I came to Camp Mishawaka as a 9-year-old boy thanks to the generosity of my grandfather. It was my Christmas gift in 1974, and then again for the following 7 years. I am not sure he knew he signed on for an 8-year stint when he made that first gift, but as I often say it was the best gift I ever received and one that has kept on giving. Other gifts that I received over the years have long-since broken, become out dated or have faded, while this experience, and this place is still here.
I suspect my grandfather, a very frugal person, continued to support my experience at Camp Mishawaka because he saw value in the investment. For my part, I am not sure I recognized the long-term value at the time. It was just fun, and I got to do things I would never have had the chance to do at home. I got to meet people from all over the world and learn to take some responsibility for my “stuff”, practice making choices (good and bad) in an environment that designed for me to do just that.
Sometimes these benefits are immediate – a new skill acquired, a new milestone reached or a new friend, or group of friends made. In many instances the benefits are more subtle and fit into a larger backdrop of growing up, developing resilience, and a stronger sense of self. No one told me that 40 years later I would be drawing on my Camp Mishawaka experience, almost daily, as I encounter challenges, meet new people or attempt to learn something new. And, if they did tell the 9-year old me that I would be doing just that I probably wouldn’t have cared or believed them.
But I do believe that my parents and grandfather saw the potential for the lasting value of a Camp Mishawaka experience. It was, for them, more than just providing a diversion or fun – though that was no doubt a wonderful feature of my time here. Our focus remains just that – providing kids a wonderful experience and one that is full of wonder and discovery. We celebrate all that it means to be a child.