YMCA Camp Coniston Land Acknowledgement

YMCA Camp Coniston in Croydon is located on the lands within the Lake Sunapee watershed in N'dakinna, the traditional lands and waterways of the Abenaki, Pennacook and other related Wabanaki Peoples past and present, we acknowledge and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations for thousands of years from the beginning of time.

The following is a little lesson in Ethno-Etymology:

We have been in the process of decolonizing the numerous colonial narratives and town folk tales and histories that seem to always be embellished to create a sense that someone or something unique happened in that local.

What we can tell you is that most of the “place name” tribal identities were created by colonial people and later by ethnologists that were seeking to micro-manage our histories.

As for the Sunapee area, it was probably inhabited by extended family groups from the Merrimack valley areas of the main village of Pennacook.

For your information here is a little narrative that we previously submitted to another interested party in Sunapee.  The Sunapee translation has been revised and anglicized by and for historical commercialism “Goose Lake” such as seen lately – “Soo-Nipi.”

The actual translation in Abenaki for Lake Sunapee is “Seninebi” = rock = “sen” + (in) water = “nebi” == “Seninebik” = = rocky lake place.

Within the word Sunapee or Soo-Nipi – there is no Abenaki reference to the wild goose or a lake in the shape of a goose.  Our case in point is that the Abenaki translation for:  Goose = “W8bigilhakw” / Goose (Canadian) = “W8btegwa” / Goose (wild) = “W8btegua” or “W8btegwak” (locative word form).

We think that there are possibly two explanations for the changes:

  1. Goose was added for some commercial, tourist, or hunting purpose.

  2. The Goose reference was removed from the original lake name – which we actually think was the case because colonial people could not say the word.   It is our belief that the original name was something like “the Stoney Waters of (or where) the Geese (came) or were to be found.”   This would be something like this – Seninebikw8btegwak = “rocky water place where the wild geese were located.”

For example: This was found to be the same case in Rochester’s Gonic” area where the actual name was “Msquamanaguanagonek,” “at the narrow salmon spearing place,” later shortened by early colonial writers to “Squamanagonic,” and finally condensed to “Gonic” (Rochester).

FYI – In the Abenaki language the “i” is the strong “e” sound and “8” = Ô or ô = French nasal long “o” sound.

We know that we have been going off track from your original inquiry, but we think that it is important to first “de-colonize” the history related to any place name inquiry.

CARES Act Tax Credits

In late March 2020, Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill in response to COVID-19, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and with it came many tax benefits for almost any taxpayer who makes charitable contributions in 2020. This blog is written to help educate our community on how it can impact your charitable contributions in the 2020 tax year. Please consult a tax advisor to discuss your specific circumstances.

The window for taking advantage of these benefits closes on December 31, 2020. Be sure to plan accordingly.

Are you planning to itemizing deductions?

Prior to 2020, households who itemize their deductions could only deduct a maximum of 60% of adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash donations. For 2020, the CARES Act has eliminated this cap and households can deduct 100% of their adjusted gross income.

This could theoretically mean zero taxable income. For example, if you have an AGI of $100,000, you would normally be able to deduct up to $60,000 for gifts to charity.  With the temporary changes in the CARES Act, you could now deduct up to your full AGI of $100,000 if you give that much to charity in 2020.

In the event you have made a multi-year pledge, you might want to accelerate payment of the pledge balance in 2020 to take advantage of the deductions available.

Are you planning to take the standard deduction?

The CARES Act allows for up to $300 in charitable contributions per individual and $600 per household to qualify as an above-the-line deduction, meaning you don’t have to itemize deductions in order to claim the deduction.

For example, if your individual and you don’t have $12,400 in qualifying expenses to deduct then you take the standard deduction (standard deduction for an individual is $12,400). The CARES Act increases that amount up to $12,700 if you donate $300 to a non-profit. Thus you would get more money back in your return. Pending your tax bracket it could be anywhere from $50 to $150 back. 

Are you interested in corporate giving? 

