Spring 2017 Newsletter

The latest newsletter, The Akeela Circular, is here!

Here is an excerpt from the newsletter, in which we describe what campers can expect from the first day of camp:

Dear Akeela Camper,
Summer is almost here and we hope you are excited about camp, even if you’re also feeling a little nervous about it. Many kids go away for part of the summer. Some visit family, some go on teen travel or community service programs, and some go to sleep-away camps. Almost everybody worries about how they will like a place that’s new to them. It’s OK to feel that way and we’re
here to help make your transition to camp as easy and smooth as possible. We think that one way to do that is to help you know what to expect…
If you’re taking one of the camp buses to camp, you and your parents will meet some of our counselors at the bus pick-up location. They will be there to welcome you and to introduce you to other campers. They will help you find a seat on the bus with a new friend and will be there to answer any questions you might have. The travel time from NY is approximately 5 hours and the time from Boston is approximately 2.5 hours. You will bring lunch on the bus and there are bathrooms on both buses!
Those of you flying to Boston on Opening Day will be met at the airport by Akeela staff members. They will be there to greet you and to introduce you to other campers who have also flown in! You and your new friends will be driven by our staff in a camp van directly to camp. It will take approximately 2.5 hours to get to Akeela. If your parents are driving you to camp, you will be dropped off at 1:30. Your counselors will be there to meet you at your car and help you carry any last-minute items you have brought with you that day. You, your parents, and counselors will go to your cabin, where you’ll see all of your belongings have been unpacked and organized for you so you can easily find your bed. You’ll then say goodbye to your family and begin your camp adventure!
Regardless of how you get to camp, here’s what you can expect to happen the rest of that first day:
•You will have a chance to see what camp looks like and enjoy some planned activities with your bunkmates. You might take a tour, play some games, or jump on the jumping pillow.
•You’ll also meet our nurses so that they can give you a quick “health check” to make sure you’re healthy!
•Our great Chef, Catarina, will give you a small preview of her culinary expertise and provide a delicious snack for you and your new friends to enjoy.
•There will be some time after everyone arrives for each bunk to start spending some time together before we meet for dinner. This is a great time to get to know your bunkmates and counselors, and talk about “bunk expectations,” so you know what to expect from each other.
•We will all have dinner and Evening Meeting together as a community. You’ll eat dinner with your cabin, just like you will for all your meals at camp! Evening Meeting will be at the amphitheatre and you’ll get to hear from Eric and Debbie, and have a chance to make announcements about the new friends you’ve already made!
•Then it will be time for our opening campfire and evening snack. We’ll sing songs and do skits as a community by the fire. It’s one of our favorite parts of camp!
•Before bedtime, you will preview the next day’s schedule and then Debbie or Eric and your Head Counselor will stop by to say good night. Before you know it, your first day will be over and we will all be getting ready for bed!
Many campers worry that they might be sad or homesick on the first night of camp. That is very normal. All of your counselors will be right in your bunk with you to help you. In addition to talking to them, you might want to look at photos from home, write a letter to your family or read a book. We know that after a short time, you will be having such a great time at Akeela, it will feel like your second
home.
We can’t wait to see you at camp. Many of you will be joining us for our Open House on June 4th. If you’re not able to attend Open House, you’ll be able to see photos of the event on the camp website. We’re so excited for an amazing summer at Camp Akeela. See
you soon!

Read the entire newsletter here


We’re A Midwest Camp!

As we approach the start of another camp season, we’ve been reflecting on what an exciting year this has been for us. Opening a second location of Camp Akeela has certainly been a lot of work, but it’s truly a labor of love. It is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to be a part of our Vermont campers’ lives – and seeing the impact Akeela has on them and their families. The addition of Camp Akeela in Wisconsin means that we get to share the Akeela experience with even more children and teenagers.

One of our favorite parts of this past year is getting more familiar with the Midwest. Our year-round team consists of East and West Coasters (Debbie is from Philadelphia, Eric is from New York, Dave is from Vermont and Kevin is from California.) When we started Camp Akeela in 2007, we were already very familiar with New England: its camps, schools and population centers. Our first and most important task was to immerse ourselves in the Northeast’s communities of Asperger’s, NVLD, learning differences, and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Now that we’re offering a shorter-session camp in Wisconsin, we are doing much of the same relationship building throughout the region, including Chicago and Detroit, Columbus and Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Madison, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and St. Louis. In addition to meeting many wonderful families, we’ve also gotten to know psychologists, educators, therapy providers, social skills groups leaders and other professionals. We love nothing more than connecting with like-minded people who adore “quirky” kids as much as we do!

