North Star Camp for Boys

Friday, August 12, 2022

Thank You

This is just a quick note to thank you for a great summer with your boys. It was a late night last night, with a keylog ceremony that lasted two hours. It is hard to explain what it is like to be able to sit and listen as the boys voluntarily express their gratitude and their love for one another, and even harder to explain that they all listened attentively even as the sunset turned to darkness and the sunshine turned to cold. With the final keylog ceremony, the Camper and Counselor Farewell speeches, closing slideshow and then the burning of the effigy, we sent off a group of boys this morning who were very tired, both physically and emotionally. Our boys did wake up to an amazing sunrise and a mysterious rainbow over camp. 

I hope that you have started to hear all about their friends and their counselors, their activities and the special days, the silly moments and the frustrating ones, the great food and the Council Ring sunsets. We are so grateful to be entrusted with the responsibility of guiding our campers through the highs and lows of summer, and hope that you are seeing a more confident, resilient kid than the one who left for camp four or eight weeks ago.

At camp tonight we welcomed our participants from the Four Star Fellowship! We began this program in 2018 at North Star when we welcomed 20 high school students from the South and West Side of Chicago to come up for a weeklong camp experience with their mentors from their community or school based programs back home. We have now grown the program to 75 young people this summer, and are so excited to have these guys here for the week. You can read more about the Four Star Fellowship Program on the Camp for All Kids website. The awe and appreciation that these young people have for the camp experience already has filled up the tanks of the tired North Star staff.

As a North Star staff, please know that even though your boys are back home with you, we are here for them (and you) all year long. If there is anything that we can do to help with the transition home, please reach out anytime. Please give your boys a big hug from all of us here at camp. We miss them already.

Thanks for trusting us with your sons,


Today's Grace: There is a destiny that makes us brothers,
None goes his way alone,
All that we send into the lives of others,
Comes back into our own.

I care not what his caste or creed,
One thing holds firm and fast,
That into the days and deeds gone by,
The soul of man is cast.
- Edwin Markham

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Lazy Day --> Busy Day

After a great game of Espionage last night, today was our Lazy Day. We slept in and had a special breakfast, but then the day really got rolling from there.

During each camper’s first summer, they are chosen to be on the green or white team and that team is their team for their life at North Star. One of the biggest events we have for Green/White competition each session is the Green/White Marathon. The marathon is a giant relay race that sweeps throughout camp and over the course of two hours covers paddleboarding, swimming, log rolling, portaging canoes, climbing, stacking chairs, making sandwiches, washing hands, making beds, riflery, archery, slip-and-sliding and finally, BOIL WATER BOIL! The first and second session marathons are almost identical, except that during the second session marathon, each team must carry an egg throughout the race and each activity must be completed without breaking the egg. The egg can be in your pocket, your hand or your sock (which was a new one), but if it breaks at any point, the egg runner for that team must run back to the office porch to retrieve a new one before the team can proceed. 

White was ahead for nearly the entire race, but it all comes down to Boil Water Boil, the final event where the two teams race to build a fire that boils the water in a tin can. The Green team fire builders started far behind the White team, but managed a comeback victory to win the marathon in very exciting fashion. Now we await the final scores for the summer-long Green-White competition...

Tonight's evening program was our fantastic camper musical. This year's show was a take on the movie Space Jam, but was instead called Kan-Jam, named after a popular lawn game with a frisbee that our campers love to play. Jack S. featured as Michael Jordan, who was a senior village camper, and instead of the "Tune Squad," he joined forces with the camp dogs to take on the camp directors in a grueling Kan Jam showdown. Director Cole H hit all the right marks with some great original songs and fantastic comedy, keeping everyone laughing with lighthearted ribbing of our Leadership Team!

Tomorrow is Camper-Counselor Switch Day! Look out for the pictures where our staff are masquerading as campers and our senior camper are taking over for our staff.

Today's Grace:
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
- Nelson Mandela


Sunday, August 7, 2022

The North Star Games

Yesterday was the 5th annual North Star Games! During the North Star Games, the camp is split into four different teams whose mascots are chosen from a list of constellations and planets. The four teams were Neptune, Volpecula, Scorpius and Hydrus. On Friday night, we opened the games with a ceremony of torch lighting and learning about the importance of the North Star. Each team had their own torch and flame, but the captains came together with their torches as well, to remind us that we are still one camp. Although it was a cloudy night, the sky lit up with fireworks to end the ceremony.
On Saturday, the sky was dark, but the rain stayed to the south, allowing for an uninterrupted day full of competition, fun and good sportsmanship. After an early wake up and a delicious bagel breakfast, the day began with cheers, runoffs and all camp leg wrestling. The teams competed and participated in almost every activity at camp, from sports like Polaris Ball, Basketball, Ultimate Frisbee and Football to specialty activities like Archery, Riflery and Climbing to water sports of all types. Lunch during North Star Games is a silent affair with no cheering, talking or noise of any kind, reminding us that there is no sound in space. The scores were close at lunchtime, leading to a memorable afternoon. After lunch, the staff played one pitch softball in order to determine the eating order for our dinner picnic, and each and every camper participated in a team-wide tug of war. The day continued with sports such as speedball and disc golf, and water sports including a variety of canoeing and swimming events, log rolling as well as Water Polo.
Following a fabulous dinner and much stalling, including a news report of a bear who took up residence in a family’s car, the final scores were announced. Neptune, the leader at lunch, won the day, followed by Hydrus, Volpecula and Scorpius (even though it just doesn’t matter!). On days like these with the camp split up, it is so wonderful to see how quickly all the boys laugh, smile and play together at the end of the day despite the competition. It was an amazing day and a great way to kick off the action packed action packed last week of camp.

Today’s Grace:
“Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The CIT Trip

Today our Counselors in Training took their CIT Trip, which we’ll take as an excuse to tell you a little bit about our CIT Program. After concluding their Pine Manor summer at camp, North Star campers can apply to become Counselors in Training going into their junior year of high school. Our CIT program is a selective program that the campers have to apply to, interview, and demonstrate that they have the maturity and responsibility to care for other peoples’ children. The CIT program places these guys in roles as counselors and activity instructors, while providing them with additional support and guidance to train them not only for their duties at North Star, but also on so many other skills that come with a first job. It is fairly unique among the camping industry to see kids this age take on so much responsibility, but we have seen for a long time that this program adds a tremendous amount of value to the CITs themselves and to camp as a whole.

One of the biggest pieces of the transition from camper to CIT is that while the camper experience revolves around the campers, the CIT experience forces them to put their campers first. One important skill that we strive to teach our CITs is to see the bigger picture, and one of the things that has long been a part of teaching that skill is sending them on a CIT Trip to tour other camps. Today they traveled over to visit four camps, and some of the CITs took some time to write about their day:
Today the C.I.T.s went out to visit other camps for the first time since 2019. We do this trip so that we can see and understand how other camps operate. Throughout the day we saw and experienced firsthand how similar and different camps are from our own. Each camp has unique and special characteristics that can only be witnessed in person. As a group, we had the opportunity to see four camps throughout the Northwoods including, Marimeta, Menominee, Manito-wish, and lastly Eagle Ridge.

