Every spring, we ask the parents of our four Leaders to write a blog post looking back at their son’s years at Deerhorn. It’s fun to get to know our Leaders a little better and to see how they’ve grown into the incredible young men we know today. Our first in this series is Charlie Halpin, the Leader of the 2020 Apache.
It was early spring of 2016 when Charlie’s friends, John and Miguel Osuna, started begging me to let Charlie go away to Deerhorn with them. “It’s the best thing ever,” was all I kept hearing. I was pretty sure anything that the Osuna boys said was ‘the best’ meant it was a place where fun was to be had, showers would be optional, food would be plenty, and sleep would come at the end of long days filled with adventure and laughter. So of course, it was a total yes!
John, Miguel, and Charlie left from Wilmette on the bus, and headed off for the three-week C session.
I knew that the hard part would be on my end. I would miss him. And I would want to know for sure that he was having fun. On about day 6, I found this photo on the Deerhorn Facebook page. There was Charlie, literally laying in the mud with a huge smile that just screamed FUN! I stopped worrying and have never worried since.
Then we got Charlie’s first letter and I could see that all my suspicions about fun, food, sleep, and showers seemed to be right on target. I felt such a sense of gratitude when I read that letter. It was what every parent would want to read in their son’s first letter home, on his first time away at camp. We especially loved the part about the showers!
2020 will be Charlie’s 5th year at camp and I get a little emotional when I think about all that Deerhorn has given to and instilled in Charlie over these past four years. His letters are precious to us. The hundreds of photos that Deerhorn works so hard to share with all of the families convey a place that’s safe in a way that doesn’t mean band aids aren’t handed out; safe in a way where boys learn to trust each other, hold each other accountable, and become good men.
At the end of the season last summer, Charlie wanted to drive up to camp to support his friends and watch them as they gave their last speeches as campers. After four years of Charlie going to camp, this was my first visit to Deerhorn. I was so happy we went to watch these four leaders of 2019 share their stories. It was an emotional night and I felt privileged to witness the Deerhorn tradition of the Water Campfire. Just walking through the camp for those few hours, hearing the laughter of the boys all around me, and talking with some of the members of the Broadbridge family, made me so grateful that John and Miguel encouraged Charlie to go to camp with them those four summers earlier. What a gift. When Charlie and I got into the car to drive back home I asked my son, “do you feel loved here?” All I got was a “yep.” But I needed no more.
I know Charlie cannot WAIT to return to Deerhorn this summer to ferociously play more scalp, shoot hoops with his friends, and of course lead his Apache team in his last season as a Deerhorn camper.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Broadbridge family, thank you Deerhorn counselors, other campers, and all the families who support this special place. We can’t wait for Summer 2020!