Journeys and Joy at Camp Weequahic

Posted July 10th, 2018 by

“Journeying is the act of traveling from one place to another—not a moment of arrival. You get ‘there’ by being committed to the journey.” – Bernadette Jiwa

We are all on a journey, we are all going ‘somewhere.’ The questions are, “Where do we want to go?  What will we choose to guide us? And, what would be important to bring along?”

I hope that by this point, our returning families know the values that guide Weequahic – Gratitude, Attitude, and Courage.

What to bring along? Well…I’m sure there are lots of things that would be useful. Personal qualities like independence, curiosity, patience, and empathy would be great. So would a sense of being able to learn and adapt. And don’t forget friends. They can make any journey not only successful but fun as well.

Hm…. Sounds like we pretty much have everything we need here at Camp Weequahic to get where we want to go – a destination (creating awesome), values to guide us, a place to practice and experiment, and lots and lots of friends!

Wolves of Weequahic

Posted May 18th, 2018 by

I’ve always been fascinated by wolves. They are incredible creatures who thrive and play together. I’ve
spoken about two wolves around the campfire before.

In my reading this year, I stumbled over a wonderful poem from Rudyard Kipling about wolves I had yet to read:

Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,

And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;

For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

There is a great deal more to this poem which I’ll leave to you to enjoy. However, I wanted to focus on the last line because it’s vital for any community and especially, I think, Weequahic.

The Camper and Camp

Our campers come from all over. While they are from different backgrounds and have vastly different experiences, they share one thing in common: they want to make a friend this summer.

Our community is only as good as the connections that are built within it. In order for it to be the best it can be, our campers have to come prepared to reach out to everyone around them. It doesn’t matter that we have differences. What matters is that we work together to have a blast.

The strength of Weequahic is in each one of our campers and staff members. From this amazing collection of people comes our joy, fellowship, excitement and adventure. The strength of Weequahic is certainly in each camper.

And, as we come together at camp for three or six weeks, we are bound together by tradition and our values of gratitude, attitude, and courage. Without these shared sentiments, we would have no chance of creating the type of experience we enjoy. Therefore, as the poem suggests, the happiness and strength of each camper and staff member comes from camp.

We cannot wait to get everyone to Weequahic this summer. It’s going to be an amazing summer!

Can’t wait for camp,

Cole Kelly, Director

Time for Tradition

Posted May 11th, 2018 by

We have A LOT to look forward to this summer. New friends, new adventures, new sites. You even get to enjoy fun food you almost never have – can you say ‘liquid nitrogen slush puppies’ and ‘taco in a bag?’

And, while there will be a lot of ‘new’, you’ll also get to experience a wide number of traditions we enjoy each summer. Some happen every day while others are a little further in between. Two of them happen just at the end. Here’s a bit of a preview….

Daily Traditions

Starting camp by the flagpole with the entire camp is a treat. It’s one of the few chances everyone gets to be together in one spot. Juniors through CITs and all of our staff gather around the flag each morning at 9:40am. We greet each other, play a little bit, hear about the big news of the day, celebrate birthdays, and start the day as one.

Later each day, you can find at least one bunk (if not the whole crowd) dancing on their chairs in the Dining Hall. Music plays at every lunch and dinner and most of it is requested by the kids. Our in-house DJs do their best to keep the lunch and dinner crowds bee-bopping along.

To end the day, we get to spend a bit of time reflecting on all for which we were grateful. We do this by naming at least two of our daily happies. I walk through the boys bunks while Camp Director Kate or our Head Counselor Tiny gets the happies from the girls. I don’t know a better way to end the day.

Every Now & Then Traditions

While not all of our Evening Activities happen as one camp, those that do are special. So special, in fact, that we end each of them by joining arms, facing the lake, and singing Taps and Alma Mater. These songs have been sung together for decades and we look forward to enjoying them together again soon.

(For our new campers, don’t worry – we’ll provide you the words in our upcoming NewsWeeq and at camp.)

We also enjoy other traditions that happen each summer depending on the session. Events like Carnival, Swim the Lake, our AT Hikes and more. While I can explain them, it will be a lot more fun to experience them at camp!

