Category Archives: Blog

Ep. 26 – Uncle

Episode 26 – Uncle

On Episode 26 Uncle drops by the studio (via the Internet) to chat about dealing with fear as a camper, making friends worldwide, and, of course, lip balm. Soy is playing some Country Roads on guitar and there’s a Western themed Joke of the Cast!

The Dutch Connection

The GAC 2017 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, nine more have followed: Sabrina “Juice” Boere, Anne “Apple” Bouter, Jeroen “Joker” Lamboo, Elvira “Elf” Lok, Bas “Ajax” Eberwijn, Cato “Froggie” Rikkers, Joske “Chiqa” Miedema, and Link’s wife Ilse “Zelda” Vermeulen.


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

In 2017, the woman who started it all 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.

Ep. 25 – Khaleesi

Episode 25 – 

On Episode 25 of the Gold Arrow Camp Pogcast, we’re joined by Khaleesi. Khaleesi shares some of her favorite things about being a wrangler as well as how camp has helped her in nursing school. As always, there’s a joke of the cast and Soy is still working on guitar. 

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.
    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.
    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.
    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:



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.

Ep. 24 – Chippy

Episode 24 – Chippy

On Episode 24 of the GAC Pogcast, Soy sits down for a chat with Chippy, and they explore the ways that campers can take GAC with them everywhere they go. Also, if you’re tracking Soy’s guitar playing progress, he’s playing a brand new song this week!



5 Life Skills Teens Get on OLC (Outdoor Leadership Course)

By the end of high school, teens need to have mastered more skills than just reading, writing and math to be successful, thriving adults.

Gold Arrow Camp’s Outdoor Leadership Course (OLC) helps campers develop important life skills that stretch them far beyond academics: Leadership, Independence, Communication Skills, Resilience, and Responsibility.

The OLC is a two-week program for young people interested in developing important life skills. Trained leaders guide OLC participants on a challenging, six-day, 30-mile backpacking trip into the High Sierras. Throughout the session, campers develop backcountry navigational and survival skills, practice wilderness first aid skills, and participate in GAC activities.

The purpose of OLC is to challenge teens to learn and grow in self-awareness, develop maturity, discover the value of community and working with others to solve problems and accomplish shared objectives. While growing and learning, participants develop five skills vital for success: Leadership, Independence, Communication Skills, Resilience, and Responsibility.

1. Leadership

“Being a part of OLC has influenced my life after camp because it taught me how to be a leader and being a part of a high school swim team, being a leader is a big part of staying together as a team.” – Sophia, OLC Participant

After arriving at camp, OLC participants receive leadership training before departing on the backpacking trip. They do exercises in team building, learn conflict resolution techniques, and practice positive communication. While in the wilderness, campers have the opportunity to learn and practice map and compass navigation, outdoor cooking, Leave No Trace principles and ethics, sustainable backcountry living, and wildlife biology.

All OLC participants serve as “Leader of the Day,” which means they use navigational skills to determine which path to take, when to stop for breaks, and what to do about any situations that arise while hiking. At the end of the day, the “Leader of the Day” receives feedback from trip leaders and peers.


2. Independence

Achieving independence is essential to making the transition to adulthood, and participating in challenging outdoor program with other teens is a perfect way to develop the self efficacy needed to feel confident away from home. The hard skills learned during the OLC — navigation, outdoor cooking, wilderness first aid, camping, and hiking —  require independence, curiosity, and creative problem solving.


3. Communication Skills

“I really enjoyed getting to discover myself in the woods, thinking and hiking and communicating with my fellow campers.” – Blake, OLC Participant

Effective communication is arguably the most important of all life skills. Trained trip leaders use positive guidance to facilitate reflection, dialogue and group
discussion throughout the program. Leaders encourage campers to think about what happened that day, what their successes and challenges were, and how to grow from those experiences. At the end of the course, all OLC participants have improved communication skills with peers and counselors.


4. Resilience 

Research shows that wilderness courses are well-suited to teach outdoor skills, self-confidence in general and confidence during adversity. Participation in an outdoor leadership program have a positive impact on emotional intelligence, specifically on stress management and adaptability. All OLC participants set personal and group goals before leaving on the backpacking portion of the course and work to accomplish those goals throughout the session with the help, direction, and encouragement of trip leaders. 

A multi-day backpacking trip through the rugged terrain of the High Sierra has days that tax participants both mentally and physically. In the Outdoor Leadership Course, teens learn to push through challenges through encouragement from their trip leaders, supportive group dynamics, and building their self leadership. While surrounded by their peers, they learn just how far they can push themselves. They learn, literally, that they can climb mountains. After their OLC accomplishments, finding a way to make it to sports practice or finishing up a college admissions essay seem easy. 


5. Responsibility

OLC participants are responsible for managing their equipment, completing tasks carefully and on time, admitting their role in mistakes, and working to correct those mistakes. The OLC equips campers to take the initiative to make their own decisions, fulfill obligations, and grow from their experiences. 

In addition to the skills OLC participants learn and the growth they experience from the program, there is something else that too many teens don’t have the time to find; genuine face to face FUN!

“What I enjoyed about the OLC was that everyday was different, some days we would do longer hikes, and others we would have lot of time to relax and the enjoy the people and scenery. One of my favorite days out in the backcountry was when when we hiked about 5 miles and then hung out in a river for the rest of the afternoon, and then made quesadillas for dinner. The food was always amazing, and there was always plenty to eat. My favorite lunch was probably Nutella and English muffins. We had a lot of Nutella.” – Charlotte, OLC Participant

If you have any questions or would like to know more, visit the Outdoor Leadership Course page, email us, or give us a call at 1-800-554-2267 ex. 0.

Read more at Sunshine Parenting:
Five Reasons Every Teen Should go to Summer Camp
“Ready for Adulthood” Checklist

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.”

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.”

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.”

“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.


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.

Ep. 23 – Lily Garelick

Episode 23.

On episode 23 of the Pog-cast, Soy is joined by Lily Garelick, who shares her experience traveling to Tanzania to help provide medical care to those in need. It is a great reminder of how powerful it is to bring positive changes to the world, which is one of our core values. As always, Soy plays some guitar and tells a joke that he really enjoys. 

Ep. 22 – Smudge

Episode 22.

On Episode 22 of the GAC Pog-Cast we settle in for a chat with Smudge. Smudge joined us for the first time in the summer of 2017. She and Soy talked about what they love at camp and the power of saying “yes”. 



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