Monthly Archives:July 2023

An Alum’s Reflections on the Value of Working at Camp

Posted by on July 28, 2023

As a recent college graduate who is currently applying to grad school, I have found myself reflecting on my four summers as a Woodland counselor through a totally new lens. Any returning counselor will tell you that there is something so unique and special about working at camp. Whether it’s having the opportunity to spend time in such a beautiful natural environment, challenging yourself to meet new people and try new things, or becoming the type of leader you looked up to as a camper, being a counselor is a priceless experience. 

However, being a camp counselor is often hard to write about in resumes and applications despite it being such valuable work experience. It is challenging to explain camp to those who have never experienced it first hand as on the surface it appears to be a “fun” job but not a “serious” or “real” one. In a time when so much emphasis is placed on internships, shadowing experiences, and summer classes, it is important to remember the many lessons and skills that are gained by being a counselor. To list a few:

Leadership: Counselors are responsible for the health and safety of a cabin group of 6-10 campers, teaching activities in one or more areas, and possibly directing an activity while managing several other staff members. You ensure that groups can work together cohesively to provide a positive camp experience for everyone. 

Teamwork: Working with a co-counselor in the cabin, and the rest of the staff at camp, you became an expert team player. Being able to take into account points that differ from your own and learning how to trust your camp sisters is a skill that will be very beneficial to just about any career (and life in general!).

Communication: Effective communication is essential for conveying instructions to campers and for providing updates and feedback to fellow counselors to be sure everyone is on the same page is critical. Communication is what keeps camp running safely and efficiently! Not to mention, sharing a written report during the summer on each camper in your cabin group to show adjustment to group living and personal growth using specific examples is key to realizing the value of camp for caregivers.

Problem Solving: Camp can be unpredictable at times, so problem solving is essential for responding to unexpected situations and changes. The weather is one of the biggest drivers of change at camp as it can go from sunny to rainy in a matter of minutes. Thinking on your feet and being able to switch gears to gather your group and carry on without missing a beat is practiced on a daily basis! Additionally, counselors often encounter conflicts among others, so the ability to find solutions in a positive and constructive manner is another incredibly important skill gained from camp.

Decision Making: With leadership comes decision making. Whether it is organizing plans for daily activities, cabin nights, campfire skits, or just adapting to Woodland “dew” (AKA a rainy day), counselors become very comfortable making decisions individually and as a group.

Creativity: Song Contest, Camper Council, Inspiration Hour, campfire leaders, two-week plans, cabin posters, and more! Counselors have so many opportunities to show their creativity at camp. If changing the words to a song and coming up with dance moves for the highly anticipated Song Contest, facilitating a theme-night of games for the entire camp with your cabin group, and planning engaging lessons for a 60 minute activity period that meets 6 days a week (and with varying ages and skill levels!) doesn’t involve creativity, I don’t know what does! 

Empathy and Patience: Leadership involves understanding and connecting with others’ needs, emotions, and challenges. It is being patient with both campers and fellow staff and offering support in the kindest of ways. These are skills which are cultivated constantly as a Woodland counselor and will spill over into relationships with others at school, home or work.

To former counselors, future counselors, and parents of prospective counselors, working at Woodland is such a rewarding job. Counselors have a profound impact on others and at the same time, have the opportunity for so much personal growth. I know my experience as a counselor will benefit me both professionally and personally for many years to come!

If you know of someone who loves working with people and is looking for a rewarding summer job opportunity for 2024, send them HERE!

by Colette Vavrus

Addition Through Subtraction

Posted by on July 24, 2023

Some of you know that I have taught and tutored math over the years at various levels. Don’t worry – this is not a blog about the quadratic formula or any other math memory that you might have suppressed at some point in your school career! 

My mathematical brain takes over at times when I least expect it, and so it occurred to me that there are opposing terms at work during the camp season that are worth diving into. We often think of subtracting with a negative connotation – I know I’m not a fan of the debits that are taken away from my bank account balance when paying bills or visiting the ATM (and I’m guessing you aren’t either!). 

At camp subtracting is actually a GOOD thing. We spend less time on our devices (or no time at all if attending camp as a camper), less time in a vehicle or taking public transportation to and from school/work/home, and less time (and money spent!) going out to eat or swinging through the drive-thru because we don’t have time to cook. We also spend less time doing homework or the things we have to do and there is less excess all around (no trips to our favorite stores or online Amazon shopping sprees for 6+ weeks). 

We can’t forget about less comparison or judgment and fewer overall distractions. Being fairly isolated in the Northwoods of Wisconsin means that we are less urban (the closest Walmart is about 30 min away!). It is also safe to say that busy, hectic schedules often are the reason for less down time and fewer hours of sleep. I could go on and on (but I won’t!). The point is that all of these things SUBTRACT from the limited number of minutes in the day or from the quality of how our time is spent in general. I’m sure you are familiar with the expression, “less is more”. It perfectly ties in with what camp is all about (and where the “math” part comes in!). 

