By Matthew Kaufman
I was fortunate to begin my day camp career at Ramaquois as a four year old in 1984. I can clearly remember my first bus ride to camp, sitting next to my older sister. Stepping off of the bus, and into a new, strange world, there was no way I could comprehend how important that moment was for me. Ramaquois would become my summer home until this day.
My first summer at day camp was definitely a new experience for me. I had never had a “bunk” or a “cubby” before. My counselors sort of reminded me of my pre-school teachers, but they were… different somehow… I didn’t usually enjoy new things and I was slow to warm up to camp. From what my parents tell me, my counselors were very (infinitely) patient with me. When I needed a friend, a counselor was there. When I needed words of encouragement, they chimed in. When I was too shy to ask, they offered help.
I don’t remember the specific moment when things changed, but I know that at some point that summer, things just became different. I couldn’t wait for the bus to arrive in the morning. I dreaded the weekends. And on the last day of camp, I cried – just like the first day. I was hooked. Ramaquois was a part of my life.
I spent 11 summers as a camper at Ramaquois. I had no idea that those summers were just the beginning. I remained at camp for seven years as a counselor, five years a division leader and now I am lucky enough to be an assistant director working with the most unique and talented administrative team in the summer camp industry. I am one of the lucky people that truly enjoys going to work each and every day.
People often ask me why I love camp so much. I usually reply that Ramaquois is not a typical day camp. There is a palpable energy here – a spirit that permeates every activity, every acre, every camper and every staff member. Truly though, the real reason might be those vivid memories of my first summer at camp – the fear of the unknown that turned into love for a new home. My counselors did an amazing job making me feel comfortable and welcomed. Our group became a real family. Many of the boys in that group stayed at camp together, and we “graduated” from Ramaquois at the age of 15.
When I became a counselor, I was amazed to see my camp story repeated over and over again right before my eyes. Every summer, campers would step into a new, mysterious world. Each one came to Ramaquois with their own individual fears, hopes and expectations. Within a few days, the fears were always replaced with friends, and I had the privilege of watching children enjoy the same experience that I had as a camper. Many of them are now counselors, and the cycle repeats itself over and over.
It is this tradition that makes Ramaquois a unique day camp. And it is why this place is special for me, and so many others.