Easterseals of Nebraska is incredibly fortunate to have Jami Biodrowski as their Director of Camp, Respite and Recreation. Jami directs all of the operations of the overnight summer camp program put on by the Easterseals of Nebraska. This camp specializes in providing an overnight camp experience for people with disabilities. Campers range from 5 years of age to 85.
Jami grew up going to 4-H Camp and her first professional camping experience was with a 4-H Camp. In college Jami studied Geology with plans to become a Volcanologist, but like many of us she found herself drawn back to the camping profession. Her favorite part of summer camp is watching the staff grow throughout the summer. She joined the Summer Camp Society to network and learn from other camp pros.
Outside of camp, Jami loves being a parent and enjoys going on road trips. She is also an animal lover. Her family has 3 farm cats (meow) and one dog (woof woof).
Like many college students Katrina spent her summers working a summer job, preparing for the upcoming academic year, and perusing the job boards for the career she was gearing up for. In this particular case Katrina was spending her summers working as a counselor at the summer camp she had attended as a child while preparing for an engineering career. Through the winding, twisting road of young adulthood and career goals, Katrina shifted her focus from engineering to summer camp and has never looked back!
While she was pursuing an engineering degree in school there was still the love of summers at camp. Despite being yelled at by engineering professors for not spending her summers doing engineering stuff, Katrina couldn’t resist going back to camp. The summer after graduation, she was applying to all kinds of engineering jobs and she convinced herself that she would go back for “one final summer” while she waited to hear back from applications and continued to apply for engineering jobs through the summer. She had set a self-imposed deadline that she was going to have a job before camp ended for the summer, and continued to pursue that goal. It was only during the last week and a half of the summer camp season that the director of her camp encouraged her to check out the ACA camp jobs board and upon realizing that working at camp could be a year-round option her “mind was blown!”
She pursued camp jobs with the same intensity as her pursuit of engineering jobs and met her own self-imposed deadline by mere moments. In her own words “Kids were on the bus pulling away and the phone rang and I was offered a job at an outdoor center, I met my self-imposed deadline by minutes, loved the job, and haven’t searched for an engineering job since.” I had the chance to ask Katrina some questions about her life in the camp career she never expected to have!
Rachel: I’ve been thinking a lot about passion and following dreams and the idea that maybe there is something we’re all “meant to do”. What do you think it is that you are meant to do?
Katrina: Definitely something outdoors. I’m at my mentally healthiest when I am outside. I would like to think that it would have something to do with teaching, but not necessarily children. I would want to help people explore nature and see nature in a new way.
What would you be doing right now if you didn’t work in the camp industry?
If it was in engineering I would probably be a surveyor, being outdoors all the time. There is lots of number crunching. I don’t love numbers, but I like logic.
What is your favorite activity at camp?
I really like joining the teenage campers in whatever activity they are doing whether it’s canoeing or an arts & crafts activity or anything. When I want to get out of the office one of my office one of my favorite things to do is grab a bag of bananagrams and join up with a random unit that is in unstructured time.
What would you tell college-aged you if you could go back in time?
Change your major! It is possible to be at camp forever!
What are your life plans going forward from here?
I had a strategic plan, but it didn’t work out and that worked out in my favor so I no longer have one. I think I would like to go back to outdoor education eventually, work at a year-round facility. Going from camp to a cubicle every Fall is rough, I’m not meant to spend too much time in an office. Offices AT camp are different because you can get outside, walk around, and enjoy the camp.
The next bunch of questions are definitely weird, but I want to know who you are not just what you do! So, first question…Favorite quote?
My favorite quotes change all the time, but currently it is from Harry Potter and it is “of course this is happening inside your head Harry, but why on earth would that mean it isn’t real?”
It is believed that Plato once said “an unexamined life is not worth living”. In your opinion is that true or false?
If you’re overthinking life you aren’t living it. If you’re examining it too much you’re no longer enjoying it. I think I’m going to say false, because overthinking makes things less enjoyable.
If you were stuck in an airport what magazine would you pick up to read?
I’m not much of a magazine reader, I would consider a National Geographic, but I’d probably pick up a logic puzzle or Sudoku book.