Because at camp we are spending less time doing what is necessary at home to get through a typical day, there is actually MORE time to do the things that actually ADD to our days. This looks like more in-depth conversations because we are hanging out with friends face-to-face, more walking, skipping, or running to our next favorite camp activity (which leads to more exercise), and more opportunities for balanced meals and being at the dinner table as a cabin family three times a day. 

We also see addition at work because there is more choice in following our interests and passions by signing up for activities that we enjoy vs those that are required. We come to terms with making do with what we have (and not wanting more), and we learn to share with others (sometimes in giving and sometimes in receiving). I love how dressing up in costumes for various special events lends itself to a mass exchange of colored t-shirts and other items between campers and counselors, depending on what team you happen to be on!

We typically have more curiosity and empathy at camp for others because we see people for who they really are and not what we want/need them to be. There is more authenticity as the members of our community don’t feel the need to be “fake”. There is comfort and relief in knowing that it is OK to be the true version of you. We often hear that campers are their best selves at camp due to the ability to be their actual self and not some imitation self. 

We are able to put away most of the world’s distractions and focus on being truly present. There is also time to S-L-O-W way the heck D-O-W-N and enjoy life’s little moments. Seeing a freshly spun spider web on your way to breakfast, a unique pine cone on the path down to the beach, or deer bounding across the field as you make your way to evening assembly are some of nature’s “distractions” that we welcome and enjoy every single day! We also tend to get more and better sleep at camp because of how active and full our days tend to be. Turning in on average at 9:30 pm and waking up at 7:30 am makes for 10 full hours of precious rest that our bodies need and crave. Most of us are still growing! 

At camp less is more. WAY more. The addition that happens through the camp experience is actually done by subtracting. Taking away those things for a while that get in the way of real relationships, real enjoyment, and real FUN. Excited for the adventures still to come with your camper/s!


Meet the All-Star Support Staff

Posted by on July 13, 2023

This blog is dedicated to the faces of those who we could not do without at camp, yet who often go without mention. The Woodland Support Staff are “behind the scenes” magicians. They support EVERYTHING we do. From lighting a fire in the lodge every morning, to cracking enough eggs to feed 100 people, to caring for our youngest “campers”, we would like to introduce our maintenance team, kitchen staff, and nanny!

Chet (maintenance and facilities)

Hometown: Athens, WI (summer)

What have you been doing this past year? spending time with my daughters on the east coast (NJ), buying and selling antiques, and coming up with new ideas for camp

Topic/s you could talk about for hours: history and antiques

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: Better to be quiet than open your mouth to prove you’re a fool!

Looking forward to this summer? Every summer brings new challenges and opportunities to grow. 

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? Everywhere! I spend time doing maintenance projects at both camps, running errands in town (including weekly laundry drop-off and pick-up), taking care of any cabin needs, filling up boats with gas, getting grill for cookout and campfires set, and cutting wishboats for the final banquet (for starters!)

Summers at camp: 41!!! (started in 1982 and only missed one summer)

Dan (chef)

Hometown: Champagne, IL

What have you been doing this past year? spending time with my grandkids 

Topic/s could you talk about for hours: historical homes

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: My strength did not come from lifting weights. My strength came from lifting myself up every time I was knocked down. 

Looking forward to this summer? getting to know everyone

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? Kitchen making everyone’s favorite homemade lasagne and blueberry muffins

Fun Fact: Dan lost 60 lbs over the winter!

Summers at camp: 23

*If you would like to know more about Dan’s story and how he came to be with us at camp see this tribute posted last fall!

Fani (kitchen) – from left to right in above photo

Hometown: Puebla, MX

What have you been doing this past year? being a practitioner of my career as an English teacher 

Topic/s you could talk about for hours: desserts, arts, and history

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: Choose the people who choose you.

Looking forward to this summer? Have more interaction with all of the counselors this year. 

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? Kitchen and Art room

Summers at camp: 4

Angel (kitchen)

Hometown: Puebla, MX

What have you been doing this past year? I continued my studies, took a physiotherapy course and worked part time 

Topic/s you could talk about for hours: video games and behavioral psychology

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: It is impossible not to make mistakes, and it is important to try to make as few as possible.

Looking forward to this summer? I hope this year will be very rewarding and that I will enjoy the summer in my favorite place.  

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? Kitchen, Woodland Road, and Waterfront (great place to relax!) 

Fun fact: Angel makes incredible drawings on the menu board to showcase what is being served at the meal. 

Summers at camp: 3

Karla (kitchen)

Hometown: Puebla, MX

What have you been doing this past year? studying international business and learning French

Topic/s you could talk about for hours: makeup and music from my favorite band

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: Time goes by, take advantage while you are young.

Looking forward to this summer? I’m excited to meet new people and be in a new place.  

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? Kitchen and walking around camp

Summers at camp: 1

Astrid (kitchen)

Hometown: Puebla, MX

What have you been doing this past year? studying visual arts and taking mountaineering courses

Topic/s you could talk about for hours: art, museums and movies 

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: If something is easy for you, accept it.