We started at Camp Marimeta, a girls' camp that is smaller than North Star. Even though the community's population is relatively small compared to other camps, they pride themselves on having extremely strong bonds between campers of all ages with a great community atmosphere. Many times during our tour we saw girls in the oldest cabin hanging out with the younger girls and really making them feel welcome and special. At meals they randomize the tables for each week so that girls have a chance to get to know everyone. By doing this they reinforce the relationships and community they strive for. They have a beautiful waterfront, and their director Nick (a North Star alumnus) brought up many renovations he is hoping to do in the next few years as well as some North Star traditions he is hoping to implement.

Next, we visited Camp Menominee. Menominee is similar to North Star in the way that it is an all boys camp of a similar size with some North Star alumni playing roles in its history. Here we got to play a lot of their games and eat lunch with their campers and staff. I sat with a cabin of eleven year olds, and it was clear to see how fun and strong of friends they all were. Menominee has a very large and open feel, which seemed very different to our forested North Star home.

Afterwards, we drove to Camp Manito-wish and Camp Eagle Ridge. Both of which were Co-Ed camps however they each operated in a completely different fashion. Manito-wish is very trip centered, with trips ranging from seven year olds going for three days to eighteen year olds going for forty five days. They run two, three week sessions. One of which is all girl campers and one of which is all boys. Carter, one of the directors, told us they have about 3,000 people that come through camp each summer due to all the programs they provide. On the other hand, Eagle Ridge was described to us as a Leadership Camp. They are extremely focused on creating good leadership habits whether it is their youngest or oldest campers, in large or small groups. While Eagle Ridge was much smaller in staff and size than Manito-wish they still provided an extremely inclusive and fun atmosphere for their kids. And they had an absolutely huge bell that put the classic North Star bell to shame.

Overall, seeing these other camps has given us all a new appreciation for and understanding of North Star. Every camp is unique with their own culture. Some of the things we learned about North Star is that the structure of our day is like no other, because of the fact that our campers have so much freedom of choice in what they do. We also have traditions such as UN day and espionage that are highlights of our summer every year. North Star is also on an amazing peninsula giving us the ability to see the lake from almost anywhere in camp. After seeing all of the differences between camps, we better understand that there is a camp for every type of person and North Star is the camp for us.

-Leo F and Cole D

It was a great day back at camp as well, starting the first day of a new set of activities. It was another 80-degree sunny day following an amazing storm that rolled through overnight last night with continuous rolling thunder filling the skies for several hours. We also have started practice for the North Star Games on Saturday, which already has camp buzzing with anticipation.

Today’s Grace:
“Good is not good when better is expected.”
“It’s easier to pick off a fast runner than to pick off a lazy runner.”
- Vin Scully

Monday, August 1, 2022

Week in Review Video, August 1

Enjoy the latest Week in Review Video!

Today's Grace:
"To me, the most important part of winning is joy. You can win without joy, but winning that’s joyless is like eating in a four-star restaurant when you’re not hungry. Joy is a current of energy in your body, like chlorophyll or sunlight, that fills you up and makes you naturally want to do your best.”
- Bill Russell

Saturday, July 30, 2022

College Days Kickoff

Today was the first day of the Senior Village’s College Days. College Days is a three-day event that sees all of our seniors divided into 4 teams for a self-organized competition that involves a wide variety of activities across the camp spectrum. The seniors work together to select their schedules and structure their teams. The festivities kicked off last night following the Friday Night Service and the first responsibility of the teams is to pick their college. The teams are Pittsburg State University, Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Pepperdine University.

Today’s busy slate included arm wrestling, soccer, mascots and cheers, softball, karaoke, sailing races and basketball, while work has started on the judged plaques and preparations are in order for Monday’s cook-off. Over the the next few days there will be trivia competitions and football games, debates and swimming races, archery and riflery, chess and waterskiing, climbing and biking, canoeing and firebuilding, and much, much more.

College Days is a wonderful representation of North Star’s philosophy on competition. As you can see from the array of activities, this contest has represented skills across the board at camp since 1998. And even though the boys will play their hearts out, they will continue to laugh together and treat each other as friends throughout.

While the Seniors are busy in College Days, the Juniors and Intermediates are hard at play as well, starting their latest set of activities today. Cabin J-6 left this morning on their camping trip and tomorrow J-3 and I-4 will head to the backcountry as well. And the weather couldn’t have been more perfect, as the afternoon warmed up to a sunny 80-degrees.

Last night’s Friday Night Service was all about gratitude. We took time to be grateful for having our basic needs met at camp, where we can count on great food, wonderful shelter, and the support that we need. We also took time to reflect on the differences between what we want and what we need, and how much of our time we spend thinking about each category. Wherever our campers go, we hope that they won’t take anything for granted.

Today’s Grace:
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
- James Baldwin

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Lumberjack Takeover

Today I was kidnapped as part of a coup…

I walked up to the Lodge this morning for breakfast on what seemed like it was going to be a normal day, and as I wished everyone my customary “Gooood morning everybody,” things started to get strange. Our head counselor Brad started yelling about how he wasn’t going to take it anymore. I quietly asked him to take his normal place, and he refused, insisting that he do grace and he snatched the microphone from me. We got through breakfast only for something similar to start at announcements.
I was trying to walk everyone through the details of the morning, and Brad starts on a rant in front of everyone how he’s been trying for weeks to get the whole camp to go to the Lumberjack World Championships and I wouldn’t allow it. I politely asked him to stop. He didn’t. I tried to have a separate conversation with him, but he wouldn’t have it. He blows his whistle, and next thing I know there’s a swarm of counselors swarming, and carrying me off bound and gagged! First they threw me in the lake, then lifted me into a fishing boat, and took me away.

I only wish I could have seen the campers’ faces! Brad announced that he was taking over and he was taking the whole camp to the Lumberjack World Championships whether I liked it or not. From what I’ve been told, many of our younger campers didn’t know what to think, especially when the boat came back without me.

Next time they saw me was at the entrance gates this afternoon to the world famous Scheer’s Lumberjack Bowl. Our little town of Hayward plays host every year to the Lumberjack World Championships, and we were lucky enough to be able to all be in attendance for the 62nd annual competition this evening. The boys cheered for ax and sawing events, log rolling, boom running, and speed climbing. We ate dinner, some good Wisconsin fried foods, and came home with some cool souvenirs and autographs. They learned the traditional Lumberjack cheer of Yo-Ho, and the Lumberjack rule that the contestants taking the longest to finish get the loudest applause. They sang songs with the Pinery Boys, a Northwoods Barbershop Quartet singing authentic logging-era music in 4 part harmony. It was a fun day, a special night, and I was glad to hear that some of the boys were even worried about me while I was “gone.”

