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Reflections on Change For Good

By: Lee Trepeck

In May, at our annual fundraiser, Send a Kid To Tamarack, we highlighted the idea of “Change for Good.” Now, reflecting on the journey of this historic summer, and as I continue to have conversations with our campers, staff, and families, I am motivated by the positive change that existed in every program. Even in an atypical year.

With the complications of COVID-19, the Alaska Trip and Charles N. Agree Outpost were cancelled; yet, in the absence of these adventures, we remained committed to finding a home for entering 11th graders. Ultimately, with professional resolve, creative thinking, lay leader support, and camper input, we raised our flag at Camp Olmsted, a newly established outpost program. In the final days of an awesome session, during their final Havdalah, participants passed a candle and expressed perspective from their weeks together; there, in the darkness of rustic surroundings, the light shined on individual stories of gratitude and growth. In an agency that has been open since 1902, they blazed into the history books with newfound success. And, collectively, everyone seemed to glow.

Yes … change (Alaska and Agree) for good (Olmsted)!

At Camp Kennedy, to ensure health, we tweaked “normal” festivities – interactions in Munising, participation in a parade, and original canoe trip locations (just to name some). Even still, upon the conclusion of our summer, a parent reflected upon a meaningful session for campers and staff: “My child’s experience was very impactful … we’ve already heard fantastic stories about stars, Lake Superior, swimming, KP group meals, the trips, the friends …” The parent continued: There is certainly special magic in the outpost and part of the magic is the staff. This year, after being cooped up for a year and a half, camp provided that first opportunity of normalcy, while at the same time balancing safety. Everyone was all in.”

Again, change (heightened need for safety) for good (everyone was “all in”)!

At Camp Maas, we fought the spread of COVID-19 by maintaining a bubble – and we won (everyone tested negative, which was beyond positive)! Amongst many modifications from a usual summer, there were adjustments to camper arrivals, living arrangements, dining protocols, program coordination, and staff days-off. Yet, if you were unaware of the necessary “pivots,” and you walked around campus, the cheering, laughter, voices, stories, and enthusiasm felt akin to any other year.

And, again, change (ongoing adjustment) was for the good (collective goal to protect the most vulnerable, which is the essence of living in a sacred community).

Finally, let me add this: upon conclusion of the summer, we received an outpouring of messages; our heartstrings were pulled by so many emotional moments of a unique time. Here’s an excerpt from a beautiful email: “Our boys had “the best summer ever” at a time when the best summer was needed more than ever. As parents we are so grateful that they were able to have a summer of independence, experience, and joy after 18 months of COVID and with an uncertain fall ahead of them. As Tamarack donors, we know our investment in this community resource is a good one. As community members, we are confident that Tamarack Camps is helping us to strengthen Jewish identity and strengthen Jewish Detroit.”

And some things never change.

I want to conclude with gratitude to our steadfast supporters, board members, and year-round staff – totally open to the above changes, instrumental in their execution, and always motivated to climb the highest mountain. Together, we reached the summit – and then stretched beyond those limits. After a year away, we are grateful that we connected in the comeback summer of a lifetime – filled with the warmth of fresh air, adventure, happiness, success, positive changes … and negative PCRs!

Click here to hear from others who have “changed for good” because of Tamarack Camps!