This week is a particularly busy and fun-filled one for us. Dave Baker, one of our Midwest on-site directors, is currently attending the Autism Society of Wisconsin’s annual conference. If you’ll be in the Dells this week, please stop by to say hi to Dave at the conference exhibit hall! At the same time, Catricia Morris (a veteran counselor at our Vermont camp who will be helping to pioneer our Wisconsin location this summer) is attending the 22nd Annual Minnesota Autism Conference in Minneapolis. She will be in the exhibitor hall there and invites everyone at the conference to come meet her! Both Dave and Catricia are excited to see Temple Grandin, as she is a keynote speaker at both conferences.

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 29, Dave will also be hosting a Camp Akeela information session in Glencoe, Illinois. This is a chance for folks on the North Shore and elsewhere in the Chicago area to learn more about our camp. If you have a child or teenager who could benefit from expert social skills coaching in a fun, traditional camp environment, we invite you to attend this info-session. It’s low-key event at which campers and their parents can see lots of photos of Akeela, get a sense for a typical day at camp, and meet a director. For more information or details about how to join Dave on the North Shore on Saturday, please contact us at info@campakeela.com.


Winter 2017 Newsletter

The Winter 2017 edition of our newsletter, The Camp Akeela Circular, is here! Check it out for advice about how to prepare for camp, an introduction to our program heads and Akeela Vermont’s new head chef, updates on Akeela in Wisconsin, wedding news, lists of returning campers and staff, and the latest alumni profile!

Here is a note from Debbie and Eric, featured on the newsletter’s first page:

This newsletter represents an exciting “first” for Camp Akeela because it’s the first to be distributed to members of our TWO camp communities: Akeela in Vermont and Akeela in Wisconsin. In many ways, we will be two separate camps this summer. As you look through this newsletter, you’ll find some distinctions between our Vermont and Wisconsin locations. The dates differ; some of the facilities and program news apply to one site or the other; the camper and staff updates now include the abbreviations VT or WI. Most importantly, both Akeela locations (and in fact each session at both sites) will be its own rich, vibrant community. Regardless of where or when campers attend, they will feel a deep sense of belonging and kinship with their fellow campers and our amazing staff.

As excited as we are about replicating the magic of Akeela in an entirely new part of the country, we’re equally aware of the ways in which we’re all part of the same camp family. This phenomenon was evident last month at our third annual Winter Weekend Reunion. Because the weekend combined campers from the two different Akeela Vermont sessions, not everyone knew one another before the reunion. We could imagine a weekend that felt like two separate groups sharing the same space. In reality, however, it was amazing how quickly they came together into one unit. With a baseline shared experience of knowing what it’s like to have spent time at Camp Akeela, new friendships were forged almost instantly. A year from now, when we have campers and families who have experienced Akeela both at different times and in different states, we are confident that we will all feel equally connected.

Read the complete Winter 2017 Newsletter here!


Autism Spectrum Camp Staff: Part 1

Autism Spectrum Camp Directors:

When we tell people that we’re summer camp directors, one of the most common responses is to ask us, “What do you do the rest of the year?” They often have a hard time believing that our 7-week summer camp translates into a more-than-full-time job for 5 of us! Blayne and his team work at camp to maintain and upgrade our beautiful camp facilities. Each year, he has at least one large construction project (e.g. new camper cabins, the Lodge, the camp office) and a variety of smaller maintenance tasks that keep them very busy!

Meanwhile, Debbie, Eric, Kevin and Dave work in an office just outside Philadelphia. Together, we make sure that every summer at Akeela is the best it can be. That includes hiring the most incredible summer camp staff in the country – no small task given the size of our staff (over 100) and our extremely high standards (many inquiries and interviews for each available position). We also work hard to ensure that every camper who attends Akeela is a great fit. To that end, we spend many hours getting to know all prospective campers and their families, including speaking with three non family members for each applicant. Of course, there is also a lot of planning that goes into the camp program, from the traditional camp activities to trips and special events. This year, program planning is even more intense as we’re launching Camp Akeela in Wisconsin and totally revamping Beyond Akeela!

