Coniston in the Community!

YOUTH AND GOVERNMENT GOES VIRTUAL 

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This year, YMCA Camp Coniston staff, along with dedicated teachers, worked virtually with Stevens, Newport and Kearsage High Schools to deliver Youth and Government sessions to serve 300 teens from 30 schools throughout New Hampshire. Coniston’s main role was assisting the press corps—a body of a dozen students from different districts that write, edit, and publish newspapers during the sessions. Sessions were held virtually, which allowed students to communicate differently and perhaps change the process for planning in the coming years. We look forward to the 2022 sessions this March!

YMCA Youth & Government is a national program of the Y that involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized, model- government programs. Students from every corner of the U.S. have the opportunity to immerse themselves in experiential civic engagement and to, quite literally, practice democracy.

 

THE BUDDY BENCH

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YMCA Camp Coniston has a new Buddy Bench. Thanks to John Tilley for the idea, James and Aaron in maintenance for building the bench, and Session 5 campers for painting!

Our Arts & Crafts Director, Barb Hawley took it to the next level—as we like to say at Camp she Barb’d it up a bit with some friendship quotes. Barb’s true mission is always to share the joy experienced while creating art and that is just what she did with us. We can’t wait for the bench to see many new friendships formed on its comfort!

“Sit here and be a friend, make a friend, love a friend… give your time and your ears.”

 

K-9 SEARCH & RESCUE TRAINING

We were glad to see Northern New England K-9 Search and Rescue return this past winter and spring to use Coniston’s facilities and grounds, free of charge, for training purposes. The group is the main search and rescue group for VT, NH, & ME and is called into duty when hikers and skiers are lost in the outdoors. With Camp’s record breaking forty-forty inches of snow the conditions were perfect for training. We thank this group for their wonderful service in keeping the New England outdoor community safe!

 

HYPETHERM VOLUNTEERS

 
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Hypertherm volunteers worked for six full days at Camp to help us get ready for the summer! Several of the volunteers were Coniston alumni and we had a wonderful time welcoming them back to Camp. We can’t thank all of the volunteers enough for all of your hard work. We could not get camp ready without you!

 

 

NEW LONDON NH ROTARY

 
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Thank you New London NH Rotary for helping us get ready for the summer! They provided us with 2,000 masks and what a difference that made! They also visited Coniston for their annual meeting at Camp the Friday before Labor Day!

Coniston in the News!

Read on to find out what our wonderful Alumni have been up to this past year!!

Coniston was featured on the New Hampshire Chronicle!

Sean McDonald and Audrey Cox with the New Hampshire Chronicle visited Coniston this summer to try out some of our Camp activities!

 

 

Parents speak about Coniston nationally!

 

Coniston parents, Abbigail Chau and Anna Caccavaro, along with John Tilley, spoke with Yahoo!Life about camp this summer in an article: Camp is back! Here’s how it’ll work and why families can’t wait: ‘This is a summer of healing for our kids’. 

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Click to read the full article! 

 

John Tilley was live on New Hampshire Public Radio!

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Before summer began, John Tilley was live on NHPR NH Roundup with Laura Knoy talking about overnight camp and camping.

 

 

RECORD BREAKING SNOW AT CONISTON!

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On December 18th, Camp’s home town was featured on Good Morning America for having gotten one of the largest snow totals in New Hampshire!

 

 

CONISTON PODCAST!

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Look out for future announcements on our social media about our upcoming PODCAST!! Our Summer Camp Director, Nicole Berthiaume, has created this podcast and has been recording sessions with our wonderful summer staff about how life on Lake Coniston echoes through all of our lives. If you are interested in being a guest on our podcast please contact nicole@coniston.org.

Career Development Program

As part of our college and career development counseling initiative, current staff members received special opportunities during the summer to meet with our alumni and parent communities all while learning about the process of college applications.

This summer, high school aged LITs (Leaders in Training) had the opportunity to attend a Common Application / College Admissions workshop and older staff members were provided with a Resume Writing workshop, all offered by Jennifer Tockman of Colby-Sawyer College.

If you are are willing to speak to younger staff about the college search process, please reach out to jesse@coniston.org.

Alumni News!

Read on to find out what our wonderful Alumni have been up to this past year!!

