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

CITs on the Road—Remarks from a Stranger

Coniston CITs made quite an impact when on the trail and shared “a generosity-of-spirit toward a total stranger”…

Dear Leadership at Camp Coniston,

My name is, Amy and I hiked to the summit of Katahdin and back on Wednesday with my two brothers, their spouses, and our combined children, ages 12-22, along the Saddle Trail. With a bit of a bum knee, I was slower than the rest of the group, and as I was descending the “boulder climb,” I could hear a lively group of energetic and enthusiastic voices approaching for at least 15 minutes until they were upon me. We were finished the big rocks by that time and standing, as opposed to using all fours, but I turned around to see the young, healthy, spirited group behind me, and said a friendly hello. I told them to please pass me, but the girl at the lead declined, stating that they were a “big group.” I relayed that I was also part of a big group of 9, but that they were ahead a ways. We stuck up a conversation, and I learned that the first two (immediately behind me) were from Needham and Wellesley, MA (also where I am from) and that they were CITs from Camp Coniston in NH, doing Katahdin as part of their training. I learned that half of them had just done Cathedral and half had done Knife’s Edge and that it was a bit terrifying … I found parts of Saddle terrifying! And after a lovely chat, I let the group of 18 go ahead.

They stopped to gather at the benches at Chimney Pond, but soon went past my brothers and me for a second time, their ever-cheerful selves.

I write to you to let you know how impressive your group of kids were, how wonderfully articulate and well-spoken, polite and cheerful, and with a generosity-of-spirit toward a total stranger (with high school and college aged kids of her own) at the end of what was an exhausting day for all.

Congratulations to you – you must run a fabulous camp which attracts fabulous kids – they demonstrated everything one could hope for in today’s young adults!

An Amazing Start to Summer!

The first session of the summer is behind us and we received some very thoughtful emails we wanted to share…

Dear Camp Coniston,
 
Our kids just had their first overnight camp experience – and it ROCKED. We’ve had family who’ve attended and worked at Coniston – and we’ve worked at other Y camps – and this is our first personal Coniston Experience with our immediate family and it exceeded expectations.
 
After an internationally traumatic year, to be able to be offline and in person – having sleepovers and talking with friends – after a year kids were physically closer to their parents than ever – and had to be shushed while we all were working on zoom – to let loose – dance on chairs – to have freedoms – to mix with other kids – is SO SPECIAL – and you all greeted us with warmth, joy and normalcy! We know things aren’t normal behind the scenes – life happens within and outside of camp walls – and the pandemic still impacts everyone – AND YET – you provided an island of joy for so many in this camp – AND HOPEFULLY YOURSELVES! Working at camp is a special time – of growth both for the campers you  serve, and for yourselves. Soak that in. You are givers and you can be takers too – of the amazing energy you create and are surrounded in.
 
Our daughter, who was more hesitant to go to camp, just said “That was one of the best experiences of my life! You get to dance in the rain, sing on the tables, and be yourself.”  Our son, said he cannot wait to return next summer and hopeful to work on staff. 
 
Thank you for an amazing start to our summer. We know it will have ups and downs and challenges and joys – we sincerely hope you enjoy this roller coaster. You are huge role models (what our kids are talking about – both favorite counselors and vespers talks.) 
 
Thank you for showing great coping and joy.  

Dear Camp Coniston, 

I picked up my daughter today from her first year at Coniston- she was positively beaming and crying at the thought of leaving her new-found group of buddies. It was more than either she or myself could have hoped for. 
 
On the ride home, she told me about paddling in a canoe with a younger boy. She said it was nice because they talked about his being homesick and my guess is that she really enjoyed being the ear for someone else’s experience with something (homesickness) that she has struggled with. 
 
When I asked about a favorite counselor, she replied “EVERYONE of them!”. Thank you for all that you do to make camp a fun, safe, and welcoming place.

Editorial to Special Edition Coniston 2020 Chronicle

It has been such a crazy year and nothing demonstrates it more than these items we forgot to mention in the Special Edition 2020 Chronicle…

In May 2020, John Tilley spoke nationally on Here and Now and statewide with Laura Knoy on New Hampshire Public Radio about how summer camps could operate safely during summer 2020. You can enjoy the audio and articles at these links:

https://www.nhpr.org/post/how-do-summer-programs-operate-during-pandemic-and-whats-lost-if-they-dont

https://www.nhpr.org/post/iconic-nh-tradition-summer-looks-uncertain

YMCA Camp Coniston receives grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to meet our ever-evolving programmatic needs of our community while organizationally helping us meet our mission.

Camps are by definition youth development organizations and this grant builds on Coniston’s mission of producing well-rounded, fully developed, passionate leaders. Youth work rooted in both concrete supports such as academic assistance through our tutoring program and social and emotional competencies learned through our programs is central to Coniston’s mission.

A core tenet of Coniston’s philosophy is insuring access to any child which creates a broad community irrespective of economic means. We believe society benefits from the connections and understanding brought about by youth from all walks of life working and living side by side. In order to facilitate this, the Coniston Board of Directors has suppressed prices, keeping the camp a fraction of the cost of private camps. Since 2016, we have doubled the number of campers on financial assistance. Additionally, we subsidize the fee of every child attending camp by charging less than the camp spends on a cash basis. The subsidy has been as much as $237 in a given year and increases affordability for families not qualifying for assistance, but struggling to afford what many have learned is an unparalleled opportunity for their child to grow and explore in a developmentally appropriate manner. The result is a NH camper population that economically looks very similar to the state in which we are located.

