May is here! In less than two months we will all be heading back to our greatly missed home away from home, West End House Camp! The directors have been working closely with a small group of senior counselors over the last several months to create and prepare some amazing new activities! One of those senior counselors is Aidan Connelly, from Lynnfield, MA. A recent addition to West End’s respected “10 Year Club”, Aidan, or “Din” as some of his camp friends called him that one summer in 2017 (ha!), has a long history with WEHC.
Though he visited camp several times with his uncle and long time West Ender Billy Faria, Aidan’s first summer as a camper at WEHC was more than a decade ago! “My first year at camp was 2011, although I visited multiple times with my uncle Billy Faria and cousin Shawn Leahy. Uncle Billy first influenced my cousin Jack to go in 2006, and my older brother Matt followed in 2007. My other cousin Max Robert followed in 2009, and my twin Joe and I followed in 2011. My cousins Ferris Way and Kyle Gagne followed after us since then.” That’s a big crew! If you break things down a bit more, Aidan was a camper for six years from 2011-2016, and this year will be his fifth on staff, dating back to 2017.
What are your first memories of West End House Camp?
“I think it’s funny how many of my first memories at camp don’t include the big events like Color War and Desert War. I remember the little things like grabbing cake and milk after the night activity, and chilling out in the bunk with the boys in 5B.”
What are your favorite activities at camp?
“Obviously Desert War and Color War are huge for me. Color War probably has to come on top because of just how special it is, and having coached it twice so far I just love everything about it. For Desert War, it is also important to me because I was 6-0 as a camper, and coached last year on Tropic. It hurt a lot when we came up short, but I still loved it. The everyday activities I enjoy are definitely Watermelon, Kennards, and relaxing during rest period in the bunk with my friends.”
What is your favorite meal to eat in the mess hall?
“This is a difficult one, but I probably would have to say grilled cheese. I love Deluxe Deli Buffet and other camp favorites, but it has to be grilled cheese based solely on how many you can devour at one meal. My Gottlieb year I had 13 at lunch one day, then played a league soccer game after and somehow felt fine.” (We do not suggest you try this).
What is your favorite memory of camp?
“I don’t think I can pick one favorite memory, I’ve been at camp more than a decade so it’s impossible to choose! My favorite memories definitely include hanging out with my brothers and cousins. If I had to choose one single memory to encompass all that it would be winning the 2018 Watermelon Championship. It’s not my all-time favorite camp memory, but the Faria Clan (my family) had never won Watermelon League until that point. Also, making the game winning diving catch was a nice cherry on top as well. In Watermelon, your family members are on your team, and doing something like that together perfectly caps off so many great memories over the past decade.”
What is your favorite Color War moment?
“Again, I can’t choose one, but I can probably choose one from my time as a camper and on staff so far. For my time as a camper, it would be when I scored 7 and assisted once in mid-senior water polo on the Blue Hustle, with Max Brody assisting me every time and scoring off my assist to win that game like 8-1. As a staff man, the whole 2019 Color War was amazing. I loved the coaching crew, being on the same team as Joe for the first time, the theme of Showtime, the atmosphere, almost blowing a 90 point lead, and, well, the white plaque in the Mess Hall as well. I’d never been a part of an eerily-close Color War like that before, but winning it was the best feeling in the world!”
What keeps you coming back to camp?
“I have to say that I never really thought about how long I’d stay at camp in the long run. Being on staff as a counselor, especially for 6+ years isn’t for everyone. I’m getting old enough where real life is challenging my priorities and making things difficult, like college and internships, but I always put camp close to the top of the list. Other than this past summer, when we didn’t have camp due to COVID-19, I hadn’t had a summer where I stayed at home since 2010.
Sometimes at camp I might get homesick, and want to be home and hang out with my friends, but life at home is just so boring. Working a full time job last summer made me appreciate camp so much more!
Yes, spending time with my family and friends while being a part of House at Home, our virtual camp last summer, was a nice gift, but camp just holds such a special place in my heart. And I still have more gas in the tank! It’s one of the only places that I feel so carefree, and I’m so happy when I’m at West End. It’’s something that most people just wouldn’t understand.”
What is the funniest story you have about WEHC?
“One of my earliest memories at camp, which also happens to be funny, happened during Song Night in 2011. Many know that during the Song Night performance everyone must be perfect, and the whole team acts as one. I was taught to stand perfectly still, no itching, fidgeting, or moving out of order. In 2011, I was on the White Immortals, and for Song Night all of us received wreaths with golden leaves to wear on our heads. My head was so small that in the middle of one of our songs, my wreath fell off my forehead and directly in front of my eyes, impairing my vision. I was panicking and did not know what to do. Luckily, my friend Drew Seifer was behind me, and saw what happened. I didn’t move my wreath back into place to avoid point deductions from the judges, and Seifer quietly and subtly directed me back to my seat after the songs ended. Drew sat next to me on the benches, and my cousin Jack Meaney sat behind me. Both of them instructed me to stay put and not fix my wreath until the judges couldn’t see me. I had to wait almost 10 minutes to fix my wreath and to be able to see again. I can’t imagine what would have happened if it weren’t for Drew and Jack!”
What is a life lesson you learned at camp?
“I’ve learned a lot of life lessons at camp, and many might sound like clichés, but the most important lesson is that no matter how talented, popular, or smart you are, if you work hard and stay focused you will eventually get rewarded.
I was never really the most popular kid or best athlete in my bunk, but I worked hard and stayed true to my goals and I’ve accomplished so much more than what I was aiming for. Things like coaching Desert War and Color War are so special, and are such a privilege. And because of the work I put in I was able to do those things and much more.”
Has Bill influenced your life? How?
“I’ve known Bill for over a decade now, and he has been such an influential figure at West End for 60 years. He is always someone that the campers can talk to, and he is one of the wisest and nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s always been supportive of me and I look up to him. He’s such a legendary figure and an amazing human being, and he reminds me a lot of Yoda from Star Wars due to how wise and kind he is.”
Can you talk about how important it is to be “one of the boys”?
“Being “one of the boys” is why I come back to camp every year. It’s something that is so unique to camp, and it’s something that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Whenever I run into anyone from camp in the “real world”, or personally for me at UMass, you just pick up right where you left off with whoever you see. It’s a lifelong connection that you share with everyone who you meet at camp.”
Do you have an example of a random West End connection or run in?
“I have random West End run-ins all the time! A lot of us go to UMass Amherst, so I see some of my fellow campers and counselors a few times a week. One of my favorites is Jeremy Zucker giving me a shout-out at one of his concerts but other than that there’s tons.”
Is there anything else you want to share?
“I just wanted to thank Josh Daigle for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences and for reminding me of how many memories I’ve had at camp. It’s crazy to think I’ve spent over a decade here, and camp has literally turned me into who I am today. Ryan, Bill, and Steve have seen me grow up from a small 10-year-old boy in 5B, to a Senior Counselor going into my third year of college, and I am so grateful for all camp has done for me so far. I can’t wait to be back up there in a few months, it’s been far too long!”
Aidan is clearly ready for another summer at West End House Camp with all of you! It is getting close! Thank you Aidan for such an in depth interview. Who will I interview next month? You will have to wait until next month to see!