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.

First week of fun – Great Pond camp life

Our first session girls arrived last Sunday on a hot and sunny Fine Maine Day! After unpacking and meeting/getting reacquainted with their cabin mates, everyone got a chance to take their swim tests and enjoy a quick dip in the lake – our fabulous 8,000 acre Great Pond. Supper was a delicious combo of spaghetti and meatballs, salad and vegetables, garlic bread, and brownies, and it was wonderful to hear the laughter of new and old campers alike ringing through the dining hall and outdoor tents. Evening program for our junior end campers included a game called “Mostest” in which each cabin worked together to create cheers and songs and even wrote and performed a commercial for Runoia! Senior end played Family Feud, while our oldest girls in senior village had their own special campfire by the lake. Milk and Crackers were enjoyed by all before returning to cabins to make community contracts and gain a better understanding of what each of us need to be our best selves at camp this summer. Counselors began reading their cabin books aloud as girls settled into beds for the night. We miss our loved ones who are not with us here at camp, but homesickness is easily overpowered by all of the fun and excitement everyone is having doing activities and spending time with friends. 

The first full day of camp was another hot one! We started with an orientation in which we found out (or were reminded) where everything was around camp, practiced vehicle safety evacuation drills, learned how to put on our PFDs for when we go out on the blue waves in boats, and played many get-to-know-you games. Activities started after lunch and rest hour, and we had almost all campers swimming in the lake for recreational swims! Horses walked and trotted around the ring up at the barn while a fleet of kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, aka “Floatilla”, headed out into the cove. Our Harmonyland girls took a little hike to our Fairy Ring campsite and built fairy houses out of leaves, sticks, pine needles, and birch bark. After supper, our junior end girls enjoyed a beach night on the waterfront, and our senior end girls got to play a variety of land sports and even got in an evening swim to cool down before bed. Campers fell asleep looking forward to the first activity block starting the next morning.

The first activity block flew by with shacks going together to give each area a try, from flotilla’s on the lake, climbing in the trees and learning the art of shooting sports everyone found something they loved and an activity to work at throughout their session here. The heat meant lots of lake time and evening programs were modified to include much appreciated swims. The sounds of splashing and laughing in the cooler evening air could probably be heard by our Camp Runoia alumnae neighbors over in Echo Cove.


A bit of rain and cooler weather provided opportunity to focus on our arts skills, work on fitness and get some impressive dance routines going! Nothing stops us and we kept activities running and the fun going. The gaga pits are full at free time with some intense games going on and everyone being included. 

We are so grateful to have camp full again. To see our girls that we missed last summer, to welcome new friends into the Runoia family and to be able to spend amazing time together on Great Pond. In person, unplugged life in the woods is pretty fantastic! We have been able to watch a nest of baby barred owls learn to fly and hunt in the evenings over the kickball field. How lucky we are to live’in harmony with nature’ and get to have these experiences on our beautiful lake in Maine.

We are ready for another week of fun and frivolity, growth and learning and deepening the friendships that we have started to make.  Making life long memories and developing life long skills every minute of the day!


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.

JMG – A college application essay topic

The Junior Maine Guide (JMG) program has been a mainstay at Camp Runoia for decades. It provides older campers with the opportunity to participate in a Maine State, organized youth program that develops and tests their wilderness skills. It is a rigorous program that can take a couple of years to accomplish. Camp develops all kinds of life skills and becoming a  JMG is a huge achievement but the process also has great value.

This weeks guest blog is Lilly Grace’s college application essay that focused on her time working towards becoming a JMG.

Common App Main Essay by Lilly Grace
To the average person, building a roaring fire with a soaking wet billet of wood, an axe and just a few matches may seem like a nearly impossible task. After all, that’s what I thought as I was first learning how to make a “wet day fire.” However, what most people don’t realize is that the dryness of a billet is irrelevant to one’s ability to build a “wet day fire.” Rather, what is most critical to their success is practice, preparation, and an ability to persevere through
setbacks until ultimately satisfied. Building a wet day fire is a mentally and physically challenging skill that is just one of twenty-one tests to become a Junior Maine Guide. Although the process of becoming a Junior Maine Guide was only intended to teach me wilderness skills, I believe it was the most rewarding experience of my life thus far because I gained more than just a vast amount of knowledge about the wilderness. I also took this unique opportunity to
learn and develop critical life skills.

The wet day fire test
One thing that I learned quickly upon arrival at the five day testing encampment is that candidates must be organized, disciplined, and confident in order to succeed in this environment where there is little structure. I had three full days to complete twenty-one tests at any time and in no specific order. I lacked those three essential qualities that I needed, and JMG presented additional challenges that I had never had to tackle before in school. However, as I had learned from my past experiences, success is something that does not come easily to me and has always required more time, effort and motivation on my part. Therefore, these challenges that I was presented with were simply just a few hurdles in reaching my goal.Throughout the three summers, I was committed to gaining the skills needed to succeed.
I overcame my organizational challenges by making study and testing schedules that were essential to keeping myself motivated and on track throughout the summer, and I made sure to stick to them. I learned how to study in more exciting and efficient ways that developed my self-discipline. For example, when learning locations on the map of Maine, my friends and I would place M&Ms on the different locations and if we guessed the location correct, we were
rewarded with the candy. As for my time-management, I learned that using a watch was extremely beneficial to budgeting my time and ensuring that I was able to complete every test in the short time frame. And once I learned that I could build a Wet Day Fire and solo a canoe with ease, I knew I had the confidence to take on anything.

