Homesickness

CampfireLast year, my parents decided to rid their house of the “treasures” their grown children had accumulated and stored there. I met the moving container eager for the sentimental possessions that I felt belong in my childhood home yet my parents felt ready to truck across the country. Included in this delivery were boxes of “stuff”; athletic high school letters, dance trophies, photographs, stuffed animals and other mementos. One such momento was an entire box full of letters. Letters to and from camp.

I do not know why my parents held onto these letters; letters that were a tribute to my summers at camp from when I was a first year camper all the way to when I was a counselor. The letters were from people of all walks of life; loved ones who are now gone, elementary school friends who still remain dear, and names of people that I no longer recognize. Reading each letter one by one was like exploring a time capsule of my life.

Included in all of these letters was my very first letter I ever sent home from Wyonegonic. I remember the simple act of picking out my first camp stationary was a very big deal to my then eleven year old self and here I was reunited with it twenty-one years later. The letter was written in my very best cursive and told about the first day of camp including the details about swimmies and tippies and my cabin mates.

It was signed “Close to tears, but I’ll be okay. Your daughter, Rachel

swimmersI do not know how my parents managed receiving that letter. As a new parent, I can only imagine that I would have hopped into my car and driven straight up to camp to ensure that my daughter was in fact, okay. But my parents had faith in Wyonegonic, believed in the value of camp, and deep down knew that I would in fact be more than okay.

As a unit director in camp, I truly know that your daughter is just fine at camp. Not only is your daughter just fine, she is thriving and succeeding.

As a parent, you need to know that homesickness is an absolutely normal feeling. It is the result of missing a loving and supportive environment with caring people. Most people do feel some homesickness when away from their home for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, don’t feel alarmed if you receive a letter like my parents did.

There are several things that you can do prior to coming to camp to prepare for homesickness. The American Camping Association has a comprehensive list of strategies some ideas include:

  • Talking openly about homesick feelings before camp
  • Practice away time, without parents. Overnight at a friend’s house, a couple nights visiting grandparents
  • Writing letters to your camper that talk about the positives of being at camp (“Tell me all about the climbing wall. I wish that I had a chance to do it!”)
  • Avoid comments in letters such as (“ We had so much fun at the club the other day and I saw your best friend” , “We really miss you”)
  • Creating a plan of what to do when your camper feels homesick

As a unit director, I get to tell you what you don’t see as a parent. The homesick letter that you receive is typically only a snapshot of your daughter’s day. Child psychologist and author Michael Thompson confirms in a blog that even though the majority of kids report being homesick at some point, these kids also say that they are having a great time at camp. I get to see your daughter laugh with a group of friends, enjoy Moose Pond, and happily experience her cabin overnight while the thoughts of homesickness dissipate and are replaced with the magical memories of camp.

I can assure you that when you receive that letter at home, your daughter has already moved on past the homesickness feelings and is busy embracing camp life.

Rachel Kelly Intermediate Unit Director

Magical Screens and Friends like Sisters

CampersCamp takes us through the mystical journey of living without “necessary’’ electronics including smartphones, media, curling irons, etc. for a minimum of three and a half weeks. For any average girl, two thoughts may pass through your mind: How am I going to live? Is this legal? Well, to live, you breathe in and out, and yes, it’s legal. For me, being a bit spoiled in my parents’ eyes, I was also concerned being the high tech girl that I am. At Wyo I found that letting go of real non-essentials was relaxing and peaceful. I saw how much time we human beings spend on the magical touchy screen. I personally miss this no tech experience because at my school everything is surrounded by technology. That is one of the many reasons I wait for camp to come around, to cleanse myself of the magical screen.

Campers in CabinsWyo has given me the experiences and memories to last a lifetime. When I first came to Wyo, they told me camp friends are different from home friends in an amazing way and they were right! We have the chance to spend all day, every day together, without a care in the world. With my home friends, it takes a while to get close because we don’t get to spend a whole camp session together. So, it takes longer at home to make friends and build close relationships. At Wyo, it is easy to establish close relationships when spending so much time together, and I know that these friendships will last summer after summer.

Something really cool about living in a cabin is that you get to spend time with girls who end up feeling like your sisters. In my case, this was a revolutionary experience, since I am an only child. As an only child, I don’t have any idea of what the bond is like between sisters, but Wyo gave me the chance to experience this. The feeling of knowing that you are close to someone a few states way or even on a different continent is amazing. This sisterly bond has taught me so much, how to have each other’s backs whenever and how to deal with sharing space.

Bella – current Wyonegonic camper

Mindfullness

Grove TreesIn our first grove of the summer, the entire camp community is asked to enjoy the beauty of the pine grove. We are instructed to smell the unique pine scent wafting in the air and listen to the sounds from the grove and the lake. Everyone is invited to lie back and look up at the towering pines and appreciate their longevity at camp as they sway in the gentle breeze. No one talks and campers and staff alike take the precious time to immerse themselves in their surroundings and grapple with understanding their place in it.

It has been about four months since the end of camp and for many of our campers that means juggling busy schedules with school and various extracurricular activities. It means being tied to technology, understanding social circles and bustling from here to there. For parents, it means helping our children find balance in their lives. Mindfulness practices are tools being adopted by organizations such as schools and families to achieve such balance and harmony. Camp, on the other hand, had been sharing mindfulness practices for some time.

