Hear about Developmental Milestones from Camp Director, John Tilley

So how can just a couple of weeks of summer camp change a person’s brain?

In 2023, 96% of campers and staff positively reported feeling supported, accepted and cared for. This wasn’t the first time we tried to measure friendships at Camp. Relationships at Coniston have been measured several times beginning in 2003, always with similar results.

Meanwhile, the human brain is wired through interactions with other people. Put in another way, the relationships we have create the brains we develop. In the longest running study of human lifespans which has more than 85 years of data, it was proven that positive relationships keep us happier, healthier and help us live longer. Yes, you heard that right. Relationships help us live longer. More than career achievement, money, exercise and even a healthy diet.

Numerous studies actually point to similar conclusions. And when you combine this research with the knowledge of the reported state of mental health and loneliness in society, the role of Camp comes into a much sharper focus.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the brain and Camp. Campers and staff both cite overwhelming feelings of support, acceptance and care while and after their Camp experience. This positions us to play an outsized role in the adults participants become. This is a bold thing, but again it is based on the scientific consensus that brains are literally wired through the relationships we make.

Here’s how it works: Because Camp is fun, because campers feel supportive, because the culture is based on respect, campers and staff are in a space where they learn about and learn how to be themselves. Now this can sound trite but it’s the basis of being a healthy, thriving adult.

Developmentally as a person works to hone a self-identity, works on being themselves, that identity is used to express their differences and value to a group. Many young people try different versions of themselves and being in a place where you feel supported and protected is a key component in making those choices.

The safety and support cited at Camp allows children to take healthy risks with manageable stress, which is important in learning resilience. This casts a completely different light on a child making it through homesickness, overcoming a fear of water, spiders or even the dark.

Alternatively, if a child is constantly living in threatening or unsafe situations, the brain will be wired in a different manner due to toxic stress. However, even in that case it was noted that continuous positive experiences rewire negative experiences. Again, through good relationships.

One more thing. There are few places outside of Camp where an adolescent gets to hang out and share time with positive college-aged mentors. This staff-camper or near-peer relationship is another key ingredient in what builds an earnest culture of safety, respect and caring for each other. As staff model this for campers, campers imitate and again brains are wired.

There’s a sign at Camp – “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”. At age 58, my first instinct is to take the face of an old friend and superimpose it over that sign.

Camp is designed for campers to connect with others. Marcus sat and listened, Anna cheered me on when I learned a new swim stroke, Tommy ran out of the dining hall with me to meet a new group of friends. Human beings imitate. It’s the wiring that occurs during those actions that becomes your future.

Our brains are selecting pathways they will regularly use, because we know relationships; good and bad, are the basis for that selection. The surroundings and how we respond becomes very important and leaves an explanation for why Camp is so incredibly impactful for so many participants.

John Tilley

In Memoriam: Sean Usle

Sean Usle, a beloved Coniston alum who was a camper and counselor in the 70s/80s has sadly passed away.

His fellow Coniston friends shared some of their favorite memories of Sean from his time at Coniston on the 70s/80s era Facebook page.

In Memoriam: David Barden

(1935 - 2023)

David Barden, a beloved Coniston community member has passed away. For many summer he was a program director at Coniston, and is most remembered for his campfire ghost stories.

David was a dedicated teacher and finished his educational career as a guidance counselor. In retirement, David spent time counseling and volunteering at Pope John High School, Camp Mason and youth mentoring with Big Brothers.

In Memoriam: Jesse Barden

(1977 - 2024)

Jesse Barden, passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home in March. Jesse was a camper at Coniston and went on to be a 94′ CIT and counselor. Since that time, he and his Coniston friends continued to get together for yearly reunions.

Jesse worked for his family business, Barden’s Concrete, and was an integral part of its success over the years.

In Memoriam: Aaron Turner

(1969 - 2023)

It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Aaron Turner, from 2001 to 2022, he was Camp’s Facilities Director.

