Monthly Archives:August 2023

Meet the Woodland Wellness Team

When I think back to my early days working at camp in the mid 80’s and into the 90’s, I remember sending kids to the “infirmary” when they were sick or injured. At some point (I can’t recall the exact year), we realized that the name for the cabin tucked in between Treetops and Farm Zoo implies a place to care for the “ill” or “infirm” when it is far more than that! It is definitely a place to get back on your feet when not feeling well or to seek care after a mishap; however, it is more appropriately known as the “Health Center.”

Instead of focusing on the reactive side of being sick or hurt, the new name implies a more proactive approach to care with the idea of being on top of issues before they become problematic. Here meds are prepped for distribution at meals and before bed, campers come by cabin groups to get regular health checks throughout the season so that a baseline is established and monitored, and there is even a water bottle cleaning station outside for getting rid of any “funk” (bacteria) that may cause issues down the road! Band-aids can be found in an envelope that is tacked to the door so that campers and staff can take them as needed to care for their own minor bug bites, scratches and scrapes. Not an infirmary by a long shot!

I would even go further to say that after the past several years, the name for this building that welcomes every camper and staff member at some point throughout the summer (some more often than others!), would be better suited being called the “Wellness Center.” And, the staff who are in charge of the medical side of the camp community would be referred to as the “wellness team.” Mental health in today’s world is just as important (if not more so!) to overall wellness as physical health. Our health center staff in recent years have been well aware that mental health (stress, anxiety, panic, and more) is often manifested in physical ways (headache, stomach ache, lack of appetite, inability to sleep, etc).

Enter team Marie, a board certified family nurse practitioner, and RN Maddy. Maddy joined the Woodland community for the first time this summer (2023), while Marie has been with us a total of 3 summers with her start in 2021. Marie is the health care coordinator for both camps and a vital member of the CWTP leadership team that meets weekly from September-May. These two amazing people have a lot to do with me making an “unofficial” name change here for the health center.

This idea of thinking of health care as overall wellness is a much needed mindset switch and was intentionally prevalent this past summer. As soon as you walked in the door, the first thing that caught your attention was the lampshade that “smiled” at you with a pair of false eyelashes. For Marie and Maddy, humor was often the best “medicine” for those coming by for a visit. Nobody wants to be ill or injured, and there can be anxiety around both, so why not make it a less threatening place from the moment you enter the building?!

Next you would find a plethora of fun “fidget” toys that are great for engaging the senses by popping, stretching, twisting, turning, rubbing, etc. in order to keep the mind from going down the path of creating worst case scenarios. There were also well-stocked plastic bins that were the home to all kinds of coloring pages and markers, games, and other items to occupy time when not sleeping or wishing you were back in your cabin or participating in your normal slate of activities while on the road to recovery.

One of the great things about this Dynamic Duo is that they immersed themselves in the camp community and could be seen outside of their “office”. The first period of the day was typically dedicated to walking around from cabin to cabin with the CIT (counselor-in-training) who is OD (officer of the day) to do cabin inspections (as you may suspect, community health is greatly affected by cleanliness!). Meals were eaten in the lodge most days as this is a great time to catch up with campers and staff who may need a quick check-in as this is when everyone is in the same location for an extended period of time. Afternoons were often spent at the waterfront as a large portion of the camp is there for Rec Swim or sailing, another key time to “hang out” and connect with campers and staff. I also observed Marie and Maddy walk around to various activities and saw them participate in dance class and hit balls at tennis!

Whatever you call the place where the medical staff live and set up shop, the wellness team is an integral part of the camp community, and we couldn’t do it without them! Thank you, Maddy & Marie, for a HEALTHY & SAFE summer!

A little bit about Marie…

Hometown: Wausau, WI 

What will Marie be doing this coming year? working on building a practice and cleaning house (hard to do when working 2 full-time jobs!)

Topic/s Marie could talk about for hours: dogs, nieces & nephews

Most valuable piece of advice she’s ever received: QTIP (quit taking it personally)

Fun Facts: Marie has 4 dogs, one of whom is a puppy that pushes every possible button of someone who is supposed to know how to train dogs(!); she also has a big barn full of all kinds of goodies (hence the reason the Health Center was so well stocked with interesting things – ask Marie for just about anything, and she will come up with it!)

A little bit about Maddy…

Hometown: Wausau, WI (two amazing people from the SAME town!)

