Dan Wolfson's 2009 Letter Home

Dear Mom,

Hi. It’s been a long time since I’ve written you a letter.  Actually, I think I know exactly how long it’s been- the last letter I sent you was for a Color War letter check on Josh Hahn’s great, glorious, and victorious gray team of 2002. Back then, I was a CIT at Manitou, going to war against some of my best friends on Dan Satter’s Maroon team. It’s interesting how history has a way of coming full circle, as I now write you once again for an organization that is being run by Josh Hahn and others, including Satter. And this time, I think we have the potential to all be victorious. But unfortunately, unlike the last time I wrote you, now there is no place I can address this letter.  And as I sit in front of Bernice’s laptop in the Manitou office, typing through tear streaked eyes, I know that this is going to be the most challenging letter I’ve ever written, and probably even more challenging to read aloud.

Right now, I am four days into the Manitou Experience.  But time can’t really be measured in days at Manitou, as time seems to stand still here.  Yet before we know it, we will all be back where we were just one week ago, although in our hearts, I know we will have all come a long way in a very short time.

And speaking of coming a long way, Mom, I think you would be amazed to see how far I have come, personally, since the last time I wrote you.  During the past seven years, I have gone through a lot of changes in my life.  First of all, I can now grow a beard.  Facial hair is pretty cool, right Quinn?  And Bernice, your goatee looks excellent.  But the changes I’ve gone through have been much more than physical.  Back then, I think I had a hard time coping with the fact that you had cancer.  It was something I just didn’t want to accept, because I couldn’t imagine a life without you.  You were always the rock of our family, even through the very end, and never wanted people to treat you differently just because you were sick. And you didn’t act sick.  You still made lunches and dinner for me and Rach every day, helped us with our homework, and knew every time I was getting myself into trouble… which was pretty often.  But over the years, I have had to take a lot more responsibility for these things myself.  And although I would love to go back and not have been forced to grow up, I know that you would be proud of the man that I am becoming.  

But this week isn’t all about me.  I look around, and just as you would be proud of me, I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of the thirty young men that sit before me.  I’m not going to lie to these guys- it absolutely sucks to lose someone close to you.  It involves a roller coaster of emotions that I can’t believe I was able to get through at the age of 18.  And these guys are all much younger than that, but I can see that they refuse to give in.  

But gentlemen, it’s okay to hurt sometimes.  There is a huge piece of all of our lives that has gone missing, and it is tough to know how to face that hole.  All of us are different, and all of us respond to life in different ways, but all of us are still here.  And all of us are strong.  And all of us still have a piece of our family members with us that can never be taken away.  Whether it is a love for adventure, like Keith, or in my sisters case, a computer like memory that can always keep me in check.  Guys, I know how hard it can be sometimes.  How can you focus on something like a math test, when all of a sudden that sadness pops into your heart?  I don’t have all the answers, so I’m going to pass on a little advice that I received from Dan Satter just last night.  Try to pick your moments.   When you feel that pain coming on, it’s okay, you have the right to feel sad, and you can’t be something you aren’t, but if you are true to yourself, and able to recognize and respond to what is going on both inside of you and around you, then you will see that you are truly winners, regardless of scores on a college league board or grades on a report card. And know that it gets a little easier every day.  Four years ago, I couldn’t hold back tears when talking about my mom.  But now, I feel lucky that I can reflect on my loss, and understand that although it doesn’t seem fair, loss is a part of life.  We have all been forced to grow up a little faster than a lot of our peers, but you should all take pride in the way that you are meeting that challenge.  And as I think this week has shown you, we still have an unbelievable potential to find joy in life.  So I want to thank all of you, for allowing me to share this experience with you.  I want to thank the organizers of this week, Sara, Hahn, Satter, and Waldo.  I want to thank the owners of Manitou, for opening up a place that has brought me an infinite amount of good times over the years, and gave me a chance to grow in so many ways, so now you can all have the chance to grow here as well.  I want to thank the All Star staff we have, for taking time away from their lives to be a part of this. I want to thank Bob and Amy, for just having them around has helped me reconnect with my inner child, but also helped me recognize that we build much more than campers here- we build people.  

I want to especially thank Rachel, who will always be the most important person in the world to me, for being here with me.  Although she didn’t really know anyone here before this week, Rachel was willing to come up to camp for what was sure to be a gauntlet of emotions, and help to capture what we like to call Manitou Magic.  And that magic isn’t just the winning and losing of games, it isn’t our fight song, or our outstanding facilities, it isn’t the stars or the fields, it’s all of that plus more.  It’s something that is built by people who truly care about one another, and truly care about this place, because they understand how special our times here are.   And to be honest, the emotional gauntlet that I expected to be getting myself into has really been filled with many more smiles than tears, so I thank all of you for being so much fun to be around.  And mom, I want to thank you.  I want to thank you for always expecting more from me, always believing in me, and always being there for me, even now.  And while I don’t know if I’ll ever really decide what I believe in when it comes to the greater questions like God and heaven, I know that when I truly need you, I can always talk to you, and in some weird way find comfort.  I hope that everyone here can find their own ways to find that warmth and that strength.  And I truly believe that they can.

Mom, I will always love you, I will always miss you, and I will always strive to make you proud.


Your baby boy, your hyperactive child, your rebellious teenager, your college graduate, your son forever,