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 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

 

Falling back and looking forward

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

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

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

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

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

By Ari aged 8

Yellow trees

There are a bunch of fellow, yellow trees

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

There is so much joyful glee!

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

The leaves have fallen all the glee is gone

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

 

Sunlight

The sun is bright, what a beautiful sight.

It is a wonderful light of that beautiful sight,

Of the bright light.

Why Camp? Colleen talks about her journey to Runoia

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

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

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

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

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

Colleen O’Malley – Assistant Director, Camp Runoia

A new season for Camp Runoia

It is barely a little over a month since we shuttered the buildings and closed down camp for the 2021 summer season. Many of our campers have just gone back to school and the leaves are hardly changing color here in Maine and yet our 2022 summer season is open! Early enrollment is in full swing for next summer which is so exciting. This past summer was amazing, we had a blast on Great Pond with old friends and new and truly cannot wait to do it all again next year. After a tough year with lock downs and quarantines, zoom school and no activities our girls were thrilled to be at camp in real time with people. The fun lasted literally from dawn until dusk and even into the night in some cases! We are grateful that parents had confidence that we could pull it off and recognize the social and emotional growth that happens at camp and is even more necessary as kids have been removed form their typical experiences.

In 2020 we were grateful to be able to open with a limited camper capacity and operating only one three week session. We had no idea what the knock on effect would be for future enrollment and couldn’t have predicted that we would still have been in the midst of a global pandemic as we opened the 2021 season. This past summer saw us welcoming 100 new families into our community. How lucky we were to see many of our old campers returning and to have the opportunity to get to know so many awesome new girls.  Camp was full and it felt so good to be operating our regular season again and while there were still some modifications to navigate covid protocols it felt much more like a regular summer.

 

Now here we are looking towards 2022 with an unprecedented early enrollment of returning campers. We have been delightfully shocked by how eager families are to sign up for early enrollment spaces. There have been an increased number of requests for full session spaces and even our younger camper slots and sessions are filling ahead of their usual timeline. This is great news for camp and fantastic from a business perspective yet is certainly a little stressful for folks that are not quite ready to commit yet.

We understand it’s hard to know how life will shake out in the next 11 months. Where we will all be at with covid and its impact on everyday living. The good news is that In uncertain times, camp is a sure thing. Camp Runoia will open in June 2022 for our 116th continuous summer on Great Pond. Campers will swim in the lake, enjoy the great Maine outdoors, connect with friends and learn new skills. There will laughter, bug bites, marshmallows and singing. Camp will welcome old and new faces with the goal of everyone having the best summer ever!

 

We hope that all of our 2021 campers will be back to be joined by some new faces for another amazing summer of building lifelong skills. The season is open for 2022 and we couldn’t be happier.

Returning to Runoia – from counselor to camp parent and staff

Guest blogger Mindy (Boyce) Martone-Gulling

Archery and cabin counselor 1998/99. Yoga and farm instructor and camp parent in 2021.

Mindy shares her reflections on returning to Runoia.

Camp friends for always!
Working with Kara (Benken) Garrod once again.

My daughter is the outgoing, kind, and hilarious youngest child of five and she and I have been waiting for years for her to be old enough to go to Runoia. I was a counselor in the late ‘90s and left Runoia in 1999 to go to law school, which was followed by a “real” job, kids, and life that kept me far from Camp. But I never forgot how beautiful, fun, warm, and welcoming the CR community was and knew I wanted my daughter to be a part of it. 

Delayed a year by Covid, this Spring we finally signed her up for a session in Harmony Land, the program for Runoia’s youngest campers. We were all so excited. My memory certainly isn’t what it once was, but apparently there’s a whole section of it that’s full of camp songs and I started teaching her right away. We bought new swimsuits, shoes, and water bottles for her adventure and she insisted on watching the Runoia marketing video at least once a day. Even more exciting was that life was such that I was able to join her at camp as a counselor – after all this time.

We arrived on the first of our many Fine Maine Days at camp, she joined her new friends, and I got my first live glimpse of camp in so many years. New facilities! State-of-The-Art equipment! Exciting new activities and adventures to choose from!  And of course almost all new faces, including counselors who usually said “oh, I was just born then” when I told them the last year I had been at camp.  It was clear that Runoia had grown and changed and constantly improved in the time I had been gone. But just as the new facilities blend smoothly into the camp landscape and the new activities appear on the tag board next to old standards like archery and swimming, the heart and soul of Runoia was the same even amidst the changes. Girls just being themselves, hugging friends, cracking wide smiles at mastering a new skill, and laughing as they walk lightly past the ferns down to the waterfront. Campfires, Fairy Ring, taps, the logs, Blue/White, and birthday songs all endure for new generations of Runoia girls.

