The Best of Me

Jake's STORY 

clientuploads/our_impact/Jake-Lasher-fullstory.pngFairview Lake is more than just a camp to me. It’s a place where I see kids everyday grow and become the best version of who they are. It’s a place where dreams come true. Years ago I was a camper who came to Fairview Lake YMCA Camp for the first time. I was 11 and felt very awkward. I lived in a community in which I did not fit in. I was a little overweight, not great at sports, and did not come from as wealthy a family as the majority of my community. My parents just went through a divorce and now I was learning how to split my time between two homes. 

My parents had decided send to me to camp for 3 weeks, and I was scared. Like the first day of school scared. Not only did I worry about how I was going to fit in, but I had spent so many years of my life being treated as though I was worth less than everyone else,  I knew camp was not going to be fun. On the first day, I was greeted with so many smiles and welcoming handshakes that for the first time I didn't think about what car my parents drove, or how obese I felt, or how bad I was at sports. I finally felt accepted for who I was. And for the first time in a long time, I felt wanted, important, and liked. I was on top of the world feeling like a popular kid for once. The counselors at camp cared about me, who I was, and what interests I had. Finally, I felt some self worth.

When camp ended, I was a nervous wreck returning back to my home life and start of the new school year. When school started, I noticed a change. The school looked the same. The same desks, the same florescent lights, and the same bulletin boards on the walls. The difference was within. I wasn't worried about running slow in gym class or wearing the newest Abercrombie and Fitch shirt. With the self-confidence I gained from camp, I knew I was somebody special and I didn't need the approval of my classmates anymore.

I returned to camp the next summer for 6 weeks instead of 3 and had a blast. I continued to build self-confidence and was now becoming somebody that I could be proud of. That summer, something amazing happened to me. I had brought my video camera to camp and with the help of my fellow camper friends and counselors, we made a movie about camp. The camera work was shaky, the sound levels were often too low, and the story was not Oscar worthy. However, the feeling of accomplishment was pouring over me like a waterfall. I was able to take control of a project, and with support, made a video that I could be proud of. The film was screened for the entire camp and met with laughter and a roaring round of applause. That summer at camp, I had found a passion. 

I continued to return to camp for a few years and evolved from a Counselor In Training (CIT) to a Counselor. I loved having the opportunity to give to campers what I had been given – self-confidence.

The time came when I graduated High School and my Counselor days were over. I was headed to a film school, attempting to further the passion that I first discovered at camp. It was during this time I realized my passion about filmmaking was the strongest while at camp. While it had been a number of years since I had last spent a summer at Fairview Lake, it was always my home, and where I learned how to be the best version of myself. When I completed film school, almost as if it were fate, I received a message from the camp director. That summer I returned through the front gates, now as a unit leader of Minisink. The memories of summer camp came rushing forward and the feeling of returning home swept over me.

That summer was the best summer of my life. The fire inside me was burning like gasoline on a bonfire just lit. I became the Environmental Educator in the Fall and grasped the opportunity to become summer camp director to the camp that has helped shape me to be the person I am today.

Thank you YMCA for bringing the best out of me.

Jake Lasher
Summer Camp Director
Fairview Lake YMCA Camps

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