Outside the CabinMindfulness is the act of being present, fully aware of the moment in a nonjudgmental way. It is being aware of one’s place both physically and emotionally at any given time and recognizing and appreciating those feelings as uniquely yours. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehearsing the past or imagining the future. It is engrained in camp life to appreciate the moment. For the camp community, this awareness or mindfulness happens from the shear simplicity embodied at camp.

The benefits of adopting mindful behaviors are numerous. Studies cite improvements in physical health, increased self-awareness, improved concentration and healthier emotional states. They also indicate decreased amounts of stress and anxiety.

There are many ways in which you can develop and practice mindfulness. Kristen Race and Sylvia Pique identify three simple practices to make lasting changes in your brain and in your life. These include the general categories of mindful breathing, mindful listening, and paying attention to emotions. How this looks for each child will be different. It may be a discussion of the day in which the child shares a highlight and a low light. It may be practicing belly breathing in which a child focuses on their breath sinking into their belly. Or it may be dulling all senses except hearing to appreciate the sounds around us.

Many people know the value of, living in the moment; we also know that this can be a challenge. As we all begin to immerse ourselves in life outside of camp, I invite you to imagine what it was like on that warm Sunday in grove in which you felt the sun on your face, smelt the strong pine, listen to the sounds from the lake and saw the contrast of green pines swaying against a blue background. The natural environment of camp lends to mindful practices but I challenge everyone to adopt these practices into their everyday life.

Rachel Kelly, Intermediate Unit Director and Program Development Coordinator

Family, Another word for camp

Wyonegonic FriendsRecently I have been looking back at my initial parental expectations of camp. Reflecting on the experiences that both of my children have had, this perspective has evolved enormously. To say that my initial expectations have been exceeded is an understatement. The values and blessings that Wyonegonic and Winona have imparted upon our entire family is remarkable.

By example my parents taught me to enjoy, appreciate and respect the outdoors. They taught me to marvel the natural world around us. My husband has a similar longing for the outdoors and as parents we wanted to instill this desire in our children. But neither of us had attended overnight camp.

The choice to send our children to camp came from the basic values our parents taught us. We wanted our kids to be outside, as opposed to inside watching TV. We wanted them to meet people from different places and learn how to get along, to appreciate a beautiful sunset, as well as a threatening thunderstorm. Additionally, we saw sleep-away camp as a place to learn coping and self-help skills that are sometimes best learned outside the home. Finally, we wanted to give our children a reprieve from increasing technology and the proliferation of digital devices and social media. We wanted to give pause from the onslaught of our digital world and to have our kids recognize the value in that kind of disruption. These are principles I am confident other parents share.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACamp has successfully accomplished these hopes. What we didn’t count on was that we would gain another family. Wyonegonic and Winona friends, counselors and staff have all become part of an extended family that circles the globe. There is a certain bond created from sharing the time, space and experiences with those at Camp. My children talk about their counselors as if they were true blood Aunts and Uncles (not just the camp title) and look to their camper cohorts as more than summertime connections. Between September and May they text, facetime and plan mid-winter Camp reunions to keep that sacred summer spirit. Holiday cards are exchanged and when traveling, the chance to connect with someone from Camp is always considered.
Part of it is hard to explain in simple words, it’s an understanding and an awareness. Just like with any family, everything associated with Camp is now part of us and lives at our core. We celebrate accomplishments and we mourn losses. As adults we are able to look back on the experiences in our younger selves and see the moments that have had a major impact. That is what I see from Camp for our children. Watching them blossom in this environment is everything we wanted and more. This is why I often share that I consider the choice of sending our children to Camp as one of the single best parenting decisions we made.

In reflecting on Camp and that first time we pulled down the dirt road, our car packed with the typical stuff, not much has changed physically but so much has been gained. That bendy dirt road, twisting through towering pines, shares a proverbially likeness to our life. Wyonegonic and Winona have given us so much more than just experiences and memories. It has given us a link with others that doesn’t end on Closing Day in August or with the pulling of docks in September. It is a part of us as we each meander down our own roads of life. Camp is Family.

Darcy Conlin
Wyonegonic parent and staff member 2010-present

Summer Camp in Senegal

ChristinaI just wanted to reach out because I recently participated in a pretty awesome project that made me think of my time as a counselor at Wyonegonic! For the past year I have been abroad working for the Peace Corps as a Sustainable Agriculture volunteer. I work with farmers to help increase their food security and the health of their families by increasing crop yields and diversifying gardens (veggies!). I live with an amazing host family here in rural Senegal and have no electricity but do have running water (a lot like Wyo!).

One of the best parts about Peace Corps service is that you can coordinate projects that fit with your interests. So, naturally I jumped on an opportunity to participate in a girls leadership and empowerment camp! Recently, volunteers and I selected 39 girls from more than 15 rural villages in our area and brought them together in a secluded campment (campground) on the coast of Senegal. Most of the girls who attended the camp had never been to see the ocean- let alone swim in it. They wChristina 2ere so eager to get into the water and learn how to swim. Who knew my time as a swim instructor at Wyo would come in so handy on the other side of the world! We taught sessions about health, the environment, identity, and future planning. Throughout the week I was extremely thankful for all of the things Wyonegonic taught me about being a counselor and working with girls. It was the most incredible experience to translate the things I learned at Wyo into a foreign language and culture. The girls absolutely loved every minute of the camp and I wanted to say thank you for everything you taught me! I have written about the experience in detail on my blog. Our week long camp gave me so much more respect for the amazing program you work towards all year long. It is definitely no easy task!

