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

Diversifying our Camp Library

Thanks to the Runoia Diversity Advisory Committee we are adding more books to our camp free-library that diversify our library by adding different authors and protagonist and subject matter.  Thandie Scott, Runoia alum from New York/Columbia University came up with a great list of books.

And Erin Lasher choose a selection of about 24 books we bought this year.

Books are coming into the office! and we are marking them and adding them to our lending library in the camp lodge.

All are Welcome is a favorite for Harmony Land Camp. The Watson’s go to Birmingham is great for our rising 5th grade group and Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History is a great way to introduce amazing women to any age in a concise one-page presentation.

Campers and staff can borrow books from the library and leave them in the reshelving basket when done.

So, bring your favorite books (paper backs and hard backs as no e-readers at camp) and share what you’re reading with others. We read aloud every night in every cabin which is part of a wonderful Runoia tradition.

Do you have a favorite children’s series or book? Please post your ideas on our Facebook page and we might find them and read them this summer. Perhaps you have ideas for children’s books for certain age groups – please share your expertise! Are you interested in donating new books? Peruse our wish list of books and find one that is not highlighted and send our way – we would love that!

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

Celebrating Runoia’s Camp Siblings

Here at Runoia, we like to describe ourselves as a down-to-earth family camp – and what’s more family-oriented than attending camp with your sibling? This past Sunday was National Sibling Day here in the states, and it got me thinking of camp siblings – both the magic of attending camp with a blood relative, and making unrelated #summersiblings along the way.

I personally know the feeling of camp years spent with my sister and the fun and strength it brought to our relationship and friendship. Camp was formative for both of us, and experiencing it together only amplified that. To be honest, my sister and I barely got along when we were younger as two very different people – but camp gave us a common ground that I believe we stand on as adults and best friends now.

Runoia itself is no stranger to sibling pairs (including twins!), triples, and even quadruples each summer. Our daily structure allows siblings to connect at camp while remaining independent. Campers choose their own schedules to try new things and continue to build skills summer after summer, and in busy days, siblings may have spent their time in completely different activity areas. There is Runoia magic in the little moments when siblings can reconnect – staff member Emily Friedman reflects on this:

“I started coming to camp in 2014, and in 2016, my younger sister Izzy joined me. Coincidentally, 2016 happened to be my first year attending camp for all seven weeks, so Izzy and I both got to experience second session for the first time.

Having my sister at camp with me means having a little piece of familiarity in an otherwise new environment. It means leaning in for a quick hug before dinner, being able to help each other through homesickness, and of course, sharing some sibling rivalry when you accidentally tag up for an activity together! Izzy’s friends have all become my “camp little sisters”, and my Runoia friends have watched them all grow up. This summer will be our eighth and sixth summers respectively, and I will be returning as a staff member. Being able to watch her through a counselor’s eyes fills me with a sense of pride, and getting the rare chance to coach her in my activities is so incredibly rewarding. Both Friedman sisters are counting down the days until we will be back on Great Pond – together.”

Emily really said it all – but check out some benefits of attending camp with a sibling:

  • Familiarity in a new space
  • Having an additional support system
  • Building traditions together
  • Easing homesickness
  • Strengthening a sibling bond
  • Recollecting camp memories together during the year
  • Building independence in the same community

We can’t wait to have the Friedman sisters back at camp this summer! Until then, we’ll be counting down the days with them.

Braids, Bracelets and other “Just Camp Things”

When you hear the phrase “just camp things!” what do you think of first? Have you ever had a moment when you realized a normal part of your life was actually not a regular thing for everyone else? There’s a good chance that “it’s a camp thing.”

Recently, I’ve been going to fitness classes where we spend 20 minutes biking, 20 minutes lifting, and 20 minutes doing yoga. I have short, thick hair so I have to get a little creative for it to stay put through three completely different activities. So, I’ve showed up to classes with every version of braids, french twists, and bobble ponies you can possibly imagine.

Normal, right? But it has shocked me how many adults have asked me how I know how to french braid – doesn’t everyone!? But I’ve realized that it was summers spent with “sisters” unrelated to me in braid trains by the lake that afforded me this skill – an experience not many people get to have, I’ve learned. Even as an adult at camp, two braids just can’t be beat for a long day on the waterfront!

The phrase “just camp things” reminds me of friendship bracelets on water bottles, weeks without a phone, singing nonsense songs, skits, footie pajamas, costumes galore, moo-offs!

 

But it’s not just the skills to braid hair or twist embroidery floss into patterned bracelets that are unique gains from camp. Without camp, my friend group wouldn’t have a go-to fire builder when we get together. Maybe you would have never stepped foot on a sailboat, or ridden a horse. Perhaps we would all have a harder time taking a step away from our phones and other technology without knowing we can actually do it for days and weeks on end.