Last question! What is something that you think is true that almost no one would agree with you on?
Fairies are real! They might not exist in the way that people imagine them, write about them, or depict them, but they are out there. Magic is what keeps nature alive.
The winding road from future engineer to summer camp professional lead Katrina to a career she is passionate about, in a field that supports her passion for being outdoors. I am thrilled to have been able to talk to her about her career path, airport reading habits, and love of nature. I’m looking forward to seeing where her life, sans strategic plan, brings her in the future!
Photo: Katrina starts off Color Wars this summer by releasing color powder off of one of her camp's zip lines!
Katie Bean was subjected to answering a ton of ridiculous questions in rapid succession by Levi Miller. She was a great sport! Here are the results:
Levi: I’m so excited to finally be talking! I can’t wait to share with the world, how fun you are!
Katie: Thank you! Just please don’t ask me about how long it’s been since I washed my hair. Ask me anything! I’m ready!
L: If you could add any color to the Crayola collection what color would you add?
K: Maple Tree Green, because I love the outdoors and trees
L: Do you want to be a tree?
K: No, that’s ridiculous.
L: If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
K: I would pay off my student loans. I would also make a generous donation to my camp. My family is very important to me and I would pay for my siblings to go to college. A trip to Sweden would be my frivolous purchase. I’d mostly do boring things like investing.
L: Who inspires you, in the camping industry?
K: Jack and Laura at Stomping Ground are so inspiring. The courage they had to travel across America and then having the drive to take everything they learned to start their own camp is incredible. They have had success with a unique path and that is fantastic to see.
L: How many windows are there in New York City?
A: One Bajillion
L: Is that a real number?
K: Probably not.
L: If you were gifted an elephant and you had to keep it, what would you do with it?
K: I would parade it around and show everybody how cool I am.
K: No, no, definitely not. I would use it for a camp equestrian program. Like, for the highest level of riders.
L: What do you do with a camper that doesn’t want to participate in an activity?
K: I explain challenge by choice as well as I want them to know about learning zones and comfort zones. Once kids know about those things they are generally more likely to entertain the idea of doing something they are nervous about.
L: If you could play a game of Monopoly with any three people, living or dead, who would you choose?
K: Me, myself, and I.
K: No, of course not! I would have to say Rockefeller, Oprah, and Obama. They are all just people I have a lot of questions for.
L: What are you known for in your work places?
K: I am known for being direct. People can count on me to tell them the truth while being kind and compassionate.
L: What is your 90’s jam?
K: Easy! Return of the Mack!
L: I’ll have to look it up, I’m not well versed.
K: It’s the so good!
L: What’s your best advice for people going into an interview?
K: Don’t over or undersell yourself. Just be you. Be the best version of yourself. If you tell the truth about everything, you don’t have to remember anything. Just be honest and real.
L: Thank you so much for going on this ridiculous ride with me! You are super brave for answering all of my questions!
K: Thank you so much! Have a great day!
If you want to learn more about Katie Bean, check out this Buzzfeed Quiz! See how much you already know and maybe you’ll find something you have in common!
An Interview with Ben Clawson by Sarah Kurtz McKinnon
Growing up, Ben Clawson, the camp director at Lindley G. Cook 4H Camp in Stokes Forest, New Jersey, did not think he would find himself living and working in the woods as an adult. His father was a National Park Ranger, so throughout his childhood, Ben moved with his family to different national parks. Despite his beautiful surroundings, the young Ben longed to live in a city or even a town.
But starting in 1995, Ben attended the Lindley G. Cook 4H Camp as a camper--and he has not missed a summer since. When the opportunity arose for Ben to become the interim director for summer 2016 and assume the role of director in 2017, he dropped his big city dreams to commit to making camp happen for the hundreds of kids and staff who come to 4H camp each summer.
I interviewed Ben to learn a little more about him, his job, and his aspirations. Here are his responses:
Kurtz: Ben, what’s your educational background?
Ben: I have a bachelor’s of fine arts in Theatre from Montclair State University in New Jersey. I have virtually no outdoor education or camping background; that’s all been in-the-field learning.
Kurtz: Tell me more about that BFA.
