Coniston Staff Members have already raised one campership and are climbing towards another one

As part of the Staff Campership Program, John Tilley will match every “Thank-a-donor letter” written by a staff member with $20. At a letter writing night (with many fruit snacks and capri-suns of course), staff members wrote 75 letters to contribute to a campership.

We asked Staff members who contributed why the Staff Campership is important to them. 

All these counselors have been impacted by camp in different ways, but in their answers one key message remains the same — everyone deserves the opportunity to experience camp.

“The people I’ve met at camp and the relationships I’ve made have been a really special part of my life, and I feel I’ve developed a strong sense of self,” Libby, reasearch fellow, said. “I truly believe that every child should have the opportunity to come to Coniston.” (Libby, on the right, walking with a friend)

“Camp gave confidence and purpose to my life,” Farren, in-cabin counselor, said. “I wanted to help a camper come to camp and have what I had.” (Farren at Arts&Crafts cleaning a paint plate)

“It’s a really big goal of mine to have staff feel like they contributed to send a camper here and I myself wanted to contribute,” Honor, Girls Camp Director, said. “Staff come back every year to give campers an incredible experience and all kids should get to have camp. If staff helping out makes that happen, it’s something we should do.” (Honor, top stair second from the left, sits with other members of senior staff)

“Camp has given me so much, I just wanted to give back,” Ollie, former Boys Camp Directer and current Maintenance staff, said. (Ollie in a four wheel maintenance vehicle)

“Every kid deserves the opportunity to come to camp,” Jack H., in-cabin counselor, said. “I’m giving so every camper can have what I had.” (Jack H. at his program area riflery)

“I care about kids having a good time at camp and it’s a great place for them to grow and become comfortable talking to all types of people,” Nate, Boys Camp Director, said.  (Nate wearing a batman mask at Chapel with Honor and Brackett) 

“I donated because camp changed my life as a young kid,” Will H. “To give a kid the same experience is why I give.” (Will at his program area ropes)

“Camp has made a positive impact on my life and I want to make sure other people have the chance to experience it,” Sophie, first year counselor, said. (Sophie during her kitchen shift writing on the “meal board”)

Kiley Macleod – Campfire Coordinator – Vespers

This past year, I went to school in the city of Salem, Oregon at a school I’m sure none of you have ever heard of- Willamette University (roll bearcats). Growing up and living in MA for my entire life, there was so much I didn’t know about Oregon. In case any of you are also in that same boat, here are a few fun facts about the state! It rains about 165 days out of the year, and almost all of those days happen from December to March. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that during my spring semester, there were maybe 14 sunny days. You think you like rain, and then you move to Oregon and everything changes!

As I’m sure many of you can relate to, I really struggle with change and transitions. My parents will tell me stories of how hard it used to be to get me to go anywhere. I would cry and cry and cry some more, unable to articulate that I was really just feeling anxious. The way these stories- and there are many of them- end is pretty much the same every time. I got to whatever thing or event I was so worked up about, and I ended up having an awesome time.

Even though I don’t typically cry for an hour before I have to leave my house now, I still struggle with the same feelings of intense anxiety. A crippling fear of the unknown and the lack of control that I often feel works against my happy and bubbly personality, as if they’re fighting a battle inside of my head.

Although I have, for the most part, learned a lot of great ways to cope with these feelings, they of course still get to me sometimes. Bouncing back to the unfathomable amount of rain in Oregon, the dreary and wet days were often the hardest times for me to cope with transitions.

One particular day always sticks out to me from this past semester. I woke up a little behind schedule, so I had to rush to get ready for my 9am anatomy class. As I sometimes did, I forgot my raincoat. My campus was small, my walk to class was only 8 minutes. No big deal, right? Wrong. The way to class was okay, the rain hadn’t really picked up yet. After an excruciatingly long lecture on the muscles and compartments of the lower leg, I was ready to go home and curl up into a ball. The minute I stepped foot outside, though, it was like the floodgates opened and dumped the entire Pacific ocean on my head.

When I say drenched, I really mean that I was drenched. Soaking wet from head to toe within 30 seconds. As I started my walk back home, same as always, something felt different. All over again I felt like that little girl who couldn’t do anything but cry uncontrollably. So, I did.

On my 8 minute walk back, I absolutely sobbed. I’m talking boogers coming out of my nose, eyes so puffy it was hard to see, gasping for air sobbing. I was so beyond overwhelmed by everything going on. The rain was so heavy I could hardly see where I was going, and I just felt like every little stressor and sad moment that had been building up for the weeks and months leading up to that day exploded inside of me.

I decided to stop at the less busy of 2 coffee shops on my campus to dry off for a minute and collect myself in a quiet corner. When I walked in, I was greeted, as I was every time I went in there, to a quote. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good quote. But, this one in particular really got to me. As I stood there, soaked to the bone and freezing cold, the chalkboard screamed in neon letters, “you can’t control the weather, so you must learn to dance in the rain.”

