Bonus Episode: Audio Tour of Camp Storer 1980s

Bonus Episode: Audio Tour of Camp Storer 1980s

Here we are at the last week of June 2018.  I’m so glad that there’s nothing going on this week!  The Stoney Lake Reflections project is in full swing with so much material in the pipeline and barely any time to publish it all.  But that’s a good problem to have.

I found the following piece of audio history in the archives and thought it appropriate to share this week as so many are headed back to camp.  Take a listen and perhaps play it on your way to camp.  And if you can’t join us in person for the 100th, listen to this virtual tour of camp from the 1980’s.







If you would like to learn more about The Stoney Lake Reflections Project’s work with the archives, read on!



I like to remind people that this project is much more than the podcast as there is the website (which you are viewing right now) and also some deep behind the scenes work taking place with the YMCA Storer Camps archives.


The archival piece of the project is one that I have not talked a lot about yet, but it is vital when considering any piece of Storer’s 100-year history.  I’ll be writing more about it and highlighting some unique contents of what the archives hold. I’ll also be discussing a proposal that would involve cataloging, organizing, preserving and the eventual sharing of the contents found therein.  I have some grand goals for a project that will be big in scope, utilize technology to its fullest potential to preserve, protect, and yet share key pieces of YMCA Storer Camps visual history.  Perhaps the passion is from my love of anthropology. It doesn’t hurt that my Uncle was once head librarian at the New York Public Library (then Syracuse U.) and his son, a Storer alum,  was involved in the Harvard University Library system.  My oldest brother is also heavily involved in the pursuit of family history including geneology.


I do want to take a moment here to thank camp for allowing me access to the archives during my trips to Storer this past year.  Specifically, I want to say a BIG thank you to Becky Spencer for indulging my passion for history.  In this case, Storer Camps history, allowing me to view the collection satisfying my social and cultural anthropological curiosities.  I thrive on digging into a culture’s shared ideas, beliefs and values.  The ability to investigate historical records, catalogue artifacts and the ability to share the wealth of information that lies in 100 year’s of history.  A history of personal interest.


I also want to thank Becky and others for putting up with my broken record of reminders regarding best practices for the archives, which encompasses a wide-range of issues.  I’ll be diplomatic and say I’m passionate about the archives and believe in (and have goals to attain) their fullest potential.  As my best friend kids, whenever I talk about the Storer archives, he likes to quote Indiana Jones as he gets excited “It belongs in a museum!”   Despite my enthusiasm for the records, I’m grateful that camp still welcomes me back to access the archives.



As the Stoney Lake Reflections Project evolves, so shall too the archives piece.  If you are interested in learning more, feel free to stop me at the 100th and ask.  Or drop me a line.

“History is who we are, and why we are the way we are” – David McCullough





First Storer Memories


I was the youngest of four boys (sorry Mom) and also was the youngest of my cousins. As such, I was too young for camp when my cousins from New York City came to visit for the summer, and with my brothers, made their annual pilgrimage to Camp Storer. So I was a lone wolf from anywhere from two to five weeks as my parents dropped off six kids, usually at once!


Oh, the 70s: Geoff, Andy, Gavin, Dustin

I remember what seemed to be a long car ride in our Chevy Malibu Classic station wagon. The thought of going to another state made it seem even longer. The fact that the car was a buzz about all the things waiting for them at camp probably didn’t help me either. Although I knew I would be the center of attention in a very quiet house, I knew I was definately missing out on some grand adventure.

I knew we were close to camp when we saw more and more black cherry stands on the side of the road. As a child, I equated cherries with Michigan. It was not until I married a former Traverse City Cherry Princess did I learn that black cherries are not usually the cherries people speak of in Michigan!  But the sweet black cherries sold on the side of the road made an impression on me nonetheless. So after what seemed like forever, we progressively took smaller and smaller roads. Slowing as we went through main streets of a few small towns.