As a counselor I got to experience things with my daughter that I would have only heard about at home- her unbridled joy trotting off in her yellow one-piece to every rec swim and the ear-to-ear grin when she got the arrow “in the red” during archery. As a mom, I appreciated so much about how girls are loved and supported at Runoia- from a counselor agreeing to stay late at an activity to make sure a level got passed to a tireless search for a lost but much loved book, to the heartfelt good nights from the Directors.

I have always seen Runoia as a special place, and I was so lucky that I can share it with my own Runoia girl, hopefully for years to come.

 

Camp Runoia – we really are ‘building lifelong skills’

Camp Runoia’s tagline is ‘building lifelong skills’ and we have sure done a lot of that over our past weeks of camp. It has been amazing to see our campers confidently engaging in all aspects of camp life. They have made the most of new opportunities, developed skills and deepened their friendships.

There have been so many Fine Maine Days to play and learn in.

We are so grateful to have had this time together on Great Pond.

Our camp bubble has been a safe and loving place to be ourselves and build community with a diverse group of people.

Some of our transferable life skills:

  • Managing our own belongings
  • Getting places on time with the right clothing and equipment
  • Resolving conflicts and disappointments
  • Making healthy food choices 
  • Working towards a goal
  • Navigating all kinds of relationships with all ages of people
  • Better communication skills
  • Being rewarded for consistent good practice
  • Building grit and resiliency
  • Practicing to gain better skill mastery
  • Being a role model
  • Learning to advocate for ourselves in a positive way
  • Getting better at cleaning
  • Knowing what we like or don’t like
  • Being able to say ‘no thanks’
  • Finding space in a busy day for quiet time and reflection
  • Getting restorative sleep
  • Making choices for ourselves
  • Being flexible and adaptable
  • Following a schedule 
  • Being leaders
  • Taking care of our personal care
  • Taking safe risks

We hope that when everyone gets home the difference will be noticeable, not only that we may have grown a little taller but also that we stand taller. We are a little bolder, better organized and more engaged in how we move through our own lives.

Camp is the best place to grow and we are so glad that everyone of all ages had the opportunity to do so this summer in a safe and fun place. Camp Runoia stays with us as we move home and back to school.

 

Whatever the weather it is always a ‘Fine Maine Day’

Rain or shine we are always making the most of our opportunities and have been having a blast with a wider variety of friends at Camp Runoia this week. The Maine weather has certainly thrown everything at us, from bright, sunny, hot days to showers, thunderstorms and fall-like evenings. We navigated around the liquid sunshine and soaked up any available rays as we motored through another amazing week of camp. We are making memories, friends for life and having the most fun outdoors that we can while building our ‘life skills.’

There is so much gratitude for being here. The campers really are so open to sharing time with friends, engaging in whatever is going on and bringing their best selves. Everyone really got into the camp groove this week. Girls that were new last week seem like they have always been here and have joined the old timers with feeling at home and comfortable here. Community living is filled with the opportunity for connection with people of all ages and from all places. We have really been enjoying more mixing and mingling as we celebrated being covid free.

The highlight of the week was definitely getting to ‘tag up’ for the first time. Campers got to choose their own schedule and after trying lots of activities with their shacks over the past week had a good idea of where they wanted to focus their energy. We also ‘dived’ into formal swim lessons and girls are working hard to pass levels and also be ready for the Oak Island swim that will be coming up on one of the last mornings. We practiced for blue/white games and hope to add some volleyball this year. Outside news of the Olympics is often breakfast table conversation.

This week’s ‘in harmony with nature’ moment was brought to you by the squirrel in the mid soapies!

EP’s have been so fun this week, with a ‘pairs party’ and a not so chill ‘chill out’ night topping the list. Thursday saw all of camp out on the fields, courts and under the tent doing whatever they wanted to. Girls of all ages were intermingling, laughing and playing together. While a few campers chose a good book and a quiet spot under the trees or on the old rock wall most were actively engaged in sports and activities. Tennis, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, four square, parachute games, bracelets and myriad of random made up games were going on. The joy and laughter was palpable and everyone was happily tired and in bed at ‘goodnights’.

