Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at camp: a summary of Runoia DAC’s 2024 action steps

Summer camp is best when it can be enjoyed by all. The ACA agrees that intentional work in diversity, equity, and inclusion at camp is vital – here’s what Runoia’s DAC is doing:

Camp is a special place in many people’s hearts – a place where friendships and confidence are built, and lifelong memories created – and is one of those things that is best enjoyed in good company and shared with others. Overnight camp, however, has not always historically included everyone – barriers to entry can include financial costs, transportation limits, and lack of information. Once campers do make it to camp, they can face other barriers that keep them from returning: a lack of that sense of belonging, a camp staff that don’t look like them or work to include them, and more. Runoia believes that intentional efforts towards justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) are essential to expand the positive impact of summers of camp magic to include everyone we can, and to be sure that those camp experiences are equally accessible, fun, and safe regardless of identity.

In line with this belief, Camp Runoia has embarked on a dedicated journey with its Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC), established in 2020 by Director Emerita Pam Cobb Heuberger, to champion justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within our community. The DAC’s mission is: “Intentionally collaborating to craft relevant DEIB standards, practices, and outcomes for Camp Runoia – including hate-bias reporting, inclusive staff hiring and training practices, partnership with POC experts in the field, and educational materials and signage at camp – while supporting Runoia with tangible committee efforts and actions.”

The DAC meets monthly from October – May each year to reflect and build on the previous summer. Although originally established from three campers’ encouragement of Runoia to share a stance on Black Lives Matter, the DAC’s discussion of DEI encapsulates all dimensions of diversity: race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, health and ability status, religious beliefs, ethnicity and national origin, and more.

Now that the DAC has adjourned for the summer, we’re excited to share the action steps the DAC has taken or are currently in progress for the 2024 season:

  1. Review and Sharing of DEI Statement: The DAC meticulously reviewed Camp Runoia’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement, ensuring it accurately reflects camp’s commitment to fostering an inclusive community.
  2. Expansion of CRAO Campership Funds: Recognizing the importance of financial accessibility, the DAC expanded CRAO campership funds to encompass more agencies, including Level Ground – an organization that specifically supports local Maine campers. The DAC also created a separate fund for everyone to contribute to – no matter if they have $5 or $500+ to give – that provides CRAO supported campers with the ‘extras’ of camp, like a Crazy Creek chair, HydroFlask water bottle, and a bracelet making kit. These are the little things that we believe can make a camper feel like they belong.
  3. Additions to the Camp Library: Each summer, the DAC works to expand Runoia’s camp library to review and supplement our current inventory. These additions fulfill different literary categories including diverse authors, representation in characters, and more. Before the summer begins, Runoia puts our order in for new books from Black-owned bookstores like Mahogany Books and women-owned bookstores like Tombolo.
  4. Translation of Morning Community Saying: Embracing the heritage of the local indigenous community, the DAC facilitated the translation of the morning community saying into Wabenaki and will be posting signage displaying the translated saying in the Lodge.
  5. Hate/Bias Report Forms: Each year, the DAC reviews and edits our Hate/Bias report forms and system to ensure that they are serving their intended purpose of providing campers and staff an avenue to report incidents related to identity that happen at camp. These report forms have been posted accessibly around camp, are available in anonymous formats, and are reviewed externally each year.
  6. Staff Training: The DAC consulted and helped form comprehensive training sessions for staff. A major change made in 2024 is the decision to weave DEI concepts and values throughout the whole of training and to use this as a lens for other existing trainings. Runoia has previously worked with amazing external resources for staff training like Strength Perspective and OAAARs.

In the world of New England camping, Runoia is committed to pushing open doors for campers and staff each summer and continuing to improve on the accessibility of an unforgettable camp experience. The DAC is excited to see all that Runoia’s campers and staff accomplish in 2024, and look forward to reflecting on the summer together in October.

