Camp Winning Spirit — Good News

For 25 years Coniston has offered a care-free fun weekend at Camp for children and their families who have experienced the struggles of living with pediatric cancer. It was Aiden’s first time this summer and we were so happy to have met him and his mom, Sam.
Camp was AMAZING!!! I watched this kid just dive right in and just be a kid doing camp activities with so many new friends. I had a hard time keeping track of him because he was so comfortable being with kids his age he forgot to check in 😂.
 
Let me tell you, watching your little boy paddle away to kayak with his friends is a weird feeling. On one hand I was so happy he was trying something he had never done but on the other hand I was so nervous because, well hello, he’s floating in a lake with 1.5 legs!!! No fear I swear. He let me join him the next day though.
 
He stayed up late, played games, did gymnastics, and even figured out with the other kids how to play Gaga ball together. To see other kids hop around on one leg to even the playing field seriously made me want to cry. The compassion hit me so hard.
 
Aiden is already looking forward to next year at Camp winning spirit! The counselors, parents, and kids were just so welcoming to us and we can’t wait to see them again.
 
—Mom

Cheers to a Great 2021 Summer

We love appreciate hearing from our community so much. Thank you for all your kind emails, phone calls, and social media posts. This summer was a success because of all of us—together we can accomplish anything! We hope you enjoy a few of the accolades we received below.

I wanted to thank the Coniston staff for putting in the enormous amount of work I know it took to make this summer work around all the changing dynamics of this pandemic.  Our daughter got to do the service trip she has been looking forward to for over 2 years in addition to an incredible Sessions 3/4, and our son was back for Session 4.  While our 16 year-old daughter shed some tears today, she would not trade the bittersweet transition back into “civilian life” for all the world.  As cliche as it sounds, Coniston truly is a home away from home for them both, something they carry within their souls throughout the school year until summer rolls back around. I don’t know what you put in the lake water there but it is truly magical!!!

Also a shout out to the Service Trip counselors who created an unforgettable experience amid challenging weather conditions for our daughter who had not camped apart from her overnights at Coniston and LOOOOOVED it despite all the rain. Those kids bonded in their 11 nights beyond her expectations.

Thank you again for making this happen and have wonderful year!

—Camper Parent

Thank you to all the staff of Camp Coniston for providing our children a summer of laughter and wonderful memories and building friendships. Thank you for the great care you have shown to all our children.

—Camper Parent

I started Coniston at 17 and ever since that beautiful place has been so special to us, to our children, and now our grand girls! Thank you for taking great care of my three granddaughters this summer.

—Camper Grandparent & Alumna

Thank you to all who pulled off another Amazing summer for our kiddos big and small, and still navigating this never ending pandemic.
 
—Camper Parent

Thank you Camp Coniston for being a light of fun and hope for our kiddos during a difficult time. We know it was extra hard this year and we appreciate everything you were able to do!

— Camper Parent

The Impact of Being a Coniston Tutor

We hope you enjoy the testimonials below from first time Coniston Tutor’s—the impact was felt by the entire Coniston Community. If you are interested in become a tutor or receiving services you can find more details at the link above.

My time as a Coniston Tutor for the New American community in Concord, NH was incredibly impactful. When I spent time with my tutee I wasn’t just helping him learn geometry and history— I was forging a real, genuine connection with someone who could not have lived a more different life than I have. We found small things to connect over (a mutual love of TikTok, pepperoni pizza, and knock knock jokes), but also talked about his life plans and career goals. The more time I spent tutoring him, the more acutely aware I became that this program is about a lot more than after-school homework help. Towards the end of the school year, my tutee would show up to our sessions excited to show me his grades on the homework we had worked on together. This translated into him being proud; not just of his grades, but of himself.

I would recommend being a part of this program to anyone and everyone in the Coniston community. It was a way to give back, to help others, and (most importantly) to connect.

— Anna Feins

Weekly tutoring sessions allowed my student to pass his class and avoid summer school, and  allowed me to connect with someone I wouldn’t otherwise have met. I felt great knowing I was helping someone who needed it, and it made a difference to him to knowing that someone who had recently been a stranger cared about him and his success. I would encourage everyone to try their hand at this program, even if they’re a little nervous about it — there’s nothing like that moment when a student understands something which had mystified them before! 

Thanks to YMCA Camp Coniston for putting this together, it’s such an important resource for the community!