Today’s Grace:
“You don't know your strength until you unlock your strength in the mind.”
- Jason Wynyward, 10-time All-Around Lumberjack World Champion

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Cruiser Day

From singing and cheering to water-balloon archery, slime-making to mini pizzas and walking tacos, the second cruiser day of the session gave campers endless reasons to smile, laugh, and have fun. As part of the Senior Village embarked on their camping trips, the rest of the Seniors and the Juniors got to do their favorite activities as a cabin. After sleeping in and waking up to fresh donuts, cabins got to go climbing, disc-golfing, paddleboarding, and playing tons of fun games. In addition to the weekly cruiser day events of tubing and Musky Fun, today’s special cruiser day activities included water-balloon archery, the Slip N’ Slide, and preparing homemade mini pizzas. For dinner, the cookout was a camp favorite: walking tacos. The campers get to cook taco meat over the fire and build a taco inside a bag of chips. Even though this cruiser day continued the tradition of rain on cruiser day with just a bit of drizzle (although it never rains at North Star), the campers still persevered in paddling canoes to Musky Fun, playing sports with their cabinmates, and building fires from damp wood.

Today was the Intermediate Village cruiser day, and their awesome staff created a super fun new all-day game. The Intermediates could be heard all around camp having tons of fun on American Armed Forces Day for their village cruiser day. The Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Navy, and Space Force faced off in a variety of special activities from softball to team skits, and of course no village cruiser day would be complete without Coop’s Pizza for dinner. All day, cheering, singing, and laughter rang around camp from wherever the Ridge was playing. While the Marine Corps took home the first place trophy, this day will go down in history as a legendary Intermediate Village cruiser day.

We closed off the day with our weekly staff meeting where we reflected on an incredible week and talked about continuing to make camp as safe and fun as possible. Looking ahead, the staff cannot wait for the coming week as some of our special events are set to begin. After diving into the beginning of the session, the campers and staff are continuing to make more and deeper friendships, try new activities and improve at others, and grow socially and emotionally while having tons of fun. Tomorrow begins our next set of activities and a week of surprises…

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Summer Rain

Tonight at dinner, just as everyone had loaded their plates with chicken, sweet potato wedges and veggies, a quick rain came out of nowhere as we sat at the picnic tables. Nobody flinched. The sun was still mostly shining, and though it never rains at North Star, this was a bit more than a drizzle. And yet the campers and counselors laughed, covered the food, and waited as the 60-second cloud passed overhead. It is hard to imagine a scene like this taking place anywhere else. Smiling, laughing with friends, and enjoying a summer rain was just a great reminder of some of the simple pleasures of childhood at camp.

After dinner we had our regular Sunday evening programming of Unorganized Free and Cabin Campfires. Unorganized Free is another opportunity to capture that camp magic with some unstructured free play. And Cabin Campfires are an opportunity for each group to set aside some time to process their experiences and their growth, while setting goals and making plans for the week ahead. To read more about our Sunday programming, please check out this earlier edition of The Siren.
Last night at camp was our first Green-White Series of Second Session. Campers are placed on Green-White teams during their first summer and those teams remain for the remainder of their North Star careers. Green-White is a fun way to organize many of events in an ongoing competition throughout the summer, which includes the Green-White Marathon, games of All-Camp Capture the Flag, the Camper-Counselor Hunt, the Dodgeball Extravaganza and many more great activities will be a part of our ongoing Green-White competition through the summer. Green-White at North Star is an outstanding lens into our philosophy on competition at camp, which emphasizes the importance of being kind even while playing hard. We remind the boys that they are playing with their friends - that they are their friends before the game, during the game, and everyone should behave in such a way that they continue to be friends after the game. Our boys are all too familiar with the “haha, we won, you stink” dialogue that often echoes during school recess or local sports leagues, and we don’t want our campers to have to sleep in cabins where that is the pervasive language. So we ask that the boys try their best and support each other regardless of the outcome in order to create an environment where everyone can enjoy playing.

Today’s Grace:
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
- Albert Einstein

Friday, July 22, 2022

Gratitude Build Resilience

It never ceases to amaze me how long the line is at the keylog ceremony. The keylog ceremony happens each week at our Friday Night Service. This week’s theme was “Being Yourself,” and featured music by Cat Stevens, Jim Croce and Taylor Swift. Oli Katz gave a great sermonette about his own journey with music, his discomfort playing in front of others, and the self-confidence that has come from pursuing his passion. And when it was time for the keylog ceremony, even though it was the first of the session, nearly every camper and staff elected to stand up in front of the whole camp to throw a stick into the fire to express their gratitude. The speeches come in all shapes and sizes as campers thank their cabinmates, counselors, parents, siblings, and all sorts of people for being good friends, good listeners, or just having done something nice for them. I think the sheer quantity of participants speaks volumes about how comfortable our campers feel with the North Star community.
And gratitude builds resilience. By taking time to acknowledge the good things in life, we are training our brains to see the positive. Then, when things are hard, we have already created the pathways to acknowledge the good in our lives. (If you’re looking for a great read while the kids are away, check out Dr. Deborah Gilboa’s new book From Stressed to Resilient. She worked with our staff last year and it has some great tips and exercises in the book). We are so lucky to be able to share in this practice each Friday Night while enjoying the beautiful sunset of the Council Ring.

Today was the third and final day of the first set of projects. Tomorrow the boys will switch to three different instructional activities that they had signed up for on the first night. We also had our first Green-White event of 2nd session, with an afternoon game of North Star Ball - a variation of Capture the Flag where instead of one flag per side, you have to get several balls to your team’s side to win a round. The teams worked hard on their strategies and it paid off with a very fun game!

Today’s Grace:
"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

A Sermonette on Community

Earlier this week, I alluded to Cole Hanover's sermonette from last Friday Night about community, and I wanted to share it here in written form:
Community is the reason I come back to camp each year. Before camp, I wasn’t looking for a community; I would get upset whenever I was assigned to a group project, and I thought it was cool to be an “outsider.” In every community, certain traits are rewarded. I've seen some centered around wealth, some centered around athleticism. But at Noth Star, we see things a liiiitle differently. Here at North Star, we reward growth of character. Here’s a story about a time I learned what it meant to be a member of a community that rewards character:

In the depths of a dumpster somewhere in the Chicago area lies a terribly tattered, gruesomely grimy, 30-something-year-old pair of hiking shoes. Unlike the mundane objects in their surroundings, these busted boots carry a story, one that has both figuratively and literally dragged me through the muddy process of manhood. Allow me to elaborate.

