For the past three summers, we’ve celebrated our graduating campers – campers who are coming to camp for their final summer – with a special ceremony held after the dance each session. All campers entering their sophomore year of high school are invited, in addition to all of their counselors from that session. While all the campers sit around a campfire, the group counselors say a few words about each of their graduating campers, including specific strengths they’ve seen and how they’ve watched each camper grow over the course of the session or their entire time at GAC. After these words are shared, campers receive a paddle with their name engraved on it, as well as a Sharpie so that campers can write notes and sign one anothers’ paddles.
Campers then have the opportunity to share how they’ve grown because of camp. While it is optional to share, many campers are very open about how camp has affected their lives. The paddle ceremony gives campers a chance to reflect upon their camp experiences and say goodbye to their camper days. While many campers may return later as Junior Counselors, OLC participants, or counselors, there’s nothing quite like being a Gold Arrow camper.
At the end of Session 2, we said goodbye to Tigger for the summer. Tigger has worked at GAC for thirty years, and we honored her at Appreciation Campfire with a gold arrow necklace. Tigger has brought so much insight and wisdom to camp due to her extensive experience working in education as a special education teacher. Hundreds of homesick campers over the years have had “Tigger Talks” full of encouragement and perspective, and several counselors mentioned the help that Tigger provided them with when they were campers.
Tigger wrote a poem and shared it with camp after being honored for her many years of service at GAC:
As I look back on my last 30 years
I’ve shared many smiles and shed a few tears
My first days as a counselor a long time ago
I saw joy and wonder and it started to grow
I knew shortly after I walked on these grounds
I had fallen in love; a second family I’d found
But never in all of my wildest dreams
Did I think 30 years later I’d be on the GAC team
I’ve had different jobs in my life through the years
But they just can’t compare to my GAC days I fear
For the memories I’ve made and the lives that I’ve touched
Each day that I’m here, why they all mean so much
The activities are great; this place is supreme
But it’s the intangibles that touch you and here’s what I mean
The wonder you see in the eyes of a child
Or the smile you get when you’ve known them for a while
Or the hug of a counselor as they say “Hey –
Thanks a lot; you made my day!”
These are the things you can’t touch but I know
They’re the things that stay with you; the reason you grow
Enjoy each second because this I know
The times you spend here are the best of your life
Days filled with love, and not with strife
The days you spend here are the best times of all
Good times to be had, so just have a ball
But it’s the people that matter the ones you call “friend”
They’ll touch your life and be with you till the end
So cherish those friendships and your time spent at GAC
I’ll see you next year; you can bet I’ll be back!
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
Back before cell phones, televisions, and computers began taking up most of our free time, books were in large part our source of entertainment. They were read aloud and read individually. Our minds were swept away to other places where we could imagine what characters and places looked like for ourselves rather than watching stories take place on screens. Our imaginations were exercised and our capacity to be empathetic toward others grew as we saw stories through a variety of different perspectives.
Lately, for kids it seems as though reading has largely been associated with something they have to do rather than something they want to do. Reading has often become associated with schoolwork, and technology with fun and free time. However, many bookworms still reside at Gold Arrow, campers and counselors alike, and we’ve decided to embrace and encourage the love for reading that is still alive for many of our campers.
Starting this session, we’ve begun hosting Reading Time in Chipmunk during free time. Rather than going to an activity after dinner, campers have the option of sitting in comfortable pull out chairs in Chipmunk, a central location in camp, and reading a book of their choice. They can bring their own book or be provided with a book from our camp library or Little GAC Library, also located in Chipmunk. After a long day of activities, sometimes sitting and reading is the best way to wrap up the day. We love being unplugged, and we’re hoping campers can see how reading can take you to another world just as well as a movie or television show. While we’ve always had counselors read books aloud to their campers right before bedtime, we’ve decided to take our love for reading to the next level, and we’re excited to see where it takes us!