In the past corporations were able to deduct charitable donations up to 10% of taxable income. The CARES Act raises the cap to 25%.

Coniston Hosts Newport and New London Rec Department Day Campers

Each Thursday, this summer, campers from the New London and Newport Recreation Departments Day Camp joined us at Coniston. Permanent use of Coniston buses this summer eased socially distant transportation requirements. YMCA staff helped keep kids safe on the water and help train visiting-staff in group management. Below is an email from the Newport and New London directors.

When Coniston called to invite our camp to visit this summer there was no hesitation in my response. At the time of the call we weren’t sure how we were going to conduct our camp and I was searching for activities to do with our kids. Ordinarily we would travel across the state to various attractions, but those trips were canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

I was ecstatic to learn that our campers would get the opportunity to experience what Coniston had to offer. I have lived in neighboring Newport for most of my life and have never had the opportunity to visit Camp. I worked in the same school with one of the camp nurses and the horseback director. Both of them rave about their summer jobs and frankly I was a little jealous.

This “hidden gem” in Croydon with the rustic cabins and the pristine lake is breathtaking. Our campers loved every minute of their visit. Of course the swimming, tie dye shirts and field games were nice, but the kayaking and archery were our campers favorites. Many had never done either activity before.

Each time I looked at our campers participating in the various activities, I kept thinking how lucky these kids are to be able to enjoy this facility and the many different outdoor adventures it has in one location. Our days at Coniston pale in comparison to anything we would have done at our camp this summer. One camper even asked if we could go back to Coniston next year. Hopefully (for your sake), this won’t be possible, but if it was, I would put you on our calendar right now. This would easily replace our trips to Weir’s Beach or Chunky’s Movie Theatre.

Our campers live in a town without a lot of opportunity and we were grateful that they were able to get the chance to use the Coniston facility. Additionally, we were beyond grateful to have the Coniston staff available to instruct our campers without any cost to us.

Your generosity has made it possible for our campers to create memories that they will cherish for a lifetime and in a time when our campers didn’t have much to be thankful for, I want to thank you for making our campers believe in the kindness of strangers.

— Becky Merrow, Day Camp Director Newport, NH Recreation Dept.

On behalf of all of the New London Recreation day camp staff and campers I would like to thank you for your part in making this summer as incredible as it was. We are immensely grateful for your generosity in letting us use not only both of your vans, but also your facilities on countless occasions. With this summer being difficult for many families and campers it was amazing to see them have the change to experience camp and just be kids. The vans gave us the ability to take daily trips to Bucklin beach, as well as trips to Mount Kearsarge, Rye Beach, Quechee Gorge, and many other locations. Without your help day camp would not have been as successful, fun, or memorable for both the campers and staff.

Thank you again for your commitment to our community! Coniston is a special place and you have opened your doors for so many! 

— Scott Blewitt, Recreation Director, New London Recreation Department


Conistonians Volunteer in Their Local Communities to Keep Camp on the Map

This summer, many campers, alumni, community members, and afterschool families are volunteering in their local community to help the “Keep Coniston on the Map Campaign”. Thanks to a generous donor each hour of volunteering converts to a $5 gift to Camp. A big thanks to all Conistonians for making a difference in their local community! We hope you enjoy some of the stories, quotes, and photos from Camps volunteerism program below.

“The map is just incredible. What a clever way to engage campers and teach them the importance of being a part of positive change in the world.”

— Coniston Parent

Campers, Grace and Molly helped pick up trash around their town and local beach. Making the environment a healthier place for their community to enjoy.

Camper, Terry cleaned up a flower bed in his neighborhood that had a lot of litter and trash so the local gardener could replant flowers. 

Camper, Addison helped moved books for her local public library for a project to expand the Children’s section.

Alumna, Jennifer from the UK, virtually ran a Guide and Ranger program for girls aged 10-17, who previous to COVID-19 would meet in their community weekly. Similar to Coniston the girls are all from different backgrounds and many are going through personal struggles, making regular contact with friends so vital. Through projects, skills, and activities the girls learn to make new friends, build self-confidence and independence, while also learning how to be part of a larger community. Many of the morals, ethics, and life lessons we teach come from things learned at from my summers at Coniston.

