Sae Jong Camp – 2019

Olivia and Lucas attended Sae Jong Camp for their 4th year last week. I think it was their best week ever for a lot of reasons. First, Lucas’s expectations could not have been any lower, so they could only be exceeded. There’s nothing we can do about the spiders, buddy. Olivia had been keeping in touch with her cabin friends over the year, so there was the anticipation of seeing them IRL.

Doug is still going strong. He said he hadn’t had more that about 65 campers during his most recent tenure, but with 22 new campers this year, there were 78 total. Many thanks to the families who continue to recruit family and friends to help the camp grow.

I was especially happy to see Paul, who brought Micah (and hopefully Kiri next year) from Virginia. Paul was my bunk-mate for my first few years at camp and our families were the best of friends when we were growing up in Michigan. It was also awesome to see Jin Hong and Tommy for his first year. I’m looking forward to more reunions at camp in the years to come.

The staff is incredible and continues to impress. Thanks to Jami for being a great leader and to Doug for his continued adult senior supervision. Camp is exactly the same in the best ways, and also evolving in many important ways. Each year it becomes more diverse, and thus, inclusive, which only redefines our notion of what it means to be Korean-American. SJC is trending way up.

Special shout-out to Olivia and Sebastian Shim, who earned the Chull Victor Kim award for their exemplary citizenship at SJC. I’m super proud of them. I think Grace is slowly getting the SJC spirit down in her heart.

It is a magical place.

Until next year…



Olivia and Lucas Attend SJC – Year 2

After several years of conditioning, last year’s SJC experience was a huge success. The kids had such a great time and couldn’t wait to go back this summer. I couldn’t wait to take them!

I think they’re still processing their experience. Lucas knew all his friends from last year would be intermediates this year, so he was a little unsure about what to expect. He had three brand new campers in his cabin and he said he liked it better because he was the only experienced one in his cabin. Both kids said Junior Program was WAY better. Olivia had many of the same girls in her cabin. Whether she liked this year better or not, camp seems to have relieved her “resting sad face” as I see her huge smiles in many photos, which is very gratifying.

Each year, I see more and more of my friends sending their kids to camp, which is awesome. While giving the kids their first taste of Big Boy, I ran into Cathy who was taking her daughter up for the first time. I saw Liz earlier this year and mentioned SJC and she brought Benjamin all the way from California. Sue Ann was the camp health officer. Joseph continues to entertain the campers 31 years later. Anita’s oldest son was Lucas’s CIT! And, I’m still waiting on Grace, Tessie and Clara to enroll their kids (though it’s always great to see them visiting).

I still can’t thank all of the staff enough for taking such good care of our kids. Thanks to Jami and Tyler for stepping up as Program Directors. And, as always, a big thanks to Doug for his continued dedication to the camp his mom started  41 years ago.

It’s still the best, most magical place on earth. I’m hopeful Olivia and Lucas have many more years ahead of them to enjoy it. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to come out of retirement???

Visiting Day and Pickup at SJC

Last Friday was visiting day at SJC, which we’ve attended for the past five years, but this was our first as camp parents. My parents and their friends also made the drive up, making it three generations of people at camp who have contributed so much over the past 40 years.

Lucas and Olivia were happy to see us, but were doing fine. When the bell rang at the end of music, Lucas abruptly departed, fully-programmed after just one week. We met their cabin mates and they showed us around.

There is no longer a bus option, so we stayed overnight to bring the kids home the next day. There happened to be a beautiful top-ranked public golf course right in Roscommon, so I hatched an ingenious plan to stay there overnight. JP and YY booked a room there at the last minute and we now had a foursome and the first tee time. It was all so perfect, until I woke up to steady rain. JP and I hung out in the pro shop and watched the radar before finally throwing in the towel.

We got to camp around noon and the campers and staff were already saying their goodbyes. There were lifelong friends, new friends, Westminster staff, and our kids’ new friends and heroes. Beautiful people all of them.

Lucas’s expectations were very low and they were greatly exceeded. Olivia said as we were walking out that she didn’t want to leave. Neither of them were happy about the spiders, but that’s camp life. Thank you to everyone who made this a great first year of camp for our kids. Until next year!

Visiting Sae Jong Camp – 2015

For the 4th year in a row, I’ve taken the kids to visit Sae Jong Camp. Olivia was technically supposed to be a camper this year, but perhaps we all felt she wasn’t ready to be away from home for a week. We rationalized that she and Lucas could just go together next year.

I was surprised to see my old counselor, Joe (JP), was sending his daughter this year, so we planned to meet up. I didn’t know who else we would see, but I was happy to see one of my dearest friends, Linda there. Her two boys were campers, and youngest, Phoebe, was visiting, too.

We arrived just as lunch was ending, and after the usual singing and games, a crowd gathered and I had no idea what was going on. It took a little bit to realize a real proposal between staff members was happening. Jordyn grew up not far from camp, so her family was there to witness it. It was definitely a first for me and so touching.

A brief storm passed by, which allowed JP and I to catch up. We met up randomly in LA earlier this year, which makes twice in the last 30 years. Linda and I didn’t see each other the last time we were in NY, so it was nice to see each other. We took a mandatory trip to the DQ together.

Olivia and Lucas spent most of the afternoon in Higgins Lake and went swimming for the first time. They didn’t really want to get out. They experienced their first shower at camp, which, due to the friendly spiders, was a bit of a setback in convincing Lucas camp was awesome. Olivia perservered. We enjoyed the traditional visiting day dinner and headed home.

There were some very ominous looking skies as we got on the road and we watched and drove through some spectacular thunderstorms. The kids don’t take rain like that for granted. After a stop for another meal, we finally made it home about midnight.

I’m still very appreciative of all those who work so hard and sacrifice so much to keep camp going, especially the venerable Doug and Ben. Olivia knows SJC is on her agenda next summer. We need to keep working on Lucas.

Visiting Sae Jong Camp

The only thing I requested for our trip home to Michigan was the timing. I wanted it to coincide with the week of the camp so that I could take the kids for a visit. Throughout my childhood and for the majority of my adulthood, Sae Jong Camp was a part of my life. This year on visiting day, many of the people who founded the camp some 37 years ago were being honored. These were people of my parents’ generation – their friends – who were the leaders of camp when I was a child. Many of their older children were my counselors. Proving that what’s old is new again, Doug, who was the director when I was a camper, is now the director again after a 20+ year hiatus. During that time, he’s been present at camp, providing guidance and bringing his twins since they were 4 years old (they’re now 16!).

Also amazing was seeing all of my old counselors and friends, who are now sending their own children to camp. I counted about 17 second generation campers. One mother I met had an adopted sister who who attended the camp and she now had an adopted daughter who was a camper (so cool). It was also so gratifying to see so many of my old campers who are now the leaders and counselors of camp. It wasn’t until after I left camp that it became important and real to me that I would want to send my own children to camp one day. In a few years, they’ll be old enough to attend and I’m so thankful to all of those who have kept camp going and thriving!Despite the rainy weather, Camp Westminster and Higgins Lake were as beautiful as ever. To spend even a few hours there with my family was awesome. I know we’ll be back there soon, hopefully with a camper or two in tow. I can’t wait.