To the Runoia Gals: An Open from Your Teary-Eyed Counselor

You Wonderful and Spectacular Ladies,

I never imagined how beautiful a shooting star could be when you’re sitting next to someone who has never seen one. I never knew how wonderfully exhausting a game of Gaga with a group of 8-year-olds could be (or how often they would beat me!). I never realized that it was possible to sing so much and so loudly that it would take eight weeks for my voice to return to normal, or laugh so hard that my stomach would ache for hours. When I packed my bags for my first summer at camp, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I came to you for that first summer, I considered myself pretty well cooked. I had it in mind that I, as the adult, was there to provide a life-altering, fun, and unforgettable experience for you. While that was and has always remained my primary goal, I now see that you amazing young ladies, with whom I was lucky enough to spend three unforgettable summers, have had a far greater impact on me than I could ever have imagined.

When you become a camp counselor you hear all about how much your campers will learn from you, for better or for worse. But what you don’t hear as often is how much you will learn from you.

You’ve taught me many things in my three summers at Runoia, more than I could count and definitely more than I could ever share with you. But I would like to try to share some. You taught me about the curative nature of a hug from four children at once. You showed me how important it is to laugh and have fun every time the opportunity presents itself. You taught me how to “whip and nay nay,” wobble, dougie, and do all sorts of things that would make me hip and with it! You helped me realize how rewarding it can be to share my love of the water, which I discovered as a child, with others. You showed me every day that we are all at our most beautiful when we are being ourselves and when we are happy. I saw, first hand, the transformative power of a summer with friends in an environment that encourages growth and fosters an undeniable feeling of complete and utter happiness.

The past three summers have been the most indescribably amazing part of my life. I cannot thank you girls enough for all that you have shared with me, or your parents for helping you become the unbelievable and inspiring young women that you are. Runoia gals, I will carry the lessons you have taught me throughout my entire life, and will remember you always.

Thank you for helping me become who I am today and I hope that somewhere along the way, I may have helped you.

With love,

Your Teary-Eyed Counselor



Stretching comfort zones

I spent this past weekend at the annual retreat for my women’s chorus.  It was a beautiful Maine weekend and we stayed at a camp by the coast with the typical set up of bunks and group dining.  I have been a member of this group for ten years and enjoy spending time with a diverse group of women whose only true commonality is their love of choral singing.

Team building
Team building

During the two day weekend we were challenged musically, engaged socially and built community together.  For many of the women being away from the comforts of home with a group of people they don’t know all that well is quiet a step out of their comfort zone.  Not unlike the first day of camp at Runoia we played name games, shared details about ourselves that others did not know and worked together in order to break through some of our nervous reservations.

I am always amazed by the outcomes that happen in such a short space of time.  By the second night most of the group had the confidence to participate in the ‘talent’ show and had bonded in a unique way.  It seems that when we can put aside the rigors and familiarities of our everyday lives then we are more able to open ourselves to stretching the boundaries of our comfort zones.

Talent show!
Talent show!

At Runoia we challenge our girls every day to step beyond the safety of their comfort zone.  Even for the adults and regardless of how many summers they have spent on Great Pond they are also stretched and push the limits of their own comfort zone.  A sleep away experience provides us all with an opportunity to grow both individual and as a great part of the whole group.  Seeing what a group of sometimes reluctant to participate middle aged women got out of two days at ‘camp’ reinforced for me how life changing a session at Runoia can be for young girls.

While I am certainly already counting down the days to Runoia 2017 and seeing my summer family again I am glad to have had the opportunity to continue being challenged in a different group which is just as dear to my heart.

What’s Up After Camp?!

Our Runoia season ended in a whirlwind – the White Team was victorious, the cotillion fire was bright, the “see you laters” and “farewells”, hugs and tears were heavy and overall the memories of the summer are emblazoned in our minds.

What happens after camp? While many families vacation and return home to prepare for  pre-season sports and school, Camp Runoia is still busy with events around the lakes in August.

Weekend One after camp: Runoia alumnae came from far and near to gather by the shores of Great Pond for a celebration of the 110th summer and re-connections and new connections. Some came to see what camp is like now and some came to enjoy the peacefulness and calm, sit by a campfire, read the Logs and sing camp songs.

Singing around the Camp Fire at Runoia's Reunion
Singing around the Camp Fire at Runoia’s Reunion

Others came to fulfill their part of fundraising for the Betty Cobb Campership Fund and make the now famous swim to Oak Island part of their fund raising feather in a (swim)cap.

