On Choosing a Camp: what is the right fit?

As we round the corner into what feels like the back half of fall, many families are, possibly for the first time, searching for and choosing a brand new camp for their kid(s). Choosing a camp requires placing a lot of trust into camp professionals to care for your child and to provide a dream experience – but that trust doesn’t need to be blind. At Runoia, it is our goal to help campers find their best fit camp. We are always thrilled when that happens to be Runoia, but each camp is entirely unique from the next. It’s important to know what’s important to you (and your child,) ask the right questions, and pursue that experience. After countless parent phone calls and Zooms, here are the top things we suggest parents and guardians think about when choosing a camp, and some helpful questions to ask a camp director when looking:

Narrow-focused or well-rounded?

The label ‘camp’ can mean anything from a soccer day camp to a sleep-away camp with dozens of activities. Are you hoping that your child focuses on building one particular skill – sailing, riding, a team sport, etc. – or do you hope that they will broaden their horizons, try new things, and gain skills in multiple activities in one summer?

Runoia falls into the latter category – with 30+ activity choices and exceptional programs in multiple areas like our complete waterfront, on-campus riding program, trips, and more! Here are some questions you can ask a camp director:

  • How many activities do you offer at camp?
  • What would you say are your biggest programs?
  • How do you offer skill progression in different activities?

Structured or elective?

This is an important question to ask, especially after deciding on the prior! Once you know how many and what kind of activities a camp offers, it’s important to also know how much of a camper’s schedule is in their own control. If you are leaning towards a camp that specializes in just a handful of activities, you may also be looking for a structured camp that sets campers’ schedules for them. Runoia’s culture is one of choice and individual expression – our campers choose their own schedules in 2-day and 3-day blocks at camp. Our campers choose their schedules at camp for each block at a time, so they can pursue a new-found passion, change their minds, or be a completely different person from one block to the next! Here are some great questions to ask a camp director to get a sense of their structure:

  • Do campers have full, partial, or no control over their schedule and activity choices?
  • Do campers do activities with their cabin group or are classes mixed?
  • Do campers choose their schedules before arriving or at camp?
  • Do you offer any special-focus programs for campers to enroll in?

Small community or big population?

There are certainly benefits to each different camp population size, from a trip program with just a handful of staff and campers, to communities with hundreds of staff members and thousands of campers in one summer! When choosing a camp, ask yourself and your child whether they would prefer a tight-knit community – one where everyone knows one another and friendships span all ages – or a large community with the opportunity to meet hundreds of others? Runoia is a community like the former; our director team knows our campers’ names and each are involved in all aspects of the community on a day-to-day basis. Here are some questions to ask a director about their community:

  • What is your community size in each session?
  • How many campers and staff are in each cabin?
  • What is your overall staff to camper ratio?
  • Are your senior-level staff and directors involved in the daily community?

Tradition

As a camp entering its 117th consecutive season, we’re no stranger to tradition – when your camp has been standing since 1907, you pick up a few along the way! We try to strike our best balance between tradition and progression – honoring our foundations while moving forward. Here are some great questions to ask on tradition:

 

  • What traditions are important to your camp?
  • Does your camp partake in any intra or inter-camp competitions?
  • Do you have something like ‘color wars’?
  • Do you ever reevaluate traditions with a DEI lens?

 

An immersed experience, or connection to the ‘real world?’

We believe that camp poses a unique opportunity to ‘unplug’ to connect to nature, others, and ourselves. Therefore, Runoia offers a truly classic, immersed camp experience for its campers and staff. Technology is a no-go at Runoia, and we keep it old-school with letter-writing. Runoia also communicates with parents throughout the week through multiple modalities. We find that our system of communication really helps our campers make the most of their time at camp,

connect to others, and fight off feelings of homesickness. Each camp is different, however, and it’s important to know what level of communication you expect from your ideal camp. Ask these questions:

  • Are phone calls allowed at camp?
  • Can you describe how mail works at your camp?
  • Do you have a system of regular communication for updates from the leadership team?

