The Value of Unplugging

More and more the catalyst for unplugging from screens and technology comes from adults who see the tendency, or even the addiction, in their children to turn on screens during out of school time.  Even children are realizing that their draw to screens is an unhealthy habit.

Life is simpler without technology.

Camp  is a great opportunity to unplug, let go of the technological ties and hone 21st century skills. Not only is the actual unplugging valuable but knowing that you can survive when you put down your phone, tablet or gaming device is valuable to children gaining confidence in unplugging.  There is little conflict with detaching as everyone in the community is unplugged. Can you imagine going for weeks without even seeing a smart phone?

Face to Face contact and communication is a wonderful by-product of the unplugged experience, whether it’s working out differences on the gaga court or celebrating achievements on the tennis court or getting to know a new friend through friendly interaction around the cabin.  At camp adults and children of all ages have meaningful interactions throughout the day.

There is a plethora of research and scientific studies showing the detriment of too much screen time. School movie screenings of Screenagers is touring the country to help parents help students to navigating the digital world. Additional information in the film about screen habits of escape, anonymous behavior, attention-seeking is also mind bending. Film director Dr. Ruston’s blog helps parents with ongoing education and support in their families  including but not limited to addiction, pornography, self-control, ideas for after school activities, conversations on health and mental health, discussion about college and more.

What we know is that Camp Runoia is an organic screen-free zone. After a couple of days of adjustments to not having smart phones campers feel relieved to be unplugged, it is a relief to not have to keep up with social media or group texts and feel present and connected to other people at camp.

Sharing achievements with friends at Camp Runoia.

Join us today for a summer experience that allows your daughter to drop the phone and find a friend.

Why I work in Maine when I live in Oregon

“Why do you work in Maine when you live in Oregon?” is a question I get fairly often. Between coworkers asking if I’m from somewhere on the East Coast, or if I have family there, or if my mom thinks I’m going to end up moving there, Maine comes up a lot.

If you had asked me a few years ago where Maine was, or the capital, or even if it snows there, I probably would not have been able to tell you. (Yes, I do know these things now.)

I found Runoia when I was looking for a “traditional” camp. The year before I had spent my summer at a day camp with British military kiddos in Germany, and the year before that I had worked at another day camp with kids from the American military in South Korea. After spending a few years in unorthodox camps, I was looking to stay in the US in 2017 (granted Maine is the farthest away from Oregon I could have been).

I had a few ideas of what I was looking for. I wanted a sleepaway camp, I wanted something that worked with my summer break dates since I was still in college, and I wanted a camp that had been open more than 50 years.

Not a very extensive list. I wanted traditions, things that people maybe couldn’t even remember why they started (Pigtail Friday or Hawaiian shirt Monday anybody?)

but were still very present at camp. This was the most important factor to me, since other camps I’ve worked at were relatively new or were still figuring out their own identities. I essentially became a first-time camper myself as I combed through the internet, squirreling out all the information about a camp that I could find.

After the longest weekend ever, I was down from 280 camps across the eastern United States to three that all seemed like good fits. I applied to all three, Runoia being the first one to respond back. I was on the phone with Alex in under 12 hours of applying, and that is not an exaggeration. The second camp and I had a Skype interview, but when I told them I didn’t have a driver’s license they told me I didn’t have a job with them. The third camp and I played phone tag for three days until I gave up on them. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, Runoia sounded great from the phone interview and everything I found online, so the fates had made the decision for me.

And Runoia was great! Driving up to the camp for the first time was just wonderful, and the amount of information and history that I got on day one was more than enough to make sure that I chose the right camp. There were similar elements from other camps that I’ve loved in the past, too, like family style dining, field trips offsite, singing songs, and Runoia seemed like a place I could really invest in. I can’t tell you what specifically got me “hooked” on Runoia. If it was the towering trees or the time by Great Pond, or the expectation that if this is what I could do in my first year, what could I do next year? I was sad, to say the least, when we started to pack camp up. How could it be over already?

