Do you have a nickname at camp?

Nothing that has stuck too well, but my bunk likes to call me ‘Mom’.

What was your first year at camp, and who or what brought you to WEHC?

My first year was in 2012. I had gone to day camp for many years before coming to WEHC, and never wanted to go to overnight camp, but I visited West End in 2011 with my friend Jack Zinman and our dads. John (his father) is still heavily involved in WEHC and set up for us to spend the night in 5A. We played league games for the day and watermelon at night. I fell in love and begged to go back the next summer.

Father David Yas and Griffin

How many years have you attended camp as a camper and counselor?

I have been at camp for a total of 10 years. Six as a camper and four as a counselor.

What are your first memories of West End?

My very first memory of camp was playing dodgeball on my first day of camp ever. Everyone looked so big and there was a great buzz in the air. It may sound weird but I vividly remember the smell of the gym all those years ago. I wasn’t great at dodgeball, but I did get to watch Deon Singletary make 3 half-court shots that day.

What were your favorite camp activities as a camper? As a counselor?

Since I was a kid and to this day, my favorite activity at camp is Color War. Specifically, as a camper, my favorite league sport was volleyball by far. I also always loved Treasure Hunt as a night activity and, of course, Watermelon. As a staffman, I have a slightly different perspective. I still think Watermelon is one of my favorite activities, but most of the night activities are great to get into. Being part of the Casino in the Beach Resort activity and battling in front of all of the campers for them to bid on is incredible. Also, getting to bid in Auction Part 2 is fun as well.

What is your favorite meal in the mess hall?

Back in the day, I would have said tacos were my favorite meal. I used to get a taco and then make an extra taco salad. One year, the Philly cheesesteaks and waffle fries were amazing. Nowadays, I think that the chicken bacon ranch subs were underrated last year.

What is your favorite camp memory?

My favorite camp memory is probably song night 2017. The Blue Order had made an insane comeback and were up going into the night. We sang our songs well and when the final scores of each performance were read I had done the calculations in my head. Before the final score was read I whispered to Matt Connelly, my favorite counselor and head coach, “Did we just win Color War?”. He just looked at me teary-eyed and nodded.

Griffin on Color War Team White Showtime

What is it that keeps you coming back to WEHC?

Camp is such a special place. It’s a haven for so many of us who look forward to escaping home for a couple of months. I’ve made friends there that I truly will have for the rest of my life. Year by year as I realize my career is coming closer to an end I envy the kids that have so much more time there but also value my time there more and more.

Can you share a funny story from or about camp?

In 2017, it was the night of my birthday and the night of the second changeover day.  This meant that we were doing bunk activities.  We were all down by the waterfront for the night.  We had a fun night playing heads-up by the Goober benches but then all of Gottlieb got called to the Kezar.  We were devastated.  We thought we were getting in trouble, but it turned out to be the complete opposite.  My mom had actually sent up pizza for the whole bunk.  It was quite the roller coaster of emotions.

Griffin, Joe Connelly, Nathan Riesenburger

What is the best Color War memory you have?

It’s so hard to mention just 1 Color War memory so I’m gonna name a few quick ones. 1) In the 2’s I had to do archery shooting for the Apache Relay. I hit a bullseye on my second shot. 2) Back in 2013 (yes I can remember vividly this day), my Junior Division was playing soccer. I was the goalie. The other team scored on me with about 2 minutes left to tie up the game. They had all the momentum, but within the last seconds, Jayden Craig scored to win the game for us. We went on to go 6-0 that year. 3) High senior year, the Blue Order had mounted its comeback. It was day 4 and we were playing basketball. The other team had some amazing players, but George Zabalou played amazing defense at the top of our 1-2-2 defense. I had 29 points and we took the win. 4) Most recently, the Blue Guild scored 626 points. We became the second-highest-scoring blue team in history. As a coach, knowing that my name will be in the Rec Hall forever is an amazing feeling. I’ll never forget the preparation Aidan and I put into that team and our ability to execute just about every time we needed to. 

A life lesson you learned from going to West End House Camp?

There are probably too many to count. Overall, I would say WEHC taught me mostly about maturity and confidence. Camp puts you in positions where you are the one responsible for yourself. I remember going to FunTown for the first time and learning about how to manage your time and money from the older kids I was with. Then in Gottlieb, doing laundry, working in the kitchen, and cleaning the mess hall were practical skills that put me ahead of other kids when I got home. Shoutout to Derek (the cook) for teaching me the best way to break down boxes. Aside from super practical skills, camp made me a lot more confident. I learned how to stand up for myself. I learned to make new friends. I learned how to interact with older kids. These were all skills I was petrified of before West End.  

Bill Margolin means a lot to so many people, how has he influenced your life?

I never was extremely close to Bill, but always respected him immensely. Strangely, I got to form a relationship with Bill during the summer of House at Home, showing him how to use Zoom and being on calls with him. To me, Bill represents the value of dedication. Working during OTW and seeing how many people Bill affected was truly eye-opening and we all can’t thank him enough for his time at camp.

What does it mean to be ‘one of the boys’, and how important is that to you?

When you’re one of the boys, you’re always one of the boys. It means everything. It means that I can count on anyone from camp and they can count on me. There is something special about spending 2 months with a group of guys. They become family. I know to this day I could call up any of my cabinmates from back in 2017 and they’d be there for me.

From top left: Aidan Connelly, Griffin Yas, Joe Connelly, and Josh Wolf

Can you give an example of a random West End run-in or connection you’ve had outside of camp?

Going to Umass Amherst, I see a West Ender almost every day. I see the Connellys (Aidan and Joe) about every day. They aren’t random. I’ve run into Ethan Brodeur, Tim Chu, Will Burger, and Mike Sudkin while around campus. Also, at a Harlem Globetrotters game I saw Craig Bieberman on the jumbotron (great coach), and Dan Lavenson at a basketball tournament one time.

Griffin, Aidan Connelly, Joe Connelly, and Josh Wolf

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