A Letter from Dick Lewis

Dear Wabun Family,

Hear the water, feel the wind, on an island far away. At this very moment, I sit on the porch of Wabun Point – a cabin built by my grandparents in 1936 – looking out over Lake Temagami. The setting sun drops to the west casting a golden glow over the sloping boulders of Sliderock. The waves are rhythmic and melodic and the russet-colored autumn leaves sway in the gentle breeze.  My senses are overwhelmed and I am filled with reverence and awe for this amazing and majestic territory. 

There is no place nearer or dearer to me than this island far away. I was 9 years old my first season as a Wabun camper in 1954. I remember sitting at the closing campfire that summer and feeling in my bones that I was in the midst and a part of something very special. 

My tenure as a camper spanned five more years, followed by 11 years on the staff. With each successive summer, sitting at the closing campfire, that feeling of gratitude to be part of this “something very special” intensified. The most fortunate moment of my life was when I met and married my wife, Marg. Marg brought to our personal and professional partnership a deep belief in the tremendous capabilities of children and the power of experiential education to encourage them. Throughout our 53 year marriage and 40 years together on Wabun’s management team, we have shared an enduring personal and professional calling to provide children opportunities to access the transformative power of the natural world experienced within a caring community. Marg’s and my children, Jess and Jason, grew up in and of that community and carry forward the twin ideals of providing opportunity and access through their respective roles as Wabun and Wabun Foundation directors. 

Dick and Marg Lewis

This summer I sat again at the closing campfire. The familiar, yet no less potent, feeling of gratitude washed over me. Particularly poignant this year was that my sister Helen and I shared a powerful moment with our grandchildren, the fifth generation of our family to be campers. As we have done many times before, I accompanied Helen as she sang the ‘Wabun Song.’ Written many years ago by our sister Karen, this song is a musical tribute to Wabun. It carries forward in verse and voice the vision of our founders in 1933 – among whom was our grandfather. Singing with her we transcended time; linked in purpose with our grandfather, lifted in voice with hundreds gathered to celebrate the capabilities of children, and locking eyes with our grandchildren as they felt that “something very special” for the first time.

Hear the water, feel the wind, on an island far away resonates with the Wabun of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The water continues to carry us and sing to us.  The constancy of the wind still continues to aid or impede our lake travels by canoe.  The breeze follows us to our campsites, and gives sway to the mystical dance of our campfires.  As all things in life, that very wind brings change.    

Perhaps one of the most profound pieces of learning I have taken from my time at Wabun is that the “something very special” feeling can’t be felt alone – it can only be felt when shared within our caring community. Over four thousand alums, friends and colleagues share a love and appreciation of Wabun and what we do. As I sit here with Marg at sunset reflecting back on our years past, I am heartened to feel in my bones that we are not alone. That sunrise will come and the future of Wabun will be created and carried forward by our Wabun family. For each of us, sustaining the availability of the Wabun experience and securing its availability for our children and grandchildren is deeply important. Wabun is on an island, but it is not an island.  It’s a place where the spirits of many souls, who pave our way, are still heard in the wind.  And it is in the changing winds where we see the shadows of those who will carry on after us. Dear old Wabun, don’t forget me, I’ll be back again someday.  Each summer we follow in the footsteps of our founders and all who have gone before, who have tread these rugged trails and dipped these same paddles that shine with each stroke in the lakes and rivers of this beautiful region.  

My family and I have helped sustain Wabun using a model developed in 1933. Now the winds are changing, the air is in motion, in transition. It is in these changing winds that we find adaptations are necessary. I am proud, delighted and excited to enthusiastically offer my heartfelt support to the development of a plan to sustain this tradition of wilderness/canoe tripping, helping Wabun move forward into a new phase, transforming to a not-for-profit with the Wabun Foundation.

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