Every Wednesday, CIT Claire and her mother have been volunteering at the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Their jobs have varied from sorting canned food/dry goods into categories so they can be distributed; filling plastic bags with bulk oatmeal and sealing the bags with a heat sealer; packing fresh fruits and veggies from large crates into small mesh bags for distribution; and cleaning up when she is done.

“We’ve decided to volunteer at the Arlington Food Assistance Center because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused food instability to skyrocket — people are dealing with unemployment and can’t afford food.

Everyone at AFAC is super careful to wash their hands, and wear masks, gloves, and hats when we work together. They play music while we’re there, and every now and then songs come on that remind me of Camp There’s a nice community feel, and we look forward to our Wednesday afternoons.”


Camp Winning Spirit Community Day

First of all, I need to tell you how grateful I am to YMCA Camp Coniston for its continued efforts to make the world brighter, despite the drastic changes COVID-19 has brought to all of our lives. The decision to offer Community Days is a shining example of your commitment to your community as a whole, and I feel tremendously blessed to be a part of it.

It was such a joy to see families enjoying all the beauty that Coniston has to offer; whether on or in the water, or running across the lawn to make s’mores. I will never forget the absolute joy with which two friends from Camp Winning Spirit ran out across the lawn, dancing in the rain.

So please know, I deeply appreciate Coniston’s invitation to pediatric cancer families this summer. On behalf of all of us at the Childhood Cancer Lifeline, thank you.

— Sylvia Pelletier, President of Childhood Cancer Lifeline of NH

The sentiment is shared by many families as well. Below are their messages and photos of appreciation.

For families of pediatric cancer survivors, the pandemic has further complicated our efforts to keep our kiddos safe and healthy. For our family, this meant continuing to remain on lockdown, even as summer has brought chances for others to head out safely into the world again. We are so appreciative of Coniston’s Community Days as one of the only true “days of summer” we’ve been able to enjoy as a family this year. We all left the day feeling energized and relieved that we were able to have some summer fun as a family. Thank you, Coniston!

— The Pepin Family

We cannot say enough about your amazing Camp and staff. Even though this year looked different at Camp my kids looked forward to it for weeks and had a GREAT time. Camp Coniston is for us about lifelong memories and bonding with the special family of Childhood Cancer Lifeline. The counselors do everything to make it fun and you can tell they love the Camp and greeting us every year. A heartfelt “Thank You” from our family for helping our special kids feel like kids and forget if only for a short time the weight of their illnesses.

— The Anderson Family

It was refreshing to have a day of respite at Coniston in the midst of COVID-19. Beth really enjoyed the opportunity to connect with some friends in person. We appreciate all of the efforts that made the day possible. Seeing some familiar counselors was great too. During this time of “social distancing” the day was a bright reminder that we all are in this together.

— The Brooks Family

Thanks so much to everyone for this event. It really means a lot to us. This year was a pretty big deal for Bradley because it was the first time he could go in the lake (so the first time we could all go in the lake). He had his port the last two times so he couldn’t go in because of the risk of infection. This was also his first time at camp since he finished his two years of chemo so he did a lot more running around. He even fell asleep on the car ride home

— The Rainford Family

Alumni Community Day — An Inside Perspective

The Horton Family always takes advantage of visiting Coniston – our favorite place – whenever we can. Lynn and Sherm were campers and staff in the 1970s and early 1980s. When Coniston offered a Family Camp program (before the One Week / Session 5 program was added), we attended every summer. Our children, Bradford, Walker, and Hayley grew up with Family Camp and then attended regular camping sessions and Adventure Camp trips before being CITs and joining the staff. 

We were heartbroken at the news that Coniston wouldn’t be providing “fun in the sun” for campers this summer. Hayley was ready to be on the staff, eager to work in Ecology and Archery and with a middler cabin. As it was for most, the spring and summer were totally disrupted and the canceling of Camp was a big blow.