Ending Traditions

At the end of each of our sessions, we enjoy a ‘Color War’ experience – Tribals in the first three week and Olympics in the second. While they rhyme, each has their own traditions, teams, and expectations. Sportsmanship remains supreme in each as our campers ‘battle’ across the arts, aquatics, athletic, and adventure activities.

After we’ve found the winning team, its time to start packing up and saying our ‘good byes.’ There are certainly tears at this point, we remind everyone the wonderful phrase from Dr. Seuss: Don’t be sad because its over. Be glad that it happened!

 As we put our wishboats in the water and make our memories come alight, we get to reflect on what has been an amazing three or six weeks. At the end, we have all enjoyed new experiences while also connecting with traditions that began before us and will last after our time at Weequahic. That’s a pretty powerful combination…

…and we can’t wait to enjoy it with you! See you soon,

Cole Kelly

Preparing Parents

Posted May 4th, 2018 by

As of this writing, the start of Summer 2018 is just 50 days away. Let me first state the following: YAHOO!!! We can’t wait to get the kids to camp!

That said, there is a lot for our parents to prepare. The packing list, bags, the forms… it’s a lot. We know and wish we could make it easier.

But while ‘the stuff’ that makes camp work has grown over the past several decades, the results – an amazing summer full of fun, friends and growth – is still the goal.

And, you aren’t just preparing the gear but also your children as well! We have 150+ campers attending Weequahic for the first time this summer. Helping them to start on off on the right foot is important.

Focusing on what will be great about the experience, coming up with a plan on what to do when (not ‘if’) they miss home, and helping to build some pre-camp connections are important and useful. We are excited to help with any and all of those ideas.

The same goes for our 500+ returning campers. Parents who prepare their returning kiddos to know that camp will be different some ways helps to make for a more joyful return.

Because they are different kids now than when they left the previous summer, camp will seem changed when the get back to their summer home. They’ve got ‘different eyes’ through which to see and experience Weequahic.

Prepare Yourself, Too!

Finally, parents – you are preparing yourselves! Sending your child off for three or six weeks is a daunting task. I know – just sending our boys off for a ten-day jaunt with a grandfather is hard enough!

First of all, call us anytime. While the kids are at camp, we are happy to help no matter what and no matter when. During the summer, our office is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week and I’ve got an emergency cell phone on me at all times. (I’ll share the number as we get closer to camp.)

Secondly, please know that everyone who is a part of our team is at Weequahic because they want to create an amazing experience for everyone they meet though gratitude, attitude and courage. And, we train and support them all the way!

We believe it’s important to find team members who will live out these values around our kids. We will all do our best to ensure your camper’s safety and well-being while also building a hugely positive experience filled with awesome moment.

Third, please know that we are going to make some mistakes. We are human, too! That said, we’ll listen, be quick to acknowledge where we have screwed up, and will do our best to fix the situation asap.

Parents, please let us know how we can help to prepare for the best summer imaginable. We’ll do all we can to make sure that both you and your camper has an amazing experience with us!

Can’t wait for camp,


Dividing to Multiply

Posted April 20th, 2018 by

Yes, I know – school imagery does not always make the best start to talking about camp. Please know, we are not ‘anti-school’… we just do things differently! And, math is very useful, even at camp.

Now, my math-learning days are way back in the past. However, this idea that you have to divide in order to multiply doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As one quick-witted, math-superstar camper once told me, the order of math functions move along the ‘Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally’ route: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction.

Hm… yep, multiplication comes before division in this routine. (It’s true – I looked it up.) So, what am I talking about and why bring it up?

Because at camp, we divide in order to multiply.

Joy at Weequahic

One of the cranky ‘philosophizers’ I enjoy to read is a guy named Samuel Clements. He also goes by the moniker Mark Twain. Of the many sayings he wrote, this is one of my favorites:

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” 

This perfectly encapsulates camp. To examine why, let’s do a thought experiment.

Say you were at camp all by yourself in the middle of the summer. (Of course, this would never happen but it’s a useful fiction for our purposes here.) All the big bouncies are ready on the lake, the fields are perfectly mown, the theater stage is set for the grand production, and the canteen is stocked.

Could you have a good time in that environment? Sure! There would be a lot of fun things to do, enjoy, eat, etc. It could be fun.

But, sooner rather than later, you’d get a little lonely. There would be no one to hit the tennis ball back, argue about the best canteen treat, dress up like a twin, triplet or octuplet with for dinner, laugh along with your jokes, etc.

