Author Archives: Audrey Monke

Too Much Screen Time? 4 Ways Summer Camp Can Help

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, originally published at Sunshine Parenting.

I’ve learned to face my fears, I’ve tried new things, and I have learned that you don’t always need to have your phone or video games.

-Kimberly, Camper

Children between eight and ten years old currently spend nearly eight hours a day on media. Adolescents average nearly eleven hours per day, seven days a week, on screens. The negative impact of this digital lifestyle is evident in kids’ expanding waistlines as well as their growing lack of interest in being outdoors. Now there’s an additional worry about the impact of our kids’ excessive screen use: anxiety.

In a recent NY Times article—Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?Benoit Denizet-Lewis writes, “Anxious kids certainly existed before Instagram, but many of the parents I spoke to worried that their kids’ digital habits—round-the-clock responding to texts, posting to social media, obsessively following the filtered exploits of peers—were partly to blame for their children’s struggles. To my surprise, anxious teenagers tended to agree.”

Anxiety is on the rise—among children, teens, and adults—and our screen time is exacerbating the issue. The problem is not just with teens. Adults are modeling this uber-connected life and experiencing a similar rise in anxiety. Ubiquitous screens are all that this anxious generation has ever experienced, and as parents we can feel powerless to stop devices from overtaking our family’s lives.

Whether sending or receiving SnapChat messages, watching YouTube videos, scrolling on Instagram, playing video games, or taking 100 selfies to find the best angle, our children are inundated with digital input while also feeling pressure to post the “right” things.  The attraction of media is hard to resist, so most of us (including parents) simply succumb to having the near constant presence of our electronics. 

Many of us find it difficult to drag ourselves away from our laptops and smartphones, and often our schedules and lifestyles don’t allow for adequate time to just be outside and enjoy our natural surroundings.  Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book Last Child in the Woods to describe the alarming trend of children spending less and less time outdoors.  Whether due to sensational media accounts of lost hikers that have fanned parental fears, or simply a lack of time in over-scheduled lives, children simply aren’t outside playing as much as they used to. Instead, they’re inside on their screens.

I don’t think anyone would debate that we all need to unplug more, but it’s very difficult to actually get kids off their screens, especially now that many schools require devices for course work, and most kids have their own smartphone by middle school.

Earlier this year, I interviewed a mom who gave clear instructions before her twelve-year-old daughter’s birthday slumber party: devices would NOT be allowed. But this mom, unfortunately, is still the exception, not the rule. She lamented that when her kids go to other people’s houses, they complain that all the kids do is play on their devices the entire time. While we can get our kids to turn off and put away screens at home, it’s difficult to monitor them when they’re not at home. And, unfortunately, kids are drawn to homes where screens are not as limited.

While a few weeks at camp is not the only answer to all the screen and anxiety problems, camp experiences can be a great salve for our kids. Breathing fresh air, connecting face-to-face, and not worrying about “likes” and what they’re missing, kids relax and enjoy themselves. And they report feeling happier and less anxious.

Here are four ways summer camp can help with the parenting challenge of too much screen time:

  1. DETOX:
    Just being completely unplugged for a few weeks is a new and refreshing experience for kids—a true digital detox. Because they’re having fun and staying engaged and entertained, they get over their screen addiction quickly. And, because it’s a “cold turkey” approach with no ambiguity (everyone’s following the same rules), campers don’t push back against being unplugged like they do at home.
  2. CHANGED PERSPECTIVE:
    By experiencing screen-free fun and friendships, many campers express a new desire to spend less time on their devices once they return home. Campers and staff have frequently reported examples of providing leadership in asking friends to participate in phone-free times.
  3. APPRECIATION FOR NATURE AND OUTDOOR RECREATION:
    While counting shooting stars, appreciating spectacular views from a hike, or smelling the smoke from their campfire, campers aren’t thinking about their TV, video games, and cell phones. Instead, they are experiencing nature and being truly present with others. Many discover new outdoor activities they enjoy, and they are inspired to spend more time outside and
    in the moment once they return home.
  4. BETTER FACE-TO-FACE FRIENDSHIP SKILLS:
    Social interactions can be difficult, and many kids choose to keep interactions safely behind a screen. At camp, while sharing stories around the campfire and spending quality face-to-face time with new and old friends, campers gain more confidence in their social skills and are more likely to pursue real, face-to-face friendships upon returning home.

