I worked at Camp Runoia for three summers when I was in my late teens/early twenties, as the Head Sailing Instructor (in the late 1990s). I witnessed firsthand the magical moments these girls enjoy as they explore new opportunities, drive themselves toward mastering a particular skill, breathe deeply outside in nature, and establish a community of trust and camaraderie, making some friendships they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
Once I worked at Camp Runoia, I easily kindled the memories of camp for twenty years. And when we had daughters, I could not wait for the day I could share Camp Runoia with them. Now, fast forward twenty years later. Our own daughter was old enough last year to participate in Harmony Land Camp, which for me was a dream come true. (I mean this most sincerely.)
Harmony Land Camp “HLC” is an ideal introduction to camp life for younger campers. The campers not only have the safety net of their own counselors and fellow HLC campers, but also the opportunity to engage with older children and returning campers during meals (especially the outdoor meals served picnic style two days a week), at the waterfront for swim class and recreational swims, and during the all-camp assembly each morning. For my daughter, being in HLC eliminated the sometimes overwhelming feeling of wondering which activity to try next, and also reduced any potential worry about whether or not she would have a “friend” in that activity. There’s more info on HLC here.
As the program continues and their comfort level increases, the girls are able to branch out a bit more, or hang back with the familiar, if that’s what they prefer. I know at least one HLC camper last year took swim lessons with campers who were much older, because her swimming ability exceeded that of her peers. The staff is very good about making sure each individual camper’s needs are being met.
Camp Runoia is an authentic sleep away camp experience. There is no air conditioning, the campers and counselors pick and eat wild blueberries from the bushes they found the prior summer, people greet each other with kind smiles, and while walking through camp you hear much laughter.
The directors have been running camp or participating in camp ALL OF THEIR LIVES — it is a family tradition now in the fifth generation. I knew Pam’s parents when I worked at camp in the late 1990s; they were lovely people, and at that time had sold the camp and operations to Pam. Pam and her daughter, Jai Kells continue the tradition. I also worked with Alex at Runoia 20 years ago — her level of expertise even then was considerable, and she keeps daily activities for everyone running smoothly as the logistics guru. They each balance the responsibilities of running camp with making sure everyone’s needs are being met or exceeded. The campers are happy, and the counselors are aware of the signs of homesickness and the best ways to address it. The lead counselor and director of Harmony Land Camp, Abbie Marone, is a teacher with a degree in early elementary education; it shows in all of her interactions with her campers. She treats each child with respect, includes everyone and, according to my daughter, is caring and funny.
My daughter was ecstatic when I asked if she wanted to go back to camp this summer. She is looking forward to archery, tubing, and sailing. She is also looking forward to seeing her friends and the counselors again. I know the end of the session will come and the campers and counselors get that feeling they are saying goodbye to family. There are definitely more tears shed the last day, than the first when the summer comes to a close.