We were thrilled when Coniston announced the Community Days and that there was an alumni focused set of events! Three of us visited on a beautiful Monday and while we arrived after the opening bell, there was easy parking and a clear path to the check-in desk beside the dining hall. At check-in we got a wrist-band and sheet describing the day’s events and camp rules.

We were assigned a cabin in Girls Camp as a place to change into swimwear, etc, but our first stop was visiting Archery and shooting a few rounds. After Archery we did go swimming, on what used to be called “Family Beach” but what is now, I think, called Snorkeling beach.

The event was well attended and it was wonderful to experience the “sights and sounds” of camp. There were enough smaller kids attending (thanks to all the alumni who keep creating new Coniston Campers!) to make the camp (almost) feel like it would during a regular camping session. It was also great to see so many people enjoying the lake; kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and swimming. At the end of day, when people were packing-out, it was both sad and beautiful to see the lake and camp return to it’s quiet, camperless state.

Staff and alumni were all extremely friendly while also respectful of distancing and wearing masks. Camp is great because there is enough space to spread out and stay safe. 

It was a fun and relaxing day and we really appreciated the opportunity to visit and to play. Thank you to the year-round and summer staff for making these Community Days possible and thanks to everyone for supporting the Camp through this challenging time!

Looking forward to our next visit!
The Hortons, Lynn, Sherm, & Hayley

July 2020 Community Update

It’s been almost two months since we announced the closing of Camp for the summer.

Those two months feel like years. Years of quarantine. Years until the end of school. Years of watching the world grapple with hatred, racism, and ultimately—love.

While our goal is always to work for others, it is difficult not to make these times personal—especially when it is easy to feel like all we have is ourselves.

So we have set about to intentionally bring a little light to what can feel like a very dark time.

A generous donor has enabled Camp to open this summer for Community Days at no charge. These days at Camp are open to essential workers, local families, and the community in which Coniston exists. We hope grandparents can feel safe to see their grandchildren for the first time in months. We hope families can be together and boost their mental well-being at the lake. We hope to share our beautiful facility with local day camps and perhaps help their programs with the 15 summer staff the grant enabled us to re-employ. Find more details here.

As you may have heard, the Coniston Community has banded together to make certain Camp is here in future summers. While there is still work to do on the fundraising front, another donor has stepped forward to encourage the Coniston Community to volunteer near their homes this summer. There, campers, alumni, families, and you can sponsor your favorite program area by volunteering close to home this summer. Your children can help a neighbor, your family can work in a soup kitchen, teens and college students can work to bring justice for others. Those hours will help color in a beautiful hand-drawn map of Camp and keep their program areas “on the map.”

I want to state that I am unequivocally committed to making Coniston an antiracist organization that is welcome and reflective of our larger community. To that end, we have begun to examine our training, culture, and traditions operationally. In addition, we have assembled a board committee to promote diversity, equity, and anti-racism at the organizational level.

On August 7, we will host Carolyn Finney, PhD, author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. This event will be open to community and board members and will be uploaded to the camp website so that all community members can watch and participate.

We are also preparing and grappling with opening Coniston’s five afterschool sites that serve over 200 families throughout the Upper Valley as we all prepare for what school schedules will bring this fall.

In conclusion, I look forward to the constructive changes 2021 will bring to our community. With over 800 applications already in, we can tell our families are as well. Our efforts at creating a small light during this time are reinforced by the fact that the first program to fill for next summer was a Service Trip. The concept that we can make a difference in the lives of others is one that lives in our community.

I look forward to a world where those lives help change the world in which we live.

With much love,


Alumnus Helps Shape Community Days

With lockdown stretching on, it became apparent that there was a need to ease the anguish of isolation. Society was stressed. Indeed, we all were stressed. The psychological benefits of being outside and making connections are innumerable. People suffer from a lack of contact with others and from being confined to their homes.