YMCA Camp Coniston received a $40,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for unrestricted operating support, for work through 2022.

Receiving this multi-year grant will allow YMCA Camp Coniston to advance our key goals and strategies by providing us with the flexibility to create free programming for the greatest needs in our community.

GOAL 1:
Provide permanent funding for campers from underserved communities to attend Coniston including the 30 children from each of these demographics: Veterans and active military; the Concord, NH refugee community; and Sullivan County, NH. We believe every child needs a Camp opportunity regardless of financial means.

GOAL 2:
Renovate and construct facilities that serve Coniston’s increasing demand and provide welcoming spaces for campers to practice creativity and build community.

GOAL 3:
Ensure the future of YMCA Camp Coniston through an endowment that allows the Board to keep prices moderate ensuring more families can afford Camp, maintaining a well-trained staff, keeping facilities in good repair, and provide career opportunities and development to all alumni through Coniston Community connections.

A huge thanks to New Hampshire Charitable Foundation from the YMCA Camp Coniston Community!

About the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. The Foundation manages a growing collection of nearly 2,000 funds created by generous individuals, families and businesses, and awards nearly $40 million in grants and more than $6 million in scholarships every year. The Foundation works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving, supports great work happening in our communities and leads and collaborates on high-impact initiatives. For more information, please visit www.nhcf.org or call 603-225-6641.

What Camp Coniston gave to me…

I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in The Bronx, New York, in the 1960’s. My tiny world of a few blocks was very safe and sheltered. There were parks to visit, but no real wilderness that I was aware of.

Some years later, my mother informed me that I would be attending a summer camp in a place called Grantham, New Hampshire. As far as I was concerned I was headed to a far away land…possibly near Siberia. I went very reluctantly.

Up until that point I had only been to one other camp where I spent two months living in an open lean-two cabin…3 walls and an open door to raccoons, spiders and the occasional snake. I was terrified…but at the same time, I was starting to have an awakening to something special that lay beyond my four concrete blocks in The Bronx.

I remember the drive to Coniston…so many rows of pine trees on some never ending highway. I remember the first time we walked past the general store and down the slope leading to the lake. My first view of the lake that would begin a great adventure within my imagination. Little did I ever imagine that by summer’s end I would be sailing a Sunnie by myself, or learning to save a drowning swimmer when I could barely swim myself. I didn’t know I would be firing rifles and eventually teaching younger campers to do the same, or that I would be camping out in the dark woods and eating s’mores and being told it was lights out and  to put a sock in it! In what, I wondered?

At the end of my first summer, I remember sitting in the back of my parent’s car on the long ride back to New York…and I felt a sadness I had never known. I couldn’t believe it was already over, and that I might not see these incredible friends for a whole year. I just didn’t want it to end.

But I had a secret. A secret I couldn’t tell….

I was not the same person that arrived two months earlier. I was still Chris, but I was also now a member of the Church of The Great Outdoors. I just didn’t want to be inside. I wanted to be outside…to breathe the air, to smell the trees, to feel the river, to climb the hills…

And from that moment on, the insects were my friends, the thunder and lightning were music to my ears…

If not for Coniston, I would have always been a city kid…a little afraid of the dark woods, of the unknown, of the animals and sounds of the forest…

But no more….

And by the time I was 21 years old,  I was going down The Mighty Amazon River in search of the rarest monkey in the world, and soon after that driving in an 8500 mile race across South America…eventually discovering  that photography could take me anywhere I wanted to go…

And the adventures continued…

But I am here to tell all future campers…that you will never know what a summer at Coniston will unlock within you.

I had no idea when I drove down the driveway for the first time, that the key to my destiny might lie at the end of that road.

And here are a few photos from the life that I owe to 2 summers in the years 1976 and 1977….

Thank you Camp Consiton and to the many friends and staff I got to know in my youth.

…and to my dear mother, who raised us on meager means, but always sought out and found the meaningful adventures on our behalf.

— Chris, 70/80’s Alumnus

Coniston’s New Program

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello.

In my last video update—I mentioned that exciting opportunities were in store for our Coniston Community.

I told you about Community Days. You heard almost 3,500 visits were made to Camp this summer.

Even though we closed our normal operations this summer, we didn’t let what we couldn’t do, stand in the way of what we could do. That is exactly the type of journey I’m asking you to take with us.

I’ve always tried to care for every kid at Camp. This project is just an extension of that philosophy.

Through funding from the State of NH, Coniston is starting a virtual tutoring program. Our first cohort will be New American, middle and high school-aged students from Concord. We need our community to step forward and serve as tutors.

Six years ago, we intentionally began to bring kids from this community, and others, to Camp. We wanted to ensure that Coniston looked like the state we’re in, and the state we want to live in. Now we are interested in beginning a program that may just light a path for all Coniston campers in the future.

Volunteering is open to everyone in our community. You can be anywhere in the world. All it takes to be part of this is access to a computer and to say “I’m in.”

Sessions will be on Zoom. We have a staff member who will help orient you. Her name is Izzy Caruso.

English, Math, Science, Social Studies—we need folks who can be matched with students needing help with a variety of subjects.

So click here. It will lead you to a google form. There you can give us information and Izzy Caruso will contact you.

If you are interested in more details we have a webpage for that. The address is www.coniston.org/tutor

Coniston needs you. Our community needs you. Campers THEY need you. Please.

I’ll be back with even more good news soon!

John