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






Light in the darkness

What a year! One that none of us could have imagined this time last year as we were planning for the summer of 2020.  What we assumed would be a typical camp summer season turned into anything but and taught us lessons that will guide us as we prepare for 2021. We have so much gratitude for those that were with us along the way, there was so much team effort at all levels. What initially appeared to be a pervading darkness evolved with lots of hard work into joy and light.

The Maine summer camp community pulled together in ways never seen before. For the good of all Maine camps there was advocating at the legislative level and support for all regardless of the decision to operate camp for the season or not. Camps were offering resources and practical help to each other wherever they could. Calling and cheering on those that opened camp, celebrating the wins together and also mourning the losses.  Maine summer camps were definitely stronger together working to support each other in a time that created great hardship and an unprecedented struggle for many small family businesses. The resource sharing continues as we plan for the next season, those of us that opened sharing our journey and all forging ahead to ensure that as many children as possible get to have their summer camp experience.

Our Runoia camp community grew stronger too. Even though we were missing so many of our summer family, the support was incredible. The families that trusted us to take care of their girls and literally dropped them at the gate showed a commitment and bravery to the camp experience that we couldn’t have imagined. Our girls were brave and bold, flexible and willing to adapt to all of the protocols and changes. They showed up ready to have a blast at camp and did just that. 

The staff group that literally came together in May as we decided that yes we would open was such a dedicated and resilient group. We definitely couldn’t have opened without their commitment and flexibility. Our senior staff who after a zoom call about protocols and what camp would look like said ‘let’s do it!’ and dived in with gusto to create a fabulous and safe camp experience. The health team who planned and prepped and took all the protocols seriously and kept everyone healthy. Our amazing kitchen crew who masked up in the incredibly hot kitchen and kept us well fed. Everyone who pitched in, sanitized, cleaned up trash, kept kids entertained, figured out how to operate their program safely and stayed on site for 5 !/2 weeks without complaining! How lucky we were to spend the summer with this group of folk, many whom were feeling the sadness of their own camps being closed yet showed up for us.


In this season of lights and bringing in brightness to our homes on the shortest days we are grateful for the joy that camp brings to us. Although the year has been challenging in so many ways there is so much to be thankful for and so much light in our lives.

We are so grateful for the smiles and laughter of a summer on Great Pond, the  relationships that endure over the years and the promise that Runoia will be there no matter what.

However you are celebrating the holidays may you have light and love around you.

JMG – A college application essay topic

The Junior Maine Guide (JMG) program has been a mainstay at Camp Runoia for decades. It provides older campers with the opportunity to participate in a Maine State, organized youth program that develops and tests their wilderness skills. It is a rigorous program that can take a couple of years to accomplish. Camp develops all kinds of life skills and becoming a  JMG is a huge achievement but the process also has great value.

This weeks guest blog is Lilly Grace’s college application essay that focused on her time working towards becoming a JMG.

Common App Main Essay by Lilly Grace
To the average person, building a roaring fire with a soaking wet billet of wood, an axe and just a few matches may seem like a nearly impossible task. After all, that’s what I thought as I was first learning how to make a “wet day fire.” However, what most people don’t realize is that the dryness of a billet is irrelevant to one’s ability to build a “wet day fire.” Rather, what is most critical to their success is practice, preparation, and an ability to persevere through
setbacks until ultimately satisfied. Building a wet day fire is a mentally and physically challenging skill that is just one of twenty-one tests to become a Junior Maine Guide. Although the process of becoming a Junior Maine Guide was only intended to teach me wilderness skills, I believe it was the most rewarding experience of my life thus far because I gained more than just a vast amount of knowledge about the wilderness. I also took this unique opportunity to
learn and develop critical life skills.