Another large component of our off-season time is dedicated to professional development. Camp directors are first and foremost educators and child development specialists. We’re also HR directors, supervisors and leaders who get to train and inspire staff members to profoundly change lives of the children. Moreover, we manage complex operations on large properties with food service, water supplies, environmental responsibilities and a host of other factors. The more we learn and share in these areas, the better we can be at delivering our mission: to provide our campers with the most incredible, life-changing summer experience on the planet. For that reason, all of us are actively engaged in attending, volunteering and even presenting at educational conferences organized by the American Camp Association (ACA).
In addition to our involvement in the ACA, we are very fortunate to work closely with approximately fifteen other sets of camp directors. Most of these camps are in the Northeast: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. A few are in the Midwest: Camp Akeela in Wisconsin and Lake of the Woods and Greenwoods Camps in Michigan. Together, we make up a family of camps called CampGroup. As an organization, we share core values of human development, excellence, building community and industry leadership. That manifests in a number of ways, including regular gatherings to support each others’ camps and share best practices.

Be sure to check back next week for part 2


Wisconsin Camp Announcement

From The Directors
Dear Camp Friends,
Throughout our nine unforgettable summers on Miller Pond we have seen so much growth, not only in our campers but in the size of our community, as well. We have watched our camp grow from approximately 40 to almost 120 campers per session. Likewise, the number of Akeela staff members has risen from less than 40 to more than 100. Over the years, we’ve added six new camper cabins, a golf driving range, the Lodge, a dining hall porch, gazebos and so much more. We are excited to announce that in the summer of 2017, our community is going to grow even more, with the opening of another Camp Akeela, in Wisconsin!

Don’t worry, nothing is going to change about the Camp Akeela that we all know and love in Vermont. We are just expanding west so that more boys and girls have an opportunity to grow in a loving and fun-filled summer camp community similar to what we have created together on Miller Pond. Debbie, Eric and Kevin will all continue to spend their summer in Vermont, while Dave and Katie Baker will be the On-Site Directors in Wisconsin.

Akeela Wisconsin will be located on the campus of Lawrence University in Appleton, which is about 40 minutes southwest of Green Bay, two hours north of Milwaukee, and three hours north of Chicago, IL. Despite being on a college campus, our Wisconsin camp is most definitely NOT an academic program! In three 2-week sessions, campers competing grades 3 – 10 will enjoy many of the same activities that our Vermont camp has to offer, including swimming, art, drama, music, cooking, tennis, team sports, LARPing, hiking, trips, and nature exploration. All of the camp traditions we have grown to love in Vermont – evening meeting, campfires, bunk songs & plaques, and special event days – will be equally integral to the experience at our new camp. We are going to bring as much of the magic of Vermont as we can to Wisconsin to create yet another incredible, life-changing summer experience for campers and staff!

We are so excited about this new adventure and invite you to follow all of its progress at the camp website, campakeela.com.

Fondly,

Debbie & Eric


Fall 2016 Newsletter

Fall is here and that means that it’s time for our fall newsletter! This jam-packed edition of the Akeela Circular includes:

  • News from the Directors
    A letter from Debbie & Eric, addressing their excitement about the opening of Camp Akeela in Wisconsin!
  • Blayne’s Bulletin
    A site update from Blayne, including a very exciting photo of Bunk 4’s new porch! That’s not the only cabin getting a new porch, either. There’s also some news and a picture of a well-known building in camp being demolished. (It will be replaced before next summer!)
  • Kev’s Korner
    A note from assistant director Kevin Trimble, reflecting on the concept of growth, both personal and professional. He highlights how Akeela has been able to grow while staying true to who we are as a community.
  • Wedding Bells
    Thanks to Greg and Julia’s pre-camp engagement this past June, planning for Camp Akeela marriage number 6 is now underway.
  • POISE-a-Thon Results
    We are so proud of the Akeela campers for their participation in this past summer’s POISE-a-Thons. Between the two sessions, their enthusiastic efforts raised more than $18,000 for a great charitable cause!
  • Winter Weekend & Parent Retreat Announcement
    Information about the third annual Winter Weekend reunion in Western Massachusetts, in late January 2017. At the same time, we’ll be hosting a parent & family retreat at the Cranwell Resort in Lenox, MA.
  • Camper and Staff Updates
    Lots of news from campers and staff about what they’ve been up to this fall, which of their camp friends they’ve seen, and much more.
  • Alumni Spotlight!
    A new feature in which we catch up with a former camper. This time, a distinguished alumnus of Camp Akeela and Beyond Akeela shares some wisdom about his experience in college and how camp helped him prepare for it.
  • Birthdays
    A list of upcoming camper and staff birthdays

