Archive for the ‘camper qualities’ Category

Andy Bachmann | July 5, 2016


Flag in Dining Hall

Our flag from 1908 (Camp was 8 years old by then!) hangs proudly in the dining room

The Fourth of July is a little funny around here. Really, it’s just like any other day–except that we have the boys board buses to head into Sayner for a front row seat at the Sayner firework display. Although it’s SUPPOSED to be a surprise, truth is most of them already know. But that doesn’t make it any less fun.

Yesterday morning I had an all camp contest to see who could tell me the year and presiding President was when the flag that hangs in our Dining Hall hung over the capitol. There are 46 stars.

Believe it or not, a number figured it out. Whether it is because they are history buffs (which a few folks are) or because they remembered from our Teddy Roosevelt Theme Day last year, in total 14 boys got it right. (The answer is 1908, Teddy Roosevelt; but it’s special because the 46th state was admitted to the Union on the 4th of July of that year. Cool, huh?)

Here at Camp Highlands we celebrate the gifts of independence. Not in a, “Rah, Yay, America!” way, but in a way that is perhaps a little more in tune with the character of independence that fostered such actions to make this country great so many years ago. The gift of self-rule; self-control and personal responsibility are high on our list of what celebrating independence is all about.

Another contest I had (and will continue to have until Wednesday noon) is to see who can memorize our 18 Honor Camper Qualities and recite them in front of everyone in the Dining Hall. It’s a daunting feat; one that Hans F., Brewster H., Declan M., Jack R. and Quinn B. have already taken on, and accomplished. Impressive acts of initiative and leadership that are serving to inspire us all.

This is the kind of independence we cherish at Camp Highlands. When young men aren’t afraid to take on a task and see it through to completion, for the honor, pride (and ice cream) the accomplishment merits.

How lucky we are.

Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.


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Andy Bachmann | June 29, 2016


This morning, walking up to flag raising I overheard one of our staff guys comment to a young camper as he was gazing out over the boating bay, “Another day in paradise, eh?” The young man simply grinned and nodded. Another day in paradise, indeed.

It’s been quite a week at Camp Highlands. This past Saturday we had our 4th of July Army/Navy Track Meet (on the 25th of June…don’t ask…) where it was LITERALLY neck and neck the entire time, INCLUDING our final lap on our final relay which saw an absolute TIE at the finish line, resulting in the first ever TIE of the track meet. At the announcement in the Dining Hall, with the anxious Admiral Armstrong and General Fox waiting to hear who would bear the brunt of the challenge, what I thought would be a disappointing announcement actually produced the opposite result. The hall erupted in cheers, and a spontaneous chant of, “Highlands! Highlands! Highlands! We’re all friends!” Everyone was thrilled—and the General and Admiral thought it only fair that they BOTH participate in the challenge. Go Highlands!

On Sunday at our Assembly, after telling the boys the story of I’m Third, we had some powerful testimonies from some of our men from Cabin One. It was great. Then, with a heavy heart I inducted Ross Freeland into the Camp Highlands Hall of Fame, and announced that we have renamed our ball fields, “Freeland Field.”

And then we added a new Honor Camper Quality to our list of 17. The new quality added is one that is exemplified in the I’m Third motto. This trait encourages us to measure our sense of self esteem and pride against a higher moral code; a moral code that places our value in the ways in which we act and interact with the world around us, not by the amount of “likes” we get on our selfies.

Truth is we are flawed people; we make mistakes and fall short; we let our vanity take advantage of our morals, and our desires overcome our hopes and visions. And that is just part of who we are. Which is why this value is a good one to have.
This value affirms us in our brokenness, and invites us to give life a go again; to try, and to fail, and to try again.

So we add our 18th honor camper quality. It is, “Humility.”
Author CS Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Contrary to what popular culture may want us to believe, we believe that the greatest rewards in this life come from our ability to live well, love others and be of good service. And this trait is the cornerstone to understanding that and living into it well. And this place is one where we are affirmed in our willingness to try again, to be good to one another, and to have a great time while doing it. Another beautiful day in paradise, indeed.

Better. Wortwhile. Highlands.

2 Responses

  1. John Zokovitch says:
    June 29th, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Love this post Andy. I know how much Johnny thought of Ross and I am glad he will think of him every time he sets foot onto Freeland Field. I’m so thankful for you, your staff and family, and everyone at Camp Highlands.

  2. LIz powell says:
    October 7th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Nicely said Andy. I love how you brought the number of likes into their reality in contrast to what we “mature” and broken adults know about leading a worthwhile life.

