The Art of the Handwritten Camp Note

The camp experience at Runoia is profound in many ways – spawning independence, building self-esteem, learning new activities, developing skills in sports and so on. One of the rarely touted benefits of sleepaway camp is practicing and enjoying handwritten notes.

I grew up in the 1960s and the thank you note was a required skill. One year on my birthday my grandmother sent me a paper back about Helen Keller and an unsigned check for $5. To deposit the check in my savings account, I had to write her a thank you letter for the book and the check and enclose the check so she would sign it and return it. This all happened at the speed of molasses in January, but, eventually it happened. Thank-you letters were a must in my family. The skill has been passed onto my daughter and she expects her three girls to write thank you notes. I’m always amazed at the care and thought they put into those notes.

Back in the day at camp, campers were required to write on the back of a paper newsletter every week. Counselors made sure those newsletters were written, put in a “SASE” (self-addressed stamped envelope) and sent home. We were pretty sure this happened at the speed of the Pony Express because it was at least 5-6 days before parents received those newsletters in their mail box.

Still, to this day, letters received and sent at camp are a joy. Campers pin their notes from their family and friends on their bedroom wall and parents save many notes, especially the ones with the circled tear “this is my tear as I miss you so much”. And the letter would go on to talk about different scenarios around camp, what she accomplished, personalities of friends, something funny or gross (most likely a clogged toilet that overflowed) that happened at camp.

Unplugging and face to face contact is only part of the side-benefit to camp. Campers soon realize you have to write letters to get letters. We encourage parents to send a note to their daughter before camp even starts so she has mail on her first day at camp. Campers immediately write home. Campers send a flurry of letters to their friends at camp and at home and wait in anticipation for a letter like a slow-motion volley in tennis. Although penmanship doesn’t matter, campers are practicing writing through camp letters. A bonus is the hand drawn sketch of roommates, the camp dogs, a horse or sailboat. Camp seeps into the letters and tells its own story.

The art of letter writing lives on through camp. Be on the lookout for a hand written thank you note and a bevy of camp letters in your MAIL box this summer.


Community and Camp and Connecting

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

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

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

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

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



“Remember who you are and what you represent.” 

Jody Sataloff  – Guest Blog

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

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

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


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




Friday night pizza- we love camp food!.

As the Holidays roll around and our focus becomes not just on family but also a lot on food,  it is a great time to reflect on how camp food plays an important role in the overall experience. Food in general has such significant cultural value, it shapes our days and times with people. At camp we enjoy food together for three meals a day and spend a lot of time talking about our favorite things to eat. Sometimes we may miss things from home and at others we are wondering when some camp favorites are going to be served.

At Thanksgiving dinner you probably ate food that has meaning in your family; grandma’s pumpkin pie made from an age old recipe or that sweet potato bake you have every year without fail. Food not only fills us and gives us a reason to come together with loved ones but its sentimental meaning also truly warms our hearts.

Days at camp are often a blur with not as much definition as you may find in your regular week. It’s often hard to figure out what day of the week it is unless it’s Thursday trip day or a sleepy Sunday.  More often than not the days are measured by the food being served. Friday night is always homemade pizza night! Chef and the kitchen crew cook up the usual cheese and pepperoni favorites but there are always also a couple of surprises that you don’t know about until they are served! On Fridays there is always a buzzing excitement around super time for pizza night.

Sunday morning donuts and cinnamon rolls are a staple. Even though it is still sleepy come in your pajamas breakfast there is often a line after the first bell at 8am as campers are keen to dig into the sweet treats.

You may remember the’ green table’ and grill for Saturday night cookout with hotdogs and burgers. The location has changed to be closer the kitchen but there is still the same fare.

Alums will likely remember ‘Sunday Sundaes’ served on the last Sunday at the end of the session, it’s a tradition that is much anticipated and has been around for many years. Congo bars are perhaps the truest Runoia favorite and have been enjoyed throughout the generations.  Do any Alums may remember bishops bread?

Our Camp Runoia food is healthy and wholesome and fills not just our bellies but also our hearts. It leaves us with tasty memories of our long summer days

Find your Favorite Camp Runoia Song!

Hail! Hail! Comrades all! Greetings from Camp Runoia. As chilly temperatures settle in this fall, are you feeling

nostalgic about your camp days? Relive them through camp songs – find your favorite in this blog. You can also peruse recordings of Runoia songs on our website.

It won’t be long before we’ll be gazing at sunlight on the water and hearing the wind blow through the mid pine trees by the waterside. Where does the wind come from? We often ask ourselves in our leisurely tech-free time at Runoia. For many girls these days it’s a long road to freedom to detach from their cell phones and screen time. But it’s like a cowboy’s lullaby to give in and unplug for a few short weeks.

