Author Archives: Audrey Monke

A Thank You Note

Every so often, parents take the time to write us a thank you note. This one, from a long-time camper family, meant a lot to us. Thank you, Harris Family, for taking the time to let us know what GAC means to you! We appreciate your kind words!

Dear Gold Arrow Counselors and Staff –

As we approach the end of our five weeks of empty household, and realize that our children are approaching the end of another wonderful GAC summer experience, we would like to take a moment of your summer to express our thanks for all that you do to make Gold Arrow Camp so special. 

We hear the sense of building anticipation in our kids’ voices for about 10 months of the year.  They look forward to so much about GAC:  the friends, the fresh air, the scenery, the activities, the food and the escape. 

The end of the school year is always a frenzied scramble, as final exams and camp preparation come to a crescendo.  We know that while we are going through this scramble, you are in the final stages of preparing to give our children a summer experience they will never forget.  We don’t even see a small fraction of the preparation you do.  Then the camp letters and camp photos start to arrive.  In just a matter of days, their lives are transformed. 

GAC is an annual reminder to them of hope that there is lots of good in the world:  good people, good places and good experiences. This is in sharp contrast to the backdrop of constant negativity in their increasingly complex world.  By going to GAC, the kids learn how to connect with other people, meet them where they are, find commonalities, celebrate differences and enjoy each other.  If everyone in the world could spend a few weeks per year at GAC, much of the world’s problems would quickly disappear. 

At GAC, the children build confidence.  From the timid goodbyes as they board the camp bus, aware that they are leaving the safe confines of their family and homes, to the ear-to-ear grinning pictures and roaring laughter just a few days later.  They learn (sadly) that they can be happy away from their parents, and that they do not need to rely on their parents to feel good about themselves and thrive.  At GAC, the children recharge.  Wow are their lives more complicated and busy than ours were!  The children relish the opportunity to unplug from their existing social fabrics, get away from the pressure of school and extra-curriculars and get away from their watchful parents! 

What you do at GAC makes a difference in our children’s lives, or else we would not entrust them to you for almost 10% of the calendar year.  Your work is meaningful and impactful.  The children return home from GAC feeling better about themselves, better about their families, and better about their future.  Two of our children are approaching the end of their “GAC careers” but they will always carry GAC around with them.  GAC is living proof that a summer camp is more than a piece of property and some equipment.  You put your hearts and souls into getting to know these children, helping them grow.  For that, we are forever grateful. 

Thank you for another wonderful summer and for being such an integral part of our kids’ childhoods.


Tim and Kim Harris

11 Ways to Help Kids Create REAL Connections

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, Camp Director

In addition to keeping campers safe and healthy, forming close connections with our campers is our counselors’ most important job.

I’ve written extensively about our Connection Before Connection philosophy and about how forming REALationships with campers is the most important thing great counselors do.

As parents, I believe connecting with our kids is equally important. I’ve compiled a list from some of my favorite resources about ways to foster close connections with our kids – and everyone else we care about.

1. Acknowledge feelings

2. Empathize

3. Make people feel seen, heard, and valued.

4. Hug often.

5. Play together.

6. Give your full attention

7. Daily debrief

8. Smile

9. Use screens to foster connections.

10. Be you

11. Daily rest and reflection


Activity Spotlight: Horseback Riding

By Gretchen “Gem” Monke, Horseback Riding Director

Horseback Riding Director, Gem with Ellie Moeschberger (daughter of camp directors Bean and Soy)

Yeehaw from Gold Arrow Camp!

Our fun and hands-on horse program offers campers the opportunity to care for our horses, learn horseback riding basics, and participate in breathtaking lakeside trail rides.

The horse program begins each day before breakfast with Early Morning Muck and Feed. Campers sign up to help the wranglers feed our ten horses and muck the stalls. Many campers sign up frequently to visit their favorite four-legged friends before scheduled activities.

After breakfast and lunch, campers are scheduled to come to horses with their cabins. Our goal is to give all of our campers a comprehensive introduction to horseback riding. Our wranglers strive to give campers a positive horse experience that includes lassoing, painting, grooming, and a trail ride! At the end of every session, campers help the wranglers feed the horses lunch or dinner. In addition, our wranglers give the campers carrots, watermelon rinds, and other treats as a way for them to say thank you to their horses.