In my first year at camp, in J-2, I had a blast. I had my best friend from home, Ben Rothschild, and met awesome new guys like Ethan Doane, Elliot Bramson, and Jack Ringold. But no cabin is perfect. Ben and I argued over the smallest things, Ringold was occasionally violent, Elliot had a competitive side, Ethan had a temper tantrum when I stole his magic trick book, and I was far too often naked in front of my cabinmates (they weren’t happy about it). The next year, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Ben and I were switched out of that cabin and put in J-6, while the rest of them were in J-5. I still liked my cabinmates though, so I was still happy. But for the next few years, I didn’t realize my cabinmates and counselors might not have enjoyed my presence as much as I thought, especially when I would sit out of activities, refuse to do cabin work, or deliver a snarky comment to my peers. Looking back, especially for my first few years, I was sometimes rude, whiny, disobedient, unengaged, and a smart-alack. Even though “sometimes” is not much, it is still vastly more than I prefer. Eventually, I became aware of this fact, but at first, I had a clouded perception of my own behavior. That’s the biggest thing I learned at camp. Character is not how you’re perceived, but how you act when nobody’s looking. Around the time I came to this conclusion, a few weeks before my 6th year, I made a resolution to not make too big of a fuss.

I had just finished middle school, and life was good. I’d also just about finished packing myself for the first time, which is a lot less fun than it may seem. So you can imagine that once I thought I’d checked off all items on the list, I was fairly relieved. But all that relief was drained out of me when my mom told me we forgot hiking boots. While she offered to buy a new pair, my super-genius father rushed up to his closet and unknowingly brought downstairs the demonic moccasins that would plague my next few weeks. In a rush to go to bed, I hastily tried them on, concluded that they fit, and thought nothing of it, drifting back to inaction.

On the first day of camp at the flag pole, I heard the names of all my usual cabinmates, but to my surprise, didn’t hear mine. Miraculously, Ben, myself, and Austin Flamm were all switched into S-2, back with Ethan, Elliot, and Ringold, the guys who I never stopped seeing as the kids they were 5 years earlier. I held into this warped reputation of them, taking no regard for how they had grown. I distinctly remember pulling aside Austin and Ben, saying, “guys, this will be a difficult cabin to be a part of, so we just have to stick together and defend each other against these guys.” I played into the trap so many people fall into every day, I let my cabinmates' insignificant mistakes define my perception of their character. This mistake is how communities fall apart.

On the second day of camp, right after we unpacked, we embarked on our five-day hiking trip, a longer and more demanding trip than I’d ever taken before. I knew I’d be fine though because I’d have my new hiking shoes. As I said, I’d been notorious for being an annoyance on these trips, but I was determined to stick to my “no fuss” resolution, especially because I wanted to impress my new cabin. I am proud to say that on the first day, we exceeded all expectations, and plowed through the five miles. In fact, I stayed in the front of our single-file line the whole time, setting the pace for my peers, and exceeding my comfort zone speed. While it was quite a challenge, I knew I was doing the right thing, and not falling behind. The sights were beautiful, and I considered it a good day, even though a park ranger kicked us out of our camping area, and we were forced to eat a dinner of cold carrots and onions. The theme of ups and downs was definitely a constant during this trip.

Along came day two. We were required to trek twice the length of the first day, so I had my doubts, but I started off strong in the front. About midway through the day, I got tired, and I ended up in the middle of the pack. Eventually, it felt like I was stepping on flimsy rubber with each step, and that’s when I saw that part of the soles of my shoes had began to peel off. What a funny occurrence, thought everybody. After the whole group paused for a few minutes, the shoes were good as new, fixed up with medical tape from the first aid kit. However, as the next few days went by, the shoes would begin to lose all reliability. They would burst at random, emitting the popping and squeaking noises of a malfunctioning machine, and every time, the whole group needed to stop so they could be taped up. They would gain additional thick layers of mud each day, making it even more difficult for the tape to stick. At one point, we found duct tape, but that worked even worse. We tried to wash the mud off in a river, but that just made the shoes grimier. As this process continued, I gradually worked my way further and further towards the back until the group stopped waiting for me, and it was just the trip leader and me, walking alone, both frustratingly dreading the next tape breach.

By the end of the fourth day, the only thing holding my shoes together at all was tape and prayers. My predicament was only worsened by my sensitive feet, the reason I normally have special supports in my shoes. Without this support, my immense pain spiked. This endless cycle climaxed on the fifth day when we were drenched in rain and my shoes completely gave way, resulting in me having to wear tripper Syd’s extra pair, which were five sizes too big. To make matters worse, one of the counselors decided it would be best if we arrived at the landing as a group, and put me back at the front of the line, making me set the pace for a few miles, resulting in some groaning and frustration from my cabinmates, but nowhere near as much as I was used to on previous trips. They weren’t upset because I wasn’t doing my fair share of work, but because I was struggling, and because of their empathy, they felt my struggle with me. Empathy is the currency of a community.

I was dumbfounded. Being put with these guys after so many years wasn’t a curse; it was a blessing because now I had a new chance to change their perception of my character. If my cabinmates could be so open-minded, forgiving, and flexible, why couldn’t I?

My counselor was named G and was from the UK, so obviously he was wise, or at least sounded so. He was the only counselor who led me on both my Porkies and the Superior Hiking Trail, and he seemed pleasantly surprised the whole way through. Occasionally, in between painful silences in the back, we would have fun little conversations, almost letting our problems slip away. At the end of the trip, I asked him why he was so happy. He responded, “I’m happy because you are. While suffering throughout this entire trip, you haven’t complained once, even though you had every right to do so, which is the exact opposite of last year. It’s been an honor to have witnessed your growth of character.”

Once I was struck by this sincere comment, I drowned in a sea of emotions: surprise, appreciation, skepticism, pride, and confusion. I had been meaning to grow as a person for a while, but I never expected it to happen without me even noticing. I may not have addressed it at the time, but during those five days of pain, I learned willpower. Willpower is the foundation community is built on.

When every crutch I was leaning on was snatched from under me, I truly had zero excuses not to put my best foot forward and power through the situation. And when I had to do it, why make a fuss about it? Why not embrace the obstacles? It was at that point I realized that I was going to keep the scrappy shoes in the cabin for the rest of the summer as a reminder that once I lost my soles, ironically once my foundation crumbles, that’s when I could actually build myself up, that’s when I could shift my perspective and will myself to a place where I’m actually proud of my character without having to worry about my reputation. And I can’t stress enough just how proud I am to be in a community that lets each other make mistakes, that builds each other up instead of bringing each other down, and that emphasizes growth of character above all else.
Thank you Cole for sharing your story!

It was a beautiful day at camp, with our 2nd day of activities off and running. Our evening finished with an Open Mic night that featured musical talent, circus skills and plenty of humor, while we simultaneously had some great games running on the fields.