When the girls arrive and turn down Point Road you can hear the ring of oh here we come as campers burst with excitement. It’s been months they’ve been dreaming of sailing out on the blue waves and canoeing with paddles softly dip, dip and swing-ing across the cove. Whether they’ve come from out in Wyoming or nearby.

It’s that first sunset at camp where we shout give me the light of the campfire so we can continue our evening as darkness descends. That’s’ the moment when mmm-mmm I want to linger is audible across the beach.

The summer flies by in a flash and it’s not long before girls are leaving on a jet plane. Reflections of somethingspecial there at Camp Runoia stand out as girls return home to study hard and then, back to canoes and paddles.

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like camp!

Why is dressing up so much fun?

From sleep Sunday morning’s, 4th of July , evening programs, event days  and a myriad of other opportunities we love to get dressed up at camp!  The Runoia costume area is loaded with so many opportunities: clothing, hats, shoes, accessories,  face paint  and endless props.   It has been known that campers and staff who are returning to camp and know the ropes also have a tendency to bring copious amounts of additional fun items with them to supplement the camp supplies.  You never know what you may need for Ms. Tacky or an end of the week Saturday lunch, themed,  table extravaganza.

At camp we are freed of our inhibitions and celebrate the ability to throw on a costume, act a part or  just look ridiculous for no apparent reason.  We craft adventures, themes and engage with frivolity just because we can and nobody restricts the amount of fun that we can have with our imaginations. What joy there is in creating something out of just an idea or a thought and presenting it to the community where it is always so well received. You would be amazed what we can pull together in a very short amount of time and with limited resources. Adults are as equally enthusiastic to join in, it’s a rare job that you can throw on a silly hat or an evening gown just because it’s Thursday evening!

July 4th wear whatever you want in the red, white and blue!

Our costume department isn’t really anything too fancy and primarily allows us to use just a lot of creativity, think 21st century skill development here!  Saturday end of the week lunches give everyone the opportunity to dress up. It is so engaging to think up a table theme or even just choose a random idea out of the basket and then figure out if everyone has something to wear that will work – even just different colored T-shirts with hand written labels on them can be quickly and easily transformed into a colorful box of crayons.

Event days are always a good time to sport a great costume – Runoia rodeo

We’d love to see what our Runoia girls have come up with for their Halloween costumes, store bought or homemade? tried and true spooky or original and unique? However they choose to dress up we know that they will rock it with confidence and pizazz.

Old friends for always

An old camp friend flew in from Australia this past weekend. She traveled alone so that she could see New England in the fall and re tramp some of the footpaths of her young adulthood. We met at camp at a time when social media wasn’t even imagined and there were certainly no smart phone so connections through the years have been loose. How incredible is was to see someone again after 14 years we had only spent one 9 week summer together  yet reconnected like it was just yesterday.

Though her memories were a little fuzzy the draw to return to Runoia was strong. We walked through camp, past the many things that have changed, the new buildings, additions, different program options and reminisced about all the things that were still the same.  She found her name on the 5th shack plaque and could recall each of her campers and the laughs they had shared together that summer.



We sat on the boathouse steps for a long time just quietly taking it all in. She was amazed at how deeply she was moved by being back and how the memories of one summer so long ago returned so quickly. As a swim instructor she had spent many hours on and in the lake and could recount memorable moments and the day to days of camp life. We talked about how camp was life changing for so many reasons. As young adults our futures were impacted greatly by the time that we spent on Great Pond and the relationships that formed that have and will truly last a life time. How hard it is to describe this powerful experiential force to those that haven’t been here.

So many times our Runoia girls will say they come back to camp be with their friends. They love all that camp has to offer, the activities, silly evening programs and Sunday campfires, but it is the relationships that draw them back. As our cabins rapidly fill up for the 2020 season we are already anticipating the strengthening of those bonds and the development of new ones. Camp is the place where you come as you are and are welcomed in and appreciated for just being you. The friends that you make be it for one summer or over many truly are the people that stay with you for a lifetime.

She  left the Runoia gates with a million photographs and the strong certainty that she would be back someday. I left with a great reminder that the work we do here is powerful and has great value.  The Runoia experience is far more than just one summer moment in time, it’s magic that can resonate for a lifetime.

Camp Sick

September blew by in whirl of activity. It was nice to be home, to have time to read a book and fix the yard up. There were lots of fine Maine days, the lake was still warm enough to swim in and getting back into the fall routines kept everyone busy.  The summer camp season is intense and exhilarating so a rest is definitely needed both physically and mentally when it ends.

