North Star Camp for Boys

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Great & Glorious North Star Party!

Happy Sunday! And it always is a happy day - because as always, Sundays come with a Half Hour Later (capital letters well deserved in the campers’ eyes) start to the days. We’ve had so many wonderfully hot days up here this summer, it was actually nice to break out the sweatpants and sweatshirts for a cooler morning today. Finally had a chance to try out the new flannel gear we ordered this year!

Today, as you most likely know, we wrapped up our last round of parent phone calls for the summer. Thank you so much for your flexibility and patience as we planned out the call schedule. A real tip of the hat to our office staff for managing all the logistics of getting hundreds of calls out like that when so many are time dependent. As I’m sure you’ve realized, I was pretty nervous about these phone calls, but it was so great to see the smiling faces on the way in and out.

And as far as calls go, if you would like to talk with your son about Fall Camp, please let us know so we can get that call set up in the next few days as well. Our office staff certainly are already warmed up for it I would say! For as much as the campers are having a blast at North Star, we also recognize that the thought of giving you a hug in less than two weeks is extremely exciting too. And with the schooling situations so in flux right now, we realize so very much is in the air for what might be the right decisions for you and your kids - so by all means let us know if another call to hash out those kinds of choices makes sense for you.

But while the outside world might be in flux, here in the Northwoods it is full steam ahead, as tonight was our annual North Star Elections for camper president and vice president of the Great and Glorious North Star Party. (Think like a class president, but you know, instead of lobbying for more recess at school, it’s lobbying for more cabin pizza parties.) Eight separate President-Vice President pairs spanning all our villages ran for the nomination, complete with the goofy spectacle of a debate last night and the hard hitting punditry the people deserve: live reaction “tweets,” a real time “press box”, questions from the audience, and a Wolf Blitzer impersonation, naturally. And I’m happy to announce that with all precincts reporting, no hanging chads or recounts, we have a new administration for the 2020 summer! Ollie Katz and Cameron Beltzman of our eldest cabin, Pine Manor are the new camper President and Vice President of the Great and Glorious North Star Party! As is custom, winners were inaugurated by being tossed in the lake in celebration.

I for one look forward to hearing their proposals on candy selection. Democracy in action!

Today’s Grace:
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”
                         -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Be seated.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Rainbow Warriors

At our Friday Night service tonight, our ecology project head Reese gave the sermonette and spoke of the Lakota tribe. In the Lakota tradition, they speak of a period of darkness for the environment. But that ultimately, a coalition of people will save our planet, and be stewards of the environment - in their legends, they are called the “Rainbow Warriors.”

For all the talk of bear protocols, sometimes we need to take a step back and appreciate just what a natural paradise we live in up here in the Northwoods. To have these kinds of flora and fauna is such a treat for a bunch of campers, staff members predominantly hailing from urban and suburban home environments. It’s a big part of why we have campfires every week, why we send cabins off on canoe trips, and why we spend as much time outdoors as possible. And this week, it was the theme of our Friday Night Service: The Environment.

In a given summer, we only have so many weeks for Friday Night Service, and there are just such a huge amount of worthy themes out there, that of course we can only get to so many of them each year. But one that has a permanent spot every year, is our Environment service.

The land that North Star is built on, and all of the region actually, was home to the American Indian tribe of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe. And many still live on reservations and in the surrounding towns up here. As such, our Environment service in many ways is also intended to pay homage to the American Indian stewards of this land; those who’ve traditionally had a much more symbiotic relationship with the land than our own Western cultures.

It’s important for us at North Star to instill in our campers not just a sense of fellowship, of fun, and of community, but also a sense of respect and responsibility for the care of our environment. Because as we run around in the ball fields, or play disc golf, or compete in College Days (which, by the way, the College of Staten Island Dolphins team officially was announced as the winners today!), it’s all only made possible by this pristine slice nature up here in the Northwoods. And what better place for kids to be appreciating that than in a beautiful place like the Council Ring. As Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods wrote, “Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.” May we all help raise a few more Rainbow Warriors.

Today’s Grace:
“He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, he is a fool - shun him;
He who knows not, and knows he knows not, he is simple - teach him;
He who knows, and knows not he knows, he is asleep - wake him
He who knows, and knows he knows, he is wise - follow him.”
- Anonymous

Be seated.

Friday, July 31, 2020

College Days Dancing & Singing

Da Bears

When you receive a letter home talking about how your son saw a bear, or they start telling a story when they get home about how there were bears walking around camp, that’s because it’s true. The black bears that we have up here in the Northwoods of Wisconsin generally want nothing to do with people. They’re just loitering around looking for food and in search of sweet smells. So while they are generally harmless and actually pretty cute to look at, we’d prefer they stay away. The presence of bears prompted us to ask again for candy, food, and Crystal Light packets that the boys had in the cabins, and lo and behold, a fair bit was quickly turned in.

