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.

 

Connections Build Community

As we gear up for our 116th consecutive camp season connections in our community are paramount – more than ever.

I recently reviewed our staff/counselor list of names and my excitement for camp grew. In just over one month, young leaders from all over the United States and from around the world will gather with us to connect, learn from each other, define core values, practice teaching skills, and most of all build a healthy community welcoming children to join in and stretch and grow through the camp experience.

One name on the list jumped out at me. Liz and I met because she thanked me for supporting her college. As a student working with Sterling College advancement, she reached out with a personalized thank you note to me. She told me about a field study trip she was taking with her class to the SW of the United States. She is from Brooklyn, NY and was excited and a little nervous for her adventure – completely normal. I looked her up and reached out to her. Someone with her courage and determination was someone I was interested in finding out more about!  Fast forward through the connection, she applied to camp and Alex Jackson, our co-director interviewed and hired her as a counselor who will help lead trips, work on our ropes course and connect with youth in an outdoor, unplugged setting.

Camp is all about connections. Our alumnae come back to camp to work and send their children to camp. Our staff reach out to friends to have them work at camp. Our families, alumnae and staff meet people who seem like a great fit and invite them to come to camp to work. Our assistant directors, Jen and Colleen, reconnect with camp friends and reach out to college friends and people in specific jobs, be it nursing or crafts, riding or rowing, and help them find their way to our community. Together we join at camp to build our summer community of leaders. We are all very excited and maybe a little nervous – completely normal.

Jen recently added a fun pre-camp idea for our counselors. Alex has our returning campers write a new camper before camp starts. Sometimes they become pen pals and it’s a lovely, old-fashioned way to make a connection before you come to camp.  Jen extended this same idea to counselors. This year, she has connected returning counselors with new counselors by letter writing.  At Camp Runoia, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Whether we are campers or counselors, it’s the connections that make the difference.

Sometimes it all starts with a simple and personalized thank you letter or a new pen pal connection.

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!

 

Camp Runoia – built on the foundation laid by strong women

This week as we celebrated International Women’s day, Runoia thoughts naturally turned to Miss Lucy Weiser and Miss Jessie Pond, our founders.  We obviously know that in 1907 the role of women in society was significantly different than it is today. If you add to that the challenges of travel and how slow information sharing  was, they made an incredible undertaking to even consider starting a camp for girls.

For many of us the images in our minds of Miss Weiser and Miss Pond are of old ladies, or of the portraits on the Lodge wall that capture them in one moment in time. These days their stories are somewhat steeped in legend as there are few folk at camp that actually remember them in person.  I so desperately want to know more about them as young women. How did they grow up as children? How did they spend their days? What was everyday life like? Did those around them support their decision to start a camp? There are so many questions.

Miss Weiser Miss Pond

I often wish that I could fly back in time and sit in on their conversations and decision making. I am so curious about how and why they decided to head up to Maine to start a girls camp. It is fairly easy to research the history of the times, the camp movement and the desperate desire  and search for solitude and nature outside of the rapidly developing cities.  Yet why did these two particular women connect together and start our camp? 

What triggered their choice to think about even considering starting a camp for girls? I doubt that they were just having tea and thought they should just pop off to Maine on a jaunt. As bright, intrepid women I am so curious about how they navigated their decisions, set out on the adventure to find a location and then built a camp. They then successfully encouraged parents to send their girls and young women off into the Maine wilderness for an unknown experience. Can you imagine all this without a webiste to promote the amazingness of Great Pond?!

It’s hard to imagine the remoteness of Maine and the lack of infrastructure that awaited those early campers. The Belgrade Historical Society has some great visuals and information about the area that was then primarily farming. In the early 1900’s Belgrade Lakes was rapidly becoming a popular area for vacations for those wealthy enough to take time away in the summer. Fine hotels on the shores of the lakes were built to accomodate a growing trend in more rural retreats. 

I wish we had a time machine so that we could watch those amazing women in action.

We are so grateful for the origional two strong women and all of the others that have followed in thier footsteps.

Camp Runoia stuff – keeping it simple

We recently shared tips and tricks for packing with our camp families and reminded them that 2 large items is the limit for baggage. There is no doubt that three weeks at camp does require a substantial amount of belongings yet we really do want our campers to navigate the experience with just what they need, not an excess of ‘stuff’ that has little purpose other than clutter. With entire businesses and a library of books dedicated to decluttering your life it is always interesting to see what feels ‘essential’ for a few weeks at camp. Obviously we expect a favorite stuffie to make the trip but miscellaneous items that have no purpose at camp become a restriction for enjoying the camp experience.

Bringing a limited amount of belongings that are prescribed on the well thought out packing list provides a great opportunity to develop life skills and independence. If you only have 1 pair of sneakers or flip flops then it’s a good lesson to put them in a place where you can find them so you have them when you need them. Many of us live with such excess in our lives it truly becomes a burden. We spend so much time and effort organizing, searching for and replacing our stuff that we lose the pleasure in enjoying it.

 

With a nine day laundry cycle camp is a great opportunity for campers to manage their clothing in a way that is hygienic but also practical. The clothes you wore in the morning before swim lessons can go back on afterwards and a pair of jeans can last a couple of days if you are only wearing them in the chillier evenings. If you have run out of underwear by day 7 you need to navigate how to make that 10 pairs you brought last for the full cycle.

 

Space at camp is obviously limited and everyone is sharing so one roommate having excess has an impact on their bunk mates. It is also ‘rustic.’ While we certainly are building life skills for big away from home events in the future, we are not trying to replicate a mini college experience. Dorm rugs and throw pillows are unnecessary and soon become grubby. There is no cleaning service, campers who have been out playing in the woods and lake all day are in charge of maintaining their space. As they are busy developing those basic life skills the results can sometimes be marginal. A bedside rug is only best used for wiping off sandy feet after coming up from the beach. It needs moving when you have ‘sweeping’ on the chores chart and often ends up shoved under the bed with the dust bunnies. Check out this old blog about helping campers to figure out what to bring.

Over enthusiastic or perhaps anxious parents that pack 3 tubes of toothpaste can rest assured that if campers run out of necessities we have a stash of all of the basics and no one will need to go without.

We hope that our campers will have just what they need to be able to enjoy a simplified summer having a blast on Great Pond.

 

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!

 

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.