The Alumni Spotlight gives us the opportunity to catch up with a Tamarack alum, hear about where they are now, and learn how Tamarack Camps shaped them. We are thrilled to check in with Matt May. Read his story below!
When did you attend Tamarack Camps? What villages or programs were you part of?
Camp, for me, began at Pioneer Village back in 1982. In 1983, I attended Camp Kennedy. The adventures continued with Alaska in 1984. My last summer as a camper was 1985 in Israel. Brighton as staff 1986-1990. Kennedy and Agree staff 1991-1992. These were all the most incredible experiences and they changed my life.
What lessons did you learn from camp?
Lessons I learned:
Challenge is an essential part of life and it’s okay to sometimes fail… just keep pushing yourself forward!
Teamwork — every aspect of camp focused on the importance of being an individual, but that each individual is part of a team. I still think about this in my daily work.
Being uncomfortable is okay — at camp we were sometimes uncomfortable (canoeing challenging rapids, difficult hikes, mosquitos and black flies) but those parts of being uncomfortable often make up pieces of the best memories!
Comfort Zone — Camp is where I learned that the best experiences can happen when we leave our comfort zone and push beyond our ‘limits.’ This remains with me even today as I continually try to expand my experiences.
Friendship — many of my closest friends to this day are from camp, either as a camper or staff.
What are you up to now personally and/or professionally?
After 17 years as a Firefighter/Paramedic, I retired in 2016.
About 10 years ago I created an outdoor adventure company called 4Points Guides.
Through this company we offer two main types of programs:
1. Teach wilderness emergency medicine courses across the US and overseas
2. Guide adventure programs in partnership with The National Park Service (Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Denali, Chilkoot Trail and more).
Our partners are mostly schools and summer camps… keeping the traditions alive!
How did camp impact how you live your life today?
The best parts of camp were the challenge and the friendships. I try to continually push myself both physically and mentally to expand my comfort zones, and to realize each day that as I get older, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the adventure and challenge of the outdoors.
The friendships I made at camp have lasted for 30+ years and I expect they will continue for the rest of my life… I always keep in mind where these friendships began and I am forever grateful to camp for that. Even when life gets busy, as it does pretty often, I still try to reach out and maintain camp friendships. These are the ones that are most important to me.
Why is Tamarack Camps “The Greatest Place on Earth?”
Camp can help a shy, timid 13 year old kid shed the preconceptions about themselves that they bring through the camp gates. We all have the opportunity to push our limits, grow and change: Camp is the perfect catalyst for that change.
From activities, to friendships, to adventure and fun, camp is the greatest place on earth for kids to become who they were meant to be.
Was there a staff member that made a lasting impact on you and why?
There are too many to mention in detail but the staff at Pioneer, Kennedy and Alaska where all incredible.
Pierre LaMoose at Pioneer was probably the one that started my camp journey in the most positive way. I can’t even remember his real name, just his camp name. But the impact was still amazing!
Jody at Kennedy… and Barb, Jen and Dan on the Alaska trip in particular were all simply fantastic. They could be tough when needed, they had great skills, but they could also be an integral part of the trip team.
I appreciate all of them!
Favorite camp memory:
Alaska 84 had so many ridiculous, fun, challenging, outrageous moments that finding one would be tough. But I remember one morning my tent (Marc, Steve, Irwin) were on breakfast duty and we decided the best way to wake up the girls would be to dive bomb their tent. After collapsing their tent on them, we thought we were hilarious. They didn’t agree.
The next morning we woke up to find they had retaliated by using a masterlock to lock our tent zipper closed. They definitely had the last laugh. There were no hard feelings, just friends knowing they had been bested and loving every minute of it.
Favorite camp meal:
Favorite program/theme day:
Circus day at Brighton… for too many reasons to list.
Dream Tamarack reunion idea:
Alaska 2023… at the top of the Chilkoot Trail.