Session length

Again, each camp is so different from the next, and the topic of session length is no exception! Camps range from offering just 1-week sessions throughout the summer, to only offering a summer-long experience. Runoia offers two 3-week sessions and limited opportunities for a full summer. We also offer a 2-week ‘try it’ program for our youngest campers called Harmony Land Camp. When thinking about session length, try asking these questions:

  • Do you offer a shorter ‘starter camp’ program to try? What ages are eligible if so?
  • What are your session dates and how long is each session?
  • Do most campers choose to go for one session or the full summer?

 

Location, location, location

We might be a touch biased to say that Maine really is the summer camp capitol of the world, and Maine does it well! Offering plenty of water, beautiful green land, and mountains to boot – you just can’t beat it. And since each year we welcome campers who have traveled from not just states away but countries away, we’d have to say it’s a worthwhile journey. Here are some important questions to ask about location and transportation:

 

  • What are the options for transportation to camp?
  • What does opening day look like for each mode of transportation?
  • Do parents and guardians tend to travel in the area for the duration of camp?

Diversity

When choosing a camp, it is important that your child finds a community in which they can see themselves represented by other campers, staff, and in camp policies. Runoia is happy to have seen its camper diversity grow organically in recent years, and has responded with the formation of its DAC, Diversity Advisory Committee, and intentional efforts to positively impact access to camp and the experience of camp for all families. Whether this directly impacts your camper or not, it is an important component in a camp’s culture and community. Here are some questions to ask a director on diversity at camp:

  • How would you describe the diversity of your camp? Has it grown recently?
  • Does your camp have any official advisory, DEI professional, or DEI policy in place?
  • Do you offer DEI training to your staff members?
  • How does your camp approach gender identity and pronoun expression?

What does it mean to be accredited? 

To help reduce risk, Camp Runoia is voluntarily accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). We follow standards pertaining to: program, site, facilities, transportation, vehicles, administration, personnel, and health care. If a camp holds a current ACA accreditation, it means that it has also been evaluated to meet the same rigorous set of standards as Runoia. Here are a few questions to ask about accreditation:

  • Is your camp currently accredited by the ACA?
  • Has there ever been a time recently when your camp was not accredited?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a camp, and each individual family and camper will have a unique set of ideas of what ‘camp’ should look and feel like to them. We hope you utilize these helpful questions in your next conversation with a camp director and wish you luck on your camp search!

Interested in Runoia? Reach out to request more information!

Bee’s and E’s – week two @camprunoia

Week two of Camp Runoia’s 116th season, has been packed full of adventures, new skills, friend making and about a 1000 friendship bracelets being produced. The Fine Maine Days have been filled with laughter and singing as we sink into the camp experience.

From weather forecasters and TV appearances to July 4th celebrations our days are packed from the minute we wake up until we fall into bed at night. Loons on the lake at night lull us to sleep and we wake to the crows and sheep ready to start new days filled with fun. 

Our campers have settled in, made new friends and are enjoying the fabulous Maine weather and lake life. With a covid free camp it has been a mix and match program week spending time with friends throughout camp. There have been lots of fun activities to tag up for, art projects to get started, rec swims, gaga games and wacky evening programs. The food has been amazing and we often joke that we have to fit camp in between meals and snacks! We are grateful to the positive energy that radiates from the kitchen and the hard work of the staff to keep us all fed with healthy, nutritious and delicious food.

We have been able to get back to more trips this summer and are enjoying getting out and about seeing the best of Maine. It’s the perfect place to be in the summer with so many natural resources and bright sunny days for visiting the mountains and the ocean. Day trips and camping trips get us out of camp and out into nature.

It was a ‘Wild Wednesday’ with some campers doing activities in camp, whilst the other half ventured out on trips. The Juniors went to Camden Hills State Park for a hiking day trip. The keen hikers went for a two hour, woodland hike and enjoyed their packed lunch with the beautiful scenery at the top of Mount Battie. Other hikers even complimented the girls singing as they climbed the mountain, showing off their Runoia spirit. Older girls had a prep hike at Tumbledown, they will be hiking Mount Katahdin later in the session and stretched their legs and enjoyed the lake at the top. Surrounded by nature on yet another Fine Maine day, campers took on the tough hike with determination and excitement. At the end of the four mile hike, campers were rewarded with the stunning views of Tumbledown’s surrounding mountains.