Then finally I knew we were near as my dad had this little tradition of acting lost and would ask the car which way we should at the split between North Stoney Lake and South Stony Lake roads.  Right for Girls, left for boys??? Of course he knew what side of the lake he was going to hit first (majority rules-boys side!), but this was always part of the trip. Taking S. Stony, we would pull into a horse pasture and park the car. In those days you didn’t drive into what was the main entrance for camp registration. From this horse pasture cum staging lot, we unloaded the luggage, placed it in the appropriate pile for the maintenance crew and volunteers to distribute accordingly. I’m unsure if this staging area was behind the stockade or not. But I do remember having to walk a good distance to a winding line where the front office staff would be busy collecting registration and health forms, taking trading post and photo deposits.

Monkey Bars next to South Dining Hall…Dropping off older siblings…Im in plaid outfit <groovy>

The typical Smith M.O. was not to fill in such forms until we arrived. I mean, in the line, where it seemed everyone else had his or her forms dutifully filled out. That was also usually the time my dad would renew the Y membership to get the discount. [These days, he says he does not remember this account, but does not doubt its veracity!] At this point, the kids are antsy, a tad nervous, but just want get a buddy # go to the cabins and down to the dock.


Kathryn Stam with Uncle Art Smith checks in for Girl’s Camp 1977


After dropping off all the boys, meeting the counselors and watching everyone cycle through their swim tests, we would drop off my cousin Kathryn Stam for her stay on the North Center. At this time, it was the ‘Girls’ side and I remember sticking close to the car as not to disrupt said girls. In fact I came across some photos of me being occupied with a petting zoo they set up.


Dustin Smith ’77 waits at petting station while older cousin checks into Girl’s Camp



Dustin got stuck at petting station while cousin checks into Girls Camp (no Boys!)


Art Smith with niece Kathryn Stam Check in 77



Kathryn Stam, Art Smith, Dustin Smith ’77 Girl’s side…Malibu station wagon


Kathryn poses for obligatory cabin and counselor pic.


Then the flurry was over.  It was time to return to a very hot car and leave.  I was bummed.  The lake and the horses, all left behind.  Boo!  However, things looked up pretty quick as my final memory of those trips is stopping in Brooklyn. This part of the trip was notable on two fronts: My Aunt and Uncle would speak of the ‘real’ Brooklyn and perhaps more importantly to a kid, I got to enjoy a swirl cone at what I’m guessing is the present day Swiss Swirl.  The cone was a small victory and a diversion.  It wasn’t until I went as a regular camper did I realize camp was more fun than being the center of attention at home all summer.



By the time I started in the Indian Village in 1979 (the first year of co-ed camping at Storer) I knew the drill and was looking forward to my own Camp Storer adventures. I stayed in either the Miami or Crane, but do remember being enamored with the artesian well and the fact that the pony barn was relatively nearby. By year two I was hooked and was already asking to extend my stay. As I’ve noted before, camp was low on numbers one summer, so they said if you signed up for an extra week, you could ride horses for free. Camp lost money on my extension, since I would take as many trail rides offered each day.  They had NO idea I was so determined to mount up, everyday!


These days, when driving back to camp many of these and other memories crop up. As staff, it was usually the game of pulling in on two wheels because I was always running late.  Of course, this was even worse on Michigan International Speedway race days!  This was a nail-biting way to start a new session.  Sprint to the chapel, act calm, cool and collected.  You did NOT want to be late or you would be ‘volunteered’ to do several extra things on opening day.


This past May on the way to camp, my best friend whom I met t camp was joining me.  As I pulled into town, right at the cemetary, there he was stopping by Doc’s grave, so I pulled in.  What a great place to start off our mini camp reunion!  Based on that trip, mind your speed on Stoney Lake Road as parts of it are pretty rough and there are some potholes that could ruin your day.  But the drive is so worth it as the road leads to something truly special.  In this case, it’s all about the destination.


So, what memories do you have of the drive? What is your first memory of camp? What was your first cabin? Feel free to share!

The Legend of Mona Greenfield

The Legend of Mona Greenfield

The following article details my approach to this re-telling the legend of Mona, from a thoughtful introspective examination of this piece of lore through actual recorded production.