Although it’s a seemingly innocent and positive quote, it really got to me that day. There I was, just to reiterate once more- drenched in rainwater and tears, and instead of making me feel better it only made me feel worse. I couldn’t, and still can’t control the weather. I can’t control what happens to me- good or bad. Unfair things happen every day, even to the best and kindest of people.

If the “dance in the rain” mentality works for you, that is so wonderful and I absolutely support you and hope you kartwheel and twirl every time you need to. For me, that’s just not how it works. As has everyone, I’ve had my fair share of sticky situations in my life, many of which I had absolutely no power over. Upsetting, scary, and just all around unfortunate things happen to everyone. And, so often as a society we push the message that positivity is the only answer. The only appropriate response to terrible things is to dance in the stormy weather.

I’m not like that. When sad things happen to me, I feel a whole lot of everything. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I take a long shower, sometimes I lay on the floor of my counselors quarters just to catch my breath. And that’s okay. Whether or not I want it to, the rain has and will continue to come. So, I will continue to feel all of my feelings, however that may look on any given day.

It’s more than okay to not feel happy all the time. However you may feel in this moment, or any moment, is okay. Having emotions is not a weakness, it’s a strength. Experiencing the ups and downs of this life is the world’s greatest privilege. Without the rain, we would never truly appreciate the sun.

In case you’re wondering, I did get back to my dorm and continue crying for a few minutes, and then I picked myself up. I peeled off my wet clothes, took a hot shower, and put on dry sweatpants. I’m not ashamed that I didn’t dance, I’m proud that I felt my feelings as they came and so that I could effectively move on. I know I’ll never be a dance through the rain enthusiast, and that’s okay. I’m a hot shower and dry sweatpants enthusiast, and after a long long time, I’m okay with that.

I’m no longer the little girl who can’t get out the door for lacrosse practice without sobbing, terrified that if anyone saw my tears I would be viewed as weak. I’m a strong woman whose power is not limited by her emotions, but strengthened. And, to end on a happy note, the day after this story took place was sunny. So, no matter how stormy the weather may look, I pinky promise that eventually, the sun will rise, and you’ll come out even stronger on the other side.

Nick Newberry – Camp Naturalist – Vespers

Hello, my name is Nick Newberry. I hail from Oakton, Virginia where I am a high school science teacher. This is my 12th summer at camp. My role at Camp is to design signs about Coniston’s incredible nature.

While Coniston’s nature has deep meaning to me and holds many Vespers-worthy lessons, today I will not be talking about nature, but people. Specifically people from countries other than the United States: our international staff.

Before I begin in earnest, I’d like everyone to silently raise their hand if they would like to visit a foreign country at some point in the future (a vast majority of campers and staff raised their hands). I hope that each of you who raised their hand is able to travel and experience other cultures. Traveling for me has enriched my life in so many ways. My experiences in the far corners of the planet have shown me different perspectives on life fulfillment and values, cuisine, and ways of living. I am forever grateful for those experiences. With that being said, some of my most cherished international experiences have actually taken place right here at Camp in the Woods of New Hampshire.

I have been coming to Coniston since 2005 and in that time, I have come to know and be influenced by many international staff members from Brunei and Zimbabwe to Mexico, Canada, and many places in between. Every year these incredible staff members step away from their lives back home, leaving the comfort of their friends, family, and favorite food behind to take a chance on a camp in rural New Hampshire where they may not know a single person, or even feel confident with the language. These brave and adventurous people have shared a tremendous amount with me through stories, conversations, and experiences. I have lived the intensity of a Mexico-U.S. soccer game with 20 Mexican staff as the only American; learned the ins and outs of outdoor adventure in New Zealand; and heard tales of food, culture, and exploration in the mountains of Colombia and Mexico. These moments and many others have allowed me to gain authentic views of life in another culture with my feet firmly planted on American soil.

