Camp 2014: Loosen the Reins

Sit back and get comfortable. This just may be the longest post of band camp week.

For parents who haven’t read my history of band blogs and newsletters, I’m the parent who tells you straight and honest when something needs saying. I’m not the only parent like that in this organization, but I am the one with the password to the website and newsletter system…


Camp Hayo Went Ha has been in continuous operation as a YMCA boys camp for 111 years.

Season after season, young men (and a few assorted girls) have left their homes for a few weeks to grow and expand their boundaries beyond what they’d learn in their homes and neighborhood.

The walls of the dining hall are covered with photographs. Hundreds of smiling young men posing in front of the very same buildings we’re using today. My uncle is one of them. He made Eagle Scout in 1955.

Guess what I notice about all these young campers?

Not a one of them is dead.

Okay, sure. Most of them lived to 80 and even then have long since passed away. But there are no dead guys posing in the photographs.

Because sleep-away camp doesn’t kill kids.


Many of you have sent your students away for their first extended trip, and that’s hard.

It’s hard on the kid who isn’t sleeping in their own bed and eating the foods they know. It’s hard on you because you’ve spent at least 14 years making sure this kid doesn’t stick a fork in the light socket or fail to register for the ACTs.

It’s hard to let go. I’m right there with you.

But band camp is a safe place to loosen the reins a bit. Not drop the reins entirely, but to give 'em a little slack.

Think about it- they’re surrounded by 40 experienced YMCA staff who are great with teens. They’re trained and degreed educators, medical staff, and counselors. These people are passionate about making camp the best experience of your child’s life.

The LOMB staff know what your kids are capable of. They’re dedicated to challenging your children and showing them how to be the best musicians they can be.

And then there are the chaperones- parents who walk in the same shoes and drive the same car pool routes that you do. We’re here to provide a sense of home and security to your camper.

This is a safe place to let your young bird fly.


We had a bonfire night last night.

More on that in another post. For now, what you need to know is that campfire night is sitting around a campfire eating s’mores and listening to kids talk to kids about how band changed their lives.

Want to hear the sad thing?

Some of your kids didn’t enjoy it much.

And it’s kinda your fault.

We had one young lady who didn’t think she could go to the fire because her mom was supposed to call soon.

As I stood behind the campfire group, I watched their phones light up with texts- some of them from you.

One young man climbing the stairs in front of me said "Damn, my mom called twice. I gotta get her before she freaks.”

One of my own cabin kids left a fun conversation because she needed to check in.


I have to tell you, band camp is hard enough without worrying about your dad worrying about you.

And no one learns to deal with a challenge if Mom is telling you that she’s leaving in 10 minutes to pick you up.

Band camp is one of the most challenging and fulfilling experiences your child will ever have. What they do here not only makes them a better marcher and musician but it also gives them life skills they’ll need to master college, a career, and their own futures.

But it can only work if you step back and let them learn.

So I have a project for many of you. From here on out when you get a whiny text, be a just little more remote than yesterday. And tomorrow, move a little further back. Contact the chaperone if you’re worried (PLEASE!) but can we agree to let them find their own way to the med cabin to treat their own skinned knee?

Some of you are really stressing. But we have it under control here.

"You’ll do fine. I know you miss home, but go talk to (insert best friend here). I’ll bet he/she feels the same way.” 

Back to my uncle and the pictures on the wall…

There are kids up on these walls who had it much tougher than your student. About the same time that my uncle started boy scouts, his dad was island hopping in the Pacific theater and eventually was declared MIA. Shortly after his time at Hayo Went Ha, he went to live with his future in-laws (my grandparents) as hired farm help. That was a camper who really had something to worry about.

There are young men on the walls who camped here during major and minor wars. There were campers here during the great depression. Some young men left camp and went to Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. But while they were at camp here, they were learning in a safe environment.

Your kid WILL make it through band camp. The sooner they learn to cope, the richer their camp experience will be.

Give 'em a chance to find their way. It’s okay. The camp team has your back.