While Lions, Gold Arrow’s oldest campers, are not scheduled for horses, they have the option to sign up during Ultimate Freetime Day. Our wranglers take Lions on a more extensive trail ride and plan a more advanced riding lesson. Many of our Lion campers learn how to trot!

After dinner, campers can sign up for Horses during the Free Time activity (6:15-7:45pm). During the evening activity, our wranglers offer a variety of activities including bareback riding, arena games, grooming, vaulting, and lassoing. Campers rotate through two to three stations to get the full horse experience!

One unique aspect of Gold Arrow’s horse program is its central location. Our horse program is located right in the middle of camp so that campers can visit their neighing-neighbors going to and from activities. Our wranglers look forward to giving many campers the hands-on horse experience this summer!

2017 Wranglers: Cinch, Possum, Gem, Khaleesi, and Rocks

Ep. 1: Baboon on Making Every Day Your Masterpiece

Pog-Cast Episode 1Meet Our Staff: Baboon

On Episode 1 of the GAC POG-CAST, Soy interviews Baboon, a three-year veteran GAC staff member who’s brought a ton of positive energy and fun to camp. You can read more about Baboon in his Meet our Staff article and in the article about him receiving the 2015 Coach’s Award. And, as in every episode, you’ll enjoy a joke of the day, WOWs, and a little GACspiration (inspiration, GAC-style). Enjoy the POG-cast!

Subscribe to the GAC POG-Cast on iTunes!




Mocha’s Sailing Adventures

Mocha_16Meredith “Mocha” Monke is a senior at Westmont College and a three-year veteran GAC counselor. Because her parents (Audrey “Sunshine” and Steve “Monkey” Monke) are the camp owners/directors, Meredith spent all of her childhood summers as a camper. She wrote about her own “grit growing” experiences as a child for a recent creative writing assignment.

By Meredith Monke

I think if I hadn’t grown up at camp I wouldn’t be an outdoorsy person. But camp is where I feel free—breathing fresh air, being myself. There was this little nook between a big rock and a Jeffrey Pine tree on the hill beside the Dining Porch where my sisters and I would play after dinner. Little bark flakes would scatter on the dirt and if you cut one in half, it made a sort of auburn chalk which we’d use to scribble on the rock. Sometimes we’d sit on the rock and just watch the people go by, pretending that they couldn’t see us up on the hill, hiding amongst the trees.

In the "bath tub" boat

One day my older sister, Gretchen, asked me if I wanted to go sailing with her out on the lake. During camp season, activities run all the time, and sometimes we’d just pop by and join. I wanted to be like her, and I wanted her to think I was cool and adventurous and brave, so I agreed, even though my stomach was flip-flopping just thinking about setting foot in a tippy boat with no one but my sister.

There were a few different kinds of boats, bigger ones in which to fit lots of littler campers and smaller ones for campers to ride in on their own. One time I had gone in the bigger boat with all the “scared” campers and the boat had capsized. A great way to thoroughly convince a bunch of scared kids to be even more scared of sailing! But Gretchen and I were just extra tagalong people that day, and the sailing staff was busy, and Gretchen was confident. I begged to take a bathtub boat and Gretchen looked at me, seeming to say, Seriously? We called them “bathtub boats” because they resembled bathtubs, deep and exactly opposite of what one would call “sleek.” But my favorite thing about these blessed boats was their smooth, slow and steady speed and their unwillingness to capsize, even with the most inept driver. I thought they were a beautiful invention, but my sister wondered what the point of sailing was if all I did was venture in a bathtub boat.

Despite her desire to sail in a faster boat, she accommodated me. Mixed in with jabs about my love of slow speeds were giggles, moments of pretending to be mermaids, and hair blowing in the wind. We hardly made it anywhere in that boat. She steered, and I pulled in (to speed up) and let out (to slow down) the sail. Of course, I was more focused on letting out the sail.

At the tiller, 2008.

At the tiller, 2008.

A few years later I was back at the sailing dock with my cabin mates—my peers. They were pairing everyone off to go in smaller boats, but this time, the faster ones. We hopped in a boat, and unlike past sailing experiences, I was put in charge of steering. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, accustomed to my brave big sister taking charge. I squinted my eyes to focus on a rock across the lake, finding a spot at which to aim the boat. We swerved, the waves rocked the boat, and my heart dropped like I was on a roller coaster. I pushed the tiller one way, and the boat would swerve the other way. Then the boat would be straight until some waves decided to angle us in a different direction.

