Dear Crossroads Community,

As the days warm and lengthen, we arc with ever greater anticipation toward summer. Here at Crossroads, we are thrilled to return to full capacity programming and look forward to hosting over 1500 children at our four summer camps, Road to College Tours, National Outdoor Leadership School Treks, and ACT Now Summit at Stonehill College. After two years of immense challenge and even greater displays of resilience, we are in the final stages of hiring, planning, and preparations for our 86th year of summer magic.

My annual June note is usually filled with images of all that makes a summer at Crossroads so special. But this year feels different. The peace and tranquility of a perfect spring evening was recently shattered by the news of the massacre in Uvalde, TX. The images immediately transported me back to another beautiful spring day in April 1999 when two students armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons murdered 12 classmates and a teacher. I remember thinking, how could this happen in America? And perhaps more naively, thinking that this would be a turning point—a national reckoning with our gun-obsessed culture and policies bought and paid for by lobbyists. It was indeed a moment of inflection, but the boomerang whizzed past in the opposite direction. More money flowed in from the gun lobby, policies and regulations were actually weakened, more guns than ever before were produced and sold, and massacres continued unabated.

And yet, after Sandy Hook, I still believed the nation would come to a consensus that a child’s right to a public education, to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness, would supersede an expanded interpretation of the Second Amendment which preserved colonists’ rights to maintain a well-regulated militia. Wrong. Mass shooting are a daily occurrence in America and even the news of 17 students murdered and 17 wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida eventually faded from view.

In the face of the unspeakable horror in Uvalde, I can only assume that we will return to business as usual after a quick rinse and spin through the cable news cycle. We’ll allow ourselves to become “exhausted” and distracted by handwringing, strategic deflection, and rabbit holes marked mental health, good people on both sides, filibuster, right to carry, semi-automatic, bump stock, and guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And in a few short days, weeks or months, we will once again be jarred by a massacre that we can only hope darkens doorsteps far from our own.

Instead of passively waiting for that to happen, we could take a different approach. Every single one of us has children in our lives who we love very much. Let’s take two minutes to imagine that one of those children was ripped from our lives in the most senseless, violent way imaginable. Is there anything we WOULDN’T do to avoid that fate? And then let’s imagine that we actually had the power to dramatically reduce the likelihood of that horror ever visiting us. Is there anything we WOULDN’T do to exercise that power?

In addressing our C5 Leaders last fall, Crossroads Trustee Ivàn Espinoza-Madrigal described the epiphany he had in working with parents whose children were taken from them at the border: at some point you realize no one else is coming to right this wrong, and you have to do it yourself. Every day, we tell our Crossroads participants, “you have agency, you have the power to shape your life, your future, and this society.” To all of you, I would deliver the same message: we have the power and the means to dramatically reduce the likelihood and frequency of these massacres. No, the problem is not too big. It can be addressed through advocacy, through voting, through review of our stock portfolios, through examination of our business interests, through conversations with friends and family, and through DEMANDING that our nation place the lives of children above the right to possess a military-grade weapon.

This is not a political issue for me. It is my sacred responsibility—to which each of you should hold me accountable—to ensure that every member of our Crossroads community is kept safe on our sites. It is my great shame and sorrow to inform you we cannot adequately protect children given the permissive state of our country’s gun culture and laws. I am not being provocatively alarmist—the evidence is clear that schools, concert halls, athletic fields, and workplaces are daily sites of gun violence. That doesn’t mean that we won’t be as prepared as possible for such an event or that we shouldn’t run programs anymore. However, we should all understand that the risk is far greater than it should be and we are all complicit for putting children in harm’s way if we fail to act. Imagine how we would feel if the headlines ever read “Camp Wing, Duxbury” or “Camp Mitton, Brewster” or “Camp Lapham, Ashby.”

As members of the Crossroads community, we are optimistic and joyful people—that is in our DNA and powers our remarkable culture. I am hopeful that this can be a moment when we imagine and begin to work toward a vision of a country without AR-15 massacres on soft civilian “targets.” It starts by doing what we strive to do each day here at Crossroads: place children at the center and craft experiences and relationships that shape the trajectory of their lives. Is there anything we WOULDN’T do for these children? I didn’t think so. Let’s get to work.

With gratitude and respect,

Simon Hess