What will Maddy be doing this coming year? going on a vacation to Alaska with her family (cruise and land tour) immediately after camp then figuring out what to do next being she is a recent college graduate

Topic/s Maddy could talk about for hours: fishing

Most valuable piece of advice she’s ever received: still thinking on this one!

Fun Facts: Maddy has a twin sister, she can make friendship bracelets with the best of them, and she LOVES eating green peas out of a can

Camp is a Place to Find Your People

The song, “Find Your People” by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors caught my attention recently, so I decided to look up the lyrics. Now I know why it came across my radar. The song speaks to the camp community that is created every summer at Camp Woodland; 2023 being no exception. Now that your family has been reunited, this may give a peek into the window of what your camper/s experienced over the course of 6 weeks.

You gotta find your people

The ones that make you feel alright

The kind you want to stay up with all night

You got to find your people

The ones that make you feel whole

That won’t leave your side when you lose control

The ones that don’t lose your soul

You gotta find your people

The ones that get the joke

Who understand what you’re saying before a word is spoke

You gotta find your people

That put the needle in the groove

When you’re together, you got nothing to prove

When you’re together, you got nothing to lose

In a world of strangers, you don’t know who to trust

All you see is danger, trying to find what you lost

You can’t go in alone, everybody needs help

You gotta find your people, then you’ll find yourself

You gotta find your people

That’ll call your bluff

Who’ll ride along when the road is rough

You gotta find your people

The ones that you feel equal

They pick you up and don’t put you down

Help you find your way in the lost and found

In a world of strangers, you don’t know who to trust

All you see is danger, trying to find what you lost

You can’t go in alone, everybody needs help

You gotta find your people, then you’ll find yourself

The ones that understand you

The ones that lend a hand to you

The ones that don’t demand anything from you

You gotta find your people

The ones that make you feel alright

That tell you the truth then wish you well

You gotta find your people, then you’ll find yourself

You gotta find your people, then you’ll find yourself

After spending 6 weeks in the camp ecosystem, these girls have “found their people”. Now that your camper/s are back at home and making their way into the world again, our hope is that they are able to stay true to themselves and “find their people” at school, in sports and activities, at work, and with their friend groups. This song is a yardstick for measuring the true depth of friendships. Do those friends make her feel alright? Make her whole? Will they leave her side or ride along when the road is tough?

Will she falter? Absolutely. Will she make poor choices? Most likely. Will she need gentle reminders? Of course. That’s our job as adults. We guide and support them on the path to “finding their people”.

I think it is safe to say that each camper who spent the summer with us knows a little more about herself as a result of the people she spent time with. We hope this will last the next 9 months or so until she can be back in the Northwoods at Camp Woodland with “her people” and that you will reserve her spot for 2024 (early bird discount through 8/31/23 when registering for 6 weeks):



Advice from Your Campers: The Closing of Camp and the Opening of Home

Posted by on August 3, 2023

Thanks to a suggestion from a parent who is looking for advice about the upcoming Parents Weekend, I am offering some thoughts your campers shared with me (without mentioning any names) about the transition from camp to home that will be occurring in a few short days. As mentioned earlier this summer for drop-off on Opening Weekend, there are a lot of clashing emotions – some understandable and relatable, others not so much.

Heartstrings will be pulled again as there are mixed feelings about the change that is about to happen. For those of you driving to camp, it will be noticeable when you join us for Parents Weekend. For others of you, it will take place when you pick up your camper/s from the bus at O’Hare or when you greet them at the airport in Mexico or other destinations. As one camper eloquently shared, think of it as the closing of camp and the opening of home.

Please know that as you read this, your daughter/s love you very much! They can’t wait to see you – 6 weeks is a long time to be separated. They are also a little nervous in anticipation of what this coming weekend means. It is hard to understand from your point of view, and it is hard to explain from their perspective. When I interviewed campers of varying ages, I framed it in a way that parents would like “advice” on how to “act” when they see you at Woodland or after the journey home. I am going to try to keep it as candid as possible so that it is genuinely their words and not mine.

For those of you who have campers on the young end of our age range or who are with us for the very first time, these girls don’t really know what to expect. Keeping this in mind, you may find some of their answers to be rather humorous. First of all they want you to know that all of the shows are going to be good. That is actually an understatement – they are going to be GREAT as I’ve been able sneak a few peeks in activities this week as they are rehearsing and practicing for all of the end-of-year shows. They are VERY excited for you to see what they have learned and accomplished in riding, swimming, drama, dance, gymnastics and arts & crafts (don’t worry – you can see other activities, too, on Saturday before the shows). They also suggest that you take lots of photos (for those of you not able to join us at camp, we will be posting these online and via social media). Oh, and if you are bringing the family dog, bring a leash!

