The sun has set on another summer camping season, and like most summers, we had the honor of awarding 10 Year Jackets to a series of outstanding Takodians. As always, they span multiple generations, roles and responsibilities around our beloved Camp. To the latest recipients, I send my most sincere congratulations. For those of you who are part of our dedicated staff or corps of volunteers, I also extend my heartfelt thanks for all of your hard work.
When you receive this honor, you join the ranks of hundreds of celebrated Takodians going back to when Oscar and Francis Elwell exchanged the first jackets emblazoned with “10 Years” around 1931. Later, our own Peter DeMoya, more famously known as Friar Tuck, was given the first jacket to go to a non-top-staff recipient. This was something Peter frequently mentioned through to receiving his 40 year jacket shortly before he passed away in 2013. Oscar, who enjoyed a total of 5 jackets, originally created this incentive to instill a common sense of continuity, connection and tradition in the campers and staff alike. Since that time, the distinction has been passed down each and every summer on Cass Pond.
The thing is that, from the start, Uncle Oscar ensured that it was more than just a jacket or a special moment in time. Even today, it’s something bigger than a brief ceremony in the Elwell Chapel or a fleeting post on a social network that defines the achievement.
Well, consider the groundwork laid by your family that got you to Camp in the first place. Consider the trunks that had to be packed and the registrations and paperwork that had to be filled out. Consider the lessons learned, the songs sung, the Kapers completed, the tables cleared, and the activities enjoyed. Consider the candles you made, the rockets you launched, the ropes you climbed, the personal challenges you overcame and the wicker arm chairs you rocked. Remember the buddy tags you earned or helped others to earn, the lessons you taught, and the campers you kept safe and sound. Reflect on the storms you weathered, the lifelong friendships you forged and the people you got to know that you will never, ever forget. Most of all, consider what ten incredible summers in one spectacular place did to develop your sense of self and strengthen your spirit, mind and body with “silver, green and gold.”
Regardless of how you earned it – as a camper, LC, LIT, Leader, Lifeguard, Kitchen Crew, Maintenance Staff, Program Leader, A-Team, volunteer and beyond – it’s a unique piece of fabric. After all, each jacket is woven with the stitches of our Camp’s history and the well wishes of Takodians from all over the world.
And what did we learn as we earned these blue and white coats that seem so ordinary on the surface? We learned how to work for a common cause. We learned how to care for each other and ourselves. We learned how to respect our country, our Camp, our cabins and our character.
So the next time you put on your 10 – or 20 or 30 or 40 – Year Jacket, think past the time you’ve spent at Camp and consider the investment you, and many others, have made in your future.
Although you feel proud to put it on, we’re even more proud to have you wear it. Because, it’s not the person that wears the jacket but the jacket that wears the person you have become.