Christina Ertel
Wyo Staff 2009-2011

George’s Favorite Holiday

George N SudduthIs it any surprise to those of you who knew George Sudduth that his Tree Signfavorite holiday was Earth Day? George always strove to find new and better ways to protect the environment, educate children and improve the efficiency of camp operations. One of his earliest projects was to plant a red pine tree farm near the location of the original Freeman Farm, now our horseback riding facility. In the late 1960’s, he had planted 8,000 red pine seedlings which were pruned and cared for by George, his family and camp staff. Those red pines have since been harvested once for pulp wood and continue to provide shade for our horses. There will be managed cuts in the future when the pines are ready to be harvested for utility poles. We are members of the American Tree Farm System and the Small Woodlot Owners Association of Maine, as well as registered with the Maine Forest Service. Along with many other family owned tree farms in Maine, these green spaces provide for the enjoyment of people, as well as protected ecosystems for wildlife.

Another small way that we try to be green is to purchase biodegradable products from Auto Be Green, a local New England company. They provide us with lubricants, oils, and car and boat wash for our vehicles, boats and small engine equipment. We much prefer using biodegradable products in our facility management, as so much of it happens near the lake.

Last of winter's snow melting in lagoon.

Last of winter’s snow melting in lagoon.

Water conservation and management of our septic system was also very important to George, as he knew that those practices would help protect the lake that we all love and cherish. In the late 1980’s, he began to plan for a unique septic system that would retire the septic leach beds along the lake and pump the effluent water uphill. That system was developed into a series of six pump stations that move our effluent water uphill from the showers, Greenies and Cobb Dining Hall to a man made lagoon. The effluent water in that lagoon is naturally treated by sunlight throughout the summer, then pumped through irrigation pipes back out into the environment. We are licensed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, who monitors and tests our system so that we are in compliance with all Federal and State regulations. We are proud to report that we have maintained a perfect testing record since the installation of this system, as well as the additions that we have added over the years to accommodate more campers and staff. Our Maine Summer Camp partners, Winona Camps and Camp Wildwood both in Bridgton, also have similar systems. We work with the Maine Rural Water Association to stay current on new regulations and best practices by regularly attending their trainings. Our Junior and Intermediate campers learn about this system in their Ecology Classes as part of our Outdoor Living Skills program.

GCITo this day, Wyonegonic has remained active in conservation efforts throughout our operation and communities. We have recently become members of the Green Camps Initiative, which is a collaboration of summer camps across the country that is promoting and implementing green initiatives. We are working towards accreditation through GCI of our sustainable practices.

Just a Click Away

blenderThe Wall Street Journal posted an article posing this question, “You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. The blades are about to start, what do you do?” The title of this article, How to Ace a Google Interview is ironic because the answer is not just a click away.

The answer to this question relies on the ability to critically and creatively think about the situation. It requires seeing the whole picture, brainstorming and making hypotheses. In some instances, it requires letting logic and rationale go and thinking without any confines. It requires being uncomfortable as you grapple with a situation and the many possibilities.

Sr Spider Web #1In her book, How to Teach Thinking and Learning Skills,  C.J. Simister, education expert, writes about how “critical thinking and creative thinking are, in many cases, interrelated as situations depend on gathering and absorbing information (critical thinking) leading to the transformation of this knowledge to generate new ideas (creative thinking)“. Promoting critical and creative thinking appears to be at the forefront of school’s agendas. Camps, on the other hand, have been developing these kinds of thinking for decades.

Imagine, a group of campers looking at the spider’s web low ropes course element; how are the campers going to get to the other side? Will they pick each other up? Crawl around? Each and every time this element is completed, a new strategy arises. Now imagine, a group of campers given a bag of non-related items such as a toilet paper roll, tennis racquets, bathrobes and flashlights. What can those campers make from all those items given a little bit of time and the freedom to think?

Wyo 04 JR Campers fairy houseAt camp, children are not able to Google the current wind direction, the elements of a ropes course challenge, the sounds of nature they are hearing, or the different ways to construct fairy houses. The answer is not a click away, and therefore they must rely on and develop the ability to think critically and creatively.

For more ideas on how to promote critical thinking for your camper at home, check out Parents Magazine’s article Inspiring Creativity: Raise a Trailblazer and the University of California’s article 7 ways to Foster Creativity.

Rachel Kelly, Intermediate Unit Director and Program Development Coordinator

Ideas for Indoor Fun

Trapped inside this winter?

Whether you are trapped inside due to the recent major winter storms in your area or have a house full Braceletsof kids home and bored for school vacation week, here are a few ideas from summer camp that may help entertain everyone when you are out of ideas!

  • Skits – Tackle a fun theatrical performance at home that kids can plan, practice and then perform. Have siblings work together or invite a few neighborhood friends over. Paper Bag Skits are great. Place 5-10 random items in a paper bag and the kids use these items in a skit they perform (the wackier the items the better).  Watch their creativity take off! Or have them plan and act out a commercial to advertise an item, play progressive charades, or perform a scene from a favorite musical.
  • Friendship Bracelets – Unpack the camp trunk and find the leftover embroidery floss. Kids can make bracelets for friends, family members or even themselves. Search online for “how to” videos or purchase a book at a craft store if you or your child does not know how to get started.
  • Write Letters – Pretend they are at camp with no electronic communication. Newspaper Fashions Grab the stationary and write fun letters or cards to friends, address the envelopes, and mail them out the old fashioned way! Perhaps they will be lucky and get a reply in a week or so. Start a letter writing chain, ask funny questions or create a “fill in the blank” style letter that a friend returns. Letter writing is a great life skill. As many a summer camp office staff can attest to, kids should learn how to address an envelope properly!
  • Evening Programs – Kids can think of their favorite games and Evening Programs from camp, and try a home version. Can you play an inside version of Capture the Flag? Build fairy houses if you can get outside (fairies like snow), organize a scavenger hunt around the house or try Dutch Auction, Chocolate Smugglers or Flounder (ask the kids how to play – they will know!)
  • Newspaper Fashions – Use newspaper to create fashion designs using nothing but newspaper and a limited amount of tape. Make a super hero, create an red carpet worthy design or use a theme. Kids can use each other as the model or dress you up. Don’t forget to take photos!