You need someone there to divide the joy with, to share it. You need someone and not just anyone will do. It requires a buddy who sees the world like you do, shares your interests and laughs, and supports you when need it.

The Good News

So where will that person come from? The good news is that you are going to have several tons of options! Our new campers are coming from 10 states and 9 countries. Our returning campers add three more states and two more countries. And, our 225 staff members are from an even wider number of places.

Do you know what each and every one of them want to do? They want to make a friend (or forty) and have a blast – together.

It’s true! So, what does that mean for you?

Pretty simple, really… if you really want to have a blast this summer, make a friend and divide the joy with them. The more people you share it with, the more joy you’ll experience. (See, I told you the math would be useful!)

I’ll make it even easier – you can start with me! Speaking for everyone at Weequahic, I can’t wait to get you to camp. It’s going to be an amazing summer!

See you soon,

Cole Kelly, Director

Making ‘It’ Happen

Posted April 14th, 2018 by

Wayne Huizenga, a very successful businessman, passed away a few weeks ago. By starting two incredibly large businesses, owning several major league sporting teams and giving a lot of money to organizations who helped those in need, he did a lot with his time on Earth.

There is a lot to learn from Mr. Huizenga. And, while I did not know him, I have used one of his quotes for a long time:

Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.

The greatest basketball player to ever live said something similar.

So, what does this have to do with camp, you ask? A lot.

Making Camp Amazing

First, let’s start by defining a successful summer. In my opinion, that means a few things: returning home safely having made friends, laughed a ton, learned more than you realize, and feeling Weequahic is your second home.

To me, that’s a successful summer. Does it sound good to you? If you said ‘yes’, well then… it’s time to go to work.

I bet I can tell what you are thinking: “Work?!?! Are you serious, Cole? We’ve just spent eight out of the last nine months working in school, on homework, and house chores. We just want to have fun at camp!”

I hear you! And, that’s not the type of work I’m talking about. It’s more about attitude, about intentional effort, about focusing on how to make ‘it’ successful. (‘It’ in this case, means your time at camp.)

So, how does one intentionally go about making the coming summer the best ever? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Spend some time thinking about what you most want to get out of your three or six weeks at Weequahic. Are there new activities you want to try, friends you want to make, or adventures you want to enjoy?


  1. At the same time, think about what you are going to give to those around you at camp? We all have a unique strength to offer. Maybe you’ll make someone laugh, be a consistent and faithful friend, or offer courage and encouragement to someone tentative about trying a new activity.


  1. Come up with a plan or two on how you are going to handle those down moments. It could be missing home (talk with your friends and your counselors), being bummed about the rain (start a campaign to go mud-sliding), or not loving an activity as much as you thought (change it!)


Begin with the End in Mind

A very smart lady told me once to begin everything you do with the end in mind… and to remain open-minded about the process. A lot of times we want to control everything around us. We think that if we could, the ‘perfect’ experience could be built from the ground up… just for you.

There are two problems with that point of view. First, there are WAY too many moving parts at camp (or anywhere) to fully control things. You’ll just be frustrated by the process.

Secondly, it’s a very limiting mindset. We have so many awesome people at Weequahic and I bet 99.9% of them are just like you: they want to have a total blast this summer. The cool thing is that, because they are different than you, your new-found friends can stretch your idea of what a great time is… and make it bigger!

So… start getting ready to make Summer 2018 a resounding success. WE CANNOT WAIT to get you to Weequahic!

Onward to Adventure!

Posted April 6th, 2018 by

“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.”  – Sue Fitzmaurice

I love a good adventure story. There are ups and downs, moments when you don’t think it’s going to work out and others when it does. The whole experience keeps you guessing almost to the very end.

Think of the great adventure movies and stories you’ve enjoyed. One of mine is called Last of the Mohicans. It’s about an adopted son of Chingachgook, the last of the Mohican tribe, and the adventures they go through on the American frontier in the late 1700’s.

I also really like Harry Potter and all the adventures he goes through with his wide assortment of friends, watchers, and enemies. The creativity and the twists and turns — it’s so much fun!

Though you may not believe it, both of these stories are really similar in major ways.

First, they have a main character who, with the help of mentors and friends, successfully takes on challenges. Secondly, there are obstacles to overcome that seem insurmountable at first, but when tackled as a team they find themselves victorious!