The Famous Oak Island Swim - now a Campership Fund Raiser!
The Famous Oak Island Swim – now a Campership Fund Raiser!

Weekend Two: Cobb family and friends descend upon camp for a relaxing and fun filled weekend. ’nuff said.

Gathering Before the Race at the Runoia Beach
Family Fun
Family Fun

Weekend Three: The Great Pond Yacht Club holds the annual “Hurricane Cup” at Camp Runoia. Super fun sailing with 15 boats in the race this year.

Weekend Four: Coming up! The Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance will held the 7th annual “Run for the Lakes” From Runoia’s gate. An out and back 5K, professionally timed event. Find your registration info here: or

Pretty soon it will be pumpkin season around camp. Enjoy the start back to school! And look for emails from camp about sign up for next summer!


News from Runoia July 31

Ms Tacky Runoia Judges
Ms Tacky Runoia Judges

The weeks have flown by this summer. It’s impossible to believe two weeks of our final session have ended today. The good news? Tomorrow is another full week of camp! That means another week of majors, another week of trips in the beautiful state of Maine, more Blue White competition and team captain elections. More fun evening programs, skill building, poignant moments, beautiful sunsets, friendships strengthened, life long skills and memories created and let’s face it, more amazing desserts! Today when almost all of us were in camp, we took our “formal” photos for the Log and in fact, Jeanne’s word of the day today was the word formal! She’s so clever.

This past week we have had a counselor hunt, a beach party and  Ms. Tacky Runoia with Tori and Charlotte taking the Jr. and Sr. crowns.

Harmony Land Camp, our new camp for 7 & 8 year olds ended this week and our 5 little friends departed – we can’t wait to see them next summer again!

Yesterday we had 25 campers plus wonderful and helpful counselors run a 5K to support our local library. Yay Runoia runners!

Runoia Runners at the Belgrade Library 5 K
Runoia Runners at the Belgrade Library 5 K

Some of our full season campers attended the Lupine Farm horse show in Vassalboro, Maine. Congrats to all who attended and participated. Here’s a snapshot of some of those who were there! Go Runoia Riders!

Full season horse show
A few brave Runoia girls who have been training and working all summer attended Junior Maine Guide Test Camp this week; a five day encampment where our campers camp together, cook meals together and are tested on skills ranging from their encampment and food to

JMG Candidates at Testing Camp
JMG Candidates at Testing Camp

map and compass, solo canoe, fire building, ax work, environmental essay, tree identification, first aid and more. It’s a grueling and wonderful week. This week 69 campers and CITs from over 8 Maine camps participated and tested their knowledge and skills. More information on the JMG program is available here

More trips including 6th and 7th shacks and 3rd and 4th shacks went out and returned to Bigelow (backpacking on the famous Appalachian Trail), Flagstaff Lake, Oak Island trip on Great Pond and a Camden Hills trip to the beautiful coast of Maine. Day trips included Senior Village and Ocho to Popham Beach and 4th shack to Morse Mt. hike through the salt marshes to the beach at the Morse Mt. Bates College conservation area.

Today we’ve played a lot of sports and enjoyed the lake as well including a special event of Blue White Archery Tournament to end the week and begin another! Shoot well Runoia Archers!



The Most Amazing Part of Runoia – by Jai

When I was five years old I went to Camp Runoia for a week to try it out, and ended up staying for seven weeks.  My Grandmother was Betty Cobb, but she made sure not to coddle me through my experience.  She allowed me to make my own friends and memories.  For eleven summers I went to Runoia as a camper.  It became my second home, the place where I found myself, gained confidence, learned life long skills, discovered independence, made some of my best friends, and still have my fondest memories.

Fast forward to 2012, when I began working at Runoia with my mom with my two children in tow.  It wasn’t until that summer that I realized how magical this place really is, as I watched my two girls start to experience some of the same things I did when I was five.  These girls love Runoia.

Kids on the Rock

When we were recently up for Memorial Day weekend, their excitement was evident to everyone around us.  My five year old screeched all the way down Point Road.  They jumped out of the car and didn’t know where to go first: the barn, the waterfront, the tree house… and camp wasn’t even in session yet.  To watch them have the most beautiful place to explore, and gain that same self confidence I did, is a dream come true. They are going to learn to canoe, rock climb, start a camp fire, and learn songs that campers sang 100 years ago, while making life long friends and memories. My girls are going to grow up with a sense of self worth and strength.  To me, that is the most amazing part of Runoia.

