Author Archives: Audrey Monke


One of the things that is special at camp is the way people put effort into recognizing each other’s accomplishments. There are high fives, congratulatory hugs, and many other ways we build each other up. My favorite way we recognize each other is by writing what we call “WOWs”. 


At camp, we have a giant supply of WOW pads, which are available for both campers and staff to use. A WOW pad is a pad of WOW notes. WOW notes are a simple form. When someone, anyone,does something that you appreciate, you can write them a WOW. On the way into the dining porch, there’s a bulletin board that we have dedicated to posting WOWs. It is such a wonderful feeling for campers to look at the board while they’re heading to a meal and to see a heartfelt note recognizing them! It really makes your day to see your name on a handwritten, heartfelt expression of gratitude or congratulations


The note may be a recognition of a major accomplishment (“Way to go Megan, you got up on the wakeboard after 3 years of trying!”), congratulations for an act of kindness (“John, I really appreciated you letting borrow my towel at kayaking when I forgot mine.”), or a note of appreciation (“Bean, thank you for being my friend.”). They are a wonderful way for campers to practice recognizing others and to get recognized for the good that they do on a daily basis.


Every morning at camp, after breakfast, our Awesomeness Coordinator Cheerio takes that day’s WOWs off of the board and reads some selected WOWs at Morning Assembly. For every WOW that is hung on the board, we add “spirit eggs” to our spirit thermometer. It’s a really nice way to let all of camp see how many WOWs are being written.


Why are we sharing all about WOWs? We think that WOWs are a fun part of camp, and we like sharing the fun parts of camp. But more importantly, we’re sharing how we do WOWs because we’re sending some WOWs to you so that you can get into the WOW fun at home!


This year, in lieu of a traditional holiday greeting from the Gold Arrow staff, we’re sending you a special set of WOWs to use at home. We’re encouraging you to have WOWs at home like we have WOWs at camp. Each camper will receive a “Friends and Family” WOW pad. It has a magnet on the back so that you can hang it somewhere in your house (perhaps you have an appliance in the kitchen that you could stick it to) and everyone can get in on the action.


We’d love to see the WOWs you give around your house! Send us pictures of your family’s posted WOWs. Post them to social media and tag us (@goldarrowcamp) or use the hashtag #GACWOW. If you want, you can email them to us ( and we’ll share them!

To get you in the mood, here is a WOW for you:

Coach’s Award 2017: Crater!

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

In 2009, Gold Arrow Camp lost a dear friend. Ken “Coach” Baker (March 10, 1951 – April 5, 2009) worked at GAC as Camp Assistant Director and Director from 1981-1992 and had a huge, positive impact on many of us who are still here at camp today. Ken was instrumental in helping Sunshine purchase Gold Arrow from Jeanie Vezie in 1989, and mentored Sunshine, Monkey, Woody, Chelster, Tigger, Junior, Trapper, and many other GAC staff during their early years working at camp.

Ken had an amazing way of making even mundane tasks like picking up trash and painting buildings feel monumentally important. He had a way of clapping his hands together and giving a pep talk that got everyone fired up to do their jobs well. Ken had a near-constant smile on his face and took every challenge that came his way in stride. We all knew we could go to him with any problem and he would help us figure out how to fix it.

To honor Ken, in 2009 we established “Coach’s Award.” This award has been given each year since to a leader at camp, nominated by his/her peers, who motivates others through positive leadership and encouraging words and exemplifies Ken “Coach” Baker’s dedication to GAC’s vision.

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

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. We have such a high caliber of staff, many of whom are extremely positive and exemplify what Coach stood for, and we are grateful for the legacy he left us and that so many people at GAC are incredibly positive and motivating to others. There were many 2017 staff who met the qualifications for this award and stood out for their positivity and encouraging words for others. In all, 30 different staff members were nominated. That means that each of those 30 people stood out to another staff member as someone who was a positive, encouraging, supportive leader.

This summer’s Coach’s Award recipient, Crater, stood out for the largest number of staff who were influenced by the many qualities that make him an outstanding counselor and leader. Two words that were used in almost every nomination were “positive” and “energetic.”