When the history of Coniston is written Aaron will be a major character. His hands provided much of the energy behind building Coniston’s remarkable facility. For anyone who worked with him they will remember that smiles, fun, and wit were as abundant as the nails and screws on every project. Laughter and work were the basis of our friendship and Aaron is a friend we will sorely miss. Our love and sympathy go out to his two sons, Austin and Bryce who are also members of the Coniston Community.

Dave Savio Retires

After 23 years of helping create a facility we cherish and love, Sav has retired from Coniston. Dave Savio has been an incredible member of our Maintenance team and has transformed Camp into the beautiful facility it is and this is truly the end of an era. 

We wish him all the best in his retirement!



Summer 2024 Fellowships and Internship

Meet the Fellows and Interns!

Every summer, Coniston offers $1,000 in college scholarships to staff members who apply their studies to an aspect of Coniston through a fellowship. This year, Erin Herrold and Ty Bears are our fellows! 

We have a great staff of nurses who work around the clock to keep our campers and staffers healthy. They are celebrated by Conitonians often and we are grateful for the small but mighty team. This summer we have two staff members interested in working alongside them, to learn from them and ultimately help them with daily tasks. Erin Herrold is going to school to become a Physician’s Assistant and currently holds CNA and PCT certifications. Ty Bears is currently an EMT and his work experience will be a great pairing to support the nurses throughout the summer. These fellows will help take on different tasks in the infirmary which will allow our nurses to focus on caring for the campers and staff.

Dan May, an Architecture student from the UK, will complete an internship this summer. His project will focus on connecting with our alumni community to inspire the design of a new Coniston structure.

“The conceptual project, focused on designing a captivating new loon overnight spot, is about more than just architecture; it’ll be a creative journey to blend the essence of Coniston’s community and memories into a physical place. 

As I continue to develop as a member of the Coniston staff, I’ve been exploring new ways to contribute to this incredible community. I’m thrilled that this project will provide me with a unique opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way.

It’s an unprecedented venture, and I’m honored to lead the charge in bringing it to life.”

Jamie Ellis, a second-year staff member, will also complete an internship this summer focused on social media to support his studies. Jamie will work closely with Coniston’s marketing team to create fun and engaging content for our social media throughout the Camp season.

Alumni and Camp News 2024

Alumni News

Eric Rightor hosted the President Joe Biden at his YMCA!

“We got word from the White House that Joe Biden wanted to deliver a speech from NH with the release of his new budget.  Given the nature of helping families, lowering drug costs, etc, the Federal delegation of NH recommended the Granite YMCA amongst others and after scouting a number of spots to host, they settled on my Y.  My life got derailed on Friday, touring Secret Service and WhiteHouse staff around everywhere, and hosted the event on Sunday with all the NH delegation of reps, senators, and business leaders.  For my work, I got the nod to meet the POTUS and get my picture with him.  WILD.” — Eric Rightor

 

This photo was taken in Milwaukee after the Marquette men’s basketball game on February 10th. Many of us Sanders era have been following Oso’s amazing college basketball career, including having zoom watch parties and attending games in person

L to R: Beth Farrey Worthington, Dawn Ferguson Ighodaro, Oso Ighodaro, Osaso Ighodaro, Linda Pinkham Wiewel. 
 

 

Congratulations to Sonya Freeman, for starting her new job at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center specialising in psychiatry. 

 

Kyle Olson has been a camper and staff member at Coniston for 18 summers, last year working as our Assistant Summer Camp Director.
Kyle is now opening his own Camp this summer! Kyle is the founder and executive director of Camp Moraine, a brand-new day camp in Beverly.
 
“Starting a camp and building its community has always been a dream of mine, and I can’t wait to share my vision and Coniston experience with the campers of the North Shore.”
 

 

It was great to connect with so many Conistonians in California this March! Thank you to Coniston Ambassador Jocelyn Tetel for hosting our LA event at the Skirball Cultural Center!

 

 
 
 
 
Congratulations to Naomi Malam for welcoming her baby girl, Allegra Shav Luraschi, this January!
 
 

Alex Grip, ’06 CIT / Staff ’07-’09 and his wife Arianna  welcomed their baby girl Collins Grip into the world this past May 12th, 2023.