Getting kids off their screens — and convincing kids how good it feels to be unplugged — can be a real challenge. Summer camp can help.

Over the summer, I interviewed kids about their camp experiences. The topic of being unplugged came up a lot and the kids had insightful words:

 

Related:

Thoughts on Being 13 (CNN documentary)

Ep. 4: Giving Kids’ Phones a “Vacation”

5 Reasons to Unplug

Why We Need to Unplug to Connect with our Families

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp

Read original post at Sunshine Parenting.

Want an Independent, Self Confident, Resilient Kid? Summer Camp Can Help!

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, Camp Director. Originally published at Sunshine Parenting.

While it’s easy to think of ways to teach our kids to do laundry or solve math problems, finding a way to instill important character traits isn’t as simple. The way we model traits we want our children to exhibit has a powerful influence on them, and some traits (kindness, gratitude, and generosity) they learn first and foremost from parents.

But there are other traits best learned through experiences outside the home and beyond the watchful (sometimes too watchful) eyes of parents. Camp experiences offer exactly the kind of experience away from home where children grow important character traits like independence, self-confidence, and grit.

#1 Independence

“Looking back at my life, camp has been the most influential part of it. I can truly say camp is where I developed my independence, gained confidence, and learned what friendship truly means.”
-Lizz

Being hyper-involved and in constant communication with our children has become something modern parents brag about. But when do we start letting go and giving our kids a chance to feel independent? This has become much more challenging in an age where cell phones are always attached to our (and their) hips and tracking apps are ubiquitous. In fact, as parents today we tend to foster dependence even when we’re trying not to. Forgot their lunch? A friend says something mean? Stubbed their toe? We know right away and swoop in to help.

Whether the result of parenting trends or ultra-high levels of physical and digital connectedness, today’s children are much less independent than we were at the same age.  I find it hard to resist editing my son’s paper to make it “just a little bit better” or jumping in to help make his lunch when he’s running late for school. Thirty years ago, we were babysitting infants at age 13.  Today, some of us hire babysitters for our 13-year-olds!

Camp experiences offer the unique opportunity for kids to see how much they can do without us hovering nearby. They build their independence skills because they take more responsibility for themselves and their belongings, make their own decisions, and feel a sense of autonomy. For many kids, camp is the first opportunity they’ve had to experience these things.

#2 Self-Confidence

“Camp has really helped me become more confident with who I am and has helped me try new things. Without camp, I would be too shy to go up to someone and introduce myself. Camp has had a giant impact on my personality, and without it I would be a completely different person.”
-Stephanie

When we tell our kid she’s “great” at something, it’s easy for her to be wary of the praise. We parents are notorious for seeing our kids through rose-colored lenses and thinking they are the greatest at _______ (fill in the blank); our kids know intuitively that our assessment of them, however complimentary, is most likely not accurate or objective.

However, when another respected adult mentor – like a camp counselor! – recognizes a positive trait in our child and points it out, that can have a powerful impact. When someone outside the immediate family recognizes our child’s unique qualities and helps him or her address weaknesses, it can build real self-confidence.

#3 Grit

“I love the encouragement that I got, both from counselors and campers, to try new things all the time. I love that the camp encourages you to do that. The camp atmosphere made me stand out and be unique, in ways that I would have been too embarrassed to try at home.”
-Claire

“Grit” became the new buzzword in education and parenting circles thanks to Paul Tough’s best-selling book, How Children Succeed. Angela Duckworth further cemented the importance of grit, or resilience, in her popular TED talk: Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance, and her book, Grit. People with grit have “stick-to-itiveness,” persistence, and resilience, all of which help them work hard and push past difficulties and failures.

We all need some grit. But how do we teach grit to a distinctively non-gritty kid or young adult—one who quits when something gets challenging, who doesn’t want to try anything new or difficult, or who prefers playing endless video games to practicing piano, reading, or some other more useful-seeming skill?

