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 greening of Camp Runoia

Green and Sustainable Practices at Camp Runoia

Thanks to Mark Heuberger for the material for this weeks blog. Mark is dedicated to safe lakefront practice and stewardship. Mark is an awesome advocate for lake protection and preservation and passes his knowledge and enthusiasm along to campers and staff.

This is Camp Runoia’s statement and goals for best environmental practices. We believe that it is our duty to do our best to protect and preserve the land that Camp Runoia sits on and to teach the next generations the importance of walking gently on the earth. We acknowledge that we live on the lands of the Wabanaki people who nurtured the land before us and were dedicated to living in harmony with nature.

Camp Runoia is continually striving to increase the sustainability of our activities and decrease our impact on the environment through green and responsible land use practices. We are proud of what we have accomplished.

Recycling, Composting, and Waste Reduction

· Recycling is and has been a way of life at Runoia for over three decades: paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastic, metal, newspapers, and magazines are separated and taken to our town transfer station for recycling. Campers, counselors and staff are involved in the daily process of separating waste and recycling everything we can.

· Composting – separating biodegradable waste from our food scraps has helped to reduce our food waste and resulting in nutrient-rich “black gold” soil for our landscaping and gardens through the composting process.

· Spreading manure to fertilize our pastures rather than accumulating piles of manure has proved efficient for our barn management, reducing consolidated waste and reducing potential impacts to the watershed from runoff.

Education and Awareness

· Appreciation for nature and nature conservation are key parts of living at camp surrounded by the natural beauty of woods, lakes, and mountains with people who care. Being located in the Belgrade Lakes Watershed, a watershed area of 180 square miles, 7 major water bodies, and over 9400 acres of conservation land heightens our awareness of human impact on the natural environment

· We identify species of native trees, wildflowers and fungi, take hikes through conservation land, and learn about the natural animal, bird, fish, and inspect species.

· We discuss with staff and campers best practices to minimize our impacts on the lake water quality and natural habitats.

· We teach and implement Leave No Trace practices in our Campcraft and trip programs.

· We often invite local experts on invasive plant species identification and awareness to come to camp to present. The speakers help our campers and counselors to know they can play a part in preserving our watershed area through species identification and reporting suspected invasive plants growing or floating in our lake.

· Campers may choose to participate in programs such as Farm and Garden, where they learn about raising organic vegetables and local food sources or Campcraft, where they learn about living in nature and sustainable camping practices.

Energy and Water Use

· Awareness of water usage and water conservation is discussed and conservation is practiced in everyday living at camp.

· 80% of camp light bulbs are now high-efficiency bulbs used in our living areas.

· We have a greenhouse and garden beds where campers can do gardening and grow and pick vegetables. Irrigation water is supplemented by rainwater collected in rain barrels, and soil is supplemented with compost from food waste and fallen tree leaves.

· More than 50% of our cleaning products are natural or “green” awarded products.

· We are moving toward greener construction in new buildings and use of natural light and natural products.

· We buy local food to supplement our camp food; participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with our local farmers. Campers participate in collecting our farm shares.

Lake and Watershed Protection and Land Conservation

· Camp Runoia is situated where thousands of acres of land have been held aside in conservation through the efforts of local organizations and individuals. We support the 7 Lakes Alliance who play a key role in land conservation, preserving areas for

hiking trails and restricting development of areas where development would most impact the watershed.

· Camp Runoia also supports The Belgrade Lakes Association, with a mission to protect and preserve Great and Long Ponds, a formidable association in our area – bringing awareness and education to the lake protection.

· We were awarded a Maine DEP Lake Smart Award for the highest rankings in all four categories of the award for good practices to reduce impacts to the lake. We proudly display our award at the Lodge and at the waterfront.

· Erosion control practices on our paths, roads, and drip lines of buildings are managed in our site and facilities plan.

· Natural landscaping and maintaining natural vegetative

buffer zones between our living areas and the lake’s shore line helps reduce run off and phosphorus contribution to our lakes. We have also eliminated phosphorus fertilizers in our lawn care.

· We have a documented schedule to maintain and pump out our septic systems to minimize the impact on water quality.

· Over 80 acres of Camp Runoia property have been set aside as Conservation Land and/or Tree Growth Land and we maintain and follow a Tree Growth Plan.

We are committed to protecting and preserving Camp Runoia for future generations and educating those that will continue the work long into the future.

Believe in the Camp Experience

You send them to camp because you believe in us

and you believe in them.  The days can crawl by

because you miss them so much.

And you know they are experiencing independence

and doing an amazing job being away from you.

You still miss them. So, what is happening while you are apart?