At the start of The Stoney Lake Reflections Project, I had a few things that were “must haves” if I were to devote a podcast to YMCA Storer Camps.  Naturally, the first few items on list regarded guests.  However one item stood out as it was a musing to record the Legend of Mona.




As an Anthropology enthusiast, (BA Anthropology), ever since my notion of telling the Mona story, I struggled with the idea of what it means to record this particular tale. Anthropologically,  the legend was always an ‘oral tradition’ an important component of any culture’s history and Storer’s was no different.  But now I was thinking of moving the legend to ‘oral history’, if I were to commit the tale to some piece of media. I asked myself, was I somehow committing some sort of offense? Was I sharing a secret story?  Would I ruin the story for future campers?

Well, the short answer, after much deliberation, and some investigation, is NO.  As I shared with Mary Mennel, I wrote the following after I edited her recorded performance of the story:

“As an alum and a fan of the spoken word, I have mixed feelings making the story so formal and gussied up. However, in light of possibly losing the tradition, since by and large the tale isn’t really told anymore (I’ve heard this from campers and most staff) I think our modern spin will help perpetuate the story.  At the very least this version provides a reference for current staff.  After all it is the story and the telling that matters, not so much the package it is presented in.”

I’m hoping after you hear this creative execution of the Mona Legend, you will agree with my statement above.  And if you don’t like this execution, that’s fine.  Different storytellers have different styles and I can live with that.  I attempted to treat the source material with reverence, but adding some contemporary effects to enhance the ‘theater of the mind’.  In fact, the daytime nature noises are actual recordings I made at Storer this past May with a specialized boom mic and digital recorder.


Hear the Cranes and the Geese in the recording? How about the general nature sounds…recorded at camp to give some authenticity


Although this is a modern take on an old tale, I do NOT expect counselors to whip out their iPhone and play the MP3 file for their cabin and let that suffice as telling the story.  I’m hoping to inspire the present day staff to embrace the power of a great story well told.  I hope they use the recording as a reference point, not the definitive version of Mona.  And as for Alumni and friends of YMCA Storer Camps, this provides you with a touchstone with camp, and something fun to listen to.

I’m not going to lose much sleep over recording the story.  I have yet to wake up bound in seaweed.  But of course, we’ll see what happens when I spend the night in the Hocking cabin during the 100th.  If you don’t see me on June 30th, please have Clark make his way over to Mona’s to untie me.




I know that traditions, including oral traditions, all evolve, change, and adapt in some ways.  Evolving permutations occur through time and the re-telling.  Some details are dropped, some are just forgotten or new angles are presented depending on the audience. I know there are several versions of this story, and through the years some have told it better than others. Also, it has been told all around camp, not just at the foundation of Mona’s former house (wait, I guess it is still hers).  The location at Mona’s only gave the story gravitas, but I also know the mosquitos there are the biggest in camp.  So if the story didn’t give you goose bumps, the bug bites would take their place.  I remember fondly some great renditions being shared at Emerson Barn replete with squeaking bats to add to the ambiance.   So the story moved onto a certain point…but at a certain time there’s a break in the chain and the tradition risks fading into obscurity.




I’m not here to rabble-rouse or to complain about how they don’t do things like they did  ‘in my day’, which were ‘the golden days’ which you wouldn’t understand. According to my inquiries, it is my understanding that the legend is not told anymore.  This is not by policy or edict, but I believe borne from the fact that the chain has been broken.  This is not an indictment and not a cause for panic or protest. If indeed the tale of Mona Greenfield is no longer being told, we can at least provide some printed record (and by extension this recording) for staff to pick up this oral tradition and share the story with a new generation of children, provided it is still relevant, which I argue, the legend is highly relevant, more so than ever.

In today’s society children need hope and positivity.  If the many contemporary accounts about children’s anxiety levels are true, kids and their parents seem more apprehensive, unsure, and insecure than any other preceding era.  The causes go beyond ‘traditional’ adolescent challenges, which are too numerous to list here, but just think of a few issues poking at today’s child: school safety, bullying, peer pressure, and general narcissism prevalent in today’s popular culture, all magnified by living lives through screens, further skewing reality and perception.