Ben: I was and still am a playwright. I find that it transfers so well and so easily. I really view camp as a creative endeavor. It’s something brand new that you make up for the group every season with a team of other people who have their own levels of creative control and responsibility.
Kurtz: As a kid, what kind of camper were you?
Ben: I was probably the extra-loud, extra-outrageous, extra look-at-me kind of camper. The one that 75% of the staff loved and the other 25% of the staff couldn’t stand and would argue with the other 75% of the staff about. I was the kid who built up to the talent show every week. The talent show was always the pinnacle of my camp week.
Kurtz: We need details on that, please!
Ben: It’s even more ridiculous because it’s true. During my first year at camp, Forrest Gump had recently come out. That whole summer, I did a Forrest Gump impression with my best friend, who pretended to be Lieutenant Dan. We did a detailed, scene-by-scene version of the movie for the talent show with some other campers involved. It went on for 10 minutes or so and then the staff realized we were planning on going on for about two more hours. They eventually kicked us off the stage.
A couple years after that, my talent show act was largely surrounding a hand-held cow puppet. That pretty much sums it up.
Kurtz: Are you still in the talent show now?
Ben: I endeavor not to be as camp director. I feel like I’m front and center enough. Any time there is an opportunity for a camper or counselor to be that focal point instead of me, I try to take it and give that to someone else.
Kurtz: I heard you became a father this past year! Congratulations. How has that changed your approach to running camp?
Ben: Because he’s an infant right now, I’d say that the way it will change my perspective for working with 8- to 16-year-olds is probably still ahead of me. The infant is such a different creature; it blows my mind that one day he will turn into one of our campers. I think I am slowly getting more sympathy for the sad parents who are having a difficult time entrusting the health and safety of their camper to us. I think I will get even more that way as he grows up and I will have to give him to other people for a small amount of time.
Kurtz: Did you meet your wife at camp?
Ben: Yep--but I almost wish it was something way simpler like, “we met online”! We actually met when we were campers here! We did not start dating until we re-met in our 20s. We knew each other since we were kids at camp, like 12 years old. And now we live here.
Kurtz: This was your second summer as the director. With the knowledge and expectations that you have now, what would you go back and tell yourself before you were about to embark on that first summer?
Ben: I think and I will probably need to continue telling myself this: I think the idea that especially when it comes to facility hiccups, we are ready to handle the things that break. And if something breaks, you will call someone and they will fix it!
Coming from a programming land, stuff I don’t understand like what holds up the docks, or well water permits...that was stuff I feel like I had a borderline phobia of. I think the idea is that when the problem arises, you can deal with it intelligently. There aren’t so many things that will fall apart that will be catastrophic, so don’t waste time being frightened.
The second thing is to trust the team of summer staff around me. The success of the past couple of years is really due to that team.
Kurtz: What are your personal goals for the next year, either for yourself or for camp.
Ben: For camp, we had a really good summer last year [in 2016], and then going into my second summer this year, I wanted to maintain and duplicate that quality. And we did that. But then at the end of summer, I realized that even though I needed that to be my goal, I could never make that the goal again! Maintaining quality--that’s the most boring goal in human history! I feel like we had a really successful summer that first, and I needed to have another to be ready to think that we could get way bigger, way hungrier, and think about something great and new!
For now, we are looking at adding new bunks and doing improvements to up our capacity...on the program side of things, on the last night of camp this summer, I saw one of the cabins run the best evening program I had ever seen. They had made such a tight community on a cabin level, and my goal is to make that camp-wide.
Kurtz: Anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to share?
Ben: I have the tendency to ramble on, so I try to never make matters worse by floating topics of my own!
Thanks, Ben, for your insights! We’re thrilled to have you as part of The Summer Camp Society and can’t wait to learn with you and help get more kids to even better camps!
Name: Ben Clawson
Camp: Lindley G. Cook 4H Camp
Title: Camp Director
Location: Stokes Forest, New Jersey
Number of years at camp: Ben started as a camper in summer 1995, and has been back each summer since!
