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Director’s Annual Commentary

Autumn 2000: A Camp of Good Kids

We loved our campers this year. I am sure similar prose has appeared before in this space but never as the opening line in the annual "State of the Union Letter." It was a real treat for Alice and me to review the full list of boys' names after camp ended on August 19. This time around we got a great sense of "promises kept" from both ends — ours and yours. You gave us good material to work with and we produced another healthy, safe and happy camp community. Huzzas for all!

2000 was a huge year for facility maintenance. Not only the new Main Lodge building, but the efforts to redesign the beach, control erosion, delineate pathways to the Dining Room, and generally beautify the campus left many of us with a perpetual "warm fuzzy" regarding the Kingswood property. Scott Shupe, golf coach, surely took advantage of a beaming camp director a couple days before camp opened when he said to me, "What a gorgeous layout we've got, but why do I get stuck with golf flags which are torn and tattered on bent poles? Let me show you this catalogue, which — "Get new flags overnight expressed," I interrupted in Scott's mid sentence as another wish list request was granted. Additionally, Charmion and Lori in the kitchen got their walk-in refrigerator completely renovated plus expanded, and the campers, too, were delighted to see the five new private showers and dressing areas in the Fieldside Uno go on line early in the summer. While we do not intend ever to make Kingswood a "hot house" or "Mercedes" camp, we are committed to having a modern, clean and cozy yet traditionally rustic setting. From the feedback we got this summer, it appears that most, if not all, of you are on board in this area.

Yes, but there's so much left to accomplish as well. I get asked all the time about Smith Hall, our paraplegic gym building. To be honest, now that we have the Main Lodge building with its breathtaking Great Room for indoor gatherings, many of us do not feel as pressed to see Smith Hall earmarked for uses beyond its current role — wrestling clinics, rainy day games and larger theatrical productions such as the Bow & Arrow Songfest. Thus, either renovation or rebuilding in kind are our two remaining options, and we'll simply allow time to tell us the ultimate decision. Look instead come summer 2001 for the Main Lodge to get its trim completed and accessories garnered. Karen Tcheyan, Mike's mom, came by the other day with three large bags of books, just in time for me to toss the catch to Todd, who was in town with his van, the Sabymobile. Chris Bartels's folks, Maddy Wuertz's folks, Dave McGaughey's folks — these are some others who have made multiple book donations to the would-be Great Room library. We hope to have shelves built, books categorized, and loan procedures ready to roll sometime in summer 2001. Many thanks to these and everyone else interested in the library project.

Other areas where rehabs and improvements can be expected within a reasonable time are tennis court fencing, kitchen equipment and the eventual replacement of the Hilly 2 and Hilly 3 cabins. I'll save the specifics of our thinking on these projects for another time, but please feel free to inquire and/or make suggestions on these and other related issues as your interest merits.

Summer 2000 heralded a significant improvement in communications with parents, most notably through the periodical letters from the director posted on the What's New page of the camp's web site at While some of you hailed these news flashes as lifelines to your child, others weren't even aware of the postings. I've left standing the entire batch of second session letters for anyone's review. You can anticipate more of the same in 2001, with the added prospect that I'll be scanning photographs, too, on a frequent basis. Wouldn't that be something if on a bleak day in July, 2001, you summoned the Kingswood web site to be greeted with a picture of your smiling, healthy son posted that very day? I am told the technology to post photos rapidly is here and I aim to have it in my skills tool kit by next summer.

Back to the opening salvo regarding those great kids we have at Kingswood. I have just completed the best book on boys I have ever read, The War Against Boys, by Christina Hoff Sommers. The author's notions regarding boys are in complete lockstep with ours. Especially noteworthy is a chapter near the end entitled "The Moral Life of Boys." Right on! We have but one social rule at Kingswood — the rule of civility, which is expressed beautifully by Sommers in this chapter. Were I Emperor of the Universe, The War Against Boys would be required reading for all parents, educators, and other mentors of youth. Fetch a copy soon at your local book store.

Indeed, the rule of civility prevails at Kingswood and largely so due to the sound moral condition we find our boys in at the outset. Enclosed is the Fall Application for summer 2001. It is in your hands now because we want your son to return to camp next summer. At Kingswood, we can afford to be selective and we are. Rowdies, brutes and insensitive dolts need not apply. They can go to Camp Lynchmob (in North Carolina, naturally! Ask your son about this "inside" joke.) We want your sons and other boys like them. Talk it over. Sign up early: Get the discount for you, the special trip for your son, and, most importantly, the satisfaction of knowing already that next summer your son will be once again rubbing noses with other decent boys from like-minded families.

One final thought: We are straight shooters here at Kingswood and sincerely mean every word of the above letter. However, ours is not a perfect community (yet) and we certainly are open to your criticisms, recommendations and requests. Autumn is by far the best time for camp feedback and evaluation. Call us at 301-656-8406. Write us at 7101 Clarenden Road, Bethesda, MD 20814. E-mail us as The regular monthly newsletter (The Kingswood Insider, Volume 17) addressed to the boys but meant for your enjoyment, too, resumes next month with the usual hoopla. We hope to hear from you soon. — Bob & Alice Wipfler