Camp Che-Na-Wah counselor, Katie Stone, went on a mission to find out the answer to a very big question. Why is camp so important? She spoke to campers, counselors, parents, and alumni of all different ages to see what they thought.
Katie Stone: I don’t think there’s any aspect of my life that has had the ability to shape who I am as a person as much as camp. Besides giving me my best friends, my experience at Camp Che-Na-Wah has taught me how to be independent, compassionate, and conscientious of others. It is immersed in my beautiful summer home in the Adirondack Mountains where I have learned to embrace my quirks and push myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t think it’s any secret that camp holds a special place in my heart, and its role in shaping the lives of many reaches far and wide. From young campers to counselors to parents and alumni, camp seems to mean something uniquely special to everyone who steps foot into our breathtaking escape from reality. Here are some personal accounts from a variety of members of our camp family on why this experience is so essential to their lives.
Jensen Foerster, Fourth year Baco counselor: Growing up at camp has taught me many, many things throughout my time as both a camper and as a counselor. What I think is so special about camp is the lifelong friendships that you are able to find, and the countless memories you are able to reflect on later in time. There is a certain magic about camp — that is truly indescribable. From the mountains, to the lake, to the bunks, to the fields, everyone in camp sees the fun and the magic. Starting camp when I was just 7 as a camper, and continuing my career the past 14 years, I still remember my favorite counselors, sports, and friends from each and every summer. And as a counselor, it has been really special to see camp enable children at such young ages to participate, engage, interact, communicate, and share things with one another in everyday activities and events. Without camp, and without my friendships and experiences that I have gained from there, I don’t think I would be the person that I am today. There is definitely no place like camp!
Amanda Scharkss, recent camp alumni: I just want to put it simply. Without camp, I wouldn’t be me. It’s crazy that from the time I was 9 years old, I was put in a big box with a few strangers who were completely different from me, and we all ended up creating our own dynamic. And at 23 years old, we still laugh at the same inside jokes. No matter what’s happening in our individual lives at any given time, when we’re all together that same dynamic is effortless. They’re the people that know me better than anyone else. I’m so grateful for camp, where you learn that being “weird” actually just means that you’re awesome and a beautiful person. And also, how lucky am I that I’ve experienced the beauty of nature via Lake Balfour and the Adirondack Mountains? I’ll tell you—the luckiest.
Sydney Schiller, senior camper: Being a camper for the past nine summers at Camp Che-Na-Wah is an experience I wouldn’t ever trade for the world. People often ask me why I spend my summers in the middle of nowhere, and I respond with this: “because it’s my second home and my second family.” For seven weeks in the beautifully secluded area of Minerva NY, I am surrounded by my bunkmates or ‘sisters’ for the most incredible seven weeks, on lake Balfour’s shining waters. Although some of us are oceans apart, it’s the deep bonds that we’ve formed that has made the distance a little less far. It’s the relationships that are so important between these girls, that keeps us coming back to such an amazing place like this, and I know that my bunkmates will always have my back, as I would for them. That’s why I think going to summer camp so important, in today’s society especially. Sure you can become friends with a stranger with the click of a button, but it’s bonds like what I have with my Che-Na-Wah ‘sisters’ that are so important, and that will last a lifetime.
Mike Levine, parent of a camper and alumni of Camp Baco: To say that my experiences and years (coming up on 40 of them) at Baco were formative and essential to who I am would be to state the obvious or to underrate the impact that it has had on my life. Like so many before and after me, my childhood, adolescent, and young adulthood years were highlighted during my Summers as a camper (1980-87), counselor (1988-91), and Post-camp weekend attendee (1993-2001). Now as a proud alumnus and Baco dad for my son, Jack Levine, who can’t wait for his fourth Summer at Camp along with my nephews, Josh and Jordan Nadel, who are the sons of my Che-Na-Wah alumna sister Joanna Levine Nadel (Waiter ’90) and her husband, Gregg Nadel (Waiter ’91), we all can’t wait for my 6 year old son Max to remove his shoes and socks and play Levine Ball with his soon to be Fun House bunkmates like Dexter Raskin and Owen Oberfest. Working every day with fellow alumni like Jeff Filiberto, Andrew Chason, and Amelia Draizin keeps images of Lake Balfour top of mind, always. Most importantly, my best friends in life, even as a 46 year old, are those that I grew up with in Minerva and have had by my side ever since. Eric Steinert, Josh Raskin, Richie Siegel, Josh Press, Eric Nagel, Rick Weiss, of course Mindy Gabler, and literally dozens of others along with their wives and kids remain mainstays in my daily life. For that alone, Camp is of incomparable importance to me. Thanks for asking. #BacoPride
Tucker Press, intermediate camper: Going to sleep away Camp is such an important experience in our world today because it strengthens kids’ maturity by living without their parents, and there are great counselors to help out. Also something special about Baco is that if doesn’t matter if you’re different, or not as athletic. We all just love each other like family and we’re like one big community. It’s also so important because you make life long friends that you will have for the rest of your life. I love camp, BACO PRIDE!
Allison Rosenthal, parent of children at Baco and Che-Na-Wah: My husband, Robert, and I, chose to send our oldest to CNW when she was 8 years old. Although we weren’t alumni at the camp, my sister’s kids went to CNW and Baco and we wanted our kids to be all together. We loved the family feel of CNW/Baco and we absolutely loved the spirit. We now send all three of our kids to camp, and each one feels such a strong connection to the camp, the community and the culture that is CNW/Baco. At first, Robert and I felt kind of like outsiders, not being alumni ourselves. But we have quickly realized that we are part of the CNW/Baco Community as well. The other parents are all so warm and welcoming and we have grown to make great friends through the CNW/Baco community as well, people from whom we derive a lot of comfort and camaraderie. I am actually envious of my kids since they have the privilege to go to CNW/Baco – they have gotten to experience life at its purest. Good friends. Good laughs. No technology. Just good, clean fun. Our kids have thrived at camp – learning to live with diverse people and also learning the importance of giving back to their community. Their countdown back to camp starts the moment they get home, and they spend all school year staying in touch with their friends from camp and eagerly anticipating what it will be like to go back. And every summer is better than the one before!
Phoebe Warshaw, junior camper: Camp has made me more independent. Camp has introduced me to many new friends from all over. I love that I have camp friends from Florida, Canada, New Jersey and Maryland and even had counselors from Hawaii and England. Camp lets me try new sports like Sailing, Ga-Ga and Water Skiing. I also get to be part of big events like Blue & Gold and Penn Cornell. The big events let me and all the campers work together to form friendships outside our age group. When we have a booth at bazaar, we help raise money for charities and get to have fun at the same time. I also love the times at camp when I get to see my sister and brother. Camp is me and my siblings special time away from home and our parents, but the three of us are still able to make and share memories together.
Jared Freifeld, camper and second-year counselor: Throughout my many years at camp, one of the most important lessons I’ve taken from camp is to be selfless, not selfish. At camp, you learn to be independent at a young age, and learn that you are not a bigger part of the puzzle than anyone else. There is a common understanding at camp that your friends are the ones that will always have your back, as long as you always have theirs. In our world today, it is more important that ever to look out for each other, and not get trapped in your own ego. There is a small tight knit community that exists at camp that may not mean a lot to the “outside world”, but means everything to the people who understand the concept of “Baco Pride”. My summers at Baco so far have made me the person I am today, and I hope to teach my campers the same life lessons I learned when I was their age.