March brings us Maple Syrup Sunday!

Maple syrup making – this is a Maine tradition you won’t want to miss – it is always the fourth Sunday in March.  Plus Governor Mills just lifted travel restrictions to Maine if you live in New England so come on up!

Plan your getaway to Maine for Sunday March 28th by seeing the sugar houses that will be open this year.

Our local Belgrade CSA Farm, Winterberry Farm will have their Maine Maple Sunday as usual with Covid protocols in place. And surprise, they are celebrating on Easter Sunday, April 4.

Quoting Danielle Pepin from Quebec’s maple syrup industry, “The maple syrup production process gets its start from one of nature’s true phenomena,” she says. “As water from soil absorbs into the maple tree during a cold spring night, warmer temps during the day create pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree, making it easier to collect maple sap. The sap is gathered over 12 to 20 days, usually between March and late April, according to the region. Then, the tapping process begins; the sap is transported to a sugar house where it is boiled down until it becomes syrup.”

Are you not a fan of pancakes? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with 70+ recipes that use maple syrup. There’s always a good reason to have maple syrup in your fridge:

Epicurious gives us more ideas for whisking maple syrup into your cooking:

Enjoy the season for everything it has to offer and plan a trip to a Sugar Shack at the end of the month!







A Shout Out from Dr. Dora Mills


Put Your Hands in the Air! 

The sister of the Governor of Maine and former CDC Director of Maine, Dr. Dora Mills posted this about the summer camps that opened in Maine this summer:

A few weeks ago, there were numerous news stories about summer camp outbreaks in Georgia and other states. People were wisely asking why they were allowed to open. And when they did open, why weren’t they adhering to known effective strategies, e.g. masking, distancing, and cohorting? The good news is that Maine’s overnight youth camps have recently adjourned after a successful summer. They hosted campers and staff from most states in the U.S. as well as a number of other countries. I understand that it appears we did not have one summer camp outbreak. Maine’s guidance required camps to implement all of the known effective strategies. They used a great amount of creativity to implement them, and seemed to have done so very successfully. 

Although summer camps are not the same as schools, the experience here this summer gives me optimism that we can do the same for schools and other venues. Having worked with many youth camp directors over the years when I led Maine CDC, I found them and their campers a most creative and flexible group. Teachers I know or have known (including my own mother, grandmothers, aunts, and nieces) as well as school children are similarly innovative and adaptable, which are key ingredients to reopening camps as well as schools. We are also fortunate in Maine to sustain low levels of pandemic activity, although some recent outbreaks are concerning. This gives us higher chances to reconvene schools successfully in the coming weeks.

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.


The inside scoop on Camp Runoia

As we continue delving into how you find the perfect sleep away camp for your child it is definitely advantageous to get the ‘inside scoop.’  Once you have narrowed down your camp list to your top two choices talking with parents and campers is a great way to figure out which one is the perfect fit for your child.  Word of mouth referrals give a real perspective of a camps culture and value.  Candid conversations with current parents can help you to get a real feel for the place and the people.

Here’s what some of our 2018 parents had to say about Camp Runoia and why they and their daughter’s love it:

  • S’s highlight was water sports, particularly the “dot,” sailing, and tubing. She also loved tennis, archery and riding. She also loved meeting new people, being mixed up at mealtime at different tables. She loved making connections with older campers who had written to her as pen pals a great tradition.
  • Being white team captain (and all the other amazing camp experiences!!). As always, she is still talking nonstop about all the fun she had.
  • Both our girls seemed to have fully inhabited the physical space of camp. The freedom to do so much good healthy stuff all day long was fantastic. Ropes course and waterfront were much talked about.

She loved all her counselors.

  • Her cabin mates, she had a blast and has made incredible lifelong friends. It’s really special we are so grateful.
  • She was so excited about sailing. She drew us diagrams and explained all the terminology. She enjoyed all the activities and the girls with whom she shared the experiences.
  • For me, it was great fun to see her participating in a sailing major this session. She loved getting to know the girls in her shack.

She came home with more independence with personal care.