For our Harmony Land Mini campers, they had a fun day trip on Thursday to Pemaquid Beach. Campers were able to cool off while having fun on a hot, fine Maine day. They enjoyed splashing around in the waves, making sandcastles, and seeing the beautiful, coastal landscape that Maine has to offer. We were sad to see them leave at the end of their session and will welcome HLC A on the 5th. Seeing our youngest friends grow and learn during their stay at camp was very rewarding and we know that they will all be back to join main camp next year

The longest trip of the week consisted of a three day overnight camping trip to Acadia National Park. Here our campers went to the beach, climbed over rocks, explored nature and learned camping skills for outdoor living. The favorite thing about the whole trip was watching the sunrise over the harbor from Cadillac mountain.

Evening Programs or EP’s at camp are a great way to end our long days being altogether and having fun. From running games like Capture the Flag, Run Sheepy Run and a Scavenger Hunt to a Pairs Party and Lyp Synch contest we have used teamwork, creativity and athletic ability to have a blast. We always end the day with milk and crackers served by our fabulous CIT’s

The World of Change Truck rolled in yesterday and we chose how we would like all of our loose change to be spent helping kids in our community. Some campers felt very inspired to take the message home to their hometowns and get the program going there too. Encouraging kids to make a difference however small and truly be ‘the change’ in their world builds life skills that are of great importance.

New campers picked their teams or followed their alumnae family members onto a team. Campers have embraced the new team names and colors and are busy updating and rewriting cheers and creating new team spirit! Bees and Elephants or Ellie’s or E’s are ready to hit the fields and courts next week and earn points for their teams. Martina was able to articulate well the importance of this change and how it is our responsibility so show up in positive and affirming ways for all members of our community. Integrating and explaining out DEI work is an important part of being a progressive camp that works for continual improvement and is willing to say just because it’s been that way or is a tradition doesn’t make it right!

We will be slipping and sliding through today for the 4th of July celebrations with crazy fun stations and our traditional all camp relay later in the day. Ending with a campfire and sparklers at the lake these are the days that make our camp memories strong.

Sending much love home from the shores of Great Pond!

Camp Runoia’s 116th season get’s going!

The best day of the year so far was June 24th. Opening day of Camp Runoia’s 116th season. It was a fine Maine day and the energy that poured into camp was absolutely amazing. From airports to highways, our campers navigated to camp filled with enthusiasm, excitement and for a few a little trepidation. Cabins quickly filled up, bags were unpacked and name games started. 

Old friends shared hugs and new friends were quickly made. By supper time the volume was high, the laughs were many and everyone was excited to see what the next few days would bring.

The first full day of camp always starts with a morning of orientation to get everyone up to speed with all of the guidelines and systems. Staff shared information about activities and campers practiced safety protocols and took swim tests.  The afternoon we were quickly into activities with shack groups and every area of camp was filled with fun. Volleyball is once again super popular with large groups of all ages and abilities playing together on the court.

We started strong with covid protocols in attempts to reduce risk and disruption for the community. We are doing some masking when we are mixing indoors and have been tagged up with our shack group for the first block. Everyone is engaged and busy all day long and we are finding that it is already much quieter earlier at night especially in Junior end. Long days outdoors being active and without tech feels so good. 

It is impressive how quickly everyone had adapted to the camp routine, understands the schedule and is ready to spend their day adventuring all over camp. The bell gets us up in the morning and keeps us rolling on time all day long. From the lake to the barn there is action and learning going on everywhere. It is impossible to count the number of friendship bracelets already made and the books being read. Unstructured free time often sees the gaga pit, courts and fields full of happy campers hanging out and playing together. Counselors are keeping a close eye on things and supporting those that need a little extra to navigate their way around. 

The kitchen crew has been cooking up a storm and we are being kept very well fed. Three meals and three snacks a day keeps us energized. So far there have been great options including produce from our own camp garden. The farm class harvested kale and cooked up some kale chips to try. We have sheep at camp for the first time this year. They are providing plenty of entertainment as are the chickens. We are trying hard to reduce food waste and compost what we can.

