The Silver LIning of Covid

I never thought I’d be writing “silver lining” and Covid in the same title. Nearly two years since we learned the name of the virus, we are leaning into our third summer of operating with Covid (endemic rather than pandemic, we hope). Where is the silver lining, you ask?

Okay, here it is. As a seasonal business that really functions and works all year long (10 for 2!), we are MORE connected because of the tools Covid forced us to find using technology. Scoff at the word Zoom or Meet and simultaneously say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

My week is like a connect the dots painting (remember those?!) with Zooms and Meets. And, I love it.

Weekly I get the chance to connect with the most amazing people:

  • Monday morning brings our team kick off meeting with our year-round admin team
  • Monday Mark meets with Tim – together they are working on site and facilities
  • Tuesday I Zoom individually with two of our administrative leaders and separately our social media consultant
  • Wednesday we meet with an outside consultant and most industry-wide educational events seem to be scheduled on very large Zooms
  • Thursday I catch up on all the new plans we’ve schemed up and meet with parents
  • Friday we meet with, Nina, our Director of Residential Life

Monthly and Random

  • We meet with 14 Runoia seasonal leaders,
  • I Zoom with the Diversity Advisory Committee
  • The Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization meets every few months
  • The Belgrade business group, the Maine Camp Experience Group and the Maine Summer Camp group all throw in their board meetings, membership meetings and more.
  • Conferences from San Diego to Denver to New England have allowed us to Zoom in and meet
  • And how about those “stay connected to family and friends” Zooms
  • Oh and the weekly 8 am dance party?
  • And reading Harry Potter with a granddaughter (book four since the pandemic started)

And most importantly of all, I have the amazing opportunity to Zoom with families across the globe about camp and meet their daughters and connect about the Runoia experience.

So, yes, Covid has crushed us all in many ways. And interestingly enough, because there usually is a silver lining to every dark cloud, Covid has connected us more through Zoom, Google Meet and technology and an urgency to make connections. See you on a Zoom soon and counting the days to see you in person at Camp!




First Impression

My First Impression in early May is the scents that are only at Camp Runoia. The leaves and grass and earth and air and lake water scents all combine into one scent. If we bottled it up, it would be called Eau de Runoia, or perhaps Eau de Harmony in the spirit of the meaning of Runoia.  I was instantly reminded of E.B. White’s book, “Once More to the Lake”.

Traditions abound at camp and one of the Camp Runoia traditions is recording your First Impression of arriving at camp for the “Log”. The Log is a record of all the things that happened in a summer.

You can only have a first impression, once (we like to do it once a season). Not unlike making your own first impression on other people (warm, stern, welcoming, exclusive, funny, serious, happy, sad), the land and lake puts on its very best display of nature and scents and views which evoke feeling. Especially when you return again and again.

The phrase First Impression seems obvious but here’s further explanation to get you pumped to record your immediate reaction to arriving at camp. A definition of first: Coming before all others in time or order; earliest, Combined with a definition of impression: An idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.

Of course, when we arrive in early spring, the parking lot is empty. Jen is not standing at the gate welcoming us, Alex is not in the parking lot directing us and beaming upon your arrival and Mark is not perched on the waterfront eager to greet your family and share the beauty of the “crown jewel” of Camp Runoia, Great Pond. Your counselors are not here yet to give you that big “hello” and “let’s go” kind of attitude. Finally, the sounds of shrill, excited voices from girls floating all over camp are not here, yet.  Only the spring birds, rustle of soft winds in the trees and waves lapping along the shoreline are here this time of year.

What will your First Impression of camp be when you arrive at camp? You may have to wait and see and feel and then write it down before it disappears.



What the Teachers Say

First, let us express our gratitude to teachers. We’ve always been fans but this fall, we have seen teachers turn into super heroes. They have multi-tasked, connected with their students, doubled their lesson planning and most of all put their own health at risk to help others.

This past summer many of our counselors who also are teachers learned a lot about navigating covid and creating systems to help keep themselves and others safe.   One moment that really strikes us is when we completed staff training in those complex and uncertain times and we prepared to welcome our campers the next day. We created our graduation for staff training as we often do with a clever connection to our theme “Camp over Corona, All the Things, We Can Do It – Our Vision is 20/20” And each administrative leader got up to share something with all the staff. A pep talk of sorts. Colleen “Cleen” shared this:

2020 has been quite the year

It’s felt lonely and we have known fear

But look round at this staff

Hear those distant laughs

How lucky we are to be here



Remember June and July? We had been in shut down mode and living in our homes and apartments for four months. It was a poem reflecting on the connection camp creates and what a milestone it was.