For the past year Anna has taken on any and everything on her own. Anna is the only full time year round staff member at Friends Camp and she enjoys it that way. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with Anna on Monday morning, and here is what you need to know:
Anna started in camping like many do, as a child. She attended a camp in the Northeast corner of Maryland. Anna was “entranced by camp as a kid”. She said she always looked forward to her time at camp each summer. After spending a few summers working at her childhood camp, she moved on and began working at Friends Camp in 2011,Where she worked her way up the ranks and is now the Director.
Friends Camp is a Quaker camp and Anna loves being able to give kids a space to talk freely about Faith. She says that Friends Camp is open to all, but it gives those who do attend and are Quaker the opportunity to connect with others with similar values.
While Anna and I were chatting, I asked Anna to do a little bragging, boy does Anna has lots to be proud of! In the past year Anna was able to increase enrollment at Friends Camp by ten percent. For a one-woman team, Anna should be shouting that from the rooftops! Anna spilled her secrets with me on what helped her accomplish such great growth! First she streamlined her online presence, she updated the Friends Camp website and made it much more user friendly. Second she skipped the camp fairs where she was one of many camps and asked local Quaker schools to host her during a parent event. She was able to get in front of the right people without them being overwhelmed by so many other camp choices. Lastly, Anna said that she was able to empower families to help her do some recruiting as well. She sent camper families brochures and info about camp that they could share with friends. Growing camp enrollment is no small task. Anna had a plan and was able to see all her hard work pay off!
Any idea is better when seasoned by others
Anna is very excited and hopeful for what is to come from The Summer Camp Society this fall. She said that she got involved with The Summer Camp Society because she can often feel alone but she wanted a peer group to be able to connect with and share ideas with. She said something that I really loved and it could not be truer, “Any idea is better when seasoned by others” and that is exactly what TSCS will do not only for Anna but for all of us who are participating.
***** (Five Stars)
Like every good stage show, Alice Haefeli: A Camp Life is a story with three distinct but intertwined acts. It starts with a musical theatre burst and ends in a bit of a mystery (leaving the audience wanting more, of course), but it’s clear this show is on the right track, and will have an ending that will leave you satisfied.
When we first meet the star of our show, Alice is starring as a witch in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at musical theatre camp at age three. The theatre bug clearly bit her early on, but the camp bug left an impression that would manifest itself much later on. At this “camper stage” of the show, Alice only really visits camp a few times, including whale camp in Canada and an overnight camp in Cape Cod. Most camp shows don’t get off the ground with so little exposure, but Alice shows determination and grit as she discovers who she is, and as the second act opens, the audience is leaning in towards the stage to see what might happen as the plot unfolds.
Act Two of Alice’s life is where we begin to see the transformation from camp lover to camp evangelist. She spends six years serving in a variety of roles at a New Jersey day camp, and begins to understand the power that camp staff have on the life of their campers. Although camp staff don’t always walk on water, the impression that they might just be able to pull that off means that counsellors and program staff can make a serious impact on the life of those in their care, and Alice finds herself drawn to that power. The question remains: can she wield that power in such a way that she can change the world, just like those who’ve gone before her?
The third act of Alice’s camp career, the denouement, is still unfinished. Here the musical takes a bit of a sideways turn as she waits (in the wings?) for the path forward to become clear. Alice has moved from the realm of summer staff into the world of year-round, dedicated camp staff. It’s a waiting game, of course, with so many opportunities open to her that the plot isn’t immediately obvious.
“My dream is to start something new and fresh, something that’s my own,” she says, looking with bright-eyed optimism towards the future. She believes that camp makes people into well-rounded humans, and she wants to be there to help campers become who they need to be. One can’t help but be impressed by her sheer positivity, even in the face of earlier mornings, camper issues and staff care.
That optimism is what ultimately wins this reviewer over: no matter what the road looks like, her confidence and dedication have convinced us that big things are to come. We’re already looking forward to the sequel.
Carlie Fischer has a long history with YMCA Camp Takodah in Richmond, New Hampshire. Growing up at camp inspired her to begin working as Assistant Director recently this year. Camp Takodah is a residential summer camp for for both girls and boys. They offer four, two-week sessions during the summer, but also offer outdoor education, rentals and retreats during off seasons. Carlie started camp at seven years old, participated in the leadership program and then began working on staff as a cabin leader, division head and as director of girls camp.
