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.

The Silver LIning of Covid

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

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

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

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

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

Monthly and Random

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

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

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




The 2021 Name Story

The ‘name story’ is a Runoia log tradition – who knows how long it goes back but it’s a fun part of our end of season celebrations. It includes the last name of all the staff and campers who were at camp for the whole summer; around 75 names. It is a little more entertaining when read aloud so use your creative voice and have a go!


A Fine Maine day in Lucyland

It was another ‘Fine Maine Day’ on Great Pond that started with an early Marin Bell to wake up the sleepy campers. It was a blue sky day with White fluffy clouds and Raya’s of sun shining down on Camp Runoia. Dresdowed up in their camp uniforms counselors were grabbing their coffee and Mullen over their schedules for the day.

The male staff were hanging out at the picnic tables, ‘Howes it going?’ Johnson Murray asked Alexander. “I have a Budeiri ache and Mahedy really hurts” he replied, “I think I’m coming down with the camp cold.” Oh no! I hope you don’t get the Hoffmann.’ Williams been sick for a week and I bet you Tena bucks Williamson, Jackson gets it next.That Colbourn’s man and we are out of cough drops. Emerson don’t be such a Dorsch I’ve been shopping on Amazon and have all the medicine we need in my Ekart I just need to click the magic button.

It was a busy camp day, trips were out and Melvani was full of the Blauberg team while Morrison, Davis had Chotas the whites. Garcia for closing the Dvorak yelled the counselor before the campers in their Hobbs nailed hiking boots, wandered up and over the Berryhill. They enjoyed their fill of the delicious blueberries and raspberries and all of their fingers were Dyed from the juice. Watch out for that giant Brown Snyder, Russelling in the Mulry bushes yelled the Germain counselor. ‘Get Wachenschwanz against that Bolduc- Jackson while I take care of it. Einzig, three I’ll trap it in that Cavenagh and we can get on with our picking.

Using Morse code, kids in campcraft were enjoying sending smoke signals across the lake.

The waterfront counselors were just getting back from the Marini. They were docking and the driver yelled, ‘Put a Hitch in that rope Grace so the boat doesn’t float away after our Bass fishing adventure with Jacob.’

Up at the Zahn the chickens were Glucking around the barnyard , I bet those chickens are wishing they were Friedman. Riders were Cantrelling around the arena, Korineing over jumps and having a blast.

There were a Millares of things going on. It was time for games at the fields, ‘I’m Sirois said Petersen, Martin,I was supposed to turn on the water Fontaine so that campers could fill their water bottles before the Tenorio of ten kickball game. ‘It Dostie matter, they used the sinks and are Cohen over there to get started.’ replied the sports counselor. Campers excitedly took their places and the Kells rang for the games to begin.

Chef and the kitchen staff were cooking up some Clancy food in the kitchen. ‘Make sure that Durham is Cook-Wright yelled chef ‘the Parsons from the village church are coming for lunch’. I added some Fennelley and Mintz to bring out the flavor and we can serve it with a fine Sinott grigio and Pina coladas. The campers can have their favorite Heubergers with Alvadrado’s so they won’t be Jonesing for the fancy food. I’m sure we have some Perrinier water too so it will be a treat.’ ‘For clean up and mopping Albanisi on us today, we only have to Shieferstein up the Paquette floor in Lodge before lunch.’

It was a perfect day to be at Camp Runoia

Second session – rolled in ready!

Well we were certainly sad to say goodbye to our first session girls but the second session came in with a fanfare! With a couple of days to catch our breath and get camp clean and ready to go we excitedly welcomed our new crew. These campers hit the camp ground running, laughing and ready to roll. They are excited and ambitious, playful and engaged. We have spent the first week getting to know each other and participating in activities by shack group. We hope that when all camp covid testing comes back we will be able to tag up and meet more friends around camp.

It’s been a busy week with ‘Fine Maine Days’, some of which were a little of the liquid sunshine variety. We tried new activities, started arts projects, went out hiking, sailed, skied and rode. The days are full, from breakfast to milk and crackers. Campers get the most out of every minute.  The tennis, badminton, gaga and tether ball courts are full at free time and the tree house is often occupied with gaggles of girls playing cards, reading or just hanging out. Having time to just be with other kids in nature feels like such a gift this year and our girls are truly so appreciative.

We have crammed a lot into the week from campfire and cookout to picking our blue/white teams. We had a lot of girls following their mothers or sisters onto the White team this session including the daughter of former White team captain Heather Duckworth! It is great to keep our camp traditions and we also spend time learning songs and cheers  and repeating our camp history so that the next generation of Runoia girls knows how we all get to be here celebrating 115 summers.

