Campfire Notes

2014 Coach’s Award

2014 Coach’s Award

In 2009, Gold Arrow Camp lost a dear friend. Ken “Coach” Baker (March 10, 1951 – April 5, 2009) worked at GAC as Assistant Director and Director from 1981-1992, and he had a huge, positive impact on many still at camp today. Ken was instrumental in helping the Monke family purchase Gold Arrow from Jeanie Vezie in 1989 and mentored Sunshine and Monkey during their early years. Ken’s wife, Carol “Mama Bear” Baker, was also a long-time staff member at GAC. Many current staff who were former campers may remember Mama Bear from her many years as Camp Mom. Ken’s daughter, Ali “Picaflor” Baker, was a camper throughout her childhood, continued on as a CIT, and spent a summer working as an Activity Counselor on the Waterfront.

Ken “Coach” Baker, Jeanie Vezie and Sunshine in 1989

In 2009, Gold Arrow Camp established “Coach’s Award” to honor Ken. This award is given each year to a leader at camp, nominated by his or her peers, who motivates others through positive leadership and encouraging words and exemplifies Ken “Coach” Baker’s dedication to GAC’s vision. There is a wooden plaque in the Camp Store to commemorate Coach and past counselors who have received the award.

This year, 31 different staff members were nominated for the award. This is a testament to the positive culture and leadership that has been established at GAC, thanks to the influence of Coach and the leaders who have followed in his footsteps. Those nominated received a copy of the comments that went with his or her nomination in the hopes that counselors recognize what an honor it is to be distinguished in this way through recognition by peers at camp.

Stevie “Wonder” Goodrich, the 2014 “Coach’s Award” recipient, is one of a kind and has a long history at Gold Arrow Camp.

Can you find Wonder is this shot from his CIT days?

Wonder spent eight years as a camper and CIT before returning this summer for his first year as a counselor. He embodies the fun, energy, love and spirit the GAC community is all about, and Coach would be proud to see the excellent counseling skills he practices.  In the nominations he received from other staff, kindness, warmth, and patience were mentioned many times. In addition to these qualities, his positivity, enthusiasm, and energy were also mentioned.

Here are a few of the things counselors who nominated him had to say:

“Wonder was by far the nicest person I met during Tweek, and he continues to be an extremely positive role model for me. His energy with Bears is endless and his dedication to his kids and his job inspires me every day. On top of being an incredible GC, he also manages to be a great friend.”

“I never see anything but a massive smile on his face. He always has so much energy, which he maintains all day long, and if he ever gets exhausted from working with the baby Bears, I’ve never seen him show it. He is an inspiration to all of his fellow counselors.”

“His energy and positive attitude is inspiring. I love the way he empathizes and understands the individual needs of each camper and will seek help when needed.”

“There are few people that have the energy and amazing attitude that Wonder has. He makes everyone smile. There are really special people in this world that can change lives, and he is one of them.”

In Wonder’s college entrance essay, he wrote of his time mentoring and learning from campers at GAC. He closed his essay by saying, “In my heart, I know that every child I work with helps me to see clearly the important things in life one cannot easily see, and to become a better person for these experiences.”


Q & A with Wonder: 


Why did you want to be a counselor at GAC?

I wanted to be a counselor at GAC because I always felt as a camper that the counselors were what made camp so special and so much fun. The counselors I had during my 8 years as a camper really helped to shape me into the person I am today. GAC really could be the most positive and happy place on earth!

 What counselors influenced you the most as a camper? What did they do?

Two counselors that really stand out in my mind when I look back are Blue and Zizzou.Blue, my AC for my second year was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met; I couldn’t believe someone could go so far out of their way to do nice things for other people. Zizzou, my GC in my 5th year, was fun and crazy, and showed us the GAC way of doing everything possible to have an absolute blast.

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

Utter shock. Insane excitement. Immense Pride. Oh! And “don’t cry, don’t cry”. It was all kind of a blur. Having worked this summer with such an amazing group of counselors, it was a huge honor to receive the award.

What do you love about working with young people?

My favorite thing about working with young people is getting to see kids arrive extremely worried or scared for an activity, and then watching them work to conquer that fear or try something new. There is no better feeling than seeing that huge smile on their face and how proud they are of their accomplishments and growth.

Do you think Hip Hip Hippopotamus will make a comeback next summer? Are there any new projects lined up in the camp offseason?

I cannot confirm or deny the special super secret tour schedule of HHH, but I think it’s safe to say some new songs might be heading to GAC next summer, including Cat Party and Fanny Pack. #ReturnOfTheOveralls2015


If you could have any one condiment squirt out of your finger, what condiment would it be?

Wonder: Ranch Dressing, of course! I put ranch on my ranch.


What is your favorite activity at GAC?

My favorite activity was always waterskiing (try dancing while waterskiing, its pretty fun). Although, this summer I was talking with a worried camper about both of us conquering our fear of heights by both trying the Zip Line, an activity I had always been too afraid to try. By the time we were back on solid ground, both of us agreed that Zip Lining was probably one of the coolest activities at camp, regardless of how loud I screamed on the way down.




Strawberry shortcake or choco taco??

Is that even a question? TEAM CHOCO TACO 4 LIFE!

What do you really think happened to the giant chipmunk?!

After a chemical accident that transformed him, he saved Manny Vezie and the famous scientist Eric Bader from a fire in Bader’s lab… … didn’t he?

What was your biggest takeaway from camp this summer? What did you learn from the experience?