They also wanted me to tell you that Woodland is the BEST. CAMP. IN. THE. WORLD. They want you to have fun while you are here. They want you to see the animals, the lake, and all the places they travel to and from during their day. Ask them questions about camp. What are the names of the horses? Which one did you like riding the most? Where do you eat meals? What is the favorite new food you tried? Where did you hang out during Rec Swim? What games did you play? Where did adventures take you in canoeing or sailing? Where was the Mother Lode hidden this year? Where did you find the CIT’s during “Alien Invasion”?

They want to tell you EVERYTHING! Listen to their stories about what they did and who was in their cabin. They also want to catch up on news from home. Did the dogs have fun? Was the extra room added? How is Grandma? There were a few requests like having their bed made, room clean, and favorite food waiting (LOL). And, they are looking forward to a BIG HUG.

The older campers are and the more years they have been with us, the more challenging the transition can be. These girls are looking for “space” to do their thing and be with the people here. They are very much aware of how hard it is going to be to say good-bye to their camp friends and summer “family”. They also don’t want to ignore you or make you feel bad. They understand it is hard for you too. These girls prefer not to talk about school, sports or activities, what’s next, SAT/ACT prep, etc. They want to stay in the moment of the here and now of camp for as long as possible. They need closure on this experience before opening the door of what awaits them at home or in the “real world”.

Veteran campers request that you take their sadness seriously. It is real. It is deep. It is unpredictable. You may see tears at odd times. Or laughing and crying simultaneously. Some campers may not say much on the ride home, others will be talking non-stop. You just never know. They will share when they are ready. Let it come in their own time. Show you are interested and engaged when the words start to flow. All they really need is for you to listen.

For those campers on the bus to Chicago, there will be multiple “good-byes”. They will be sad to leave camp and then once they settle in for the long ride to the airport, they are happy to be traveling with a bus full of people who were part of their summer experience. There will be another “good-bye” once they get off at O’Hare. For those members of our camper family from Mexico, one more farewell will take place once the plane lands in Mexico City. This is the final “adios” on the closing of camp and the opening of home. It is still hard to let go. Emotions are a tricky cast of characters. Your camper/s will appreciate your empathy as they make their re-entry. You may not understand it, and that is OK. Your child/ren will recognize the effort being made.

This weekend and the first few days home, campers just need a little time to process their experience. It will come in large waves at the beginning and wane as the days go by (but never completely go away). They will remember stories and snippets of the summer of 2022 indefinitely.

While some of what the campers said may be hard to take in, please don’t take it personally. Think of the wonderful gift you gave your daughter/s by sending them to camp. Often material gifts are novel for a short period of time and then they go unused or forgotten. You gave your child the VERY. BEST. GIFT. OF. ALL. TIME. You will see the effects of the Woodland experience all year long (and beyond!). We THANK YOU for sharing your most precious gift with us and hope you will consider having her return for 2024 (click HERE to register)!

p.s. The CIT’s are SUPER excited for you to see the Co-Ed Show on Saturday night at 7:30 pm at Towering Pines!

*This blog was originally posted on August 2, 2022 and has such an important message that I decided to pull it out again!

The Device Dilemma

Posted by on August 1, 2023

In a few short days, the summer of 2023 will come to a (screeching!) halt. Parents, caregivers, siblings, friends, and possibly a pet or two will descend on our 6-week Northwoods “bubble”. With that brings many decisions to make regarding the re-entry of your camper into the world of home, school, activities, friends, etc. There are also some decisions to consider about coming back into the world of technology. It’s not something to take lightly…there is a golden opportunity to do things differently and set the tone for the year ahead. 

For six weeks your camper/s have been navigating the world without one single device. They have not been distracted by dings, rings and buzzes. No one has been checking to see how many likes, favorites, views, or other social media tally has been racked up to give a temporary/false sense of popularity. Not a single person has been privy to what events or gatherings they might have missed because there were conflicting obligations or there was an intentional (and devastating) non-invitation. 