A group of alumni spent a changeover together— Meaghan (White) Bonin CIT ‘98, Erin White former camper and 90s staff, Berta Sinclair Coniston living legend, CIT ‘96, Mary (Blaney) Hughes CIT ‘96, Kelly White CIT ’96, and Tim White – CIT ‘00. Mary and Kelly’s daughters attended session 3, and Meg’s daughter hopes to be joining them in 2022! It was also the 25th Anniversary of Berta, Mary and Kelly’s CIT year!

That’s right! Katie Smidt, ’04 CIT, ’10 & ’11 Girls Camp Director and current member of our Board was on the docket for some virtual staff training this year. Katie taught our staff about how to care for campers and their own mental health this summer.

 

 

Former camper and staff member, Andy Miller got married to Alexandra this past! Congratulations to you both! We are so happy to see so many Coniston alumni at your special day.

 

 

Big congratulations to Rachel Adler, former camper and staff member, on her marriage to Alex Dixit! It is lovely to see so many Coniston friends there to celebrate your wedding day.

 

Ben Kamisar got engaged! We hope you have a beautiful wedding day!

Michelle and Gabe Faithfull got married! Congratulations on your magical day!!

Josh Bates got engaged! We hope you have a wonderful wedding day!

Katie and Matt Comstock are expecting their first child! Congratulations! We can’t wait to meet the future camper!

Kyle Leahy, former CIT Director and camper, got married to Olivia. Congratulations!

Cassie Short Cassie Short got engaged to Bobby McLaughlin. They will be getting married in June 2022!

 Liz Dion graduated from Ohio State University with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. Congrats Dr. Liz!

Dylan Lustig and his wife Katie, welcomed their baby boy, Jack, in January! Congratulations Dylan and Katie. 

Ken Sneider, took 3rd place in the 5th annual San Francisco Sourdough eating contest, with a finish of 3.5 loaves!

Coniston parent, Chris Winship, represented Coniston during his backcountry camping trip in Yosemite NP!

Coniston alumnae Georgia Rivett Mills, Lily Himmelman and Jesse Ladd have moved in together in London!

Helen Segil started her own pottery business – Sludge House! Check out her business on instagram @sludgehousestudio

Kate Powers is making history in Portland! She is an ultimate frisbee player for Portland Rising, Portland’s first women’s professional ultimate frisbee team!

Chris Lovejoy Coniston alumnus, has just released his first solo single ‘On & On’ on Apple and Spotify. Check out his music video on YouTube!

Catherine Merkt moved to London to work at a Family Law firm after graduating law school, and has now moved back to her hometown of Geneva, Switzerland to complete her legal training.

Catherine has been working for a year and a half in a top family law firm as a trainee lawyer, and will take her Geneva bar exam in October 2022! She hopes to further her interests in child protection and women’s rights in the future. Good luck Catherine!

 


Yes! That is Conistonian and legendary drama director, Allie Luecke on the Guardian modeling her sleeping bag up-cycled into a puffer jacket. On Allie’s instagram page @allie. upcycles she shows people how to make their clothes fit better by letting out a seam, or creating a brand new piece from a garment that you love, but just isn’t working for you any more.

 

Jake Stetson just started a position in Flight Test Engineering at Boeing. He flies primarily on the 737-10 which is a new plane working towards getting certified. He flies on the plane with the test pilots and a number of other engineers. His role is to monitor and manipulate the total weight and center of gravity of the airplane during the tests. He also acts as the cabin safety focal where he is required to be CPR and First Aid certified so he can handle any safety issues in the cabin of the plane during testing. Amazing work Jake!

 

Walker Horton graduated from UVM with a degree in Computer Science and Information Systems!

Chloe Parker, former Drama Director, welcomed her baby boy, Harley, this past year!

Talia Ungareli graduated from UVM with a major in Animal Science. She is now at Gladys Porter Zoo, Texas, working as an Animal Caregiver/Trainer for gorillas and large carnivores.

Colin Grip met up with his former camper Eddie Scott. They both just started grad school and undergrad at Duke University together!

GeIzabelle Serrentino just got accepted at the University of Arizona! Congratulations Izabelle!

11-year-old camper, Quinn McCarthy, volunteers with the Pascack Valley Navigators as a student mentor, helping children ages 5 – 18 with special needs learn the basic skills of various sports. Great work Quinn!