  • She loved trying all the new activities she wished she would of stayed longer to try all the activities. Definitely was very happy with all the activities she managed to do this summer
  • Greatly appreciated the quality of the counselors and their simultaneous focus on girls and readiness to reassure if I was worried.
  • Definitely improved her swimming in the 12 days of camp, which we appreciated. She benefited from tennis and riding instruction as well.

The awards and being able to experience different and new activities was very positive. She was very proud of all her awards 🙂

  • I am SO impressed with the academic caliber of the counselors. They are obviously intelligent in academics and also have a generous spirit to share with their girls.
  • She had a wonderful experience gained independence and increased confidence. As she enters 3rd grade she is really showing a sign of maturity that she hadn’t last year. I do believe it is part from her experience at camp.
  • Communication is EXCELLENT in all areas. I am always confident that T is safe, happy and in good hands. Any and all communications have been clear and prompt, whenever we have needed extra help with our girls in particular it has been handled incredibly well.

If you want a copy of our current family reference list so that you can get the inside scoop give us a call 207 495 2228 our parents are happy to chat about why they continue choosing Camp Runoia for their daughter.

The path to the lake at Camp Runoia in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.

A Note from A Camp Mom

I worked at Camp Runoia for three summers when I was in my late teens/early twenties, as the Head Sailing Instructor (in the late 1990s). I witnessed firsthand the magical moments these girls enjoy as they explore new opportunities, drive themselves toward mastering a particular skill, breathe deeply outside in nature, and establish a community of trust and camaraderie, making some friendships they will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Once I worked at Camp Runoia, I easily kindled the memories of camp for twenty years.  And when we had daughters, I could not wait for the day I could share Camp Runoia with them. Now, fast forward twenty years later. Our own daughter was old enough last year to participate in Harmony Land Camp, which for me was a dream come true. (I mean this most sincerely.)

Harmony Land Camp “HLC” is an ideal introduction to camp life for younger campers. The campers not only have the safety net of their own counselors and fellow HLC campers, but also the opportunity to engage with older children and returning campers during meals (especially the outdoor meals served picnic style two days a week), at the waterfront for swim class and recreational swims, and during the all-camp assembly each morning. For my daughter, being in HLC eliminated the sometimes overwhelming feeling of wondering which activity to try next, and also reduced any potential worry about whether or not she would have a “friend” in that activity. There’s more info on HLC here.

As the program continues and their comfort level increases, the girls are able to branch out a bit more, or hang back with the familiar, if that’s what they prefer. I know at least one HLC camper last year took swim lessons with campers who were much older, because her swimming ability exceeded that of her peers. The staff is very good about making sure each individual camper’s needs are being met.

Camp Runoia is an authentic sleep away camp experience. There is no air conditioning, the campers and counselors pick and eat wild blueberries from the bushes they found the prior summer, people greet each other with kind smiles, and while walking through camp you hear much laughter.

The directors have been running camp or participating in camp ALL OF THEIR LIVES — it is a family tradition now in the fifth generation. I knew Pam’s parents when I worked at camp in the late 1990s; they were lovely people, and at that time had sold the camp and operations to Pam. Pam and her daughter, Jai Kells continue the tradition. I also worked with Alex at Runoia 20 years ago — her level of expertise even then was considerable, and she keeps daily activities for everyone running smoothly as the logistics guru. They each balance the responsibilities of running camp with making sure everyone’s needs are being met or exceeded. The campers are happy, and the counselors are aware of the signs of homesickness and the best ways to address it. The lead counselor and director of Harmony Land Camp, Abbie Marone, is a teacher with a degree in early elementary education; it shows in all of her interactions with her campers. She treats each child with respect, includes everyone and, according to my daughter, is caring and funny.

My daughter was ecstatic when I asked if she wanted to go back to camp this summer. She is looking forward to archery, tubing, and sailing. She is also looking forward to seeing her friends and the counselors again. I know the end of the session will come and the campers and counselors get that feeling they are saying goodbye to family. There are definitely more tears shed the last day, than the first when the summer comes to a close.