S'moreOf course get outside if you can (see our recent Children and Nature blog). Dress warmly and enjoy all the out of doors has to offer whatever time of year.  Fresh air does wonders for helping with cabin fever.  If you have a fireplace you could roast some marshmallows and make S’mores afterwards!

See you when the weather gets warmer!

Susie Hammond, Associate Director Wyonegonic Camps

Wyonegonic Dance

Cookie Dance photoI always wondered how my love of dance and the outdoors would coexist. Over thirteen summers at Wyonegonic, I grew to feel most at home in the woods, but my dance career seemed to require a different environment. In October of 2013, however, I invited two other dancers to make a new work with me in Denmark, Maine as an experiment. We immediately witnessed the advantages of making art here — the inspiring beauty of the place, the local community’s need for more creative outlets, and the copious amounts of space and time in which to work.

Denmark Arts CenterNow a full time resident of Denmark, I co-run a modern dance company, Hio Ridge Dance, named for the road connecting Wyonegonic and Winona Camps. Working with the Denmark Arts Center, we developed an evening length dance about the town last summer. As a part of the project, I wanted to collaborate with Wyonegonic campers. My attachment to this place comes, in great part, from my experiences at Wyonegonic and I hoped this year’s campers would help me convey Denmark’s immense and beautiful energy. The resulting dance film was projected in the six live performances of our dance about Denmark shown at the Denmark Arts Center and various locations on the East Coast.

Cookie Harrist, Wyonegonic Camper and Staff alumna

Directed by Hio Ridge Dance
Choreography by Wyonegonic Senior Camp 2014
Film Shot by Jamie Hook (Director of the Denmark Arts Center) with daughters Ivy and Ursula
Film Edited by Delaney McDonough

Children and Nature

Loon WingsWith the weather getting colder,  the daylight hours short, and the school and work schedules getting ever more hectic it is often easy to spend the day cooped up inside the car, home, school or office. But as tempting as the warmth of your home can be after a long day, I urge you to get outside!  Breathe the fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature, and enjoy the sights (even if it is a “dreary” winter day).

Last summer, Wyonegonic campers spent every waking moment outdoors. They were engulfed in nature: they enjoyed the sweet smell pine in Grove as they pulled pine needles apart, they watched summer storms roll over the mountain, and they fell asleep to the calls of the loons. They learned to live in nature, embrace it, and appreciate it.

Wyo stormIt is well known that being in nature has countless benefits to our cognitive, emotional, social and physical well-being. Yet, Children and Nature, a movement connecting children, families, educators and families with nature, reports that in one week, only six percent of children ages nine to thirteen play outside on their own.  In 2010, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) issued a health report Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body and Spirit Through Outdoor Play  providing research and support for the positive influence unstructured outdoor play has on children. In the article Why Be Out There, NWF reports

  • Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et al., 2007)
  • Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008)

Thorncrag BirdAt camp, children develop an intimacy with nature. They engage with nature through structured activities and unstructured play. They feel the cold early morning fog of Moose Pond, splash in puddles, and bask in the sunlight filtering through the towering pines. This winter, please continue to nurture and develop this intimacy.

There are a variety of resources that offer suggestions as to how to experience nature. In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv describes a phenomena, nature deficit disorder in which WiggieChair Grovechildren do not share in these experiences. At the conclusion of his book, Louv provides suggestions and activities to spark interest in and develop an understanding of nature. Education.com also offers several ways to fuse academic concepts with nature. Family Education provides a list of activities that will engage children of all ages outside.

Many of the activities require just a little bit of imagination, time and energy; yet they have a powerful payoff. How will you encourage your family to get outside? Go ahead and watch the snowfall, listen to the cold wind, watch the birds, or just wander around your neighborhood. Even in the coldest months of the year, nature can surprise you.

Rachel Kelly,  Intermediate Unit Director and Program Development Coordinator

Wiggie Chair Tradition

Wiggie Chair GroveI have spent the past four summers trying to decide how to decorate my Wiggie Chair, so that it would be personal and instantly recognizable as mine. For a while it felt as though nothing could be good enough to accurately represent my first 10 years at Wyo. It wasn’t until this summer, 4 years later, that I felt prepared to permanently design it.

The Wiggie Chair has a long tradition at camp. They started as foldable chairs, made from snowshoes, for counselors to sit in canoes while campers paddled them around Moose Pond! Over time, these chairs transitioned to a more solid and sturdy chair cut from pine. They currently fill our Wiggies throughout camp. On cool and rainy summer days, campers crowd around the fireplace as they roast marshmallows around the fireplace and share camp stories while sitting on these chairs.

