Leadership Development at Camp Runoia

As we opened applications this week for our 2023 CIT program and prepare to open hiring to returning staff, I think our culture of leadership development has been on my mind all week.

During a Zoom call with a new family yesterday, I was asked a question that I loved answering: “what is your favorite thing about Runoia?” I took a moment to think, and realized I could answer in two ways. In a more literal, physical, and tangible way, of course the waterfront and Great Pond are my favorite part of Runoia! But I had another answer – the people, our campers and staff, and the community we’ve built across generations and (literally) more than a century of time. I thought about the irreplaceable people I’ve met and bonds I’ve formed, the weddings of best friends I will attend, and the indelible memories that are a result of time spent at camp.

When I reflect on how this continuity of culture and community has developed and sustained at Runoia, I think of all of the intentional decisions made each summer by our leadership staff. In a meeting with Jen yesterday, she and I pondered how to better help our new staff integrate and feel welcomed immediately upon arrival. Striving for betterment for our camp population every summer is at the core of who we are.

One of the strongest intentions of Runoia which contributes heavily to our community and culture is our commitment to leadership development within our own population. We aspire to help our campers take on more responsibility, leadership, and create moments of mentorship with younger campers in each passing year. By their Senior Village year, our oldest campers are often seen sitting with our HLC campers on their lap at campfire, helping them make decisions in the food line, and passing on their hard-earned skills in classes.

Each year, several of our graduating campers move on to take part in our CIT (Counselor-in-Training) leadership development program the next summer. This program is designed as both a stepping stone to becoming a JC (Junior Counselor) and eventual full-fledged counselor, AND simply to help our long-beloved family members develop as people. In our CIT program, participants:

  • Complete workshops on focused topics of leadership
  • Assist counselors in program areas and in the cabin and explore areas they’d like to teach in the future
  • Gain experience running EPs (evening programs) and campfires
  • Plan and orchestrate camp-wide events like the 4th of July
  • Choose to train and attempt certifications in JMG (Junior Maine Guide) or Red Cross Lifeguarding
  • Experience a bonding trip together and learn about the perspective of a trip leader out of camp
  • Earn an archery instruction certification
  • Experience a college tour together

 

All of the above create a summer-long learning experience to develop our CITs as both future counselors and great human beings. This past summer, three of our four 2020 CITs were on staff as counselors, and four of our five 2021 CITs were on staff as JCs. What results is a staff sprinkled with love for camp and certified Runoia experts.

Applications for our hopeful 2023 CITs are open now by request! We can’t wait to see how another wonderful group of CITs shapes up for 2023, and are already thinking about how our youngest campers will one day be there, too.

What to expect when you’re expecting…a Runoia experience!

While our camper attrition is low, we are lucky enough to be able to welcome new families each year in limited spaces. With each sad goodbye to a graduating camper comes a space that opens in our youngest age groups – a subconscious gift from one Runoia gal to another. And those graduating campers are so often welcomed back as CITs, then JCs, and eventually fully-fledged counselors as we watch them grow up in front of our eyes. Just this summer, four of five CITs of summer 2021 joined us as JCs – and we certainly hope to see them return as counselors, just as three of our four 2020 CITs did this year, too.

It’s crazy to think that for many such campers, their Runoia experience began years prior as they settled into a junior end cabin for the first time. Research, camp tours, and plenty of conversations often precede the life-changing decision to walk through the Runoia gates for the first summer of many, and it can be weird to not know what to expect! So, for our new parents, guardians, campers, and family members, let’s get a lay of the land so we know what to expect when you’re expecting a Runoia experience.

The months leading to camp

It can be a long haul between signing up and the big day – especially for families who have built excitement by touring, Zooming with us, and signing up early. If you’ve signed up by early or mid fall, it can be a quiet few months through the holidays, but we are always here as questions come up along the way. In the spring, you can expect communications from us to become more frequent as we fill you in on everything we can think of: food details, options for trips, tricks for packing, information on shipping, help with transportation, any special protocols for the summer, and more!

