defined as a place, a building, cabins, or a piece of land. Camp is about people and the friendships that develop over the years, and as I’ve shown, in as short as just one year. Have you ever returned to a place that had meant a lot to you in the past, but it simply wasn’t the same, sometimes even a little eerie? It’s because it isn’t the physical place that sends the positive pulses of memories through you, it’s the people you shared those memories with.
This is why it is almost irrelevant where Camp Horseshoe is. Jordan always says, “give a few good camp guys a parking lot and a tennis ball, and games and fun will surely follow.” Yes, we have great facilities, but I doubt the first thing out of your son’s mouth was “you should have seen the reinforced, adjustable basketball hoops!” Camp Horseshoe isn’t in Minong, Wisconsin anymore, and as Jordan may be surprised to find out, it’s not in Rhinelander, Wisconsin either. Horseshoe is sitting in front of me, behind me, and all over the country and the world.
I have to be honest; before I came to camp last year, I had no idea what a camp counselor did or how challenging the job can be. Before coming to camp I had ten theories on how to take care of kids; now I have 10 kids and no theories. The only way I can explain what I’ve learned is to share with you a poem I adapted from a poem by one of my favorite poets.
I was sitting around chatting with some law school buddies this past spring. We were discussing our upcoming summer and what employment opportunities we had found. When I mentioned I would be returning to a summer camp to work as a counselor, I heard one of the guys laugh under his breath. I asked what was so funny about it. He asked, “Be honest, what do you make doing that?” I took a deep breath and gave him an answer he probably wasn’t expecting. “What do I make?” I replied…
I make eight weeks feel like eight minutes
I make 200 new friends every summer
I make sure homesick kids will be camp-sick when they get home
I make kids walk with pride, and value who they are
I make sure kids hear about it, when they do something great
I make kids shoot a thousand shots so that when they take the one that counts…it goes in
I make kids ask the boy sitting on the side watching by himself to join the game, so they see the value of reaching out and including everybody
I make kids make their beds every morning and sometimes mine so they learn the importance of responsibility
I make kids wait in line for candy so they understand the frustration and value of patience
I make kids sit out of a game for bad sportsmanship so they learn that type of behavior isn’t accepted in a competitive environment
I make kids sit quietly during high council so they begin to understand what respect really means
I make kids who just got in a fight shake hands, so they realize that burned bridges don’t rebuild themselves
I make it to breakfast by 9 am even though I was out till 3 the night before
I make the sloppy joe look more appetizing by giving it an extra stir before I pass it around the table.
I make the canoe go straight, even though the kid in the front keeps his paddle on the right…the whole trip.
I make kids write home often, so I don’t get yelled at during visiting weekend
I make more memories in one summer than most do in a lifetime
I make sure kids make fun of life, and not of each other
It’s easy to make a buck, but it takes passion to make a difference
And that’s what I make. What do you make?”
I laugh now as I picture my buddy trying to fix a paper jam at a low-budget law firm.
As I finish up my last full summer at The Shoe, I try and remember that the path of life has many crossroads, and at each one it’s difficult to say goodbye and go our own separate ways, choosing the direction that is right for each of us. But the memory of being together will always remain, and there is always the chance that our paths will cross again.