The wet day fire test
One thing that I learned quickly upon arrival at the five day testing encampment is that candidates must be organized, disciplined, and confident in order to succeed in this environment where there is little structure. I had three full days to complete twenty-one tests at any time and in no specific order. I lacked those three essential qualities that I needed, and JMG presented additional challenges that I had never had to tackle before in school. However, as I had learned from my past experiences, success is something that does not come easily to me and has always required more time, effort and motivation on my part. Therefore, these challenges that I was presented with were simply just a few hurdles in reaching my goal.Throughout the three summers, I was committed to gaining the skills needed to succeed.
I overcame my organizational challenges by making study and testing schedules that were essential to keeping myself motivated and on track throughout the summer, and I made sure to stick to them. I learned how to study in more exciting and efficient ways that developed my self-discipline. For example, when learning locations on the map of Maine, my friends and I would place M&Ms on the different locations and if we guessed the location correct, we were
rewarded with the candy. As for my time-management, I learned that using a watch was extremely beneficial to budgeting my time and ensuring that I was able to complete every test in the short time frame. And once I learned that I could build a Wet Day Fire and solo a canoe with ease, I knew I had the confidence to take on anything.

Becoming a Junior Maine Guide has been, by far, the proudest moment of my life, as I knew it was something that I worked so hard to accomplish on my own. This rigorous program typically takes two years to complete, however it took me three. While some people may perceive my additional year in the program as a failure, I choose to see it as a blessing in disguise. I struggle with ADHD and weak executive functioning skills, which is something that affects my everyday life, but I clearly have never let it stop me. In fact, I believe that I have made more improvement with my executive functioning skills through trial and error in the JMG program than I ever have in a school classroom. In the end, I proved to myself and others that I am exceedingly capable of persevering through my learning challenges to accomplish anything that is important to me. It just might take some additional time and effort.

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.




Hope for next summer

As we navigate life living with covid 19 and create our own ‘new normal’ managing all of the procedures and public safety protocols, even regular everyday life can get a little overwhelming. It is sometimes hard to see a way forward without taking two steps backward.  We are all living in an unknown time with so many questions about what the immediate and long term future may look like. Information still seems to change on an almost daily basis, schedules are always flexible as schools shift back and forth between in person, virtual and hybrid learning models. Talk of the looming holiday season and how that may look for families is becoming a more current conversation. Making plans for any travel or vacation out of state seems like an impossible feat. We are only able to navigate the present which for a culture that loves a planner and to have life scheduled out is proving very challenging for many.

So how on earth are we ready to open enrollment for camp in the summer of 2021?

The path to the lake is always there.

How do we make decisions when we don’t know what the future may look like? Perhaps it is time to just jump in with hope? Get the puppy, eat the cake and be sure to sign up for camp! We know from our experiences of this past summer that we can create a safe and engaging space for our girls to have an intentional summer experience.

Camp Director colleagues who were unable to open camp this past summer have been keen to chat with us about how our summer went.  They don’t really have specific questions but more are seeking hope for how they can operate in 2021. As everyone has different sites, programs and clientele there is definitely no magic ‘this will work for you’ solution. How we operated Runoia in 2020 may also look slightly different than how we do it in 2021 as we will be another year down the covid road. We talk often about attitude and mindset. Knowing that opening camp and running safe programs has been done encourages others that it can be done at their camp too. Camp Directors are a positive, resilient, creative crowd and are keen to dig into how they can operate safely in 2021. Sharing stories and telling our tale of summer 2020 helps the profession as a whole. The collective hope is that the most amount of campers can safely get to their camps next summer.

Hopefully our Harmonyville campers are telling their stories too! Other kids need to be hearing from their peers that going to camp next summer will be safe and fun. Peer sharing has so much value in generating a narrative that has substance.

We take pride in the fact that 2021 is Camp Runoia’s 115th continuous season of operation. We will definitely be ready for yet another amazing summer on Great Pond.

How Camp Helped Us Prepare for Teaching This Fall During COVID

We hear great news from our teachers, now teaching on the front lines as essential workers in schools. We are grateful for their efforts at camp, helping Runoia have a successful summer, and even more grateful that they are navigating the ever-changing education landscape of teaching during COVID times.

Our Runoia teachers have shared with us about their camp experience and how it has helped them to prepare for being back at school. They feel much more prepared for COVID protocols and have less fear than their teaching cohorts who have yet to experience work with COVID protocols.

Although hand washing sounds so basic, it has proved to be an excellent practice. And, it takes repetitive practice to make into a habit. Our Runoia teachers landed back at school with a routine of mask wearing, hand washing and sanitizing and surface cleaning. They also have helped institute systems in their schools for using things like books and then putting the books in a quarantine area for 3 days. Simple things like getting children to wash hands, cover their cough have come in handy going back to school. Also, knowing and monitoring symptoms of COVID comes second nature to them now, etc. We are so impressed with their efforts.