The parachute blob was like this a while!

We were sad to see our young Harmony Land friends finish their session on Saturday morning. The HLCB crew are all ready for a full session next summer and were so fun to get to know. The little sisters who finally got to be campers and join their older siblings at camp this summer were pretty excited! We do wonder what their parents got up to having all of their kids off at camp for 12 days. 

Shout out to the Hoffmann’s with all 4 girls in camp at one time. SV, 6th shack, 2nd shack and HLC it could be a Runoia record! 

 

We will be making the most of every moment over the coming week, maximizing our opportunities, deepening our friendships and enjoying all that Runoia has to offer.

 

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.

It’s blue and white and other camp fun

We are in the final stretch of First Session 2021. Many items are on the bucket list for our last several days, but first we have much to report on from this past week. 

After a couple of rainy days and a cozy Friday movie night, the weekend brought sunshine and new energy and both days saw temperatures in the high seventies. Saturday was the last day of our fourth activity block, and girls enjoyed getting into the lake for swim lessons and getting out on the blue waves for sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, and skiing. We had our first 2021 American Archer (passing all of the levels) go Charlotte M. and some major level passing in target sports, girls gearing up for the Blue/White horse show, action on the tennis, volleyball, basketball, and badminton courts, fabulous dance and drama lessons going on around camp, baskets and art projects being completed, and so much more. Sunny days have also helped us to get our girls out for tubing, a highly coveted treat here at camp! Saturday night supper was Birthday Tables in which everyone celebrated all of the girls in their cabins who have birthdays during the session by dressing up in different themes and singing silly songs, eating cake, and having a Birthday Party Bash with music, limbo, hula hooping, foursquare, and lots of laughter echoing throughout camp. 

 

Sunday morning started with a sleepy breakfast – campers and counselors wore their pajamas to the dining hall and, as always, doughnuts were a hit! Blue/White junior and senior team captains were nominated and elected, and then we all gathered on the beach for swim races. Each girl earned points for her team, and we’re pretty sure our neighbors across the lake heard the awesome team spirit coming from the beach in the form of songs and cheers! Good thing most of them are Runoia alumnae and were probably cheering for their old teams too!

Juniors played kickball and seniors played softball Blue/White games in the afternoon, and then we all got into our uniforms for supper and again gathered at the lake all together for our first Sunday night campfire, revolving around the theme “Better Together”. Each cabin shared a skit with the rest of camp and we taught and sang some of our favorite traditional Runoia songs while watching the sun set over Great Pond. We were joined by three loons who seemed to linger in our cove longer than usual, perhaps entranced by the melodies and harmonies we created together. 

 

On Monday we began our fifth and final block, this one lasting for four days to allow our girls a good chunk of time to develop and build on their skills in each of the program areas they tagged up for. The farm program is very popular these days, giving girls a chance to learn some gardening and animal care practices. Our Harmony Land campers went horseback riding on Monday evening, while the rest of the camp did “Laundry Bag Skits” – each cabin received a box full of random items and got to write, direct, and perform a short play. There were some truly hilarious moments, and we think we may have some rising stars on our hands! 

 

Luckily the sun decided to hang around through Tuesday, letting us have a full program day and two excellent recreational swim opportunities. It was wonderful to see so much splashing around, diving for rings, handstand contests, and games of Marco-Polo. First and Second shack each went out for a half-day hike yesterday at “The Mountain”, and made it back to camp before the rain. The sun poked back out for a bit for the late afternoon, and Tuesday night’s evening program was Counselor Hunt – a giant game of hide and seek in which girls ran around camp together trying to find hidden counselors, several of whom got extra creative – up a tree, in an empty(!) trash can! 

Our last several days will be jam-packed with more incredible program opportunities, day hiking trips, the completion of baskets and art projects, healthy and delicious meals, ziplining from the climbing tower, jumping on the water trampoline, the passing of archery, riflery, sailing, windsurfing, and riding levels, an early morning Oak Island swim, Blue/White competition, caring for our chickens and bunnies, end-of-session traditions, dips in the lake, and of course, those unforgettable moments of Camp Runoia magic that all of our Super Star Staff have been working hard to create for our campers. 

Wow – sound like a lot? Sure does, but we always get it done! A huge shoutout to everyone who has made the First Session of Camp Runoia 2021 possible we are so grateful for the opportunity to all be together again in person.

 

Thanks to Sophie B. for blogging and keeping track of our antics.