Humbled, happy & a little nervous. Today’s Wall Street Journal story.


The cover teaser : “THE MARKET FOR NOSTALGIA”… is next to a shot of the camp living room (filled with nothing but thrift store stuff)

… and still a little shocked that they called us, wanting  to include an old camp alongside some (very intimidatingly) fancy mansions, and their equally fancy owners. (can you tell that we have an inferiority complex?:)

The story is called “Buying Vacation Homes where you grew up – Some buyers are returning to their roots, getting retreats in places that store their childhood memories.” The Wandawega story is in their section is called Mansion, (an interesting contradiction to summer camp in general).  And as it turns out, it was that very juxtaposition that they found intriguing. We got a call to chat… and the interview quickly turned to the questions you would imagine the Real Estate investment reporter would want answers to, like “how much did you invest in it?”

A good question. Hard to calculate– and even harder to answer. I guess it depends on how you define invest.

So this is the best way we knew how to explain what to most (sometimes, even us!) looks like a completely irrational, emotional decision:

We do the things that make us happy. And the things that make us happy are making other folks happy. At the end of the day our heftiest investment has been emotional, physical and personal. And by these three criteria, we are content to say that our investment has been paying off.  Some of our most cherished examples:

Maintaing the church & chapel, so we can open our doors for hundreds of church-goers every sunny sunday for “Mass in the Grass”

Throwing our annual philanthropic  camps, like art camp, kids camp, and band camp. To this day, these are still the most emotionally fulfilling money-losers ever.  

Building the memorial treehouse in a dying tree- for my dad (made possible by the most giving friends on earth) as a labor of love that we hope proves you can build something beautiful, even out of loss.  

Rescuing a little abandoned  shack from my hometown and trucking it up to camp to restore on a shoestring. —To serve as a reminder that it’s where we come from that matters.

Raising Charlie (already 3 years old!)  in the same place (and seaweed-filled-lake) that David had experienced the joy of when he was a kid. (she is the only investment that matters above all else, of course 🙂

We are forever grateful for this never-ending-back-and-bank-breaking gift of a place that has enabled us to share it with friends, new and old.

So, thank you to the WSJ for acknowledging that its not how much money you have to invest, but how much you emotionally invest, that really equates to the value of your home.

AN EXCERPT: “Nostalgia motivated David Hernandez and his wife Tereasa Surratt to buy the 25-acre camp where Mr. Hernandez spent summers in his youth.  Camp Wandawega, in Elkhorn, Wis., about 90 miles north of Chicago, was for years run by the Catholic church primarily for Latvian immigrants. Its origins are racier: It was originally built in 1925 as a site for prostitution and illicit liquor sales during Prohibition. “We bought it because we wanted to save it, with absolutely no financial plan. It was basically like our summer home,” said Ms. Surratt. Gradually, however, word of their rustic retreat spread and the couple began renting the camp out for corporate retreats and weddings. They use the income to pay for charitable events, including a weekly church service and free camp activities for the community.  The couple donates the camp to charitable causes for half the season — (“This is an opportunity to go back in time. It puts you in touch with your inner child,”  David said)


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PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Stefko for The Wall Street Journal 

and… a huge thank you to the amazing writer Katy Mclaughlin.