This summer really taught me to break out of my shell and to just be myself. I also learned to always smile, dance like nobody is watching, Footsie PJ’s are very comfortable, the log cabin structure of wood makes a better campfire, and that singing 80’s Hits at top of your lungs is the best way to wake a cabin up in the morning.

Anything else you would like to add?

I cannot wait to be back in the Sunny Sierras this summer, I am counting down the days. I am super excited to see all the amazing campers and counselors I met last summer, and to make tons of new friends too! See you guys this summer!

Have a WONDERful rest of the school year!


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Teenage Daughters

Teenage Daughters

Written by Audrey Monke for Gold Arrow Camp

When my third daughter was born thirteen years ago, the warnings started coming in.  “Girls are easier than boys when they’re little, but just WAIT until they’re teenagers!  They’re SO hard.”



Then, 2000

I heard horror stories about yelling, irrational behavior, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and many other issues some parents faced with their teenage daughters.   In preparation for the years to come (and to help our camp parents who already had teenage daughters), I attended talks on the topic and read many books about adolescence, including:


Queen Bees & Wannabes (Rosalind Wiseman),  Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (Mary Pipher, Ph.D.),

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (Rachel Simmons),

The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers do the Things They do (Lynn Ponton, M.D.), and

The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids (Madeline Levine, Ph.D.).


Just reading the titles of these books is enough to send shivers of fear up the spine of any parent of a soon-to-be teenager.  But knowledge is power, and I wanted to learn different opinions and ideas on the topic of adolescence.




In the end, I didn’t get through every page of those books, but I learned some useful tidbits of information.   I ended up parenting my girls the way that felt right to me, which was building a close, nurturing relationship.  I was fortunate to have a great role model in my own mother, who nurtured me through childhood while keeping life fun, so it came naturally to me to smother my girls with affection and spend a lot of time talking with them.   They get hugs every day and are tucked in every night (sometimes they have to tuck me in now, but it still counts!).


As of last week, I am now the mother of three teenage daughters (ages 13, 16, & 17).   I LOVE HAVING TEENAGE DAUGHTERS.   And I hope you understand that those capital letters mean I really, really love this time with them.    I think other moms of teenage daughters must love it, too.  I just haven’t read about much of the good stuff, so I thought I would share with you what I love about having teenage daughters.  And hopefully those of you with younger daughters will be inspired to look forward to, and not fear, the teen years.


I like the way our relationship has evolved over the years.   When they were younger,  I was in charge, providing the structure to their days and rules to follow.   It was a lot of work.   Now, we’re in more of a democratic state, where they understand that we need their help to keep our home functioning.   There’s not a strict bedtime, but each of them knows how important it is to get a good night’s sleep (I’ve drilled the brain research into them!).  So, they get themselves to bed at a decent hour.  They get themselves up each morning, pack their own lunches, and, in the case of the two older ones, drive themselves to school.


These days, a T.V. show or podcast that I would never have allowed them to watch or listen to a few years ago becomes an opportunity to discuss values and difficult issues.  We talk about things that we wouldn’t have discussed when they were younger.  They know my opinions, but they also know that they have the freedom to form their own.  (Side note:  Things we talked about when they were very young, like how disgusting and unhealthy smoking is, really sunk in.  Apparently, kids really listen to you before they turn ten, so get a lot of good discussions in early!)


They share stories about their peers and what they are experiencing.   I don’t freak out when they share a story about something disturbing that they saw or heard.  Usually, it’s something similar to what I saw or heard when I was their age.   We talk about it.


My teenage daughters do not yell at me or treat me disrespectfully.  They willingly do chores and offer to give me extra help. They thank me for making dinner.  They get along well with each other and have fun together.  Yes, they get in bad moods sometimes, and so do I.  We’ve talked about coping strategies.  I’ve shared what helps me, and they’ve learned what works for them.  I’ve always told them it’s normal for girls to have mood swings, so they don’t feel crazy when it happens.


I wish I could tell you the reasons why my teenage daughters are the way they are.   The younger ones say they watched their older sister(s).


Last week, I interviewed my oldest daughter, who will turn eighteen in January.    I asked her why she turned out so well and didn’t fit some of the stereotypes of teenage girls.  She had these nuggets of wisdom to share:



“Kids turn out the way parents expect them to.  If you’re positive about your kids and treat them with respect, they’ll fulfill your expectations.  If you expect them to be rude and disrespectful, then they’ll fulfill that, too.”


“Movies and T.V. shows set a really bad example of how kids treat parents, so not letting us watch too much when we were little was good.   You also need to have a good example at home in your family.”


“Being around nice teenagers at camp, who were good role models, helped, too.”


“You need to find friends who are nice to their parents.”


“Teenage is an awkward phase for parents and kids.  It’s better when it’s a relationship based on mutual respect and more of an adult-like relationship.”


So, there you go.  Words of wisdom from a teenage daughter who has been pleasant to live with throughout her teenage years and is incredibly responsible.


My most recent teenager (the one who turned thirteen last week) had this wisdom to share when I asked her what parents of younger kids should do to make sure their girls are nice as teenagers:



My Newest Teen and Me

“Girls whose parents are nice are nice.”


“You can’t let the talking back slide when they’re little.”


“Don’t give them everything they want.”


“Teach them to be grateful.”


If you have a teenage daughter and you’re struggling in any area, I hope you’ll take the time to reconnect and have fun together.  And, if you have a younger daughter, I hope you’ll listen to the words of wisdom shared by my girls.   I think they know what they’re talking about.  I learn from them every day and am so grateful to have three teenage daughters.

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