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Andy Bachmann | July 15, 2015

CHOF’s on Parade

I had an interesting realization the other day.
I was sitting with THREE of my former counselors at supper. And there were only 4 of us at the table.

How lucky am I?

Someone recently remarked to me that they thought it might be odd that we have SO many CHOF’s on staff. To me, it would be odd NOT to have them here.

I’m a big fan of depth; whether it is on my staff here at Highlands, or really in any worthwhile organization. At a camp, having guys who are 19 years old is important. They can be your high energy, every minute is an opportunity to do something zany, let’s go ahead and play dodgeball for two hours kind of guys. And their energy and enthusiasm drives camp—keeps it action packed and adventurous. And we need that- and we love that.

But it is also important to me to balance that with our seasoned veterans- our 24 year old guys who are swinging through Highlands during their grad school years, or as a last gasp before they head into the corporate world. These guys can still bring the enthusiasm, but they’re also the guys who are willing to step up to leadership opportunities; whether it is leading our big trips or teaching fellow staff members about trip safety and cabin bonding. They are gold.

And then I have our CHOF’s (Camp Highlands Old…Fellas). The CHOF’s are those of us (yes, us…) who range in age from 27-77. Dave runs the trip room. Otter helps there, and pretty much anywhere else he’s needed. When not at Highlands, Loren is a teacher in Kansas; here he teaches canoeing. Kent is a retired teacher and cross-country coach. Here he leads our low-ropes course, and is the head counselor of our youngest guys. I have 14 guys over the age of 40 on staff.

The value of having this 60 year swing in staff age is that I have a grounded, well-rounded group of guys who can bring their passion for all things Highlands, and provide the kind of coverage and decision making skills necessary to ensure that our campers have an incredible experience here. Their history at Highlands (heck, I have a few 19 year old guys who already have 10 years at Highlands!) means our values and the qualities we hold dear run deep. Both (2!) of our new staff men caught on pretty quick to the Highlands Way. My hope is your campers catch the spirit as well. I believe that having the old guys around is just as important as having the young. And I consider myself quite lucky to have the opportunity to bring them all back, year after year after year. To me, this is just one of the reasons why we have thrived for so long at Camp Highlands. And, to me, it is so cool to have my first counselor here, my last counselor here, and not one but TWO of the guys in the middle.

Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.

From right to left, AB's last counselor, Craig Ericksen, his first counselor, Dave Baker, and one from the middle, Jim DiDomenico

From right to left, AB’s last counselor, Craig Ericksen, his first counselor, Dave Baker, and one from the middle, Jim DiDomenico

3 Responses

  1. Jackie Langas says:
    July 15th, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    The varied ages of all the counselors is one of the things that makes Camp Highlands a very special place!

  2. Kris Milner says:
    July 15th, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Absolutely, such a great strength of staff at camp for my son’s five years as a camper and now in his third year as a counselor. It is amazing! He is just departing for an 8 day hike on Isle Royale leading a group of 6 guys carrying in and out all of their food and supplies to hike 110 miles.
    Please pray for their good weather and fortune. Highlands Rah!

  3. Julie Ott says:
    July 20th, 2015 at 12:38 am

    What a great article. As a mom of campers (and now seasoned counselors), seeing young counselors made me confident that my campers would benefit from the electric energy that youth provides. Seeing the more mature staff allowed me, as a mom, to be confident that the electric energy would be safely contained! Older counselors provide security to parents who may be separated from their children for the first substantial length of time, but more importantly, they allow campers the security of exploring and growing while knowing that someone who looks and acts just a bit like mom or dad (or grandpa or grandma) will know exactly what to do or say if they encounter a rough spot or just need some advice.

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Tracy Bachmann | June 22, 2015


IMG_0075It’s hard to say goodbye to the ones we love. You know them. The army of iPhones, Androids, Kindles and Nooks. Oh how we’ll miss you.

I overheard our Office Assistant, (the amazing) Sally Glowiak as she accepted one boy’s cell phone. She said, “Congratulations! You’re FREE!”

I love that. I love that Sally made a point to emphasize the positive impact of what we hope to accomplish by being “tech free.” I love that this older camper WILLINGLY brought his phone into the office to be held in safe-keeping for the season. And I love that we have upheld a tradition that goes back to the beginnings of the camping days.

