Inclusivity at Camp Runoia

Camp is inherently an inclusive experience where youth have the chance be a member of a community, part of something bigger than themself and to develop skills at their own pace. They also have a chance to form and express opinions, try new activities without fear of humiliation and unplug, laugh and be silly.

More recently youth across country found themselves exploring more about pronoun usage, gender identity and wondering who they are in society. Camps became safe harbors (across the country) where youth explored pronoun usage and other gender non-conforming concepts – not because camps were promoting exploration but rather because it was a youth-driven experience.

What surprised me most about the summer of 2021 was not another round of Covid challenges (expected), not a staff shortage (expected), not simple joys of face-to-face connections (expected) but finding out from my peers who operate boys camps, girls camps, co-ed camps, day camps, that they too, had an increased amount of youth exploring their identity. One camp said they had a whole bunk of girls show up in skirts and dresses to support a boy who wanted to wear a skirt to dinner. Another director told me most of the boys in camp painted their nails at one point or another and he also had his nails painted. Another camp owner mentioned an increase in girls who returned to camp wanting to use the pronouns he/him/his and be called by a typically boys’ name. All camps I know of just went with the flow and allowed campers to be themselves and just enjoy camp rather than freak out about being accepted.

At camp we introduce ourselves now as I’m so and so and my pronouns are… it feels normal and fluid although it took some getting used to by many older people. Here’s one camp mom’s perspective.

Are you reading this and wondering how we went down this path and why camp is an inclusive experience? Do you feel like you need a few more tools to figure out what we’re talking about?  Or maybe you have more to share with us. Please do!  We turned to NPR for some better understanding ourselves. We don’t pretend to be experts in diversity and inclusion but we are willing to learn and our leadership staff and summer staff at Runoia are 100% behind us.

The bottom line at Camp Runoia is we want all people to feel safe, accepted and part of our community. We continue to be a girls’ camp offering amazing, top notch, premiere camp experiences for youth. This includes age appropriate conversations about who you are, how you feel about yourself and how you want others to include you. We also want to support parents and collaborate with them to provide the best camp experience possible going into 2022.

Leadership Development Opportunities at Camp Runoia

Our Counselor-in-Training program at Camp Runoia develops leadership opportunities and skills for 16 year old who have graduated from camp or a similar program.

Here’s more about the  CITS of 2021 in photos.

Can you fill in the blank captions? These young leaders learned, helped, built skills, contributed, grew, developed opportunities for others and will forever be woven in the fabric of the Runoia tapestry. 

The CIT gift to Runoia was the new song written by: Melia, Grace,

Emily, Jayda, Micayla

Memories Made (Tune: Suitors)

Trunks are waiting at my door


And I’m not sure what’s in store


But I’m off to camp today

(oh-ah-lay-oh- bod-y-la)

For a while I will stay

(oh-ah-lay-oh- bod-y-la)


Chorus: Oh, lay oh la! (oh-ah-lay-oh- bod-y-la)

Oh, lay oh la! (oh-ah-lay-oh- bod-y-la)

Oh, lay oh la! (oh-ah-lay-oh- bod-y-la)

Oh, lay oh la! (oh-ah-lay-oh- bod-y-la)


Now that time has slipped away (oh-ah-lay-oh-bod-y-la)

When the leaves begin to fade


And the lake remains so clear


How I long to linger here




And every single year


I can’t help but shed a tear


For the friendships that I gained


And the memories that I made



Thank you CITs 2021! More on our CIT program here.

Ten for Two by Nina Budeiri

Mid-August through Mid-June are a fine ten months of the year; filled with family and vacation and school and re-releases of our favorite Taylor Swift songs.

We get up each day and do what life expects of us- finish that report or group project, sit through that meeting or class, brush the snow off the car.

We enjoy holidays and concerts and road trips and time with loved ones. We grow and change and pursue our life goals.

And while these ten months are just fine, there are two months of the year that go so far beyond “fine”, that sometimes they are all we can talk about for the other ten.

At least once a day, something happens in “regular life” that reminds me of Camp

I’m positive that this experience is not exclusive to myself- How could it be when the summer months are filled with so many memories and unique experiences to share?

From hiking to pottery to nearly every water sport imaginable, to having so many sing alongs, laughs, and stories with our siblings for the summer. We celebrate achievements with excited screams and hugs. We sing silly songs loudly, every day. We gather by the fire and remember how lucky we all are to be together.

Campers and staff alike are currently counting the days to when we can all return to Runoia. Diligently performing our worldly duties for ten months until we can return to the place we all love most.

