Our final blog in our Look Back at Leaders series introduces us to Dylan Tackett, Leader of the 2023 Deerhorn Bobcats. This will be Dylan’s 8th summer as a Deerhorn camper, and, as always, we love hearing what his parents have to say about all of his years spent at camp!
2015 was Dylan’s first summer as a camper at Deerhorn. He was 8, and it was his 3rd trip here because he always accompanied us to take or pick up his brother Conner. I remember the summer before when we were dropping Conner off and Dylan sat in the back of car, head buried in his knees crying; so sad to see his brother leaving. I wonder though, was he crying because he’d miss Conner or just sad because he knew all the fun he was missing out on? Regardless of the reason for the tears, it was touching and illustrated something special budding inside him. A deeper brotherly bond, a love of camp life, and connectedness to nature that runs so deep in Dylan.
That first summer for Dylan changed the dynamic and the rides home were even more entertaining and endearing. The chaotic first 20 minutes at pick up were doubly chaotic. The positive energy, the joy, the pride were now magnified with two boys (and eventually a third). Once in the car, it’s not unusual for Dylan to talk the entire 6.5 hours back home. He and his brothers share their funny stories, their injuries, the occasional conflict and resolution, their target sheets, patches, medals, and gold stars! In those moments I hear the growth in their voices and I treasure the moment, when for a short time, the boys are on the same level. They are a little more bonded and they talk with just a little more confidence than the month before, and certainly more enthusiasm. In that moment, there’s no brotherly arguing and all is good in our world.
Over the years we’ve enjoyed hearing the names of Dylan’s friends that are back, how many swipes he got in Braveheart, his role in Pugawaggan or the Monkeys, what skill he improved on, and of course the letters home! In the beginning we got maybe 3 sentences, but each summer the letters grew a bit; always revealing how much fun he was having, friends he had made, and always a “please write back” – what a special gift to have with your kids, old fashioned letters. He’d come back to the lake ready to show off what he learned or improved on, be it sailing, wake boarding, or slalom. He also got to share his details with my uncle and cousins who are Deerhorn alumni, making it that much more special. The confidence displayed after a few weeks at camp is remarkable, and makes a parent proud and hopeful that it will continue to grow and carry him far in his future.
Dylan is an extremely self-motivated young man, and always putting forth his best effort. In his free time, you can find him fishing, working out, kicking at the football field, or exploring the woods nearby with or without his buddies. When it comes to hiking, he is excited to share what he discovered and is already planning what he wants to do on his next hike. He told me he enjoys just sitting on top of a lookout sometimes and taking in the sounds, the beauty and the quiet moments in his own thoughts. I think summers at camp getting back to basics – immersed with time in the woods, and on the water, campfires and sports and games, rainy days, glorious days, koogee time, and quiet time have fostered the ability to find joy in the simple pleasures of life and the ability to silence the noise around us all and focus on what is important and necessary.
Also important for Dylan, friendships have been a keystone to his experience at camp. He is lucky to have had a consistent group of boys return to camp the same session each summer. They reconnect effortlessly, and I enjoy that they keep in contact over the year from time to time. When he talks about them it is with so much happiness and laughter. I hope that continues and they benefit from these connections across states and over the years. Having this expanded circle of friends enriches their lives and opens them up to opportunities they may not have otherwise. At home, it’s evident he has learned a good deal about teamwork, making and navigating friendships, and self-reliance. I can recall more than one occasion where Dylan has stepped up with a group pep talk to reverse a negative team dynamic, expressed concern over a struggling friend, offered down to earth advice and always a steady and humble friendship. These qualities of sportsmanship, selflessness, lending a hand and enjoying nature are reflective of The Creed, which to this day we keep pinned to the refrigerator.
Recently going through photos from camp over the years was such a joy! Seeing how much he grew and changed each summer. Wearing different colors from year to year. But one thing is always the same, the joyful smile! We are grateful for his years here at Deerhorn, the bond he has with his friends, and his brothers, and uncle, and cousins. Camp is a unique and special place I know will remain in his heart. Hook’em Horns!