Thank You for Giving the Gift of Camp – Remarks from a Camper

We recently received the letter below from a child expressing her gratitude on receiving a camperships from our annual fund. Gifts of any size are truly changing lives and making a life-long impact. Thank you.

Over the past four summers Coniston has achieved quantifiable success in diversifying our camper population through a combination of outreach, funding, recruitment, and retention described in previous answers. We are most proud of increasing our financial assistance by 125% over the past four years, giving camp experiences to more kids.

At YMCA Camp Coniston we believe that character counts. Building character, confidence, and perseverance under the leadership of positive role models in a safe and encouraging environment is core to our Camp experience. Through immersive outdoor summer experiences, campers gain self-confidence, learn to adapt to new situations, develop life skills, and make new friends. Campers may not realize it all at once, but the benefits of Camp go on forever. What we do is simple, yet transformative.

Now more than ever, we have a responsibility to build and equip the next generation to not only grow, but thrive as leaders in a rapidly changing world. Our efforts to bring the YMCA Camp Coniston Community together from across NH towns, and the world, are worth it. People need connections with each other. Summers together help heal the effects of stress. Camp is bigger than any of us and the impact is life-long.

Gifts can be given to children through Coniston in many ways:

Check or Online
Reoccurring Credit Card Gift
Multi-Year Pledge
Estate Gift
Stock or Mutual Funds
Matching Gifts
Corporate/Foundation
Philanthropic Gift
Life Insurance Policies

If additional information is needed to help your gift-giving process go smoother, please contact lindsey@coniston.org.

Artist in Residence—Reflections from Evan Ruderman
























Reflections from our 2022 Artist in Residence, Evan… 

It was such an honor to come back and shoot these images. Going through everything gave me some time to reflect on how special camp has been in my life and how great it was to come back and try to show its magic through images. Super grateful for this opportunity and all that camp has done for me.

At the young age of 8 I began to spend my summers at Camp Coniston and didn’t stop for the next 12 years, transitioning from a camper to a counselor to a director. My time at camp taught me a lot about life, a lot about myself, sparked my love of the outdoors, introduced me to some of my biggest role models, and helped me make some of my best friends to this day. It’s hard to explain the magic of this place without simply experiencing it for yourself but having a chance to return to camp to try and convey its beauty and mission through photos was quite an honor. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today without my many summers on this lake and to see so many kids sleeping under the stars and playing in the woods without phones or screens or the stresses of everyday life anywhere in sight left me feeling quite happy. Thank you Camp Coniston for bringing me out here to shoot photos and for the many years of good memories. 

CIT Reflections—Remarks from a Parent

Coniston magic explained though a thank you note from a Camp parent

Dear Camp Coniston,

I wanted to take a minute to thank you for all the amazing work that you are doing at Camp Coniston this summer. My daughter just returned from her month of West Coast CIT training and she has been transformed. She loved camp before . . . but her appreciation and love for the place now has reached another level. 4 weeks with 15 kids that she hardly knew in places as remote as Rocky Mountain Park as well as the friendly confines of Coniston with two incredible counselors has left her a changed young woman. And we thought she was pretty amazing before she went!

We spent all day yesterday going through her pictures and summit letters and other letters of encouragement from staff and I was blown away by the impact that  the Coniston team are having on all these kids. This was her 7th summer at camp and somehow they keep getting better. In a world that seems to be getting more contentious by the day, your incredible team have created a positive environment for kids to be kids and also become young responsible adults that parents can be very proud of. And that’s not something that kids can get in school or travel sports or trips abroad or whatever. The experiences and challenges that kids face at any camp are incredible and life changing, but what I think sets Camp Coniston apart is the love, encouragement and positive vibes that ooze from every nook and cranny of the place.

And it’s really not until a child hears – “we believe in you!” – from someone other than their parents, does it really start to sink in and then they can really start growing as people. And that is what Camp Coniston specializes in. . . .

When I spoke to my daughter in between session’s  after her trip to Colorado where she hiked and rafted and rolled down a dune in the Rockies, I was amazed that she said the best time of the last 2 weeks was when she ran into the lake back at Coniston!

“Dad . . . we we running and high fiving everyone . . and I felt like I was flying . . . “

It was then that I realized the absolute magic of the Coniston team that has touched my daughter in her 7 incredible years. You help children fly.

As a parent, there is no greater joy than seeing your child experience something as powerful as that.

So from my family to the Coniston family, thank you, thank you, thank you. Please keep up the great work!