When the Sudduths took ownership in 1969, they transitioned the Wiggie Chair into a gift for anyone that has spent 10 summers at camp. It is an achievement that is celebrated by the entire Wyo community during the last grove of the summer. This is an extension of the 5-year gift, a canoe paddle. Traditionally campers paint their paddles in arts and crafts during the summer to personalize them and mark them as their own. Typically, campers paint their teams, their names, or a favorite camp scene onto the paddles. Campers used to leave their paddles at camp, but nowadays it is common for campers to take them home. During the summer, they can be seen all over camp near the canoe docks and attached to the Wiggies.

Caitlin's Chair_FrontA similar tradition does not yet exist for Wiggie Chairs, and I struggled to pick just one idea to commemorate my time at camp. Finally, I chose my absolute favorite t-shirt design, the loon! I edited the design to fit on the chair and I carefully traced it onto the chair back. I spent two whole weekends carving the design with a dremel. Finally, I stained my chair to a dark wood to mask the sun damage that happened as a result of procrastinating for 4 years! For additional personalization, I carved the year I received the chair underneath the loon, and I carved out my initials on the back of the chair, right above the handle.

Ali D'Agostino's ChairRecently, Ali D’Agostino had her chair decorated too. We both picked designs that were meaningful to us and it is incredible to see these chairs together. We received our Wiggie Chairs together in 2010, and it is great to be a part of a newer tradition that is just starting to surface. Others have begun decorating their chairs too and I am excited to see them when they complete. While each of our chairs have our individual touches, it is most compelling to see them together as part of a much greater whole, and as a reflection of the Wyo community.

Caitlin Parker, Wyonegonic Alumnae and Staff Member

Bullying Prevention

Spider WebThe iconic, magical image of camp, is one in which children are outside, carefree and laughing; away from the stressors of school, homework and technology. Yet, with October being National Bullying Prevention Month, even camps are turning their attention to the problem of bullying and how they can help their campers to prevent it. Bullying is an intentionally hurtful act against another, typically done for power acquisition or social dominance. In 2006, the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights initiated a week long affair to raise awareness of bullying prevention. The event gained support and recognition and has grown into the month long event that it is today. Bullying incidences continue to occur at an alarming rate with twenty to thirty percent of children reporting being bullied last year. Simply reflect on your own experiences, or that of your children’s, regarding bullying. It is a ubiquitous problem not limited to any definitive time or place.

VolleyballBullying incidents can happen in any variety of environments. However, camps promote environments that emphasize respect and inclusiveness. Camps nourish the emotional and physical growth of a child recognizing that this is grounded in the basic need of feeling safe. Just as we put a safety helmet on when a child rides a horse, camps teach and model kindness, tolerance, inclusion and advocacy skills which in turn help campers learn and strengthen the skills required to prevent bullying. At camp, campers learn to make connections with others, respect differences, and speak up if the need arises.

At the closing of one of our sessions, campers reflected upon what they were most proud of. Girls shared stories of learning to swim, making new friends, overcoming their fears of spiders, and sleeping out in the woods for the first time. One comment particularly resonated with me, “We were the most different cabin, but we were definitely the closest and I am most proud of that.” That statement reflects all that is embedded in and all that camp works towards in preventing bullying. Creating an environment that embraces differences, reduces bullying.
Rachel KellyPACER’s message for National Bullying Prevention month is “the end of bullying begins with me.” Think about how this message pertains to your child and specifically how camp modeled and supported inclusiveness, tolerance and kindness. How can we continue to teach these characteristics?

Rachel Kelly, Intermediate Unit Director

Did your daughter get an ‘A’ at Summer Camp?

Whit Blog low ropes picUndoubtedly, your daughter arrived home from her summer at camp with a trunkful of memories and a backpack full of stories about cabin life, activities and camping trips. She probably showed you her patches and certificates demonstrating her achievement and successes in program areas. In a way, that is a report card of your daughter’s summer. We suggest you will find the real measure of your daughter’s experience at camp does not manifest itself until much later in the school year.

Of course, it is important to learn the skills of camp. Learning the J-stroke to solo a canoe in a straight line across the lake, passing American Red Cross swim levels, and earning their way into the Bull’s Eye Club are all examples of skills that kids learn at camp. However, the real benefits go far beyond measure and earning grades.

Campers learn compassion and empathy, practice courage and communication, develop independence and resilience, and become better decision makers. How do we measure this? It takes time and patience as a parent to wait and watch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe hope you will observe your daughter navigate her responsibilities and manage her relationships in a healthy manner during the school year. She may exhibit more confidence, show added passion, demonstrate better understanding of her capabilities and be eager to make a difference in her community. She learned many of these traits at summer camp where she lived in a shared space with peer and counselors who were positive role models.

You hear much at your daughter’s school about 21st century skill development. The four Cs educators focus on instilling in children are Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking and Innovative Problem Solving. Your daughter had extensive practice in developing these skills during the summer, as they are intertwined in the daily lives of kids living away from home in a summer camp community. The American Camp Association (ACA) has recently joined P21 to support 21st Century Learning. The addition of ACA to P21 adds a “crucial out-of school-learning perspective”.

So, what about that report card and how does summer camp help to prepare your daughter for what comes next? ACA New England and their member camps are proud to partner with parents and schools to help kids build a combination of skills to help them navigate life. This article shares their thoughts on how camps teach kids to navigate life.

As you complete Back to School preparations, know that your daughter is better prepared for Back to School living because of her summer camp experience. She indeed is on her way to earning an A!

Whit Ryan, Director of Staff Recruitment and Leadership Development

Hosting the first ANSI Training in the World!

Ropes and Tires This is an exciting year for the Ropes Challenge Course industry. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has designated ANSI/PRCA 1.0-3-2014 Ropes Challenge Course Installation, Operation & Training Standards as the American National Standard for the entire range of the industry, including challenge courses, aerial adventure parks, zip lines and canopy tours.