Finally, the heroes return home safely though both have been changed in many positive ways. They have found new independence, maturity, and confidence. And, most importantly, they both know without a doubt where they belong.

A Summer of Adventure

Hmm… sound familiar?

Our campers this summer will embark on an adventure of their own. Surrounded by a cast of campers, they’ll build friendships, enjoy new activities, overcome challenges, and have a great time! It’s going to be amazing.

Of course, there will be difficult moments too. A bunkmate may say something hurtful.  A counselor may seem like they are  upset about something. The ‘missing home’ gnome may rear its head.

While we consider these possible challenges at camp, I have a question for you: what adventure comes without risks?

Our campers have an enormous and wonderful opportunity this summer. They get to broaden their world, make new friends, learn from new mentors, and grow like they never have before. The benefits of being an open, active, and engaged part of the adventure are so incredibly high.

To me, they easily swamp the challenges of being away from home for a few nights and the initial discomfort of making new friends. Because, at the end of this summer’s adventure, there is always a promise of something more — another trek that could be even better (especially if it starts back at Weequahic!)

So, set your compass towards adventure this summer. The story is about to begin!

This sentence makes a better transition when placed under “A summer of adventure” because that title is (to me) what sounded familiar to the stories you shared.

“Counselor” is singular and “they” is plural. You will want to use “he/she is” here. That way counselor and he/she is in agreement.

I changed the ending to “begin” because you had used the word “start” just one sentence before this.

*Photo by Hendrik Morkel on Unsplash


Growing the Garden… and Gardner

Posted March 23rd, 2018 by

I love Judy’s Garden at Camp Weequahic. We built it about five years ago and CMJ, with the help of a lot of campers, has been faithfully tending it ever since to the enjoyment of many.

Our budding chefs from the Top Chef kitchen can be found grabbing a few herbs or veggies. CMJ and her pickling team produce pretty fantastic treats each summer. And, it’s a great place to watch everything from flowers to veggies grow.

One important task is to keep the weeds from taking over the garden. Try as we might, we can’t seem to keep them out completely. But, with the diligent help of a few intrepid campers, the ‘good fruit’ of our garden is kept safe from the weeds.

Our Own Gardens

I’ve run into the analogy of gardening and soil often over the past few weeks. When the same theme pops up three or four times in short order, I pay attention – someone is trying to tell me something!

Here’s the idea: we have to think of ourselves in two ways. First,  we are the soil in which our fruits – thoughts both good and bad – grow. Secondly, we need to think of ourselves as the gardener who cultivates our own personal garden.

Here’s what I mean.

Think of your mind and soul as a garden bed. When you are born, that soil is naturally rich and accepting of all sorts of ideas and experiences.

You won’t remember it this way but watch a baby or toddler with engaged caregivers. You’ll notice that the adults are trying to help the child learn and grow in wholesome ways – be patient, use your words, explore, laugh, read, and more.

The hope is that these actions take root in the child to the point where they lead to bearing ‘good fruit.’ This means actions in the future that are beneficial and helpful.

This can come in lots of forms: reaching out to a friend in need, showing self-control and self-direction, being kind, an inquisitive nature, etc.

But remember, your ‘soil’ can be planted with things that are not beneficial, too. I would call these weeds that can choke out the good fruit in you – things like selfishness, anger, impatience, and fear. If you aren’t careful, they’ll take root… and take over the garden.

Up Grows a Gardener

One of the many amazing things about being a human is that we can practice ‘introspection.’ A house cat doesn’t look back over its day to see what it could have done, said, or thought better. Neither can any other animal – except you!

As you get older, you start to realize that you have a lot of control over what you think, say and do. Even more, you begin to understand that all the ‘inputs’ – what you read, see, and listen to –  leave seeds that grow over time.

All of these messages are fighting to get into your ‘soil’ in order to take root and grow. But, here’s the important part: you get to choose what grows and what gets removed in your garden.

You are the gardener. But, be warned: some weeds are really, really tough to get out. I’ve tried for years to my cravings for canteen. I’ve gotten better over time but that longing will probably always be in me, even if just a little. I kid… but not really….

