Opening camp

AKA Picking things up and putting them down

The opening of camp is a lot of moving things around. Having a seasonal business means that items must be stored so as not to freeze or be buried in the snow during the long Maine winter. We have a short window of time to open up camp and get everything ready to start the season.

We often joke that our days are literally spent picking things up and putting them down in a new location.

Here is what the past week has included:

  • Pick up hay bales stack them in the barn
  • Pick up horses from their winter homes put them in the pasture
  • Pick up sticks and winter debris off the beach and put it into the woods
  • Pick up boats and move them out of the boathouse and onto the beach
  • Pick up the boats again and move them to their moorings
  • Pick up branches, leaves and acorns off the paths and fields and put them into the woods
  • Pick up shutters, take them off the screen windows put them under the buildings
  • Pick up items stored in the farmhouse and move them to activity areas
  • Pick up beds and mattresses and move them to the right cabin
  • Pick up the DOT from the Den, blow it up move it to the waterfront
  • Pick up the DOT again and float it out to it’s mooring
  • Pick up tables, benches and chairs and set up the dining hall
  • Pick up the archery targets out of the Den put them on the range
  • Pick up packages at the Post Office and put all of the supplies in the right place
  • Pick up counselors and staff from the bus station and airport bring them to camp
  • Pick up tables, benches and chairs and set up the dining hall
  • Pick up flowers from the garden center, put them in the window boxes
  • Pick up random essential items in Augusta


Pick up ice cream at Days Store!!

The next week will be packed with our staff arriving and staff training beginning. We will be immersing ourselves in education, team building and more preparations so that we are 100% ready for our campers when they get here.  Already there is noise and laughter coming from the shacks and in the dining hall. The slam of a screen door is such a great wound to hear after all the months of quiet emptiness. We are enjoying these moments of being at camp while also counting down the days until we are all together again on Great Pond.

Is it camp time yet? the anticipation is real!

I am nervous there are butterflies in my stomach, my nights are often sleepless and I start my days in great anticipation.  It is almost time for camp!   I have spent the whole year since the end of last August preparing for this.  The stage is set and I eagerly anticipate the curtains opening.

I know some of our girls are feeling the same way. I’ve been zooming with new campers who have a list of questions and are excited but also a little nervous about what to expect. The new staff are still a little unsure what to expect and are focused on wrapping up school and figuring out their travel plans to get to us. Even returning folk are apprehensive the world has changed a lot since the last time we were all together. 

These days in June become a blur; with long hours both in the office and out on site.  We are preparing, checking, double checking, chasing down information, finishing up the last projects and filling the waiting with work. Crossing the days off on the calendar is both exciting and a little terrifying. The time gets shorter while the ‘to do’ list seems to get longer. We know from experience it will all get done but still in the moment it can feel a little overwhelming. We want it all to be perfect for our girls!

Even though I have done this many times it is always so new, so exciting and just a little nerve wracking.  I will be met with a new audience while some faces are the same the mix is different.  Will I recognize returning faces?  It has been two years since I have seen some of our girls; they will surely have grown and changed. Will all run smoothly? Will the sun shine?  

I am fully confident in Runoia’s ability to run smoothly like a well-oiled machine as it has for 115 seasons.   We live for and store up our energy for this moment when the gates open and summer camp really begins.  Great Pond is looking beautiful and ready for our summer campers.

We truly can’t wait, staff start arriving this week and our campers will be here in 26 days. We truly cannot wait to have all of our Runoia community together on Great Pond.

See you all soon!


Counting down the days and checking the lists

There are only 60 days until the first session of camp opens. It will be Camp Runoia’s 115th season on Great Pond and we are preparing for it to be the best yet. After a year of challenges, isolation and unpredictable schedules we are eagerly anticipating the routine and familiarity of camp life. The days until camp are getting shorter and the to do list are getting longer!

For some of us 60 days seems like an eternity. There is school to finish up and end of the year events to attend. As we get ready to open camp we know that 60 days will fly by as there is much to be done to get the campus and program ready to roll for the summer. 

This week the focus in the office has been on putting the finishing touches to our 9 days of staff training. The time before the campers arrive is packed with getting our seasonal staff up to speed on all things Runoia and also making sure that everything is perfectly ready to start the summer. There are certification trainings, bonding exercises, cleaning and opening of cabins and activity areas along with a whole lot of fun while building our team and getting to know each other. This year we are really working harder to include more education and awareness about diversity, equity and inclusion and have been tweaking our sessions to reflect our commitment to doing a better job. Staff will come together from many different places looking forward to the opportunity to work with Runoia campers and enjoy all that the Maine outdoors has to offer.

We have also been recruiting the last few staff to join the team, filling the final camper spaces and getting the spring new camper penpal mailing ready to go. The work in the camp office is always diverse. It’s been frequently interspersed with webinars and workshops updating us on covid protocols and best practices for the summer. The bonus of us all working remotely is that it is easy to share information and we can hop onto presentations anywhere in the country. The days are already getting exciting as we get to read letters to the directors and start to ‘meet’ the 2021 Runoia girls.