Wyonegonic Camps is pleased to announce that in early June, we partnered with Adventure Mas to host the first ever training for Low and High Ropes staff to become certified in the new American National Standard. Mike Barker was the lead instructor for this training.

Mike has been involved with Adventure Mas for over six years and was recently appointed to the Adventure Mas Director’s position. Mike  has been involved in the industry performing training, facilitation, course operations, building, and inspecting since 1978.  Mike is currently the Vice-President of the Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA) and has been the primary assessor for the PRCA’s Accreditation program and the principal editor of the new American National Standard for the industry.

Ropes Group Says Mike, “This new ANSI Standard provides a consistent reference and much needed safety guidance for State Regulators, Inspectors, Insurers and Industry Professionals.” He adds, “Moreover, this standard enables course and tour owners/managers to conduct their own in-house training, certify their own staff and designate qualified persons to conduct course inspections – expensive services that previously required performance by a limited national vendor pool that could not adequately service the entire industry.”

Congratulations to the camp staff who achieved certification as Level 1, Level 2, Course Manager and Course Administrator Director levels! The participants are awarded two year certifications for having successfully completed the training and assessment.

Pleasant Mountain One Month at a Time

Recently, I celebrated my 30th birthday, and I’m pleased to say I’ve still spent over half of the summers of my life at Wyonegonic. Like so many other girls, Wyo has always been my special place. Over sixteen summers, it’s where I learned to love the outdoors, to challenge myself, and how to have fun. It’s where I made lifelong friends and formed many of my fondest memories. I started going to Wyo as an 8-year-old camper in 1992; nine years later I got my wiggie chair as an AC, and I only took one year off before spending six more summers as a senior counselor. As both camper and counselor, I especially loved going on trips or hanging from the ropes course. Wyo is also where I developed a strong love of hiking and of the outdoors, passions I’ve carried throughout my life. It’s been about five years since I’ve spent the summer “on the shores,” but I’m looking forward to more Wyo summer adventures in my future.

Unlike most Wyo girls, I have the rare pleasure of calling Denmark, Maine 0-4-0-2-2 my hometown. I grew up on Moose Pond, and I spent my first two summers at Wyo as a day camper. Sometimes, my parents even dropped me off by boat! After several years away, I am now living back in my hometown with my partner Chris and our golden retriever Zoe. This is my first year teaching 8th grade math in Fryeburg. I am lucky to be able to see Wyo throughout the seasons, and Zoe and I often take walks through camp during the fall and winter months. It is a unique pleasure to visit Wyo during these quiet times; it is usually empty and yet it always retains the warmth and spirit of summer. Pleasant Mountain always stands stoically in the background, and the sunsets are just as beautiful.

Inspired by Pleasant Mountain’s everlasting presence at Wyo, this year I made a New Year’s resolution to hike Pleasant during each month of 2013. December 28, Zoe and I finished our last hike! Over the winter, we hiked the cell tower road and telemark skied down; though I won’t say I looked good skiing in the backcountry, I put some turns together! In the spring, we enjoyed the lengthening days and warmer weather. In June, Zoe and I did a solstice sunset hike and watched the moonrise from the summit, and in July/August we enjoyed munching on fresh blueberries. One of my favorite hikes was in September, when Chris, Zoe, and I all participated in the Loon Echo Trek and hiked the whole traverse. The event raises money for Loon Echo Land Trust, a group that has been amazing stewards and caretakers of Pleasant Mountain. We also enjoyed seeing many Wyo folks that day, both on the mountain and driving our drop-off vans!! In the fall, I enjoyed beautiful foliage and the crispness of autumn, and I’ve rounded it all off with two cold and snowy hikes to welcome the return of winter. You can read more details about all of my hikes on my personal blog.

Wyonegonic has always been an influential part of my life, and I’m so thankful for the experiences and relationships I’ve built there over the years. The threads of Wyo are interwoven throughout the rich fabric of my life, and I’m lucky I can visit camp whenever I want. As I begin a new decade, I am looking forward to the ways Wyo will continue to be an important part of my future, and always to my next hike.

Dunk Your Kicks Fundraiser

Max Cure FoundationWyonegonic is pleased to be supporting the Max Care Foundations “Dunk your Kicks” program. Visiting parents are welcome to bring donations from home at any time including on camper pickup on August 13th.  We have collection boxes in both Senior and Junior/Intermediate Camps.

In addition, campers can donate their used shoes at the end of the summer prior to packing. Each child will need parental permission in order to consider donating their used camp shoes.   If you would like to give permission to your daughter to donate, please email us  and we will inform your daughter that she has the choice and permission to donate.

Donate your used Athletic Footwear for a great cause!

We are looking for donations of used or new athletic shoes in any condition, including:

• Tennis Shoes
• Basketball shoes
• Running shoes
• Light hiking shoes
• Walking shoes

MCEWe are not able to use any other footwear.

• The footwear is recycled by being cleaned, restyled, repaired and distributed in the USA and internationally

• In addition to providing this valuable service, this opportunity also removes a significant amount of textile waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Thank you very much for participating in this important program and supporting the Max Cure Foundation

Thank you to Maine Camp Experience for coordinating efforts.  Please read the following blog post regarding details of the fundraising efforts through MCE.

