Although he first became a camp counselor to follow a fleeting crush (who ended up joining the Peace Corps and never even showed up at camp!), camp turned out to be a wild lifelong journey for Frank Fagan. His first experience in summer camp was when he was hired as a Taekwondo Instructor and Boy’s Cabin Counselor in 1990. He quickly fell in love with camp and returned for three more summers as a counselor with the same group of boys. For the next three years, Frank worked in England and the U.S. at residential facilities as a counselor for abused children and teens with substance dependencies. In 1997, he returned to camping as the Associate Director at Camp Laurel South in Maine. In 2007, Frank became Director of CCUSA, an organization which sponsors international students from all over the world to work as counselors at American camps. He finally joined CampMinder as Director of Client Development in 2010.
What was the most ridiculous story you remember about summer camp?
I had never been to camp when I arrived at Newark Airport my very first summer as a counselor. I was picked up by a guy who soon came to be known as Back Rub Bill (oddly, he would walk up to staff he’d never met on the first day of Orientation and just start rubbing their backs… it was weird). Bill also liked to sing karaoke and kept a log of all the songs he’d ever sung. Ironically, he had the worst voice I had ever heard in my life. So I climbed into a camp van with Bill and two other people: a girl who had just graduated with her degree from clown college (seriously) and a guy who ended up getting fired mid-session for making out with a 13-year-old camper. Bill drove the two-hour route while constantly practicing his next karaoke challenge, Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” He was so involved with his singing that he missed our exit. Twice. His awful singing and terrible driving added two more excruciating hours to the trip! That was my first introduction to summer camp, and I hadn’t even arrived at the camp yet.
I used to share this story as a camp director every summer on the first night of Orientation to help first-year staff understand that I had been in their shoes… and if I could survive my first day, so could they.
What was your favorite summer camp activity?
I can’t think of a camp activity that I didn’t like. However, I really enjoyed meals, and I’ll explain why. As a Director, I moved around during most all-camp meals while campers and staff were eating. It gave me an opportunity to chat and laugh with people. I would eat my meal early with all of the international support staff who generally had to work during all-camp meals. I had the opportunity to eat alongside the 25-30 international college students I hired each summer, and we just got to know each other really well. I really enjoyed talking and laughing with them… such great people.
What was your go-to snack at camp?
We made huge chocolate chip cookies every once in a while for evening dessert… those things were at least six inches wide. We called them our World-Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies. Those were my favorite snack. And if it was a really hot day, the director and I would step into the walk-in freezer where the dough was stored, and we’d stand in there to cool off and eat the raw cookie dough. (That’s a secret, so don’t print it.)
What was the best part of your day during your time at camp?
Fruit Break, between Periods 2 and 3. Several of the camp administrators would each have a box of fresh fruit, and we’d throw a snack to the campers and staff as they passed through the center of camp and moved from one activity to another. It was just a healthy way to keep the energy going, and it was a fun way to engage with people.
What part of the day did you dread at camp?
Coordinating arrival and departure transportation. We had campers flying into three different airports from all over the U.S. and several countries, chaperoned motor coaches picking up and dropping off in cities as far away as New York, and parents dropping off and picking up — there was a lot to coordinate. The most tiring time was between the two sessions, because while you’re coordinating the departure of 400 campers, you’re also organizing the arrival of 400 incoming campers. Airlines would cancel flights, a bus could break down with 60 kids on it… all kinds of things can happen. At the same time, you’re trying to run camp. It took a lot of mental energy. I always felt proud of the fact that we were able to accomplish it successfully each time. The reality is that we didn’t have a choice… it had to work well.
Why was camp so meaningful for you?
I met my wife at the first camp where I was a counselor, and we just celebrated our 22nd anniversary. Camp has left me with friendships all over the world… people who have impacted every facet of my life. It’s changed who I am to the core. I wouldn’t have my children, my family, my career, the friendships, the travel, the life experiences. It has literally defined who I am since the day I met Back Rub Bill at the age of 23.
Frank has been an indispensable part of the CampMinder team for almost a decade, and it’s hard to imagine a CampMinder without him. He’s helped guide the organization through ups, downs, and everything in-between – not to mention is responsible for forging relationships with so, so many of our beloved camps. Frank, suffice it to say, we’re glad you had that fleeting crush some ~30 years ago – even if she never showed up to camp – and that CampMinder became part of your wild lifelong journey through the camp world. Maybe it was chance, but we like to think it was fate.