We sailed farther out into the lake than I’d been before, and I saw the sun’s white reflection on the blue lake. I felt the breeze on my sunburnt face. My toes rested in the pile of water in the base of our boat. I chatted and laughed with my friend in the boat. I was free. That’s when I realized that things become less scary once I take the time to figure them out. When I calmed my nerves long enough to look beyond my tunnel vision of the rock across the lake, I experienced the joy of whooshing and splashing across crystal blue water.

Bink, Mocha, and Gem (Mocha's big sister) on the Sailing Dock, 2016

Binx, Mocha, and Gem (Mocha’s big sister) on the Sailing Dock, 2016

My sister, though she teased me at the time, met me where I was in my level of comfort and sailed with me anyway in the slow bathtub boat. Now my sister and I sail together whenever we get the chance, and we cherish those moments flying across the lake. Countless other family memories have emerged over the years because of camp, and now I know to be grateful and to cherish them. They have shaped me to be who I am today.

Big Campfire

“Big Campfire” is a camp tradition dating back to GAC’s earliest years. On the middle Saturday of each two-week session, the entire camp community gathers at our beautiful Big Campfire Amphitheater to enjoy lively entertainment featuring our campers and staff. At Big Campfire, every cabin group gets on stage to perform a skit, a song, or a dance in front of the live audience. For many kids, this is their first time on stage. For others, they love being on the microphone. Either way, it’s a great bonding experience for the group to come together and plan and practice for the “big” night!

This summer featured many original songs and skits and showed the creativity and performance skills of our talented campers and counselors! Here is just a sampling of a few of the skits and songs from summer, 2016. To see even more videos from the summer, visit the 2016 Videos page!

Big Campfire Session 1 Cabin 16 from Gold Arrow Camp on Vimeo.

Session 2 Big Campfire: “Mission Impossible” by Cabins 11, 12, 14, 15, & 16 from Gold Arrow Camp on Vimeo.

Session 3 Big Campfire: Lions’ Girls (Cabins 4,5,6,7,8) from Gold Arrow Camp on Vimeo.

Session 4 Big Campfire: Cabins 20 and 21 from Gold Arrow Camp on Vimeo.

To see more videos from the summer of 2016, visit our 2016 Videos page!

Coach’s Award 2016: Kettle!

Ken "Coach" Baker, Jeanie Vezie, and Audrey "Sunshine" Monke (1989)

Ken “Coach” Baker, Jeanie Vezie (previous owner of GAC), and Audrey “Sunshine” Monke (1989)

In 2009, Gold Arrow Camp lost a dear friend. Ken “Coach” Baker worked at GAC from 1981-1992 and had a huge, positive impact on many of the “old timers” who are still here at camp today, including Sunshine, Monkey, Chelster, Tigger, Woody, and Trapper. In his honor, we established “Coach’s Award,” which is given annually to a leader at camp who motivates others through positive leadership and encouraging words and exemplifies Ken “Coach” Baker’s dedication to GAC’s vision.

To select each year’s recipient, we ask the entire staff to complete a nomination form, where they put the name of one person whom they think deserves this honor. They include comments about the person they nominate.

Coach's Award, displayed in the Camp Store, has the names of all recipients

Coach’s Award, displayed in the Camp Store, has the names of all recipients

We have such a high caliber of staff, many of whom are super positive and exemplify what Coach stood for, and we are grateful for the legacy he left us and that so many people here are incredibly positive and motivating to others. There are many 2016 staff who met the qualifications for this award and stood out for their positive attitudes and encouraging words for others. In all, 31 different staff members were nominated.

This summer’s Coach’s Award recipient, Kettle, stood out for the largest number of staff who were influenced by the many positive qualities that make her an outstanding counselor and leader. Not only is she amazingly positive and energetic, but she also has the ability to make any activity or event, even mundane things like putting on sunscreen, super fun. This was also one of Coach’s great qualities.