With love,

the Diversity Advisory Committee of Camp Runoia

  • Asha Wills, MBA Candidate MIT Sloan School of Business
  • Colleen O’Malley, Assistant Director, Camp Runoia
  • Pam Cobb Heuberger, MBA, Director Emerita, Camp Runoia
  • Claire Williamson, Nonprofit Arts Thought Leader and Educator
  • Erin Lasher, Social Worker Aurora, CO Public Schools
  • Kendall Wilson, Partner at Holland & Knight LLP
  • Em Friedman, Student Rep, Vassar College
  • Emma Owings, MPH, Associate Project Manager at Osher Center for Integrative Medicine
  • Zipporah Hommel, Associate at Bolton St-Johns, Public Policy
  • Nick Teich, PhD, LCSW, Executive Coach, Fairwinds Consulting

‘Insider Tips’ for first-time campers from Runoia’s returning families

In this week’s blog, we’re tapping in our greatest resource – CR’s returning families and campers – to provide their ‘insider tips’ for our first-time campers this summer.

Coming to overnight camp for the first time is an amazing, exciting, and overwhelming experience. Everything is new, and our first-year campers and families go through a quick learning process from their first phone call, to reading through our family handbook and newsletters, to their pre-camp check-in call, and finally to drop-off day. We do everything we can to prepare our first-time families for this new experience, but nothing can compare to getting all of the insider and unspoken tips and tricks straight from those who have ‘been there, done that!’

So we took to Instagram to ask our families:

“What’s one thing you wish you packed your first year OR isn’t on the packing list, but you consider a must-have at camp?” – here’s what campers and parents had to share:

  • Extras for the cabin and your space:
    • “Fairy light, fans, and photos” to decorate your bunk and make it your own
    • “A sleeping pad” to make bedtime a little more comfy and cozy
    • “A mirror, alarm clock, a light, a fan” for your bedside
    • “A camera” – our campers love digital cameras or polaroid cameras – so you can hang up your pictures right away!
    • A 4-summer parent shared that they pack “a surprise gift in her bag with a note from us”

  • The ‘must-have’ clothes and accessories:
    • “Costumes/spirit gear!”, “Face paint and temporary tattoos”, and “Something special for July 4th” (for our first-session campers)
      • pro-tip: first-time campers will pick their team in 2024, and will be a Bee or an Ellie for the rest of their Runoia days! Ellies don silver spirit gear, while the Bees sport indigo
    • “A Crazy Creek for sure!”
    • “Don’t forget your rainboots!”

Then, we asked: “What would you say to a first-time camper or parent who is feeling nervous about camp?”

  • Our campers shared their insights:
    • “It’s okay and normal to be nervous!”
    • “You forget you were even nervous at all by the time you wake up the first morning!”
    • “It’s the safest place ever!! And making friends is a breeze, they last a lifetime too”
    • “You will find people that feel like family and you can write so many letters!”
    • “Don’t worry! Everyone at camp is so, so nice”
    • “Even 20 years later, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.”
    • “It’s so very amazing”
    • “You will forget about your family in no time so have fun!”
    • “You’re about to have the best years of your life”
  • Our campers’ trusted adults shared their thoughts, too:
    • “Camp goes by so fast so don’t be afraid to be away from your kid/parent”
    • “It’s amazing and the kids adjust very quickly.”

Lastly, we asked folks to share their best tips for when they’re feeling homesick at camp:

    • Go to ‘your place’ at camp: “I go to the barn!”
    • “Find something to do or someone to talk to – don’t just sit in sadness”
    • “Talk to your friends and counselors”
    • “You’ll miss camp when you’re home so enjoy it while you’re there”
    • “It’s ok to cry! Write lots of letters home”
    • Distract yourself – “don’t think of home too much and go have fun with your friends!”
    • “I think – what would you be doing at home that’s more fun than what you’re doing here?!”
    • “Look at the photos you pinned up”

The best thing about Runoia is our community. It’s kind, tight-knit, and full of so many campers and staff who are ready and excited to help you. If you look for helpers at CR, you’ll find them around every corner – special thanks to the helpers who gave amazing tips for first-time campers this summer!

See you soon in Harmonyland,


Resilience at Camp

Last month, Dr. Tracy Brenner, “The Camp Counselor”, began a series at the Maine Camp Experience to help guide MCE parents through emotionally preparing for camp, starting with the topic of resilience in the face of homesickness and the absence of parental help.