Today's Grace:
"Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge."
- Plato

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

A Typical Day

Today was the first typical day of second session, where the boys get to choose much of their schedule for themselves. On a normal day, we have five periods between breakfast and dinner. The first three periods are our instructional periods, which the boys sign up for on a weekly basis. They choose six electives for the week and take each of them for three consecutive days, for one hour and fifteen minutes each day.
The fifth period most days is our Organized Free period, which is an opportunity for the boys to choose an activity that they want to do just for that day. They can also use that time to rest, read, shower, or just hang with friends. The 4th period is the one period that the boys don’t have individual choice, as that typically rotates between Challenge Games, Village Activities, and Green-White competitions. This all puts together a schedule for each child that has a great deal of structure, but also a great deal of choice within that structure.

The idea here is that every boy can explore his own interests. Different kids will gravitate towards different activities, with a wide array of activities providing myriad opportunities for our boys to find success. And the hope is that this will also give the boys the freedom to have their favorite activities evolve through the years as they evolve as people. By summer’s end, you’ll hear stories of so many activities that your son has tried throughout the course of the summer, with each providing a chance to learn a new skill and a chance to learn more about themselves.

Tonight’s evening program was Karaoke Night, where our staff introduced themselves by singing and performing. While a subset of the group demonstrated some real musical talent, the majority of the staff showed off that they bring energy that makes each day at camp fun and makes us all smile.

Our first trips of the summer leave tomorrow, with S-1 and S-5 headed out on their respective adventures!

Today’s Grace:
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members..”
- Coretta Scott King

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

First Cruiser Day of 2nd Session

Today was our first Cruiser Day of 2nd session. Cruiser Day, which typically takes place every Tuesday, is a cabin based day where the campers work together to choose their activities for the day. In some ways, Cruiser Days are like our weekend at North Star because the schedule is different from the other days. Cruiser days start with a slower wakeup and we have donuts, fruit and cereal for breakfast. Then the cabins do a big cabin cleanup before heading out to a day full of fun.

Cabins can choose from the regular list of activities, or they can do some things that are out of the ordinary at camp like tubing, Musky fun, slip and sliding, or a cooking activity like making Oreo Balls. These opportunities for silly fun make Cruiser Days extra special, and the water-based activities had a particularly strong draw today because of the heat.

For dinners on Cruiser Day, every cabin cooks out their dinner over a campfire. We ended our first Cruiser Day with Tin Foil Surprise at our cabin cookouts. Each cabin gets potatoes, vegetables, hamburgers, cheese to wrap up in tinfoil and cook over the fire. Campers enjoy making funky shapes out of their tinfoil bundles and having the responsibility of making their own meal. The result is a delicious stew that is a classic favorite meal.

This Cruiser Day was also a Junior Village Cruiser Day, meaning our J-Village staff planned an incredible day of activities for “High School Day.” The staff divided the village into four high schools for a day of fun and silly competitions. Our junior campers got in the spirit of things by painting their high school’s colors across their faces, chests and backs. They wrote cheers and songs, played Counselor Ball (basically a big game of keep away), jumped over pizza boxes, played some football, had a trivia competition, swam and more before ending the day with ice cream.

Cruiser Days are also when we take the time to meet as an entire staff in the evenings after the campers are fast asleep. At our staff meetings, we review all things going well and that need improvement as well. We talk about the week behind and the week to come. Staff give each other where they’ve noticed a job well done. We discuss individual campers and how to best support them. We talk about how to get the most out of our program. And we finish off with a raffle for prizes and a delicious staff snack to appreciate our incredible staff who are working so hard to take great care of the boys.

Tomorrow will begin our regular program with the activities that the boys chose on the first night. More on that tomorrow!

Today’s Grace:
“I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."
- Jimmy Dean

Monday, July 18, 2022

The First Full Day of 2nd Session

The first full day of 2nd session was a scorcher in the Northwoods. It was hot and humid with a high of 93! That meant that the water was warm for swim tests and a great afternoon of waterfront options. All of our four-week campers hopped in the lake to swim laps and tread water, the length determined by their age level. Swimming in a lake is always a bit different than swimming in a pool, but our boys did a fantastic job of handling any nerves and were very successful! I get to swim with the Juniors as they take the swim test and I love to see the way the campers support each other as they get over their nerves and get swimming.

Every village played dodgeball today, but in this version everyone has to stop and introduce themselves to the people that they had just eliminated. With the heat of the day, the Junior Village Dodgeball ended early in favor of running through the sprinklers. The campers also had their entry physicals in the Health Center, and had time to continue getting settled, explore camp, catch frogs, play roofball, tetherball and get in a little fishing.

Dinner was our opening banquet, which features a delicious pasta feast with spaghetti, ravioli and tortellini with sides of garlic bread and Caesar Salad. And for dessert, we feast on the camp tradition of Dirt & Worms, oreo pudding with gummy worms. But before the kids get to eating, they celebrate the banquet with the welcome line, featuring our staff dressed in ridiculous costumes singing and dancing. Our 8-week campers and counselors spent time teaching everyone the cheers, songs and camp traditions. One such unique North Star tradition is our birthday song. Today at dinner we celebrated one of our Pine Manor camper’s birthday! Our baker Sandy bakes beautiful cakes, that look and taste delicious. Birthdays are always exciting over here in the Northwoods because the camper’s entire cabin gets to enjoy the cake, the whole camp sings to them, they get to make a birthday wish, and often they get woken up with a pizza party later that night.

But the fun did not end at dinner. Following dinner, we had our first Wanegan of the session. Wanegan is the Ojibwe word for store, and for our campers it means candy! Campers line up and sing for candy at the porch behind Cabin J-5, and campers go through the Wanegan line to a great deal of excitement and fanfare to choose their candy bar. Our Wanegan King Nkosana brings all sorts of fun and joy to the experience as well as the kids cheer their way through the line.

We followed up Wanegan with an all-camp game of Capture the Flag. We split into temporary green and white teams and based one team behind the Junior Village and the other on the athletic fields. The flags were flying tonight, with teams opting for quick offense and less defense.

Tomorrow is Cruiser Day and we have a great deal of excitement planned for each cabin all, All, ALL day long!

Today's Grace:
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.”
- Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, July 17, 2022

2nd Session is Underway

The second session of North Star’s 78th  summer is officially underway! We arrived to find an incredibly enthusiastic group of 8-week campers and staff greeting jumping up and down, forming a tunnel and then they began hugging their old friends and introducing themselves to new ones. There was great energy throughout the bus ride and it was even better when we got to camp. We gathered around the flagpole to announce the cabins, and a lot of cheering, high fiving and hugging ensued.

From there, the boys headed to their cabins to get unpacked, and that is where the relationship building begins. It is our expectation that by the time everyone goes to bed, they feel that they have one counselor that they are comfortable waking up with a problem or a question and one friend that they are excited to play with in the morning. The counselors will be checking in with each boy, and helping them feel settled. Once the boys know that they have people that they can play with and people that they can count on, they can feel the physical and emotional safety that allows them to feel at home. 

