Approaching the summer a little tentatively

As we approach the summer Camp Runoia season, the ‘experts,’ and media tell us that covid has generated more anxiety than is typical and that our kids may be feeling it the most. According to the CDC, “Children’s mental health during public health emergencies can have both short and long term consequences to their overall health and well-being.”  It makes sense that children who have spent intensive amounts of time as part of the family unit may be reluctant to leave that safe bubble and head off into an unknown new experience no matter how fun it sounds. It’s not just new campers who may be feeling a little more anxious, parents are often surprised when longer term campers  express fears or reluctance about returning to camp. While we want camp to feel like ‘home away from home’ it may take some campers a few days to get to that feeling.

There are only 85 days until we open Camp Runoia for the summer and it is typical at this time of year to hear from a few families that their camper may be having second thoughts or is more worried than they expected about coming to camp. Some anxiety about a new experience is to be expected but debilitating concerns or persistent worry is something that should be delved into a little more deeply.

Preparation for the adventure and discussion about what to expect can be great ways to reduce anxiety, answer questions and solve perceived problems that may be more hypothetical than real.

Campers can help to get ready for camp by:

  • Looking at the website and thinking about which activities they can’t wait to try.
  • Printing the packing list and choosing uniform and finding supplies.
  • Writing down their questions and emailing the directors.
  • Figuring out on the camp map where important places are.
  • Talking through some ‘what if’s’ and how camp handles them.
  • Connecting with returning campers and pen pals to get the inside scoop
  • Practicing skills that they will need at camp – bed making, laundry sorting, hair and teeth brushing, showering.
  • Trying to use a flashlight for reading at night.
  • Practice writing letters! It’s a great way for all the family to share news.
  • Start a mindfulness skills list and have campers think about what helps them if they are worried or need a minute to regroup.

At camp kids get constant human interaction in all aspects of their daily life. They can reconnect with nature and literally live in the out of doors away from technology. They build resilience and grit as they challenge themselves in a supportive environment, can explore problem solving, and also are encouraged to have a ‘can do’ or ‘I’m not good at it yet’ attitude. For most campers anxieties about the experience typically evaporate once they are busy and engaged with camp life. There may be a few that need a little more help and our skilled team of experienced, senior staff along with our support specialist work closely to help campers reduce anxiety and have a great time. 

In this article the American Camp Association suggests that camp is a great antidote to the Covid pandemic. Camp offers kids the unique opportunity to step back into a simpler time, with no internet connection. A place where a small community can join together and support one another without judgment, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Campers benefit from being out of their homes, playing with other kids, being challenged and nurtured as they adventure into a new experience. 

It’s not only three weeks away from home, it’s only three weeks at Runoia!

We wish summer lasted so much longer.

Why Camp? Colleen talks about her journey to Runoia

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

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

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

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

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

Colleen O’Malley – Assistant Director, Camp Runoia

A new season for Camp Runoia

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The 2021 Name Story

The ‘name story’ is a Runoia log tradition – who knows how long it goes back but it’s a fun part of our end of season celebrations. It includes the last name of all the staff and campers who were at camp for the whole summer; around 75 names. It is a little more entertaining when read aloud so use your creative voice and have a go!

 

A Fine Maine day in Lucyland

It was another ‘Fine Maine Day’ on Great Pond that started with an early Marin Bell to wake up the sleepy campers. It was a blue sky day with White fluffy clouds and Raya’s of sun shining down on Camp Runoia. Dresdowed up in their camp uniforms counselors were grabbing their coffee and Mullen over their schedules for the day.

The male staff were hanging out at the picnic tables, ‘Howes it going?’ Johnson Murray asked Alexander. “I have a Budeiri ache and Mahedy really hurts” he replied, “I think I’m coming down with the camp cold.” Oh no! I hope you don’t get the Hoffmann.’ Williams been sick for a week and I bet you Tena bucks Williamson, Jackson gets it next.That Colbourn’s man and we are out of cough drops. Emerson don’t be such a Dorsch I’ve been shopping on Amazon and have all the medicine we need in my Ekart I just need to click the magic button.

It was a busy camp day, trips were out and Melvani was full of the Blauberg team while Morrison, Davis had Chotas the whites. Garcia for closing the Dvorak yelled the counselor before the campers in their Hobbs nailed hiking boots, wandered up and over the Berryhill. They enjoyed their fill of the delicious blueberries and raspberries and all of their fingers were Dyed from the juice. Watch out for that giant Brown Snyder, Russelling in the Mulry bushes yelled the Germain counselor. ‘Get Wachenschwanz against that Bolduc- Jackson while I take care of it. Einzig, three I’ll trap it in that Cavenagh and we can get on with our picking.

Using Morse code, kids in campcraft were enjoying sending smoke signals across the lake.

The waterfront counselors were just getting back from the Marini. They were docking and the driver yelled, ‘Put a Hitch in that rope Grace so the boat doesn’t float away after our Bass fishing adventure with Jacob.’

Up at the Zahn the chickens were Glucking around the barnyard , I bet those chickens are wishing they were Friedman. Riders were Cantrelling around the arena, Korineing over jumps and having a blast.

