Jack Erler, whose legal career supporting Maine youth camps spans more than 50 years, says he is certain: there may be no more valuable experience for children than summer camp. Erler is certainly qualified to make such a statement. He began practicing law in Portland in 1969 and has spent decades representing both camps and their supporting organizations. And while Erler recently passed the baton to fellow Curtis, Thaxter lawyer Rebecca Klotzle (he is now “of counsel” at the firm) his work is far from done.
Throughout its more than 120-year history, Sebago’s Camp O-AT-KA has brought boys from around the world together for a traditional residential camp experience. Like scores of Maine camps, Camp O-AT-KA focuses on simple living in Maine’s outdoors, teaching and honing skills, and helping campers to develop friendships, benefit from role models, and follow camp traditions designed to guide boys on their journey to adulthood.
Summer youth camps across Maine are still. Buildings are closed, boats and docks are out of the water, and the exuberant sounds of children learning and playing have given way to the quiet of late fall. But while campers and counselors are immersed in their lives at school and work and home, camp directors are as busy as ever as they approach the end of the year and look ahead to the 2020 season. Summer may have ended, but for camp leadership, “off-season” may be something of a misnomer.
Traditional youth camps bring to mind summers of play, friendship, and the challenge of learning new skills. But at their very core, camps are communities. They teach kids to build connections, resolve conflicts, and share activities and living space. Increasingly, camps also offer the children they serve the chance to contribute hard work and commitment to service projects. From pitching in both within camp boundaries and beyond, many camps in Maine support their campers in using their energy and enthusiasm for the greater good. It’s just another example of how camps across the state seek to teach youth lessons for a lifetime. Many youth camps across the state promote service work in their missions and incorporate ongoing service in campers’...
Traditional youth camps bring to mind summers of play, friendship, and the challenge of learning new skills. But at their very core, camps are communities. They teach kids to build connections, resolve conflicts, and share activities and living space. Increasingly, camps also offer the children they serve the chance to contribute hard work and commitment to service projects. From pitching in both within camp boundaries and beyond, many camps in Maine support their campers in using their energy and enthusiasm for the greater good. It’s just another example of how camps across the state seek to teach youth lessons for a lifetime. This two-part blog takes a look at four youth camps in Maine and their efforts to share the...
The annual fall meeting and educational workshop brought together almost 100 members of Maine Summer Camps, the nonprofit organization supporting youth camps across the state. Hosted by Migis Lodge in Casco on Wednesday, Sept. 18, the group enjoyed a morning of information and conversation, followed by another legendary Migis cookout on the sunny shores of Sebago Lake. Greeted by incoming Board President Beigette Gill, the group was introduced to six discussion topics by Education Committee Chair Anna Hopkins. The topics were intended to give participants the chance to talk to each other and learn from each other, Anna said. “This is the beginning of conversations, not the end.”
Camp directors have bid good-bye to their campers. Staff numbers have shrunk from robust teams to skeleton crews charged with hosting post-season events and closing up facilities. And regardless of the camp, year-round personnel are already looking to 2020. Post-season camp scrutiny leads to planning and possibilities for change, a process demanding time and energy. But camp directors, regardless of their camps’ size and location and mission, agree that evaluating their facilities and programs – and making decisions about improvements – benefits enormously from collaboration.
As the summer youth camp season came to a close, energy was high last week at Camp Susan Curtis in Stoneham. The camp, which serves economically disadvantaged Maine youth, has now ended its eight weeks of annual summer programming. But as the season concluded, campers’ enjoyment last Wednesday – from rocket launching by a STEM group to splashing in Trout Lake – was just a snapshot of 2019’s summer of fun and learning for a total of 465 Maine youngsters.
Isaac, a 14-year old camper at Birch Rock Camp in Waterford, was hot. Clad in long pants, a Birch Rock t-shirt, and hiking boots, he was tackling the Junior Maine Guide wet-day fire test. A billet of wood had soaked in a dishpan of water for five minutes. Now Isaac faced the challenge of using an axe and knife to cut that wood, then burn it under a small can of soapy water that hung above the fire pit. The goal? Burn the wood and boil the water to overflowing in 20 minutes.
The camp experience offers youngsters a broad range of benefits. Campers make friends, live in Maine’s natural beauty, and both learn new skills and advance the abilities they bring to camp. Teambuilding, collaboration, and developing independence are all part of the equation. But as camp leaders, counselors, and campers all know, camp can also involve conflict. Whether it’s sharing living space, feeling bullied or teased, or dealing with hurt feelings, campers don’t always get along.