After camp I got to spend time back in Oregon with my mom, experiencing what many campers probably feel after camp: being camp-sick. I was trying to decide

Ruby enjoying our Sunday Morning Pajama Breakfast

if I was going back to Runoia in 2018 and my mom basically laughed at me and said, in my sad state, that I had already made my decision.


In addition to building my own life long skills in basket weaving at Runoia, I continue to work with girls who, I think, really just need their own space and time to find themselves! I know I needed that when I was younger, and I’m glad that I can be someone that kiddos can look up to.

Oh no, now I’m campsick again.


The Value of the Camp Experience

My nine year old daughter is starting to have more sleepovers this year, and I realized her courage about sleepovers and skills about respecting other peoples’ space or room, came from living in a group setting at Runoia.

At Runoia one of the many life skills campers learn is how to live with a group of people and how to work with a bunk mate. Learning how live in a communal living environment isn’t something you learn without living it out in real life. You have to actually do it to get good at it! Learning the skills needed to be patient with your roommate, or respect someone’s space before their first day of boarding school or college is a gift camp provides.

Some children who go to camp have never had to share a room with others. Camp provides the lessons through counselors’ gentle reminders of “respect others” or “think of others”. On the first night of camp individuals of each cabin group sign a community contract, making sure the ideas and goals on how to respect people’s personal space, our camp, the environment and each other are shared.  Cabin groups, with their counselors’ guidance, refer to the contract when they need a boost about living together.

The night owls learn to keep things quiet after the lights go out, and girls who are up before the “wake up bell” learn to respect people still sleeping. Campers learn to do their chores and feel a sense of accomplishment leaving their clean cabin for the day.

Some peoples’ perception of summer camp is that it’s just about learning how to horseback ride or pass a swim level (and of course these things are an amazing part of summer camp). However, there are life lessons learned from the moment they wake up in the morning and throughout the day about sharing space, respecting others and learning how to live in harmony with others. Camp Runoia provides life skills at their best.

Jai Cobb Kells – Assistant Director Camp Runoia


The Camp Decision – Is it Time? And Which Camp?!

After a lot of thought… discussions… reading every parent blog online … multiple calls to friends who had gone away to sleep-away camp, we finally decided to send Mati to camp.   She had never slept away from home at anyone’s house, so it was quite a decision-making process.

Researching and Deciding Was Intense!

Once we made up our mind, all the fun began.  Matilde was turning 9 and was leaving for three weeks to Maine.   She was so excited!   Not once during her 3-week stay, nor any time before, did she ever feel sad.  Quite the opposite!  Matilde absolutely loved her camp experience and hasn’t stopped talking about it since!  She discovered the carefree joy of friendship, crafts, sports, playing, singing, all within the most beautiful setting possible. She also learned responsibility with her daily chores and appreciated the comforts of home (air conditioning).

By far a great gift for any girl :).  So much was new; so much was fun!

Today we are happy to be able to send our youngest daughter along this summer as well.

Julián & Andrea Gómez

A Girl from Chicago in 1947

My name (way back then) was Anne T, Nelson.  I came to Runoia from Chicago with Janey Holler and Janey Rose and had a profound camp experience in two summers of my life. The “Janeys”, as they were called, were three years older than I was.  I was in the second cabin my first summer and then in the third cabin. The “Janeys” were in the 4th (the oldest cabin in camp then).

Back in Chicago, the three of us went to Girls’ Latin School. I was living with Janey Holler while my mother was elsewhere. Perhaps she was taking care of her mother who was ill and I was taken in by Janey’s family.