Those of you who know me well, know that I love a good story. I find that a good story shared with me by someone allows me to teleport and time travel in my mind, and to feel a stronger connection with the storyteller. So, I want to share one particular story with you about a very special connection I made last year at camp. As many of you are aware, Coniston has an exchange program with a hospitality school in South Africa. Last summer I grew close with the counselors from this school, spending long hours getting to know them at the cooking program area and during free time. Eventually, the end of the summer came and they returned to their homes in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and I returned home to Virginia. The story picks up a few months later when, during the winter holidays, I received a gift from one of my students. The gift was a small figurine of a Blue Jay, which the student bought at a local fair trade shop. The Jay was made by painting a large Ulumbe Tree seed, which is about the size of a thumb. Accompanying the Jay was a short story about its origin. The seed was grown in Bulawayo and painted in Ruwa, both of which are in Zimbabwe. I messaged Yolanda Zenasi, the lone representative from Zimbabwe at camp last summer to see if she knew either of these places; it turns out she has been to both! Telling my student about this connection made the gift all the more special for both of us. Fast forward 7 months to two nights ago when I drove some of the South African group to the Bigelow cabin across the lake for a celebration dinner they were preparing for their school’s directors, who were here at camp visiting. Because of my pre-existing relationships with this South African staff, I was invited to stay and ended up remaining there for many hours while each South African student shared their story of how they came to be at the school and the gratitude they had for their directors. Each student spoke for between 15 minutes and half an hour, which is not something I have ever experienced in America. Their stories about hurdles they had overcome to get to Coniston and the gratitude they had for being here brought tears to my eyes. I now feel a stronger connection than ever to these incredible people from across the world.

I will leave you all with a challenge. Your challenge for this session is to start a conversation with a staff member from a different county. To allow yourself for a brief period of time to travel the world through a story while strengthening your connection to that person, camp, and the world. That connection won’t happen by accident, you need to seek it out.

Izzy Pavano – Cabin Counselor – Vespers

Hello Girls Camp, my name is Izzy I have vespers tonight, are there any announcements?

This past year marked a huge milestone in my life which was arguably the most dramatic change I’ve experienced so far. The fall began the same way as the previous 12 years of school only now instead of worrying about my overdue summer work on the first day of school, I was sporting a red “seniors” shirt and worrying about how to make the most of what would be my final year in the town I’ve called home for all 18 years of my life.

I knew that my last first day of high school would only be the first of many lasts I would experience last year.

The thought of so many goodbyes brought more stress and anxiety to my life than joy and excitement for what was supposed to be the best year of high school. As I tried to fall asleep my mind would swarm with thoughts of what my last a cappella concert, family dinner, football game, calculus class, sleepover with my sister, late night yogurt beach run with friends and eventually graduation would feel like. I was so determined to savor every one of these moments and squeeze every drop of life out of my senior year, but I had no idea how to do it.

Amidst this turmoil, I came across the concept of being a yes person. Put simply, a yes person accepts invitations, challenges new experiences and through their immersion in new settings they make memories that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. I knew that my simple solution to the stress of making the most of my senior year would be making a conscious effort to be more of a yes person.

My friends Kate and Will asked if I would audition for my school’s improv troupe one afternoon. I said yes, hopped out of bed, drove to the audition and after a successful callback was one of the eight new members accepted into the troupe of the 30+ auditionees. Some of my fondest memories of senior year are those made with my improv troupe and I undeniably gained life skills and confidence in myself and the power of “yes, and” that I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

Similarly, this spring my friend Brady asked if I would be interested in trying out for the sailing team despite the fact that the last time I had touched a sailboat was when I was in G-11 and I’d never read a sentence of the 120 page rule book that seemingly every sailing team had memorized and readily available in pdf format on their phone. I said yes, made the team (it was no cuts), met amazing new friends, travelled to beautiful clubs and learned an entirely new skill that is now one of the most fun things I’ve ever done and something I hope to continue in college. I found myself saying yes to more a cappella gigs, invitations to ice cream and walks with my dad.

When I look back on my senior year some of my fondest memories are long rehearsals followed by dinner with my improv troupe and music filled bus rides to regattas in Rhode Island with the sailing team.

I am not suggesting that you invest yourself in the performing arts or a brand new sports team but I do urge you to say yes to things you’re unfamiliar with, that may scare you, or things that may just be easier if you said no to because you never know what may come out of them.

To close I have a quote that I feel embodies this message well and urges me to be more of a yes person which is “and it never will be again.” Every passing moment is an opportunity to learn something new and will never be again. Last year was my senior year of high school and it will never be again.

Today is July 11th at 5pm of Session 2 2023 and it will never be again. This is your life GK and it will never be again so treat every moment as an opportunity to say yes to a new experience or lesson and enjoy the results.

Now I have a song..

Rainy Days: Finding the Magic in Any Weather

Why do we love rainy days at camp? 
We asked campers and here are just a couple reasons why — 

“The water is really nice in the rain.”
“It’s nice to cuddle in the cabin.”
“It’s raining cats and water!”
“It’s easier to frolic in the rain.”
“The vibes.”
“I love rainy days in the cabin.”
“Indoor evening programs.”

When it rains, we always have a back-up plan. 

At landsports, the campers and staff trekked away from the rainy fields to find a new spot to use their hockey sticks.  They found a place right outside of the dining hall. Under a tent, affectionately known as “the slab,” the counselors set up the game of street hockey. 


It turns out the slab was a perfect place for an impromptu game. Frisbee, on the other hand, embraced the rainy field for their game of mini-ultimate frisbee. We hope all white shirts made it out without a stain, but no promises. 