The boys are now unpacking and new campers are receiving a tour of camp. There is a lot of excitement as they head out to see our redone tennis and basketball courts, the addition of pickleball and our brand new fitness center! By the time they go to sleep tonight, they'll have played games with their cabins and met some of the other guys their age as well.

Dinner this evening will be burgers, fries and jello, plus the ever present salad bar and Sun Butter and jelly. There will be vegetarian burgers available for those that prefer, and Gluten free options for those that need it. And of course brownies for dessert. Immediately following dinner, the campers will choose their first week's activities.

At our Friday Night Service this weekend, one of our counselors Cole Hanover delivered an incredible sermonette about how the North Star Community has been a part of his own growth. He spoke beautifully about how camp allowed him to feel secure being himself, and how being himself allowed him to build deep friendships, develop self-awareness, and work to become the best version of himself. Cole noted how he had grown through the activities and the camping trips, the special events, the conflicts he had with his cabinmates and the feedback he received from his counselors. We strive to build that type of community for every camper that pulls through the arches so that each camper can have a safe and successful summer. After evening activities, each cabin will have their own candlelight ceremony, where each cabin will have a meeting led by their counselors. They will share their goals and expectations for the summer, while continuing to get to know one another. This will be the first of many cabin discussions that are an important part of developing the strong sense of community that we strive for at camp.

Tomorrow the kids will have a busy day as our medical team checks in the boys. They will take a swim test on a nice hot day and find time to play several games of dodgeball. Evening program will be our first game of All-Camp Capture the Flag. And Tuesday will be a modified Cruiser Day, so that the boys can spend one more day in their cabin pod before we hopefully clear our next round of our testing protocols. If everything goes according to plan, the boys will have their first three elective instructional activities, which they chose tonight, starting on Wednesday. From there we will also begin sending out our camping trips to get the boys back out having adventures in nature. 

The first four weeks of the summer have absolutely flown by, and we’re so excited to have our second session boys in the rhythm of camp! We're excited to have everyone at camp for an amazing 4-weeks!

From here on out, you can follow along with the summer of 2021 on our website at We will also be posting updates on Facebook at, on Twitter at, and on Instagram @northstarcamp. We post pictures online on a regular basis, and you can access those directly from your CampInTouch page. To access your CampInTouch page, go to and click "login" in the upper right hand corner. From there you can click on "Photos" to see those smiling faces. If you'd like to set up guest accounts for friends or family you can do that from your landing page by clicking on "Guest Accounts."

Thank you for trusting us with your boys!



Wednesday, July 13, 2022

What a Night! The Big Ten & Espionage

What a night at camp it was! A perfect Northwoods summer day was winding down with a picnic dinner when the vans rolled right through the middle of the meal honking and signaling the Big Ten! The Big Ten is a roast of sorts where we honor those who are spending their tenth summer at North Star. Everyone knew that we were celebrating six folks who are spending their 10th summer at camp: (in alphabetical order) Robyn Boehm, Elliot Bramson, Ethan Doane, Miles Goldberg, Rob Porter and Jack Soble. But one of the surprises was that we added a 7th tonight with the addition of Jack Yonover, who arrived in that van and is staying the rest of the summer. We also are lucky to add Bobby Becker back to the staff as well. Ten years at North Star shows an incredible love and commitment to this place, and we were so happy to honor all of them. I am so proud of the work that all seven of these honorees have done here at North Star, and am lucky to work alongside this great bunch.

After we finished the funny stories, showing off the pictures, and enjoying the wonderful cake, it was on to the next part of our evening - Espionage! Espionage is a game that takes place after dark and is one of the most highly anticipated moments of the session. The boys get dressed up in dark clothes and paint their faces with camouflage paint to play a game full of sneaking around camp to complete a mission. The theme of this year’s Espionage was Despicable Me, and the event started with a great skit with our talented counselors playing Minions and Gru. From there, each group was instructed to go back to their cabins to find their first clue as to where to go next. The campers work with their guides to collect the clues (and earn bananas) in order to save the North Star, which Gru had stolen. Finally the campers are tasked with sneaking into the Council Ring. After the results were in, the cabins of J-6, I-6, and S-1 were crowned victorious. As they were most successful sneaking and maneuvering their way through camp.

And now tomorrow we get to sleep in for Peels Day (sleep spelled backwards)! Tomorrow we’ll have our elections for President and Vice President of the Great and Glorious North Star Party! We’ll also have our Counselor Camper Hunt and our Green-White Series to close out the Green-White competition for the session. As of today, every cabin has completed their camping trip as well.

Today’s Grace:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
- Hamlet, Shakespeare

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The 78th United Nations Day

Today was our 78th United Nations Day! And what a great day it was. After an early breakfast, we gathered on the hill for our Opening Ceremonies. The four teams, painted up in their teams colors, sang out their first cheers before our captains carried the torch from the Council Ring to the flagpole where they lit the cauldron.
Then Kim presented the UN Day scroll, as written by Jack Weiner, which proclaims that this day at North Star shall be our United Nations Day and that we will participate as good sports, good teammates and good friends. And after the captains signed the scroll, the games began.

The day divides camp into 4 countries: Bahamas, Bhutan, Eswatini and The Gambia. The four teams competed in all sorts of events - softball, speedball, football, basketball, curtain ball, 4-square, paddleboarding, steal the bacon, line soccer, climbing, archery, riflery, floor hockey, tush ball, dodgeball and more. The teams come together for giant matches of tug-of-war, and with the weather causing some schedule changes to the afternoon, our swim meet came after dinner.

Our ability to adapt with positivity was on full display with our staff dodgeball game. Typically on UN Day, our staff play a highly anticipated game of speedball after lunch. The weather just didn’t allow it though. So with the rain pouring down, we gathered the whole camp in the Fieldhouse for a dodgeball showdown between the staff of each team. Despite some wariness about the rain and schedule changes, the staff brought all kinds of energy and fun to what turned into an incredibly memorable event. The teams were doing warm up cheers, stretches, dances, tunnels and skits that all made the dodgeball seem secondary.

The staff competition is meant to determine the eating order for dinner, as our UN Day feast is a favorite tradition at camp. Tonight’s meal featured spaghetti and meatballs, cheese curds, egg rolls, garlic bread, deviled eggs and chocolate milk. And, believe it or not, after that we swam. Our swim meet was rescheduled for after dinner, as everyone came down for a beautiful evening on the lake as our teams competed in relays, individual events and inner tubing. We ended the day with ice cream and announced the scores, with The Gambia emerging victorious on the day.

The energy that our captains, advisors and all of our staff poured into UN Day was infectious and ensured that everyone in camp had a phenomenal day. Whether it was the paint and attire, the hours put into writing the cheers, the positive and encouraging coaching or just the goofiness, all of these things that the staff brought to the day allowed all four teams to end the day chanting “We had the most fun.”

I am so proud of the campers and staff who can compete all day with intensity, all the while carrying themselves with kindness and dignity.