And, then in the spirit of Harmony Land (the meaning of Runoia is Harmony) she added this Haiku:

Harmony is here

This world seems new as our friends

Smiles still seen through masks

“Cleen” thanks for the poetry, the reflection, the inspiration. We send our energy to you as you finish your fall semester teaching in New York. You truly are a hero and have helped all of us be better teachers.




What Will You Read This Summer?!

My childhood friend, who has been living abroad with her family for the past 24 years,  recently returned to live in Atlanta, Georgia. I recently reconnected with her and we visited a classic bookstore in St. Pete together.

Each year we add new books to our library and although we try to read them all before we shelf them, sometimes we rely on the expertise of others to determine if it’s a good book for Camp Runoia. Little did I know, I hit the JACKPOT with Ann.

I discovered she had gotten her masters in Library Science while living in Cairo and when she moved to Phnom Penh, she was a librarian in the American School. So, I picked her brain about suggestions of books with female protagonists for the Runoia library.

My to my delight, after our visit she sent me a catalogue of suggested titles with genre, summary and review by Ann. WOW!

Weeks have gone by since I’ve seen Ann and this past week, she emails me out of the blue to say she was so inspired by our night time reading aloud in cabins at bed time, our lending library and our word of the day at assembly that she has been on a mission to bring us books. She has been perusing yard sales in her neighborhood and has collected almost 100 quality books for the Runoia library! She asked if she could drop them off when she is in NE in June. A resounding YES was the answer.
At Runoia, we celebrate reading. It might sound funny that that’s a thing at camp but between Rest Hour reading, reading out loud at bed time and reading by flashlight, summer reading and reading for joy, campers and counselors read an extraordinary amount of books each summer at Runoia. Our typical count is around 7-800 books a summer. And yes, we do count!

We also have a book club each summer. Our Assistant Director, Barb St. Peter, will be selecting and announcing the book this month. Barb runs the club which meets a few times during the session to discuss the book.

Reading as a pastime, for relaxation, for knowledge, discovery or curiosity is a life skill we value at Runoia. Plus is a lot of fun! What books will you bring to camp or take on vacation this summer? If you’re a camper reading this blog, get ready for a new section in the library from my friend, Ann!

To the Runoia Gals: An Open from Your Teary-Eyed Counselor

You Wonderful and Spectacular Ladies,

I never imagined how beautiful a shooting star could be when you’re sitting next to someone who has never seen one. I never knew how wonderfully exhausting a game of Gaga with a group of 8-year-olds could be (or how often they would beat me!). I never realized that it was possible to sing so much and so loudly that it would take eight weeks for my voice to return to normal, or laugh so hard that my stomach would ache for hours. When I packed my bags for my first summer at camp, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When I came to you for that first summer, I considered myself pretty well cooked. I had it in mind that I, as the adult, was there to provide a life-altering, fun, and unforgettable experience for you. While that was and has always remained my primary goal, I now see that you amazing young ladies, with whom I was lucky enough to spend three unforgettable summers, have had a far greater impact on me than I could ever have imagined.

When you become a camp counselor you hear all about how much your campers will learn from you, for better or for worse. But what you don’t hear as often is how much you will learn from you.

You’ve taught me many things in my three summers at Runoia, more than I could count and definitely more than I could ever share with you. But I would like to try to share some. You taught me about the curative nature of a hug from four children at once. You showed me how important it is to laugh and have fun every time the opportunity presents itself. You taught me how to “whip and nay nay,” wobble, dougie, and do all sorts of things that would make me hip and with it! You helped me realize how rewarding it can be to share my love of the water, which I discovered as a child, with others. You showed me every day that we are all at our most beautiful when we are being ourselves and when we are happy. I saw, first hand, the transformative power of a summer with friends in an environment that encourages growth and fosters an undeniable feeling of complete and utter happiness.

The past three summers have been the most indescribably amazing part of my life. I cannot thank you girls enough for all that you have shared with me, or your parents for helping you become the unbelievable and inspiring young women that you are. Runoia gals, I will carry the lessons you have taught me throughout my entire life, and will remember you always.