The next few days are the perfect time to consider and discuss the options and consequences before handing over your camper’s smartphone, tablet, or other device. I recognize that for some campers, long-distance or international travel is involved in the journey home, thus there is a need to be able to communicate with them during their bus ride and/or flight back. I would still like to challenge you to think about and come up with a plan for once everyone is back home safely.

What prompted me to even think about this is a Growing Leaders blog I recently read about an interesting trend among kids today. I discovered there is a growing population of young people who have had enough of being glued to screens. They are looking for and needing/craving something more. Something their phones and devices can’t provide. This is the main reason the Luddite Club was founded by a high schooler in Brooklyn, NY, and why its members assemble in-person on Sunday afternoons on the steps of the Central Library on Grand Army Plaza. 

The tie that binds this group is that they decided at some point to put their “smart phone” away for good and use a flip phone or no phone at all. The “push” in many instances for this unexpected turn originated by parental insistence that the mobile device be taken away for a period of time as a necessary consequence. After the initial shock of being without their communication lifeline, the teens realized that they were better off not being tethered to something that turned them into a version of themselves they didn’t recognize or even like anymore. 

A current parent and longtime Woodland camper/staff member emailed me after reading the “Addition Through Subtraction” blog that was posted last week. This alum shared she appreciated that her kids return from camp having mentally slowed down to a healthy speed. “As a family, we take advantage as we roll straight from camp (by way of the washing machine) into a vacation at the beach where we all slow down, and we all love it. Three hours spent on a board game? No problem. Two hours reading a book? Great! Crazy slow mini golf? I double dog dare you.” This post-camp family time is intentionally sans devices.

She further states that, “My mom told me recently that my dad’s late life mobility issues were an unexpected gift, because she realized that she now looked up when she walked slowly to match his reduced pace, and she observed so much that she had been missing for years.” Great words to live by! I have that found that looking at my phone while trying to walk our dogs or do something else is robbing precious time from being present in the beauty of where I am at that moment. I can’t get those seconds or minutes of seeing the sun break the horizon, a heron flying overhead with a fish in its mouth, or the exposed beach at low tide back if I choose to have my head down and eyes peeled to a small piece of rectangular glass. 

Is this an easy ask? Heck no! Are the short term struggles worth the long term benefits? I believe so. 100%. Otherwise, I would not be writing this! Here are a few ideas to consider as a starting point for helping your child/ren become more aware of the impact their device is having on them and the benefits of scaling back on device time if not forgoing it altogether in the months ahead. Maybe a pros/cons list is in order now that they are coming off almost 45 days without one!

  1. Share stories of kids their age who are taking a break.

There are even examples of campers in our own community delaying possession of their devices following their 6 week camp experience. In fact, one such CIT gave her phone back to her mom before jumping in the car to go home last summer. She knew she wasn’t ready to be immersed into the social pressures of what it means being “online” 24/7 and the mind-numbing feeling of being lost in endless scrolling. 

  1. Curate dinner table or other opportunities for meaningful discussions.

Your camper is used to sitting with their cabin group for three meals every day having real, in-depth conversations about what is experienced and learned while everyone goes in different directions during activity periods. Sharing ups and downs, successes and failures, along with stories and past experiences from home is normalized when sitting around a table or in a circle at cookout or picnic multiple times a day. Dreams, hopes and goals are also being shared during meals or other random times of checking-in throughout the day with cabinmates and other camp friends. This has been a regular part of the fabric of every single day at camp for your daughter/s since they arrived on June 24. I would venture to say on the low side that 5-6 hours a day on average is spent in these organic interactions! 

  1. Plan device-free days or times.

If going cold turkey with time spent on devices is too much or not realistic for your household situation, consider starting with times of the day (meals, homework time, etc) or certain days (Saturday, Sunday, or days during a holiday break) that are device-free. Having this conversation and together coming up with your family plan will help create buy-in from your camper/s. 

4. What now?!

Last time I checked, stamps are still available at your local post office or other customer service counter. Campers will have address lists of our community in their memory folders and can connect with camp friends using “snail mail”. Rounding up some fun stationery, pens, stickers and other items can make letter-writing a more desirable means of communication. Instill “rest hour” at home when possible and encourage this type of activity (another camp routine). You can plan on hearing from us about once a month with photos, newsletters, and camp news that will keep the spirit of being “unplugged” alive throughout the year. 

We wish you a great school year and look forward to when we can all come together at Camp Woodland for another 6-weeks of being device-free!