Preparing for camp

Preparing for camp really comes down to the big three: forms, packing, and transportation. All of your forms and helpful information regarding prep for camp, packing luggage, and transportation will be easily accessible on your Camp in Touch dashboard. Here’s a quick rundown of some key take-aways about preparation for camp:

  • Forms are mandatory for attendance at Runoia! Forms include a signed medical form, activity release, health history, and more. It’s not unlike forms for sports and school, and you will get plenty of help and reminders from us.
  • We will give you a detailed rundown of packing, but we prefer two big pieces of luggage over many smaller items. Popular choices are hard-sided trunks and large duffels!
  • Campers are welcome to have luggage shipped to camp, especially if they are flying! Bedding is available for rent to cut down on the packing volume.
  • Campers can come by car, plane, or our camp bus – which stops in NYC and Massachusetts.

 

During camp

Suddenly the big day is here, you’ve completed the right forms, packed the right things, and set off with the address in your GPS! The rest is cake, right? Well, it can certainly be hard for parents, guardians, and other family members to say their goodbyes for over three weeks. We keep it old-school and truly ‘campy’ for our communication – letters are our love language. From home, families can utilize our Bunk Notes systems to get digital letters to their camper(s) quickly, and campers write letters in return. Another great option is to send a letter ahead of time so that it’s ready for your camper on the first full day. Phone calls aren’t a typical Runoia thing – they are reserved for international campers and birthdays calls! While the communication change can be a big adjustment, we work hard to have qualified and well-trained staff members to support your camper(s), and a great system of communication with families. As a new family, you can expect:

  • Trained live-in counselors in the cabin to ensure the physical, mental, and emotional safety of your camper(s).
  • Connection with your camper(s)’ HOC (Head of Cabin) – a senior staff member who knows kids and Runoia well – who will update you on your camper(s)’ activities, friends made, and growth at camp!
  • Detailed communication with Colleen, who acts as our liaison for new families. New families will have a phone call to talk about their camper(s)’ adjustment to camp and their experience.
  • A little bit of homesickness from you camper – which is totally normal and usually short-lived. You’ll soon be receiving letters all about the greatest parts of camp!

After camp

Post-camp can look and feel different for every camper – the experience is unique. Some campers may hop in the car talking a mile a minute, seemingly unable to get all of their amazing stories out fast enough! Others may be experiencing feelings of sadness due to camp ending. Others may be quiet and not quite ready to share. There is no “normal” when it comes to post-camp emotions. Look out in 2023 for a detailed blog on what to expect post-camp and how to help your camper(s) process their feelings!

No matter where you are in your Runoia journey or camp decision process, we hope to see you in 2023!

Oh, here enrollment comes – with fife and drum

Oh, here enrollment comes – with fife and drum! Can you believe it?

We are rounding the corner into the last week of September, and today marks the very first day of fall. Though Runoia closed its gates more than a month ago now, today marks a more official goodbye to summer. In Colorado, we are planning ‘leaf peeping’ trips in accordance with peak foliage around the state. This is one of my favorite parts of the year, and yet I can’t help but feel a little ache for the summer days anyway.

The good news: the camp flow never really stops, and we’ve been gearing up for summer 2023 for longer than you can imagine already! September has been a busy month of early registration for our returning families and Alex and I have been watching excitedly as our next summer cabin lists quickly take shape with familiar names.

 

So, let’s talk enrollment: how it works, when it happens each year, how new families can claim a space, and why HLC (Harmony Land Camp) is the BEST time to get your child’s Camp Runoia experience started.

Enrollment comes around quickly after summer’s end, with early enrollment for new families opening at the end of August. This may seem crazy – with camp ending mere weeks prior, but knowing what our camp community will look like each summer far in advance helps us plan the best for each unique year! Early enrollment means:

  • Families with camper(s) who attended the previous summer have the right to first refusal of that space for the full month of September. Returning families will claim that space by applying on our Camp in Touch system and sending their deposit.
  • Provided there is space available, siblings of returning campers may also be enrolled during early enrollment.
  • Spaces are reserved only within the same session(s) your camper(s) attended the previous summer.

New families are always excitedly welcomed – there is so much joy in adding a new name to our cabin lists knowing that someone is about to have their very first Runoia summer! Here’s what to know about enrollment as a new family:

  • The earlier the better – families who get connected early, meet us over Zoom or phone, or come for a tour are more likely to be first in line for available spaces that open on October 1st.
  • Interested families should reach out to Colleen or Alex to set up a meet-and-greet Zoom or phone call to get to know camp, ask questions, and be penciled in for space or be placed on our waitlist.
  • Taking a look at our dates and rates to get a good sense of what session works best for your family helps you be prepared to enroll!