Since we can safely assume that our boys weren’t doing a lot of grocery shopping on their own prior to camp, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you as parents that we ask for your partnership in supporting our camp policies and help set our staff up for success. Our counselors work very hard to take great care of your kids and confiscating their contraband is neither something that they enjoy doing nor is it something that helps facilitate a strong relationship with your son.
The bear may have walked in tonight because of the delicious smells coming from the College Days cookoff. The final event each year of the 3-day College Days is a campfire cooking competition that has each team create an appetizer, entree and dessert to be judged by a panel of culinary experts. Apparently the scores were so close going into this evening that the outcome of College Days may rest on the winner of the cooking competition. Today the senior boys participated in football, leg wrestling, an outdoor skills race, tennis, floor hockey, tug-of-war, cheer writing, plaque making and created their own human mascots. It was a great final day of what has been an action-packed and fun series of events.

While the seniors have caught up in College Days, the Juniors and Intermediates have seen their trip schedules go into full swing. I-3 returned today from their canoe trip on the Lower Flambeau River. We have 4 more trips returning tomorrow: J-4 from the Nam/St. Croix, J-6 from the St. Croix, I-5 from the Lower Flam and I-6 from the Superior Hiking Trail. Tomorrow we will see cabins S-3 and S-4 take off on their hiking trips as well.

Today’s Grace:
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
        - Dalai Lama

Be seated.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

It's The Big Ten

It might could is! Last night, we celebrated Ross Krantz, Oliver Borstein, Noah Byck, and Jared Marcus with their Big Ten ceremony. This is for members of the North Star community who are here for their tenth summer! All four of these boys started as campers in the J-Village, and are now incredible counselors.

Right in the middle of Open Mic Monday, one of our white vans drove up with staff dressed in funny costumes to give the big reveal. The first time the van drove around, the staff popped out blowing whistles and running between tables. They unscrolled a poster that said “It might could is...Open Mic Monday!” and ran back into the van after fooling us all. They waited around five minutes to play yet another prank, and it wasn’t until the third time they drove around and hopped out of the car that they revealed that last night was the Big Ten. Each of the four boys were called to sit in chairs next to each other on the J3 porch, and some of their closest camp friends told funny stories about trips or nights off from past summers. While marble cake was passed out to everyone at camp, we watched pre-recorded messages from family and friends of the four boys who couldn’t physically be here to celebrate with us.

Today was a big day at camp. The J-Village went to Cornucopia Beach on Lake Superior for a fun day of swimming and beach games. They had lunch and cooked out dinner before heading back to camp for the evening. I3 and I6 headed out for their 3-day hiking trips, while the rest of the I-Village stayed back for a relaxing Cruiser Day, and the S-Village had their first day of College Days. This is a 3-day program where the oldest boys at camp play competitive games against one another. This year, the four college teams are The University of Puerto Rico Tarzans, The Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves, The College of Staten Island Dolphins, and The Knox College Prairie Fire. Scores are extremely close between teams at the moment...we will have to see who is in the lead by tomorrow night!

Lately on Cruiser Days, cabins have asked to take a pontoon boat to Butternut Island, just a short ride from camp property, to do their evening cookouts. Tonight, I2 had their turn! No matter the location, all campers made pita pizzas over the fire for dinner - these are always a huge hit. We can’t believe there is only one more Cruiser Day of the summer, but we will continue to make the most of every precious moment up here. The boys know that the peace of mind at camp and the beautiful nature we live in are not to be taken for granted. We’re looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Return of Pine Manor

A typical Sunday means there’s one thing that everyone’s always excited about…30 extra minutes to sleep in the morning! We give it to the campers every Sunday, but each Saturday night the chants will begin “Half Hour Later! Half Hour Later!” to coax us into “granting” them the extra sleep (as if we wouldn’t necessarily be doing it anyway.) Well, once again, their cheering won the day, and it turned out especially well timed today as we had a few drizzles this morning that we thankfully got to sleep through most of.  

What the rain did mean was one of the few times we’ve eaten a meal inside this summer. Due to Covid-19 concerns of course, all our meals this year are outside: with each cabin’s picnic table separated from each other, each cabin coming one at a time for handwashing and being served food, and each camper’s mask on everywhere but their own table. And not that the rain was a welcome start to the morning, but it was indeed nice to see our bad-whether meal protocols working so smoothly for breakfast. Keeping the lodge only half full at a time to maintain distancing, half the camp at in a first shift, and half the camp ate in a second shift - sanitizing tables down between them. Each cabin stays dry before coming up to the lodge to wash hands and then being called up individually to pick up food to maintain distance. The kitchen staff truly has been nothing short of amazing in executing these protocols, because for how much extra work it takes to make indoor meals appropriate for social distancing procedures, even with a half hour later start to the day, our activity periods started right on time today after breakfast. And they deserve a ton of credit for helping keep our bubble as safe as it’s been this summer.

