The memory that stands out for Derek most was the day the docks were lashed together, forming a bridge across the lake. The entire camp was on the makeshift bridge singing the camp song. “It was the first time that was done in the 125 years of the camp — it was one of the greatest raids of all time.”This event had all the hallmarks that have shaped his life so far — initiative to take on big tasks, inspiring teamwork in others, and pride in accomplishment.

A Reluctant Camper

Comes Around Derek first started camp in 1979. He was a reluctant camper at first, but within a week was joining in with everyone else. “It was one of the first times I got a chance to be me. I was 12 or 13 and started to figure out how things worked.” “By the time I got to Pioneer Village, I was ready to try new things — cooking and collecting wood, making a fire and being a part of a community. I figured out simple things — if I volunteered to do the dishes the first week, no one would make me do them for the rest of the summer.”

Caught Red-Handed

Camp had its fun moments, such as the time “we snuck out of our tent to play poker with government issued macaroni. The person on duty, Marcus, was standing outside our tent listening and waiting for the right time to announce himself. When he did, I grabbed a bunch of macaroni and ran back to my tent, dropping macaroni all the way.Marcus followed the macaroni trail to find 4 campers completely out of breath, trying to pretend that  we never left our tent.” Despite that, Derek was offered a job as a counselors’ aide, and took it, figuring he could have fun at work. “But working with kids was a lot of work. I remember asking my mother how she did it with the two us.”

Director of Pioneer Village

After a few years, Derek left, only to return in 1991 as a PV counselor. “I was 24 or 25 and had the best time. I got to lead bike and canoe trips — it’s not what you get to do normally.” While teaching during the year, he served as the Director of Pioneer Village for three summers, seeing the cycle of campers repeat his own growth path.“Of the three buildings in PV, I had the director’s cabin with the only phone. I would hear the counselors call their parents and apologize for their behavior as teenagers,” he recalls. “Some of those campers are now running PV. It’s nice to see that continuum of keeping traditions alive. We do the same things that we did in the 80s. It hasn’t changed so much that you wouldn’t recognize it.”

Returning as Program Director

Derek left in 1997 and came back in 2004 as the Program Director for Pequot Sherwood. “My daughter, Kendal, started in Woodlands and I got to see another generation get the benefits of camp. The camp is still welcoming for all — sleeping in a tent is the great equalizer.”

Lessons for Life

Self-preservation, taking initiative, and a willingness to try new things are all attributes that Derek learned at camp. “To this day, I can’t walk past something that is not right,” he says. “I remember a bunch of friends moving to a new house. They had their stuff in the middle of the alley, but their truck was all the way at the end of the alley. I assessed how narrow the alley was, and determined that I could back the truck in. And I did. They asked how I learned, I said ‘camp.’ The staff and the campers, they are not afraid to try things.” And that’s a lesson he brings to his current job as the Athletic Director at Green Acres School in Rockville, MD. “Our 16-acre campus is a lot like camp, and we encourage kids do things that are hands on. When one student said, ‘You aren’t like a regular teacher — you’re like a camp counselor,’ it was one of the greatest compliments that I have ever received.”

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