Thank you for helping me become who I am today and I hope that somewhere along the way, I may have helped you.

With love,

Your Teary-Eyed Counselor



Career Women – Thanks Runoia

The journey of becoming a physician is a long and taxing trip. As a third year osteopathic medical student I am right in the thick of it (shameless plug: D.O.’s – osteopathic physicians- and M.D.’s are the only fully licensed physicians in the United States). Not only are we required to complete years of schooling, we are constantly being critiqued by our superiors, our patients, their families, our peers, and we are hard on ourselves as well. It can be stressful at times. I often find myself reflecting: 1.How did I get where I am today? 2. What motivates me? 3. How can I improve?

The skills I learned at Camp Runoia are instrumental in helping me address these questions every day, enabling me to further develop my career and reach my potential.

Women are still working hard for equal acceptance in the field of medicine. Yes, it is possible to be a successful physician while possessing two X chromosomes and a uterus! Admitting women to medical school did not become vogue until the mid 1900’s, mere decades ago. More recently a female physician’s offer to help during an inflight medical emergency was allegedly dismissed by a flight attendant, presumably because she did not fit the stereotypical idealization of what a physician “should” look like. Certain medical specialties are still dominated by males. And, yes, many people still assume that the female physician or med student in the room is a nurse.

I don’t let this dishearten me though, because I was brought up with the most important lifelong lesson Runoia teaches us, empowerment: you as a woman have self worth and are valuable member of your community. A woman can walk into a room with confidence and introduce herself without the concern of feeling unequal.

CR taught us at an early age that we were valued as a member of the camp community and our only educational limitations were the ones we set for ourselves. Unfortunately, not all women were brought up with this philosophy. Quite often I meet many educated women my age that tell me they were not brought up with the mindset that a woman can have a powerful career. Many women are still forging a path forward for themselves, sometimes with little support. So here is my reminder to you all: the next time you stand with a friend or a colleague that is apprehensive about entering that crowded male dominated conference room or taking a risk to further the boundaries of her career, pass on some of that Camp Runoia strength and confidence we possess. Let’s work together as CR alum to unite women together. We’ll all become a stronger force of women by supporting each other and working together.

Crystal Cobb, OMS III
Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Political Affairs Director
National Board of Directors | Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA)

The Most Amazing Part of Runoia – by Jai

When I was five years old I went to Camp Runoia for a week to try it out, and ended up staying for seven weeks.  My Grandmother was Betty Cobb, but she made sure not to coddle me through my experience.  She allowed me to make my own friends and memories.  For eleven summers I went to Runoia as a camper.  It became my second home, the place where I found myself, gained confidence, learned life long skills, discovered independence, made some of my best friends, and still have my fondest memories.

Fast forward to 2012, when I began working at Runoia with my mom with my two children in tow.  It wasn’t until that summer that I realized how magical this place really is, as I watched my two girls start to experience some of the same things I did when I was five.  These girls love Runoia.

Kids on the Rock

When we were recently up for Memorial Day weekend, their excitement was evident to everyone around us.  My five year old screeched all the way down Point Road.  They jumped out of the car and didn’t know where to go first: the barn, the waterfront, the tree house… and camp wasn’t even in session yet.  To watch them have the most beautiful place to explore, and gain that same self confidence I did, is a dream come true. They are going to learn to canoe, rock climb, start a camp fire, and learn songs that campers sang 100 years ago, while making life long friends and memories. My girls are going to grow up with a sense of self worth and strength.  To me, that is the most amazing part of Runoia.

Spring Training – Hitting a Home Run in the Job Market

We’ve all read about the parenting style of the Millennium Generation. Following the Millenniums is Generation Z – our current teens are Gen Z children. These parents have parented in similar ways.  Here’s a hint to parents about how to help your children: let them figure out some stuff themselves.

Parents who try to help their teenagers by contacting businesses for jobs for their children should recognize that that child is the least likely person to make the team.

On the other hand, teens who contact businesses directly, act confident, carry their resume or email a resume ahead of time before they call, ready themselves with references, have the chance at hitting a home run.  Feel free to coach them but let them play the game themselves.