—Charlotte Perkins

At camp we see social and emotional growth happening all the time. Coniston tutors has been a great way for me to connect that with academic growth during the school year! I love that camp can now support kids in many dimensions and year-round.

—Kathleen Moore

While setting goals together at the beginning of last school year, my student identified qualifying for the National Honor Society and finding new ways to practice photography as ambitions he aspired to achieve. Throughout the school year, he worked with the Yearbook Committee to take photos and even enrolled in an independent study course in photography. In the spring, we heard the fantastic news that he had qualified for, and been accepted to the National Honor Society. I am so unbelievably proud of what my student accomplished last year and feel very grateful for the opportunity to support him along the way.
 
Through the success and growth of the tutoring program, Coniston has demonstrated how its commitment to helping children and young adults grow extends beyond Lake Coniston and into the surrounding communities. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this program and am eager to see it develop in the years to come. The person I am today has been directly shaped by the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met at Coniston. I’m sure other alums feel similarly. Serving as a tutor is one way I can give back to an organization I believe in and a community that has given me so much.

—Gray Kaegi
It can be hard enough during normal circumstances to provide effective instruction to students. During this past year especially, it has been harder than ever to provide many students with the assistance needed to conquer subjects which their normal curriculum may not teach them properly. I myself did not learn as successfully through my former middle school’s mathematics program, and it took self study to master many of my curriculum’s skills. Different kids learn differently, and it has been a privilege to support students through the Coniston Tutors program in navigating material with individually-focused lesson planning. My student gained confidence with mathematics, history, and time management; and ultimately he didn’t have to go to summer school because of all that we accomplished. Coniston Tutors is a remarkable opportunity to grant educational assistance to the camp community. I am thrilled to have been able to chip in to this amazing effort and give back to students who faced challenges similar to those I faced. 

—Nevan Hughlett

Returning a piece of Coniston History thirty years later

Alumni, Jared Reid shares a wonderful story about YMCA Camp Coniston and how a piece of history got returned to the rightful owner, Alumni, Kitter Spader.

After reading Kitter Spader’s spotlight piece in the Coniston Chronicle I began to think about a piece of history that may have been linked to him. I had heard that Kidder was the director of waterskiing before I arrived at YMCA Camp Coniston and I had heard about the famous waterski shows that were put on by their staff.  When I became the waterski director I was fascinated with the giant round plywood disk that the previous staff would ride on while sitting or standing on a wooden chair. There was also an early Burton Backhill snowboard that had been altered and made into one of the first ever wakeboards by screwing a waterski skeg onto the bottom of the board. 

At the end of 1995 camp season I asked everyone at camp Coniston who the board belonged to and no one really knew. I decided to acquire the board as a piece of snowboarding and Coniston history.  This wooden snowboard was my prized possession. It traveled around the United States with me from Boston to Virginia Beach to Seattle and then back home to Western Massachusetts. It was going to be the focal point of my future mountain house.  

The alumni spotlight got me thinking about how Kitter Spader may have been it’s original owner. When I brought my two children camp for drop off I saw who I thought was Kitter from the picture in the magazine.  I went up, introduced myself, and inquired about a piece of Coniston history that was left at camp over thirty years earlier.  I think he was amazed that the board still existed and that I knew where it was.  I asked him if he wanted it back after all this time.  He said yes.  Two weeks later at camper pick up we met up again.  He told me some of the stories from when he got the board and when they used it at camp.  The abandoned board was back to its original owner and someone I knew would treasure it as much as I had.

Twas the Night Before Camp

Alumni & Camper Parent, Kelly Condon shares her story about the night before Camp!

‘Twas the night before Camp and the big boys were packed, They fell asleep counting their Class A claps, Wondering if they’ll get bottom or top bunk beds, While questions re: boating tests danced in their heads…

And what are skits like at opening campfire? Who do you think will climb the tower higher?  When do we eat? What’s the Camp food like? How far away are the overnight hikes We really nap at siesta? Or just read and write letters?  Will we like ropes, archery or riflery better? How will we remember where to go and when? What if we’re not placed with a friend How will we deal with missing home?! Do we walk to the bathroom – at night – alone?! And why do they call the bathroom the college –

Slow down boys, Mom will drop some knowledge… They’re nervous (I’m jealous;) all hows? And whys? But it will feel like Christmas in July.

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.

Paul W. Pouliot, Sag8mo and THPO Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People COWASS North America, Inc. Abenaki Nation of Vermont, Inc.

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.”

—Claire

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