There were a Millares of things going on. It was time for games at the fields, ‘I’m Sirois said Petersen, Martin,I was supposed to turn on the water Fontaine so that campers could fill their water bottles before the Tenorio of ten kickball game. ‘It Dostie matter, they used the sinks and are Cohen over there to get started.’ replied the sports counselor. Campers excitedly took their places and the Kells rang for the games to begin.

Chef and the kitchen staff were cooking up some Clancy food in the kitchen. ‘Make sure that Durham is Cook-Wright yelled chef ‘the Parsons from the village church are coming for lunch’. I added some Fennelley and Mintz to bring out the flavor and we can serve it with a fine Sinott grigio and Pina coladas. The campers can have their favorite Heubergers with Alvadrado’s so they won’t be Jonesing for the fancy food. I’m sure we have some Perrinier water too so it will be a treat.’ ‘For clean up and mopping Albanisi on us today, we only have to Shieferstein up the Paquette floor in Lodge before lunch.’

It was a perfect day to be at Camp Runoia

Camp Runoia – we really are ‘building lifelong skills’

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

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

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

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

Some of our transferable life skills:

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

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

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

 

Hitting our stride – camp life week 2

We are halfway through 1st Session. Can you believe it? We hardly can, especially considering all of the awesome action going on around camp! We said goodbye to our Harmony Land mini girls on Monday, and welcomed a new session of our youngest campers yesterday.

The Fourth of July  was a huge success thanks to our fabulous CITs who continued the tradition of planning and running the day. Campers awoke to very spirited, dressed-up counselor riding horses, followed by the always entertaining chorus of banging pots and pans! The dining hall and outdoor tents were decorated beautifully, we sang the National Anthems of all those represented at Runoia this summer, and special activity stations were set up throughout camp including a counselor makeover and treehouse jello drop – can you catch it in your mouth?! The fabulous kitchen crew baked and decorated delicious cakes, and there was plenty of watermelon to go around. Cooler temps and some rain meant that we ended our day with a campfire in the lodge instead of on our beach, but spirits were still high from all of the fun and games and the night was cozy and full of camp songs. We fell asleep to the owls and fireworks.

Everyone jumped right into the third activity block on Monday, our first “normal tag-up block” in two years(!), with many girls getting in time to ride up at the barn with our wonderful equestrian staff while others reached the top of the climbing tower or got bullseyes in archery or riflery. In our arts and crafts department, campers are weaving baskets big and small, working on stained-glass pieces, sewing fabric bags, wood-burning projects, shaping and glazing pottery, creating collage journals, and of course making plenty of friendship bracelets! Down at the waterfront, we’ve had both swimming lessons and free swim periods, first time and seasoned kayakers and canoers going out for a paddle, windsurfers and sailors learning to tack and gybe, and waterskiers zipping across Great Pond with hair blowing in the wind and huge smiles on their faces! We are so glad to be able to send girls out on day trips again! This week, Sixth shack hiked Bald Mountain and Ocho scrambled up Tumbledown. Monday afternoon rec swim was full of girls looking to jump back in the lake for the second or third time that day!

But the fun doesn’t stop after dinner! Last night’s evening program (EP) was Powder Fairies, and as usual it was a big hit! Girls worked together in mixed age groups to complete various tasks in order to solve the final puzzle, and it was a great opportunity to run around and let out some energy before bedtime. On Tuesday night we gathered together to watch our new campers pick out of a hat to learn whether they would become a member of the Blue Team or White Team for the rest of their time here at Runoia. Each girl was welcomed into her new team with cheers and songs. Earlier in the week, EP was “Get to Know Your Counselor”, a create-your-own-country night, Scattergories,  and Fractured Fairytales in which groups created new stories (think Mulan + Jack and the Beanstalk, or Cinderella + Shrek). 

Tomorrow we start our fourth activity block and girls are looking forward to tagging up and choosing activities. We are encouraging them to try new program areas while they are here as well as return to the activities that bring them joy. We are excited and hopeful for this weekend’s forecast of mid- seventies and sun, so that we can all enjoy time outside and make the most of the last 10 days of the Session!

Mindfulness for Campers

As we anticipate the start of camp, we are aware of the mental health and wellness of our campers and how mindfulness and coping skills will help. For most campers, this is the first excursion away from home in a long time.

In addition to the extensive health plans and protocols for navigating Covid at camp, we recognize most campers will need help to develop coping skills while at camp. Thanks to our Behavior Health Specialist, Amelia Clancey, we have some ideas for your family.

To best support your daughters, we would like all campers to create a list of coping skills with easy access to make her feel good and also to provide clear ways counselors and staff can support her.

