Approaching the summer a little tentatively

As we approach the summer Camp Runoia season, the ‘experts,’ and media tell us that covid has generated more anxiety than is typical and that our kids may be feeling it the most. According to the CDC, “Children’s mental health during public health emergencies can have both short and long term consequences to their overall health and well-being.”  It makes sense that children who have spent intensive amounts of time as part of the family unit may be reluctant to leave that safe bubble and head off into an unknown new experience no matter how fun it sounds. It’s not just new campers who may be feeling a little more anxious, parents are often surprised when longer term campers  express fears or reluctance about returning to camp. While we want camp to feel like ‘home away from home’ it may take some campers a few days to get to that feeling.

There are only 85 days until we open Camp Runoia for the summer and it is typical at this time of year to hear from a few families that their camper may be having second thoughts or is more worried than they expected about coming to camp. Some anxiety about a new experience is to be expected but debilitating concerns or persistent worry is something that should be delved into a little more deeply.

Preparation for the adventure and discussion about what to expect can be great ways to reduce anxiety, answer questions and solve perceived problems that may be more hypothetical than real.

Campers can help to get ready for camp by:

  • Looking at the website and thinking about which activities they can’t wait to try.
  • Printing the packing list and choosing uniform and finding supplies.
  • Writing down their questions and emailing the directors.
  • Figuring out on the camp map where important places are.
  • Talking through some ‘what if’s’ and how camp handles them.
  • Connecting with returning campers and pen pals to get the inside scoop
  • Practicing skills that they will need at camp – bed making, laundry sorting, hair and teeth brushing, showering.
  • Trying to use a flashlight for reading at night.
  • Practice writing letters! It’s a great way for all the family to share news.
  • Start a mindfulness skills list and have campers think about what helps them if they are worried or need a minute to regroup.

At camp kids get constant human interaction in all aspects of their daily life. They can reconnect with nature and literally live in the out of doors away from technology. They build resilience and grit as they challenge themselves in a supportive environment, can explore problem solving, and also are encouraged to have a ‘can do’ or ‘I’m not good at it yet’ attitude. For most campers anxieties about the experience typically evaporate once they are busy and engaged with camp life. There may be a few that need a little more help and our skilled team of experienced, senior staff along with our support specialist work closely to help campers reduce anxiety and have a great time. 

In this article the American Camp Association suggests that camp is a great antidote to the Covid pandemic. Camp offers kids the unique opportunity to step back into a simpler time, with no internet connection. A place where a small community can join together and support one another without judgment, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Campers benefit from being out of their homes, playing with other kids, being challenged and nurtured as they adventure into a new experience. 

It’s not only three weeks away from home, it’s only three weeks at Runoia!

We wish summer lasted so much longer.

The 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!

Love,

Aionur

 

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

 

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

The Last Monday in May

This time of year, people around our town in Maine are busy getting ready for a big weekend. Maine lifted restrictions for capacity for dining and outdoor activities and tourists and families with second homes will be flocking to the lake like Canadian geese in October.

To the other Americans Memorial Day represents family gatherings outside, grilling meals for the first time since last summer and maybe, if you are fortunate, a long weekend off from work.  For some, it means a getaway to a vacation spot. Others are cleaning up their yards, if lucky to have one, and catching up on spring cleaning.

Many people hope their plans for their local parade and celebrations honoring the people who have died serving our country in active military service are safely happening in 2021.

In the spirit of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, we are grateful for our military who are currently serving, have served or have died in active duty allowing us to run summer camp, have girls from all over safely come to spend time with other wonderful adults and experience a meaningful summer opportunity.

Love, Aionur

 

 

From Equestrian Coach to Covid Cop and Everything in Between

I’ve been involved with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association(IEA) since 2013, starting as a team coach. Over the years, I’ve fulfilled a variety of roles at the organization’s horse shows from manager to secretary to announcer to steward. During our 2021 postseason, I was called on to fulfill a new role, COVID Compliance Supervisor AKA Covid Cop.

As part of the IEA’s plan to safely return to showing, extensive guidelines regarding COVID protocols were created. As the 20-21 season went on, it became apparent that managing the implementation and enforcement of these rules fell outside of what the show manager & steward could manage, given their other duties, and the role of COVID compliance supervisor was created.

According to the press release from the IEA COVID task-force the COVID compliance supervisor should feel comfortable moving around the horse show reminding/enforcing attendees (coaches, riders, parents) to properly wear their mask, social distance, and leave immediately following their rider’s last class. Having spent my 2020 summer at Camp Runoia, I had already created great habits regarding masking, hand washing, and social distancing. I took those habits forward into my job at a local high school as we resumed hybrid in person learning beginning in October. Stepping into the role of COVID compliance supervisor was in my wheelhouse.