In the vast majority of introductory conversations with parents of new campers, the inevitable topic of homesickness and preparedness for the camp experience comes up: “How do you help campers through homesickness?”, “What happens if she doesn’t adjust immediately?”

Before diving into explaining our in-depth staff training, our strategies for helping individual campers adjust, and how our social, emotional, and behavioral health specialist provides higher-level support, I always begin by first saying that homesickness is perhaps the most ‘normal’ and expected part of camp. Even the ‘campiest’ of kids experience pangs of homesickness and sadness that can make their way into a letter home, and those letters can be devastating for a parent to read.

But here’s a secret: usually by the time that letter has made it to a loved one’s mailbox, the feelings are three-days old, and those three days were full of smiles, laughter, new skills learned, and countless moments of bravery. Experiencing big feelings can be overwhelming at the best of times, and writing can be an exceptional release of those emotions to the people a camper trusts the most. Sometimes it takes time for campers to feel comfortable expressing those feelings to a friend or adult at camp instead, and be able to save the most exciting news for those letters home.

In the meantime, through all the tough moments, what we do know is that camp builds resilience (in my experience, for kids and adults alike!) Imagine a single day at camp and all of the moments a child will experience – some exciting, some disappointing. Each moment is an opportunity for growth in their resilience. From picking their sail back up after dropping it while windsurfing, to committing to fixing a mistake or rolling with it in an art project, to sitting with the disappointment of not getting their dream role in the play and choosing to be happy for their friend. For kids, these are hard things – but hard things that at camp, they are capable of.

And building that resilience can be exhausting and trying – so don’t be surprised if at week three, you find yourself picking up a quiet, tired kid. In a week or so, they might be ready to open upabout all of their amazing experiences – but be patient, they’ve been building resilience at camp for twenty-one days! And one day, that resilience may just develop to carry them up Mt. Katahdin, challenge them to go to JMG test camp, convince them to try the Oak Island swim, or accomplish something like American Archer, Advanced Equestrian, or Advanced Skipper.

Braids, Bracelets and other “Just Camp Things”

When you hear the phrase “just camp things!” what do you think of first? Have you ever had a moment when you realized a normal part of your life was actually not a regular thing for everyone else? There’s a good chance that “it’s a camp thing.”

Recently, I’ve been going to fitness classes where we spend 20 minutes biking, 20 minutes lifting, and 20 minutes doing yoga. I have short, thick hair so I have to get a little creative for it to stay put through three completely different activities. So, I’ve showed up to classes with every version of braids, french twists, and bobble ponies you can possibly imagine.

Normal, right? But it has shocked me how many adults have asked me how I know how to french braid – doesn’t everyone!? But I’ve realized that it was summers spent with “sisters” unrelated to me in braid trains by the lake that afforded me this skill – an experience not many people get to have, I’ve learned. Even as an adult at camp, two braids just can’t be beat for a long day on the waterfront!

The phrase “just camp things” reminds me of friendship bracelets on water bottles, weeks without a phone, singing nonsense songs, skits, footie pajamas, costumes galore, moo-offs!


But it’s not just the skills to braid hair or twist embroidery floss into patterned bracelets that are unique gains from camp. Without camp, my friend group wouldn’t have a go-to fire builder when we get together. Maybe you would have never stepped foot on a sailboat, or ridden a horse. Perhaps we would all have a harder time taking a step away from our phones and other technology without knowing we can actually do it for days and weeks on end.

As we get another day closer to camp 2022, I feel so much gratitude for the “just camp things” ahead of us. For all of us currently in the ‘real world’ patiently waiting for our ‘camp world’, the silly novelties of camp life can’t come soon enough. Where else can you rock your tropical shirt Mondays, tie-dye Tuesdays, pigtail Fridays, and footie PJ Sundays with pride?! Nowhere but Runoia!


The Power of Play – for ‘Kids’ of All Ages

It’s the middle of the school year – our teachers and students have made their way out of winter break and back to school – although maybe just virtually – and camp feels both so close and too far away. Most of our campers have a full semester of school left before they make their way through the Runoia gates this summer.

