When I first decided to become an active part of the Alumni Association’s scholarship program by donating $50,000 over the next five years, people in Greece thought that I was crazy! I got reactions like “We have refugees, we have a financial crisis, we have unemployment. Why would you want to give money so boys can go to a summer camp?”
Little do all these people know that Winnebago is not just a place for boys to hang out, do activities, and have fun. Winnebago is a concept. Winnebago is a place that shapes character. It is a maturation process. It is a treasure hunt where we search for and find strong and consistent values.
People say that school is the main factor in shaping one’s self. But for me that main factor has been Winnebago. Winnebago made me a better and more complete person. Winnebago brought out talents and abilities in me that I was not aware of. I remember that in my first summer at camp, I started to participate in sports like softball—a game that I had not played before in my life. By my second year, I was on the intercamp softball team! I remember that in my first year at camp, I didn’t know how to perform swimming strokes like breaststroke or butterfly. By my second year, I was part of the swim team and racing in the individual medley! All of this (and much more) happened because the people around me at camp made me feel that I could achieve anything. There was never that heartbreaking feeling of “not good enough.”
Moreover, what Winnebago did was open my heart and fill it with many loving memories—from the everyday activities on the shores of Echo Lake to the extraordinary overnight trips and the everlasting relationships and friendships. I first came to camp as a boy from Greece, and I remember coming into contact with boys from various countries and cultures and backgrounds. By the second year, we were all the same. We were all Winnebagans!
It has been twenty years since I last put on my camp shirt, and I now have a big need to “pay it forward.” I want to give young boys the opportunity to live what I have lived. I want them to feel things at Winnebago the way I felt them. I want them to go through something rare and special. I want them to find their own unique way to be part of the Winnebago magic.
I feel so grateful to camp, and by teaming up with Uncle Jim Astrove and donating a combined $100,000 for scholarships, I hope we’re giving something back that’s also great. It is the least that I feel I can do to express my gratitude and love! Once a Winnebagan, always a Winnebagan!
So, when people ask me why have I decided to donate, I quote Tom Waits from one of his best songs: “Oh baby, this one’s from the heart”!