We are happy to have help prepare both teachers and students alike to dive into the school year. Whether back to school includes hybrid, online or in-person learning and teaching, #Runoiagals are ready to roll!



Update May 6, 2020

Dear Runoia Families, Greetings from Great Pond.

Safety and Opening Camp in 2020

The safety of our campers, staff and their families and the surrounding Maine communities remain our priority as we sort through the possibility of opening camp this summer.  We know children and families need camp more than ever.  Our hopes are to open camp if we are able to meet or exceed the guidelines set forth by the state of Maine and the American Camping Association.

We remain cautiously optimistic as we work with American Camp Association guidelines (a panel of experts compiled with support of the CDC, American Board of Pediatrics, the Board of Camp Nursing and infectious disease consultants) for safely opening resident camps in 2020. With these guidelines coming out in the next 10-12 days and our industry representatives and lobbyist continuing to meet with Governor Mills’ task force for restarting Maine’s economy.  As of the past week, a few camps have decided not to operate this summer in Maine, including foundations, medical camps, and three resident camps. Over 120 Maine resident camps are still waiting for more information to make a final decision with safety as the top objective.

The American Camp Association will be releasing the ACA Camp Operations Guide for camps by mid-May.  So far they have provided the resource of the table of contents to outline the depth of the finished guide book.  We are eagerly awaiting the guidelines.


Availability of accurate testing would be a game changer for our ability to safely open camp. Two of our peers in camping have connections with labs who say they can get us tests. How testing campers before arrival at camp will roll out logistically is another puzzle we are working on. If any Runoia parents are involved in testing and have a way to connect us with quality tests, please contact or call #207-495-2228 to connect. Without testing, we can rely on diagnostic information from families prior to camp and checking and monitoring for symptoms upon arrival at camp and implement contact tracing guidelines.

Preparation and Timeline for Camp 2020

We meet daily with other camp owners and directors and our Runoia team, medical consultants and industry representatives. We are working through scenarios including all aspects of running a safe camp parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic. Alex and I connect every day working on our plans for camp.  We have two doctors who have volunteered to step in to help guide the Runoia Health Team this summer. Both doctors plan to live at camp for part or all of their assigned session.  We have a team meeting with them scheduled for mid May.

We have been told we will have more information in the next 10-12 days from the state of Maine and ACA.  We will share with our families and staff as soon as we have the final details of our plan. Meanwhile, in addition to these emails, you can find weekly updates on our website: on our COVID-19 banner at the top of the page. We recognize some families will decide that camp will not be part of their plans this summer. If so, we hope camp will be in your plans for next summer.

Tuition and Refund/Rollover

You may have questions about refunds and tuition rollover.  As you know, we work on camp all year. The past nine months have been busy for our full -time employees and our summer staff who work with us in the winter to contribute to the next summer. Financial obligations have been made throughout the year on mortgages, taxes, licenses, maintenance of buildings and grounds, payroll, renovations, equipment loans and purchases, operating expenses, pre-paid expenses, program improvement, horse care, and ironically, an addition to our camp Health Cabin.  There is no insurance coverage for this pandemic for loss of, or interruption of, business income.

We recognize that everyone’s situation is different.  Some families have experienced reduced income, and others have had financial disturbances. We know everyone has been affected.  We are thinking of you. Whatever you are able to do for Runoia is appreciated. If you are able to roll over your tuition for next summer, that will be a great help to ensure camp can continue to operate at our very best. If you are able to donate a part of your tuition to camp’s operations thus far this year, we would be so grateful. If you need a full refund of tuition paid, we will take care of you with love.

We know camp is a very important priority for many families. For 113 summers Runoia has persevered through world wars, the Spanish flu, polio outbreaks, the Great Depression and multiple recessions. In our hearts we want camp to open this summer – we want to see our campers and allow them to just be children at summer camp; their summer camp.

We are holding onto hope, planning and waiting some more. We are exercising our best patience. We appreciate the support many of you are sending us.