Now – a not-so-secret insider piece of information: starting with our Harmony Land Camp program is the best way to enroll, introduce your child to Runoia and the camp experience, and secure your space for future summers. Here’s why:

  • Since our HLC sessions are our ‘starter camp’ groups, they are the youngest group in camp. Most campers move up the following summer into a junior end cabin, leaving spaces available in all of our HLC options! Since our cabin attrition is so low, this is the easiest group to snag a spot.
  • Once you’ve secured your spot, your family will have access to early enrollment each following year for as long as they attend. The hard part is over, and enrollment is a breeze!
  • HLC can help your child transition into a new experience and feel more prepared for and positive about enrollment and camp in the future!

Enrollment can be daunting, but we’re here to help! See you October 1st for OPEN ENROLLMENT!

Back to School – Take me Back to Canoes and Paddles

It hasn’t yet been a month since Runoia waved “see you later” to its last camper of the summer, and we already are dreaming of ” take me back to canoes and paddles.” I know this because I myself am drifting toward daydreams of Great Pond, and because we’ve had dozens of campers already sign up for camp 2023!

But rather than back to canoes and paddles, our campers and so many of our staff are back to their books. With Labor Day now past, the last of our campers will be making their way back to school in the next few days while others are already in the groove.

Luckily, so many of our campers and staff also read their way through countless books this summer, and kept their brains active by problem-solving, building social and hard skills, and working up a strong work ethic that will carry them through the next ten months. You might be surprised to realize just how often school skills show up at camp – memorizing lines, measuring for cuts, learning songs. Camp skills are life skills are school skills!

With so many of our campers and staff college-bound, their camp skills will be handy from first search to graduation day. From college essays, choosing a school, or preparing for your first year, camp prepares us for it all. Olivia said it perfectly in 2018: “My experiences at Runoia have come to life so often during my past three years at Colby. I make every effort to engage in outdoor activities, to form deep friendships, and to have confidence in my classes the same way I grew confidence solo skippering for the first time.”

Even for our friends who are not returning to school but may be going back to work or job hunting, camp skills translate uniquely on a resume and in interviews. Campers who move up through our leadership structure to complete our CIT program, a junior-counselor year, and eventually become a counselor will emerge with resume-worthy skills, connections, and countless examples of experiences of hard-work, communication, and collaboration.

Wherever post-camp life takes you this year and beyond, we are confident that your camp skills will help you make it where you want to go!

“Home at Last” – a written piece on ‘why Maine?’ by M.J. Mott-Auns

On the last night of our celebration at this summer’s reunion, as we were hugged on the waterfront by trees and warmed by the campfire, alumna M.J. Mott-Auns (1954-1964, 1984-1995) shared a written piece in response to the ever-asked question: “why did you move to Maine?”

This piece sparked many collective dreamy sighs, laughs, and a few tears amongst the crowd – while you won’t experience the joy of hearing M.J. read it aloud, she has shared it with us to read to ourselves:

 

When we first moved to Maine, the most often asked question was “Why did you move here?” If directed to my husband Vilis, he would simply point to me. I then had to find an answer that made sense and didn’t involve too much explanation. But answering that question never seemed easy to me. My journey to living in Maine began many years ago.

I was an only child raised by a single parent and I was lonely.  My father died when I was four and my mother had to step in and run the family insurance business.  As you might imagine this created some parenting dilemmas as I was way too young to be left to my own devices.  It happened that when I was 7 my mother heard about a wonderful camp in Maine where I would be with children my own age and older and be well cared for. So it was that I found myself, along with my friend Romney driving with our parents into New York city on a June afternoon so that the two of us could be put on the camp train and sent to Maine for two months. I remember feeling scared and nervous, but not wanting to let Romney see that side of me.  She was both more confident and sophisticated than I was.

We arrived in the city and found our way into the Statler Hilton Hotel where we would have dinner before boarding the camp train.  We were dressed in nice dresses and our brand-new camp blazers.  As we were sitting down, my mother said

 “See those girls sitting at that table over there?  I’ll bet they are headed to camp too. Wouldn’t it be fun if they are going to Runoia?”

