This past summer marked my 15th summer here at camp. Reflecting back on my many years on “The Nation”, as many of the Ockanickon alumni refer to camp, I cannot help but think about the many personal milestones and world events that have happened while spending at least one full week on camp for every age from years 11 through 25. To put that on paper, I realize that 60% of my possible summers since birth have involved a stay at camp lasting as little as a week to 2 full years and counting. Given that those summers include all of my teenage years and, thus far, all of my twenties, it would take a book for me to be able to qualify my experiences and growth that camp is directly responsible for. However, it would only take me a short blog entry to quantify my experiences at camp:

  • 35 camp shirts, or enough camp related clothing to go 5 weeks without doing laundry.
  • 672 hours spent on the lake in a canoe counting only my 3 summers as Ockanickon boating director.
  • Approximately 616 pretzel melts eaten during the months of June-August alone (Avg. 5 per meal, personal record 11)
  • 16 Blue Feathers given out as a Village Chief
  • 7 days minimum spent as a counselor in every cabin in Seneca Village (6-11), including Cabin 8.
  • 16 former campers as co-workers (most of whom were 9 when I first met them)
  • 5 weddings attended at camp (bus boy at 4 of them)
  • 6 ball-drops missed on New Year’s eve sleeping off all nighters at Winter Camp.
  • 7 combined total seasons in camp-related fantasy football leagues (first league entered at age 22)
  • 4 birthdays experienced at camp (no small feat since my birthday is in May)

The list goes on and on; however, what I have to remind myself the most of as I look back these on these 15 years is that they could have ended very quickly. Getting homesick on my first full day of camp, I was given the choice by longtime camp employee Roger Houghkirk, to either go home or to give camp a chance. Because of his genuine care and belief that I would find the same connection to camp that he has, I made the right choice. Despite many summers where I was not sure if I would be able to come back to camp, I truly cannot see myself being anywhere else. Thank you to all the many friends and mentors that I have had who give me a place where I truly belong and I count among my family. I look forward to getting my coffin (the joke award for 20 years at camp).

James Otwell