Congratulations! We can’t wait for her to be a camper.

Congratulations to Eric and Melissa Rightor! They welcomed baby Siena in January this year. We hope the new addition the family is bringing you all the joy in the world!

 

Cassie (Short) McLaughlin just ran her 11th marathon and finally broke 3 hours, something she has been trying to do for a long time. She ran the Myrtle Beach Marathon with a time of 2:56:15 and came in 3rd place overall female!
 
Congratulations Cassie. What an incredible accomplishment!

 
Coniston alumnus – Hans Williams – has been touring all over the US, performing his music and has had many conistonians in the audience cheering him on. A huge group of Conistonians supported Hans at his Boston show this April! Kim Johnson watched Hans’ show in Seattle this Spring!

Camp News

 
We are honored to be named one of America’s Best Summer Camps in 2024 by News Week!
 
 
 

 

Our team had a great time at the New England Camp Conference this March! Coniston’s Summer Camp Directors; John McNair and Nicole Berthiaume and Boy’s Camp Director; Nate Levine went to the conference to connect and learn from other Camps. They even crossed paths with Camp alumnus Kyle Olson who is opening Camp Moraine this summer!

 

 
 
Nicole Berthiaume, John McNair, Nate Levine and Brackett Lyons from our year-round team, connected with Camp friends in Manchester, NH this March! Nicole and John were in Manchester, attending the ACA (American Camp Association) annual conference.
 
 

 
John Tilley and Lindsey Tompkins connected with Camp friends in Denver, CO this April! John and Lindsey were in Denver attending the NAYDO (North American YMCA Development Organization) conference. The conference delivers sessions to enhance YMCAs’ philanthropy strategies. John Tilley presented at the conference.

 
 
After 23 years of helping create a facility we cherish and love, Sav has retired from Coniston. Dave Savio has been an incredible member of our Maintenance team and has transformed Camp into the beautiful facility it is and this is truly the end of an era. 

We wish him all the best in his retirement!

 
 
Pictured: The new NH State Co-Champ Red Maple! With the late Aaron Turner and his brother Jeremy.

In Memoriam

It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Aaron Turner, from 2001 to 2022, he was Camp’s Facilities Director.

When the history of Coniston is written Aaron will be a major character. His hands provided much of the energy behind building Coniston’s remarkable facility. For anyone who worked with him they will remember that smiles, fun, and wit were as abundant as the nails and screws on every project. Laughter and work were the basis of our friendship and Aaron is a friend we will sorely miss. Our love and sympathy go out to his two sons, Austin and Bryce who are also members of the Coniston Community.

Jesse Barden, passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home in March. Jesse was a camper at Coniston and went on to be a 94′ CIT and counselor. Since that time, he and his Coniston friends continued to get together for yearly reunions.

Jesse worked for his family business, Barden’s Concrete, and was an integral part of its success over the years.

David Barden, a beloved Coniston community member has passed away. For many summer he was a program director at Coniston, and is most remembered for his campfire ghost stories.

David was a dedicated teacher and finished his educational career as a guidance counselor. In retirement, David spent time counseling and volunteering at Pope John High School, Camp Mason and youth mentoring with Big Brothers.

Sean Usle, a beloved Coniston alum who was a camper and counselor in the 70s/80s has sadly passed away.

His fellow Coniston friends shared some of their favorite memories of Sean from his time at Coniston on the 70s/80s era Facebook page.

Upcoming Events

Help us get Camp ready for summer by joining us for our Volunteer Work Day on June 8th! This is a great opportunity for the Coniston community (18+) to reconnect with friends, meet some of our summer staff, and enjoy some time by the lake! Volunteers will help us with a clean-up Camp, as well as setting up program areas for the summer and other fun tasks that will be essential for us to be ready for our 2024 campers!
 
 

We will be hosting a 20-year reunion for our 2004 Coniston CITs! 2002 and 2003 CITs are also welcome to join the celebration! The reunion will take place at Coniston on Friday, June 28th.