By Gretchen “Gem” Monke, Horseback Riding Director
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!
Eight-year-camper Kate Scibelli is off on a new adventure in Tanzania this summer. Kate is participating in a Rustic Pathways sponsored African immersion program, and her mom claims that the “resilience, independence, empathy, confidence, and courage” that Kate needed for this trip came from her summers at Gold Arrow Camp.
Kate’s program leader is already noting the “positive energy, curiosity, and commitment” that Kate’s group has brought to the program. The group’s main project is building a school dining hall and community center for Njoro village, but Kate has also had the opportunity to work with children during an education exchange where she teaches kids about teamwork and communication.
On top of service work, Kate has also had the opportunity to design her own clothes to be made by the village tailor, cook local foods, and ride through a national park full of wild animals! We are so excited for Kate and her new adventure, and we are happy that Gold Arrow equipped her with the independence and confidence that helped her take the leap for this big adventure. Kate will always be part of the GAC family and we will always be eager to welcome her back, but we are also proud of her for the adventures she has sought out and will continue to seek work. We love you, Kate!
At camp, we like to appreciate the small moments in our day. In the sunny Sierras, there’s so much to be thankful for, from sunsets through the pines to crackling campfires. However, just how some people prefer mornings and others prefer night, camp people have their favorite times of day, too. Everyone has a moment of the day that simply surpasses all others. We asked our 2017 Leadership Team to share about their favorite times of day at camp.
Punkie: Campfire time!
Gem: Sunrise, breakfast, and morning activities!
Goldie: The end of each meal, three times a day. I love seeing full bellies and happy faces. It’s thrilling when all the hard work of the team pays off.
Tica: I love the morning and breakfast time because there is so much anticipation for each new day.
Sterling: Campfire time – it’s calm and relaxing, full of real conversations, and a perfect time to reflect on the great day and appreciate what you have. Nights are simply beautiful.
Sandwich: I love morning assembly because it’s a blast to energize everyone’s day!
Aqua: Breakfast time! Everyone is fresh and excited for the day (especially the first morning of the session).
Rugger: Breakfast time!
Orange: My favorite time of day is chatting with the Junior Counselors before bedtime.
Wonder: I love 7 a.m. because I find that it can set the tone for the day if done correctly by getting everyone up with a smile and prancing energetically to breakfast!
Bambino: Early mornings – camp is quiet, and I can really experience the environment and reflect.
Swag: The time between freetime and campfire!
Lumos: Free time, specifically sunset on the waterfront, is such a magical time of day. So beautiful.
Bloom: I love campfires, where you can reflect on your day and all the highs and lows that happened.
Odd Job: Activity periods – I love seeing kids achieve the impossible.
Bean: I love late night when everyone is tucked in and sleeping peacefully. The stars and creek sounds are the best!
Soy: Morning, right before breakfast!
Grizzly: Sunset at the waterfront!
Bleach: My favorite time of day is campfire with my kids when I hear about their highs and lows and listen to them reflect.
Mocha: I love the end of free time when the sun is setting, and everyone’s walking back to their cabin to get ready for campfire.
Puddles: Campfire – I feel that kids are the most authentic.
Monkey: I love mornings when bacon is cooking, and I can smell it from my office! I also love sunset time because everything is calm.
Sunshine: Dusk – campfires get started, and I always see lots of people gathered around together.
We all have our favorite times of day, but let’s be honest: we all love getting to call this place home no matter what time of day it is! What’s your favorite time of day at camp?
For years, counselors have read chapter books to their campers before bed. Who doesn’t enjoy a good story before falling asleep at the end of a busy day?
This year, some of our book-loving/hoarding staff members decided to step up GAC’s reading game. Inspired by the many mini libraries that have popped up around the country, where anyone can pick up and drop off books at no cost, we’ve decided to create our own “Little GAC Library” that will be located in Chipmunk, an easily accessible location for all campers.
