Today’s Look Back is Walt Szafran, leader of the 2017 Apache. Many thanks to his parents for sharing their memories!
When it came time to think about a summer camp for our boys, Walt’s dad naturally thought of his own boyhood summer camp in Massachusetts. After some investigating he discovered that his camp had changed hands a couple times, and the camp dates there didn’t line up well with our boys’ school calendar where we were living in Illinois. We decided to find somewhere closer to home. Several friends recommended Camp Deerhorn. We liked that the founding family was still running it, and we liked the values they emphasized in the Deerhorn Creed. Walt’s older brother, Owen, started when he was 11. Owen loved it, and Walt joined him the following summer in 2011 when he was 10.
Like Owen, Walt went up solo, without a buddy from home. Owen was already up at camp as we watched Walt board the bus by himself, and hoped it would all work out well. Walt enjoyed it from the start, made new friends there, and wanted to go back each summer for longer stays. Part of what he looked forward to was getting to see his camp friends again each summer.
We heard Walt and Owen talk about games, activities, counselors and traditions that they shared at Deerhorn, and we could see that they were making lifelong memories and friendships. They always came home looking bigger than when they left, a little more confident, and a little more independent. Beyond the activities and friends there was the time out in nature and away from normal life at home that made those summers special, too. There were campfires and sing-a-longs, horseback rides and starry nights. In one letter Walt wrote that it had been raining for days, and could we send him the next book in the series he was reading “right away because I’m hooked!” I thought of those boys in their koogees with the sound of rain falling and having time to get absorbed in a story or a game of cards, without video games to pull them away.
As last summer and the Voyager trip approached I asked Walt if he was looking forward to it. He said that Deerhorn is like the light at the end of the tunnel after each school year. He said he couldn’t wait to see his camp friends again and he thought it would be the best summer at camp yet. He came home at the end of the summer saying the trip was one of the best experiences of his life.
When the call came asking Walt if he would return to be a leader he was incredibly excited. It’s been fun seeing him and the other leaders make plans for the summer ahead. Right now they’re working on t-shirts. They’ve already decided who gets which bunk in their koogee. They will be leading their own teams, but these are guys who have grown close during their summers at camp and there will be as much camaraderie as there is competition.
One day not long after Walt found out he would be a leader he said, “you know, out of us four leaders I’ve spent the fewest summers at camp. They’ve all gotten to go seven summers and I’ve only gone for six.” I told him if we’d known how much he would love it we would have let him go earlier. He agreed that he’s been lucky to spend as much time there as he has. The opportunity to grow and play and develop friendships at camp during those childhood summers is a gift. We are grateful to have found Camp Deerhorn.