And while I speak of children, so many of us recall fondly hearing this story in our youth.  Remember, it is not a ghost story, but a story of a spirit.  I use spirit not as in ‘ghosts, goblins or ghouls’ I use it in the sense of something that embodies positive attributes and values found at YMCA Storer Camps.


plural noun: spirits

  1. The nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.

Yes, I can hear some say, “but in today’s environment telling ghost stories or scary stories maybe upsetting to children” (or their insecure parents).  Yes, I said that, right there. The latter does not help the former.  But again, the refrain should be: THIS ISN’T A GHOST STORY.  It’s a story about a woman who loves nature and children, and ideas of respect and honesty.  In the version presented here, you will find the story ends with a positive message.  It certainly pales in comparison to what many parents let their kids watch on any screen or what video games they play in the living room.  Mona is certainly less scary than the Disney Haunted Tales record I listened to as a kid. Furthermore, to quote Joseph Campbell, world-renowned expert in mythology, religion, and culture “We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.”  I submit that Mona’s story achieves Campbell’s ideal as well as providing the comfort of an unseen friend who watches over us, loves children, protects nature and represents positive virtues.  As Mary Mennel says in her performance, “Sometimes, back home in the city, they’re many Monas that are helping us watch and preserve those things that are important to us”.  Mona, we thank you for this.



MONA 2018

During my inaugural interviews with Mary Mennel in August 2017, I asked her about recording the Mona story for a future podcast episode.  In my mind, it was hard to separate the Legend of Mona from Mary’s superb story-telling abilities.  There are great stories and great storytellers and this, in my opinion, was a perfect combination.  It was the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of oral traditions. So I had my casting set.  Now, what about a script?  I wasn’t sure if anyone had a copy of the story, so we didn’t have to start from scratch.  I did not necessarily want to throw out the idea willy-nilly in a Facebook post, for there are so many variations out there.  Creatively, I played it close to the vest.

As luck would have it, Mary had a written copy of a version she performed at Storer Day in 1995.  Someone at that event had the presence of mind to record her words as she performed the tale to the enthralled audience before her!  I’m so grateful for someone preserving that piece of history.  So, Mary sent me the copy and I read it so intently.  It is a thorough re-telling and included parts I had forgotten.  At once it was 1984 and I was there at Mona’s with Mary telling the story.  OK, I said, now what?  She was busy transitioning from the 577 foundation, so the timing was not ideal for her to record.  Unfortunately, our schedules never synced until this May.  Mary dutifully sat down and recorded from the 1995 script.  Her performance was worth the wait.  It isn’t easy recording such things, especially when you are not used to doing so.  But Mary, as you can imagine, nailed it.




Now, Mary Mennel perfomed the recording and she told it well.  She was unaware what exactly I was going to do with her performance.  Let’s just say I ‘enhanced it’ for ‘theater of the mind’ providing a modern creative take an old tale well told. I’m very appreciative she didn’t put any restrictions on her performance or what I could or couldn’t do with it.   I was extremely careful in my selections as with such material a fumble becomes a tragedy.

To make sure I was on the right track, I consulted with three key people.  The first consultant was my wife, Executive Producer of the Stoney Lake Reflections Project.  She is my sounding board for a great many things and this project is no exception.  She was in Seattle for the week and I think was appreciative of the break from her work in oncology clinical research.  She took some good notes, provided some feedback, and also commented that she understood what the fuss was all about since it was the first time she heard the story.  She liked it.  Secondly, I consulted the Emerson Maniac (Wm. Gabehart) as we both have a passion for A/V editing and creative projects using technology.  He too provided some insights with some minor suggested tweaks.  As an alum,  he appreciated my restraint and understood my creative dilemmas as I approached the source material.  He’s a big fan of radio drama and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.  Lastly, I checked back with the performance artist herself, Mary Mennel.  I suspected she might be surprised with what I did with her performance.  She was gracious with her accepting my take.  She too provided feedback on some sound cues, etc.  But her first impression was that ‘You really had fun with this’.  Indeed I did.  But I wanted to also do the story and her performance justice.