 

  • Other genuine adults are teaching, caring, laughing and guiding your children.
  • Your children are making independent decisions.
  • The camp community is supporting them with their commitment.
  • They are meeting other children from all over the United States and other countries.
  • Leadership skills are developed every day – whether it is making an announcement for the whole camp or leading the meal as table captain.
  • Resiliency is happening.
  • Self-confidence is increasing.
  • New skills are being honed.
  • Your children learn how to advocate for others and for themselves.

 

The list goes on and on.

And, let’s remember, it’s not always easy. Sometimes there are moments of discomfort. Like when you miss home and it hurts. Or when you try something new you aren’t good at… yet. How about the time you worked on your art project and it didn’t come out the way you wanted it to? Sometimes there are times that aren’t easy. At Camp Runoia, there are people to help pull you out of your unease, to help you see it from a

different perspective, to laugh it off with you.

 

This is camp. This is real. This is building lifelong skills.

And the moment you see them after camp, you can’t believe how they have grown. All of this happened because you believe in them.

 

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

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.

Falling back and looking forward

Up here in Maine, the sun sets now at 4:20pm. On the shores of Great Pond at Camp Runoia it feels like we are hurtling towards the shortest day of the year. The time change sets us into darker days and longer nights. Relishing that extra hour in bed reminds us that we need to get up earlier in order to make the most of the light.  Fall has lasted longer than is typical here in the northern corner. The days have been warm and while early morning frost is seen on the pumpkins it has been balanced by bright, blue skies and trees still clinging to their color and leaves. Camp is already shuttered up tightly against the winter weather and only the animals walk the paths.

There is no argument that winter in Maine is long. Once the leaves fall we won’t see them again until May and life will slow to a crawl as we bundle up against the cold. It’s an awesome time for camp planning, for dreaming of those long summer days, connecting with camp friends and wishing away time until we are all back on Great Pond.

The camp community doesn’t take much rest time and days are filled with professional development, camper recruitment and staff hiring. Program planning meetings, site maintenance and building projects fill in the practical tasks. Connecting with peers in the industry and catching up on common themes and challenges is engaging and revitalizing.

We don’t stagnate in the dark cold months, we energize and look forward with great excitement to the next season.

Here is some fall poetry from one of our younger campers to brighten your day – we love getting log entries from the Runoia community.

By Ari aged 8

Yellow trees

There are a bunch of fellow, yellow trees

I feel the nice fall breeze and join these yellow, fellow trees.

There is so much joyful glee!

So I plee to be these yellow, fellow trees of glee.

The leaves have fallen all the glee is gone

Something I see to be joyful, glee gone to be.

 

Sunlight

The sun is bright, what a beautiful sight.

It is a wonderful light of that beautiful sight,

Of the bright light.

Why Camp? Colleen talks about her journey to Runoia

“Why camp?” is a prompt that seemingly pulls my whole life, identity, and personality into question. As my director at my alma mater’s office of outdoor pursuits would say, we are “camp people.” She used this as a way of not necessarily vetting the people and employees she let into her life and office, but more as a sign that she had found a kindred spirit. I remember her delighted reaction – a reaction with the animation of a camp person – during my graduate assistantship interview when I told her that I was a camp kid. To us, it is an indication of just the kind of person we’d like to work with, and someone who we know we can connect to. In my twenty-six years, being a “camp person” remains the quickest, most sincere source of connection to strangers that I’ve personally experienced. It shows in Runoia’s staff training each year, where friendships are forged in two short weeks, grown in the following eight weeks, and maintained for lifetimes following. It reminds me of my own childhood camp, where sessions were only one-week long, yet resulted in friendships that remain in adulthood. Camp is where I found a deeper connection each summer to my sister, who is now my best friend. 

So to us, and to many of my other camp connections, knowing someone is a “camp person” is like a preview to who they are. A “camp person” can be anyone, of any and every identity, but a few things always hold true. To me, they are: a person who values connection with nature, others, and themselves; someone who builds and draws on their community in their toughest moments; a person who shows flexibility, empathy, and devotion to others; a person who shows devotion to themself. I can only speak for myself, but that sounds exactly like someone I’d like in my community and by my side.

I’ve noticed in recent years, in a time where we are almost constantly in front of a screen and expected to be one-hundred-percent available at all times, we sometimes mistake this accessibility for connection. True connection with others this way has, however, fallen short for me and many others. Camp is where we can seek authentic connections when we need them most, and to “build lifelong skills” in a unique place that is designed  to facilitate growth. While our campers head home at the close of each summer eager to share the activities they participated in and the feats they’ve accomplished, they are also sharing their friendships, their personal victories, and the counselors they loved most. Beneath the hands-on skills our campers and staff learn at Runoia, we are quietly building the connection, community, flexibility, empathy, and devotion of “camp people”. 

