Campfire Notes

How GAC Has Influenced Our Five Year Campers

How GAC Has Influenced Our Five Year Campers


Friends. Friendship. Confidence. Independence.  Love of the outdoors. Outgoing. Social. Those are the words and phrases that show up over and over again in answer to the question, “How has your time at camp influenced you as a person?” on our Five-Year Camper survey.


Conducted over the past two years, we’ve had almost 200 current and past campers respond to this and other questions about their time at GAC.  Here are some of the many ways camp has influenced their lives:


“Having started at Gold Arrow as a little seven year old I have grown up here. Camp has become my home away from home and I can honestly say it has shaped who I am today. It has given me confidence and taught me skills far beyond learning how to wakeboard or horseback ride. I am comfortable with myself, I am patient and I have learned how to become a leader.” – Katie Baral



“It has helped me to extend myself and make new friends. At GAC I have made life long friends.” – Maddy Benfield


“Gold Arrow camp has always been my happy place, during the rest of the year, I would always look forward to camp!” – Haley Gross


“It has encouraged me to try new things.” – Eva Shuster-Arechiga


“It has made me just enjoy life better because I know that wherever one goes, as long as you are yourself you can influence others to enjoy life.  Camp taught me to just enjoy life as it is and not worry about things.” – Hosanna Kessler


“I feel that it has transformed me into a better person because I have learned the true meaning of friendship. It has pushed me to try new things and push my comfort levels.” – Alicia DeMartini


Quailman“GAC has helped shape the person that I am today. I take the core values of camp and bring them into my every day life. One thing that has really stuck with me after my time at camp has been the use of electronics in my life. When around others I do my best to never use my cell phone. The biggest way that I practice this as well as try to get my friends to take part in what I do is when I go out to meals with friends. I always make everyone stack their phones and we are not allowed to touch them until the bill has been paid. The other part of GAC that has influenced me the most is the simple idea of trying to always smile. It not only makes my day better but when giving a random person on the street a smile people tend to first seemed shocked and then return a genuine smile.” – Eric Bader


“Being at Gold Arrow gives me this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I know that I can be myself and that my cabin mates will love me for who I am, and I’ve brought that to my life outside of camp. thank you for helping me become the person I am today.” – Hannah Leigh




“It has influenced me to try new things even if they seem difficult.” – Robert Leigh


“It has made me see the glass half full in everything I do.” – Scout Brown




“GAC has completely and totally made me the person that I am today. Being in an environment with the most positive people in the world helped me understand that it is ok to be silly, crazy, and absolutely ridiculous, and most importantly that it is okay being yourself. It also made me into a leader, having the best role models as my counselors to look up to.” – Reilly Barry


“Gold Arrow Camp has taught me to live in the moment and truly enjoy everything good in life. It influences me to truly be myself, and embrace who I am. Gold Arrow Camp is the time of year where I can truly have fun, and it has changed my life in an extremely good way.” – Megan McGlothlin




“Gold Arrow Camp ignited my love for the outdoors. If I hadn’t been a camper here, I would not be where I am today.” – Allison Muench


“It has influenced me to better a better version of myself and to be who I am on the inside.” – Henry Yeary


“Camp has made more outgoing and appreciative of all the opportunities that I have.” – Haley Davis


“It has influenced me by learning knew things and making new friends. I really enjoy how close you get with your cabin and counselors, it makes you have a whole new look on life, especially being away from social networking.” – Cassandra Cohen


“It has taught me to be a great friend.” – Garrett Reilly




“Gold Arrow has taught me friendship skills with people of all ages and how even a small amount of time with wonderful people can create amazing memories.” – Reid Bryan


“At GAC I have learned to be a better version of myself. I learned how to work with others through difficult situations, support someone else when they are having a hard time, encourage others to be the best that they can be, be more positive, and, most importantly, pack well.” – Elizabeth Zigrang


“Gold Arrow made me realize that there is so much more to life then just electronics. It is a lot more fun to socialize with the people who are around you.” – Maddy Knight


“It has made me make new friends and learn to work better together in groups.” – Erin McCarthy