Earlier in the spring, Coniston received correspondence from Howie Kalfus, a Sanders’ Era alumnus and former camper Parent. He visited our 1600-acre property with his family to see his parents in late April. It was the first time these Grandparents had been out of there house in a month and a half. His powerful letter to Camp is on our blog and told us of how his reunion reminded him that no matter where he gathered, because they were together, that place became home.

Coincidentally, at the same time Coniston staff had been separately musing over the concept of running a program where families would drop by camp and participate in activities while maintaining social distance. This would enable multiple generations to see each other safely, perhaps for the first time in the summer.

Our plan was simple. During July and August a community program would be run on-site. Sign up for the program would occur on the new Coniston website. A small staff of fifteen additional staff would be rehired to run activities like swimming and sailing, hiking and field games, and even arts and crafts.

On July 12, we launched Community Days with a group of fifty two nurses and family members. They spent the day at Camp rediscovering a sense of normalcy, joy, and connection. It felt incredibly important for something so straightforward. Through a generous gift from the Brown Foundation Coniston did this free of charge all summer for local families. By the time it all ended, almost 3500 visits were made to Camp without a single report of COVID-19!

Virtual Vespers Keeping the Coniston Community Connected

Keeping people connected during this time is important work Camp can easily do. To that end, we have reached out through social media to our Community and beyond, providing activities in which families and youth may participate, weekly inspirational and spiritual presentations (aka vespers). Through this type of programming Coniston’s engagement has seen an extreme rate of growth and we even have people join us with no previous connection to YMCA Camp Coniston. Read a few testimonials below:

“Evening Vespers was always a time of quiet contemplation and inspiration.  Bob Sanders would frequently offer a message dealing with camp life and how to make the best of it.  His presentation usually had to do with developing relationships.  45 years later Coniston’s virtual Vespers are very nostalgic and often very personal.  But the themes haven’t changed that much, and I still find them refreshing as they remind me of the importance of relationships that the Coniston experience always provided.”

— Dave Barden, Sanders’ Era Alumni

“Aaaahhh, Virtual Vespers!  It’s a time to decompress after a day at work.  It’s a chance to reconnect with camp friends, for whom camp represents a happy place, filled with lingering memories, and sometimes a growing-up place where we discovered who we really are.  It’s a virtual visit, a step back in time to days when we walked along the pine-needle-covered roadway under a green canopy by sparkling lake waters to late-afternoon vespers.  The vesper speakers inspire us with their earnest words of reflection and leave us smiling.  Thank you, Camp Coniston, for continuing the summer magic.” 

— Karen Fitch Parker, Camper and Staff Member, 1967-1977

Just like every evening at Camp, a little after 5:00pm (EST) the Camp bell rings and cabins make their way in silence to Boys & Girls Vespers. To so many Conistonians, this reflective time as we come together and sit by the lake is an extremely important time. At 5:15pm (EST), Vespers begins by a counselor who shares a personal message or life lesson that helped shape them into the person they are today. 

To stay informed and join us each week we recommend you add Virtual Vespers to your calendar by clicking this link.

Coniston Community Fundraisers

The Coniston Community has stepped up in a BIG way and hundreds of campers and alumni got involved in very unique ways to ensure the future of Coniston.

1st-year staff members, John Shelley and Ellie Wilson jumped into action when they heard Camp needed help by creating a fundraiser. These entrepreneurs sold homemade friendship bracelets and more importantly found a way of keeping the spirit of Camp alive during these times.

On June 25, 2020 over 150 CIT groups across the country from the late 90’s through the 2010’s gathered for a special trivia night fundraiser to help support Camp during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the generosity of so many, thousands of dollars were raised.

More than just a financial boost, the night was an opportunity for old friends to reconnect, laugh, and reminisce about summers on the lake. Congratulations to the 2001/2002 CIT team who took home the big win to have the donations to Camp made in their honor!

After spending five summers at Coniston, Kiley MacLeod knew that she wanted to help the place that has given her so much. She created a fundraiser to sell custom embroidered hats.