Justin’s Dreams of Camp

It’s hard to believe that when Justin Mayer (bottom right, 2nd from end) started at TLC as a camper back in 1988, he was one of the most homesick kids in camp, even hiding under his parents’ car on Visiting Day so they couldn’t leave without him!  Nowadays, along with his wife Cassie, Justin is a Director of our sister camp, Timber Lake West.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  As a camper, Justin rose through the ranks from a Cadet up to his Teen summer in 1994. In 1995 Justin worked in the dining hall, then became a counselor the following summer, moved up to Group Leader the following summer and became the Assistant Program Director by summer 2000.

Justin tells us the rest of the story:  After graduating from Indiana University, I worked as an accountant for three years before realizing my true passion was camp. In 2003, I joined our sister camp, Tyler Hill, as the full-time Associate Director where I learned the ins and outs of the camp “business.”  

I have so many amazing memories from TLC…  It’s these memories that made me want to give back to the many children the type of summers I was lucky enough to have at TLC.  I wanted to help create the kinds of memories that other children could carry on into adulthood.

Some of my favorite moments were the simple ones – like “Running Bases” during Rest Hour every day with Jason Lavitt & David Dombroff.  Others were highlights of my time at TLC: when I was lucky enough to win the Doug Schwartz Award, when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and when I was a 2-time General (1998: Titanic White and 1999: Millennium Green). 

Another great memory was back when I was a Cadet and we played in a baseball tournament against a team from Margaretville (a local town, just down Route 28). I remember the entire town coming to what was then known as the “far far field” at TLC, and setting up lawn chairs to watch the game.  The next week, we got to travel to their home field to play on their turf.  I can’t remember if we won or lost, just that my friends and I had a blast.

When I think of all the great memories and fun that I had, the one that tops it all was during the summer of 1990 when heavy machinery had begun work in the forest beyond the “far far field.”  All summer long when each division had their movie night, they watched the Kevin Costner classic, “Field of Dreams.”  Then one night near the end of camp, the entire camp went dark – pitch black – with the exception of the new baseball field.  As everyone headed towards the lights that were situated around the paths of the newly constructed field, music started playing. And just like in the movie, smoke began to fill the woods and we started to see figures emerge, through the lights and smoke.  It was incredible – we were watching real, true to life famous baseball players walk through the smoke and into the outfield! Just like in the movie!!!  That was the 1990 Marathon (aka “Color War”) Break-out, White Wild West vs. 21st Century Green.

It’s memories like these that still stir those feelings of excitement. Memories and experiences that I now get to bring to my campers as a Director at Timber Lake West.  Memories that in ten, twenty years those campers will remember as if it happened yesterday, just like I remember mine from TLC.

But it is true that for the first 2-3 years of camp, I was one of the most homesick campers around.  On Visiting Day, I would hide under my parents’ tires so they couldn’t pull away. Over time, with the help of my counselors and camp friends, along with some infamous time on Jay’s golf cart, camp became my second home.  Instead of missing home, I found myself missing camp and my camp friends during the school year.  As a Director at Timber Lake West, my parents always remind me, “Can you believe that same little boy now works at camp full time?”  During the summer, I now spend a lot of time during the first week of camp working with homesick campers to help overcome the same issues I dealt with as a child.  It’s extremely gratifying to see those campers realize their potential and grow into their summer home.

I know there are some families that are not ready to send their child away for a full summer, either because the child isn’t ready to be away for a full summer, or because families have other summer commitments.  What’s great about West is that I now get to make sure that, in half the time, we power-pack all the fun, excitement and activities of a full session camp into an exciting experience for every one of my campers!

Justin and his wife Cassie are now Directors at our sister camp, Timber Lake West, which  packs all of the excitement of a full summer camp into half the time.  To learn more about their program, visit TimberLakeWest.com or refer a friend by filling out this form.


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