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.

 

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.

The Power of Play – for ‘Kids’ of All Ages

It’s the middle of the school year – our teachers and students have made their way out of winter break and back to school – although maybe just virtually – and camp feels both so close and too far away. Most of our campers have a full semester of school left before they make their way through the Runoia gates this summer.

During the school year, I tutor students in math. We learn so much together by practicing our multiplication tables, solving equations, and challenging ourselves – but each week when we’re together, we also play. I’ve seen games and play help anxious students open up, and even the best students to have fun and reinforce their skills. Play is often seen as the reward after the work, but play itself is a valuable tool for learning, de-stressing, and figuring out our world.

The power of play is clear to researchers, teachers, and camp professionals alike. Play is known to bust stress, foster imagination and creativity, increase physical activity, build confidence, resilience, and social skills, and much more.

But the power of play is not reserved for the youngest of our kids – you would have seen play often in my high-school classroom, too. Even my senior students – some as old as 18 – loved the simultaneous respite and excitement of the chance to play. It’s an honor as an adult to provide opportunities of play to the ‘too old’ kids, who may have learned that it’s embarrassing to play at their age. At Runoia, those walls come down and silliness reigns – and the best part is seeing our staff, CITs, and older campers set the example for our younger ones. Even our admin – especially our admin – can be some of the most enthusiastic partakers.

 

When I think of this, my mind goes immediately to some of our silliest EPs – evening programs – like Miss Tacky and Powder Faeries (if you know, you know!) In the case of Miss Tacky – perhaps the EP that our senior end campers get the most excited for – it’s amazing to see the creativity and imagination that our campers bring to the table with a simple prompt and the liberty to create.

 

 

While Runoia’s EP and program offerings provide more structured playtime, our schedule honors the all-important unstructured playtime as well. During sublime time, campers can be seen all over camp playing gaga, doing cartwheels on the grass, or making up games in the water. On trips, we often made up songs to get us through long paddles, played games while a meal was cooking, and built faerie houses.

In our current world – where we may fall in the trap of confusing screen time with playtime – it’s all the more vital to offer our kids, and ourselves, a space to unplug and safely play and explore. Here, I’m counting down the days until I can witness the power of play in our campers and tap into my own silliness and creativity once again.

 

‘Filling Your Cup’ at Camp as an Introvert

January is a quiet time – an introvert’s dream – a time for ‘filling your cup’ to store up energy for the summer.  Here in the mountains of Colorado, it means soft, plush snow and a trail so quiet, you can hear the trees creaking in the wind. As a high-energy assistant camp director and tutor, I think people often assume that I am an extrovert. How could you possibly do all of that and not be? I love being around and working with people, sure, but oftentimes it is draining. I recharge as an introvert does – alone, often outside on a trail, or maybe inside with a cup of tea and a good book or craft.

So then, why camp? Or rather, how camp, as an introvert? Is camp really a space where an introverted camper or staff member can happily thrive in such a busy environment? Yes – with a little something we call “filling your cup” here at Runoia.

We know that our staff and our campers cannot ‘pour from an empty cup’, and introverts can find that cup drawing dangerously low after a busy day full of social time. Filling your cup means something different to each person; it is whatever we like to do that recharges our battery when we sense it getting low. Some may find a solo, early morning run before breakfast fills their cup; others may be seen reading a book during rest hour to recharge.

Luckily, Runoia is built for our extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts alike. Our schedule is built intentionally to include quiet, reflective times like rest hour and bed time routines, as well as times of choice – unstructured free time when campers can recharge however they need each day. Even our 30+ activity areas offer campers the chance to slow down, focus on a project, or spend more time in nature.

Our campers may slow down and recharge with a bracelet-making session on their shack porch, a walk down the nature path, or perhaps a book enjoyed in a Crazy Creek on the lawn. Staff may be seen watching a sunset on the docks, taking an early morning walk or run, or enjoying a yoga session with Kara.

Camp’s reputation as a space for everyone is not for nothing. We see a beautiful spectrum of personalities in our campers and our staff each summer, and it is what makes our community whole, and so strong. Introverts and extroverts alike – here we are, settling into winter,  dreaming of summer.

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

Camp Runoia life skills go to college

At camp we often talk with our campers about how you can learn things at 8 and still be doing them at 80! Imagine still paddling a canoe in your older years after first dipping a paddle as a young camper on Great Pond. Some life skills are technical or ‘hard’ skills  like learning a ‘J’ stroke while others are more subtle and referred to as ‘soft’ skills such as navigating relationships.

Camp provides campers of all ages the chance to learn, progress and master many skills that last with them long after their camp days are over.

In this week’s guest blog, Jen Dresdow talks about how years at camp prepared her daughter for a smooth transition into college.

In August, my husband and I became empty nesters as we sent our only child, Natalie, off to college. After many college visits her junior and senior year, Natalie chose Hollins University, a small private women’s school in Roanoke, VA, about 4 hours from our home in Alexandria.

As Natalie and I both worked at camp during the summer, we had about 10 days between arriving home from camp and her move-in date for pre-season riding. Natalie quickly organized herself for dorm life with the efficiency of a seasoned camp parent.