How Appropriate: “100 Years of Campfire Stories”

Like so much of the Stoney Lake Reflections Project, it is a labor of love.  In fact, I stayed up all night editing for 12 hours straight with a few breaks.  Creative types out there can appreciate this trait, my wife prefers regular hours.  I was in performance mode after being out of commission for days with a cold I caught on my last SLR trip to S. Carolina and Storer.  During my first edits, I was in contact with Mary, as it was 7:30AM her time and she inquired about when I slept, noting that I’m on Pacific time.  The last time she told me to go to bed was 33 years ago when I was as an Explorer.







YMCA Storer Camps – After Dark Edition

YMCA Storer Camps – After Dark Edition

“After Dark Edition” Sounds risqué. However, for the miscreants out there (and I love you) this entry points us to the celestial skies, nothing tawdry- shame on you! 😉 for thinking I’d write about such theoretical things! Let’s think of those wonderful skies at night on the shores of Stony Lake and see what’s in storer for our viewing pleasure around the 100th Celebration ‘A Hundred Years of Campfire Stories’ on June 30th.



What does the title of this article ‘YMCA Storer Camps After Dark’ conjure up for you? I’ve always found that at Storer, amidst such natural magnificence, it doesn’t matter if it is day or night, there are unique discoveries to be made. It could be educational, like learning how to identify specific planets and constellations. It could go deep in philosophical musings, pondering the universe as we gaze at the same. It could provide cover for staff pranks or quiet conversations. It could be a moment of zen, a stolen instant, just take a beat. Or the night sky could only provide enough light to navigate without the need for blinding flashlights. And on those moon-less nights, the inky sky enhances what you hear -or thought you heard- in the still of the night.



Because of some excellent Storer staff when I was a child, I grew to love the night sky for it was a reminder that we are not alone, and something else must be at work. As an adult, I now realize such teachings go back to camps inception 100 years ago. Deep sentiments for the night’s sky are shared on Doc Miller’s grave, memorialized in Sarah William’s poem ‘The Old Astronomer.’ We all learned to love the skies above from dusk until dawn, for it was not something to fear, but appreciate. The same lovely poem ends with the line “God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.”. No wonder as campers and staff, we learned never to fear the night.



I have a hunch many people will be looking to the skies on the night of June 30th as we celebrate ‘100Years of Campfire Stories”. I predict many discussions of camp will continue in the still of the night, long after the last note of taps, once again sitting near Stony Lake and watching the sky grow dense with stars.

And for those who cannot attend, let’s all appreciate the same view, wherever you are, and take a moment to say a quiet hello as you look up at your night’s moon.  If you can’t join us physically at the reunion, take a moment and know we are thinking of you, and take solace in knowing you are not alone and to ‘Never fear the night”.



For those at the reunion, without curfew, it will be up to you to make it in before dawn! Unless Abimbola is roving the darkness on a bicycle without a light, we should all be safe! (If you see a glowing cross approach, don’t fear it this night!*). I’ll call dibs on one of the towers-or both. (For any attorneys or insurance agents out there, I mean this figuratively, as we all know nocturnal roving at the waterfront can be a risky proposition, Caveot dramatis personae 😉 ).

So what will the night skies have in store for us June 30th? 

Dust off your Golden Guide’s Sky Observers Guide, and be prepared for some celestial happenings on the banks of Ol’ Stoney.



According to, the following celestial happenings will occur near our upcoming 100th celebration on June 30th.  Please note that the sun sets around  9:15 PM this time of year in Michigan.

  • June 21 – June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 10:07 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.



  • June 27 – Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth, and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.



  • June 28Full Moon.  The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 04:53 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Full Rose Moon and the Full Honey Moon. At Stoney Lake Reflections, we’re partial to this phenomena! 