It’s funny to me, then, that I still identified as a “camp person” even in the time between the end of my own camper experience and landing at Runoia years later – a testament to the idea that camp never leaves us. When I first arrived at Runoia in 2018, I thought I was taking my last opportunity to have one camp summer in the open space between my undergrad and grad years. I did not expect to find a camp community again. I had remembered the importance of being a “camp person” myself, but completely rediscovered the magic of connection with other “camp people” that summer. My absence in summer 2021, taken to move across the country, solidified my need for a connection that most people may not know they’re missing if they’ve never experienced it. 

Maine is not my home in the literal sense. I’ve never truly lived there, save for the three summers I’ve spent at Runoia. Even now, I’ve managed to move further away from Runoia, and my home camp for that matter, than I’ve ever been. And yet, coming back to Runoia – even just virtually for now – is a homecoming: a camp person stepping back into her camp-person-self with her camp people. And I am so happy to be home.  

Colleen O’Malley – Assistant Director, Camp Runoia

Making bagels a recipe for happiness

A lifelong love of baking, a summer working in the camp kitchen and connecting all of those life skills with developing positive mental health strategies. 

Tori’s guest blog this week is an excerpt from her descriptive essay about the joys and benefits of making bagels from scratch.

 

When I first tasted a bagel I was genuinely confused as to how people enjoy consuming them. It tastes like a stale piece of bread topped with some expired, whole milk. Their value to this earth and to cultures doesn’t make much sense. They’re not particularly high in vitamins, they taste like cardboard, and are difficult to make. Okay, maybe I judged them too harshly too fast. I let my opinion of one bad bagel escalate into a future of bagel negativity. Once I finally allowed myself to coexist neutrally with the bagel, my perspective changed. Approaching bagels from a different angle made all the difference. The satisfaction of kneading dough, testing herbs, and creating life from scratch lured me in. Watching the dry yeast bubble in excitement while preparing a collection of herbs and flavours makes me feel at home. I can feel the anticipation building up by the time the dough just barely starts to form together. Getting to knead it and let all of my energy out from throughout the week is like my version of a “runners high.” Its relieving nature helps me to expel excess anger and emotion. I think that it’s probably best that I let it out on the dough, rather than on something or someone else. It’s also not like a bad anger, it’s more of an energized one. One that drives self motivation rather than self discipline. By the time I take the bagels out of the oven and bite into their crisp, golden exterior, all of that built up emotion dissipates. I feel calm, refreshed, and relaxed. There is nothing more satisfying than making a bagel, completely from scratch. 

While in the kneading step of the bagel making process, I enjoy experimenting using flavors and herbs. Of course topping a bagel with everything seasoning, or cheese smells amazing by itself, but incorporating herbs takes it to a whole different level. Just for the aromatic aspect, my favourite go-to flavor combination is rosemary and garlic. Not the rosemary you get at the grocery store dried, and not the minced garlic you find in a jar, but the fresh sprigs and full cloves found organically in nature. My favourite part about seasoning breads and focaccias is the trip to my fresh herb garden. Living in Maine does mean that all my herbs are indoors, but I still like to imagine them prospering in their natural biome. Also, the word ‘trip’ might be a bit too generous of a noun. It’s more of a change of rooms carrying my harvesting tools. As I approach my herb collection, I get reminded of all the culinary flavour possibilities that I have yet to develop. Gently peeling individual sprigs off of the base of my plant, its aromatic nature fills my senses with joy. It’s also very joy provoking knowing that harvesting my herbs only encourages new, more quantiful growth. I continue plucking off rosemary sprigs, usually way more than I need, just so I can let my nose take up all of the aroma it possibly can. Then, I scurry over to my other herbs, chopping them carefully with my herb scissors. Another flavour combination I enjoy is chive and herbed goat cheese. I get great satisfaction using my multi-blade scissors to efficiently cut up my chives, without bruising them. 

The feeling of engaging all my senses is so grounding for me. To be able to focus on one sensory stimulation at a time helps me connect with the here and now. It soothes all of the tension being built up in my mind. Somehow, the whole process of not only making bagels, but eating them too, is reassuring to my brain.It helps me feel more satisfied when everything is not completely perfect or equivalent. Having a blob of sticky flour and water turn into an insanely smooth, pliable edible delight  is beyond fascinating. It confuses me how a combination of ingredients, heat, and time can evolve into something so different. Well I guess that’s the science and practiced patience of baking. A learning experience that turns the ordinary into something magnificent and unique while adding a touch of personalization.  

 

By Tori B-J aged 16