Having safely traveled a lot during the pandemic, I have learned that masks, physical distancing, and following CDC guidelines work! However, getting others to buy in can be challenging. Most recently at a zone finals show, I had many people come up and thank me for taking on the role. They understood that there’s still resistance to following the rules. One thing I learned early on in the pandemic was to not argue with people who weren’t following the rules, but to remind them that they signed up to participate and by doing so agreed to follow the rules. Keeping personal beliefs and politics out of the conversation, and focusing on the agreed upon rules of participation. In fact, if we all follow the rules, we can focus on having fun and enjoying the sport.

The COVID task-force worked hard to create guidelines so we could return to the sport, and consequently, we all have to follow those guidelines, or the opportunities can be taken away. I look at heading into summer the same way. I’m doing all I can to contribute to keeping our camp community safe. I got vaccinated as soon as I was able and I still wear my mask anytime I’m indoors outside of my own home or when in crowded outdoor situations. At camp, we have ACA and CDC guidelines that we have to follow.  Rules the range from how far apart heads must be while sleeping to safety equipment in activities to how our meals are prepared. I look forward to being back at Runoia in a few short weeks, surrounded by campers and staff who all believe in keeping each other safe and having fun!

By Jen Dresdow –Camp Runoia Assistant Director and Equestrian Director (preferably not a Covid Cop!)

Counting down the days and checking the lists

There are only 60 days until the first session of camp opens. It will be Camp Runoia’s 115th season on Great Pond and we are preparing for it to be the best yet. After a year of challenges, isolation and unpredictable schedules we are eagerly anticipating the routine and familiarity of camp life. The days until camp are getting shorter and the to do list are getting longer!

For some of us 60 days seems like an eternity. There is school to finish up and end of the year events to attend. As we get ready to open camp we know that 60 days will fly by as there is much to be done to get the campus and program ready to roll for the summer. 

This week the focus in the office has been on putting the finishing touches to our 9 days of staff training. The time before the campers arrive is packed with getting our seasonal staff up to speed on all things Runoia and also making sure that everything is perfectly ready to start the summer. There are certification trainings, bonding exercises, cleaning and opening of cabins and activity areas along with a whole lot of fun while building our team and getting to know each other. This year we are really working harder to include more education and awareness about diversity, equity and inclusion and have been tweaking our sessions to reflect our commitment to doing a better job. Staff will come together from many different places looking forward to the opportunity to work with Runoia campers and enjoy all that the Maine outdoors has to offer.

We have also been recruiting the last few staff to join the team, filling the final camper spaces and getting the spring new camper penpal mailing ready to go. The work in the camp office is always diverse. It’s been frequently interspersed with webinars and workshops updating us on covid protocols and best practices for the summer. The bonus of us all working remotely is that it is easy to share information and we can hop onto presentations anywhere in the country. The days are already getting exciting as we get to read letters to the directors and start to ‘meet’ the 2021 Runoia girls.

Our inboxes are filling up with questions from new families mostly about packing as campers excitedly start preparing what they will need. There are uniforms being ordered and crazy creek chairs purchased. In many homes camp is now a daily topic of conversation. 

On the campus grounds side of the work, the daffodils are blooming and it’s finally time to get into camp and start the clean up. The winter usually brings downed branches and a lot of acorns so the crew will be in to do a good pick up. It won’t be long before the grass gets its first cut, the water gets turned on and the docks all go in. It will start looking more like the camp our girls are used to once the shutters come down and the cabins are opened up. A few spiders will need to be rehomed into the woods and we will be ready to get year 115 rolling.

We want the next 60 days to be filled with excitement, with preparation and planning. For them to give us enough time to get everything done but also to fly by so that all of our summer family will be ‘home’ soon.

The power of the pen – handwritten notes are special

I know I have blogged about handwritten letters before.  Again it feels worthy of a mention. It is of great relevance as we are coming up on the camp season and are reminded that contact with the outside world through mail is so valuable. When technology is not accessible a pen and paper is a great connector.

There is some great commentary and many books written about the art and often ‘lost art’ of letter writing. It’s worth acknowledging that in our high tech times, jumping on face time or a zoom is easier than finding pen and paper and the ever illusive correct postage stamp.

I was inspired this week by a photograph on facebook from my camp friend in Australia. Her daughter had asked for letters so I had pooped a note in the mail and after a long and arduous journey she finally had it in her hands. The pure joy on her face was amazing and she apparently slept with it under her pillow. She has never met me and as her mum explained our connection, they looked on the map at how far the letter had traveled. A lot of lessons were learned just through a piece of mail that took a few minutes to write and the cost of a stamp. I am excitedly awaiting my letter back from her. 

The majority of people that I send postal mail to are my camp friends. While we do keep in touch via electronic means we mostly write to each other. It’s so fun to get an unexpected note in the mail and then know it’s your turn to write back at some point. It’s very casual and doesn’t feel like an obligation, we share daily life news and stay up to date with each other when we feel compelled to.