*For those who were staff in the 90’s under Abimbola watchful eye, he had a propensity to emerge from the shadows, usually on a ten-speed bike, sans flashlight to politely remind his staff that curfew was approaching. At times, this happened after curfew had passed. The author of this blog has no general or specific recollection of that occurring and will not indemnify myself or any secondary party, thereof. However, One lasting lesson from ‘Storer After Dark’: wintergreen breathsavers DO sparkle when crunched, but that’s all I can confirm or deny…


Available in the Trading Post!



Audiobooks- 101 of the best

Audiobooks- 101 of the best

I figured the Stoney Lake Reflections audience would be predisposed to listening to books since you are listening to the Stoney Lake Reflection’s podcast! (and if you are not listening to this podacst, to quote Abimbola “You Best Be!”).  In the days of yore, these tales told via an amplification device (see ‘good old days’?) were called ‘Books on Tape’.  Books do live on, ‘tape’ not so much!  Magnetic tape, so quaint!  Regardless, the medium is now known as an ‘audiobook’ and listening to a book being read is easier than ever.


I’ve found Audiobooks are a fantastic way to learn on the go.  For me, I can cover more books audibly as I can sitting down with either a physical book (something about holding a book 🙂 ) or reading via my iPad.  I’ve also found audio books very enriching, much like THE MISSION DAILY blog, where they’ve come up with a list of the 101 best audiobooks of all time. From historical fiction to thriller, these stories are sure to keep you engaged until the last line.  Click on the link and scroll through their list.  They also provide a synopsis and where to purchase.  But don’t forget most libraries have audio books available to be lent out virtually.





Take Yale’s Most Popular Class: ‘Happiness’ for FREE

Take Yale’s Most Popular Class: ‘Happiness’ for FREE

So, don’t say this blog never offered you anything! 😉  How about I save you $69,000 and spare you from having to leave your computer to take Yale’s most popular course for free? Yes, free!  And what if said course examined HAPPINESS!?!  Isn’t this something we already know?  It may be, but the real question, is it being practiced? The course may challenge your preconception about happiness, and you may realize, you already have all you need to be happy.  You” also enjoy some ‘tools’ that everyone can use in everyday life.  I offer this up to The Stoney Lake Reflections audience as a ‘continuing education course’ for Storer Alumni & Friends!  Enrichment for my audience, a group of beautiful souls.


The Class

“The Science of Well-Being” taught by Professor Laurie Santos overviews what psychological science says about happiness. This course has received a ton of great press for good reason.  Participants learn about what psychological research says about what makes us happy AND puts those strategies into practice.  The course is taught by Dr. Laurie Santos, 42, a psychology professor and the head of one of Yale’s residential colleges.


Dr. Laurie Santos, Yale Univ.    Psychology

You may ask, why is Yale offering such a class and why do 1/4 of Yale’s student’s enroll?  In a recent interview with the New York Times, Professor Santos provided some insight as why students enroll in the class, “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus…With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”  In the same interview, Dr. Santos speculated that Yale students are interested in the class because, in high school, they had to deprioritize their happiness to gain admission to the school, adopting harmful life habits that have led to what she called “the mental health crises we’re seeing at places like Yale.” A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time there.

Students responded by signing up in bigger numbers than Yale school has ever seen, and now it’s going global and FREE to the Stoney Lake Reflections Audience.

What’s Covered?

  • The first half of the course reveals misconceptions we have about happiness and the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do.


  • The second half of the course focuses on activities that have been proven to increase happiness along with strategies to build better habits.



Classes take place via the Coursera platform.  I have taken many self-paced classes through this platform and overall, I have found the courses well worthwhile.  That’s what makes this course stand out even more: This course is topical, popular AND FREE!

  •  FREE
  • Classes begin April 30th
  • Self-Paced
  • Course Certificate is available for a fee, but you can take entire course for free.  See Coursera for full details on “The Science of Well-Being” taught by Professor Laurie Santos, Yale University.
  • Coursera is also available in the Apple App Store or through Google Play




  • David 'Stoney' Stoneberg

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Storer's 100th CelebrationJune 30, 2018
The big day is here.

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