Our night time evening programs(EP’s) have been a blast, we started with an old camp favorite, ‘capture the flag’ did some sporty rotations and had our first campfire of the season last night. It was so great to all be together at the lake sharing about our ‘Cultural Diversity’, singing songs and enjoying the loons and the sunset.

 

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 Silver LIning of Covid

I never thought I’d be writing “silver lining” and Covid in the same title. Nearly two years since we learned the name of the virus, we are leaning into our third summer of operating with Covid (endemic rather than pandemic, we hope). Where is the silver lining, you ask?

Okay, here it is. As a seasonal business that really functions and works all year long (10 for 2!), we are MORE connected because of the tools Covid forced us to find using technology. Scoff at the word Zoom or Meet and simultaneously say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

My week is like a connect the dots painting (remember those?!) with Zooms and Meets. And, I love it.

Weekly I get the chance to connect with the most amazing people:

  • Monday morning brings our team kick off meeting with our year-round admin team
  • Monday Mark meets with Tim – together they are working on site and facilities
  • Tuesday I Zoom individually with two of our administrative leaders and separately our social media consultant
  • Wednesday we meet with an outside consultant and most industry-wide educational events seem to be scheduled on very large Zooms
  • Thursday I catch up on all the new plans we’ve schemed up and meet with parents
  • Friday we meet with, Nina, our Director of Residential Life

Monthly and Random

  • We meet with 14 Runoia seasonal leaders,
  • I Zoom with the Diversity Advisory Committee
  • The Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization meets every few months
  • The Belgrade business group, the Maine Camp Experience Group and the Maine Summer Camp group all throw in their board meetings, membership meetings and more.
  • Conferences from San Diego to Denver to New England have allowed us to Zoom in and meet
  • And how about those “stay connected to family and friends” Zooms
  • Oh and the weekly 8 am dance party?
  • And reading Harry Potter with a granddaughter (book four since the pandemic started)

And most importantly of all, I have the amazing opportunity to Zoom with families across the globe about camp and meet their daughters and connect about the Runoia experience.

So, yes, Covid has crushed us all in many ways. And interestingly enough, because there usually is a silver lining to every dark cloud, Covid has connected us more through Zoom, Google Meet and technology and an urgency to make connections. See you on a Zoom soon and counting the days to see you in person at Camp!

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!

 

Hear the Buzz! Feel the Stampede!

We are a buzzing and a stamping here at Camp Runoia. Camp just celebrated its 115th anniversary; a tribute to its enduring values, amazing staff, campers, families and alumnae. Adapting to the world we live in and forging the tools to help our campers grow; this is what has made Camp Runoia a camp leader developing skills in young people to become positive citizens of the world. With 116 spirited years on our banners, we have decided to loop-the-loop on our camp team names and colors and transition to more inclusive names and colors.

For nearly 100 summers, Runoia has been flying the team colors of Blue and White but, let it be known that before 1923, each summer brought with it new team names:  The Hooks and Eyes, The Crickets and Grasshoppers.

Moving forward AND keeping with our traditions of inclusivity and open-minded thinking, the Bees and the Elephants will prevail as new team names with the colors of Indigo and Gray. Yes, we will rewrite old camp songs and we also get to create new ones! The time is now for a change from Go Whites! Go Blues! to the new team names and colors. Existing Blues will be Bees and campers on the White Team will be Elephants.

We, the Year Round administrative team at Runoia, are very excited about this change. With the support of a focus group of trustees from Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization and the support of the Diversity Advisory Committee of the CRAO, we move into 2022 with our new teams.

This change of team names ushers in a new era that we are proud of and believe in – even though it is a change, it feels positive and growth-minded. We have been committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work for summer staff, as well as year round staff with DEI trainings, educational opportunities, conference  sessions and workshops. We have dropped some camp songs, changed some lyrics and written policies and updated our website to be more inclusive. So, new in 2022: Hear the buzz! Feel the stampede!

Bo-bo-ski-waten-dotten to another 115 years of the best summer camp experience… for ALL campers! Go Elephants! Go Bees!

Love, Aionur

With a lot of help from our wonderful President Elect of the CRAO and Canadian Delegate to New England, Great Pond Resident, Runoia Alumnae and all around amazing woman, Marie-Claude Francoeur 

 

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.