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We’re so close! In just a few days, we’ll be welcoming our staff onto the property to begin our pre-camp training week, and then, in the seeming blink of an eye, we’ll be welcoming campers back to Kabeyun for another amazing summer! I’m so incredibly excited for the promise of the weeks to come, but before the summer begins I have saved this one opportunity -- my last blog of the 2021-22 offseason -- to write about what Kabeyun means to me.
It’s an idea I’ve spent a lot of time considering this offseason, both as I’ve had the chance to speak and think about Kabeyun as a year-round employee for the first time and as I’ve reflected on my experiences across my decades at camp. As a result, I have come to define Kabeyun as a place where all those who come here are welcomed, and are able and encouraged to explore any and all of our activities and opportunities, free from the fear of failure. Our community is also one where our members should be free to take those risks and express themselves however they choose without fear of judgment.
Many of these strands are things I’ve felt about camp for years, but never tied together and set down in writing before this offseason. I talked about the joy of camp being free from the fear of failure through the lens of building resilience at a virtual Pine Point during the ‘Lost Summer’ of 2020, and it's a sentiment I’ve heard expressed many times in other variations by many other people. But in thinking about how we’ve fostered that culture, where it's perfectly ok to get up on stage in front of the whole community without any prior theater experience or faceplant in front of a waterfront full of your friends while learning how to waterski, I found myself returning to the twinned ideas of freedom from fear of failure and freedom from fear of judgment.
This place is open to all those who wish to be here, regardless of their ability level at a given activity. So too, it should be welcoming to anyone who sees our mission as an overnight camp for boys to grow and develop and wishes to be a part of that experience and work. An example: Yes, we are a boys camp, but our female counselors and staff are an integral and highly valued part of who we are.
Getting the opportunity to be actively involved with Kabeyun’s Pride community in 2021 was a profound experience that I am incredibly grateful to have had, and one I look forward to continuing in the years to come. It helped me to realize that just because I’ve never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome at camp doesn't mean others haven’t, and our discussions from last summer have helped me not only frame what camp means to me, but have inspired a call to action I will continue to ask as long as I am a member of this community: “What can I do to help make sure that Kabeyun truly is a place where all are welcome and feel free from the fear of failure and the fear of judgment?”
So that, then, is what Kabeyun means to me. I know each of us has our own unique connection and appreciation for this place, and the fact that it can be many different things to many different people reinforces, in my mind, how special this environment truly is. Whatever your Kabeyun story is, or will be in the summers to come, I eagerly await sharing this place with you and I hope to see you here soon!
Eliot Golding is Kabeyun's Assistant Director.