And that seems a good place to post this study that came out this week from the University of New South Wales in Australia that I thought I would share with you all. Or more precisely, a video from it, which I’ve found to be a great (and succinct - at 1 minute 49 seconds) visualization of the importance of masks - here at camp and everywhere:

For me, it’s certainly impactful to see how even talking, not just sneezing and coughing, can spread droplets and aerosol without face covering - and conversely how very effective face coverings are! And it’s affirming to know we’re doing all we can for our kids seeing studies like this to maintain our bubble.

And to that point, we did indeed have some people rejoining our bubble this week after spending 10 days in their own isolation out in the wilderness (though of course we still checked all their temperatures coming back in!). I mentioned how on a typical Sunday we look forward to a little extra sleep...Well this Sunday we had something else to look forward to: the return of our eldest campers, Pine Manor from their trek in the Boundary Waters on the Minnesota-Ontario border. We were overjoyed to have them back from this capstone experience after years of cabin trips leading up to it. Tired, with some trail dirt still on them, and certainly some rather ripe clothing to be sent to the wash - but with a belly full of celebratory pizza - they showed up just in time for the rest of camp eating dinner.  And then, naturally, they promptly headed off for a well deserved rest. Just kidding. They instead led the entire camp in cheers for the next 15 minutes straight! Whooping and hollering like men who came out of the woods deserve.

It’s tremendous to have them back safe and sound in our bubble. And it’s equally tremendous to have their personalities, their leadership, and their enthusiasm back at camp once again - really driving the energy of the camper population. It’s a great group of kids, and we’re all the better for their return. Good to have everyone back together again!

Today’s Grace:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Be seated. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Why we’re still in pods and masking

One of the biggest questions that we are still hearing is why are we still in pods and why are we still wearing masks. Everyone has tested negative twice at camp and at least once beforehand and we are in a well contained bubble here on camp property. While I love that we are largely able to shelter the campers and staff alike from the news of the outside world, I continue to read the stories of outbreaks and record numbers around the country. And as I do my best to keep tabs on the latest news and science, I am reminded the importance of not only continuing to always prioritize the health and safety of the boys, but also that we are working to prepare our community for life after camp as well.

While we continue to have no cases of Covid-19 at camp, we are neither metaphorically nor literally out of the woods yet. By continuing to mask and distance, carry on our sanitation protocols, and remain in village pods, we are taking the steps necessary to limit the transmission of Covid-19 should it find a way into camp. There are food deliveries, too many packages, camping trips and even a few trips to the clinics and hospitals. While we have strong protocols in place to mitigate the risk in these instances, mitigation is not elimination. Though we’d love to play a game of All-Camp Capture the Flag instead of by village or let the whole staff play a big game of Speedball, I know that if Covid were to sneak into camp somehow I would be grateful that we continued to take steps to stop it from spreading.

One of the most impactful moments of the summer continues to be when one of the 12-year-old boys asked me in front of camp when the world would go back to normal. I didn’t know the answer then and I still don’t know it now. But I do know that our boys are going to go home at the end of the summer to a world that looks different. If they go to a store, a restaurant, or even if they have some in-person schooling, they’re going to be wearing masks. They’re going to be going into a world with re-opening plans, gating protocols, and two-week quarantines every time somebody in their class, their school, or on their team tests positive for Covid-19. While I’d love for everything just to be “normal” here at camp, there are 70,000 reminders a day now that life is not normal outside of our bubble and I am grateful for the sense of normalcy that we can still provide, even with pods and masks.

And man are we still having fun! Today we had  Challenge Games during their last period of the day, where one cabin challenges another cabin within their village to a camp activity. This could be anything from water volleyball to dodgeball to tennis to basketball and anything in between. Today, the J-Village took over the field house and the cabins took turns playing basketball against one another, while the I-Village took over the ball field to play a few games of tennis baseball simultaneously, gaga and 9-square-in-the-air. S2 challenged S4 to a game of basketball on our outdoor court and S1 challenged S3 to competitive sailing, which was perfect with today’s wind. I can’t think of a better way for the boys to adjust to whatever the new normal might look like.

Today’s Grace:

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

                            -Winston Churchill

Be seated.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Learning from Our Mistakes

Tonight, once again, was our weekly Friday Night Service.  And perhaps all the more appropriate given the amount of tumult in the world outside our bubble at North Star, the theme of the evening was learning and growing from mistakes and failures. Or more succinctly titled on our packets tonight: “Mistakes are Opportunities to Learn.” Jared Marcus gave a fantastic sermonette about failing the right way and growing at each turn, and spoke to his own mistakes here at camp and at home that have led to new passions and new successes.