All during dinner I wondered about those two girls and whether they would be on the same train with Romney and me. I also noticed that one was crying all through the meal. I was happy that although I was sad to be leaving my mom, at least I wasn’t crying like a baby. I ate as slowly as possible to prolong the trip into the station, but eventually it was time.

When we got into Grand Central Station, I looked around and all I could see were signs with different camp names. I couldn’t imagine how we would find the right one, but we did. There were lots of girls waiting already and most of them seemed very excited, a good sign I thought.  Then I saw those two girls from dinner approaching.  Sure enough they were going to my camp too and it was their first year as well.  One was still crying. Little did I know that she would be one of my bridesmaids many years later.

Goodbyes were said and some tears shed, but we got on the train and soon enough were pulling out of the station. The whole train, it turned out, was devoted to transporting children to camp in Maine. Runoia filled up one car. We slept in bunks and spent much of the night peering out of the curtains to see the older girls talking and singing camp songs at the end of our car. Meanwhile I was making friends of my own and comforting the crying girl who would become one of my best friends.

The next morning, we arrived at a little station in Belgrade, Maine and were met by the camp director who was named Johnny, the Arts and Crafts counselor Shelley, and a few other counselors.  We were shown which cars to get in and were driven to camp in Belgrade Lakes. I was in the car driven by Johnny. She was a little scary to me, but I did notice that most of the other girls were laughing and joking with her and I began to relax. When we turned onto Point Road Johnny told us that there were a few steep hills to climb and that the car we were in needed some help to climb them. She told us that we should all raise our feet off the floor of the car when she gave the signal and that would help the car make it up the hill. We did as we were told, and eventually all the new girls realized this was a joke that Johnny always played on new campers. When we arrived, we were told how to find our cabins and off we went.  I remember smelling the pine and the old wood of some of the buildings and thinking it smelled like perfume. There was a lake down a hill, tennis courts, a tree house, and way too much to take in all at once.  I knew I would love this place from that moment on.  I felt as though I had found a second home. Romney and I were both in 4th Shack which made me happy.

I attended Camp Runoia for ten summers as both a camper and a counselor, and those years were formative for me.  I learned about being a child among children which was sometimes difficult for me as an only child.  On the flip side, I learned the joys of sisterhood and embraced those fully. Sports became central to my life and have brought me great joy. Being a counselor gave me skills I used all my working life as a teacher. All of this helped me to become the person I am today. My camp friends and I marvel to this day that we were able to have this incredible experience.  I see several of my camp friends to this day, people I have known and loved for over 60 years. 

I returned to camp when I had children of my own to be an Assistant to Betty Cobb.  My daughter attended and my son went to another camp on the lake. Vilis enjoyed being part of it all, happily grilling at camp cookouts and attending campfires. Even our Yellow Lab Jamie was a part of Runoia although he usually stayed on his own property except when it was cookout night and there were all sorts of treats for him to clean up after the campers left for evening program.

I am still involved with Runoia as a member of the Alumnae Board that exists to raise scholarship money for girls who could otherwise not afford to come to this wonderful place. As I return each summer for our board meeting, I still get butterflies when I drive through the camp gates.

And so, when I am asked “Why Maine?”

I almost always answer,

“Because of camp.”

To Change: The 2022 Log Dedication

If I were to hold a self-authored book in my hand titled ‘lessons learned in recent years,’ the first page would read: “change, while uncomfortable, and at times even scary, is inevitable, necessary, and important.” Just below this line would read a dedication which credits this realization largely in part to my experiences at Runoia and my witnessing its resilience.

I hold immense gratitude for Runoia’s eagerness to change in ways that show care for our community and open our gates to more friends and family each year. Runoia is able to hold fast to its most vital traditions and pieces of history when we are flexible and bold enough to transform around them.

We owe our continuation, and the perpetuation of our traditions and history, to the courage of ourselves and of generations before us to change. It is due to this courage that we may keep what matters most: the same small bell that has called our attention for over eighty years; our voices that carry through Runoia trees with melodies passed through lifetimes; our boathouse which stands with painted names from the 1920’s through 2022; a culture of summer siblings and lifelong family. 