Dunk Your Kicks

Managing Summer Camp Drop Off

Dropping your child off at summer camp for the first time can be one of the hardest things a parents does. In one of our staff training sessions the other day, an experienced camp mother explained to the counselors their role in greeting and welcoming campers on opening day.  This not only includes meeting their excited or nervous new campers but also understanding what parents are going through. She said “dropping my children off at camp was much more difficult for me than dropping them off at college…we are entrusting our children to you, and we ask you to love them and keep them safe and happy.”  As a parent you have to trust that the camp you chose will do this for your child, and that the adventures, friendships, self esteem and independence they encounter throughout their camp journey will be well worth your time apart.

You can also make this process easier for both your child and yourself by planning ahead and following these tips.

1) Arrive with your paperwork in order. It will make your check in easy and quick!

2) Plan ahead with your child how they would like to manage drop off.  They may have an opinion!  Read this article on one child’s requests.

3) Help your child settle in, but keep your visit short and do not linger to long at camp. They will participate and make friends more quickly once you have said your goodbyes and departed. This may especially help children who are worried about saying goodbye and the separation, the longer it drags out, the more anxiety may build up.

4) Meet your child’s Counselor and Unit Director/Leader. Seeing these important role models will help you envision their time at camp after you have departed.

5) If you or your child are worried about homesickness – do not make promises for “opt outs” or early pickups. Instead tell your child that you are proud of them for taking this step, and that you know they can do it!  Showing your confidence that they can make it through their camp session and that you will see them at closing day (or for a planned visit) will help your child believe in themselves.

6) Save your tears for the parking lot if possible.  Camp Directors and staff understand and will help you!  Try to wait to let your own emotions out after saying goodbye to your child. You do not want them worrying about you! But instead focusing on themselves and their own adjustment to camp.

Enjoy these additional resources for summer camp families.

Dr Chris Thurber:  Resources for Families

Psychologist Michael Thompson: Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow

We cannot wait to see our campers arrive!

Susie Sudduth Hammond

Assistant Director – Wyonegonic Camps

Brix Brax

There’s no list that can encompass the gift of camp. But…

There’s the budding realization of the existence of true friendship that occurred late one night on the steps of the CIT cabin where I first shared my true self. Aware of my true self only just then as it came spilling out- somehow fully realized only in the act of sharing.

There’s the feeling deep in your gut that you are needed by another human being that brought tears to my eyes when I walked into my first cabin as a counselor to find 5 teenagers, asleep in a tangle of arms and legs too large for their bodies…all on my single camp cot, caught in the act of waiting for me to come home so I could hug them goodnight.

There’s the knowing that I had found “the one” and that the only thing left to do was to bring him to camp so that “place apart” would be not mine, but ours.

There’s the day of the first ultrasound, when the knowledge was ours alone- when the life trajectory seemed to spill out into unknown years…baby names, playgroups, school, graduations. What year can he start camp?

But above all that, there’s the sense of stewardship that is so ingrained in me that it provides the bedrock for all the important choices in my life: how I create a partnership with my husband, how I raise my children, my career choices that keep drawing me back into educating teenagers, and the time I reserve each summer to return to the shores where this sense of stewardship taught me how to be an adult.

Uncle Al gave so much to my family over the years- but the greatest gift to me was the understanding of stewardship. “The Uncle” showed through his actions how to be a steward not just to the land and the camp, but most importantly…to the people. He showed us all how to honor each other, truly respect the differences that make us all unique characters (and admit it, we have a lot of character), and value the contributions that each person brings to the greater Winona family.

I am so proud that my sons are Winona Boys. I watch with joy from the sidelines as Spencer and Laura take the helm, leading this incredible group of people, mentoring the next generation of men. I look forward to the connections and sense of stewardship that my children learn as they realize the value of this special place and amazing family.

Brix Brax and KiYi, Katie Brown

Earth Day 2013

solar system on dining hallWe thought Earth Day 2013 would be a good time to provide an update on our solar panel system located on the Cobb Lodge, our dining hall. In the sixteen months of operation, it has generated 17,085 kw of electricity which is 2.6% more than we used in that building during that same time period. The system was designed for a 10% overage, therefore we are satisfied with its production as there have been some uncommonly dark months over the past half year. This 17.5 kw system was designed and installed by Revision Energy which is based in southern Maine, with some assistance from Central Maine Power.

By using solar energy for our electricity needs for our dining hall, we have reduced our carbon footprint by 12.1 metric tons!

The Sustainability page on our website provides more information about this project, including a video on how the system works.

Earth DAyThis was a major project for our organization. We are also taking smaller steps to save energy or resources. This year, we will be installing BluStorm electric hand dryers in the Cobb Porch bathroom and the Senior Lower Greenie. We hope to eliminate the use of paper towels in these two locations. If they work as well as we hope, we will consider adding the dryers to more locations next year.

Make-A-Wish for Chris

Chris Wentworth, Operations and Trip Coordinator

On Monday March 11th, I will be participating in the 2013 Wildcat Mountain 100k Vertical Challenge which is a benefit for the Make-A-Wish New Hampshire Foundation. I will be attempting to ski 100,000 vertical feet in under nine hours. I will need to make 48 runs down the Lynx Trail on Wildcat Mountain. As I started my fund raising for this event, I received a message from Barb and Jeff Hollis. Barb is a former Wyo Unit Director and Jeff is a former Winona counselor. They are the parents of Jenn Perkins, who has been at Wyonegonic for over 25 years,  and the grandparents of Linda, Cameron, Topher and Lauren Perkins who are Wyonegonic and Winona campers and staff members. They wished to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation by donating to my event.

