Next up in our Look Back at Leaders series, we introduce you to Walker Bruce. Walker is returning to Deerhorn for his 8th summer as a camper, and will be leading the Deerhorn Eagles. Here’s what Walker’s parents have to say about his tenure at Deerhorn!
Before we look back further, we want you to know that Walker almost didn’t return to Camp Deerhorn (CDH) last year. He had originally signed up, but at some point decided he wanted to focus on hockey over the summer instead. Between January and March 2022, though, he thought A LOT about CDH. This being his decision, his Mom and I were able to give him space and stay out of it. While on Spring Break, Walker did finally conclude that CDH is where he needed to be, and Patrick graciously added him back to the Voyager roster. And as soon as Walker did decide, he was 100% all-in and game-on. This vignette describes Walker well – independent, thoughtful, and resolute – while he also is not afraid to correct course (and fast!) when he reasons otherwise after additional reflection. Each Deerhorn summer for Walker has been better than the last, and based on the never-ending stories that we hear (especially from Voyager), 2022 certainly continued that tradition.
Looking back a bit further, Walker was hooked from day one. He has “spoken Deerhorn” since he first stepped into camp on August 17th, 2014. That first CDH experience was for a (very wet, yet supremely) awesome Father/Son session, just prior to second grade. Walker “disappeared” many times during that F/S session – which is to say… he ditched dear old Dad in order to shoot rifles, bows, or otherwise play a game and hang out with his new friends. These friends were not only other fellow campers, but also the many staff, counselors, the Broadbridges, and (of course) the Deerhorn Dogs who all welcomed and embraced Walker. Despite initial fears from Dad (it was “Father/Son” after all, and my own first camp experience but … where was my son?), I eventually realized all of this was a great thing. As his mom would later say, Walker had found his happy place.
This summer will be Walker’s 8th year as a camper, and (were it not for 2020) this would be our family’s 10th with Deerhorn when counting that first Father/Son experience. Since 2014, he has brought his brother Carter into the fold along with several others from home. As a Leader this summer, Walker will bring with him 138+ days of first-hand, “always on” and hard-earned Deerhorn camper experience. We have no doubt that he will be able to deftly lift up, encourage, and befriend at just the right moment, while also motivating one of his tribe recruits with just the right tone and glance to help win the Monkeys (!).
I know it may sound cliché, but we have seen how the Deerhorn Brotherhood flows strongly and unites well beyond the confines of Camp. While Amy mentions this at least once every summer in the blog, it is another thing to see it up close and personal. Not only are we fortunate to have experienced Deerhorn directly through Father/Son sessions and family road trip drop-offs, we’ve also lived it vicariously through the eyes and (endless) tales of our two sons and countless sets of other brothers – real brothers and camp brothers – whom we now know.
“It’s not about camp” is something I remember one of Walker’s initial elders saying relatively early during our boys’ Deerhorn experience. While I knew what Jesse meant in general, it took me several years of watching, listening, and thinking to grasp it more fully. While Walker’s path has been his own, I also know that it is a similar one (if not familiar) to others. What begins as a phenomenally fun and highly tangible camp experience with the boats, the bows, the campfires, the games, the horses, the rifles… grows into an intangible yet very real Journey within the Brotherhood with those magical bus rides to and from camp, the impromptu activity challenges from a counselor, the adventures together at camp + the stories that they bring home after it, the smiles and hugs that greet one another when they cross paths (often unexpectedly) at hockey rinks, on lacrosse fields, at too-early-celebrations-of-life, on social media, at Disney World, and even amongst parents who-have-never-met-before-but-here-we-are in New York talking about what a great time our boys are having together at camp.
While Camp Deerhorn is the place, I would argue (and Walker has shown) that the magic happens along the Deerhorn Journey that each camper-brother takes out into the world along with them. Those experiences then help unite and bond them together to help perpetuate and grow the Deerhorn Diaspora that lives on well after the expiring labels of “camper” and “staff” have come and gone. We have watched Walker travel these steps, and wish him, Connor, Dylan, and Nelson all the best this summer as these young men make the most of it while also helping to prepare the next generation of leaders. While camp itself is an integral part of the Deerhorn experience, we know this year’s leaders will also model for others how to blaze the path for their own journey both inside of, and beyond, the physical property lines of CDH.