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.

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.

 

The Essay that Got Me Into College!


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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Aionur

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Aionur

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 

 

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