Letters From Amy: The Echo Lake Connection
I am sitting at a unique perch of 72 years at Echo Lake. A lot of ground has passed beneath my feet both literally and also and perhaps more important in form of the human equation.
We are refreshed and enlivened by all the campers and former staff who arrive during the summer with us. It serves to remind us that Echo Lake remains in the hearts and minds of all those who have spent spectacular (and hard-working) summers at our favorite camp. And one summer for staff can leave an indelible mark of the warmest of memories for them. What a wonderful feeling it is for me to know that the magic of Echo Lake can happen in just one summer. It’s no surprise, really, because our summers are rich and intense with activities and relationships.
Looking back a year or so ago I reflected on those who have passed through Echo Lake and have gone on to build, create and refine their own camps. Jeff Ackerman, who was our Head Counselor and shaped much of our current philosophy, working closely with me, went on to own Elmwood Day Camp. Scott Ralls, who will receive the Morry Award, this week at the Project Morry Annual Event, was one of the hardest working staffers whoever spent any years at Echo Lake. He created a very successful and neighboring camp, Southwoods. It’s very pleasurable to see his face and welcome his campers and vice versa when we share tournaments and games together. George Stein, my youngest son, is the owner director of Meadowbrook Day Camp in New Jersey. Laurie Rinke, presently at the helm of Echo Lake with son Tony, has been with us since she was 10 years old. Others who come to mind are Keith Klein at Camp Laurel, Danny Kagan who started as an eight year old camper who now owns and directs Lake Bryn Mawr Camp for girls, Corey Frimmer Dockswell, another Echo Lake lifer, and a second generation camper, at that, at Camp Wicosuta, and Mark Benerofe at Camp Winadu. Matt Jackowitz is now full time at Camp Walt Whitman and I am sure there are others in leadership positions at day and residential camps on the eastern seaboard.
Could I neglect the one and only Dawn Ewing who is the driving force behind Project Morry? She ran our Trek Program and was our Girls Head Counselor for a good many years. I went into mourning when she left, I must confess, since she and I were joined at the hip professionally. But since Project Morry is a beacon of light in the world of camping for underserved boys and girls and is a tribute to Morry, it was a request that I could not refuse. My pride in her and my gratitude knows no bounds.
Stalwarts who stayed close to home and chose to spend their camp lives with us for which we are so grateful are Terry and Glenn Begly. We’re oh so glad that their camping lives have always been with us at CEL. Terry was our Girls Head Counselor, too, and she and I were joined at the hip. For 40 years they have been part of our joys as well as the few bumps that came down the road. They’ve spanned two camping generations – Morry’s and mine and Tony’s as well. That’s loyalty and that’s love and it very much goes both ways.
Legacies of any sort are wonderful. For me, the best legacy of all is Echo Lake. I, as a second generation camp owner on this site, along with my husband Morry, husbanded an explosive growth in size, program and success for the 30 years we worked together. I continue my involvement and contribution to camp in my way because its excellence is paramount to me. I guess you could call it my lifeblood.
I truly feel, and what a glorious feeling it is, that there is a piece of me in every single child who ever came to Echo Lake. And what’s more each one of them, every last one, has a place in my heart and that’s for all my remaining years on this planet.
I feel, as well, and have been known to say it on occasion, that our campers are on loan to their parents for ten months a year, because they really, truly belong to us. A little misplaced egotism? Maybe. But that’s how great is our love and dedication to our campers because we continue to be thrilled at what Echo Lake means to them.
How lucky am I? Very!
Amy Medine Stein