One counselor summed it up well with this comment: “An inspiration to how I carry myself around camp. He showed me how to make a stranger feel completely welcome. He brought amazing and contagious energy every day and always had a smile I can rely on.”

Another nomination included the following comment: “He amazes me with his energy each and every day at camp. He is positive, funny, kind, and loving towards his campers and the staff. It’s incredible how much he shows me every day at camp that smiling can change your attitude. I couldn’t imagine a better counselor. He exemplifies what Coach’s Award means to me.”

Another said, “He goes out of his way to make every single camper in his cabin feel like they’re special and like they can talk to him about anything they need. He’s a great role model for campers and staff, and he’s a great friend to fellow staff. His campers emulate him, which speaks volumes to his leadership and personality.”

More comments counselors said about Crater:

“He truly embodies the camp spirit and is so great with the kids. Even in times of being exhausted he still pushes through and keeps his positivity!”

“A true leader – loved by campers and counselors alike, never a bad word said about him.”

“Such an incredible person and co.  Always full of energy and positivity and gives 110% all the time.”

“Such a brilliant counselor, always on top form. Always brings enthusiasm. Kids love him. Ready to help anyone at the drop of a hat. Really inspirational.”

“He rose to the challenge of becoming a GC and 100% rocked it. I was sad that he wasn’t going to be on backpacking with me again but once I saw him working as a GC with his kids I was nothing but happy for him. Crater is the example we should all follow when it comes to the who we are with our campers.”

“Created a positive atmosphere everywhere he went while leading by example by putting himself out there. He gave the Tiger Boys an identity and made them proud to be Tigers.”

“He is always ‘on.’ He makes the little things special and everyone feels like a person around him. A brilliant example for campers and counselors.”


“You showed great leadership, and the session I was a co with you, you were without a doubt the best GC I’d met and campers and staff love you.”

“Crater leads with his heart. He is a constant source of joy and enthusiasm. It is absolutely contagious. His selfless spirit and ability to lead without trying is inspiring. He makes Gold Arrow Camp a better place.”

“Firstly, he was a positive role model for me in Tweek. He showed me how a counselor should be. Also, I respect his opinion and self confidence. Since then, during sessions 1-4, he has managed to keep his energy levels high. He is great with all his campers, which is seen by how much they admire and listen to him.”

“Very outgoing and encouraging. Always high energy and relates really well to his boys. Goofy yet knows when to be serious. Very interactive. Always with kids and keeps kids as a #1 priority.”

“Always energetic and outgoing. Kindest man I ever met. So loveable. Love ya, Bro!”

“Crater has had amazing energy all summer. He helped me out whenever I needed advice. Crater stood out above lots of great counselors.”

“He works so hard for his kids and serves as an example to me. His energy and enthusiasm are matched only by his kindness and willingness to listen. He always puts others before himself and is first to volunteer for less desirable tasks.”

“I feel that Crater has had such a huge impact on my time here at GAC. He has been a figure of support for me. When times are tough he helps you out no matter how much is on his plate. Whenever I have seen him with his cabin, he has been positive and full of energy. Crater is a friend for life, and a natural, wonderful group counselor.”

“You bring so much energy to this place and to everyone’s life. I love you dude and am so grateful to be able to know you and to be your friend. You deserve this.”

“You approach every day with so much excitement and joy!  The energy that you give off is contagious and it puts everyone in such a better place.  You have made such a positive influence on not just the campers, but everyone around.  I strive to be a positive role model like you are in camp.”

“Energy! Attitude! Positivity!”

“Crater is a ball of smiling energy. I enjoy watching him attack life at camp with all of his passion. He demonstrates daily a dedication to guiding young men with love and positive energy. I miss the joy he used to bring to the luggage party.”

“He has constant energy. His campers love him and it completely shows. He is positive, creative, and has completely taken on the GC role effortlessly. Camp would not have the same vibe without him.”

“He is always smiling and encouraging to everyone in and outside his cabin. He never shows he’s tired and is always showing 100% energy.”

Congratulations to Crater, our 2017 Coach’s Award recipient!

Crater receiving the 2017 Coach’s Award



How Girls Got to GAC (Sierra Summers Excerpt)

Following is an excerpt from Sierra Summers: The History of Gold Arrow Camp (publish date: November, 2017).