Kara Garrod



Camp Runoia’s Pioneering Women

How grateful we are that our Camp Runoia founders were brave women who dared to venture out of their comfort zones.  Pioneers of their time they chose to take a path that not many women had walked and left us a great legacy of strength and fortitude.


Early residential summer camps were primarily established to provide an opportunity for children from urban areas to be away from the cities and have an experience in nature.  Initially it was boys who were provided with this opportunity but it wasn’t long before girls’ camps opened alongside them.  It was strongly believed that living away from the conveniences of home in the ‘wilderness’ would build character and strong moral values.   Perhaps unique in Runoia’s case was that women were our primary founders.

The 1907 world that Miss Weiser and Miss Pond lived in seems a million lifetimes away from the lives that our campers lead today.


Can you imagine that in 1907…

Women’s life expectancy was around 50

English suffragettes stormed British Parliament and many were arrested suffragette-uk


Julia Ward Howe was the first woman elected to National Institute of Arts & Letters

Theodore Roosevelt was president

The passenger liner RMS Lusitania made its maiden voyage from England to NYC

Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne were born

Rudyard Kipling received the Nobel prize for literature

Good Housekeeping magazine cost $1 for an annual subscription

Trade unions were established

Oklahoma become the 46th state

It is amazing that the values promoted by residential summer camps in 1907 are the same as they are in 2017

Camp helps build self-confidence and self-esteem

Camp is a safe environment

Camp is a place to build social skills and make friends


We hope that Camp Runoia will continue to provide girls with the opportunity to bravely follow in the footsteps of the pioneering women who came before us.  We hope that we may all have strong female role models and be them too.

Maintaining standards in residential camping

American Camp Association Accreditation

This week was our  American Camp Association Accreditation visit which after much preparation went off without a hitch. It is a peer review by other camp directors to ensure that we are maintaining the highest standards of health and safety in the camping industry. Did you know that Camp Runoia has been an accredited ACA camp since 1960 and that we continuously run our programs to the industry standards that are provided?

“The American Camp Association is the only nationwide organization that accredits children’s camps.  The ACA Accreditation process is a voluntary commitment by camps to the highest standards of health, safety, and program quality.


One purpose of the ACA Accreditation program is to educate camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff.  The standards establish guidelines for needed policies, procedures, and practices.  The camp is then responsible for the ongoing implementation of the policies.” (From ACANE)

At Camp Runoia we are incredibly proud to be able to provide a high quality, residential camp experience for our campers and employee’s. Safety first!

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Tell your friends and family about the sleep away opportunity that we provide.

Enrollment for 2017 will be opening soon and new camper spaces will be in high demand!

Risk taking

This week I took a giant risk for my family.  It was a spur of the moment decision forced by a series of events that led me to take the leap.  I briefly weighed the pros and cons and decided that there was nothing to lose so I forged ahead.  If it works out there will be a few major obstacles to overcome but the rewards will be worth it, if nothing comes of it then life will continue as it currently does and truly other than about $40 nothing will have been lost.

jumpRisk taking is part of human nature, as a species we enjoy learning from our own experiences and living in the moments when we are challenging ourselves.  Taking risks is something we all do every day, some risks are measured and undertaken with great clarity and hope of a positive end result others are more reckless and can lead to potentially negative consequences.  Being able to judge the difference is a critical life skill.

horseAs an adult my previous risk taking history helped me to gauge whether or not this current risk is worth talking.  Fortunately children have adults to guide them in their choices and steer them from choices that would result in disaster.  It is advantageous to their development if we are able to provide our children with the opportunity to take measured risks.  Children benefit from challenging themselves and their own decision making.  Much is learned by trying and succeeding but we also learn from trying and failing.

Camp provides endless opportunity for safe risk taking in both emotional and physical forums.  You can reach out to a new friend, literally take the ‘Leap of Absolute Faith’ on the ropes course intentionally capsize your boat to practice your own self rescue skills, try new food, act in a play, try to reach the top of a mountain and so the list goes on.

mountainOur campers at Runoia are encouraged to take on new challenges and are of course fully supported by caring adults, safety procedures and a community that is looking out for them.  Through their adventures at overnight camp girls can gain life skills.  The decision making processes that they develop will help them to weigh the pros and cons of future risks that will inevitably challenge them.