We instigated cabin inspection this session as ‘living in harmony with nature’ in your shack is perhaps not quite what we had in mind! Campers are doing a better job with cabin clean up and there are treats on the horizon for those that get high scores all week. Sometimes it is really hard to convince a 12 year old that being a good sweeper really is a great life skill.

EP’s have been fun, some active like capture the flag and some high on performance with an intense lip synch battle complete with celebrity judges. 

We can’t wait to see what the next week brings and hope campers are writing some good letters home filled with stories about all that they are getting up to.

It’s the best days of summer on Great Pond! Camp Runoia is our home away from home, the best camp ever, making memories and friends that will last a lifetime.

Collect Loose Change – Start Now!

Camp Runoia families’ efforts to collect loose change from their homes, autos, drawers,
dresser tops and neighbors is making a difference in

Maine. Thanks to our campers who arrived with their change purses filled, and in some cases baggies full of coins, AND those families who mailed in their collection, we were able to raise $344.90. Matt Hoidal and his vision at World of Change WOC has made giving as easy as this

  1. Collect loose change from around your home, vehicles and from relatives
  2. Bring it to camp
  3. We combine it all and Alex delivers it to WOC
  4. WOC partners with organizations in Maine (and other states for other organizations donating).

This is the second summer Runoia collected and donated to WOC as well as our December holiday gift on behalf of our 2019 campers and families. Our donations have contributed to feeding people, providing school supplies, supplying beds to children who sleep on the floor, and more. Check out what WOC is doing and where your change goes.

Our 2020 donation was donated to The Locker Project. From TLP’s website :

Maine has the highest child hunger rate in New England and one of the highest in the nation. One in five Maine children regularly experiences food insecurity. One in three students in Cumberland County and more than half in the Portland schools are at risk of going hungry.

See how The Locker Project is managing to operate with donations and volunteers during the pandemic.

Be on the look out for reminders to collect change for next summer and find out how you can start your own collection in your community with WOC’s ideas about birthdays, Bat Mitvahs, school and business collection sites.

Last year we were able to provide backpacks and school supplies as well as one bedroom set for two children. This year we are feeding many children. Thank you for those of you who collected and contributed to make a difference. It feels good to provide food and meals to children who are food insecure and help to support them to have the band width to learn and participate in education without being hungry.







Sharing our Update to Staff

What’s New for Staff at Camp Runoia Harmonyville for Covid-19

This important document communicates what we (you and everyone at Runoia) will be doing to help arrive healthy and stay healthy at camp while having fun, allowing campers to interact meaningfully with peers, building life skills and experiencing camp and the outdoors for three weeks this summer. 

Training and Management: This year, our medical staff will be trained on COVID-19 management procedures and be equipped with PPE when needed. We have a health cabin to manage the regular needs of camper and staff health issues and an isolation area ready to handle anyone who may get COVID-19.

Health Care Workers: We are committed to running camp in a responsible and health-focused way. To figure this out, we are listening closely to health care professionals and the relevant authorities (for instance, Maine CDC, National CDC, American Camp Association) to ensure we have the most accurate and current information. New guidelines from the CDC came out today.  We are “camp experts,” and have brought onto our team medical professionals to guide our process. Our doctors are also camp parents so really ‘get it’ from all angles of camp care.

Hygiene: We have raised our sanitation standards to match and exceed recommendations from health care professionals. We will increase the frequency with which we perform deep cleanings of shared surfaces and indoor facilities, and deploy extra sanitation teams throughout the day. “Teams” means all of us staff/counselors/administrators/kitchen crew and health team. There will be hand washing stations throughout camp, along with hand sanitizer dispensers (all of this is new) and counselors will be prepared to model best hygiene practices. Campers and staff will shower daily.

Monitoring: In order to ensure camper and staff health this summer we will add monitoring elements including daily temperature and symptoms checks first thing in the morning. In a cabin “household” counselors will take and record temperatures and symptoms of everyone in the household. 

Guidelines: In keeping with public guidelines, we will modify parts of our camp program to achieve physical distancing standards. For example, our Dining Hall will operate in shifts this summer to prevent overlap between neighborhood groups. We also plan to operate camp activities with smaller household (cabin) groups that will not interact with other households unless there is appropriate social distancing and sometimes face coverings. 

Self-Quarantine and Health Screening: Staff will be required to monitor their own health and practice low-risk/low-density distancing 14 days before they arrive. Staff will quarantine on-site before camp and campers will be asked to self-quarantine before and after camp. Counselors will have a health check upon arrival. Campers will have a health check at drop-off on Opening Day and everyone joining the camp community will be tested. We will adjust the way we manage Opening and Closing Day to minimize interaction between camp families.  

Camp in a Bubble: Parents will not be allowed on campus on opening and closing day. Counselors will help all their household campers unpack and organize their rooms.There will be no outside visitors during the summer. We will limit entrances and exits to and from camp property to essential services only. 