She loves Takodah and cherishes all the memories of growing up there, as well as the memories working there will bring. Carlie was born in Keene, New Hampshire, but moved to Nova Scotia, Canada where she attended Dalhousie University. Her hobbies are reading, art and her cat. Her most exciting moment was crowdsurfing in a Sasquatch costume at a concert.
Kristy Andrews began her camp journey at age eight when she attended the seven-week program at Camp Wawenock for Girls. Since that time, she has spent every summer at the camp along the shores of Sebago Lake, which is an hour from Portland, Maine. Now in the role of Assistant Camp Director Kristy is following her passion and devoting herself to supporting the 100 girls who attend camp each year.
During the off-season Kristy can be found working on projects like camper retention, alumni engagement and fundraising. Kessler, her Bernese Mountain Dog, is always by her side. During the summer the pair fills in wherever necessary. Kristy loves the water and can often be found teaching swimming or canoeing while Kessler specializes in comforting homesick campers. Kristy is excited to participate in The Summer Camp Society and learn about camps outside of her own. Kessler is just hoping she’ll be able to come along to Camp Fitch in November!
Meet Rory Maiello! Rory is the Assistant Camp Director at Camp Cedarbrooks, which is located in the Adirondacks. Cedarbrooks is a Christian girls’ camp, and they run a two-week session in addition to eight, one-week programs from June to August.
Rory is a Cedarbrooks lifer, and she began as a nine-year-old camper. She completed the Leadership Program before debuting on staff as a counselor, and from there she has held a number of positions, including the Wilderness Trip Program Coordinator, Division Leader, and Program Director. She has been in her current role for five years.
Sailing is her favorite camp activity, and she spends a lot of time outdoors in the off-season as well. She enjoys camping, hiking, canoeing, and hanging out with her friends and dog. She loves to travel as well—she spent a semester in Rome, and hopes to visit Alaska someday.
While she was busy running a summer camp, playing outdoors, and traveling the world, Rory earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College. She currently teaches a college course on the same subject. She clearly works very hard, and Camp Cedarbrooks is lucky to have her!
Maggie Mitchell is the Overnight Camps Director at Camp Copneconic, a 700-acre YMCA camp just south of Flint, MI. With a Bachelor's degree in teaching and a Master’s in public administration with a focus on educational leadership, Maggie is well-suited for her role in providing a memorable camp experience for as many as 500 to 600 kids each week. The Y’s core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, and caring reflect Maggie’s own, and the programming she oversees reflects her own belief in the importance of a supportive and engaging community.
Maggie’s introduction to summer camp was when she attended a camp designed to prepare her and the rest of the rising 6th graders for their new life in middle school. As an only child, Maggie loved spending time with other kids, and this week of camp was nothing short of amazing. Maggie later returned to the camp, which had relocated to Camp Copneconic, as a high school chaperone. It was during her senior year’s service that her future boss identified her caring and enthusiastic interactions with campers and invited her to apply to be a regular camp counselor.
Maggie’s first year as a counselor proved to be a transformative experience for her and the direction her life would take. It was at camp that Maggie would find her calling. It was camp that caused her to change her major from nursing to teaching on her very first day of college, and it was ultimately camp that led her away from teaching school to teaching (and more!) at camp years later. Over the next several years, Maggie served in many different roles at both Camp Copneconic and Cheley Colorado Camps, each preparing her for where she is now. Some people call their job “work,” but for Maggie, it’s home.
Fun, friends and free thought… This was the slogan that drew Amy Monsky into the camping industry and the one that still keeps her there today. Amy discovered
Camp Quest while struggling to find a camp for her children that was open to campers/families with humanistic beliefs. She found that not only did Camp Quest's open-minded nature fit with what she was searching for, but the general camp culture was something that she was personally drawn to. Amy is one of those people who you instantly feel connected to; someone you feel comfortable around before you ever really know her. Her warm persona and bubbly personality give her that “camp mom” feel, even when just speaking to her over the phone. So naturally, she fit right in to the world of camping.