Janey knew of Runoia from living previously in Pennsylvania.  The founder of camp, Lucy Hanson Weiser, lived in Pennsylvania and I’m sure that was the connection. Camp was all word of mouth back in the day. Janey had been to Runoia before. I can only suppose that getting me somewhere away from my mother’s situation was the reason. The three of us took the train to New York from Chicago and all the kids from Cincinnati met us there and we all took the night time train to Maine. Coming back we were left at Grand Central Station and were picked up there by family or friends. From then on I was HOOKED on Camp Runoia, the East Coast and New England.

I stopped by camp about 15 years ago. It is quite bigger than when we were there. but much of it seemed very familiar. Thank you for keeping Runoia going!

I received Janey Holler Rotman’s annual holiday card from AZ last year. Our time together at camp have kept us connected all these years.  I’m glad I traveled from Chicago to Maine in the summers of 1947 and 1948. My life is better because of the experience.

Mixing it Up at Runoia

Each week campers and counselors spend on average 25 hours of their week in “regular program”. The schedule is 5 classes a day and rotate in blocks of 2 day schedules and 3 day schedules. The rest of our day is filled with cabin clean up, recreational swims in Great Pond (a lake 8000 acres in size!) a unique Evening Program, meals, snacks and Rest Hour. Let’s not forget about our wilderness trip program where each shack group is out for 2 -3 days in the beautiful state of Maine.


Two and one half weeks into the session, we mixed it up with a Fun Day Sunday. In 2018 it started with a pirate attack at Assembly:

Followed by loads of fun at different stations from photo booth to Captain’s Coming, tattoo station and Find Your Pirate Name (for instance Iron Claw Captain) lots of competition between the Black Team and the White Team.


Snacks of pirate cookies and popcorn and Pirate Booty were in store for campers and counselors alike.

The evening finale of watching an outoor movie on Mahadin with glow stick necklaces was a hit and a great way to chill out after a long day.

Mixing up our program at camp keeps camp fun and energizing and throws an element of surprise. With Harry Potter Day last year, Summer Olympics, County Fair, and Take me out to the Ball Game in previous years, we can only wonder, what surprise will be discovered in 2019?

With Love from Belgrade Lakes,


Camp Runoia continues our professional development

This week: Diversity and a continued commitment to youth development

Another week and yet another opportunity for professional development right here in Maine with a another amazing, national level speaker .  This weeks workshop was presented by Maine Summer Camps, the consortium of Maine camps that comes together to ‘support and promote meaningful developmental, educational, environmental, and recreational experiences for children.’  Camp Runoia is a long time and active member of this group and is always keen to participate in any opportunities that promote further growth and learning.

Unlike many industries the Maine summer camp community is invested in working together to provide the best camping opportunities for all children.   We are a diverse group for sure so it was particularly fitting that our workshop speaker was Niambi Jaha- Echols.

Niambi Jaha-Echols

An expert in ‘cross cultural agility’ Niambi’s focus was about inclusion, diversity and our unique position as an industry to create diversely rich communities that value everyone equally.  We were lucky enough to work with Niambi last year at our Runoia staff training and this was a great reminder of our commitment to all girls and to creating a truly diverse community where everyone is valued.

It is always interesting to network with other camp professionals, to discuss common factors and also learn from our differences.  There are so many different ways to provide the camping experience and there truly are camps that best suit the needs of every child.  By opening our doors as widely as we can and staying true to our goals and missions we can build relationships and connections among groups of people who may never come into contact.

Highly recommended is the ‘Seeing White‘ podcast series that challenges our perceptions and calls us to true action.

At Camp Runoia we try our best to challenge ourselves to grow and develop, to meet the needs of the changing world that we work and live in and to provide as many girls as possible with an exceptional overnight camp experience.  We are always open to hearing comments and opinions of others, to rethinking the way we approach things and to recommitting to our goals and mission.

Bringing in the light

Winter Solstice – when the dark days or winter turn into the light days of summer.