Staff have made the extra commitment not to leave camp in a vehicle or go to any other place except camp property and exercise in the area of camp (including walking/running/biking down the Point Road or Woodland Camp Road) during their time off. 

Illness at Camp: In the event that someone does get sick at camp this summer, we have multi-staged quarantine and isolation procedures that will allow us the time to determine the best response, including whether or not the ill camper or staff member will be able to rejoin the camp population after a period of time.  We will have a team of RNs to care for anyone being tested for COVID and isolated. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or you contract COVID-19 at camp, we will have a comfortable place on campus for you to live until we can make a plan with you.

Communication: Camp Runoia will communicate with parents and staff in a thorough and transparent manner. We recognize the importance of sharing the best information available as quickly as possible.  The information also changes and we are providing updates to families and staff. 

This summer, we aspire to be better than ever.  Thoughtful and detailed communication is more important than ever in keeping our community well-informed and highly-prepared. 


Community and Camp and Connecting

Everything about camp is about building community and becoming part of something bigger than just yourself: practicing empathy, inclusiveness and kindness. Being humble when that “oh no” moment happens. Picking up the pieces, reaching out to those you may have affected and reconnecting. At Runoia we also connect with our local community, our Maine community and stay partnered with parents, families, grown up campers, alumnae and more.

We reach beyond Runoia to our local community and they are changed by who we are, too.   Runoia brings a global presence to our small town in Maine. Typically, we have 7-12 different countries represented at any one time at Runoia and they get to know our local area. Parents shop, eat, stay. Campers get out of camp on trips to the Maine coast and to the mountains. Staff enjoy the local area and Portland as well as the peaks of Maine’s mountains and from its rock bound coast to its lakeside villages. People know of Maine because of camp and often Belgrade Lakes, Maine becomes near and dear to their hearts.

Runoia is known in our community from our youngest campers riding in the July 4th parade, our presence at our local farm CSA, our involvement with organizations like the Great Pond Yacht Club, volunteering for pick up on ocean beaches, the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the Belfast Lobster Fest, the Belgrade Library 5 K or the local Aqua Fest, Eyes on the Water/Invasive Plant Lookout, Loon Count — no matter the occasion, Runoia girls get out and help others.  We collect food for our local food pantry and partner with World of Change to help others.

Our alumnae have started business in Maine, bought businesses in Maine, go to college and work in Maine.  Whether it’s Maine Magazine, the Portland Racket Club, Sherman’s Book Store, Sugarloaf, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, UMO/UMF, the Botanical Gardens, massage therapy, construction companies, education and STEM, teachers and administrators in public and private schools, State and National Parks, there are Runoia alumnae scattered working all over the state!

Many alumnae have taken residence in the summer on Great Pond and the surrounding lakes and some alumnae have bought property in Maine and relocated here to raise their families. Campers become connected to Maine in some way forever and Maine camps connect the world to Maine.



“Remember who you are and what you represent.” 

Jody Sataloff  – Guest Blog

“Remember who you are and what you represent.”  Back in my camp counselor days in the early 70s (good grief, was it really that long ago?), this was the abiding ethic, the ever present rule of law, that Betty Cobb expected us  to live by.  Anytime we left camp proper she sent us off with that reminder.  We all rolled our eyes and scoffed at this repeated admonition.  I suspect that most, like me, didn’t appreciate the value of those words until we were true adults with kids of our own. 

Remember who you are and what you represent.  Those eight words pack a punch.  For me, they pretty much represent the myriad of life lessons I learned at Camp Runoia.

  1. Who are you, and who do you want to be?  Are you a leader?  Are you a risk taker?  Are you an optimist? Are you kind, empathetic, generous?  Runoia taught me to try and be all those things.  I might have been one of them when I arrived there….I hope I was many by the time I left.  I remember the thrill as a young counselor of being in charge of my first camping trip with young girls — that rushing sense of responsibility, the new feeling of a sort of power to be in charge of the kind of experience others would have.  And I remember the nervousness of leading my first overnight sailing trip, recognizing the risk of all that could go wrong, but forcing myself to charge into the experience with enthusiasm.  I remember being stuck on a rainy day in the boathouse with a class of young sailors, miserable with the weather and being “grounded…and realizing the importance of putting a sunny side on the experience and coming up with games like Dr. Knickerbocker and Pin the Telltale on the Sail.  I remember wanting nothing more than a quiet rest hour to myself and having a 5th shacker suffering from homesickness need comfort that took up the entire hour.  Wonderful growth, wonderful life lessons.
  2. We are all part of something bigger, be it a camp, a family, a place of employment, a school….and when we are out in the world, our actions reflect back on that bigger thing we are part of.  It’s important to remember that, that what we say and what we do has a giant ripple effect and we have a responsibility to those to whom we are attached in one way or another.  We represent them.  We are obliged to do it well.
  3. Throughout our lives we will encounter one tough situation after another.  It’s not the ones we walk away from that are remembered.  It’s the ones we face, and how we choose to face them.  Remember who you are and what you represent.  For me, going through life, recalling these words, I try to reach deep inside myself and locate the strong girl/woman Runoia  helped me to become.  I try to make decisions based on that strength and on the good judgement I learned to try to use in life.  While at camp you had no choice but to become flexible, learn to make compromises while you were living in close proximity to others, combat fear to try new things, be kind and caring all along the way.  In other words, you learned to be responsible.  And learning this at camp, it was all important to me when I had kids of my own to instill this same sense of responsibility, this same sense that we do not walk through life alone, that our steps have consequences on all whose lives we touch, that we owe it to them, to our families, our friends, our co-workers, our communities to take those steps with courage, with strength, with compassion, with grace.