Looking forward to this summer? Meet people and get out of my comfort zone!

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? Kitchen and trying out any physical activity

Fun fact: Karla and Astrid are sisters!

Summers at camp: 1

Bryce – Super Star Caretaker

Hometown: Madison, WI

What have you been doing this past year? studying early Childhood Education & Special Education at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire 

Topic/s could you talk about for hours: plants

Most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever received: Keep your chin up!

Looking forward to this summer? getting to know everyone

Where will you most likely be spotted at camp? by the water and anywhere Calla’s two little ones want to go!

Fun fact: Bryce’s Grandmother lives in Eagle River

Summers at camp: 1

If you would like to write a word of encouragement to any of our SUPER STAR Support Staff, please send to: Camp Woodland, 8080 Camp RD, Eagle River, WI, 54521 or email

Behind the Scenes to Building Future Leaders

Posted by on July 8, 2023

Campfires, Camper Council, Inspiration Hour, and Sunday special events are a key part of the fabric of the weekly programming we have at camp. At surface level, these activities could have the appearance of nothing more than the opportunity to wear crazy costumes and play a bunch of games or sit in a circle singing songs and sharing thoughts around a particular theme. Some might even say their purpose on the camp calendar is to keep campers entertained and busy after dinner several days a week and on Sunday when we take a break from the usual daily program of activity choices. 

I would argue that the importance of these events is far greater than what meets the eye at first glance. The six weeks of camp is based on intentionality and purpose, and these evening and Sunday events are no exception. Why? I’m glad you asked! 

The reasons you send your camper/s to us are numerous, one of them being the development of young people into leaders. The mentioned evening and Sunday programs are the perfect ecosystem for that to happen because they are for the most part planned and executed by campers. What?! Yes, these very programs are amazingly designed and carried out by your kid/s. The staff, of course, guide, facilitate and support the campers ranging from 7-16 to be able to do this. They recognize the importance of empowering campers from the youngest to the oldest to have a voice in designing and contributing to their summer experience. 

At each weekly campfire (Wednesday nights), cabins switch between the role of leading a song or performing a skit in front of the entire camp. The collaboration it takes to decide as a group what that will be is a great lesson in compromise and negotiation. Overcoming or managing the jitters of standing in front of a group (as a group) is a great segway into confidently responding to a question asked by a teacher in school, volunteering to read out loud, or getting on stage for choir, band, theater or other performances. 

Friday nights are typically designated for Camper Council themed events that are assigned weekly to a different cabin. The cabin is responsible for coming up with a theme, selecting costumes and games that fit with the theme, making the announcement to stir up excitement for the evening’s activities, setting-up and cleaning-up, and leading the chosen activities. The cool part is the CAMPERS are part of the entire process from start to finish which means they run the activities! As a result campers learn about giving clear instructions to their peers and facilitating various aspects of a game as each group rotates through. This is the stuff future leaders are made of!

Last week, Sunnyside cabin chose a “holiday theme” and had each cabin represent a different holiday to portray with their costume choice (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Earth Day, etc). Campers led “love song” musical chairs, “candy cane” limbo, and other fun party games along with a hunt for a missing item special to each holiday that was also incorporated into the mix. Campers leading campers…SO awesome! 

Each Sunday morning we venture to a peaceful spot behind Hilltop for “Inspiration Hour”. This is another chance to practice leadership skills as cabins take turns planning this time that is spent together as an entire camp around a chosen character trait or value (friendship, kindness, integrity, etc). Campers choose their theme and how they will share this message that is often through songs, skits, and/or stories. Driftwood was the first cabin to lead Inspiration Hour and chose “community” as their theme (one of our 5 core values). This process also aids campers in their journey to being able to speak in front of others. 

Sunday afternoons are run solely by the oldest campers each week, the CIT’s (counselors-in-training). In a similar fashion to Camper Council nights, this group plans multiple all-camp themed events throughout the summer that are longer in length, lasting from 1-2 hours. As part of the planning, considerations are given to a wide range of camper ages, choosing engaging and fun activities, the weather conditions (having a back-up plan is always a good idea!), utilizing different aspects of the camp property and facilities, and finding new twists to a camp “tradition”…just to name a few! The project management skills repeatedly practiced over the course of 6 weeks to plan these events on top of other CIT duties paves the way for leadership participation in student government, clubs and organizations throughout middle/high school and beyond.

So far the CIT’s have pulled off Alien Invasion and the 4th of July Games in grand fashion. The campers LOVE a good hunt for the CIT’s dressed up as aliens and scattered all around camp. Competition for the most points is a true motivator – congrats to Sunnyside for being the overall champion! This recent Sunday was our traditional 4th of July Games that included a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party at the waterfront along with a variety of games including the orange pass, water transfer (see photo), 3-legged race, (very carefully) shaving a balloon covered in an abundance of shaving cream, and more! 

So, next time you see pictures of crazy costumes and fun games or campers around a campfire or similar setting, be sure to look behind the scenes for examples of collaboration, negotiation, project management, communication, and other life/career skills!