Bert Myer shared this lovely photo with us. All of these children—sons and daughters of former Coniston campers and grandchildren of Coniston—connected friends—attended Camp this summer at the same time! (The photo is a few years old).

Ronan Carroll, Ryan Berger, Cameron Dunphy, Cal Donnelly, Otelia Donnelly, Owen Dunphy, Thomas Berger  and Wesley Berger. 

 

Fall Chronicle – Director’s Message

This summer, we were together again. We played together, worked together, ate together, and laughed together. The smiles we saw on children’s faces every day made a difference and this was because of the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication of so many. There are countless memories from the summer of 2021, but the one that will never disappear is the feeling of connection and togetherness. We returned to where we flourish and become our best selves and created the extraordinary community where we are all valued and supported.

On the walls of the Sander’s Leadership Center hang four banners—Community, Leadership, Civics, and Service—concepts which embody the Coniston Experience. On the following pages, you will find inspiring stories highlighted by these concepts,moments of celebration from summer, days of adventure, and lessons in resilience.

You’ll read about the relief which was felt by being surrounded by a supportive community, the joy of being utterly silly, and the pride that comes from accomplishing new things.

We hope these stories bring a smile and give you the feeling of hope. As we look to the future, remember Camp is not just a place you go for a weekend, a week, or a month, but an idea we carry with us as we all try to leave the world—and each other—a little stronger than before.

Creating Lifelong Memories Through the Dick and Nell Leach Campership

It’s with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our long-time friend, Dick Leach. He and his wife Nell have been among Coniston’s biggest advocates over the past two decades, sending twelve grandchildren to Camp, hosting many campers/staff at their home during days off, and throwing an annual community gathering— The Sunshine Christmas Luncheon—to send numerous children to Camp each summer! What a difference Dick made.

Before Dick passed away he wanted to give even more back and made a second $35,000 Campership in Perpetuity gift. Dick’s legacy will live on through
the two children his camperships will send to Camp, every year, forever. What a gesture of love.

Dick has left an imprint on many lives through the Camp Experiences he has provided. We are all grateful that Dick found Coniston and as we enjoy the beauty of Camp we will remember our dear friend.

We will continue the annual tradition of the Dick Leach Sunshine Lunch on December 10th, 12pm at Lake Sunapee Country Club.

Summer Highlights: ‘Of Course’ The Summer We All Needed

The gratitude we feel for 2021 is an of course sense of gratitude. When we asked our families to participate in new protocols they said, of course. When we were met with challenges that required us to lean into different areas of work, members of our team said, of course. Was this summer the most challenging summer in recent memory? Of course. Was it full of fun, adventure, and laughs? Of course. Was it the best summer ever? Of course.

This summer, the Coniston Community stepped up more than ever before. Check-in days included testing, social distancing, and staggered check-in times. Thank you parents. Our first check-in day was hard…long and hot. The struggles of the day helped us to grow and learn —enabling us to make improvements for the following check-ins. This was only the beginning of what ended up being our most magical summer yet. The summer we all needed.

A highlight from this summer were the stunning drama shows. In particular, our session 3 drama show, Coco—a story inspired by The Day of the Dead. We had a large number of staff from Mexico this summer who chose the show as a way to share their culture with the rest of Camp. The drama staff also made sure to incorporate authentic Mexican culture into the show, including traditional sugar skull makeup and costumes.

…staff cried, touched by the show. Some were homesick and the show made them feel closer to everybody. For Mexican staff, sharing this tradition was significant and they were proud to be able to share their culture with the Coniston Community. Alma, Drama Director.

Coniston campers weren’t just having fun at Camp, they were also having fun outside of Camp! This summer there were seven adventure trips, where campers went climbing, hiking, whitewater rafting, ziplining, and biking all over New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts in stunning surroundings! Some of our older campers also helped the local community on our service trips where they helped with meal preparation, gardening, and trail maintenance. Our CIT Program looked slightly different this year, as both trips stayed on the East Coast, thus creating a new program: North Coast CITs. Both our N-CITs and E-CITs had life changing experiences hiking either Katahdin or Mount Washington.