Mail at camp has extra value,  when you are away from home a fun card, or a letter is a treat at rest hour. It is great to see girls get writing too! As it is there only means of communicating there are stacks of letters waiting to go out in the camp mail bag every morning. I hope parents cherish those notes from camp even the ones that just say ‘camp is fun’ in big letters across the whole card. 

I love sorting the mail at camp, the fun stickers on the envelopes, the scrawly handwriting from younger siblings and the formal notes from older relatives. I laugh at the bills that I know will likely go unopened until August. It always reminds me of our larger camp community, the campers that have graduated that still write to camp friends, the parents who were alums and carry on the traditions of Runoia in their family and all of those people at home wondering how much fun we are having on Great Pond. It’s a whole pile of love coming in letter form.

We truly can’t wait for the summer season, so stock up on your stationary because we love getting mail!

College Search Likens to Camp Search by Jennifer Dresdow

The college search begins very similarly to the camp search with factors such as location, size, cost and activity/academic focus at the forefront. As a parent to a current senior, COVID has added another layer to the complex process. Not only has it complicated campus visits, but college response to COVID is now a factor as well when looking at pros/cons of campuses. 

We, my daughter Natalie & I, were actually on a college visit trip last March as the country went into various stages of lockdown and campuses sent their students home. Two of our visits were outright canceled and two modified. We’ve been able to visit campuses this fall with screenings and limitations.

Despite all these hurdles, Natalie has been able to visit her top choice schools this fall and has been accepted to her top choices and is waiting to hear from one last school before making a final decision. Having attended Runoia as a camper for nine summers, a CIT for one summer, and working as Junior Counselor last summer, Natalie found camp to be an obvious choice around which to mold her college essay. Specifically she wrote about Camp in the Time of Covid. Having learned so many lessons about perseverance and the power of camp during this trying time in our history, she was anything but short of material.

As an equestrian, a college with a strong equestrian team was a priority for her. Second, she plans to major in math education, with a goal of teaching middle school math in the future, so a strong teaching program was a necessity. As far as location, Natalie knew she didn’t want to be too cold. As much as she loves Maine in the summer, far north schools were eliminated early. Natalie attends a large high school with 400 in her class, but loves the small community of Runoia, so she narrowed her search to schools with enrollment under 2500. Finally, while gender was not a factor, she has two all girls schools on her final list. Having spent eleven summers at Runoia full season, she values the single gender experience and knows the benefits of building quality relationships with other women.

Senior year has been challenging, as many of your have experienced. Our school system started late due to COVID. Then we were virtual, switched to hybrid, with Natalie attending every two days, then back to virtual after Thanksgiving. We returned to hybrid mode last week for our 2nd semester. Natalie has missed connecting with her friends at school. The riding barn she belongs to has proven to be a place of solace.  A naturally social distanced sport, riding is one thing she can do and it feels fairly normal. 

Just like we hope camp can feel a little more normal this summer, we hope some spring rites of passage can happen. A carefully sought after prom dress still hangs in her closet from last spring and cap and gown are ordered for graduation. Working at camp last summer has left us both with a “Masks up, let’s go” attitude. We have continued to explore schools and take safe trips with the “new normal” precautions. We are both ready to dive into another summer at Runoia and then settling Natalie into college this fall, wherever her final decision may land her.

Self-Care: Integrating Time for You in the Hectic Schedule of Daily Life

You are catapulting around, working from your hectic home circus, syncing schedules between

hybrid education for your children, after school engagement, managing zoom meetings, connecting with your partner and family, caring for your parents, and hey, by the way, what’s for dinner?

As a reminder to myself and all of us, taking time for self-care during the pandemic is critical. One easy way to ground yourself is through stretching, yoga, movement with meditation. It all starts by rolling out the mat. Can you get up 20 minutes earlier? Can you escape for a lunch time stretch? 20-30 minutes is all you need for restorative healing and self-care.

At camp we are so lucky to have alumna Kara Benken Garrod lead both adults and campers in yoga practice. She teaches yoga in Ohio in the off season and generously helps guide us at camp.  

When we are not at camp, we love at home yoga with Adrienne Mishler.  Her brilliant and accessible at home yoga practice and her annual gift to all of us – 30 days of yoga in January. It is available to you any time of the day for free. She is so generous and beautiful to share her vision about yoga as a lifestyle with millions of viewers.

There are plenty of ways to get your children involved too. Ideas about yoga with children include stories and play about yoga, to classes  Here’s a fun way to introduce yoga, either a deck of yoga cards with some ideas about connecting breath and meditation or a poster of yoga moves for children to do on their own. Just have them roll out their mat and enjoy the fun!

Meanwhile, you can take a deep breath (breath in love, breath out fear) and grab your afternoon cup of coffee to get ready for the next 8 hours of catapulting around!

Love, Aionur