Our inboxes are filling up with questions from new families mostly about packing as campers excitedly start preparing what they will need. There are uniforms being ordered and crazy creek chairs purchased. In many homes camp is now a daily topic of conversation. 

On the campus grounds side of the work, the daffodils are blooming and it’s finally time to get into camp and start the clean up. The winter usually brings downed branches and a lot of acorns so the crew will be in to do a good pick up. It won’t be long before the grass gets its first cut, the water gets turned on and the docks all go in. It will start looking more like the camp our girls are used to once the shutters come down and the cabins are opened up. A few spiders will need to be rehomed into the woods and we will be ready to get year 115 rolling.

We want the next 60 days to be filled with excitement, with preparation and planning. For them to give us enough time to get everything done but also to fly by so that all of our summer family will be ‘home’ soon.

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

Belgrade Lakes – the Foodie Town in Central Maine

With more people living in Central Maine, the demand for quality take-out and restaurants has grown as well. Over the years Central Maine’s population has grown and sophisticated pallets have grown with the influx of people “from away”.

With our new hospital, Maine General, attracting physicians and health care workers from far away, more retirees have been attracted to our recreational area, many skiers drive through to Sugarloaf on Rt. 27 and the fact that people have made the Belgrade Lakes region their second home. During the pandemic, many people have worked from home and stayed in Maine after the summer.

The influence of Portland, Maine restaurants movement to farm to table and sustainable food sources, local breweries and oyster and sea-agriculture, has influenced Central Maine as well. Belgrade restaurants like The Village Inn and Tavern source local food, grass fed beef, meat without hormones and antibiotics and locally brewed beer. Hello Good Pie, bakery, café and meals to go, prepares quality food with locally sourced dairy, meat, vegetables and fruit as part of their everyday fare.

Of course, if you’re searching for that comfort food, there is always the Sunset Grill, Spiro’s Gyros, the local hot dog stand on the way to the transfer station and even the 5-star Belgrade Lakes Golf Course serves everything from a dog to a lobster roll.

In summer the Belgrade Farmer’s Market is a place to see and be seen. Many people arrive by boat to the 7 Lakes Alliance docks where the market opens every Sunday from mid-June until harvest season is over in the fall.

Many of our parents will be driving their daughters to camp this summer. You may be one of them! As you prepare for your trip to Maine, make sure to include a stop in Belgrade Lakes to experience our Foodie
Town.  Finish off your tour of tasting at The Dairy Bar for a Gifford’s cone and call it a good day!

March brings us Maple Syrup Sunday!

Maple syrup making – this is a Maine tradition you won’t want to miss – it is always the fourth Sunday in March.  Plus Governor Mills just lifted travel restrictions to Maine if you live in New England so come on up!

Plan your getaway to Maine for Sunday March 28th by seeing the sugar houses that will be open this year.

Our local Belgrade CSA Farm, Winterberry Farm will have their Maine Maple Sunday as usual with Covid protocols in place. And surprise, they are celebrating on Easter Sunday, April 4.

Quoting Danielle Pepin from Quebec’s maple syrup industry, “The maple syrup production process gets its start from one of nature’s true phenomena,” she says. “As water from soil absorbs into the maple tree during a cold spring night, warmer temps during the day create pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree, making it easier to collect maple sap. The sap is gathered over 12 to 20 days, usually between March and late April, according to the region. Then, the tapping process begins; the sap is transported to a sugar house where it is boiled down until it becomes syrup.”

Are you not a fan of pancakes? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with 70+ recipes that use maple syrup. There’s always a good reason to have maple syrup in your fridge:

Epicurious gives us more ideas for whisking maple syrup into your cooking:

Enjoy the season for everything it has to offer and plan a trip to a Sugar Shack at the end of the month!







….love Aionur

In the past couple of weeks, birthday postcards and enrollment welcome notes have been flying out of the Runoia mailbox by the dozen . How fun it is to send them and hopefully they are received joyfully with a glimpse of a warm, camp summer accompanying them. In our virtual world it’s fun to get something tangible in the mail. It’s personal just for you and reminds each of us that we are being thought about even when we are not at camp. For new campers it may be their first connection to a person at camp soon to be followed by pen pal letters and begins their relationship with Runoia that is separate to their parents.

For alums and returning campers it’s part of the magic of Runoia. The notes don’t come from a particular person; they just come from camp. From the place you call your summer home, from the memories and magic that Camp Runoia holds for you.

I often wonder when the signing off of mail from camp as  ‘Aionur’ started. Maybe our Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization has some secret intel about the tradition and who instigated it. I chuckle a little thinking about new families scratching their heads trying to figure out who the note is from. Sometimes they get a clue, other times there’s a confused email saying they aren’t sure who this person is but they appreciated the note and will they meet them at camp?

When sending mail to camp friends, many campers may sign off with ‘Bobo’s’ a reminder of our camp cheer and that you are loved and appreciated by your camp family. Back when camp was a little smaller girls received a departing ‘bobo’ individually as they left camp at the end of the summer.