The winds of Camp Runoia have taught me that change is good. The winds play no favorites – filling our sails one moment, then shifting to calm our waters for skiers the next. Among the winds, we honor all of the transformative shifts of Runoia:

 

Everything ‘lost’ each summer which has ever made room for something ‘found’;

The rain which rolls in just as we could use respite from the sun; 

New lyrics which empower us rather than place us in boxes;

New campers and counselors who arrive at our gates; 

 

People coming as strangers and leaving as siblings;

The ‘Bees and Eees’; 

The changes made each summer, 116 times over, which have made Runoia a permanent fixture in our summers and souls.

 

I hereby dedicate the 2022 log to the changes, both monumental and slight, of the past 116 summers of Runoia, and to its agents of change – our campers, staff, and alumni. May we continue to adjust our sails together to point toward the future. Tonight we celebrate changes which have made Runoia what it is, and who it is, and have led to this very moment exactly as it is now – Runoia and I would not have it any other way.

The 2022 Name Story

As we close the books on the 2022 season, a few traditions hold fast – including our name story featuring the names of our staff members and full season campers. Written by Alex and best read aloud, we present to you the 2022 name story:

Runoia adventures

Once upon a time at a coed summer camp called Runoia, there was a Zahny group of campers who planned to go off on a grand trip adventure.While they didn’t really know what to expect Allison, Shirley, Martin, Russell , Jacob and Grace were so excited to hop into the White van with the counselors in the Cabrera and Gomez on their way.  They hurried to get packed up and head out. At a Quarez to Tena as the sun Vose over Great Pond and  Raya’s shone in the Skiera and on to the lake they were Dyeing to get started. With the help of Jackson, Murray they planned their lists of what to bring. ‘Oh Budieri we Mahedy need our Hobbs nail boots and can feNagle, Sanchez’s and snacks for the ride’.

They needed plenty of supplies to take with them and wondered Howes it would all fit.  They packed Ekart full of gear then worked on the cooking supplies .”Alvarez you? its time to Rohatyn over to get the canoes from the Marini so that we can load the trailer.

When packing they obviously needed  a Kettell to Cook- Wright , their food included Wieners, delicious  Heuburgers made from Angus beef to get Friedman with crispy corn Cobbs, Boles of spicy Zacapantzi pasta and for extra flavor some Fennelly, Lea and Perrin worcestershire sauce to Dunckel everything in and of course after dinner Mintz. It all looked so Goodman the other campers paid Atienza so they would be  what to bring when it was their turn to go.

There was no need to pack Adams, Clancy Martone pants as they wouldn’t have an opportunity to Dresdow up on their adventure and they would just get Ruized.

As the bell Tinged, they Baydin their camp friends goodbye and they were off out of the Frey. They Lopezed through the Lundgren fields,  Oberdieck instead of through the Colbourn around Paa Kerner and down into the Valle.  When they got to the campsite there was a Hernadez  Welstead for water and they Kavaluskused around at the Botten of the hill picking Blaubergs and deSnydering where to pitch their Bixby Brown tents.

After a delicious dinner and listening to the call of the Bolduc- Jackson had heard on the lake they snuggled up for bed. It was a very Cliette night until a shriek Pearsoned the night and with the Patarini of scurrying feet, the campers Wennered what on earth was going on. In the confusion that ensued, Bradshaw a dark shape in the woods. The emergency Hornbostel rang through the night.   “Oh SantamariaMay cried.  “O’Brien get Hoffman you are being a Dorsch” yelled Jones O’Malley, “grab the Hackett and we will go investigate” It turned out even though it all looked a little Sussman it was just a Schiferstein deer wandering by. Petersen Wilson, was experienced in Morse code so sent a message off to camp to let them know everything was fine and they would see them in the morning.

Camp Magic and the Staff Who Make it So

It’s hard to believe that we’ve rounded the corner into the final week of second session and all of camp 2022! Crazier yet – today marks the final day of the final block of summer. Yet we haven’t called it on the end of summer just yet – the camp magic lives on for another five days.

As I type, there are skiers out on the water pushing for their slalom queen, archers squeezing in one more level, actors singing their way through rehearsals for High School Musical. And while we are sad to hang up our ski lines, put away our bows, and to soon close our scripts – we still have full days ahead that promise memories made of beach trips, swimming to Oak Island, cheering friends at the variety show, laughing until we burst at Miss Tacky, and much more.