One counselor summed it up well with this comment: “Kettle is an inspirational counselor and Kettle-4287embodies everything we believe in at GAC.  Her constant positive attitude and loving nature brings so much joy to her campers and fellow staff.  In every action and thought Kettle puts the needs of her campers first which is why I believe she deserves the Coach’s Award.”

Another nomination included the following comment: “She is selfless and endlessly enthusiastic and caring.  She doesn’t have to turn her “camp attitude” on because it’s just her personality.  She puts her campers above all else and loves on them just how their families would.  I love Kettle.”

Another said, “Kettle greets the world with a smile every day and is absolutely inspiring.  She’s always prepared and never wears her stressors on her sleeve.  Kettle inspires everyone to be not only a better counselor, but a better person.”

More comments counselors had about Kettle:

B-C14-1717“Every time I see her she is glowing with happiness and is genuinely so full of joy.  Being a GC is not easy  but she does it so well!  Keep on shining!”

“Kettle is patient and positive and supportive.  I think she exemplifies what it means to be a Gold Arrow counselor.”

“Amazing all rounder.  I feel like she genuinely loves being crazy with her campers and that’s what GAC is about.”

“You strive for excellence with everything that you do, whether it be jumping in the water before your girls or making sure all their shoes are in line before activity.  You always have a smile and only positive things to say.  You are nothing short of amazing.  You are going to go very far and complete aKettle-7260mazing things.  Can’t wait to see where your future brings you.”

“Her positive attitude is infectious, she is without a doubt in my mind the best asset GAC has in terms of spreading happiness and joy throughout camp. Although this is my second year, I’ve learnt so much from her and she is an inspiration every day.”

“She does such an amazing job with her cabin, and her positive energy radiates throughout the whole of camp.  She always has a smile on her face and never seeks any of the recognition she deserves.”

“In case you aren’t sure, there is a very poignant analogy of the duck who appears to be floating effortlessly while beneath the opaque surface it is paddling madly.  You do your job with an effortless air of flawless grace while beneath the surface I know you are working around the clock with every ounce you’ve got.  It’s like watching nature – It is, said in the most honest sense of the word, awesome.”

Kettle-1830“She organizes her cabins with so much fun, positivity and love and is a true example to everyone in camp.  Having so much energy still after a whole summer with the youngest bears is truly incredible.”

“I have never seen her without a smile on her face.  She is the most hard working person I’ve ever met and the kindest.  She is what makes GAC what it is.”

“She is one of the most positive and patient people I have ever met.  Everyday she comes up with new ideas to entertain her campers while also making sure all the staff around are happy too!  Camp wouldn’t be the same without her because of how much she has inspired others.”

W-C14-1037“Kettle totally inspires me when I see her with her campers!  Her positive attitude always pushes me to do better and she’s killed it with the baby bears two years running!  Love you Kettle – You da bomb!”

“Such an absolutely incredible staff member, person, and friend.  Always amazed by your enthusiasm and huge smile no matter what.  You never seem tired or phased and your genuine love for your campers is inspiring.  You are simply incredible.  Keep smiling.  Much love.”

We caught up with Kettle and asked her some questions about camp and about receiving Coach’s Award:

Why did you want to be a counselor at GAC?

A-C14-2359Before my first year at Gold Arrow I worked at a Day Camp in Potomac, Maryland. Every other session the older campers would have the opportunity to camp out overnight. It was then that I decided that I wanted to work at a sleep away camp the following summer. Originally, I looked into working at the sleep away camp I attended growing up, but then realized this would be a great opportunity to experience a new part of the country. I googled “best summer camps in California” and happened upon Gold Arrow. After watching a few videos on the website, I applied, and I am thankful every day that I did. After learning more about the location, philosophy, and Gold Arrow’s commitment to its staff and campers, I knew it would be a perfect fit. Gold Arrow was somewhere I could grow individually by being pushed outside my comfort zone, while simultaneously allowing me to return to a familiar camp environment that I treasured as a kid.

What do you like best about being a counselor?

Being a Group Counselor is a dream job. There are countless rewarding aspects of being a counselor. You are the person that gets to see the smile on campers’ faces when they get up on water skis for the first time, you’re the person that helps them gain independence, you’re the person that gets to encourage them to try something new, you are the person that helps them overcome their fears, and you are the person that gets to make camp a magical place.