Here’s ways you can help coach your children for the job market and not have them sitting on the bench:

  1. Ask your child to make a list of businesses she/he is interested in working with to help build her/his skills
  2. Discuss together how she/he will safely get to and from work. If it’s a resident job, help them come up with a list of good questions to ask a prospective employer and resident director.
  3. Encourage your child to contact her/his references for the job application BEFORE they are contacted.
  4. Practice, role play if possible, interview scenarios (phone and in person)
  5. Ask your child what they think they should wear and how they should clean up to look presentable for the interview.
  6. Other hints: A strong handshake, eye to eye contact and a smile go a long way. A smile while talking on the phone improves their tone of voice.

As a business owner whose organization hires 55-60 people under the age of 25 every summer, having a parent contact us about a job for their children is a strike out.

And parents, when your child, as a young adult, goes to work a professional job at a camp, please know that if they are over 18, we won’t talk with you about their job, the interview, the details of the process, etc. Obviously we will contact you if there is any kind of emergency but otherwise, they are an adult working at their job. You can find out that Camp Runoia is an accredited camp by the ACA, Runoia has employed many teens, young adults and 20-somethings over the years. Runoia’s website has an FAQ page for staff and our policies and handbooks are on line. Read them to help ease your own anxiety and know that we will help guide and coach your child to be a great camp

Summer Camp Work is Wholesome and Skill Building!
Summer Camp Work is Wholesome and Skill Building!

counselor.  Working at sleepaway camp is a hard job and it’s a great, healthy outdoor living experience that will ready them for many things in life. Let them get up to

bat and hit the ball. If they strike out on their own, they might actually ask you for your help! If they hit the ball and make a home run on their own, they will be happier and more connected to the process.

Beware, if you, the parent, step into the batter’s box, the umpire may have to throw you out of the game!

Runoia Alumnae Shares her PJA Blog

Annie Carney, Digital Producer. Annie enjoys skiing, boogie boarding, and attempting to knit the perfect headband.

One of the biggest influences in my life has to be my summers spent on Great Pond at Camp Runoia. As a young professional, I can tie back many life lessons learned from those years and how they have made me a better worker, professional, and peer. Working in advertising can be very unpredictable, with deadlines, change requests, crazy clients, etc., but nothing can prepare you for canoeing down a river trying to make it to your campsite with ten 12 year olds during a severe lightning storm.

Lesson 1 – “Fake it till you make it”

This lesson really came from the summers I spent as a counselor – two years teaching sailing and one as a wilderness trip leader. Being fresh out of high school and enlisted with the responsibility of overseeing kids all day, you quickly learn how to fake it. Not in the sense of inexperience, (if you are going to be teaching sailing, you must have the credentials) but in the sense that when the unexpected happens — you are the adult that makes the decisions.


The first time I really faced this, and had the “Oh sh**, I’m in charge moment” was on a backpacking trip when half way up the mountain, one of the girls with asthma turned to me and said she needed her inhaler. When I checked to see if it was in our medical kit, I found it was not. In that moment, you can either panic or, look at the scenario and figure out how to fix it. This is when you learn the skills of ownership and the ability to make decisions, because there is not always time to think about things, but to find the best solution and keep moving.

Lesson 2 – You can’t choose your coworkers, but you can choose how to work with them

Working on a camp staff, you get the spectrum of personalities from all different walks of life, and essentially have to spend 24/7 with them for 10 weeks. Early on you learn there are many approaches to teaching kids sailing lessons, managing mealtime table manners, motivating cabin cleanup, and leading evening activities. You begin to understand that you may not always agree on how the other person works, but to be part of a team, you must respect them. The same goes for working in a professional environment. In order to successfully be a part of a team, you must respect and understand that everyone is working towards the same goal of doing the best work possible, and finding how to align with everyone to be successful.

Lesson 3 – How to Herd Cats – or Kittens

As a project manager, you must the have the ability to “herd cats” aka, lead an unpredictable, diverse team along in order to meet all your deliverables and deadlines. The same can be said as a camp counselor. Motivating girls who are completely out of their element as they hike the tallest mountain or go in a sailboat for the first time is challenging. People can always be resistant, but finding the right ways to communicate and motivate will get you far. I’ve successfully lead 13 year olds up Mount Katadin, and I’ve successfully lead a creative team to produce a 50 website page creative in 10 days.

Lesson 4 – There is always time for fun

No matter where you work or what you are doing, it is always great to remember to have fun. There is always time for silliness and dancing (as I am the queen of that) and to remember it is only a job.