I look forward to the day when morning assemblies will again consist of weather reports, camper birthdays, laundry schedules, and Evening Programs. I can’t wait to see how much everyone has grown and changed, to hear about school and sports achievements, and their goals this summer at Runoia.

The countdown clock keeps ticking. We’ll be waiting for you all on Great Pond.

Nina Budeiri – Camp Runoia’s Director of Resident Life

DEI The Work: Taking Action – Letter to a Publisher

Last week there was a 40% off special from American Camp Association’s (ACA) bookstore. It was a book called 101 Bunk Activities – fun things to do with campers. How awesome. I clicked on the link and I saw this image.

Uh oh. I had this reaction: Oh my gosh, that makes me feel uncomfortable. With all the awareness of cultural appropriation and the DEI work Runoia has been doing to be fair, equitable, conscious of stereotypes, I kind of couldn’t believe what I was seeing: children with war paint on faces and paper head dresses.

With Alex’s prompt for me not to just click away from the page and move on with my day, I reached out to ACA for them to take a look instead of me saying “that’s not my problem”.  I wrote an email.

Hi! I appreciate your discount promotions. 

I looked at the book “101 Bunk Activities” and paused at the photo on the cover in relationship to microaggressions and stereotypes of Indigenous Americans. 

I just wanted to share that it is a bit out of touch with the work many of us are doing to be inclusive at our camps.

Screenshot attached. 

All my best, Pam

I found out that ACA contracts out its bookstore to a publisher in California. Here’s the response I got from the Publisher (not ACA).

Although I don’t agree with your comments about the cover, if/when we reprint the book, we’ll change the cover art, per your request. For my edification, I’d welcome you explaining why the current cover art entails 

micro-aggression. I have several close friends who are Native Americans, and they find no fault with the current cover art. 

James A. Peterson, PhD, FACSM

Publisher, Healthy Learning

Suddenly I doubted myself. I needed more support so I went to the Google. I found a blog “So your friend dressed up as an Indian, now what? “ This is a must read from almost ten years ago. Amazing. Just read it because it is written with conviction and humor and insight.

And a more recent blog “My Culture is not a Costume”. Also offering terrific insight and raises my own level of awareness.

Additionally, I reach out to Runoia’s  DEI consultant, Mary Franitza,  who has been doing DEI consulting work with us at Runoia.

She sent me an encouraging note and a few links including Pauline Turner Strong’s published paper on “The Mascot Slot” A glance at this academic opinion reminded me of the work of the former Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Barry Dana. I spoke with him in spring of 2020 (honestly, I looked him up, called his number and I was leaving a message on his answering machine and he picked up – 45 minutes of heartfelt conversation ensued) about the name Runoia. Chief Dana has worked hard to get Stereotypical Native American Images for mascots out of Maine schools. Now his daughter Maulian Dana is also working on this effort and is the Penobscot Nation‘s Ambassador to the Maine State Government.

Mary also sent a couple of great links that is great for getting up to speed about Thanksgiving and schools and the common but inaccurate history of Thanksgiving and the activities in school:

And a great article to specific to headdresses written by a Métis woman and language instructor at the University of Alberta.

Recognizing that headdresses are specific to the Plains Nations and quite nuanced as only worn by native men of the Plains Nations who have earned the headdress. So, non native people dressing up in headdresses is disrespectful in the least and certainly cultural appropriation.

In response to why the cover art entails microaggression? It is disrespectful for campers to make headdresses and wear them as a costume. It is insulting to showcase campers doing an activity like dressing up in someone else’s culture.

It is hard to speak up. It is hard to be called out. I’d like to start over and “call-in” the publisher to help him to join all the camps making a difference in the lives of children from all over our world and meet a few of Native American friends.


Love and Friendship, a dedication to the 2021 Log by Natalie Martin

The challenges of this past year have caused me to reflect on the strengths of my friendships. Because of the effort we all had to put into our relationships — zoom, social distancing, texting — I realized who my true friends were. The people who I found myself staying in touch with the most during these wild times were… you guessed it: My camp friends.
Friendships that are built on love and kindness are the ones that work best. Friendships at Runoia are made of all ages and backgrounds, none the same as the other. The summers at Runoia give campers the opportunity to grow and work through challenges to strengthen their character and come out the other side as a stronger person. 
The role of my camp friends in my life is not a surprise to me. Over my ten years at Runoia, I have discovered that camp friends are different from school friends. Maybe it’s living together in the “shacks” for three weeks or being completely unplugged from social media, or the bonding feeling we all share about our love for trips, but I know these friendships will last forever, the kind where you know they’ll be your bridesmaids at your wedding.
I’ve been lucky to spend 10 summers at Camp Runoia. Every year I come to camp with butterflies of excitement in my stomach because I know the next 3 ½ weeks will be pure joy: Smiles on opening day, hugs longer and harder, expressing all the love and miss from the year before. Camp to me is a place of new beginnings, a fresh start. A place to be truly yourself. Most importantly, camp is a place where love and friendship rules.
When I was asked  to write the log dedication I called my grandma to discuss this honor. And as I was talking with her I looked around and noticed that our camp was dotted with  signs that read, “Love lives here,” “Black lives matter,” “Love is love.” The signs are a reminder of the work that Runoia campers make to build and maintain love for each other and lasting friendships.
Tonight, I would like to dedicate the 2021 log to love and friendship.