This is actually one of my favorite services of the summer, because what better place than summer camp is there to make mistakes? Try a new sport you’ve never tried before, miss the archery target 10 times before finally getting it, spend all summer signing up for climbing trying to get to the top of the challenge wall, finally getting up on water-skis after falling over and over again.  It’s a pretty rare place in life to get to try, and fail, at so many new things: socially, physically, athletically, an environment free from the judgments or eyebrow raises of the outside world.  

Today wrapped up our last day of the current series of campers’ activity picks before they move on to trying a different set of projects tomorrow.  That last day is always filled with the sounds of campers striving to reach personal milestones via our Objective Based Programming I mentioned in our last post.  It’s really the culmination of the activities and games and skills through the 3 days on a project.  But whether they hit all the targets they need to move up a level in riflery, finish the rocket they were building, get a handle on fielding ground balls or not, the joy is in the trying and growing.  Or hey, sometimes just in the goofy fun!

So before moving on to our next round of picks, it was nice to close out the week with this message tonight.  Try something new.  Fall on your face.  Laugh it off.  Get up and try it again.  And we couldn’t have picked a better night: a beautiful sunset, perfect whether, a nice breeze off the lake through the trees at the Council Ring.  If there’s a bubble to be in while the world learns from mistakes around us, we sure could do worse than this one!  

I for one can’t wait for the next week of successes, failures, growth - and most of all fun - up here in the North Woods.

Today’s Grace:

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.

- Vince Lombardi

Be seated.

Hot fun in the summertime

It’s been nothing short of a great week here in the North Woods.  We’re right in the middle of our new activity picks now and “Regularly Scheduled Program” never sounded so good!  Everything still feels so fresh, for both the campers and the counselors, because really it’s only our second set of activity picks since the quarantine phase ended. This allows the kids to really dive into their individual choices.  To hear the cheers and laughs around camp from waterskiing, climbing, tennis, name as good a soundtrack as you could want for a summer.  It’s just great to see camp look so normal during what are very not normal times.

Our regular program also means the boys can work towards their goals through our Objective Based Programming. At every project area, each boy has at least one goal that they are working towards as part of our curriculum. Introductory goals include learning the safety rules and the procedures of the program. Then from there the boys learn the first steps of the activity like how to hold the bow and arrow or how to get up on skis. From there they work towards more advanced skills and techniques. This works great at the traditional sports as well where the boys will have different objectives for the different skillsets. At basketball, for example, the boys will have shooting, dribbling, passing and defense objectives. At each activity the boys will know exactly what the next objective is that they are working on. This keeps them motivated to improve and grow individually, without using competition against other campers as the motivation. 

But normal days always leave fun for goofy nights of course.  With last night being our first ever PetCo night.  Which was about as goofy as it gets.  If you’ve ever seen a dog show, well, we’ll do you one better.  Pet Rock Show!  (And you thought Fido can sit and stay?)  Each cabin, designed, named, decorated, made a backstory for - and ultimately presented their Pet Rocks to the camp.  Think a cabin mascot if you will.  But, you know, a mascot that doubles as a paper weight.  It was goofy.  It was silly.  It was camp.  

And tonight, the campers are excited for breaking out a classic for the first time this summer, which again, now feels fresh after the quarantine wait: Capture the Flag! By Village of course to maintain our village pods.  Can you really call a summer summer without a game of Capture the Flag?  Great to have it back!

Today’s Grace:
“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
-Vince Lombardi

Be seated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Cruiser Day Shenanigans

It’s Tuesday, so you already know what that means...Cruiser Day! The I-Village was gone at Hayward Beach for half the day, so every cabin who had an in-camp Cruiser Day got their top picks for activities. With a few extra donuts leftover from this morning’s breakfast, we decided to add an activity to today’s agenda that we knew the boys would love. We attached string to glazed donuts, and while a counselor held the string to the dangling donut, the camper had to eat it without using his hands. We made sure to time the boys as they took turns eating the donuts - the camper record was 2 minutes and 15 seconds, and the counselor record was 55 seconds. It’s much harder than it looks!  

Another unique activity offered today was making Oreo balls. The cabins were provided with the ingredients to make the balls, and a staff member put them in the freezer to harden. Just in case that wasn’t enough sugar for them, cabins participated in Musky Fun, where they walked to the Kim McCormick Discovery Center and had to complete a task before receiving candy and soda as a reward. The Senior boys had to make a 21-person pyramid! Even with damp wood from the rain this morning, the boys were able to get their fires roaring for their dinner campfire cookout. 

Lately, we have had a lot of parents wondering if they can send gifts or snacks to our staff as a token of appreciation for their hard work this summer. Although we are so flattered that you want to go above and beyond for our staff, we cannot accept food shipped to camp for Covid-related reasons. We plan to put together a special gift for every staff member to give to them at the end of the summer, so if you are looking for a way to thank our staff, we will accept up to $50 per family to contribute to the end-of-summer gift. If you would like to donate, you can do so through any format that we accept your normal camp payments. 