C-C14-0640There are hundreds of things that I love about being a camp counselor, but I think my favorite aspect of the job, if I had to choose only one, is that you are your campers’ ‘person’ for the two weeks that they are at camp (if that makes sense). You’re the person campers run up to and hug after Free Time to tell you that they saw a frog, you’re the person they want to tuck them into bed, you’re the person they want to hold hands with on the way to dinner, you’re the person they ask random questions, you’re the person that they make a puppet show for, you’re the person that receives all their unconditional love and that is present for all the little moments. Countless times, my high of the day has been something goofy one of my campers said to me while they were getting in line. As a group counselor, even if everything seems to be going wrong, there is an innocent little 7-year-old that is going to do something that is going to make you smile or laugh.  I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to experience the wonder and love of my campers for two months out of the year.

What is your favorite camp activity?

A-C14-3672My favorite camp activities are our outpost trips: Shaver and Bears Adventure. I think most counselors enjoy Shaver because it is prime time for growth. There are few things as rewarding as helping a child overcome a fear or reach a new goal. I love the opportunity to get in the water and help a camper try kneeboarding for the first time or reach their goal of getting up on water skis. While on the island, campers also become especially close. Manners once explained it to the Junior Counselors as a ‘time where you go from ten individual campers to a collective cabin.’

Secondly, Bears Adventure is one of the most fun activities during the session!! It brings out the imagination in campers and is a great place to witness organic play. Campers are covered in dirt, have the biggest smiles on their faces, and have so much fun getting to run around and simply be a kid.

What’s your favorite camp song?

My favorite camp song is Sandwich singing “Get Loose.” If you are ever having a rough morning or maybe were up really late with a camper who was missing home and you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I guarantee Sandwich will make you feel better after watching him dance around on stage singing “OH your toes.”  (Then again, I feel like Sandwich could make my day with singing any song.) I also am a huge fan of singing “Proud To Be A GAC Bear,” at the top of my lungs on the dining porch!

What’s your favorite camp game?

I-C14-1849We play A LOT of games in cabin 14!  My campers really enjoy playing house, four corners, heads up seven up, look up look down, and Simon says. My absolute favorite game we played this summer, however, was during session one at our Nature Activity. Every camper prepared an entrée out of sticks, mud, and rocks and presented their creation to Ridge and me. After careful deliberation, we chose winners for multiple categories including creativity, presentation, taste, use of flowers, and more. It was so much fun and the kids really enjoyed it!

What was going through your head when you received Coach’s Award?

Hearing my name was a lot to take in. Finally, it clicked that I needed to walk down the stairs instead of continuing to sink down in my seat. The best way I can describe how I was feeling is just tremendously humbled. Gold Arrow’s staff members are super heroes. I look up to the counselors so much and have a tremendous amount of respect for the commitment and work ethic that is displayed by the Counselors, Leadership Staff, Directors, Office Staff, Kitchen Staff, and Amigos. The staff is what makes Gold Arrow so special, and I am honored to get to work in such a positive, supportive, and encouraging community. I am beyond thankful to people like Quailman, Cheerio, Cupcake, Sunshine, Bean, Chelster, Mocha, Sandwich, Mac, Baboon, Bucky, Latte, Smalls and so many others for teaching me their tricks and supporting me every time I needed help. I am forever grateful for the role models, mentors, and friends Gold Arrow camp has given me.

Anything else you want to share about your time at GAC?

I have met some of my best friends at camp and do not know what I would do without them!

The last two summers have validated my love of working with children and have helped shape my career goals of working in an elementary school.

Thank you so much to all the staff that make Gold Arrow Camp such a magical place. It is somewhere that will always hold a special place in my heart. (Mocha and I also joke about coming back and being camp moms or Shaver Hosts!)

Congratulations to Kettle, our 2016 Coach’s Award recipient!

Favorite Outdoor Cooking Recipe: Banana Boats

Banana BoatOne of the best things about being outdoors is cooking over a campfire! Especially after a long hike, food cooked outside, over a fire, tastes especially yummy. At GAC, kids have the opportunity to learn outdoor cooking on our backpacking trips, and we also do outdoor cooking as a free time activity on some evenings. Banana Boats are one of our favorite outdoor cooking recipes!

