I first arrived at Chewonki in the summer of 1988 as a fifteen-year-old for Chewonki’s Mistissini canoe expedition, a five-week trip in central Quebec. Little did I know at the time that that first summer would be the start of a thirty relationship that would shape my life in immeasurable and profound ways. And so as I write to share the news of my decision to leave Chewonki this September, I know my heart and spirit will never really leave. Twenty-eight camp seasons and thirteen years of full-time work leave a deep and indelible mark. Chewonki is fundamental to who I am as a person, so this is not an easy decision at all. This is an incredibly rare opportunity for me to assume the role of director of another Maine-based summer camp making the transition from private ownership to a non-profit foundation. It is time to chart a new course. I know that I have this new opportunity because of all I have learned at Chewonki over the last thirty years. The thousands of campers, counselors, and extended Chewonki family has greatly influenced my life.
Central to my decision in accepting my new job is keeping my commitment for the 2018 camp season at Chewonki. Greg, Henry, Nancy, Leslie, and I have worked hard as a team to make this summer one of the best ever, and I am dedicated to following through for our campers, their families, and our staff. It is my hope that this summer will first and foremost be a joyous growth experience for our campers. I am very proud of the team of veteran camp leaders and enthusiastic counselors the summer team putting is putting together. We will fully deliver the Chewonki mission and give our campers the best summer of their lives.
While I have chosen a different professional path for my future, I honestly can’t think of a better place for a child to authentically learn, grow, make new friends, and connect with the natural world than Chewonki Neck. If I can replicate just a little of this over at at a new place, I will be successful. We have something very special here, and I am glad that I will get one more summer of camp along with all of you and also my sons, Will (Gaspé Expedition) and Ben (7-week Ospreys), by my side. My children have spent a part of every summer of their life at Chewonki and might love this place even more than I do.
Chewonki helped me realize that I love working with children. It influenced me to become a middle school teacher, which in turn led me back to Chewonki full-time in 2005. It has taught me to be a loving husband and father. Camp has been the greatest gift I can imagine for my children and their development. I have hope for our planet and all forms of life because of the work we do at Chewonki. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve in this role.
It is my hope that the extended timeline of my departure will help to provide a smooth transition for Chewonki. I learned long ago that the spirit of Chewonki is far bigger than any one individual, and so I know that Camp Chewonki will be just fine after I go. I have enjoyed being a part of the team that has worked hard to develop some very exciting plans for the future of Chewonki that will greatly benefit all of our programs, including camp. It’s a perfect opportunity for a new camp director, and I will be cheering and watching closely from afar as the plans unfold and become the reality of Chewonki’s bright future. I have the deepest admiration and gratitude towards my colleagues for the many ways they serve our mission and our participants. I’ve done my best to honor the legacy of those who went before me, and to nurture a camp program that has grown and evolved to meet the needs of boys in 2018. This has been a labor of love filled with maddening challenges and incredible moments of joy. I will greatly miss the hundreds of summer friends with whom I reunite with each year.
Now that this news has been formally shared, I hope that not much will seem that different as I go about preparing for and leading this summer season. I am “in the moment” for summer 2018. At the same time, there are also moments where I find myself lingering a bit longer to take it all in as I walk around campus. I know these little moments of farewell are just the beginning for me, and they will increase in frequency and emotion as the summer progresses. I hope we have some time together to build new memories and share a laugh or two, and for me to share my appreciation for the Chewonki community.
I look forward to this summer, the good work we will do together, and for continued success for Chewonki.
Dear Camp Families,
It is with a full mix of pride and sadness that we share Garth Altenburg’s decision to depart Chewonki at the end of the 2018 summer camp season for a wonderful professional opportunity: director of a privately-owned summer camp in Maine, looking to transition to the non-profit sector. Garth’s experience and passion for this work is unmatched.
As younger and aspiring professionals, Garth and I both took on Chewonki leadership roles about the same time: I joined Chewonki full-time to lead Maine Coast Semester in 2004 and Garth became director of Camp Chewonki for Boys in 2005. I have so appreciated Garth’s colleagueship during that time, especially as we celebrated our Centennial and then envisioned the future of Camp Chewonki in our second century. We have grown together at Chewonki and also watched our children grow during this time, deeply influenced by life-defining Chewonki experiences.
Garth has been with us for 28 summers, as both a camper and a staff member, and there are few individuals who have contributed more to the spirit and success of Camp Chewonki for Boys. His dedication and care as a camp leader have provided fun, safe, and life-changing experiences for more than 1,700 boys and young men since he took on the role of director in 2005. The work is truly a labor of love, and Garth has always put his whole self into the role, while simultaneously being a dedicated husband and father, volunteering in his community, and maintaining a rigorous marathon-running habit!
A summer camp is defined by its leadership, and we are grateful for the legacy at Chewonki, which includes Clarence Allen, Tim Ellis, Dick Thomas, and now Garth Altenburg, as exemplary individuals willing to commit themselves to the betterment of young people over so many years.
Members of the Chewonki community will be naturally curious about the next chapter for camp leadership. A hiring committee, led by Greg Shute, vice president and 34-year veteran of Chewonki, is already at work identifying candidates to assume the role of camp director for the fall of 2018. Garth is committed to finishing his tenure in an exemplary way, especially for the benefit of our campers this summer.
As you know, we have significant aspirations for Chewonki in the near future, particularly with the development of Camp Chewonki for Girls alongside Camp Chewonki for Boys on the Neck. This is an exciting moment for us and we will be in touch soon with additional thoughts about the 2019 camp season. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Garth on his new position.
President, Chewonki Foundation