At a gathering of the American Camping Association that I attended last year, I heard one camping expert admonish camps for trying to take away the tech. “Embrace it,” he told us. “Use it to your advantage!” he told us. He seemed to think that the more our campers were Facebooking their experiences—the more they Tweeted about it, texted about it, Instagrammed about it, the better it would be for us. “It’ll drive traffic to your site, which will drive campers to your camp.”

When Tracy and I started talking about it, we both came to the same conclusion.


When Camp Highlands was established in 1904, their primary mission was to give boys, “a real, wilderness experience.” This was when the most cutting-edge technology in the city of Chicago was a gas-powered “Horseless Carriage.” This even predates things like the toaster, the radio and the theory of relativity. THAT was the world from which parents wanted their boys to escape. Can you imagine?

It is a liberating experience to go gadgetless in this day and age. And I am here to tell you, when you allow your boys to #BeFree of the gadgets and the gizmos, something incredible happens. They run. They play. They have conversations. And they are engaged in the right-here and the right-now, and nothing else matters. And they do just fine…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be so lucky?

Camp Highlands has been in the business of providing young men and boys with real wilderness experiences that shape character and inspire self-discovery for 112 years. And we’ll take a pre-toaster world any day.

Better, Worthwhile, Highlands.


5 Responses

  1. Lisa Barker says:
    June 22nd, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Andy and Tracy – we cannot thank you enough for protecting thie unique opportunity for true connection – with people and nature – that is Camp Highlands.

  2. Olga price says:
    June 23rd, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Hear hear!!!! Couldn’t agree more!!!! When we tell others about camp this comes up and the reaction is always positive.

  3. Edith says:
    June 25th, 2015 at 2:42 pm


  4. Chris Taylor says:
    June 25th, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Couldn’t be better said. I want my son to be worthwhile in his heart than having an i-phone in his hand any day….

  5. Veronica says:
    June 28th, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    I can’t be more great full that our kids can be in such a blessed environment.

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Tracy Bachmann | August 3, 2014

Strength in Failure

It’s official. We’re in our last week here at Camp. It’s a series of “lasts” now. The last turkey supper (my waistline will be happy about that), the last Sunday Night Sing, the last Sunday Assembly.

Andy and Ross went out with a bang today during Assembly. Our discussion was about vulnerability and failure. Wait, what? Aren’t we here to make your boys into strong young men? Failure?


Boys shared their greatest achievement at camp and what else they'd like to accomplish this summer.

Boys shared their greatest achievement at camp and what else they’d like to accomplish this summer.

We talked about how through failure and perseverance comes experience and ultimately success. It teaches us GRIT. Falling down on skis over and over again can be frustrating. Judah B. shared how he’s been going for his “drop a ski” Achievement Credit (AC) for two years. He did it last week, and this week he easily got his “deep-water slalom AC.” Success­–after a lot of falling down. Charlie Z. shared his experiences in baseball this summer working on a particularly difficult AC. Ross would hit the highest fly ball possible and Charlie had to catch it. It took him try after try to do it. Lots of failure there. But guess what? He did it.

So often we think that if we fall down we’ve failed. In our culture of Facebook bragging and Instagram showoffing we don’t want to admit when things don’t go quite right. But your boys heard it loud and clear today. Fail! Do it often! Get back up! Try again! Andy even made us chant it: “Don’t give up, don’t give up. You can do it. Try again.” (I’m paraphrasing, but it was something along those lines!)

Your guys are out running around today, making the most of their last few days at Highlands. Tomorrow will be the last regular day of camp. Tuesday is Division Day, Wednesday will bring us the stunt show, Thursday the Kerchief Ceremony and Friday… well, you know, Friday’s the end. Saturday morning by 9 a.m. camp will quiet.

We get let down easy, though! We don’t have to go right back to it, thankfully, as Friends and Family Camp starts on Saturday evening!

And on that note…

I ❤ CH // tracy b.

Things you’ll need to know for these coming days:

Friday’s festivities: Please arrive at 3 p.m. for some end of term fun. The picnic supper is on Junior Hill at 6 p.m. followed by the banquet ceremonies in the dining room and wrapping up about 8:30.

If your child is traveling by car you may take him home that night, or you may pick him up in the morning at 9 a.m.

If your child is traveling by bus, he’ll be on his way by 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. The bus will arrive in Madison at the Pinecone Shell at 1 p.m. The bus reaches Rockford at 2:15 p.m. and then depending on traffic is scheduled to arrive at O’Hare

Airport about 3:30 p.m. Once boys are dropped off at the airport the bus travels over to the O’Hare Oasis and should arrive between 3:45 and 4:00 p.m.

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