Becoming a Junior Maine Guide has been, by far, the proudest moment of my life, as I knew it was something that I worked so hard to accomplish on my own. This rigorous program typically takes two years to complete, however it took me three. While some people may perceive my additional year in the program as a failure, I choose to see it as a blessing in disguise. I struggle with ADHD and weak executive functioning skills, which is something that affects my everyday life, but I clearly have never let it stop me. In fact, I believe that I have made more improvement with my executive functioning skills through trial and error in the JMG program than I ever have in a school classroom. In the end, I proved to myself and others that I am exceedingly capable of persevering through my learning challenges to accomplish anything that is important to me. It just might take some additional time and effort.

What the Teachers Say

First, let us express our gratitude to teachers. We’ve always been fans but this fall, we have seen teachers turn into super heroes. They have multi-tasked, connected with their students, doubled their lesson planning and most of all put their own health at risk to help others.

This past summer many of our counselors who also are teachers learned a lot about navigating covid and creating systems to help keep themselves and others safe.   One moment that really strikes us is when we completed staff training in those complex and uncertain times and we prepared to welcome our campers the next day. We created our graduation for staff training as we often do with a clever connection to our theme “Camp over Corona, All the Things, We Can Do It – Our Vision is 20/20” And each administrative leader got up to share something with all the staff. A pep talk of sorts. Colleen “Cleen” shared this:

2020 has been quite the year

It’s felt lonely and we have known fear

But look round at this staff

Hear those distant laughs

How lucky we are to be here



Remember June and July? We had been in shut down mode and living in our homes and apartments for four months. It was a poem reflecting on the connection camp creates and what a milestone it was.

And, then in the spirit of Harmony Land (the meaning of Runoia is Harmony) she added this Haiku:

Harmony is here

This world seems new as our friends

Smiles still seen through masks

“Cleen” thanks for the poetry, the reflection, the inspiration. We send our energy to you as you finish your fall semester teaching in New York. You truly are a hero and have helped all of us be better teachers.




Our Alumnae Organization Has Been Busy!

We are excited to share the Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization’s new website. Here they share about their mission and action plan which provides campers with financial assistance to attend camp, the upcoming 115th reunion for alumnae, the most current alumnae news, featuring the president’s letter, operating camp in times of Covid in 2020, our work with Black Women Matter and the replacement of the Bell Post – the CIT project of 2020, wedding and birth announcements and more!

A big congratulations and thanks goes out to Roberta “Boop” Tabell Jordan, the CRAO president, who organized and inspired the help of Marie-Claude Francoeur, Betsy Nicholson (both serving as co-chairs to the 115th reunion), Jenny Sachs Dahnert, Chad Diamond. We give a special shout out to Sofia and Zipporah for sharing why camp matters to them.

The goal of the CRAO board in our 115th year is to inspire 115 NEW donors to donate to Runoia. Might you be able to join in and be a new donor? One of the most exciting bits of news is a few generous alumnae donors have agreed to pool together and match every dollar donated with three dollars! So, if you donate an amount like $25, it will actually turn into $100!! $50 becomes $200, etc. It’s very exciting to have people believe in the experience of camp and broaden the Runoia experience to girls who may not be able to afford camp on their own. No gift is too small! Do you need inspiration to give? Listen to Jen Dahnert’s compelling video message. Roberta has also done tremendous work on camp genealogy. Check out some of the Runoia Family Trees Boop has created – they are so cool!

You can also explore the camp logs  and learn or sing-a-long with some of the camp songs. As Jen says, click around and see what we’re all about! There is also information about the 115th reunion. For alumnae over the age of 18, you may sign up for the reunion. Gather your camp friends and come together! Alumnae under the age of 18 need to have an adult staying at camp with them during the reunion.

More information on Maine history and Maine camps is on the Maine Memory Network!

That’s the news for this week!

Love, Aionur



Mid-Week Update from Runoia May 13

Dear, dear Runoia Families,

Our opening day of camp was scheduled for just five weeks from now. As I have mentioned in previous updates, we have had to push back that date into July by according to the mandate of the Governor of Maine. She is not at fault. She is trying to keep people safe.  We are still unsure of our start date and we continue to exercise our patience. Thanks for hanging with us. We know this is very trying and we all want camp to often under safe guidelines.

Today we are still waiting for guidelines from the experts. And we are still planning and organizing. Our annual water system start-up, testing and certification and all the other mundane business of facility maintenance and operation is underway.  We have three riding staff who arrived at camp and will be in self-quarantine for the next 14 days as our camp horses arrive this week. The animals need care throughout the summer until they can go back to school in the fall. Alex and I still work from our individual homes and plan to gather at camp in June.