As parents, it’s hard to create experiences that require our children to use grit, but at camp those experiences happen every day. While struggling to climb the rock wall or attempting to get up on water skis for the 12th time, our kids develop their grit muscles in a big way at camp. And, they likely wouldn’t try for as long or as hard if we parents were hovering nearby with our worried expressions. At camp, kids are encouraged to set goals, challenge themselves, and overcome failure again and again. And that develops their grit.

Interrupting the cycle of dependence can only happen when we as parents are willing to encourage our children to develop their independence, self-confidence, and grit, and, though it may seem counter-intuitive, that happens best when we’re not around.

Related/Resources:

Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk: Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp

Too Much Screen Time? 4 Ways Summer Camp Can Help

Read original post at Sunshine Parenting.

2018 Theme: Find a Friend!

Making friends has always been one of our most important camp goals. This summer, we’re taking this goal to a whole new level, with a focus on all aspects of the art and practice of finding, making, and keeping friends.

We’re focusing on celebrating friendship and connection with our 2018 theme – Find a Friend!

Find a Friend

Maybe you’re familiar with the popular smartphone app – Find My Friends – which helps you track the physical locations of your family and friends. While the app is extremely helpful to see where people are, it doesn’t help at all with the face-to-face friendship skills we’ll be practicing at GAC this summer:

  • How to FIND like-minded friends who build us up and make us feel great
  • How to meet new people and MAKE new friends
  • How to BE a good friend to others
  • How to stay connected and KEEP close to your good friends

We’ll be exploring and celebrating friendship all summer long, and we’re excited to go on this Find a Friend journey with our 2018 campers!

FINDing Friends

Finding supportive, caring friends–a “tribe” where you feel a sense of belonging–is a lifelong quest. Sadly, some people never find their “tribe” and the meaning and connection that come from feeling true belonging and acceptance. This summer, we’ll be helping campers figure out where they feel most accepted and happy and help them with strategies for finding great friends who build them up and make them feel good.

 

MAKING Friends

Camp is a great place to make new friends, and counselors focus on helping kids meet and get to know each other through organized discussions and games the moment they arrive at the bus stop. But, in life, we don’t always have a supportive camp counselor to guide us, and there are also some specific skills we’ll learn and practice that will help kids learn how to make friends in other settings that aren’t as friendly as camp:

  • How to introduce yourself to others and introduce friends to each other
  • How to get to know other people through asking questions, listening well, and asking follow-up questions
  • How to lead a discussion or game
  • How to approach a brand new group of people (like at free time!)
  • How to meet, get to know, and include people who seem different from you

BEING a Good Friend

Making friends is a great start to friendship, but for friendships to grow, we need to practice being a good friend.

Some of the friendship skills we’ll focus on at camp this summer include

  • Celebrating each other’s victories
  • Noticing your friends’ moods and responding appropriately: offer comfort when they’re sad or scared or join in their excitement when they’re happy
  • Complimenting your friends (WOWs!): build each other up through verbal and written compliments
  • Addressing issues and resolving conflicts directly with your friend (rather than gossiping, complaining to others)
  • Being aware of the back and forth equality in solid friendships (not always one person being the helper, advisor)
  • Being trustworthy, maintaining your friend’s “vault”
  • Speaking up for yourself AND compromising – sometimes doing the activity your friend wants to do, sometimes you pick.

KEEPING friends

Staying friends for a long time takes effort. For friendships to grow, you need to stay connected and continue being a good friend, even when it’s not convenient or you live far away from each other. Learn about the different ways (outside of social media!) to stay connected with your friends!

We’ll talk about ways to:

  • Reach out regularly with a phone call, text, or – even better — a hand-written note or letter!
  • Get together in person when you can and do things you both like – alternate who picks the activity!

We are thrilled to spend the summer making friends and learning to be a great friend. Can’t wait for you to join us to Find a Friend (actually, many friends!) at GAC 2018!

Friendship Resources:

Watch Soy & Sunshine’s Facebook Live: Making Friends at GAC

10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs

Listen to Sunshine Parenting Episode 2: Friendship Skills

Download Sunshine’s 10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs ebook

Social Skills Kids Learn at Camp

WOW!

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 (wows@goldarrowcamp.com) 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.”

“Legend.”

“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).

BOOK ORDERING INFORMATION

[…] 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!

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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.

Sincerely,

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

READ MORE AT SUNSHINE PARENTING. 

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!