Today’s Grace:
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
- Pierre de Coubertin

Friday, July 8, 2022

A Normal Day

Today was a normal day at camp. And it was fantastic. The weather hit 82-degrees and the sun was shining all day. We had first time waterskiers and first time slalomers. New high scores at archery and riflery. First time down the zip line and 78th time down the zip line. First ever fish and working on catching keepers. Senior campers trying new activities and seniors shadowing* their favorite projects. I watched a great softball game on Dan’s Diamond during 2nd period. I watched Cece teaching a private tennis lesson to one of our junior campers.
I caught a great dodgeball game during UN Day practice. There were rockets built and chess games won and walking sticks whittled. They spent rest period playing cards and playing mafia and just talking to each other from their hammocks. They cleaned their cabins, and pretty well I might add.

*Shadowing is an opportunity for our senior campers to volunteer to help teach activities that they have mastered over their time as a camper.

The kids ate like kings today starting with pancakes for breakfast. They went crazy for the chicken sandwiches at lunch with our own version of the Chik-Fil-A sauce. And Jeremy’s Friday Night dinner of brisket, potato pancakes, applesauce and rolls with honey butter leave everyone feeling full and happy. We celebrated two birthdays with Sandy’s delicious cakes.

We wrapped up the day with our Friday Night Service. The air cooled as the sun went down leaving a picture perfect scene on the shores of Clear Lake. The theme tonight was about being a Global Citizen. Staff from around the world shared with us about their home countries. Luis shared a prayer in Portuguese from the Freemason youth organization that he helps lead back home. Rajan gave a thoughtful sermonette about various waves of refugees arriving in London, the trials that they faced, the communities they built, and the gifts that they brought with them to British culture. And we had a beautiful keylog ceremony, with many keylogs expressing gratitude for their friends, counselors, trip leaders. And there were many keylogs to send strength and love to everyone in Highland Park and everyone affected by Monday’s shooting. And, to conclude, we put our arms around on another, sang Forest Green and Taps, and recited the Camper Benediction.

Pine Manor stayed behind to put out the fire. They recounted funny stories from Canada and remembered funny jokes from years past. They complained about having run out of hot water in the showers, and that their counselors confiscated their hidden candy. They hatched plans for the coming weeks and talked excitedly about United Nations Day, College Days, the North Star Games, and many other things to come.

There is so much beauty in a normal day at camp. So many achievements and moments of joy. While we focus so much on the extraordinary things that happen here at camp, it’s important to remember that the ordinary here is pretty extraordinary too.

Today’s Grace:
“Institutions and integrity are both central pillars that underpin our great democracy.”
“Let’s be clear, not doing something is an active decision.”
- Sajid Javid

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Week 3 Begins

As I reflect on the last few days, I think it’s important to share the actions of our incredible counselors. From the moment we informed them about the events unfolding in Highland Park on Tuesday, they switched into another gear.

Over the past few days, they have listened to the boy's fears. They have done their best to answer their questions, though some remain unanswerable. They provided empathy, support and love for the campers that allowed them to feel safe. They made camp fun anyways. They cheered and they danced and the campers followed suit. They led team building activities, slip and slides, beach outings and as part of a phenomenal Cruiser Day. They brought energy back to the 1st day of the 3rd week of projects that began this morning. They made Challenge Games tonight and North Star Ball this afternoon as loud and boisterous as ever.

And at night they put their arms around each other. They checked in on each other. They called their parents and checked on their friends at home and at other camps. One of our first year counselors said last night at the staff meeting that he’s never experienced so many hugs in his entire life, and promised that he’s here for anyone who needs one over the coming days.

I know that if you could have watched these guys take care of your boys over the last several days, you would be absolutely thrilled to have them as role models in your childrens’ lives. It’s hard to envision a more pure form of empathy and selflessness than we have seen out of our staff.

At our staff meeting last night, the counselors also worked on their weekly SEL evaluations of their campers. In addition to all of the fun they are creating, the counselors are working to teach and develop further skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. You’ll hear more about this when you receive your Parent Letter from your child’s counselors at the end of the session.

Cabins I2, I4 and I5 all returned from their trips this evening and I3 left today. Can J4, I1 and I6 will all head out on their river trips on Friday. Even though the staffing shortages have limited the size of our trip staff, our campers are coming back from their excursions thrilled with their experiences.

Our Junior Village had a big outing up to Ashland yesterday for their village Cruiser Day, where many of them were able to swim in Lake Superior for the first time. The boys came back to camp when the weather changed and had a great picnic here, with a special dinner delivered from Coop’s Pizza in Hayward. The Intermediate and Senior Cabins made walking tacos over the campfire, and we finished off the night with my personal favorite campfire dessert - Banana Boats. To make a Banana Boat, you cut a banana down the middle the long way in order to make it like a hot dog bun. Then you shove chocolate chips and marshmallows into the middle, wrap it up in tin foil, and throw it on the fire for a few minutes. The result is warm, gooey, chocolatey banana deliciousness that you can scoop right out of the peel. Do try this at home!

Today’s Grace:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
- Thomas Edison

Monday, July 4, 2022

Take Care of Each Other

My heart hurts for our kids. The shooting in Highland Park was an act of senseless violence that no child should have to wrap their head around. I am grateful that the families of our campers and staff were all unharmed by gunfire today. But we were all harmed today.

North Star has a deep connection to Highland Park. Generations of families from the community send and have sent their kids to North Star. Some of our camp parents were at the parade. Some of our camp parents and alumni had to run for their lives today, and to protect the lives of their children today.

This is personal for us. Dan lives there. Beth raised her kids there. Robyn, Glick and I grew up down the road. My high school job was one block from today’s shooting. Our campers and staff come from around the world, but today hit too close to home.

Before reading the Declaration of Independence as our morning grace today, I talked about what the 4th of July at camp represents to me - a celebration not only of our country, but of the ideals of democracy. Camp, like our country, only functions properly when we are listening to one another, when we put the greater good first, and when we take care of one another. Today we took care of one another.

We spoke with all of the boys before lunch today to tell them what had happened. We gathered them by grade levels so that we could address them in an age-appropriate way. We were able to assure them that all of their immediate family members were safe and we promised to inform them if we heard anything directly related to them personally. We let them know that they are safe here at camp, and that we will work everyday to make sure that it stays that way. We passed along the message that their parents know that they are safe at camp, which is a big reason why they are here in the first place.

Our director team checked in with every cabin at bedtime tonight. We checked in with every counseling team to find out which boys (and staff) need some extra support. Boys were given the opportunity to call home, and all who asked have reached out. (If you’re looking for resources on how to talk to kids, see this worksheet or this video).