Our forty LITs who missed their CIT summer in 2020 were pleasantly surprised with
the opportunity to bond as a group on
an abbreviated CIT experience up Mount Washington during staff training. Additionally, once they summited, each LIT received an inspirational letter from fellow staff members—a tradition for all CITs.

…COVID took a little bit from all of us this past year in so many obvious and some subliminal ways, but if this day showed us anything, the strength and perseverance of the community of Coniston is not going anywhere. Fran, Girls Camp Director.

There may have been a few changes this summer to Coniston because of the pandemic, but Camp was Camp. The traditions were still alive. We still danced at meal times. We still had beautiful Vespers stories shared everyday. We still slept under the stars. We still stepped out of our comfort zones and tried new things. We still saw campers build friendships that will last a lifetime. We still had Camp. And it was truly special. It was what we all needed.

 

Summer Staff Extend Employment to Afterschool Programs

Every summer Coniston hires a group of outstanding individuals from around the world to work in different areas of Camp. This summer our international staff program faced many difficulties due to the travel restrictions, however, we were lucky enough to have a group of twenty-six individuals from Mexico, Columbia, and Sweden able to join us.

After an incredible summer, seven of our staff from Mexico were able to stay for an extra month and work in our afterschool programs.

Well-documented in the media, YMCA Camp Coniston was not exempt from the effect of the employment crisis this fall. Thanks to this amazing group of people, we were able to keep all five sites open; without them this wouldn’t have been possible.

Working at afterschool gave me the opportunity to practice my pedagogical skills. The kids are amazing and being able to spend time with them was the best. Staying an extra month at Camp made me feel more independent.

—Alma, New London Afterschool

Working at Coniston has made me learn so much about myself, how I deal with everything, to
be more patient, to be louder and to be more cheerful. I think I became a great counselor. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing people.

—Stephany, Lebanon Afterschool

They have no limits to love everything and everyone, and I think that is something we should really appreciate about children.

—Andrea, Sunapee Aterschool

Service Trips Help the Local Community

Two service trips with twenty-three young teens and their staff members worked with a group of organizations that give back to the local community instead of our traditional trips in Virginia volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Feeding America.

They supported Upper Valley Haven—an organization that offers food, shelter, housing, and child support—with meal preparation, as well as with general tidying. Additionally, our service trip team spent a day harvesting green beans with Willing Hands, and organizing for the Listen Thrift Stores Halloween sale. They also volunteered with Upper Valley Land Trust, Upper Valley Trails Alliance, and Cardigan Highlander Trail Crew, helping with trail maintenance and gardening.

Not having to travel this summer allowed our service trip members to have a few extra days of fun exploring various attractions throughout New Hampshire.

The service trips were amazing—staying local was special and the people these non-profits served were so appreciative. We were able to tackle projects that would have taken some of these organizations months to finish. While we don’t know how staying local will impact Coniston in the future, we are proud to be able to support our local community in so many ways.

Staff Complete Summer Fellowships at Camp with a Focus on Mental Health

For the past three summers Coniston has offered two paid fellowship positions to engage staff’s academic knowledge and leadership ability for the betterment of the Camp Community. These programs allow us to give current undergraduates internships recognized by their colleges. Megan Davis was the recipient of the Ernest Baynes Academic Fellowship and Katie Bosco was selected to serve as the George Dorr, Jr. Leadership Fellow.

Both fellowships focused on the mental, emotional, and social health of our campers and staff with a mission to promote healthy habits, education, and to provide support. The Coniston Community has faced the challenges of the last 18 months head on and as we emerge the work the fellows’ provided this summer was extremely important.

In addition to supporting individuals, Megan and Katie also shared mental health tips during Vespers, provided campers with activity booklets as a calming exercise to deal with stress, organized evening programs for staff to promote well-being, and created handouts for counselors to educate them on how to better mentor a struggling camper. The reading nook located inside the lodge was re-purposed into a mindfulness corner with posters promoting well-being.

Summers to come will be critical as we work together to counteract the persistent emotional consequences of the pandemic and other adverse childhood experiences, in addition to social-emotional and academic learning losses.

Mental health was a big focus this summer and received the attention it needed for the Coniston Community.

—Ernest Baynes Academic Fellow, Megan Davis

We normalized mental health for both campers and staff—began to put an end to stigmas surrounding the term.

—George Dorr, Jr. Leadership Fellow, Katie Bosco