And so, while this past Sunday was our yearly #SundayFunday – complete with snow-cones, s’mores, a waterslide, chances to sink counselors in a dunk tank, a slip-n-slide, and fun galore – camp is more of an #EverydayFunday deal here at Runoia.

 

It’s an all-day-every-day affair! Fun is in the wake-up music played in shacks, the uncontrollable giggles at breakfast when an unsuspecting counselor gets plated, the songs and traditions of assembly, the friends made from other shacks in classes, the quiet whispers and games of rest hour, cartwheels on the grass at dinner, the surprise of EP, the sharing of funny moments at circle time.

But since a giant waterslide isn’t a permanent fixture of the apple tree field, the daily fun of camp can truly be traced back to our wonderful staff. Not only are they experts of their activity areas, they are masters of silly costumes, makers of magic, causers of belly-laughs, singers of songs, servers of meals, wipers of tears, solvers of problems, inspirers of smiles! How lucky we are at Runoia for its camp magic and for those who make it so.

 

Camp is a Puzzle

Camp is a puzzle – and our pieces are slowly starting to come together this week.

The funny thing is, we don’t have a puzzle box for reference – we know what previous summers looked like in memory, but no two are ever the same! We will have to wait for each piece to be laid throughout the next two months until we can stand back and admire the picture made. 

For the past month at camp, we’ve strategically laid edge pieces and built the frame of our 2022 puzzle, leaving the sides of pieces open for others that hopefully click in perfectly. Edge pieces set in place include boats built and placed in the water, cabins cleaned and prepped for staff arrivals, seeds planted – literal and metaphorical, beds built, a kitchen stocked – you name it, it’s been done!

Yesterday we gained 10 new pieces – bringing hints of what our puzzle will look like this year. Of these 10 staff arrivals, 9 made their way to Runoia from across Mexico. Summer 2022 brings back puzzle pieces painted in hues of cultural exchange!

Today and tomorrow bring 8 more pieces – 7 of these to round out the leadership staff who have worked all year in preparation for summer. After this, the flood gates open – over 50 more staff members will make their way to us between now and opening day, and suddenly staff training is rolling in full force!

On the Runoia home page, way down at the bottom, is a countdown to camp. I’ve watched it dwindle from triple digits to double digits over months, and now it sits at a mere 14 days. In these two short weeks, on opening day of 2022, we will still only have a partially complete puzzle. Our campers will be the ones to fill in the remaining spaces and truly paint the picture of the summer with their experiences, skills gained, laughs shared, bracelets made, songs sung, games played, and friendships formed.

Here are a few more pieces I can’t wait to see click into place:

  • trip songs shared by brave Katahdin summiters
  • plaques and a dinner signifying our graduating camper’s accomplishments
  • levels passed and awards earned
  • cozy campfires on the beach
  • Oak Island swimmers crossing the finish line

Some pieces of this summer we will know well – traditions passed for years down the line at camp. But it’s the “new in 2022” pieces which I can’t wait to see find their place: new campers, new staff, brand new norms and traditions.

And we can’t wait to see how you fit into our puzzle this summer.

Until then,

Aionur

Earth Day: the Runoia Way

As Earth day approaches – you may be wondering: how do we love the earth here at Runoia? To that I say: let me show you and we can count the ways – the Runoia way!

Learning to grow our own food…

and loving and caring for animals!

Learning outdoor skills and Leave No Trace in camp craft…

for the chance to practice those skills on trips to enjoy the natural beauty of Maine!

Learning to create with natural materials…

and watching sunrises and sunsets over Great Pond!

Moving our bodies outside…

and connecting with one-another, unplugged, each day!

We are so grateful for the earth that provides the water of Great Pond for us to swim, boat, and play in, for the tree that houses our favorite hangout spot, for the rocks and peaks that we climb together, for the herbs and veggies that grow in our soil, for the materials we make art with, for the sand we’ve spent hours singing our songs on, for the grass we do our cartwheels on, for each other. Join us in celebrating our earth and all of its splendors this spring!

Grant that we have safe and fun days, and that we respect each other, ourselves, and our planet.

XOXO,

Runoia