Finding Manitou by Chance, Fate or Whatever You Want to Call It

Brad Summerville (left) returned to Manitou in 2018 as the Head of the Waterski program. During the offseason, Brad is a teacher in Denver, Colorado.

If you had told me ten years ago I was going to be a 4th-grade teacher in Denver, Colorado – I would have said you were crazy.  Life has a pretty unique way of unfolding before you, and I think that everything leading up to this moment in time happens for a reason. When I first came to Camp Manitou in 2008, I had no idea at the time that it would change my life.

To understand my deep connection to Camp, I suppose it’s only fair to share my origin story – the reason I went that first summer. I didn’t find an ad on Facebook, some college advisor didn’t recruit me – it all happened by chance, or fate, or whatever you want to call it.

In 2007, I studied abroad in London for my fall semester. Now, I had never been to Europe before – I had never really been outside of the states. I took that opportunity to travel as often as I could, and to as many places as I could. During my semester we had a break for ten days, and my friends and I randomly decided that we were going to Italy – Rome to be specific. We booked our hostel and counted down the days until we were ready to go. After arriving in Rome, and upon checking in, we were informed that they had overbooked our hostel room. As a result, one of us was going to have to be separated from our group. There was this awkward pause as my friends and I (there were seven of us) looked at each other with a sense of hesitation. Uncharacteristic of me, at least back then, I raised my hand and volunteered.

Brad (circa 2008) enjoying his travels in Europe.

Now the thing with hostels is that they place you in a small room with other random travelers. There’s this weird, brief period of time when you’re settling in that small talk is made. I went into my room, and put my stuff on a top bunk (yes, there were bunk beds), and met my fellow roommates. As it turns out, four of the five people in my room were traveling together from a job they had just finished in Amsterdam. They had a really great story – two were friends from Nebraska, and the other two were a couple from Australia. I thought this connection was really random, so I asked how they initially had met before heading to Amsterdam – cue Camp Manitou coming into my life.

After talking with them, they made Manitou sound incredible. They all had been boat drivers (which is, by far, the best job at camp). Their camaraderie and passion when talking about camp was really infectious- so much so that as soon as I got back to London I applied for that following summer. The summer came and went: I had a blast, and it was one of the best summers I had ever had (coming in second to 2018).

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “This is all great, Brad – but what does this have to do with chance, or fate, or why you’re a teacher in Colorado?” So glad that you asked. During my second summer, I brought my best friend, Jacky Marino, to Manitou. We had just graduated from college, so our summer was free. She had heard me rave and had seen how much I loved camp and wanted to find out for herself if everything I had said was true. Speeding up my story a bit- at camp that summer she met a Director named Derek. As chance, or fate, had it – Jacky was going to be taking a job in Omaha, Nebraska, which is where Derek was originally from and lived. I’m not sure if this was the connection that brought them together, but to make a long story short: they met, they dated, they moved to Denver, they got married (not in that singular summer – I told you, making a long story short).

Back to my story now, in 2013 I moved out of NYC because I wanted something different with my life. I knew I wanted to go back to school, and had been leaning towards education for a while. This decision was influenced by my love of camp. I don’t think it would have ever been a serious consideration if it hadn’t been for Manitou. I spent a year and a half doing random work, in an attempt to save money for school. At the end of this period, I get a phone call from Jacky Marino. Another long story short – she told me about this program in Denver where I could get my teaching license AND my Master’s degree at the same time. It seemed too good to pass up, so I packed up my things and made the trek out to Colorado. I got my license, my master’s and have now been teaching for three years.  

If I had not been studying abroad, if I had not been traveling to Rome, if I hadn’t been the single person to volunteer to separate from my group, then I never would have heard of camp, I would never have brought Jacky, who would never have met Derek, who would never have moved to Denver, who never would have convinced me to come out here and become a teacher.  There are so many things that could have happened during that time that would have led to different outcomes. They didn’t, though. Things happened the way they were supposed to happen. Camp essentially changed my life.

Camp Manitou will always have a very special place in my heart. It’s one of those places where you can’t describe what it’s like, or the experience of it. You have to do those things firsthand. I have developed some truly incredible friendships and bonds over the years, and have grown in so many ways thanks to those people.

Camp will always be camp; you’ll always have those experiences and those people. The summers may pass, and the people may change, but Manitou is still Manitou.



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How much effort does it take to make someone feel really good? Take three minutes to watch this recent video filmed during the practice round of a PGA tour event.

The Secret to a Longer Life: Camp?
According to this article, Social connections and positive relationships are important aspects of living a healthy, long life.  If you like what you hear, you should check out the author, Audrey Monke’s website. Yes, it’s a parenting website, but she advocates for skills we can use in our everyday lives.