REGISTER HERE 


Coniston Ambassador Kelly Condon and Alumni Danny Rudnick will host a session 3 alumni parents gathering at their side-by-side Lake Sunapee home on July 21st. This gathering is a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with other alumni parents and share your experiences after campers are dropped off at Coniston.

REGISTER HERE

Two New Program Areas in 2024

Meet Grace and Adelaide - who will lead the new programs

This summer, Coniston will be offering two new program areas; martial arts and music! 

Our new martial arts program will focus on taekwondo. Taekwondo is a Korean martial arts combat sport that embodies mind and body focus for its athletes.

Taekwondo can be performed in a multitude of ways including as a form of exercise, learning technical skill sets, and Poomsea – a performance where athletes show the tricks they have learned.

This new program area will teach campers respect, enable fun with values and teach a different culture of sport. At Coniston we will provide a deeper meaning to taekwondo by applying our values and creativity into the program.

Campers will learn exciting new skills and take part in a fun training and fitness activity session. 

We are extremely excited to welcome Adelaide Barnes to our staff who will lead the new program area. Adelaide has won several national titles and won the USA Grand Prix for taekwondo. She was also selected for Great Britain’s Development Squad for Olympic Taekwondo fighting when she was 16. That same year she was promoted to being on Great Britain’s national team to represent GB in the Olympics and other world competitions! 

The other new program area is music. Music has always been part of Coniston and the achievements and passions of alumni have highlighted how special this is. When we look at our incredible alumni community, we see a surprising number of them storming the music industry.  This summer, Coniston will offer a music program area in addition to the Coniston Singers! 

The new music program will be offered to all ages and will explore musical creativity with different instruments including piano, guitar and ukulele. The goal is to create a space where campers feel comfortable working on their musicianship and to prepare them for performing or creating music however they wish! 

Grace Ferguson, a member of the band Luna and The Carpets, will create and run the new program. 

“I am incredibly excited to start this new project as I feel campers would benefit from our music program area. Music is a universal language and something that everyone can connect, relate to, and express themselves with. These are the same values we hold close to our hearts at camp, and I am thrilled to connect the two.” 

If you would like to support the new music program, we are looking for instruments to be donated. Go to our Amazon Wishlist if you would like to help.

Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Olson Opens New Summer Camp

Coniston Ambassador and alumnus, Kyle Olson, is opening a new Camp this summer! Kyle is the founder and executive director of Camp Moraine, a brand-new day camp in Beverly, MA for children aged 4 – 13. Kyle has been tasked with everything from designing the website, creating the programming, marketing, hiring staff and finding campers. 

Kyle has spent 18 summers at Coniston, the last 10 of which were in an array of roles from CIT up to Assistant Director. He also volunteers for Coniston as an Ambassador in the off-season. The aspects of Kyle’s new role have been supported by his experience at Coniston and his previous job in management consulting. 

“Starting a new Camp has been the perfect blend of my interests and talents from both walks of my life and makes each day in the office a new and rewarding experience.”

Camp Moraine’s programming and philosophy follow similar principles to Coniston – striving to provide campers with a fun, safe environment in which they can develop age appropriate social emotional skills. The Camp’s three guiding principles are: explore, connect and belong. 

Camp Moraine will welcome campers for the first time this summer! 

“Starting a new camp from scratch is no easy feat. But fortunately, it has been leagues easier than it would have been thanks to my experience and connection with Coniston. Coniston provided me the confidence and understanding to take on such an endeavor and  provided me with a template of what a successful camp looks like. In addition, the staff at Coniston – Tilley, Nicole, McNair have been super supportive and helpful whenever I’ve had any questions or just need someone to bounce ideas off of. 

Coniston has always been my happy place, somewhere where I learned to be myself and where I’ve developed most of my favorite attributes. Part of why I wanted to start my own camp is to provide campers and staff with the types of experiences and opportunities that have so positively impacted my life. 

Starting a camp and building its community has always been a dream of mine, and I can’t wait to share my vision and Coniston experience with the campers of the North Shore.”

Wishing Kyle and the team the best of luck for their first summer!