Amy started her journey with Camp Quest as a counselor in 2010 while her oldest son attended as a camper. It was after this week that Amy knew this was going to be more than a “one and done” ordeal. Since Camp Quest is independently run by volunteers, Amy decided that she wanted to start her own session. The very first year, Amy started off with 35 campers. Now, her camp has grown to averaging 115-120 campers per session and is opening up a third site in the Southeast Region. With camps in South Carolina, Mississippi, and one opening in Florida, Amy dedicates a lot of her time, energy, and heart into making Camp Quest the best it can be, year after year.
Though only “required” to speak for 15 minutes for the purpose of this interview, Amy and I found ourselves chatting for over an hour about the impact camp has had on us and our lives in general. We focused on that impact and realized that that’s part of the pull; the thing that keeps us involved with camp and makes work feel less like…Well, work. When we’re at camp, we feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. We feel the work we do and see the impact it has on others. Amy said it best when she said, “You live on through the legacy of the work you do.” Luckily for us, we get to work on that legacy every day.
Kristy: How did you get originally get involved with camp?
Margeaux: I always wanted to go to camp but it was never part of my family culture. My mom went to a camp and hated it because of how competitive it was. I begged her to go to camp so I ended up going to Girl Scout Camp Little Notch for two week sessions, starting at age 9. The sessions had themes and I began with the Sailing session, but my lack of natural sailing instinct led to me to the teen building, ropes, and rock climbing sessions. I love climbing, especially the team aspect that comes with cheering each other on and celebrating others’ successes. To me, that embodies what camp is all about.
Kristy: Your childhood camp eventually closed... :( But you and other alumni formed a non-profit and saved it! :) Tell me about that.
Margeaux: It was a community effort. I worked there for two summers before they made the announcement that they were going to close camp. They decided they were going to sell and the Little Notch community thought, “You can’t do that!” So we worked with the Girl Scouts, the Open Space Institute, and some conservation groups around Lake George and we purchased the land. Little Notch opened up for campers again for the first time in 2012!
Job: Director at Camp Rocky Brook Day Camp in Eastchester, NY
Favorite Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Favorite Song to Belt in the Car: Any show tune! Currently obsessed with Dear Evan Hanson
Favorite Camp Activity: Ropes or Swimming
Fun Fact: Her dog’s name is Cordelia. She’s a Boston Terrier/Pug Mix...a bug
Kristy: How did you become a full time Camp Professional?
Margeaux: While being a summer staff member and working at lots of different camps, I did seasonal outdoor education work at places like Nature’s Classroom. It became hard to move every few months and so I was looking for a more stable full time work situation. When my current job came up, it was perfect. I’m close to family and feel that the work here really calls to me. This was my first summer as the Director of Rocky Brook Day Camp. It’s really different than other camps I’ve worked at, as I come from an environmental and wilderness background. This is much more urban; there’s no where to swim, no ropes courses, and no fields. It’s also a day camp and I come from a residential background. It’s an interesting challenge for me because it’s so program-based, in that we have to think about how to create activities and fill the time without relying on the outdoor environment.
Kristy: What made you want to do the Summer Camp Society?
Margeaux: I love Sarah Kurtz McKinnon, she’s so cool! I thought I’d have a chance to get to know her. I decided to do it because it will be good for my career, beyond my current job, so I went for it!
Rachel has directed Camp Farnsworth through Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains for the past two years. Farnsworth serves primarily overnight campers but also runs day camp at the same time for the first two weeks of the summer. Rachel lives in Utah during the school year, though her camp is in Vermont. When not at camp she loves to play sports and has been on a roller derby team. She enjoys hiking, traveling and going on adventures, which include exploring new places with minimal planning. Along her travels she has been to 45 of the 50 states! Here is my interview with her:
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love creative programming and getting to come up with radical, new, out-of-the-box ideas. I love to encourage counselors to do the same and come up with their own crazy ideas. I loved being a counselor with all my heart and soul and I love training counselors to do the same. My motto is “The answer is always yes, unless it has to be no”.
What was the most challenging part of your job last summer?
Finding balance between what I have to do in the office and what I want to do out around camp. I have found that the days I spend more time in the office are the ones that are the most challenging. I also feel that being a relatively young director, close in age to the staff, can also be challenging.