If you are feeling particularly generous and would like to make a contribution over $50, we ask that any extra money is donated to The Camp For All Kids Foundation at  Hit the “Donate” button in the top right corner and click “Donate Now,” where you can specify that you would like your contribution to be made towards “Camp North Star Fund.” This money will help future campers who face financial hardships make it to North Star next summer.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Fun of Normal

In most summers, settling into a routine is something that happens pretty quickly.  Don’t get me wrong, every day has something new and exciting!  But after all the modifications for Covid-19, even I didn’t realize how much fun it would feel to have a full first round of normal activity days. And it has been just such a great few days: from project periods, to organized free periods, to cabins heading out on camping trips (S-1 and S-2 departed this morning for the Superior Hiking Trail!) and - now that our pods are opened up to villages - really diving into our Green-White games.

Each village had the chance to continue earning Green vs. White points for their teams this afternoon. The J-Village was up on the tennis courts playing dodgeball, curtain ball, and ultimate frisbee, and some boys played chess. The I-Village played 9-square, gaga, nukem, and basketball, while the S-Village played baseball on the ball field. The beautiful breeze we had today made playing games under the sun that much more pleasant. 

And as a further bonus to this new normal - now that we are back to a typical schedule - mail is back at the Wanegan window! Where one camper from each cabin can go pick it up at the beginning of Organized Free. Please note that the only permissible packages are reading materials such as books, magazines or newspapers. The boys really have everything that they need here.

Like every mail day, we made sure to pass out Wanegan to all campers this evening after they picked their activity preferences for the coming week. Don’t worry - we have more than enough candy options to get your boys all sugared up! It does help keep them running well for these days of fun under the sun. 

Today’s Grace:
There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.”
-Gov. Edward Wallis Hoch

Be seated.

The Canadian Departs & Individual Activities Return!

This morning began with pancakes and bacon, and I was struck by how quiet it was. It wasn't because the kids were still waking up from their "half hour later" of sleep; it was because our oldest campers, Pine Manor, were absent. Yesterday, the 24 men of Pine and Manor made the drive up to the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota to begin the camping trip of a lifetime - a 9 day, 8 night canoe and portage trip in the wilderness. It is the culmination of years of cabin trips that begins in J-1 with an overnight trip down the Namekagon River and gets progressively harder and longer each summer as the campers make their way up to Pine Manor. Typically, this trip occurs on the Canadian side of the Boundary Waters, and is reverently known as “The Canadian,” but due to COVID-19 and the border currently being closed, our amazing trip staff spent the past few weeks planning ways to make The Canadian happen on the US side of the Boundary Waters: “The American,” if you will. The night before Pine Manor departed, they came to my house for root beer floats, a pre-Canadian tradition. Staff members who have been on The Canadian previously came to share their advice on how to make the most out of this year's trip and to wish them luck. It's a challenging trip and the Pine Manor guys were experiencing a lot of emotions prior to departing, but the memories they will make and the challenges they'll overcome together as a group will be extremely rewarding. We cannot wait to pick up Pine and Manor a week from today and hear all about their adventures.  

While meal time was a little quieter without Pine Manor leading chants, the rest of camp enjoyed a really beautiful Sunday in the Northwoods. Today was day two of individual schedules. Since we've cleared the COVID-19 cabin quarantine hurdles, we have opened up our schedule to move from cabin-based activities to village-based activities where the kids are able to choose individual schedules based on preference (and travel to activities with other campers from their village). We've already seen some incredible progress in just two days of individual instruction: campers have already completed a bunch of waterski tricks, rockets at rocketry that are fully completed and just need to be spray painted, and the Arm & Hammer has been packed with campers making dream catchers and paracord bracelets.

The night ended with cabin campfires, where everyone made s'mores with their cabin, reflected upon the previous week, and set goals for the upcoming week. It was a perfect sunset with a partially pink sky to round out another jam-packed fun-filled week of camp.

In case you missed it, here is yesterday’s blog post about Covindependence Day: 

Here is the recap video of United Nations Days: 

Today’s Grace: 
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
-Muhammad Ali

Be seated.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

United Nations Days 2020

Covindependence Day (07/18/2020)

Happy Covindependence Day! Today, we celebrated many of the holidays/big events that the boys missed out on during quarantine. At breakfast, there was a St. Patrick's Day parade, accompanied by Irish music. During lunch, the campers cheered on their counselors who faced off in a hotdog eating contest as part of the 4th of July celebration, and we had one large commencement ceremony at dinner for every community member who graduated from elementary, middle, high school, and college. This ceremony was led by Charlie Fies, and every graduate got a certificate of completion as we played Pomp and Circumstance in the background. 