[…] In the meantime, Jeanie was hatching a much bigger change in her mind, one that she’d broached only briefly with Manny in casual conversation. “Wouldn’t it be interesting to try having girls at Gold Arrow?” she’d suggest, a prompt Manny would often shrug off as nonsense and “out of the question.” Gold Arrow was, after all, the last of the rugged camps for boys. “It was definitely appropriately named,” said Jeanie. “It was for boys only.” In those days, wrote Jeanie, “Manny liked the role of Frontiersman. He wore buckskin clothes, moccasins, and had a real Indian chant wakeup and goodnight. He liked the idea of the outdoor toilets, no electricity except where positively necessary, and certainly very little plumbing and no telephone.” But the question of having girls was fair, she’d thought, one that a number of parents had begun asking as well. The more she persisted, the more Manny relented, until one day he asked Jeanie if she thought girls would like Gold Arrow. “I’m a girl and I LOVE it,” she said.

Following the 1961 season, the idea of having girls at Gold Arrow became a question of when, not if; it was a question that would move toward resolution on an early spring evening in 1962, when Manny and Jeanie paid a social call to the home of Pat Rauen, one of Manny’s first campers in the 1930s, who now had a family of his own and whose son Mike had just finished his first summer on the mountain; it was expected that younger brother Tim would soon follow. Manny had put together a slide show, which featured Mike and his camp mates participating in activities like archery, canoeing, sailing, and waterskiing; there were also archived slides of Pat when he was a camper, junior counselor, and finally a counselor, thrown in so Manny could wax nostalgic with him about the old times at Gold Arrow. They laughed about what a rascal Pat was at camp, recalling the famed Counselor’s Day rotten egg battle he engineered. They talked about how tough and rugged camp was and how boys played Capture the Flag armed with real pinecones, which left cuts and bumps and a few swollen eyes when they hit their mark. They recalled the Beaver singing and playing his drum to wake the boys and send them off to bed. And at one point in the evening, Pat broke out his green and gold five-year blanket—he was the first camper to earn such an honor—and he showed it off proudly to Manny and Jeanie. Manny winked at Mike and told him one day he might earn one too.

Taking it all in was nine-year-old Holley Rauen, Mike’s younger sister, who sat “transfixed by all the slides and stories,” she said, and started crying miserably when the reel was done. She was jealous of the boys and couldn’t understand why girls couldn’t go to Gold Arrow Camp too: “I remember climbing into Jeanie’s lap and whimpering, It just isn’t fair,” she said. Jeanie consoled her and let her know that she couldn’t agree more. Girls could and should do all those fun things. Moments later, the Rauen kids shuffled off to bed, leaving the grown-ups to talk into the night. Pat told Manny that if indeed he decided to open the camp to girls, Holley would be the first to sign up. It was certainly something Manny would consider, and now that Jeanie was in his life, she’d help him consider it even more. Manny was no pushover, but soon enough he conceded and in the summer of 1962, Gold Arrow welcomed its first group of girls to camp. Holley was overjoyed when her dad told her that both she and Mike would be going to Gold Arrow that summer. “I was the very first girl camper to sign up,” she said, “and I am proud to say that.”

Thirty-four more girls followed Holley for that summer of 1962. Jeanie said often that the limited number was by design; the Vezies wanted to keep enrollment low and manageable so they could spend a lot of time with the girls and ensure they were having a good experience. They went with them to regular programs and outposts, with Manny filming their every move. Said camper Judy Hoff (1962), “I remember riding up a ridge a couple times so he could get the shot just right with the sun in the background.” Capturing campers in action—even if it was staged—was a vital part of the recruiting plan, more so with girls in the fold. Manny needed footage of girls happily and successfully doing everything boys did, so the Holley Rauens of the world would no longer have to watch with envy as boys rode horses and sailed.

