Sixty-Two Summers

November 2017
Madison and Uncle Howie

Willow Grove Day Camp was my summer home for the past nine years. It was a very special place to me, filled with endless days of laughter, friends, and fun. I truly loved spending eight incredible weeks there every summer. But you never really know how much you love something until it is gone.

The season's final assembly at Willow Grove in 2016 was no ordinary end-of-summer assembly — it was the last one ever. After 62 consecutive summers, camp officially closed on that steamy day in August. The day started out like any other. Uncle Howie, the owner and beloved director of camp, was at his usual greeting spot waiting to welcome everyone with his daily hugs and scratchy kisses. Campers and staff arrived early. Cars and buses were in a never-ending line to drop off campers. But while everyone usually arrived in a jumping-for-joy mood, on this day the atmosphere was already shifting from happiness to despair.

Somehow my bunkmates and I got through the day. I was dreading the assembly. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was so upset, I was practically shaking. It became unavoidable, though, when the announcement was made over the loudspeaker that it was time to meet together as a camp for one final time. I slowly and uneasily made my way to the gathering place. Tears were already welling up in my eyes.

The owners of the camp were presented with special gifts from lifelong, heartbroken staff members. Directors made passionate speeches that were memorable and heartwarming. Then a video played that showed how the camp had evolved over the last 62 glorious summers. By the time the video ended, there were easily over 300 children and adults bawling their eyes out.

Afterwards, everyone, including me, had a face as red as a tomato. We cried like faucets that could not be turned off. I wholeheartedly loved camp. Reminiscing and consoling each other after the assembly was all we could do for the next half an hour. It was comforting to be going through this devastating experience with such close friends. I lingered at camp until almost everyone else was gone. Leaving was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but I had no choice. The 62nd summer of Willow Grove Day Camp had ended, and camp officially closed its gates for the very last time.

I am very proud to have been a Willow Grove camper. I was especially proud on that last day at that last assembly. It was upsetting to face the fact that my camp was closing, but being at that assembly and saying goodbye to my camp made me realize how much I loved my time there and how I would desperately miss it. I am thankful that I had nine amazing summers at a place that was like a second home to me. Even though I will never have a tenth summer at Willow Grove, I will cherish the memories of my time there forever.

Madison Sopinsky is a seventh-grader in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania. Her favorite subject is history. She is an avid tennis player and loves going to the Jersey Shore and visiting Florida, where she has many friends and family. She loved her time at Willow Grove Day Camp with Uncle Howie and Aunt Gloria Zeitz. Madison now attends Camp Harlam, an overnight camp in the Poconos.

Photo courtesy of Madison Sopinsky.