by Michelle Beaver, '99 - '04
You go to camp, your mind expands, you make friends, a community, a family, and then you go home.
And feel lonely. And maybe you cry.
It’s called camp sickness. The best cure: an alumni association! In its base form, an alumni association gives former campers and staff members a new version of camp, a lasting “part two” after a transformative experience. Alumni associations provide a common ground and a meeting space for people who share a place, ideas, and experiences.
Members of alumni associations understand how powerful camp can be. They also know the same songs and understand references to, for instance, “Mandy Day,” “Cabin Hill” and “Emily Dickinson Hall.” And of course alumni associations are integral in choosing participants for the next season of camp.
An alumni association can be as small and informal as three people from the same state getting together for coffee once a year. Other alumni associations, however, go way above and beyond that modest prospect. The Danish Alumni Association, for instance, is so large, organized, motivated and creative that they started a camp.
Several other groups of alumni have also made big contributions to the Camp Rising Sun community and can always be counted on for help and insight. One such group is the Minnesota Alumni Association.
Members of the Minnesota Alumni Association have served on the Louis August Jonas Foundation board of directors and several committees. And members of the association, Nita and Rick Luis, have been incredibly generous with their donations.
Recently, this fine group of Minnesotans compiled a sustainability report about how the group helps LAJF. They wrote this in hopes that other associations can learn from what the Minnesota group has experienced, said Minnesota member Dan Pierpont, who was a legacy camper in 1992 and 1993 and was the art counselor in 1996.
“My hope is that it will show others a path to raising more money for LAJF, staying passionate about CRS, and having fun with your fellow Rising Sun brothers and sisters,” he said. Many alumni associations spend their energies selecting campers, but that is only the beginning. Some associations fund travel expenses for their campers, but a few exceptional associations have led fundraising efforts to support the Camp program. In Minnesota, there is a board member dedicated to organizing and leading fundraising efforts to support LAJF.
Dan added that he believes alumni events lead to more engagement and giving.
“Alumni associations need a few dedicated people to make gatherings happen and stay in good communication with the local alumni,” he said. “There area people that care enough about CRS to do something about it and spend whatever time it takes to get the job done.”
Another alum, Dorothee Pass, agrees that it’s important to designate someone to lead events. Pass, a 2000 Clinton camper, a 2001 Stendis camper, a counselor at Red Hook in 2006, and a member of the German alumi association, said a successful association “is not a one- or two-man show.”
She added that it can be hard to find people who can commit to what they want do for camp, but that even in that case, alumni associations continue friendships and form new ones, particularly across generations.
“Although it has been 16 years since my first and 10 years since my last summer at CRS, I remain bound by heart,” Dorothy said.
Harry Hamstra, director of the Dutch Alumni Association from 1999-2007, and a long-time board member of the Dutch alumni association, agrees that having at least one very dedicated person makes a big difference.
“For a successful alumni association it is vital to have a few persons that like to invest in keeping people connected, by personal contacts, by newsletters etc., and by organizing at least one association meeting per year,” he said.
The Dutch groups meet at least twice a year. During the fall meeting, the association members ask the newest campers about their experience. The tradition continues …
According to Harry, the main point of these groups involves, “Sharing of the special emotions that one has at camp, with people that really understand, and finding a group of interested and interesting people of different ages and backgrounds—with a common base in their CRS experience.”
It all makes coming home from camp a little easier. Thank you to all of our alumni associations! If there isn’t one in your state or country, please consider starting one. You could end up being the sachem every association needs.