Overnight camp is a risk worth taking. 10441092_10152103276417609_4298892310991638834_n

Finding Harmony

Where do you find harmony? Where does your child find harmony?

Harmony in a Moment at Camp
Harmony in a Camp Moment

Is it in that first cup of coffee? Or is harmony found amid a car ride to school, where perhaps there are a few quiet moments to connect and communicate? Maybe it is in a sunrise or sunset, or the dinner table that occasionally finds everyone gathered around.

For me, finding harmony started with a mid-afternoon walk, a text and a podcast.

The text? A few words that came across my phone noting that my niece was heading to Iceland on a few week adventure.

The podcast? A short story of two folks who once used a roll of a dice to lead them, by chance, to explore new places during their week vacation.

A text, a podcast and that afternoon walk invited me to find harmony.  Those few moments inspired me to think differently about my upcoming summer.

Yes, it’s good in Cleveland, but where and what else should be explored? Where else can I grow, grow with others seeking the “harmony” in life?

Remembering a love of Maine from vacations of the past, a simple Google search of camps quickly led me to Runoia. Runoia, Native American for “harmony.”

A Special Runoia Waterfront Spot
A Special Runoia Waterfront Spot

Belgrade Lakes, archery, loons, stained glass, horses, family style dining, ceramics, campfires by the lake and plenty of traditions…Yes, this was sounding like harmony to me.

Beyond the age of a camper, this summer I will become part of the staff – the team – that will work together to create harmony among a camp filled with young ladies.

For me, harmony is about taking this time to join Runoia, to become part of a community, and to work towards a program that benefits all.

This summer, harmony will be about the sunsets, and the loons, a new stained glass project. Harmony will be about the first arrow a young lady shoots. Harmony will be about kayaks, and books being read aloud in a cabin as the moon rises. Harmony will be about Sunday evening programs by the lake, and trips to places never explored.

A Loon on Great Pond
A Loon on Great Pond

Harmony will be about opportunities to grow, and learn and explore. Together.

This summer, harmony will be about Runoia and I can’t wait.

What about you? Where and how will you find your harmony?

Written and submitted by Jeannie Fleming-Gifford, Camp Runoia Summer Assistant Director

My Home Away from Home – Erin Lasher

I have spent ten summers of my life at Runoia. I grew up there, and made some of the most amazing memories. Camp is not just a place anymore for me, it is a feeling of home. This past summer as I drove myself to camp for the first time I realized how much I had grown up. For the first time I was driving myself to a place that I called home, instead of having my family drive me, but as I was sitting in the car I realized that I was not going to be away from my family at all. I was returning to the family that I got to choose.

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            Pam and Alex have been in my life since I was 8 years old. They are my moms and they definitely had a hand in raising me. Camp was not just a place for me to learn activities, and later teach them, but a place for me to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I loved every activity at camp, and it is amazing to say that I made the basket that now sits on my desk, but the things I hold most dear are those that were outside of activities.

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            The things that you don’t even realize that you are learning are at times more valuable than the known skills, things like sharing a room, becoming a leader, asking for help, being able to laugh at yourself, and being independent. I still remember my Mom driving my sister and I to camp for the first time all those years ago. I was only nine years old and absolutely terrified. That summer I became known to Alex as the one who cried, and she, along with the rest of camp, made Runoia feel like home by the end. I ended up signing up for camp for the next six years, and then became a CIT and a counselor. I bet neither Pam nor Alex could have expected that the scared little girl they held that day would end up being there for the next decade.

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            At 20 years old I have spent half of my life at camp. I have laughed, cried, and made the best friendships imaginable. I can proudly say that I have Runoia sisters all over the world. I was even lucky enough to be able to visit them while I was living in Europe last semester. They were a little bit of home for me, and I was so fortunate to be able to visit them in their own countries. At camp I found family, and learned lessons that I am still discovering. Over ten years being a part of the Runoia family is incredible, and I have made friends that I will hopefully keep for the rest of my life.  Being able to have the opportunity to be a camper and a counselor was amazing and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for my home away from home.

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