Dedication to the Camp Runoia Dining Hall

In the center of camp is a special place. Its hub endures the hustle and bustle of Camp Runoia’s daily flow. We greet it with the pattering of feet as we fall out from flag raising and it shudders at the end of the day as milk gets spilled upon its floors and crackers crumble into happy mouths. We sing and fill the rafters with graces, bobos and birthday songs.

Camp Runoia 1950s DIning Hall
Camp Runoia – 1930s DIning Hall

Where else besides cabins do we spend two and a half hours almost every day with an assorted group of random people? Where else could you find thousands of red and white flowered and plain squares? Like a silent movie, benches and chairs get moved in and out, up on top of tables and down again. It is only furniture but it’s furniture that fills its innards with substance and fortitude.

The Dining Hall is the Center of our Days at Camp
The Dining Hall is the Center of our Days at Camp

Probably the person who spent the most time within its screened walls was Johnny.  For 54 summers Marion “Johnny” Johnson sat regally reigning from the corner of the Runoia Dining Hall by the flagpole at Table 5. To date, some of her special sayings are shared in that very same corner. Betty’s Table became, and still is, an icon of good manners, quietly closing doors, trying new foods and cleaning plates. Counselors who return to camp for a couple years adopt their own table and create their own legacies with the campers who share meals around them.

From the 1950s to the 2010s - Camp Runoia's Dining Hall Stands Proud!
From the 1950s to the 2010s – Camp Runoia’s Dining Hall Stands Proud!

Betty and Diane raised their newborn children under her eaves. Alex, K and other camp parents over the summers have done the same. Campers have laughed, cried, screamed, and shrieked with delight amidst the pine paneling.  The hum of the water cooler adorned with the magically changing poster provides a watering hole for many.  Each corner has its own echo, each it’s own feeling. Late night sardines has been played in all the nooks and crannies. Dances and casino halls, specialty restaurants and rainy day games have transformed her façade at times. Snacks, studying for JMG, package surprises, the mail bag, counselors’ coffee and board games have all been part of its personality.  On its walls, some over 100 years old, banners and posters, signs and memorabilia hang to be seen by all. It is the epicenter of our daily sustenance, the Mother Ship of our excursions, the source of many good times and tastes.

The 2006 Log is dedicated to the Dining Hall, to all its bumps and leaks and all its glory.

The Runoia Dining Hall at Night: Glowing like a Japanese Lantern
The Runoia Dining Hall at Night: Glowing like a Japanese Lantern

Traditional books

Reading aloud, a classic Runoia tradition

At camp we love the tradition of reading a book out loud to campers at night in the shacks before lights out.  I am sure that like it is at Runoia, story time is a revered part of the day in many homes.  As my children have aged the density of the books and length of reading time has significantly increased. What was once a pile of picture books that took maybe 5-10 minutes to read through is now at least a 30 minute sojourn into a hefty novel.

Even with kids of different ages and interests we often hit on a book that everyone wants to listen to.  After finding a pile of old Nancy Drew books in the Runoia library we have recently traveled down a path of reading older children’s literature.  This not not only stimulates our imaginations as we read about places far beyond out imaginations but these books also generate many interesting conversations about life for children  in ‘the olden days.’

Here are some of our recent favorites with our ‘what were they thinking observations and questions?!’

Enid Blyton was a favorite author of my childhood.  We had these books shipped over from England so that my kids could enjoy them too.

“I mean really Mum, like you would let us go traipsing all over the countryside with just a basket of sandwiches.”  “You probably shouldn’t climb giant trees without telling your parents what you are up to”


“Mum if we were gone for a whole day and had just vanished you’d call the police right?”  Narnia







“Wow there is no chance I’d be traveling on a boat by myself from India to New York if I were only 12 years old!”







“I think if I went adventuring I certainly wouldn’t be wearing a pretty dress.  She really should wear jeans.”






We would love to know what you are reading.  We will be looking for suggestions for the Runoia summer book club in the Spring.

Enjoy curling up with a good book and don’t forget to make it more fun by reading aloud with your family or friends.  You never know how it will stimulate conversations and your own imaginations.



Camp Runoia community partnerships in action

Our Community Partnerships

We are very lucky to have in our local area some great organizations that fit well with Camp Runoia’s mission and philosophy.  These local groups are always willing to support our camp program and share their expertise and knowledge with our staff and campers.    There are many benefits to be gained by enhancing our regular camp program  utilizing local expertise.