As we get another day closer to camp 2022, I feel so much gratitude for the “just camp things” ahead of us. For all of us currently in the ‘real world’ patiently waiting for our ‘camp world’, the silly novelties of camp life can’t come soon enough. Where else can you rock your tropical shirt Mondays, tie-dye Tuesdays, pigtail Fridays, and footie PJ Sundays with pride?! Nowhere but Runoia!

 

Approaching the summer a little tentatively

As we approach the summer Camp Runoia season, the ‘experts,’ and media tell us that covid has generated more anxiety than is typical and that our kids may be feeling it the most. According to the CDC, “Children’s mental health during public health emergencies can have both short and long term consequences to their overall health and well-being.”  It makes sense that children who have spent intensive amounts of time as part of the family unit may be reluctant to leave that safe bubble and head off into an unknown new experience no matter how fun it sounds. It’s not just new campers who may be feeling a little more anxious, parents are often surprised when longer term campers  express fears or reluctance about returning to camp. While we want camp to feel like ‘home away from home’ it may take some campers a few days to get to that feeling.

There are only 85 days until we open Camp Runoia for the summer and it is typical at this time of year to hear from a few families that their camper may be having second thoughts or is more worried than they expected about coming to camp. Some anxiety about a new experience is to be expected but debilitating concerns or persistent worry is something that should be delved into a little more deeply.

Preparation for the adventure and discussion about what to expect can be great ways to reduce anxiety, answer questions and solve perceived problems that may be more hypothetical than real.

Campers can help to get ready for camp by:

  • Looking at the website and thinking about which activities they can’t wait to try.
  • Printing the packing list and choosing uniform and finding supplies.
  • Writing down their questions and emailing the directors.
  • Figuring out on the camp map where important places are.
  • Talking through some ‘what if’s’ and how camp handles them.
  • Connecting with returning campers and pen pals to get the inside scoop
  • Practicing skills that they will need at camp – bed making, laundry sorting, hair and teeth brushing, showering.
  • Trying to use a flashlight for reading at night.
  • Practice writing letters! It’s a great way for all the family to share news.
  • Start a mindfulness skills list and have campers think about what helps them if they are worried or need a minute to regroup.

At camp kids get constant human interaction in all aspects of their daily life. They can reconnect with nature and literally live in the out of doors away from technology. They build resilience and grit as they challenge themselves in a supportive environment, can explore problem solving, and also are encouraged to have a ‘can do’ or ‘I’m not good at it yet’ attitude. For most campers anxieties about the experience typically evaporate once they are busy and engaged with camp life. There may be a few that need a little more help and our skilled team of experienced, senior staff along with our support specialist work closely to help campers reduce anxiety and have a great time. 

In this article the American Camp Association suggests that camp is a great antidote to the Covid pandemic. Camp offers kids the unique opportunity to step back into a simpler time, with no internet connection. A place where a small community can join together and support one another without judgment, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Campers benefit from being out of their homes, playing with other kids, being challenged and nurtured as they adventure into a new experience. 

It’s not only three weeks away from home, it’s only three weeks at Runoia!

We wish summer lasted so much longer.

What are you reading Camp Runoia?

Reading is an integral part of our Runoia summers. A tech free environment means that campers and staff have ample opportunity to grab a good book and delve into the pages. Whether it is at rest hour or before bedtime, a book is a great way to settle and relax on your bunk. We encourage campers to bring their books from home and also have a large library in the Lodge with reading material to suit everyone. It is an established tradition that in all cabin groups staff read to campers at night from a shack book. We also try to keep track of how many books collectively get read throughout camp over the summer.

While often an independent activity, reading can also be a great connector. We sometimes run a ‘book club’ at camp so that campers of all ages can engage together about a particularly enjoyable novel. Our Runoia staff share their reading favorites on our group facebook page and it often results in some cross cultural exchange with our friends across the pond.  Maine camp directors use books to come together for professional development and meet every few months to share thoughts about an inspiring text that helps with camp management. Talking about what you are reading can not only be enjoyable but can be the start of great friendships.

Women’s History month is the perfect time to take on some thoughtful reading and explore more about how women have shaped our society and cultures. We continue to build our already well stocked Runoia library to include more diversity and love to offer books by great women authors. Suggestions of any favorites that you feel are a ‘must’ read for our camper population are very welcome.

It is often hard to pin down what to read next – there are so many books and so little time! Check out the list here for reading material for kids of all ages, A Mighty Girl is a great place to get other ideas and resources too.

For the more mature reader this proved to be a great list and many of our staff were reading titles from this collection.

If you don’t have time to grab a book there are plenty of TED talks that may be equally inspiring and focus on women’s issues.

As our thoughts start turning towards the summer, having a summer reading list is an exciting part of the planning process. Certainly some campers have school books that need to be read before school is back in session but there are endless hours of time to grab a great book and sink into the joy of turning the pages. There are so many great spots around camp to be in harmony with nature and just jump into a book, we can’t wait to be back on Great Pond.

The Essay that Got Me Into College!