I carry Betty’s phrase with me throughout both my personal and professional lives.  Whenever my kids walked out the door, I heard it emanating from my mouth.  I have it in my head when I speak or act in public.  It is just one of the many Runoia building blocks that have hopefully made me a better person than I ever could have been without it, without Runoia.




Now is the Time

Thank a mentor before it is too late. The other day I was thinking about my 5th grade teacher and how, through his teaching, I was inspired to delve into creative writing, love math and grow curious about science. I think about him frequently. I searched for him online and found out I was too late; he had passed away in 2016.

Like school and other child development experiences, the camp experience transforms lives by increasing self-esteem, connecting face to face with people, building skills in activities and generating meaningful friendships with peers and adults. If you are lucky, you come across someone who influenced you in a way that has lasted throughout your life.

I have a camp counselor like this in my life. Although we aren’t in touch often, the learning experience from the summers of 1974-1975 lives with me in my daily life. That summer I started training for Junior Maine Guide and
she was my counselor: coach, guide and teacher. In the 15th summer of life, I was saved from my own insolent teenage personality. I was physically and mentally challenged. I thrived on the JMG program (solo canoeing, axe work, fire building, cooking, and shelter building) and had to stay focused to learn those skills. I lived in the present. Our JMG group canoed for five days on the St. Croix river – we read rapids and then “shot” the rapids – mostly successfully excepting a flipped canoe that wrapped around a rock. We went to testing camp and had to exhibit our skills through written and physical tests. We lived on our own without adults checking to see we were doing things right. What a learning experience. It was exhilarating and a great diversion from my self-proclaimed boring life.

Little did I know how much those two summers at Camp Runoia and the enduring patience and guidance of a camp counselor would stay with me. Those summers helped shaped who I am today.  I owe this to a person who believed in me through thick and thin and even in my less gracious moments. This week we had lunch together and I had the chance to thank her for who she was for me 44 years ago. Although it wasn’t for my benefit, it felt good.

Who influenced you in your life? Now is the time to reflect on who meant something to you through camp or school and reach out to your mentor to thank her or him.

Transferring camp skills to school

The camp bell is soon to be replaced by the school bell.

When Runoia girls arrive home from camp their parents often tell us that not only do they seem to have grown a few inches but that they are moving through the world with more confidence and have added to their inventory of skills.  During their time at residential camp girls acquire life skills that transfer to all aspects of their lives and are particularly useful when they head back to school. Acknowledging this skill development and verbalizing with girls what they can take from camp back to the rest of their year can be valuable and may smooth the back to school transition for those that find it a little bumpy.

Camp bus
We’ll take the camp bus over a school bus!







At camp girls often become more self-reliant, they learn to make new friends, manage their personal belongings and get from place to place on time and in the right attire. Day to day living tasks become their responsibility. They problem solve, communicate and advocate for themselves every day. The Runoia community is rich with opportunities for girls to push beyond their comfort zones, try new things and build on their strengths. Campers often surprise themselves with their new found competence and confidence. They learn that with perseverance and dedication that they can do things that once seemed difficult or that make take multiple tries to master. They learn that they have value and a place in our community, that they are respected for who they are and that there are people who want to build relationships with them. Making independent choices are a huge part of a Runoia camper experience and they affect all aspects of a girl’s daily living and camp experience.

Our favorite kind of backpack! The challenges of hiking a mountain can fill your child’s tool kit with skills that transfer to school.

Intentionally re affirming your daughter’s summer successes, reminding her of the great camp friends that will be there next summer and actively naming all of the skills that she now  has in her tool kit can really help strengthen confidence through those first sometimes daunting back to school days.

We wish all of our campers a smooth transition back to school and if they need a ray of camp sunshine to brighten their days enrollment for 2020 is opening this week! For some of our teachers on the Runoia staff school is just a filler job between summers!

We are officially starting the countdown to Camp Runoia’s 114th season on Great Pond.