Through the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes we have had the benefit of nature experts on our local area hikes.  They also provide educators to talk about Maine’s natural history and provide some great Chewonki animal presentations that our younger campers attend.  It is a great place to stop by if you are in town.

mlrc-logo-for-siteThe Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance provides us with access to a great deal of local land in conservation easement.  With a focus on water quality and watershed protection we are happy to learn from them about preserving the fantastic quality of our lake and are proud owners of the Lake Smart award.

logoHardy Girls Healthy Women based in nearby Waterville is dedicated to the health and well being of girls and women. HGHWPam has previously served on the board for HGHW helping to ensure that all girls, everywhere get the best empowerment opportunities.  HGHW has designed a curriculum specifically to use with girls at camp.



The partnerships go both ways; our CIT’S volunteer at the kids table for Lake Day, we support lake protection initiatives and milfoil eradication work and do as much as we can to engage with securing the future of our local area.


Partnerships make our community stronger and help our girls to feel more connected to the place that is their summer home away from home.

The World Outside of Camp (WOoC)

Guest blogger, Carrie Murphey, writes a poignant passage about camp here:

In this moment snugged squarely into the season of gratitude and giving, I want to try to share my gratitude for what camp has given me over the years.

While camp is never far from my heart, the truth is, I haven’t worked at camp in five years now. I love my job as a college dean but I must report, the World Outside of Camp (W.O.o.C. for the fellow acronym-makers out there) is ever-so-slightly less amazing than every single moment is of camp. As such, I find myself thinking of camp often. Occasionally, it’s wistful longing for a campfire by the lake, but more often than not, it’s small everyday moments that help keep camp a daily touchstone.

Every Day Moments at Camp
Every Day Moments at Camp


Sitting in a chaotic staff meeting where many voices are trying to be heard and good ideas raised, I recall boisterous meals in the Dining Hall, working to listen with my whole ears – to tales of tag-up, swims in the lake, rest hour shack shenanigans – and add my voice when it is truly an addition, and not just because I am itching to make sure it still works.


Supporting students through their course selection process for next semester, I want them to pick topics in which they have a genuine and personal interest, rather than make a choice simply based on what their roommates or friends are doing. I think often of mornings at the tag-up board where Alex counsels Runoia campers into the same sort of thought process. “Are you really interested in being out on the water today or would you be happier playing tennis?” Making choices for yourself is a learned skill and one you get the chance to exercise every day at camp. I wish for days where all my available choices were as much fun as the ones at camp!

I think of camp at odd times and regular times (from my desk, watching as the sun goes down outside the window, I regularly find myself singing “Taps” in my head), and most often as I reflect on a new friendship I’m developing or an old one that I’m trying to keep active. For all the skills that camp builds, none is more important than those you pick up living in a cabin with fellow campers and counselors. You won’t think of how important your shack bonding time was, or how invaluable opening day name games were, until you come face-to-face with a new person and find yourself able to make comforting and comfortable conversation. PerhapsCarrie Blog 2 it is through those conversations that you’re able to develop a friendship out of a chance encounter. If you’re lucky, there’s always the possibility that your camp friendship skills will allow you to develop even a non-camp person (they exist!) into the type of friend you thought was only possible at camp.
This season and every day, I’m grateful for all of the memories I have of wonderful times at camp (and yes, particularly those involving campfire), but the real gift that camp gave me are the countless moments when camp is with me in the World Outside of Camp.

Ahhhh! Keep the "inner" Campfire Burning All Year!
Ahhhh! Keep the “inner” Campfire Burning All Year!


Do you want to guest blog for Runoia? Submit your blog writing to

American Sign Language at Sleepaway Camp

Word of the Day – American Sign Language Style!

Our Word of the Day is an event at camp that has become a tradition. This summer the WOD was brought to us by Izzy Snyder. She included ALS signs to every word and taught them to the whole camp. Izzy is studying to be an interpreter for the deaf and we learned signs in both sessions at Runoia.

At the end of this session, Keira, a 10 year old camper, wrote a story including some of the signs (the underlined words) we learned in second session at Camp Runoia:

Welcome to the Obscure Challenge.

Here your perseverance, laughter and experience will be staunch and most wanted. During this challenge you will trudge through vegetation. If you win you should feel bittersweet because much worse awaits you after winning. IF you lose you do not have to face what will come, so you should feel grateful. In the next part of the challenge, you will face a question that most people are not imaginative enough to figure out. IF you find the answer it means you have a lot of positivity and you will be flabbergasted by the winner. This is a competition (friendly) of the mind. The winner has a strong mind with tons of inner strength.

Keira, thanks for sharing your great story!