The Last Monday in May

This time of year, people around our town in Maine are busy getting ready for a big weekend. Maine lifted restrictions for capacity for dining and outdoor activities and tourists and families with second homes will be flocking to the lake like Canadian geese in October.

To the other Americans Memorial Day represents family gatherings outside, grilling meals for the first time since last summer and maybe, if you are fortunate, a long weekend off from work.  For some, it means a getaway to a vacation spot. Others are cleaning up their yards, if lucky to have one, and catching up on spring cleaning.

Many people hope their plans for their local parade and celebrations honoring the people who have died serving our country in active military service are safely happening in 2021.

In the spirit of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, we are grateful for our military who are currently serving, have served or have died in active duty allowing us to run summer camp, have girls from all over safely come to spend time with other wonderful adults and experience a meaningful summer opportunity.

Love, Aionur



Mindfulness for Campers

As we anticipate the start of camp, we are aware of the mental health and wellness of our campers and how mindfulness and coping skills will help. For most campers, this is the first excursion away from home in a long time.

In addition to the extensive health plans and protocols for navigating Covid at camp, we recognize most campers will need help to develop coping skills while at camp. Thanks to our Behavior Health Specialist, Amelia Clancey, we have some ideas for your family.

To best support your daughters, we would like all campers to create a list of coping skills with easy access to make her feel good and also to provide clear ways counselors and staff can support her.

A few guidelines about the list:

  • Self-made List: Feel free to help your daughter AND have her involved. Her thoughts and creations will actually help her when she is at camp revisting her list. (see the last bullet)
  • Length: The list can be as long as she wants, but ideally a minimum of 5 choices.
  • The coping skills/activities should be things that are easily accessible and do not require many materials or assembly – perfect for camp!
  • Variety: Include options of all kinds, such as some for when they can’t sleep at night, some they can do alone, and some they can do with others. Please also think of some options that require materials
    (coloring book and pencils) and others that don’t (taking a walk).
  • Format: It would be best if she brought a hard copy of the list with her to camp. In terms of style, anything goes! Have fun with this! Type it in a fun font that you like, write it in a way that makes you happy, add stickers, add glitter, organize it. The ways to personalize your list are endless!

Take some time with your daughter to think about and practice things that help them to feel safe, calm, and comforted. We have included a couple resources to help with this task and of course are here to answer questions, help brainstorm, and most of all, enjoy a fantastic summer.

Stress balls are easy to packA Sample of Ideas:

      • Deep breathing exercises
      • Meditation (practice before camp)
      • Quiet yoga moves or mini yoga moves
      • Write in your journal
      • Color in coloring books
      • Read a book
      • Take a walk
      • Make Bracelets
      • Silly putty/thera-putty/calm scented putty
      • Scented squeeze toys
      • Stress ball

Some helpful links to peruse:

Grounding Techniques

Feeling a bit anxious? These ideas are about feeling calmer and less anxious.

50 Coping Skills

If she like the style of this resource, she could print this out and cut out the ones your she likes, then have them glue them to their own page

Coping Skills for Kids: Blog

This blog has many articles to help you and your child think of options for their list and help you learn a lot along the way!

99 Coping Skills

Love, Aionur

From Equestrian Coach to Covid Cop and Everything in Between

I’ve been involved with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association(IEA) since 2013, starting as a team coach. Over the years, I’ve fulfilled a variety of roles at the organization’s horse shows from manager to secretary to announcer to steward. During our 2021 postseason, I was called on to fulfill a new role, COVID Compliance Supervisor AKA Covid Cop.

As part of the IEA’s plan to safely return to showing, extensive guidelines regarding COVID protocols were created. As the 20-21 season went on, it became apparent that managing the implementation and enforcement of these rules fell outside of what the show manager & steward could manage, given their other duties, and the role of COVID compliance supervisor was created.