My College Essay – Guest Blog from Dallas White (camper from 2013-2019)

In a quiet place tucked in the wilderness of Belgrade Lakes, Maine lies a sleepaway camp, where every summer 150 girls attend and get to do things they never dreamed about. I was fortunate enough to be one of those girls for 8 summers. As a city girl, I particularly valued this getaway for its peace and serenity. Waking up to the sound of loons instead of an ambulance’s siren was a dream from which I never wanted to wake up. Meeting girls from all over the world, exposed me to many different cultures and experiences

As I was immersed into the camp’s warm community, I began to internalize the camp’s values and how
I now honor them in my own life. The first one being tradition. I never had any big family traditions growing up, so during the summer at camp I looked forward to the traditions of having campfires and singing the songs that correspond, every weekend. I looked forward to having braiding circles every night before going to sleep. Most of all, I looked forward to our annual competitive team games. Sailing regattas, swim races, soccer and softball games, oh my! It was truly always an exciting thing to see. Camp also boosted my confidence by giving me many opportunities to explore and get in touch with my leadership skills from a young age into my high school career.

Being a leader has always been natural to me as I am a very outgoing, outspoken person. At camp, there was never a time I did not want to volunteer to participate in something or be elected to be captain. As team captain, I would organize plays for sports and come up with new events for both teams. I also led my team to three victorious summers in a row, might I add. Though those were low-stakes things, they inspired me to get more active during the year with other leadership positions in my national organization and school. Pre-Covid, I held positions such as Nominating Chair and Recording secretary for my organization Jack and Jill Of America Inc., Very different from each other, as I can say there was no cheering or chanting but required the integrity and proactive skills I once learned at camp. Moving up the ladder, I held the position of Vice President and, in the same year, as President of my school’s Black Student Union, which, although virtual, was nothing short but exciting.

As with being Student Body President for my school and Chapter President for my organization, I have
all these tools in one box that I can take with me wherever I go, with the first stop being: college. I’m ecstatic just thinking about the bigger opportunities to be in leadership roles that I’ll get to experience
these next four years and beyond. The skills that I’ll continue to learn and challenges I’ll experience at university make it all worthwhile. And to think, this all started with a quiet place tucked away in the wilderness of Belgrade Lakes, Maine.

Editors note: Dallas, as you go forth into the world, we hope you’ll return with your many leadership skills to the shores of Great Pond to impress upon others all that you love about camp!

Love, Aionur

 

Is It Runoia? The Olympics? A Top Sporting Goods Company?

Words like driven, persistent, visionary, powerful – we design for you, fight for you, connect with you, reflect on you and step up our game for you. “We are the change in sports to get more women to the top of their game. “

They sound like a commercial for Camp Runoia! But it is not actually Runoia.  If you’re familiar with this powerful campaign from Dick’s Sporting Goods, it is a media campaign designed by the strong women team created by Lauren Hobart. “Inside Moves” supports girls and women as leaders and competitors. Check out the campaign for some inspiration!

As we kick off the Winter Olympics in Beijing, seven new sports have been created for winter sports – most of them mixed gender. And yet one sport has been added just for women: the Monobob. Why? Men’s already has two and four-person bobsled and women’s’ just has two person – the addition of the Monobob levels the playing field. The idea? One person runs the icy track and tries to get the top speed without crashing. Pretty gutsy.

This reminds us of our own Runoia heroes who had the guts to start a girls’ camp on a lake in Maine, to run a girls camp for near 50 years.

Might we borrow the campaign and shout “Runoia is the change in camps to get more campers to the top of their game. “? We think so!

Love, Aionur

Cultural Exchange: Whatever Way We Can

How lucky Camp Runoia is to host friends from near and far reaches – from the east to west coast of the United States, to England, Ireland, Mexico, France, and more. Our cultural exchange from campers and staff alike is one of the magical pieces of Camp Runoia.

 

At one point, driving 8 hours from Upstate New York felt like quite the trip – but now I’ve moved just shy of 2,000 more miles to the west of camp and suddenly that ‘long’ drive is shortened in my mind. As I was putting together my plans to arrive back in Maine early May, I first felt resolved to drive across the country – it wouldn’t be my first time – but realized that instead, this will probably be my first summer flying to camp, as many of our far-reaching friends do.

The theme of camp in 2020 and 2021 really was “whatever way we can”. Runoia had a deep resolve in the past two years to provide a widely needed experience of unplugged escape for both campers and staff. This meant sacrifices to our normal – including not being able to welcome international friends in 2020. In 2021, with some very creative problem-solving from leaders like Jen Dresdow – and some serious willpower from staff – we began to welcome some international friends once again.

Now, as we gear up for round three of camp affected by Covid, we are thrilled to see plenty of countries represented on both our staff and camper lists. Travel plans are coming together for all of us (hopefully!) and we are gearing up to once again hear different languages at camp, share our beautiful state and waterfront with new-comers, and learn all that we can from a summer-long cultural exchange.

From “how lucky we are to be here” in 2020, to “how lucky we are to have YOU here” in 2022!