It was then that I found out that Barb and Jeff, along with their family and friends, have been long time supporters of Make-A-Wish. For over ten years, they worked very hard to raise over $600,000 and made 100 kids’ wishes come true. They did all this work in honor of their son, Christopher Hollis, who had his wish granted in 1993. Chris was in Pooh Corner at Wyonegonic from 1976 to 1985 while Barb was Intermediate Unit Director. Below is the story that Barb shared with me about Chris’ wish.

Chris suffered from neurofibromatosis and suffered a massive stroke after some neurosurgery back in 1990. The wish volunteer team came to Chris’ house and asked him what his wish would be if he could have a wish. Chris explained that he wanted to meet “David Knight” (David Hasselhoff) and sit in the car “Kitt” from the show “Knight Rider” which was on display at Universal Studio in California. The team went back to Make-A-Wish and his wish was approved. It would take about six months to set it all up. In the mean time, the family, and his medical team decided this would be a great opportunity to challenge Chris to complete some goals from his physical therapy & speech therapy teams. He had been totally paralyzed from his stroke and was wheel chair bound, could not speak or breathe on his own and he had reached a plateau with his therapy. He was told that if within six months he could learn how to stand, pivot & transfer from his wheelchair, start breathing without his trach tube, and speak clearer he could meet David Hasselhoff and sit in the car “Kitt” . He immediately was motivated and started working harder. Within three months the entire medical team was amazed Chris had reached his goals, but the wish details had not been completed. We had to come up with some more goals!

Then another hurdle was thrown our way when it was discovered that David Hasselhoff was not going to be available to meet with his because of a conflict with his schedule. So the wish team came back and told Chris he could still go sit in the car “Kitt”, but David was not going to be available. They asked what else he might want to do while in California. He decided he would like to see a taping of “Wheel of Fortune” and meet Vanna White, go to the taping of “Price is Right” and a show called “Supermarket Sweep”. These were three other shows that Chris watched daily. These requests were set up immediately and we were all set to travel to California. (Make-A-Wish sets up all the details, pays for everything from tips, airfare, lodging, meals, rental car, souvenirs – there is no cost to the family.) Chris was able to invite his best friend Kris Doucette to go along as well.

Three days before we were ready to leave, the Make-A-Wish team called to tell us that David Hasselhoff was going to be available to have brunch with us after all! Needless to say Chris was so excited I don’t think he slept much before we left. He basically got two wishes as they didn’t cancel the other events. The first event was going to see a taping of “Wheel of Fortune”. Vanna White met us and gave us a VIP tour of the studio and introduced us to Pat Sajak and they had a tote bag of goodies for all of us. Chris loved watching how they produced the show and what happened behind the scenes. The next event was to see a taping of Price is Right and once again we were treated like VIPS and he was introduced to Bob Barker. The next morning was the taping of “Supermarket Sweep” where the producer and host met us with a sweatshirt with Chris’ name on it. Chris was told he could come back when he could run and be a participant on the show someday.

Now it was finally time to meet David Hasselhoff and I had not seen Chris so excited for years to meet his TV hero. The hotel had set aside a private area for us to have brunch. David Hasselhoff arrived by himself and knelt down beside Chris’ wheelchair for about the first 15 minutes talking to Chris eyeball to eyeball. At that time “Baywatch” was just taking off and David told Chris all about that show as well as Knight Rider , but the main focus was the show “Knight Rider” Hasselhoff had brought Chris souvenir items from both Baywatch and Knight Rider and had brought pictures which he autographed personally to every child and teacher in his school.. He stayed about 1½ hours with us and had brought his own camera with him as he keeps a file with a picture of every child he meets. During brunch David asked where we were going after that and Chris told him to go see “Kitt”. David asked Chris to say “hi” to Kitt and also picked up his phone and called his favorite restaurant “Gladstone” on Malibu and asked them to give us his favorite table and Hasselhoff would pick up the tab.

So, now we headed off to sit in the car “Kitt” not knowing that “Kitt” would talk to you (not sure where they hid the person). Kitt said “hi” and asked Chris’ name. Chris immediately told him that Michael (David Hasselhoff) had said to say hi when we had brunch with him. (I immediately said Chris was a Make-A-Wish child and that person immediately picked up on it and ran with the conversation). Needless to say Chris was totally blown away.

One of the best things that happened during the week we were gone was that Chris and his family were just a “normal family” on vacation – no treatments, no physical therapy, or no doctor appointments. This is one of the major goals of Make-A-Wish; to provide a break from all the unpleasant activities that children and their families deal with while dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

When Chris returned to his medical treatments and appointments the doctors and physical therapists could not believe what a new lease on life Chris was displaying. Two years later Chris passed away and one of his doctors told me that he thought Chris’ wish had probably helped extend his life for those two years. As a family it was hard to accept his death, but we have such fond memories and tons of pictures that we can look back at and remember a “special week” that the Make-A-Wish had given us.

Because of such a positive experience, we decided to start a benefit golf tournament in Chris’ name with all the net proceeds to go to the Make-A-Wish of Massachusetts to grant “wishes” to other children and their families. We were fortunate to have many friends and Boston Celtics great K.C. Jones who helped us. We had set a goal of granting 100 wishes and we reached our goal of raising $600,000 dollars over a period of ten years to fund those 100 wishes.

Please consider donating to the Make-A-Wish Foundation but clicking on this link to my event fundraising page. I hope that I can continue to support this event each year in honor of Chris and the Hollis family, and all they have done for some many deserving kids.