According to the press release from the IEA COVID task-force the COVID compliance supervisor should feel comfortable moving around the horse show reminding/enforcing attendees (coaches, riders, parents) to properly wear their mask, social distance, and leave immediately following their rider’s last class. Having spent my 2020 summer at Camp Runoia, I had already created great habits regarding masking, hand washing, and social distancing. I took those habits forward into my job at a local high school as we resumed hybrid in person learning beginning in October. Stepping into the role of COVID compliance supervisor was in my wheelhouse.

Having safely traveled a lot during the pandemic, I have learned that masks, physical distancing, and following CDC guidelines work! However, getting others to buy in can be challenging. Most recently at a zone finals show, I had many people come up and thank me for taking on the role. They understood that there’s still resistance to following the rules. One thing I learned early on in the pandemic was to not argue with people who weren’t following the rules, but to remind them that they signed up to participate and by doing so agreed to follow the rules. Keeping personal beliefs and politics out of the conversation, and focusing on the agreed upon rules of participation. In fact, if we all follow the rules, we can focus on having fun and enjoying the sport.

The COVID task-force worked hard to create guidelines so we could return to the sport, and consequently, we all have to follow those guidelines, or the opportunities can be taken away. I look at heading into summer the same way. I’m doing all I can to contribute to keeping our camp community safe. I got vaccinated as soon as I was able and I still wear my mask anytime I’m indoors outside of my own home or when in crowded outdoor situations. At camp, we have ACA and CDC guidelines that we have to follow.  Rules the range from how far apart heads must be while sleeping to safety equipment in activities to how our meals are prepared. I look forward to being back at Runoia in a few short weeks, surrounded by campers and staff who all believe in keeping each other safe and having fun!

By Jen Dresdow –Camp Runoia Assistant Director and Equestrian Director (preferably not a Covid Cop!)

First Impression

My First Impression in early May is the scents that are only at Camp Runoia. The leaves and grass and earth and air and lake water scents all combine into one scent. If we bottled it up, it would be called Eau de Runoia, or perhaps Eau de Harmony in the spirit of the meaning of Runoia.  I was instantly reminded of E.B. White’s book, “Once More to the Lake”.

Traditions abound at camp and one of the Camp Runoia traditions is recording your First Impression of arriving at camp for the “Log”. The Log is a record of all the things that happened in a summer.

You can only have a first impression, once (we like to do it once a season). Not unlike making your own first impression on other people (warm, stern, welcoming, exclusive, funny, serious, happy, sad), the land and lake puts on its very best display of nature and scents and views which evoke feeling. Especially when you return again and again.

The phrase First Impression seems obvious but here’s further explanation to get you pumped to record your immediate reaction to arriving at camp. A definition of first: Coming before all others in time or order; earliest, Combined with a definition of impression: An idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.

Of course, when we arrive in early spring, the parking lot is empty. Jen is not standing at the gate welcoming us, Alex is not in the parking lot directing us and beaming upon your arrival and Mark is not perched on the waterfront eager to greet your family and share the beauty of the “crown jewel” of Camp Runoia, Great Pond. Your counselors are not here yet to give you that big “hello” and “let’s go” kind of attitude. Finally, the sounds of shrill, excited voices from girls floating all over camp are not here, yet.  Only the spring birds, rustle of soft winds in the trees and waves lapping along the shoreline are here this time of year.

What will your First Impression of camp be when you arrive at camp? You may have to wait and see and feel and then write it down before it disappears.



Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization Collaboration

Camp Runoia is incredibly fortunate to have a strong alumnae connection with the alumnae group establishing their own 501 ©3 organization in the 1987, a small group of people spear headed by alumna and attorney, Jody Sataloff, to create the organization. Over the past nearly 35 years, the alumnae group has created over $600,000 in “camperships” for support in tuition assistance.

The magic they create is much more than money. The board of directors gathers every summer at camp for the annual board meeting and gets to connect with current campers before and after the meeting.

Every 5 years the alumnae come to camp in droves to celebrate and connect with each other and meet new alumnae, stay in the camp “shacks”, swim in the lake, and share camp with their partners, spouses, families and friends.

2021 marks Runoia’s 115th consecutive season of offering summer camp to girls. The history of camp is recorded in our camp logs and more recently, Roberta “Boop” Tabell Jordan began creating family trees of legacy families at Runoia.

It is with sadness and understanding the announcement of postponement of the 115th reunion till 2022 was heard around the globe. Many international alumnae are relieved as travel looked bleak for this coming summer. People are excited to hange the date in their calendars to August 2022.

This summer, with camp continuing on stronger than ever, we are looking forward to seeing those girls supported by the CRAO coming to camp to stretch and grow in the beautiful Camp Runoia setting and the profound camp experience.

Love, Aionur