Tonight’s evening program was a culmination of activities that pertain to many of the holidays we celebrated today. For example, there was an Easter egg hunt on the volleyball court, where we buried 500 eggs in the court sand and had the boys dig for them. Most eggs were filled with candy, but a lucky few had the afikoman in them! Other boys joined in racing in the Kentucky Derby. They raced through a relay of dizzying acts - spinning around a baseball bat, somersaulting through the athletic fields, and running an egg on a spoon to the finish line. The boys attended a Cinco de Mayo party. They played musical chairs and got to hit a pinata as a fun and sweet end to Covindependence Day. This day was put on by our incredible Counselors In Training (CITs), and even with a little drizzle of rain during the evening program, we know the boys had a great time because it was hard to get them off the field to clean up for bed! 

Today’s Grace:
“You must be prepared if you believe in something. If you believe in something, you have to go for it. As individuals, we may not live to see the end.”
-John Lewis

Be seated. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Anti-racism Sermonette - Shayan Nadeem

Anti-racism Friday Night Service

The Friday Night Service theme for tonight was Antiracism. We want the boys to understand the importance of listening to and learning from the experiences of others, reflecting upon our own privileges, and using our voices to empower ourselves and uplift those who are marginalized. Alongside the singing, the Keylog ceremony, and the call-and-response readings, the most profound part of tonight’s Service was the Sermonette, led by Shayan Nadeem, one of our incredible Manor counselors this summer. Rather than paraphrasing his message, we would like you to read it for yourself: 

Whenever I travel, I carry a little metal box of Altoid mints because,  after a 4 hour 7 am flight, everyone has bad breath. So almost anyone is willing to take the mint from the Muslim on the airplane. And I know I’ve been successful when my neighbor turns and asks, ‘So, what’s your name?’ See, even if there was an elephant in the room, I’m still the elephant in the room. When an elephant offers you mints on an airplane, I’m fully aware that it’s not always easy to accept. So when the courageously curious do pop the what’s-your-name question, I try to make it worth their while. My name is Shayan. It means deserving in Arabic. Most days my name is disappointment to my culture for not being a doctor, recent college graduate and now gratefully employed, athlete, traveler, 10 countries. My name is I've probably peed under a tree in all of those countries. 

Son, brother, elementary teacher, unapologetic Muslim man. Pakistani, Activist, feminist, humanitarian, environmentalist, facial hair enthusiast. My name is thinker, leader, coach, role model, North Star Camp Counselor. But at the airport, my name is random search. And on the street, it’s terrorist, Arab, oppressor, extremist, and on the news its ISIS, jihadi, suspect, radical. My name is ‘Could your Muslim neighbor be Osama Bin Ladens cousin?’ I look different, I speak different, I am different, but I’m just trying to share a part of me with you. And that’s sometimes retaliated with ‘Go back to your country’. It doesn’t take long to figure me out….but how would someone know this without asking?

They say the shortest distance between two people is a story Well, I elaborate on that to say that the greatest distance you can travel in the shortest amount of time is by asking someone their name. The way we name ourselves is a reflection of who we are, our declarations, our family history, the things we believe, the morals we abide by, our homes cultures, transformations. Like a Muhammad turned Mo, or a Shayan turned Cheyyenne. And how we name others, and how, if, we allow others to name themselves is a reflection of our own declarations, of our courage, and our fear. The malleability of a person's story must be self determined, coming from the lips of the story teller, not the anchorman, not the megaphone, not even the beard on his face and the melanin in his skin, because no one can speak the names of billions in one breath, unless it’s in prayer, and often times when we generalize, it isn’t because we’re praying. When we don’t ask someone their name, we’re not asking for their story. 

In the world of mass media and rampant misinformation, it is hard for anyone including myself, to deconstruct all these terrifying stories that we hear. Sometimes, instead of isolating them, individualizing them, we tend to paint a group of people with a broad brush, until suddenly everyone with a hijab on is a raghead that needs liberating, or everyone with white skin is a racist cracker, or everyone with black skin is a fatherless gang member, or everyone who looks like me is going to blow up an airplane, or if the killer had a light complexion, he’s just a mentally fragile lone wolf. And we come to this point where we feel we don’t even need to ask people their names because we already gave it to them.

In Europe right now, a monumental change is taking place that has completely transformed a humanitarian responsibility. Countries are deporting refugees, but when you watch news coverage, these refugees are being referred to as migrants. Because let’s face it, deporting migrants sounds way more reasonable than deporting individuals who have been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war and violence - the United Nations definition of refugee. And in naming people this way, we’ve attributed to them a choice instead of a circumstance, some economic gain instead of a desperation to flee a war zone. These people are refugees, not migrants. They are  not poisons, they’re not here to steal your democracy or take over your neighborhoods. They’re people - Families, who wish they could go home, but have had to make that home somewhere else. And we’ve come to this point where the word ‘migrant’ essentially means piles of brown foreign speaking people, and we end up forgetting that there was a point where native Americans would’ve considered those who looked like you to be migrants as well. 