“I’m more open to trying new things. I never would have had the opportunity to try many of the activities at camp if I didn’t go and now some of my favorite actitivities are rocks and ropes, sailing, and waterskiing.” – Elizabeth Kroger


“GAC has shaped my life in so many ways… the people and the immaculate environment are what have drawn me back year after year. GAC has taught me tolerance, patience and has provided me with an ability to be more accepting of everyone, young and old, no matter their walk of life.” – Cam Russell


“Overall GAC has made me become a better and more warm-hearted person. Normally I am very shy around people but at GAC I know I can act crazy because I feel less insecure since everyone else acts wildly and it has made me a more fun person to be around.” – Aaron Crasnick


“It has been like a dream I never want to wake up from.” – Paige Warmington


“It has taught me how to make new friends, and how to have a good time without electronics.” – Garrett Caddes


Sail“My experiences at GAC have made me into the person I am today. Camp taught me to be responsible and mature, yet at the same time taught me to be optimistic, positive, fun and confident. GAC and the community of people in it, have been so influential in raising me from childhood to adulthood.” – Stevie Goodrich

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Nature Pees and Lanyard String Fishing Poles

Nature Pees and Lanyard String Fishing Poles

Watching the campers construct fishing poles out of sticks and lanyard string, I had a revelation.  Kids rarely get a chance to play like this any more.   And, boy, are they good at it when they are given the opportunity!


For the first time in many years, I went on a GAC backpacking trip last summer. Led by experienced and fun backpacking instructors, Cabin 0 and I enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon and overnight at Indian Falls before returning to camp the following morning.


Nature Pees During the hike, we sang songs, did riddles, and talked as we walked. We took a break to play “Camouflage” at Indian Pools. One camper stood in a designated spot while the rest of us hid in the surrounding area. We had to be able to see the “Spotter,” who carefully looked around at the surrounding rocks, trees, and bushes to try to spot us. We drank our water and ate our special camp trail mix – a homemade concoction of granola and LOTS of chocolate. Since it was warm, our chocolate melted, making a gooey, cookie-like substance that tasted much better out on a trail than it ever would at home.


When we reached our destination, we weren’t overly tired (it’s about a two and a half mile trip), but we were hot and ready to go in the water. In the pool below Indian Falls, the kids swam, played in the waterfall, and explored. Three hours passed while the girls entertained themselves playing in and around the water. When the group counselor brought down lanyard string, several of the girls made fishing poles. I was struck by how naturally creative kids are when left to their own devices.  And I was so thankful that our campers have the opportunity to just play, without adults providing all of the structure, all of the time.


I was also thankful that our children get to spend a night in an even more remote and natural setting than camp. Several of the girls were experienced GAC campers who were well versed in “nature peeing,” which is what is required when you’re out in the wilderness without toilets of any kind. One first-year camper proudly declared at campfire that she had done her first “nature pee.”  I thought about how many kids (and people) don’t want to spend a night in the wilderness, because they can’t bear the thought of being without the comforts of home. These girls absolutely loved being there and felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment at carrying their belongings and learning to live outdoors. I know they are developing a love of the outdoors and am so glad they had the opportunity to backpack at Gold Arrow Camp.



Our dinner was grilled cheese and pesto sandwiches (pesto optional) and tasted delicious. Everything tastes better cooked over a campfire! We ate through two loaves of bread before we moved on to s’mores and a cookie concoction that was slightly charred on the outside but gooey and delicious on the inside.


The girls shared their highs and lows of the day around the campfire before we brushed our teeth using our water bottles and climbed into our sleeping bags to enjoy the night sky. I woke up several times and never quite found a comfortable position on the hard dirt, but the stars provided a great backdrop to a restless night of sleep. The campers, however, all declared in the morning how well they slept. Ah, the miracle of childhood!


We returned to camp with dirty faces, hands, and clothes, but we felt fantastic and had an experience all of us will remember forever.


Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder is a great book about the importance of getting our kids out in nature. (


Let’s get our kids unplugged and show them how amazing, beautiful, and fun it is to be outside!

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