Banana Boats

Chocolate Chips
Mini Marshmallows
Oven Mitts
Plastic cutlery (Forks & Knives)

• Slice open the banana, lengthwise, using the plastic knife.
• Place desired amount of chocolate chips and marshmallows evenly inside the banana.
• Wrap the banana in foil and place in hot coals in the campfire (use oven mitts).
• Check if chocolate is sufficiently melted after about five minutes.
• Enjoy your Banana Boat!


Looking for another yummy outdoor cooking recipe? Try S’moredillas, another camp favorite!

Hop on Bambino’s Energy Bus!

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke

One of our treasured camp traditions is reading to campers each evening at bedtime. We adopted the tradition more than a decade ago, because we realized how calming it is and how much even our oldest campers enjoy it. I also know from my own experience how a love of reading comes from being read to and how, with our media- and achievement-focused culture, reading is sometimes going by the wayside these days. There is no better opportunity to get back to reading “real” books than when we’re unplugged AND have more downtime during the summer.

Hop-On-Bambino's-Energy-BusWe keep a camp library of good read-aloud chapter books, as well as several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Some counselors also bring their own childhood favorites to read to their campers. This summer, one of our oldest boys’ counselors, Bambino (Cabin #28), selected Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus to read to his 14-year-old campers. He’s on his third reading, and by the end of August, he will have read the book four times to all 40 of the campers he will have worked with this summer. I really enjoyed the message of The Energy Bus when I read it a few years ago, but I decided to download the audio version and listen to it again on a recent long drive. With my current middle-aged memory, I couldn’t quite recall the key points of the book, only that I really liked it. After listening to it again, I immediately went to the website and printed out “10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life” to share with our leadership staff at our Monday morning meeting.

The Energy Bus PNGThe Energy Bus is an allegory with a powerful message about the profound daily impact of a positive outlook on life. I would never have thought about reading it to or with my teenage sons, but it’s actually the exact right kind of book for their age group. In the story, the central character is having a bad day, which is representative of his falling-apart, negative life. He’s feeling terrible at both work and home. One day, with his wife unavailable and his car tire flat, he is forced to take the bus to work. That one day turned into two weeks during which the bus driver (Joy) and the other energy bus passengers teach him the “10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy!”

Each day, he learns a new rule and applies it to work or home. Then on the next day, he reports his results to the energy bus team. By the end of the story, as you can imagine, he’s managed to turn his life in a better direction. He’s also learned how much impact he can have on those around him (his family and work team) by changing his own attitude and behaviors.

What a powerful message to share with people of ALL ages! For teenagers, I’ve felt for a long time that one of our cultural problems is that we often make them feel useless. They go to school and sports and often have no responsibilities for others. When teens don’t have a job or volunteer area and have few responsibilities at home (because parents feel they’re too busy with school and sports), they can, I believe, start feeling like they have no purpose in life. Understanding how they can be positive leaders and ambassadors of positive energy wherever they are is a powerful message for teens to hear.



This morning, I checked in with Bambino’s campers to hear what they’ve learned so far from listening to him read The Energy Bus. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I learned that you should say something and that no one can fill the needs that are left unsaid.”

“You’re the driver of your own bus.”

“You can get your bus wherever you’re going but others help you go faster.”

“It’s encouraged me to be more positive.”

“If something bad is happening, you can change it by changing your attitude.”

“Sometimes the worst things in life aren’t that bad and can lead to something good.”

bus ticket theenergybus.comThis is some profound wisdom from 14-year-olds, who will head home from camp tomorrow with a bus ticket from Bambino inviting them to hop on their own energy bus!

The Energy Bus website
Jon Gordon’s Blog
Print out bus tickets
10 Rules for the ride of your life
Sunshine’s Favorite Books

The Dutch Connection

Ajax, Dutchie, Orange, & Bloom (2016 Dutch Staff)

Ajax, Dutchie, Orange, & Bloom (2016 Dutch Staff)

The Dutch Connection - Gold Arrow CampIt’s a human-interest story that spans nearly 25 years and has at its epicenter the small Dutch city of Woerden, which beyond its city proper is a land of mostly meadows and farms on the banks of the Old Rhine River in central Netherlands. Woerden boasts a population of some 50,000 people, most of whom ride bikes, eat poffertjes (tiny sweet pancakes with butter and sugared icing), and commute by train to jobs in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Woerden has a windmill (“De Windhond”) in the city center and its own castle (the Castle of Woerden, built in 1410 by Duke John the Pitiless). The city has a long and rich history of cheesemaking and trading, with an established international market for its Gouda. In fact, not far from De Windhond in the city center, cheesemakers still sell product in the marketplace, where they have done so since 1885.