The first night of girls’ camp in 1962 likely provided the defining moment of the entire summer, a moment that Jeanie shared in various iterations over the years. It began with Manny and Jeanie visiting each of the tents and sprinkling the campfires with “fairy dust” (sawdust soaked in gasoline), which cast magical silver sparkles above the flames. They chatted with the girls and shared in the camaraderie, then returned as they were getting tucked in. Jeanie made it a point that night to visit Holley Rauen first: “She came back and tucked me into my cot and was so delighted that I had my dad’s green and gold blanket covering my sleeping bag,” Holley said. Jeanie also crowed over Holley’s foot locker, how it was organized so perfectly with all the clothes rolled up and organized by type: “I sure loved the extra attention.”

It was a big moment for the Vezies, too. Seeing Pat Rauen’s five-year blanket over Holley’s sleeping bag was emotional; it was the first blanket Manny had ever awarded, and now it had returned some two decades later to warm the very first Gold Arrow girl. “Needless to say,” Jeanie wrote, “we had difficulty controlling our emotions.”


Girls arrived in greater numbers in the summers that followed, and they traveled to camp the same way the boys did—by train from Glendale to Fresno—which six-year camper Ellen (Fead) Fields (1966-1971) said was the best part of the journey because the train was where you “met all your camp friends for the first time.” Once off the train, campers were loaded onto a bus for the slow, uphill climb to Gold Arrow. It was an unpleasant trip, as buses lacked air conditioning, and open windows let in only hot air. Fields said she actually didn’t come up in a bus her first summer, recalling instead travelling in “the back of a big, open truck”:

[t]hey piled our trunks in, then our duffel bags, then we rode on top of our duffel bags. It was a hot, long drive and I was really homesick. One girl started crying and said she missed her parents, then everyone started crying.

Once off the bus (or truck), Jeanie said that girls settled into a camp where the “quarters had softened a bit” compared to when Gold Arrow was just for boys. Manny had added two shower/toilet rooms, one in the center of camp near the horse riding circle and living area, another below the dining porch. They were a step up from the outdoor bathtubs and outhouses used in previous summers and, said Jeanie, would better satisfy the Forest Service, which had become more demanding in its requirements as Gold Arrow welcomed more campers. Despite added facilities, Jeanie continued to use outdoor tubs for a tradition that became known as “Jeanie baths,” where campers were scrubbed clean and hosed down the day before heading home.

There was nothing pleasant about the practice, and many referenced being “scrubbed raw” in an effort to remove dirt that had gotten underneath their skin. Wrote Jeanie, “I wish I had a dollar for every camper I scrubbed and shampooed because some of them were too modest to be naked with others.” Campers continued to use the small, unlit outhouses too, which became famously known as KYBOs, a crude acronym encouraging efficient visits to the toilet when Nature called: get in, Keep Your Bowels Open, and get out. “The outhouses used when it was The Last of the Rugged Camps for Boys might not be acceptable for the girls and for our increased enrollment,” Jeanie said. The Vezies in fact went to “considerable expense” to please the Forest Service in the 1960s, Jeanie said, elevating electricity and plumbing standards while also adding a staff bathhouse with toilets and showers on one side for women, with the same on the other side for men.

In addition, Manny had built a number of tent platforms and outfitted them with cots, which remained out-of-doors, on decks. Part of the allure of Gold Arrow for four-year camper Harry Chandler (1962-1965) and his older brother Norman was sleeping under the stars, much like their dad Otis did more than twenty years before them. Camper Claudia Gregory said she and her cabinmates in the late-sixties had a pact that they couldn’t go to sleep each night until they’d counted ten falling stars: “Talk about idyllic summers!” she wrote. Harry Chandler remembers “the big wooden platforms with a tent on one side and sleeping cots on the other”: “When it rained, you had to scurry inside,” he said. And if campers were lucky enough to have an all-wood cabin, they could scurry indoors to huddle around a potbelly stove during a rainstorm. Camper Dede Heintz (1964) recalled her cabin group drying their wet rubber sneakers on the stove, only to have the soles melt from the heat.

The infamous “Jeanie Baths.” Campers were hosed down and scrubbed with a brush before going home. Photo: Gold Arrow Camp archive.

Camper Ellen Fields and friend on Shaver Island with pine needles in their hair, 1966, her first summer at GAC. Photo: Ellen Fields.

The Vezies standing together at Big Campfire. Gold Arrow Camp archive.

Want to read many more stories like this one? Order your copy of Sierra Summers!


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!