A few guidelines about the list:

  • Self-made List: Feel free to help your daughter AND have her involved. Her thoughts and creations will actually help her when she is at camp revisting her list. (see the last bullet)
  • Length: The list can be as long as she wants, but ideally a minimum of 5 choices.
  • The coping skills/activities should be things that are easily accessible and do not require many materials or assembly – perfect for camp!
  • Variety: Include options of all kinds, such as some for when they can’t sleep at night, some they can do alone, and some they can do with others. Please also think of some options that require materials
    (coloring book and pencils) and others that don’t (taking a walk).
  • Format: It would be best if she brought a hard copy of the list with her to camp. In terms of style, anything goes! Have fun with this! Type it in a fun font that you like, write it in a way that makes you happy, add stickers, add glitter, organize it. The ways to personalize your list are endless!

Take some time with your daughter to think about and practice things that help them to feel safe, calm, and comforted. We have included a couple resources to help with this task and of course are here to answer questions, help brainstorm, and most of all, enjoy a fantastic summer.

Stress balls are easy to packA Sample of Ideas:

      • Deep breathing exercises
      • Meditation (practice before camp)
      • Quiet yoga moves or mini yoga moves
      • Write in your journal
      • Color in coloring books
      • Read a book
      • Take a walk
      • Make Bracelets
      • Silly putty/thera-putty/calm scented putty
      • Scented squeeze toys
      • Stress ball

Some helpful links to peruse:

Grounding Techniques

Feeling a bit anxious? These ideas are about feeling calmer and less anxious.

50 Coping Skills

If she like the style of this resource, she could print this out and cut out the ones your she likes, then have them glue them to their own page

Coping Skills for Kids: Blog

This blog has many articles to help you and your child think of options for their list and help you learn a lot along the way!

99 Coping Skills

Love, Aionur

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.

Self-Care: Integrating Time for You in the Hectic Schedule of Daily Life

You are catapulting around, working from your hectic home circus, syncing schedules between

hybrid education for your children, after school engagement, managing zoom meetings, connecting with your partner and family, caring for your parents, and hey, by the way, what’s for dinner?

As a reminder to myself and all of us, taking time for self-care during the pandemic is critical. One easy way to ground yourself is through stretching, yoga, movement with meditation. It all starts by rolling out the mat. Can you get up 20 minutes earlier? Can you escape for a lunch time stretch? 20-30 minutes is all you need for restorative healing and self-care.

At camp we are so lucky to have alumna Kara Benken Garrod lead both adults and campers in yoga practice. She teaches yoga in Ohio in the off season and generously helps guide us at camp.  

When we are not at camp, we love at home yoga with Adrienne Mishler.  Her brilliant and accessible at home yoga practice and her annual gift to all of us – 30 days of yoga in January. It is available to you any time of the day for free. She is so generous and beautiful to share her vision about yoga as a lifestyle with millions of viewers.

There are plenty of ways to get your children involved too. Ideas about yoga with children include stories and play about yoga, to classes  Here’s a fun way to introduce yoga, either a deck of yoga cards with some ideas about connecting breath and meditation or a poster of yoga moves for children to do on their own. Just have them roll out their mat and enjoy the fun!

Meanwhile, you can take a deep breath (breath in love, breath out fear) and grab your afternoon cup of coffee to get ready for the next 8 hours of catapulting around!

Love, Aionur

 

 

 

 

 

Read About Runoia CRH 2020 – Featured by Camp Minder Blogger Sarah Braker

By: Sarah Braker

Pam Cobb has been the director and owner of Camp Runoia for 34 summers. Situated on a sandy-bottomed lake in Maine, Runoia is an all-girls camp that teaches girls resilience and independence. Cobb and her team have always modeled these traits, but in 2020 they showed the Runoia spirit of determination and grit in ways they never imagined. They plan to do the same for summer camp in 2021 with COVID-19 precautions.

While many camps made the heartbreaking and difficult decision to suspend camp in 2020, Cobb and her team successfully ran camp for 80 girls. Like other camp directors who did the same, Cobb leaned heavily on her leadership team, doctors and other experts, and followed state mandates. She was also part of a group of 16 other Maine camps that were able to solicit advice and best practices from each other.

Cobb and her team faced innumerable and often overwhelming challenges, and she acknowledges that there is still so much uncertainty leading into the summer of 2021. As she herself plans for any number of scenarios for summer camp in 2021 with COVID-19 precautions, she hopes that her peers can learn from what worked for her at Camp Runoia in 2020.

For Cobb and her team, there was no question that camp was going to be very different in 2020. Instead of approaching summer with the goal of keeping as many things the same as possible, they leaned into these differences. They made some difficult decisions, but they ultimately helped her succeed. Specifically, they:

  • Adjusted the typical way that campers were organized 
  • Changed how activities were run
  • Limited off-campus activities and on-site visitors, and
  • Created plans for various levels of Coronavirus outbreaks among staff and campers

A New Name

One of the more innovative decisions suggested by Cobb’s co-director, Alex Jackson, was to give camp a different name in 2020. Jackson recognized that Runoia was going to be completely unique, and wanted to differentiate and acknowledge the forthcoming experiences of campers. Jackson chose the name ‘Camp Runoia Harmonyville.’

Read more of this blog by Sarah Braker at Camp Minder here and find out about Runoia’s protocols here

Find additional information about some of our Maine camp group in today’s WSJ article.

Love, Aionur