During the school year, I tutor students in math. We learn so much together by practicing our multiplication tables, solving equations, and challenging ourselves – but each week when we’re together, we also play. I’ve seen games and play help anxious students open up, and even the best students to have fun and reinforce their skills. Play is often seen as the reward after the work, but play itself is a valuable tool for learning, de-stressing, and figuring out our world.

The power of play is clear to researchers, teachers, and camp professionals alike. Play is known to bust stress, foster imagination and creativity, increase physical activity, build confidence, resilience, and social skills, and much more.

But the power of play is not reserved for the youngest of our kids – you would have seen play often in my high-school classroom, too. Even my senior students – some as old as 18 – loved the simultaneous respite and excitement of the chance to play. It’s an honor as an adult to provide opportunities of play to the ‘too old’ kids, who may have learned that it’s embarrassing to play at their age. At Runoia, those walls come down and silliness reigns – and the best part is seeing our staff, CITs, and older campers set the example for our younger ones. Even our admin – especially our admin – can be some of the most enthusiastic partakers.


When I think of this, my mind goes immediately to some of our silliest EPs – evening programs – like Miss Tacky and Powder Faeries (if you know, you know!) In the case of Miss Tacky – perhaps the EP that our senior end campers get the most excited for – it’s amazing to see the creativity and imagination that our campers bring to the table with a simple prompt and the liberty to create.



While Runoia’s EP and program offerings provide more structured playtime, our schedule honors the all-important unstructured playtime as well. During sublime time, campers can be seen all over camp playing gaga, doing cartwheels on the grass, or making up games in the water. On trips, we often made up songs to get us through long paddles, played games while a meal was cooking, and built faerie houses.

In our current world – where we may fall in the trap of confusing screen time with playtime – it’s all the more vital to offer our kids, and ourselves, a space to unplug and safely play and explore. Here, I’m counting down the days until I can witness the power of play in our campers and tap into my own silliness and creativity once again.


Meet The 2014 Director Team!

Introducing the Runoia Administrative Team to our Staff

At Runoia we work as a team. We connect daily about campers and families and staff. We like lots of reminders as we have a lot of people to keep track of in our jobs.  We like to receive your questions. Contact any of the Director/Admin team and let us know what’s on your mind. If the person you emailed doesn’t know the answer, they will help you find the solution!

You’ll find a lot of other helpful leaders in your activity area when you get to camp.  Meanwhile, feel free to email any of us with your questions and/or any concerns or if you’d like to share ideas with us or just say “hi”!

Alex Jackson

AJPrimary responsibility during the summer:

Director of All Programs and Schedules (including your schedule!) Transportation to and from Camp and Staff and Camper Programs

Email: alex@runoia.com Fun Fact: I really like frogs and collected them growing up and now I own a Costa Rican black and green tree frog!

Abby Burbank

AB Primary responsibility during the summer: Abby joins us this summer as a Summer Resident Director.

She joins our team to help run camp this summer and will focus on Junior End staff guidance and supporting our health care team and program director. Her years of camp experience and serendipity-like timing to join us this summer makes for a great opportunity for Runoia and its families.

Email: abbyb@runoia.com Fun Fact: I have been to all 50 states.

Jai Kells


 Primary responsibility during the summer: Jai lives at camp in the summer and has the pleasure of being the Senior End Coach and Support for Cabin Counselors and this summer she will add: Director to the Runoia Kitchen

Email: jai@runoia.com Fun Fact(s): I have been known to eat an entire watermelon in one sitting!

Gines Satchi

GSPrimary responsibility during the summer:  Gines is the summer Director of Program – supporting key leaders to run safe and engaging activities. He is the Director of the Runoia Waterfront ensuring safety and fun on and in the water this summer. Email: gines@runoia.com Fun Fact: I have jumped out of a plane 76 times!

Pam Cobb

 PCH Primary responsibility during the summer: Supporting and guiding this amazing team of Runoia Directors. Business management of camp and strategic planning for camp. Come have a K-cup coffee or tea in my office this summer! Email: pam@runoia.com Fun Fact: I am the fourth generation in my family to own and operate a camp in Maine.