Read it all here:

Akeela Circular, Fall 2016


Asperger’s Family Camp

Asperger's Family CampWe recently had the chance to attend the Center for Autism Research (CAR) conference called “Stepping into Adolescence” in Philadelphia. CAR is a leader in autism research in the greater Philadelphia area, and is affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. The conference was available to both parents of children on the autism spectrum and professionals in the community. It focused on children as they become adolescents, and how a child with autism’s experience with this transition differs from their typically developing peers. It was a great opportunity to connect with families of children on the spectrum and other professionals in our community.

One of our takeaways from the conference was how important it is for parents of children with autism to connect and share with each other. The challenges each family faces can feel isolating. When you’re able to develop a support network of people who are facing similar challenges, the feeling of isolation is mitigated. The resources the conference provided for families and the knowledge sharing amongst parents were phenomenal. With the increase in autism awareness nationwide, more and more universities and other organizations are doing research and providing resources for families. We have attended larger conferences in the Boston, New York, and New Jersey areas that seek to accomplish the same goals.

Asperger’s Family Camp Vermont

At Akeela, our Asperger’s Family Camp offers a chance for children and adults to connect with each other and share their best practices and experiences with each other. The results have been so powerful and moving. Some families are returning in August for their fifth summer of Akeela Asperger’s Family Camp!

We highly encourage everyone to seek out these opportunities to grow their own support network within the autism and Asperger’s communities!

Here are links to some of the great organizations we’ve connected with in various communities in the Northeast.

Boston and New England: AANE (www.aane.org)
New York area: AHANY (www.ahany.org)
New Jersey: ASPEN (www.aspennj.org)
Philadelphia: CAR (www.centerforautismresearch.org) and ASCEND (www.ascendgroup.org)


Winter Weekend and Stay & Play Recaps

New York Quirky Camp

In early January, Camp Akeela hosted two events in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts. One was our second annual Winter Weekend reunion for campers and the other was our first-ever Family Stay & Play, for camp parents and siblings. Both gatherings were absolutely wonderful and got everyone excited for our upcoming camp season!

The Winter Weekend brought together more than 50 Akeela campers for an extended reunion experience at Camp Winadu. Most campers came from the New York area, from metro Boston or from elsewhere in New England. Others travelled from as far as Pennsylvania and Virginia! That is a true testament to the strength of camp friendships and the lasting magic of the Akeela community.

It was amazing to see campers and staff reconnect with each other, happily falling back into “camp mode” within minutes of arriving. The weekend’s program pretty closely matched Akeela’s schedule, including organized camp activities (plus winter fun like sledding, ice skating and bowling!), free time for socializing and game-playing, Evening Meetings, and even a closing campfire on Sunday morning. Amidst the chilly winter weather, being together felt like a warm, sunny camp day on the shores of Miller Pond!

Simultaneous to the Winter Weekend, we also had 17 families join us at the Cranwell Resort and Spa for Akeela Family Stay & Play. Some parents knew each other from Family Camp or from having children in the same camp session; many others were meeting for the first time. Across the board, everybody loved having a chance to relax and play together in such a beautiful place.

The other wonderful aspect of Stay & Play was that it was a chance for parents to share ideas, learn from each other and bond over similar experiences. There was tremendous momentum for a “Camp Akeela Parents’ Association,” committed to creating more opportunities for parent connection (both live and virtual).

We’re proud to be a part of a strong and welcoming community that people feel so passionately about!


Sleepovers and Summer Camp Teach Kids Important Life Skills

We just found this great article about the important role camp plays in developing resilience, grit, and other essential life skills in our campers! The author interviewed, Michael Thompson, wrote a wonderful book called Homesick and Happy that we share with many of our new families. We encourage you to give it a read, it’s very helpful for those parents sending their children away to camp for the first time!

Summer Camp Teach Kids Important Life Skills


Winter 2015 Newsletter

The latest edition of the camp newsletter, The Akeela Circular, is here! It includes photos of the new Lodge, more details on our horseback riding program, a Winter Weekend recap, some exciting announcements about summer 2015 and lots of updates from campers and staff.

Click here to read the newsletter.