I'm heading off today to a gathering of Camp Goodtimes friends in Seattle to celebrate Tom "Boss Hogg" Nielsen's 12 years as our camp director. In digging through some of the thousands of photographs that I've taken over the years it became more and more striking to me the impact that Boss Hogg has made on the world around him.
Boss has led a team of volunteers on an amazing journey with a truly altruistic goal, to better the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families. Camp Goodtimes was founded 26 years ago on two founding principles. One, cancer sucks. And two, since cancer sucks, what can we do about it? The answer that Charlotte "Lion Tamer" Ellis came up with was to create some good to help offset the bad. The result has been the creation of a place where incredible things happen every single day, and anything is possible. The effect of the camp is permanent. When the kids go home, they take camp with them. It provides them with an instant extended family and gives them a little bit of the childhood back that cancer took away.
In looking back through photographs for a slideshow that I'm sharing tonight, I kept being drawn to Boss Hogg's eyes. I'd look at dozens of photos of the fun, crazy and emotional times and then I'd come back to a photo of Boss, and his famous glance. He truly looks at the world through eyes that care. That, in my opinion, is the single best thing that each and everyone of us can do try to do to make the world a better place. Next time you see Boss, just look at him square in the face and you'll see what I mean.
Boss has looked over Camp Goodtimes, which I have always liked to call a "compassion building machine", with the perfect recipe for fun. Here's how Boss Hogg has made his treat;
5 cups of Leadership
3 cups of "I've spent years as a camp director and I understand all of the official policy crud"
12 cups of compassion towards others
Mix together and add,
1 cup of "The Dance of Joy"
2 cups of "I'm going to get you before you get me during the whipped cream fight"
100 cups of classic moments
and 1 tablespoon of "Ninja!"
That's it. Then sit back and enjoy and serve the wonderful mixture to everyone you will ever meet.
Boss created this recipe through his intelligence, willingness to listen to others, and ability to learn from others and be spontaneous. We have an acronym at camp that goes;
Which means, The Likelihood Of Goofy Spontaneity Is Directly Related To How Comfortable You Are With The People Around You. OK, I came up with this piece of random silliness. And I've come up with lots of other random goofy spontaneity over the years. None of that would have been possible if I didn't have the support of Boss Hog. He has been behind me, as well as beside me and also in front of me throughout the years, picking with great wisdom the right moment for each. When you know deep down that someone believes in you, you want to honor that trust. That's how I feel about Boss. He believes in me and trusts me. I respect him so much that I don't want to disappoint him. Instead, I want to make him proud.
Under Boss Hogg's watch, the staff gathered every year on the last day of camp in a circle on the upper field. "Circle" didn't start until everyone was quiet and Boss Hog spoke. He invited others to share their heartfelt impressions from camp that week; what they learned, what they were taking away. During this time there were as many tears expresses as there was laughter. A few years ago in closing the circle he said slowly, "With any great moment or experience, there's a time when it must end. And that time is now..." And he added, trying to hold back his own tears, "But you all came together this week and with your love and compassion you changed the world. Thank you all."
No Boss. Thank you...for everything.
P.S. Here's some classic moments from Boss Hogg's years at camp!
That's Boss in the alien mask, parasailing a few years ago. Kind of a long story.