And it is in this forgetfulness that we assume, monopolize on people’s stories, attribute their race, social class, religions, clothing to the names that we chose for them. Terrorism, or even racism is a fine modern day example unfortunately. In the past few years, coincidentally since January 2017, so much violence and hatred has just spread across this country, but when you watch the news, there’s always a specification as to whether or not terrorism was involved, which I think we all know means that the killer had brown skin, a foreign accent and probably a beard. Which must mean that the killer, of course, pledges his allegiance to the Taliban. But correct me if I’m wrong, news coverage does in fact tend to be a little different when the terrorist has white skin and blue eyes. 

And it ultimately has us forgetting that terrorism, by definition of terrorism, has always come in all shapes, and colors. And what happens when we confine certain names with certain depictions, wrongfully excluding some and including others, we end up literally caging masses of people under a name that says dangerous even if they’re nowhere near it. Like when we say thug instead of a 17 year old black child. When we say alien instead of immigrant. When we say lazy poor people instead of unequal wealth distribution. When we say bomb instead of clock. 

On May 25 2020, a convenience store employee in Minneapolis called 911 on a black man who bought cigarettes with a 20$ counterfeit bill. That man was George Floyd. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, George was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life. Derek Chauvin, had George Floyd pinned under his knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. 8 minutes and 46 seconds, let that sink in. George Floyd was 46 when he died, and was known by his loved ones as a father, a brother, musician, basketball player, a community member, tax payer, American. But now, his name is too old to be taken. His name is rest in peace. Derek Chauvin did not ask him his name. He assigned it to him when he kneeled on his neck, named him a threat and as a result, took his life. I can’t breathe were his last words. I...can’t….breathe. Studies show that during breaking news coverage the first story is the one that sticks, even if it isn’t true. Like when Ahmaud Arbery was shot and there was talk of him posing a threat because he was running only to confirm that he was just jogging. Imagine that. Being shot for jogging. But when we have such a huge habit of misnaming people, it’s easy to overlook these kinds of mistakes. And this is exemplary of what happens in a culture of fear. In a society that doesn't ask one another their names, you end up with the mouth of an anchorman or the mouth of a gun doing all the talking. 

I have learned from experience that when someone really wants to know, they will be willing to cross that threshold of fear and find out that my name means deserving. And then, they’ll have the courage to ask the much more important questions that probably only I can answer, like, ‘Why do you talk different?’, ‘Why do all of you guys have beards?’, ‘Are all Muslims really violent people?’ ‘Does the Quran really say to kill all of us?’, ‘Can you please tell me what’s up with ISIS?’ And these questions, though seemingly uncomfortable, are how I know that I have been humanized, and how the courageously curious know that really, I’m only as scary as the silence fear festers in. Upon meeting someone new, we ask their names. We do not assign it to them. And with that name, we are given ancestry, bloodlines and dialects, books and poems, perspectives, wars, struggles and survival stories. What's your name? Is such a short distance to cross, but when you ask me, oooh buddy! I will take you from Kuala Lumpur to Istanbul to Chicago. We’re gonna go to London, Bangkok, Dubai and Glasgow. I will show you Lahore, my closet with 70 different soccer jerseys, the graves of my family members who were killed migrating from India, the coffee shop that I hang out at and do my homework. But we must have the courage to claim our curiosity, to go beyond everything we ever knew, anything we ever feared. But it takes two - the elephant who offers the mint, and the one who takes it.  

We are so grateful that Shayan shared this personal anecdote. He serves as an incredible leader and role model for our camp community. One of Manor boys even threw in a Keylog this evening for the incredible impact Shayan has had on his life. Counselors like Shayan are the reason why your boys learn and grow so much here at camp.

Today’s Grace:
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
-Albert Einstein

Be seated.

Friday, July 17, 2020

United Nations Day Two: Argentina Takes the Crown!

United Nations Day part two was a success! After the conclusion of the day, after our UN Day feast and ice cream, after our swim meet to cap off the events, we gathered back at our outdoor dining hall to announce the final scores of the day. And when it came time to announce the scores, the boys started cheering. They started chanting “It Just Doesn’t Matter!” They sang the UN Day song maybe 100 times. They sang all ten of Dan’s songs. They sang every song they could think of. The villages cheered their cheers and the night went dark as the boys filled the air with the sounds of pure joy and happiness. When they finally cheered themselves out, we announced that Argentina had emerged victorious on this very special UN Days. 

This morning started out with back-to-back simultaneous competitions and ended with a tug-of-war on the ball field with every counselor and camper involved. Part of the fun of UN Day is cheering on your teammates in the various activities, which ran all day. 