GAC will be stocking the library with kid-friendly books, and we hope that campers will be encouraged to take books that sound interesting to them as well as leave books that they’ve already finished reading. We hope the Little GAC Library will encourage campers to read for fun, appreciating and enjoying the stories, rather than associating reading solely with homework. We might even be brainstorming a possible reading free time activity…we’ll see where our ideas take us.
Head Counselors provide leadership and support for our counselors and campers and make sure each camper is having a fantastic experience at GAC. Each Head Counselor has five to seven cabin groups with whom they work closely. On the first evening of camp, Head Counselors stop by each of their cabin groups’ campfires to introduce themselves and let campers know that they are someone campers can always go to if they need anything. Throughout the session, Head Counselors join their cabin groups for meals, activities, and campfires. They also get feedback from campers on evaluations and follow up with campers to make sure they have the best experience possible at GAC.
Our 2017 team of Head Counselors includes an experienced group who bring 49 summers of GAC experience with them to camp. Three of them (Mocha, Punkie, and Wonder) started as campers here at camp! Because of all their years of experience at camp, Head Counselors are able to assist both campers and counselors with any challenges that come up at camp.
We’re excited to introduce you to our 2017 Head Counselors: Swag, Bambino, Wonder, Punkie, Puddles, and Mocha!
Fort Wayne, Indiana native Collin “Swag” McCracken is excited to be back at GAC for his 5th summer. His favorite part about camp is the kids, and in his spare time he enjoys sports, writing, movies, laughing, adventures, camping, and traveling. Swag has been a group counselor and has hosted morning assembly for several years.
Tyler “Bambino” Munoz joins us for his 3rd summer in the Sierras this year. Last year, as a group counselor in Cabin 28, he introduced camp to The Energy Bus, which we adopted as our camp-wide theme for this summer! He’s really looking forward to connecting with campers this summer. When he isn’t passing out tickets to get on his energy bus, Bambino is a Teaching Assistant at California State University, Fresno (Kinesiology) who enjoys Sports, reading, exploring the outdoors, talking to others, and hanging out at the beach.
Stevie “Wonder” Goodrich is back at Gold Arrow for the 12th summer this year. His favorite part about working at camp is watching the kids grow and change from year to year (though sleeping under the stars comes in a close second!). Wonder just graduated from USC and is starting at UCLA’s School of Law in August. He enjoys hiking, rollerblading, spontaneous adventures, and watching movies.
Paige “Punkie” Mueller is a student photographer who enjoys painting, photography, hammocking, and running when she’s not at camp. This is her 11th year at GAC, and she keeps coming back because she loves that she can be herself while helping others grow in their abilities, strengths, and pursue their passions.
Lynsi “Puddles” Nauman comes to the high Sierra from the midwest, where she is a student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. At camp she enjoys stand-up paddle boarding, canyoneering, and sailing. When she’s back at school, her hobbies include hiking, biking, and learning about personality types. She’s really excited to be at camp because she gets to meet and get to know campers and counselors from all over the country and the world!
Meredith “Mocha” Monke has been spending her summers at GAC for as long as she can remember, literally. The daughter of directors Steve and Audrey Monke, Mocha has been at camp since 1996. For the past few summers, Mocha has been a group counselor with younger campers. She recently graduated from Westmont College with a degree in English. She served as an RA (Resident Assistant) and writing tutor. One of Mocha’s favorite parts of camp is reading aloud to campers. Recently, her favorite read aloud book has been Wonder.
We are thrilled to welcome such an experienced group to lead our 2017 campers and counselors!
On Episode 17 of the GAC Pog-cast, Soy is joined by longtime GAC staffer Delta. He and Delta chat about what she’s doing while she’s not at camp, how she brings camp into her classroom and what keeps Delta coming back to camp.
Of course, there’s a Joke of the Cast (it features a wedding in space!) and the inspiring words of Roald Dahl in a GACspiration.