If we are able to open or not, we know the consequences and risks are heavy either way. Children need camp more than ever.  The sadness of opportunities missed from family gatherings, graduation celebrations, final performances, sporting events and playoff games, the list goes on and I need not remind you. Deep in our heart, we do not want to add camp to the list of sadness.

What is the correct decision about camp 2020?

We have parents eager for us to open camp. We have parents wondering if it’s the right thing to do. Yesterday, our medical team meeting was very positive with two doctors, a doctor in residence and our Maine nurse sharing knowledge about their experience thus far with COVID-19. They are heroes to us because of what they do on the front lines and also because they are providing us with much needed support and ideas about health care at camp.  While, in general, children have mild symptoms or do not show symptoms, there is a lot we are still learning about COVID-19. Thank you, heroes.

Can we open camp in a new normal with small groups, contact tracing, physical distancing? Sisters visiting each other with masks? We are flexible and hard-working and we have good ideas about navigating camp with the best practices. It would be a different kind of camp but it would still be our camp. We are capable of adapting. And then we pause and say, which decision is the right decision?

We told you we would know more in mid-May. Well it is almost mid-May and we are still waiting for guidelines and we are told they are coming, maybe early next week. We will be in touch as soon as possible.

We send love throughout our community and beyond. We are with you in spirit and send a virtual yet meaningful hug.


For the Runoia Team with so much love our hearts are bursting



Update from Camp April 29, 2020

Dear Runoia Families and our “Runoia Family”,

Here is our weekly update bring April to a close with a hint of some great news:

Our Maine Governor, Governor Janet Mills, with the Director of Maine CDC, Dr. Shah, presented a press conference yesterday. These two have given us hope and as clear as possible messages in these unprecedented times. The great news is with strict practices, Maine has been flattening the curve over the past few weeks. Yesterday’s press conference was a detailed plan about the roll out phases of restarting the Maine community with public health and safety being a priority. You can find more details on the Maine plan here.

Governor Mills put resident summer camps in phase 3 of the roll out plan. This means, if everything goes to the standards her team has set, we will be able to open Camp Runoia in July! This would mean we are looking and hoping for the 2nd contingency plan of camp we mentioned in the April 15 update here. In short, we open camp in July for 2 shorter sessions and full season campers may attend camp both sessions.

As you can imagine the over 100 Maine resident summer camps have been waiting for guidelines so we can make decisions about camp that make sense. The plan and partial mandates given yesterday (including a stay at home order extended through May 31 and 14 day quarantine upon entering the state) leaves us with a lot of questions. Fortunately, we have Maine Summer Camps Executive Director, Ron Hall and the Executive Board meeting with the governor’s task force as soon as tomorrow to get more answers to our many questions. We have a camp “Town Hall” on Friday and hope to receive more clarity.

As soon as we have more information and can set dates and parameters for travel and more, we will be in touch.  We realize this is an ever evolving and dynamic situation. We appreciate your hope, support and patience.

Meanwhile, we continue to lay out health and safety plans for our current employees, our equine team, our local Belgrade Lakes tradespeople (from plumbers to wifi specialists) to keep them safe as we ramp up camp in preparation for the 2020 season. We take the health and safety of our campers, our camp families, our employees and local business families very seriously.

From Great Pond, we send you love and a “wadas”. We will continue to update you in a transparent manner as soon as possible.


For the Whole Runoia Crew,


Snow days – dreaming of Camp Runoia summer days

Up here in Maine snow days catch us by surprise and render everything paused for a moment. Even though they may be contemplated and discussed the night before you really have to wait until the actual moment to be rewarded with their surprise reality.

They generally start with waking up to a 5am phone call cancelling school which requires creeping stealthily into rooms to turn off alarms so that everyone can get a few extra hours of sleep. When the kids finally tumble downstairs bleary eyed I am met with questions of ‘no school?’ and ‘is it a snow day?’ There is a celebratory moment of a test missed or an extra day to complete some left over homework and then murmurings of what to do all day. It’s a day of lazy homemade breakfast not rushed bowls of cereal, PJ’s for as long as you like and an open agenda of what can be done. The regular routines of a typical day are thrown off; no one needs to go anywhere except maybe outside to shovel for a bit and the day is free to craft however you would like it.

Being confined to home for the whole day or at least until the plow guy gets to your driveway can sometimes seem endless and often by late afternoon the lament for summer has begun. We dream about swims in Great Pond, what we would be doing at camp at this time of day and how much longer and fuller the days are. At 7pm when it’s already been dark for a couple of hours and we feel like going to bed it’s hard to imagine that it is just time for EP to start. The pull of camp gets us through the cold wintry days.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have a snow day at Camp Runoia? Oh what fun we could have with all of our best summer friends. Skating on the lake, sledding on the hill down to the waterfront, cross country skiing around the fields and a campfire in the snow!

No winter diving!

We will get through the long days of the Maine winter daydreaming about our ‘fine Maine days’ at camp.