As the Winter Solstice creeps up on us and daylight lasts barely 9 hours up here in Maine, we are thankful for the seasonal celebrations that fill our homes with light and brilliance.  Often around our house at this time of year you will hear laments of ‘but at camp we wouldn’t even have started EP yet!’ as PJ’s are snuggled into and bedtime stories read so much earlier than they would be in the summer.  It is certainly a time for hunkering down, reflecting on the past year and taking time to contemplate the months ahead.

Whether decorating a tree, lighting candles or stringing lights around the house there are plenty of ways to brighten up the dull days and to literally bring in the light.  Luckily  in Maine we now have a lovely coating of snow so the white, brilliance reflects the sunshine and certainly makes our short days more cheerful.

Holly by the Runoia farmhouse.

Bringing light into our homes is an ancient tradition to ward off the dark days of winter and celebrate the return of the light. Feasting and decorating have long been practices used to help the long nights pass more quickly.   Can you imagine bringing in a whole tree to burn as they often did in Europe the Yule log was often burned throughought the festive season – it makes our Sunday night Campfires at Runoia look pretty tame!

However you choose to bring in the light at this dark time of year may the memories of the longer days of summer warm your heart and brighten your spirits.  As we celebrate the turn of the earth into longer days we will be counting them down until it is back to summer and our time to gather again on Great Pond.


Season of Giving or is it?

‘Tis really the Season of chaos….

We still don’t have a tree and now there is 6” of snow on the ground, my closet is a stack of unopened Amazon packages, the ‘Elves on the Shelves’ haven’t moved in 2 days, I need to get a new windshield (thanks to yesterday’s storm) and there are definitely just not enough daylight hours in these very short, Maine winter days.

At this time of year it is so hard to not get sucked into the crazy chaos of the season.  With school concerts, Holiday events, shopping, family gatherings and all the regular day to day life stuff snowballing around us it is hard to find the time to take a moment for yourself,  to breath and be appreciative.  This Holiday season I hope that you can take a second or two and pause, relish those around you, be present not panicked and generally enjoy the moments not count the minutes.

The good news is today I dropped off 3 bags of gifts at a local nonprofit for our sponsor family, I actually have 99% of the Holiday cards ready to go in the mail- what a joy it was to write them and reminisce as many of them are to Camp Runoia friends made over the past 20 years, tonight I get to go to an awesome lecture about empowering girls – Rachel Simmons, the Holiday tunes are on and I just booked a really fun surprise for the kids next week.  I am determined to make memories, build on our traditions and try and embody the true spirit of the season rather than being bombarded by the commercial components or a need to keep up with the Facebook friends!

I am going to win the Holidays and I hope that you do too!

Camp Runoia session session is rolling!

Second session came in with a barrage of giggles, a few dreary rain clouds and an enthusiasm for camp life that we love to see at this point in the summer.  Our campers were so ready to get here that the opening day line by the gate was long even before lunch was finished.  We love the energy that these girls bring and have quickly helped everyone get settled and engaged with the Runoia routines.

Our new girls already seem like they have been here forever and old and new friendships are strong.  The full season girls have bridged the break nicely and had a fun trip out bowling and to the movies to celebrate their first session accomplishments and to skip orientation!

Full season campers had a blast at bowling!

Horses are being ridden, the ski boat is running nonstop, the first overnight wilderness trips head out today, craft and shop projects have been started and everyone is so busy all day long they fall into bed at night for a great sleep.  The first couple of days of tag up were a little overwhelming for some girls while others knew exactly what they wanted to choose first.  With over 15 choices of classes decision making skills are exercised at every opportunity.

For those of you following our nature updates there has not been a moose sighting in the area for a couple of days now and it seems that the fledgling barred owls finally got their flying feathers.  The great blue heron is typically on the beach at dusk when it is quiet around camp. The loons continue their nightly greetings to us as we slip into dreams of the fun we can have tomorrow.  We are truly living in harmony with nature at every opportunity.

We are so glad to be here in Harmony Land and know that the next few weeks will fly by; we will ‘maximize our opportunities’ and take advantage of these ‘fine Maine days.’