What was your first year at camp, and who or what brought you to WEHC?
My first summer at camp was in 2015. I found out about camp through some of my older brother’s friends such as James Dunlea, Coby Tippett, Bryce, and Tyler Smith. What got me to go to camp was Steve Lepler coming to my house with his array of pictures telling me how great camp was.
Do you have a nickname at camp?
For the most part people call me Liam or Grabie. This will be my first summer at camp without my twin brother Ben, so I will likely be called Grabie more.
How many years have you attended camp as a camper and counselor?
I attended camp as a camper for six summers including my canceled 2020 Gottlieb year. This summer will be my second year on staff making this my eighth summer in total.
What are your first memories of West End?
One of my first memories at West End is in cabin 2A on my first night at camp. I remember having some homesickness at first. Going to camp was the first time I was ever away from home which was very overwhelming. Luckily my junior counselor, James Dunlea, noticed how I was feeling and had a heart-to-heart conversation with me. James told me about how he was homesick as a camper and felt the same way as I did. He reassured me that everything would be okay, and I needed to take my mind off of home by having fun. After having that conversation with my counselor, I felt a lot better. James made sure to follow up with me regularly— asking me how I was doing and if there was anything he could do for me. A unique part of West End is how familiar the staff is with all camp matters. The overwhelming majority of counselors have been campers themselves and experienced things such as being homesick. The shared experience gives the staff a great perspective on how to comfort campers. I used this experience to help campers during my first year on staff who were dealing with being homesick. This story shows something special about West End where campers learn from their counselors and pass it on to the next generation of West Enders.
What were your favorite camp activities as a camper? As a counselor?
Without a doubt my favorite camp activity is Color War, and there is nothing I have ever experienced quite like it. The intensity and passion put into Color War by the campers and staff is what makes it such an incredible activity. However, for the sake of this interview, I will give a somewhat less generic answer and say The House Game. The energy during The House Game is ELECTRIC. Over one hundred die-hard West End fans cheering on the 15U team is an atmosphere that TD garden could not compete with.
What is your favorite meal in the mess hall?
My favorite meal at camp has to be chicken patties, fish tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, and very randomly the Desert War steak served in 2019.
What is your favorite camp memory?
One of my favorite camp memories is winning Watermelon last summer on the Karass-Floods. Without a doubt, we were the worst Watermelon team in camp, but we somehow figured out how to win three games. After winning our first two playoff games we faced the 6-0 Yas-Martinez crew in the Watermelon finale. Although it was a close game we were able to edge them out in the end and emerge victorious. On the last night of camp, the Karass-Floods savored a great watermelon to top of a historical championship. When asked who won Watermelon, no one believed it was the Karass-Floods.
What is it that keeps you coming back to WEHC?
What keeps me coming back to camp are the incredible friends I have made. Although I often hang out with people from camp at home I can never see enough of my friends from West End! Seeing those guys that you have grown up with is very special and something you will blow off plans with your school friends for.
Can you share a funny story from or about camp?
One time in 2019 Nick Silva, my CIT, came home from a night out with a calzone from Sophia’s Pizza. Tarlee Casey, seeing the delicious buffalo chicken (no veg) calzone, took notice and decided to make an offer. Tarlee offered Nick 20 bucks for three slices of the calzone and Nick accepted the offer. Unfortunately for Nick, Tarlee gave him twenty dollars in monopoly money and he did not realize it until the morning since it was too dark to see the bill. When Nick found out in the morning he was freaking out and we were all rolling on the floor, dying from laughter.
What is the best Color War memory you have?
My favorite Color War memory has got to be scoring the winning run in intermediate softball for the Blue Exchange. Bases loaded, I’m on third base with two outs and Tim Melton is up to bat. I believe Antonio Agard pitched to Tim who hit a grounder that rolled its way into the outfield. I ran towards home plate where I was greeted by the Exchange high seniors and lifted in the air by Brandon Buckman. This moment was extra special because intermediate softball on day four is historically one of the most spectated games that all of the camp attends. Being an eleven-year-old and being hyped up to that extent is an unreal feeling. I will say, however, the 2016 Spirit gave my twin brother Ben the credit for this play so history will not recognize Liam Grabie as the king of the Blue Exchange. It’s whatever though, I’ll take it up with Ryan.
A life lesson you learned from going to West End House Camp?
My several years at camp have taught me how to resolve interpersonal issues. When you are at camp you are in a cabin with twelve other guys for eight weeks. This makes it uncomfortable to hold a stupid grudge unlike at home where you can dodge your problems. At camp, you are forced to clear the air with people and ‘hug it out’ with whoever you have an issue with. The inability to hold a grudge at camp forces you to build a ton of character and act like an adult.
Steve Lepler and Bill Margolin mean a lot to so many people, how have they had an influence on your life?
Steve has played such a big role in my life as he brought me to camp. Steve is a really great man who knows how to deal with kids. I was homesick during my first summer at camp and Steve always made an effort to comfort me and ask how I was feeling. Steve makes everyone feel important as he knows everyone’s name, the town they live in, and a ton of random things like your dog’s name (read a letter Liam wrote to Steve HERE). Bill Margolin is an absolute West End legend. The man has been at camp for around sixty-five years and knows everything about camp. I got to know Bill more personally last summer as I was running Color War and learned a lot from how he takes initiative of things, basically planning last year’s Color War start. No one has ever had anything bad to say about Bill for a reason. He is an incredibly selfless man who has spent many of his years giving all of us a place to come every summer and have the time of our lives. For this, we owe Bill Margolin everything because there is no West End without Bill. Additionally, I know that during the offseason Bill has served his community by helping and mentoring many underprivileged children. The amount of lives Bill has positively affected is inspiring and something we should all wish to emulate as it would make the world a better place.
What does it mean to be ‘one of the boys’, and how important is that to you?
Being one of the boys is coming back to camp every summer to the same group of guys and just picking up where you left off. Being one of the boy’s is special because you grew up with all of your friends and become an inseparable part of each other’s lives.
Can you give an example of a random West End run in or connection you’ve had outside of camp?
I call this connection the coincidence of the century. In my freshman year at Sharon High, I played basketball and I grew very close with our assistant coach. This coach has to be one of the greatest adults I have ever had in my life. He helped me out during some difficult times and is a genuinely great guy. Everyone on the team loved him as he is a great basketball coach while being incredibly fun and funny. It was a running joke on the team that I was the assistant coach’s son because of how he favored me. Sometime in the middle of the season, we had a home game versus Foxborough. After my game concluded I saw Ryan Wilensky sitting on benches cheering on his Foxborough High students. I then approached Ryan to say hello and touch base where he asked if I had spoken to Lonnie (my assistant coach) about West End. This had me quite confused, but Ryan then told me that Lonnie Elfbaum is a longtime West Ender and high senior captain of the Blue Defenders. After finding this out I spoke to Lonnie about West End constantly throughout the season. I find this story funny because without knowing we were both West Enders there was just a connection that I really think does justice to the slogan “when you’re one of the boys you’re always one of the boys”.
Did we miss anything you’d like to share?
Not really, I am looking forward to camp this summer and can’t wait to see all of my friends!