Do you have a mentor in the camping world?
Megan, who is the previous director at Farnsworth. She was the camp director when I was a counselor and we also worked together at another camp as well. She is definitely my go-to human.
What is a piece of advice that someone has given you that you still reflect on?
A director that I used to work for told me that “perfect is the enemy of great”. I think about it a lot when I know that I am obsessing over something or not willing to release a project because I don’t feel that it’s good enough yet. One of the staff this summer told me “you’re good but you’re not God”, which I think is another way to say the same thing.
What is a piece of advice that you have for other Camp Directors or staff?
The rule I live by that I think is most important is to remember why you do it. I don’t think that many people wandered into the camp world by mistake. They are here for a reason. You also need to keep an eye on the person that you were as a counselor and how you can bring that level of passion back into camp.
What do you hope to gain from The Summer Camp Society?
I think I am just looking to learn from other people. I want to learn what trials are common so that we can brainstorm solutions. My big dream is to one day open my own camp, and I want to learn what awesome and unique things are being done and what I can pull from that.
Can you tell me more about your future camp?
I think it will be a private camp; I tend to lean towards the radical side of working with youth. I have too much of a desire to push for radical exploration to fit in with the molds of a structured organization. I love the idea of Adventure Playgrounds where kids can engage with the world around them to learn. I intended to teach before I found camp and I wanted to be in Montessori, so kid-guided discovery was always something that I believed in.
What is one happy camper (or staff) story from this past summer?
I had a new counselor who was trying to internalize my message of making camp unforgettable. She had a camper who was very upset because they had received a letter from home that said their family was going to go on vacation to Maine without her while she was at camp. The counselor asked what it was that the camper really wanted to do in Maine and she responded that she wanted to surf. The counselor then rigged up a bunch of canoes tied to a windsurf board and had counselors paddle the canoes so that the camper could surf at camp. It was just the most camp answer to the problem.
What was the best job you ever had?
The years where I was a unit leader were the best. I never felt like I was as good as something as I did then. I loved getting to do awesome things everyday with cool teenagers. I truly woke up thinking “this is great, we’re going to do something awesome today”.
Meet Meghan, the awesome Director of Programming at Catholic Youth Camp in Minnesota. Since her relationship with CYC began when she was a camper, she has filled many roles from counselor to camp “elf” to her current role as Director of Programming.
I really enjoyed chatting up Summer Camp Society member Meghan on the phone and hearing all about her camp and her passions. As a camp director myself, it’s such fun to meet other directors—every time I do, I’m more and more impressed with their thoughtfulness, kindness, and creative ideas. Meghan was no exception!
One of the first things I learned about Meghan is how much she enjoys connecting with campers and staff at Catholic Youth Camp. Even with her new leadership role, she is careful to prioritize little moments and connections with youth at camp. Her favorite times of day at CYC are during “camp store breaks.” Campers have free time and play Gaga Ball, eat snacks, or just hang out. Meghan likes to walk around camp with a boom box and play music for kids.
Connections with campers are at the forefront for Meghan. She loves being the camp “elf” who responds to letters from campers, and she is confident in camp’s ability to help shape the next generation of leaders. Perhaps this came from her early experience at camp? Like so many of us who were campers, Meghan experienced homesickness her first time away from home and remembers the counselors who were so kind and welcoming. It seems like Meghan has become that welcoming presence at CYC, making campers feel hopeful and encouraged through conversations about home, prayer, and growing up.
Meghan seems to walk the line between being an out-and-about programming director while also doing important work in the camp office. During this last winter, she led Catholic Youth Camp to be involved in a fun local fundraising “competition” against another local non-profit. The entire community came out in force, raising over $46,000 to support CYC and its camperships. Because most contributions were small, it took a huge number of CYC supporters to reach this amazing fundraising achievement. What an awesome way to bring camp community members together and help promote the mission of CYC—non-profit camps, take note of Meghan’s great idea!
After just a brief phone chat with Meghan, I’m left wanting to hang out with her during during camp store breaks. Only 8 months until summer, when she pulls out the boom box again!