Announcing the Mary Kelley CIP Campership

We are excited to announce the Mary Kelley CIP Campership, which provides the Coniston Experience to a deserving child whose parent is incarcerated so they may make new friends and participate in the Coniston program that Mary believed in.

Mary worked at the Family Connections Center at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men (NHSPM) for over 14 years. Her dedication and support for incarcerated parents and their children was unsurpassed. Since 2012, Mary made sure that everything ran smoothly in the Children of Incarcerated Parents summer camp. She arranged for food, communicated with caregivers, and even choreographed the dad’s dance performances for their children. This campership is a testament to her compassion and a legacy to her life’s mission of allowing a child with an incarcerated parent to “just be a kid” at YMCA Camp Coniston.

If this past year has taught us anything, it is a deep understanding that learning to connect with others is the very lesson that kids need most at Camp.

From 2015 to 2022, financial assistance has grown by 125% and in summer 2021 we had 189 full camperships. We believe having a Coniston filled with campers from all walks of life is stronger for every child.

Many things are taken into consideration when awarding a full Coniston Campership to a child. Initially, children and their families submit an application, the previous tax year forms, and are assessed through professionals such as school counselors and nurses. Next, the family’s income is screened using the federal free and reduced lunch income eligibility guidelines. Then the family’s income is multiplied by three—making it more equitable. Then our registrar and CEO discuss each application to determine camperships.

Additionally, we offer campership opportunities for families who may have a difficult story to share that may not be reflected in their finances. Such as families in cancer treatments, families who have suffered a loss such as a house fire, or even children who are being raised by grandparents.

MAKE A CHILD’S FUTURE YOUR LEGACY 

How does this work? Because of generous donors, the Coniston Endowment Fund is growing and providing the life-changing experience of Camp to many deserving children—regardless of financial means. The endowment also helps Coniston moderate inevitable cost pressures—rising prices, inflation, and unexpected expenses. This gift was given as a three-year pledge from gifts of stock. 

Gifts can be given to children through Coniston in many ways:

Check or Online
Reoccurring Credit Card Gift
Multi-Year Pledge
Estate Gift
Stock or Mutual Funds
Matching Gifts
Corporate/Foundation
Philanthropic Gift
Life Insurance Policies

If additional information is needed to help your gift-giving process go smoother, please contact lindsey@coniston.org.

Social & Emotional Staff Training by Board Member Katie Smidt

Hi there! My name is Katie Smidt and I’m a member on the board of directors at YMCA Camp Coniston. I attended and worked at Coniston for 13 summers and now I’m a clinical psychologist working in organization development work for the Veterans Administration. I’m also eagerly awaiting summer 2028 to be able to send my daughter to Coniston for the first time.

Last summer, I provided a virtual training to staff members on understanding the different components to an emotional experience that may affect some of our campers. Helping staff to understand the relationship between our thoughts, physiological responses, and behaviors can be useful to be more sensitive and aware of how certain emotions can impact our campers. We all know that the past 2 years in particular have been especially challenging, and raising awareness of the impact this can have on us can only improve the comfort that campers might feel.

I used an anxiety provoking situation as an example to help staff consider how they might be able to pick up on how a camper might be feeling. We can ask someone to describe to us how they’re physically feeling, or what thoughts are going through their mind, but we tend to be have the easiest time detecting that someone’s having a challenging time through their behaviors – what they’re actually doing.

The training also helped staff to consider ways to offer support and validation to their campers if they’re having a particularly difficult time. Sometimes, a camper may not want to talk with a staff member about what they’re thinking about or what might be bothering them. And that’s okay. Staff were encouraged to consider other ways of helping a struggling camper come back down to their baseline level, or at least adjust the way they’re feeling – such as encouraging a change in behaviors (like going for a walk together, modeling a deep breathing exercise if a camper is particularly worked up, and helping a camper to be more in tune with what they might be feeling in their body).

Finally, the training had a large emphasis on the importance of self-care – both for campers and staff. Camp is an incredibly exciting, action packed place with countless opportunities for fun with friends. And, a gentle reminder to all that having some downtime and quiet time can be really useful. We all have different ways to recharge – for some, having those social interactions really helps to energize us. For others, we might need that reset by reading, lying down, or going for a quiet walk. There’s no right or wrong way to recharge – it’s all very specific to each individual. And I think that can be really helpful for both staff and campers to understand that. Thanks for tuning in – here’s to a great summer!

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.