Dinner was a hodgepodge of some of the campers’ favorite foods. We served deviled eggs, vegetarian rolls, mac n’ cheese bites, onion rings, and pasta with meatballs with cupcakes for dessert. It was the right amount of carbs to fuel up the campers who participated in the last events of the day: swimming races and innertube races. Times were very close between the country teams! After the final competition, we all headed back to the lodge area for ice cream.

The Big Ten is a huge celebration for those who are here at camp for their tenth summer. We have four staff members who will be celebrating their Big Ten this year, and tonight, we played a little prank on those four to make them think their celebration would be tonight. A few of our staff put on funky costumes and hopped in a white van to jump out in the middle of the camp road and run around, blowing whistles. They all ran up to the J3 porch to unravel a scroll that said “It might could dot not!” and ripped the scroll to shreds before running back into the van and driving off. Maybe next time will be the real thing! 

By the time the prank was over, it was dark out but the boys certainly weren’t ready for bed. The villages each gathered up to cheer different songs and jump up and down as big groups. The sense of family created within these village pods makes camp really feel like camp. After everyone got back to their picnic benches, the UN Day points were announced. In 4th place was Kenya, in 3rd was Peru, in 2nd was Ireland, and Argentina took the crown for 1st place. Once each place was announced, the team got up to sing one final cheer that they wrote about their country and UN Day experience. 

After a late night of Espionage, followed by two days of UN Day, the boys are well-deserving of a lazy day...they’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow! The first commitment of the day is at 10:30am, which gives everyone a little extra rest time. With so many exciting stories to share, the boys are looking forward to their quick phone calls with their parents in the next couple of days. Please encourage them to talk about their favorite moments at camp thus far and all the amazing friends they’re making!

Today’s Grace:
When the one great scorer comes,
To write against your name,
He marks not that you won or lost,
But how you played the game.
-Grantland Rice

Be seated.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

United Nations Day Summitt

Today kicked off our 76th United Nations Day, but with a twist: it was our first of a 2-day event! It was a perfect day in the Northwoods filled with spirited competition, great sportsmanship, lots of cheering and fun. Tomorrow will be the final rounds of most events and the boys are looking forward to getting painted back up in their colors for tomorrow for Ireland, Kenya, Argentina and Peru. 

For evening program tonight, we had our United Nations Day Summit at the Council Ring. In addition to songs and cheers from each team, and each team's senior captain taught us a little bit about their country. In addition we had some speakers talk about the importance of global citizenship and international cooperation. Here was what Chad Prater, our Program Director shared:
The Goals of the United Nations:
1. To maintain international peace and security
2. To develop friendly relations among nations
3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems
4. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends

Number two stuck out to me in particular. These goals are laid out on a worldwide level but I have seen this one achieved through individual experiences.

I teach Middle School Math at the Twin Cities German Immersion School in Saint Paul. Each year our 8th graders take part in an exchange program with students from Germany. About 40-50 German students stay with our students for three weeks in the Fall and then host our 8th graders in the Spring. I was involved in chaperoning the trip in 2019. Throughout the program I watched, as years of learning about a language, a culture, and a people became real for a group of teenagers. It wasn’t eating donor kabobs in the Tiergartden in Berlin that made it real. It wasn't buying birkenstocks or Kinder Chocolate from the shops in Muenster that made it real. And, It definitely was not the 3 hour tour of the Bentheim castle in the German countryside. What made it real for my students was the new friends they made from two small little towns in the German countryside. The memories that they created after school and on weekends are what helped to develop friendships that will hopefully last forever. A friendship created between Germany and the United States that is based on friendships between teenagers.

Now, you do not have to join an exchange program and travel 14 hours on a plane to make friends with people from other nations. During my time in Germany I had a free weekend, so I caught a train to Amsterdam to meet up with one of my good friends from Scotland. We had a great time catching up and exploring a new city that neither of us had been to. We found ourselves in a taxi to the Anne Frank house when our driver asked where we were from. I said I was from the US and my friend is from Scotland. He asked how we met and became friends. That is when I told him about how we met at a boys camp we both worked at in the summer. That friend was Drew Lorimer who many of you know from his time as a counselor at Northstar. Now, I have never been to Scotland. I do not know the national anthem for Scotland. I certainly do not know the top exported goods from Scotland. But when I think of Scotland I think of Drew, and our friendship. A friendship that started right here in a small camp in the NorthWoods.

Although the United Nations consists of a large group of countries from all around the world, remember that its goals can still be achieved by individuals from anywhere in the world.
While we are lucky enough to have a few members of our international community this year, we are missing many more campers and staff who could not travel under the current circumstances. We miss our international campers and staff and it was nice to take a moment to be grateful for the global connections that camp has provided us through the years. 

Today’s Grace:

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

-Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games

Be Seated.