The Singel, Woerden, The Netherlands

Not so longstanding is Woerden’s connection to Gold Arrow Camp. Over the last two-plus decades, the city has been the source of several top-notch counselors—nine, to be exact—cementing its place in camp history as a Gold Arrow “sister city” and trusted pipeline for hard-working, friendly, and reliable staff.


Dutchie, 1995

The Woerden Legacy starts with Wendy “Dutchie” Kuiters, who came to Gold Arrow in the summer of 1993 after responding to a flier left in her college mail slot. Dutchie recalls having to write a letter about herself then stapling a picture to it before sending it to a recruiter. Back then, her packet circulated via U.S. Mail to camp directors seeking international staff. Thankfully, Gold Arrow nabbed her first, hiring the flying Dutchwoman to teach windsurfing at Huntington Lake where she became a mainstay on the Gold Arrow waterfront in the 1990s.

At home in Woerden, Dutchie had started a career in education. She became a master teacher, mentoring other young educators, always keeping an eye out for those who would be a good fit for camp. “I was very selective about who I recommended,” she said. “I felt responsible for whoever I brought.” In 2002, she met Sjaak Vermeulen, a young Dutchman who’d been placed in her classroom. His connection with the children was instant, and Dutchie knew he would be great at Gold Arrow. On her recommendation, Vermeulen applied.


Link, 2003

The two came to Gold Arrow together in 2003. Dutchie was the Shaver Island Director and Vermeulen, who’d taken the nickname “Link,” worked with the “Bears”—Gold Arrow’s youngest campers. Link’s legacy to Gold Arrow, besides helping bring seven more Woerdeners to camp, was his founding of “Bears Adventure,” a one-night, low-impact hike and campout designed to help young campers transition to longer backpacking trips.

In hindsight, Link had named himself appropriately. In 2007, he brought his younger brother Joris (“Orange”) to Gold Arrow, and since 2008, six more have followed: Sabrina “Juice” Boere, Anne “Apple” Bouter, Jeroen “Joker” Lamboo, Elvira “Elf” Lok, and new to the staff in 2016, Iris “Bloom” Bos and the Vermeulens’ cousin, Bas “Ajax” Eberwijn.


Link, Sunshine, and Orange near the Woerden Water Tower

In the fall of 2014, Steve “Monkey” and Audrey “Sunshine” Monke visited Woerden so they could see first-hand where all these fine folks called home. Like other locals, they climbed aboard bicycles and pedaled the bucolic countryside, even partaking in a rousing game of Farmersgolf (“Boerengolf” in Dutch), a game invented in the Netherlands in response to costly greens fees there. The game, played with a special club (the club head is in the shape of a wooden shoe) and an oversized (20-cm diameter) ball, requires players to navigate strategic hazards on an otherwise unaltered farm. Live cows and ditches are par for the course as players attempt to hole their ball in a buried bucket with a flagpole beside it. At one point in their lives, Link, Orange, Bloom, and Ajax were all employed by De Boerinn, Woerden’s Farmersgolf club.

Monkey Farm Golf

Monkey ready to go on the 18th hole at Farm Golf

Farm Golf - Sunshine and Link

Sunshine & Link, Farm Golf


On the ride from Woerden to de Boerinn (Farm Golf)

Farm Golf

de Boerinn


Resting after the 9th hole

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016, and it’s a Dutch reunion of sorts, as Orange, Bloom, Ajax, and Dutchie are all at Gold Arrow Camp, session 3. Orange, Bloom, and Ajax have been here all summer, with Dutchie spending her second summer as a two-week camp mom. The woman who started it all has returned with yet another Woerdener, her 4-year-old daughter Kiki, who one day will be a Gold Arrow camper and perhaps follow in her mother’s (and several others’) footsteps to join the camp staff.

Dutchie and Kiki

Dutchie and Kiki

The future of the Gold Arrow/Woerden alliance is bright, indeed.