I grew up in a little town that doubled in size each summer. Families with great wealth would come to the peninsula and unwind from busy lives in bustling cities. Their summer homes were far more grand than any house my friends and I lived in. The contrast between full-time residents and ‘summer people’ is strong in my memory. For some, opportunities to enjoy the bliss of summer was limited.
Enter Mr. Francis T. Nichols. Way back in 1963 he founded a society with the specific mission of ensuring that all school age children in the area have an opportunity to learn to swim and appreciate the out-of-doors. I directly benefited from his vision, from age three when I first splashed around in the lake and all the way through my teenage years when I worked as a camp counsellor.
When I was too old to be a camper at Nichols Day Camp and too young to become a counsellor, I went on my first overnight river trip. There were canoes and rapids and campfire and other awkward 13 year olds and trip leaders to look up to. It made a serious impression on me. The roots of that experience (and others like it that followed) are deep within me, offering not only a sense of belonging in the outdoors and on rivers, but also a closeness with what became some of my longest and most beloved friendships.