Helping Gardners Grow

Whether you know it or not, camp is trying to help in both areas. We do our best to surround you with great friends, fun messages, good ideas, and awesome experiences to fill up your internal garden.

And, just as important, we strive to surround you with mentors who will you develop your own gardening skills. These young men and women give up a lot of their time to teach you! By showing gratitude, choosing their attitude, and practicing both courage and kindness, the hope is that a little of it will rub off on you!

So, spend some time over the coming weeks taking a good look at your garden, and your gardening skills. It’ll be some of the most important work you do!

Have a great week!



Posted March 17th, 2018 by

Yes, I know. I misspelled ‘responsible.’ I was trying to get your attention. Hope it worked!

What I should have titled this post would have been ‘response-able.’ But, the title mashup is one of my new favorite words – along with gratitude, attitude, courage, and kind.


‘Responsable’ might be best described as the ability to choose your reaction in any situation. Think that is important? Let’s try it out in a few situations….

The camper sleeping above you is feeling left out –always holding back from the group, super quiet, and often looking down. What’s the proper response from you?

Your counselors have asked you twice to clean up your area because it’s three minutes before flagpole. Do you a) ignore them and keep jawing with your buddies, b) keep jawing with your buddies and clean up as quickly as you can, or c) tell your buddies that you can’t speak anymore until you get it all done.

Today’s your day to wakeboard and you’ve been waiting since last summer to try a new trick. As you walk out of lunch, you see the clouds coming. And, as you start walking to the dock, those clouds open up – no wakeboarding today. What do you think?

The Lab

Camp affords you the best of all worlds to become more responsable.

You live in an environment this safe, engaging and so much fun. You are surrounded by mentors and leaders who want only the best for you. And, because you are literally surrounded by people from all over the world all day long, you have a lot of chances in which to learn.

Every day, you will have a number of chances to choose your responses. Some responses will be perfect. Others may need a little work. The trick is to take a few moments each day to think about your responses throughout the day, learn, and determine to do better where needed.

We all get to choose our responses to any and every situation. And, you can be calm and thoughtful in just about any moment.

In order to be that way, you first have to understand that your thoughts shape and color your every experience. Secondly, if you have the mental agility to see things from new perspectives. And, to make it stick, you just need to be mindful of your responses throughout the day.

You can become more responsable – it just takes a little work each day. But, don’t worry – it’s worth the effort!

A Wheel of Growth

Posted March 9th, 2018 by

We all enjoy spending time at the campfire. Campers and staff laugh and celebrate surrounded by friends. We enjoy a pleasant evening by Sly Lake and watch a fire crackle away. And, we learn. It’s the only time each week we are teaching in a way that is ‘overt’ or, as some might say, in your face.

But, do you think that’s the only time we are ‘teaching?’ Of course not. Our campers and staff learn all week long – in the studios, on stage, in dining hall, on the courts. These activities are a ton of fun and led by people who really know their stuff.

Walking around camp seeing everyone totally engaged and going is one of my favorite things to do. Anyone looking will see how much the kids enjoy the activities. One activity our campers don’t love? Doing their morning chores.

The Wheel of Growth

The infamous chore wheel can be found in every bunk. Names on the inside of the wheel, chores on the outside. Move it one tick each day and you’ve got your new responsibility – sweep or take out the trash or help on the close line, etc.

Of course, you always have to make your bed and tidy your area… but you already knew that. What you may not know is that these chores are instrumental to the future lives of our campers.

Don’t take my word for it. In one of the longest studies ever conducted, researchers at Harvard found a lot of important information – the importance of close relationships and the power of doing chores.

Doing things around the house (or bunk, in our case) was directly related to respondents being successful in work and well-adjusted in life. And, the earlier these chores started, the more positive impact they had on the respondents.

Does this mean you have to do your chores to be a successful, well-adjusted adult? No, but doing chores will certainly help you in a lot of ways.

You become better at seeing that you have a direct impact on those around you. You begin to realize that no job is too small or ‘beneath’ you. And, by doing those jobs, it may help you appreciate those who do them for you later in the life. Don’t forget ‘work ethic’ – rolling up your sleeves and getting it done – improves over time and with use. Plus, you get an emotional and build confidence because you’ve been helpful to those around you.

See? There are a lot of great reasons to do your chores. So, next time we spin the Chore Wheel remember… it’s for your own good!

Have a great weekend!