For the Runoia Team

Update from Camp May 1

Hello Dear Families,

Maine Summer Camps and our lobbyists met with Government officials from the Governor’s administration yesterday. Today over 160 people from Maine camps met with MSC executive board to hear of outcomes of the meeting.

It’s a bit of a hurry up and wait situation, as you can imagine. The governor’s panel collected the questions we had about Phase 3 of Restarting Maine and they will process the questions internally. The Maine State government is establishing a check list for opening by industry.  As they are doing with every other industry, they will come up with a guideline for camps – hopefully in the next two weeks. Grouped into Phase 3 are restaurants and hotels. Maine business owners are eager to figure out how to get back on track for tourism and summer business and summer camp.

Every industry in Maine is trying to meet with the governor’s task force so it was impressive that executive director, Ron Hall, was able to secure an hour meeting for Maine camps. Although you may have heard from the news last night and today about a restaurant in Maine going rogue and opening to serve people today, we hope everyone else follows the guidelines to keep people safe. It is no coincidence that Maine has a lower rate of COVID-19 than other places. Slowing the spread by physical distancing is working. We want to do the right thing and put peoples’ safety first.

American Camp Association released the outline of The Camp Operations Guide 2020.  They hope to release the details in the next two weeks and will hold a town hall in mid-May. They realize the window for camps to get organized to up and running is getting shorter so they are working very hard to get the contents of the guide published. You can see from the table of contents, it is a full document that will go out to over 2000 camps across the United States. Then each camp takes into consideration the guidelines and figures out how to apply them. We are eager to get going on filling out the contents ourselves. We have built some of the guidelines internally – and are waiting to weigh our thoughts with those of the experts and adjust where necessary for our 2020 protocols for health and safety.

We wanted to finish up with the week with an update to tell you the news as we learn it. What we know at the end of a long week, is we will need to exercise more patience while we wait for guidelines so we can figure out dates. In recognition of how hard this is to plan, we have extended our cancelation date from May 1 to June 1. This should give us time to set dates and protocols, allow you look at and absorb the information and make decisions that are best for your family. Although our cancelation policy was not designed for an entire camp season to be canceled or a majority of our families to cancel, we realize everyone has their own financial tolerance for the current times. We will do everything in our power to do what is fair and reasonable to support you and keep Camp Runoia going strong.

We have a COVID-19 update section of our website as a banner on our website. You can check there for the latest information.

We continue to hold out hope to have Camp Runoia run an amazing, albeit different, camp program this summer for your daughters in our 114th summer of camp.

Sending so much love and Happy May Day. We should all take a deep breath and imagine twirling around a May Pole (at least for a minute).

See you for Campfire on Sunday, May 3rd at 7 pm if you like joining us. We’ll be there with the theme, “Animals”.

With so much love,

For the Runoia Team


Make it a Magic Monday

Monday Morning Greetings from Runoia

Hello folks and families!  We hope you had a good weekend and had the chance to get outside. Today, we are going for “magic” Monday. We will continue to update you about camp mid-week on Wednesdays. These updates are also posted on our camp blog here.

Today there is no “breaking news” to report.  We continue to be hopeful about the summer season. We are working with the Maine CDC, American Camp Association, Maine Summer Camps and other professional organizations to make plans for a safe summer.

With the early “ice-out” on Great Pond posted on April 7th, we are looking forward to another summer of comfy lake temperatures to play and learn in and on our favorite lake.

Weekly Events – connect with camp NOW:

Campfire: Last night’s campfire (live stream on Runoia’s FB) theme was Laughter. Next week the theme will be Heroes. Tune in at 7 pm on the Runoia FaceBook page.
Afterschool Camp Activities: learn how to make whoopie pies, pipe cleaner rings with Abbie, macramé bracelets with Alex and K and an assortment of other crafts and science projects! Find us on the Runoia YouTube Channel.
Evening Program – this week on Wednesday night @ 7 pm, Barb will emcee the now famous “MOSTEST” EP. Categories will be coming to your inbox for your family to prepare. Costumes encourages. Join the MOSTEST Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 919 421 4302
contact for the password
We love seeing your forms coming in for the summer. The more you do now, the less the final push will be as we move toward summer. The link to get on your Camp-in-Touch dashboard is here.

Spread kindness,

Pam and Alex
For the Runoia Team