These traditions though seemingly small keep us connected to each other and to our summer home. We can’t wait to be back with all of our Camp Runoia family and hope to see many return for the reunion this summer, maybe we will get to the bottom of the Aionur history mystery then.

See you on Great Pond.

Love Aionur

Camp Runoia – overnight camp is a hot commodity

We may be in the sparkly depths of winter here in Maine but many people’s minds are on the summer and planning for a season of camp. Overnight camp is a hot commodity this year. Many children missed the opportunity last summer and are longing to get back to nature and friends at their summer home away from home. While there is hope that the pandemic situation will be a little more resolved by June we also have the realization that mass vaccination and development of herd immunity is going to take a good while to accomplish.  We need some hope and fun to look forward to. In some States teachers are slated to be vaccinated soon and there is potential that kids may get back in school before the end of the year but other places lag behind and virtual or hybrid school continues with little end in sight. We are holding out for an awesome summer and are ready to jump right in to camp life!

Camp has the unique opportunity to create a healthy, fun, in person environment where we can spend as much time as possible outdoors and can participate in all kinds of activities, in real life with other people. Our success last summer proved that we can navigate covid protocols and that while it may look a little different to how camp operated in 2019 it is still spectacularly Runoia. If you are curious about our adaptations last summer you can check them out here.

I have spoken with families from California to NY whose children have been in virtual school since last March. Little interaction with peers, no sports or after school activities along with  isolation from places and people that they love has been hard for everyone. Regular family vacations and summer plans are also looking unlikely for this year as travel still remains challenging and there is a great deal of uncertainty about how open States will be. This recent New York Times article sums up the challenges  that parents are currently facing.

Camps in Maine are filling up faster than ever, and Runoia is already almost at capacity. Already signed up are our campers that navigated camp successfully in 2020, those that took a leap year and are excited to be returning, new families that are ready for the opportunity and a myriad of girls that want to get out on their own for some summer fun. Full season spaces are at an all time high as other summer opportunities are currently limited and it seems like once you get to camp it’s the best place to stay for the summer. We are not kidding when we email and tell you there are just one or two spaces left in a cabin and if you want them sign up today!

‘Masks up lets go’ and get enrolled for the best summer ever!

To Trip or Not to Trip

Yes, let’s Trip! A trip at Camp Runoia is about getting outside on a wilderness camping trip (adventure, journey). Last summer, with the new uncertainty of the pandemic, we stuck close to home and did not make plans to go off campus.

This summer, we are keen to run low-risk out of camp trips to beautiful remote places where we will not be interacting with other people. Camp trip programs are a great opportunity for social distancing, being outside and with the help of hand sanitizer, doing it all quite safely.

Ask any alumnae of Runoia what her camp experience entailed and she will pipe up about a trip. We remember the funny things, the hard things, the team work, the adventure and being in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Moments become memories: that sense of achievement of working hard to climb a mountain, to paddle 8 miles, the joy of cooking your own food (and yes, it does taste better when you cook it yourself), taking a sunset swim in a sandy cove, learning how to purify water and the importance of packing your belongings properly.

Many leadership opportunities and life skills arise from taking trips. Is it the most comfortable sleep you’ve ever had- probably not! But we learn in life there are compromises. Deep in the chill of winter we dream to get out on the trail and out on the Maine lakes. Yes, without a doubt, let’s trip!

Building life skills through adversity

Building life skills is what we do at Camp Runoia. Little did we know that 2020 would test the skills that we had and encourage us to go far out of our comfort zone to develop new ones. We learned so much about ourselves, our campers and about the meaning and power of camp through being resilient  and adapting.

Looking back now we are grateful for the opportunity that a covid summer presented us to. We had to be flexible, grow, reconsider how we have always done things and be willing to modify, change and adapt in an instant. It turned out to be an amazing all be it exhausting summer and one that will certainly go down in the history books of Runoia.

     Takeaways from summer 2020:

  • We practiced doing hard things and did them well
  • We stopped sweating the small stuff
  • We learned new skills and revisited old ones that we hadn’t had time for
  • We reassessed what had value to us
  • We were more appreciative of the people and activities that we missed
  • It’s was OK to let some traditions go and know you can come back to them
  • We adapted and were flexible under ever changing circumstances
  • We used a growth mindset to challenge what we had done in the past and make it viable for the current situation
  • If you ask people will show up to help in ways you may not have thought of
  • You have to make the most of the moment in time that you have
  • Time with family is valuable but you need your friends too!
  • It may not be what you imagined but it can still be spectacular
  • Nature just keeps doing it’s thing. Sunset on the lake is beautiful.
  • Community comes in many forms, when we support each other we are all stronger
  • We maximized the opportunities that we did have rather than lamenting the ones that we didn’t
  • We had an amazing  summer on Great Pond that we never could have imagined   

As the year comes to a close we have deep gratitude for all that we have and look forward to 2021 with joy and eager anticipation. Happy New Year to our Runoia family, see you on Great Pond.