Max & Jack (pictured above)
By: Max Rindsberg & Jack Miller
Camp Wise has always been a big part of our lives. When we both started attending camp as rising 5th graders, we didn’t know what we were in for and how much our time at camp would come to define us. Nearly six years later, after countless summer memories of friendship and fun at The Home of Happiness, our plan was to be a part of the Solel 2020 village this year for our last summer as traditional campers. Unfortunately, like many other camps, the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily prevented us from experiencing Solel in the way we planned. In missing camp and being able to be together at camp, we recently signed up for Wise Outdoor Fun Days, and helped with a Live Wise project while there, and we felt more connected to camp than ever before. More on that later.
When we both started camp as 5th graders in the village of Chalutzim, we were a little scared and nervous about what overnight camp would be like. However, within the first couple hours of being there, the energy, warmth, and happiness of everyone at camp made us realize that this was going to be a forever place—a place that we would always carry with us. Everything we did was focused on the people at camp and making sure we felt known, safe, and comfortable in our new summer home. To be honest, we don’t remember much from our fifth grade year at school after that summer, but those gaga games that we each won – those are something we will never forget for the rest of our lives.
Campers that we met at CW quickly became trusted, reliable, lifelong friends, and those friendships have only continued to grow over time with more summers spent together at camp. Our next summer, we were a part of the village of Ohalim, and something that sticks with us is how camp has taught us to make the best out of any situation. In Ohalim, the trash can outside our cabin had pretty regular visits from what we believed were raccoons who just loved to eat our canteen scraps. Instead of us getting upset or sad that we had to pick up trash every morning, we loved it. Why? Well, because our counselor told us about he saw a pair of raccoons late at night and started telling us stories about their adventures, and our cabin named them Marcello and Spaghetti (Marcello was the fast one and Spaghetti was the bigger one). We found such delight in personifying these animals and they became a way our cabin bonded and had something shared that only our cabin could understand. Our counselors always made sure we were safe and taken care of, but also taught us how to connect with each other in silly yet special ways, and this is just one example. After that summer, our camp friendships quickly grew to being year-round friendships with sleepovers whenever out-of-town friends came into town.
Camp Wise is an amazing place. By itself, though, it is just a place. The magic of Wise is the wonderful people and community we have met, become friends and family with, and shared summers with. It’s about the memories we share with each other that could fill lifetimes. Some of those memories are built into the camp experience, like the way we welcome everyone to Wise in Chardon, under a tunnel of staff members’ linked arms singing the Welcome Song, and singing and cheering at meals, Maccabiah, and so many other thing that make camp what it is. But, in all honesty, some of the most meaningful memories are from experiences we weren’t expecting and moments we couldn’t have predicted. They came from conversations, spontaneity, and the joy of feeling a part of something bigger than ourselves with the security of always being looked out for.
A few weeks ago, we took the opportunity to go out to Camp Wise for a Live Wise project and lend a helping hand with projects aimed at supporting camp and preparing it for the future. We had the chance to learn about woodworking, and Zach, one of camp’s awesome maintenance staff, taught us how to build a new and improved, weather (and animal!) proof, protective shell for our camp trash cans. It felt amazing to work together on this, and felt especially meaningful given our Ohalim experiences with Marcello and Spaghetti!
Giving back to the place that has given us so much for more than half a decade felt empowering, especially this summer. Knowing that our signatures will be tucked away on the inside of our project forever and knowing that we are starting our legacy of giving back to camp in new ways means so much to us. This summer has been pretty lackluster for us otherwise, but returning to camp for a few hours filled us with the energy, lightheartedness, and happiness we had six years ago when we arrived there for our first summer, and that is a testament to how wonderful CW is. While walking through camp, we found ourselves reminiscing, talking about camp and smiling the whole time. Even though we all had to spend this summer away from our home away from home, we want the entire Camp Wise community to know that camp still feels like camp, and that giving back to camp helped remind us of how much it has impacted us in our lives. We recommend signing up for a Live Wise project or supporting camp in any way you can. Shout out to Solel 2020!
Click here to donate to the philanthropic efforts to support and stabilize Camp Wise’s financial condition at this time. Every donation counts to help ensure we can provide many more life-changing Jewish summers for our campers and staff. Currently, all donations from our community will be matched through the All Together Now matching grant program, made possible through JCamp 180, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.