Today it’s a rainy, cool October day.  I got real mail in the post from a camp friend and I’m camp sick. I miss those hazy days of summer on Great Pond, the sounds of people all around me and the late night loon calls on the lake. I miss the simplicity of camp life, where I don’t have to drive anywhere, I show up for meals without having to shop or cook and there is always someone to chat with or just be around. I miss random hugs, and crazy giggles and all the in between connections with girls and staff throughout the day. I miss my early morning coffee in the Lodge office with the sun rising over the lake and deer for company outside my window.  I miss campfires, songs and of course the bell!

The Runoia bubble is so unique and so difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it. Camp days are so long and so full it is hard to comprehend all that goes on in a whole summer filled with them.  Later this month a camp friend from Australia will be here, she hasn’t been to Maine in 15 years and is so excited to be able to come back to reconnect with the people and the place that she enjoyed for only 2 summers. The bonds formed at camp last a long time and over great distance for sure.


As sign-ups for next season come in, I love sending out postcards to welcome back our returning girls and start a connection with those who will be new. I am already counting down the days until our 114th season and cannot wait to be back on Great Pond with my Runoia summer family.

Crisp Fall Reflections of Summer

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Looking at the calendar, it’s hard to believe that we are already nearing the end of September, and that our summer at Runoia ended more than seven weeks ago. The last few, scattered warm days here in the Northeast are trying to hold on, but the changing leaves and the smell of the air do not lie- Fall is here. Reflections abound.

Fall brings its share of Fine Maine Days along with it- red and copper colored trees that rustle in the crisp wind, the satisfying crunching noise that our boots make when we walk on fallen leaves, not to mention that perfect “Jeans and Sweater Weather”.

As the trees and weather are changing, the beginning of Fall is also a great time for all of us to think about this


summer and how it may have changed us. Maybe you feel more brave after coming to camp for the first time. Maybe you have more confidence to try new things now, or maybe you’re a better friend, or more conscious of the environment since leaving Runoia this summer.

During this season of embracing change, while the loons are headed for warmer coasts and the rest of us are settling back into school and work, it’s only natural to long for the days of summer that felt like they were going to last forever. But just as summer changed you, the rest of the year will change you too. You will come back to us at Runoia next summer with new stories, experiences, and exciting updates about your life that we can’t wait to hear about and celebrate with you.

So go forward, Runoia Girl, embrace change. Be your best self in everything you do— and we’ll see you back out on the blue waves before you know it.

by Nina Budeiri

Camp job – working a summer at Runoia

Returning to the routines of fall I’m often asked how was your summer? What did you do? was it relaxing? For other people, summer is a kick back relaxed time of days at the beach and family barbecues.  For those of us who work in the summer camp industry it’s when we bring our best game and our work ramps up to an intensity that is difficult to describe. Having a camp job is not really comparable to any other industry so it is very difficult to articulate what makes it one of the best jobs ever.

It is hard to know where to start when answering people’s questions.  Here in Maine saying that ‘I was at camp all summer,’ can mean a number of things. In Maine people often refer to their summer cottage, lake house or even a hunting cabin in the woods as their ‘camp’ so one has to clearly define that you were actually working at a residential children’s camp not chilling in a lounger by the lake all summer or off hunting deer! Once the definition of ‘camp’ has been determined it is typically met with ‘oh that must be lovely you get to be on the lake all summer.’ People’s perception is often that I spend my summer swimming, boating and playing with some kids. They also think I must now have the rest of the year ‘off’ as camp just lasts a couple of months of the summer. My Mum is still not convinced that I have a ‘real’ job!

The Lodge office has a great view of Great Pond and deer for early morning coworkers.
When a break from the office means being 40′ up the tower!

The reality is that I spend most of my summer in an office – granted it has one of the best views ever and is often infiltrated with generally happy, smaller humans who have something about their day that they want to share. I manage schedules, answer emails and generally make sure all is running smoothly for the almost 200 people that we have on site at camp. I also get to dress up in crazy costumes, have ‘moo off’s’ with my boss and be immersed in a community filled with love and laughter. A day at camp has more crammed into it than a week of life outside so it is a busy, non-stop and highly engaging job. Throw in a few unexpected thunder storms, an afternoon at the top of the zip line tower or an escaped goat and the long days are never dull.

Lunch time table group hug!


Summer camp in Maine is a large revenue generating industry, with over 200 camps that employ thousands of workers, it is big business and plays a large role in the states tourism industry.  Maine summer camps have their own organization that promotes and supports our Maine Summer Camps  and we are a committed group of camp professionals that truly believe that a camp experience is great for all kids. We truly love our jobs.

When people ask ‘how was your summer?’ I simply smile and reply ‘spectacularly exhausting.’ I have one of the best jobs, it is truly a gift to see children and young adults grow and develop over their summers at camp.

Our Camp Runoia 2020 season is already open for enrollment because we just can’t wait to do it all again.

We’ll see you on Great Pond!