The transition into college life proved to be an easy one. After 12 summers at Runoia, Natalie found navigating the small campus and being where she needs to be on time an easy task. Similar to navigating her camp schedule as both a camper and a counselor, she quickly fell into the routine. From 7:30am riding lessons to evening French conversation groups to her work study in the gym, she is where she needs to be when she needs to be there. Camp taught her the skills needed for community living and navigating dining hall choices.

Natalie rides on the Varsity Equestrian Team, and just like camp, the barn bubble is her happy place. However, having a roommate who is not a rider, has been a great fit. Natalie used the school’s roommate match program to place with a roommate.  Years of sharing a cabin with others, learning to share, keep spaces tidy, and communicating effectively, have helped her to settle into dorm life.

We are grateful for all the lifelong skills built at Runoia over the years that allowed Natalie to take a well stocked “toolbox” to college.

Returning to Runoia – from counselor to camp parent and staff

Guest blogger Mindy (Boyce) Martone-Gulling

Archery and cabin counselor 1998/99. Yoga and farm instructor and camp parent in 2021.

Mindy shares her reflections on returning to Runoia.

Camp friends for always!
Working with Kara (Benken) Garrod once again.

My daughter is the outgoing, kind, and hilarious youngest child of five and she and I have been waiting for years for her to be old enough to go to Runoia. I was a counselor in the late ‘90s and left Runoia in 1999 to go to law school, which was followed by a “real” job, kids, and life that kept me far from Camp. But I never forgot how beautiful, fun, warm, and welcoming the CR community was and knew I wanted my daughter to be a part of it. 

Delayed a year by Covid, this Spring we finally signed her up for a session in Harmony Land, the program for Runoia’s youngest campers. We were all so excited. My memory certainly isn’t what it once was, but apparently there’s a whole section of it that’s full of camp songs and I started teaching her right away. We bought new swimsuits, shoes, and water bottles for her adventure and she insisted on watching the Runoia marketing video at least once a day. Even more exciting was that life was such that I was able to join her at camp as a counselor – after all this time.

We arrived on the first of our many Fine Maine Days at camp, she joined her new friends, and I got my first live glimpse of camp in so many years. New facilities! State-of-The-Art equipment! Exciting new activities and adventures to choose from!  And of course almost all new faces, including counselors who usually said “oh, I was just born then” when I told them the last year I had been at camp.  It was clear that Runoia had grown and changed and constantly improved in the time I had been gone. But just as the new facilities blend smoothly into the camp landscape and the new activities appear on the tag board next to old standards like archery and swimming, the heart and soul of Runoia was the same even amidst the changes. Girls just being themselves, hugging friends, cracking wide smiles at mastering a new skill, and laughing as they walk lightly past the ferns down to the waterfront. Campfires, Fairy Ring, taps, the logs, Blue/White, and birthday songs all endure for new generations of Runoia girls.

As a counselor I got to experience things with my daughter that I would have only heard about at home- her unbridled joy trotting off in her yellow one-piece to every rec swim and the ear-to-ear grin when she got the arrow “in the red” during archery. As a mom, I appreciated so much about how girls are loved and supported at Runoia- from a counselor agreeing to stay late at an activity to make sure a level got passed to a tireless search for a lost but much loved book, to the heartfelt good nights from the Directors.

I have always seen Runoia as a special place, and I was so lucky that I can share it with my own Runoia girl, hopefully for years to come.

 

A trunk or not a trunk? That is the question!

Camp packing tips

As we are just a couple of weeks away from the opening of the first session we are fielding a lot of questions about packing. For new families it can feel a little overwhelming to organize everything that a camper may need for her time at camp. Once everything is collected the challenge then is to fit it all into two pieces of luggage!

Top tips:

Use the Runoia packing list

Remember that space is limited

Name everything – sharpie works well

Don’t go overboard with extra

Make sure your camper knows what she has

Each camper may bring 2 large items of luggage, typically 2 duffles or a trunk and a duffle. Super packers can get everything into one giant trunk or duffle but remember to try and keep weights under 50lbs our staff have to move all the luggage!

Trunks are helpful but not necessary as campers get shelves in a dresser and bookshelves on the wall as well as areas to hang things. If campers plan to attend camp over the next few summers it may be worth investing in a trunk for easy access and extra storage. The trunk we recommend is a Seward 30” trunk available at Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc. With or without wheels is fine.

The parent handbook has some guidance for packing 

Can’t fit everything in? Renting linen from camp is a great option for those that are travelling from far away or want extra space for other things. With cot sized sheets, blankets and a pillow it make it an easier option for some families. Just let us know if you would like bed linen adding to your daughters account.

Remember that some of the joy of camp and a part of the learning experience is that it is not like home so you don’t need everything that you own to survive. At camp, we play, have fun, get dirty and are busy all day long. We manage to navigate the experience with what we have. There is a library full of books to borrow, cards and board games galore for free time and plenty of dress up clothes for fun events. We are creative with what we have and can devise entertainment from the world around us.

Pack well, don’t stress the small stuff, your camper will have a blast even in odd socks and a mismatched outfit.

See you soon, we can’t wait for our 115th season on Great Pond!

Rain boots not only for rainy days but for dewy morning grass!

 

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!)