And in between all of this, we managed to have an action-packed day of fun and festivities. Our Green-White Marathon featured an epic comeback. The Marathon is one of our most anticipated and exciting events of the summer. It is a relay race that includes nearly every event in camp. It starts with a running race and includes fun-bugging, swimming, canoeing, climbing, archery, biking, skipping, tent building, tennis volleying, bed making, basketball shooting, bucket filling, singing, and more, before leading to Boil Water Boil. In this final event, the whole camp gathers around as the two teams compete to build a fire that can boil a tin can full of water over the top first. The Green team fell way behind after their canoe tipped early in the race, but persevered to enter the home stretch in the lead Jonah and Jack’s fire capped off the victory.

We announced our United Nations Day captains after dinner. Come Sunday, the whole camp will be divided into four countries for one special day of competition. This year’s nations, as chosen by the captains, are Bahamas, Bhutan, Swaziland and The Gambia. The excitement will build all week and culminate in a great day come Saturday.

Our evening program was Glenn’s Game, a camper favorite, where there are four areas that campers must get into. Those four areas, however, are heavily guarded by counselors. Campers have to use speed, smarts and other skills to get into a coned area. Once there, they get a mark and then head to another area, hoping to collect all of the stamps before the clock runs out.

And we concluded our programming with a great fireworks display over the athletic fields that we watched all together from the tennis courts.

After an incredible grand finale, I made good on a promise to get back together with the Senior Village campers to provide them with any updates and answer their questions. They asked about the details, the shooter, the motives, and they asked about the best ways that they could support each other and the Highland Park community. And just when I thought they had asked all of their questions, one boy asked, “when will we have all the answers?”

We won’t have all the answers. We can’t have all the answers. My heart aches wishing I could give them the answers, but some moments in life bring about unanswerable questions. What we can do is provide our campers and each other with empathy, support and love. We started the day talking about listening to each other and caring for one another, and we ended the day committed to do just that. We ended the day by promising to use our time at camp to become the best versions of ourselves, because camp provides us with a safe space for children to learn and grow. And while we don’t have all the answers, we can be part of the solution. So I asked the boys to work everyday to make the world a better place, so that future generations of North Star campers can have all the 4th of Julys that every child deserves.

Carry On,


Saturday, July 2, 2022

Pine Manor Returns, Keylogs & The Dodgeball Extravaganza

Welcome back Pine Manor! Our oldest boys returned to camp this evening to a tremendous greeting as they returned from their ten-day canoeing and portaging trip in Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The Canadian has long been the seminal experience of our tripping program, as all of the campfires and overnighters have built up to this adventure.

Last Wednesday, the night before the boys left, we met with the campers and staff to do some processing pre-departure. They were nervous and they were excited. They were sentimental and stressed. They were scared and they were determined. Tonight, though, they returned with their heads held very high. The boys returned wearing their pride as plain to see as their new shirts from Canoe Canada. They took on a challenge that they didn’t know if they could complete, and they succeeded.

One of our little secrets is that our entire program is designed to do just that - to push the boys beyond their comfort zone and support them while doing so. They faced wind and weather, mosquito bites and sunburn, difficult portages and just being without a bed or shower for the length of the trip. Our staff spoke very highly of their teamwork and their attitude, and they returned excited to bring their energy and leadership as role models for our younger campers to look up to. And that was visible right as they got off the bus and celebrated their return with cheers around the flagpole.

As they were enjoying their last night in the Canadian wilderness last night, we were enjoying our second Friday Night Service of the summer. Gabe Adler and Sam Goldstein wrote a beautiful service about having a Growth Mindset. Miles Goldberg gave a heartfelt sermonette about his own growth and growing pains along the way. The chorus gave us great renditions of Learning to Fly by Tom Petty, Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel, and The General by Dispatch. But that wasn’t the only music of the evening. Some excited tourists on Clear Lake had their top-40 music blasting from their pontoon boats through the Council Ring. While that should have undermined the sanctity and serenity of our Friday Night Service, the boys still managed to sit quietly and listen to the readings, poems and songs that were shared about growth. I was very impressed and told them how proud of them I felt.

And that added to the pride that I felt watching the keylog ceremony. This staple of our Friday Night Services is an opportunity to throw a stick into the fire that represents something that you are thankful for. While it is totally optional, the overwhelming majority of our campers and staff elect to go up in front of the whole camp and express their gratitude. Many of our youngest campers threw in keylogs for all of the new friends that they’ve made, their fantastic counselors, and even expressed their appreciation for their families back home for making it possible for them to come to camp. A first time camper in the Junior Village thanked his cabin for already being his best friends in the world. A first time Senior Village camper threw in a keylog for his counselors who helped him make it through the beginning of camp even when he thought he wouldn’t. This expression of gratitude speaks to who we are as a North Star community. And gratitude is a practice that makes our boys stronger, more resilient young men.

So too do events like the Dodgeball Extravaganza, which took place on Friday afternoon. The dodgeball extravaganza is a camper versus staff dodgeball event that pins the Green and White campers against the staff from the other team, in an effort to see who can fare better in terms of timing. The campers love the dodgeball just as much as they love the hoopla that comes with it. The campers and staff spend as much energy trying to out-cheer the other team and to top the best costumes as they do working to win the dodgeball game itself. Hopefully you enjoyed the silly pictures, as we had a blast!

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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Villa Values

The Senior Village at camp holds special meaning. Being a camper in the Villa means carrying the responsibility of leadership throughout camp. Our Senior campers have additional opportunities for leadership around camp, and have the weight of knowing that the younger campers are looking up to them.

Early on this summer, we recognized some behaviors among our seniors that were not up to our North Star standard. Regardless of how the boys may interact with one another away from camp, regardless of what they may say to one another on social media, and regardless of the content that they may be digesting on the internet, it is our expectation that at camp the boys comport themselves in a way that represents our North Star values. Last night we hosted a Senior Village campfire to discuss exactly what that means.

Jimmy, one of our CIT directors, gave his perspective as a camp parent and alum, about what makes North Star different from the rest of the world. Robyn led a reflection where the boys identified a behavior from this past week that they weren’t proud of, wrote it on a piece of paper, and threw it into the fire. And Mike Simons, another longtime North Star alumnus and current Executive Director of Camp for All Kids, led an exercise where each senior cabin identified the top 3 values that they think of when they consider what it means to be a North Star leader. Together, they committed to lead with those values that they selected: empathy, community, compassion, integrity, sportsmanship, kindness, respect, loyalty, inclusivity and openness.

And, before we concluded with pizza, together we recited the words of our most cherished poem:
“There is a destiny which makes us brothers;
None goes his way alone.
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.
I care not what his caste or creed,
One thing holds firm and fast
That into his days and deeds gone by
The Soul of a man is cast”

Throughout the evening our boys demonstrated a commitment to getting this right, for both themselves as individuals and for North Star as whole. We are so proud of our boys and who they are.

Week in Review Video:
We hope you enjoy this awesome highlight video from the past week! You’ll see some great moments from Open Mic Night, Cruiser Day, Campfires, and all of the fun happening around camp.

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 (Kansas, 1905-09)