The senior Basketball period accepted the rain and played an intense game of pickup. It was known that the rain was the 6th defender for both teams. Of course, they had time to pose for pictures (Is that the Celtics starting five?).


Girls Waterfront wasted no time jumping into the water, because as we know, the water is  always warmer in the rain. The campers and Waterfront Instructors compared the water to a “nice bath” or a “relaxing sauna.” “Swimming in the rain is magical,” Claire, Waterfront Instructor.

Brackett Lyons – Aquatics Director – Vespers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

– Fred Rodgers

Seven years ago, I sat around a campfire at a camp much like this one. With bated breath, I listened as a list of names was called. The list carried with it a chance to return to Camp Belknap for at least one more summer under the pines. And the list did not carry my name. At 16, my days at camp were over. I would never work for Belknap.

I was crestfallen. Camp was over, but life beckoned with new chances, adventures, and opportunities.

I wiped the tears from my face, hugged my friends goodbye, and drove home to the real world.

I finished high school, went to college, met a girl, and picked out a career. Camp had built me into a young man filled with confidence and hope for his future. And it was all going according to plan.

But man plans, and God laughs.

Six months after my college graduation, everything had unraveled. I was brokenhearted, unsure of my career and life, and losing a battle with depression. For months I wallowed in a dark apartment in Cambridge and scrolled endless jobs on indeed that I knew deep down I didn’t want. I slowly slipped away, swallowed by the weight of it all. I had no light at the end of my tunnel.

I needed help.

The thing is, when you are the one that needs help, finding it can be astonishingly hard. The slightest effort becomes herculean. Looking for helpers feels like a monumental task. I felt like I was using every ounce of strength I had just to hold on. How could I reach out with my fingers so preoccupied gripping the ledge?  How could I look for the helpers?

But what the quote I read doesn’t mention is that true helpers do not need to be asked. What is so incredible about them is that they will find you. They will help whether you are looking or not. They will help whether you ask or not.

In the bleak winter, they will wade through snow drifts. They will come to you in the cold and the dark and light you a fire.

One of my helpers is sitting here today.

Nate Levine has been my friend since we were nine years old. And for those of you who don’t know, we’re old, so nine years old is a LONG time ago.

Nate saw me in trouble. He heard me talk about life. He saw someone who needed help. And he was brave, kind, and generous enough to offer it. Nate did something incredible for me. Nate brought me back to camp. Not my camp. His camp. The place he loves more than anyone I have ever met. And he opened the door to me because he knew what a place like this could do. Nate gave me a light in the dark.

This summer, Camp has saved me. I am back to enjoying my life. I smile more in a day than I did in a year. That is because of the helpers. I want to thank everyone at Coniston for that. I want to thank Nate more than anyone. Nate, you saved me. I love you. I will owe you forever.

Being under the pines truly and unequivocally made me a better man. It forged me. It gave me love, empathy, and kindness. It taught me to put others before myself. And it’s clear that being on the lake did the same for Nate. It is doing the same thing for all of you. If you let it, this camp will change you for the better. Because this camp is filled with helpers. They are your councilors. They are your fellow campers. They are across the water in GK. They are your cabin mates.

Among the faces around you now are helpers like Nate.  Look at them. I implore you to let them help when you need it. And trust me, you will need it. We all need help at some point. And if you are brave enough, there is a helper in the mirror too. I encourage you all to look for those in need of your help and give it without hesitation. Look for the helpers. And if you don’t see one, be one.

My name is Brackett Lyons. This is my eighth summer at camp. And my first summer on the lake.

Noah Kahan—Singer/Songwriter—Coniston: 2005-2012

At eight years old and having never been away from home for long, Noah was terrified to come to Camp. However, after his first summer, Camp became a huge part of his life—seeing old friends and the beautiful lake—“summer became synonymous with Coniston.”

After receiving a recording contract his senior year in high school, Noah pursued a career as a musician; he is enjoying a life which is a whirlwind of performing live on programs like Late Night with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Meyers, recording songs, and creating music around the world. 

“I would say that I use the social skills I learned at Coniston all the time. Meeting new people and cooperating in a group setting is difficult, and it’s something that Coniston taught me to do year after year. I believe those social skills have propelled me through the rest of my young adult life!

Coniston instilled confidence in my ability as a musician and person. I’ll never forget how excited I would be before every talent show… 

…I believe much of my identity was formed in the cabins in Boys Camp and on the docks of Boys Waterfront. I made lasting friendships on the wood panels of the Adirondack chairs, and slept under the stars on my overnights. What I remember most about Camp Coniston was the mythos of the place. Coniston was a place that survived in my mind on its reputation as a grounds for unexplainable magic that cast a spell on its campers, bringing them back every year. Coniston will always be a part of my life.”