Friday Morning Walk

Today I treated myself to an early morning walk along Swasey Parkway during pre-work hours. It was high tide, the moon was still hanging tough in the sun-filled blue sky. The wind was a tad gusty bringing in an ocean scent.

How I love Exeter. The river, skyline of steeples and historic places just shouts of quaint New England.

A new YMCA Facility is soon to be added on Linden Street. It is not as if Exeter is missing anything, but this new Y will certainly enhance the Exeter area. Almost like that perfect piece of jewelry adds a bit of sparkle to your favorite outfit.

The Y will offer health, wellness, a stronger community and so much more.

What a wonderful morning walk imagining the possibilities!

~Bev Bowles

The Y: A Hub Of Community

My Y story began nearly 40 years ago when the Valley Shore YMCA was built within walking distance of my home in Westbrook, CT. I have great childhood memories of participating in open swim with my friends and learning how to ski through the afterschool ski program at Powder Ridge, also fondly known as “Powder Bump.”

As a young adult I didn’t wander too far from the Y path; in 1988 I became the Assistant Physical Education Director at the Westerly-Pawtucket YMCA in Westerly, Rhode Island. It was there that my passion and understanding of the YMCA and its mission deepened. The Y was a hub of activity, people of all ages – from preschool to senior citizens – participated in Aquacise, Aerobics, Mommy & Me, gym and swim programs, basketball leagues, and Friday Night Teen Nights…the Y was alive and buzzing with the sounds of a community gathered together. The Y was the place where the whole family could participate in programs that focused on healthy bodies, mind, and spirit while incorporating the 4 Core Y Values of: Caring, Honesty, Respect & Responsibility.

My work with the Y continued at the Coastline YMCA in Waterford, CT. Because the Coastline Y did not include program space we collaborated with the local community to run our programs; great partnerships developed. The pool at Connecticut College was the home for our swim lessons and gym programs; we worked with the towns of Waterford and New London and ran our summer day camps at their town parks. Progressive Learn to Swim programs were offered at the New London elementary schools, during school hours, for all New London children in grades 1 – 3. This was an important program for these youth because many of these children, although they lived in a seaside community, due to economics, would never have had the opportunity to learn to swim unless a program was offered during the school day. The children traveled by bus to the high school where they participated in 45 minute swim lessons and then were transported back to their school. It was the YMCA at its best…providing a necessary program to a needy population!

Although my involvement with the YMCA has changed over the last fifteen years my passion for the ‘Y’ and its mission was re-ignited when asked to be a community volunteer and to help with the new Y that will be built in Exeter. It is so exciting to visualize a full YMCA facility that will serve the Exeter area community…I am thrilled to be a part of a community where the Y will be the hub of family and community activity.

Cindy Malinowski Driscoll lives in East Kingston with her family and is the owner of Meandering Path, a landscape design and installation company.

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A Mother-Daughter Y Story

My Y story begins like this; a wintry night, a movie night, and a late arrival during the college winter break. My daughter’s good friend was late to our house for the gathering because she had been at an interview for a position at Camp Lincoln. She oozed enthusiasm about the camp. I mentioned that since Sarah had secured a job there, it would be great for Kayla to apply as well, in an effort to help with college costs. We felt that eating tuna casserole five nights a week was becoming intolerable.

Being quiet and reserved, my daughter immediately focused on the dreaded interview, which meant that she would have to talk to a “stranger” (I may have drilled that to the core in childhood.) Nonetheless, I forced her to call Camp Lincoln the next day to arrange for an interview, thus negating a full day of holiday spirit.

She wanted the job, just not the interview. Silence on the way over on her part, and “helpful” interview tips from mom. We left an hour early. We arrived at beautiful Camp Lincoln 40 minutes early. We sat. Finally, with 20 minutes to go until the interview, I told her to go in. She refused. I cajoled, demanded, begged, and, finally said, “Get out of this car now!” I was reminded how mean I was with a slamming of the car door.

While Kayla met with Jeff Gleason, I waited in the car and mentally reviewed all of my childrearing mistakes over the last 18 years. Finally, she emerged with a bounce in her step, and hopped into the car. “I love it here!” she exclaimed. “I would so love to work here!”

She was hired. She left our house every morning an hour earlier than her start time. She loved the activities and the kids. She taught responsibility, kindness, and the value of teamwork. She learned how to have and love a job. Above all, Camp Lincoln reinforced what we had taught her over the years, and she passed it on and blossomed. I cried at the first Family Night at camp, and at the night that she was named Counselor of the Year. Camp Lincoln had turned my child into a mature young woman. She looks forward to going back for her third year.

Sandy Janowski is a Camp Lincoln parent from Stratham, NH who also volunteers her time for Southern District YMCA.

Sandy & Kayla Janowski

Sandy and Kayla Janowski

25 and Counting…

August 23rd, 2013 – Today is the last day of camp. The view from my office window is of a beautiful blue sky, white church and Swasey Parkway in Exeter. I am imagining the “hub-bub” of camp as another wonderful season ends. Children’s excited chatter, camp songs, staff Hi-Fives and bugles soon fade. The transition from camp to school age child care comes again like the swing of the pendulum.

I have been blessed to be a part of this magic for 25 years. I have experienced up close the sights and sounds, smells and dust of camp. I have watched campers become staff, my own children included. I have shared the joy as a few staff became husband and wife and then parents. I watched from my window as the staff “kids” and hundreds of campers grow each year learning the lessons of nature from the shores of Kingston Lake.

Within my job description I have been able to dabble in my gardening hobby – yes, hard at work at the Y. I was extremely surprised this summer at the July Community Night to be honored for those 25 years of service. Rob spoke of all the people’s lives I have touched, but I see the flip side. I have so many memories of all the children, parents and staff that have touched my life. Some have passed through for new adventures while others are forever friends. My rock adorns one of the gardens for all to see – thank you!

Southern District YMCA/Camp Lincoln has grown so over 25 years! I arrived to a small summer camp and just a few school age child care programs. Slow and steady we have progressed, added and improved to become the amazing organization we are today. The YMCA foundation is built on the roots of Honesty, Responsibility, Caring and Respect and they have served us well. Just as my office view has changed from the up close and personal of camp to the expansive landscape of Exeter and beyond, the vision of our Y is extensive and expanding. Be it camping, child care, outdoor education or building a new facility, I can only imagine the positive influence SD YMCA will extend to the community in the years to come. Year #26 … bring it on!

Written By Beverly Bowles

Southern District YMCA Office Manager

Beverly Bowles

YMCA On Our Team

My Y story began far after I was of the age to canoe at summer camp or enjoy an after school arts programs. It began on October 30, 2007—the day my then 6-year-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

It was Halloween in Exeter. While kids were applying face paint and donning outlandish costumes, Jacob and I were in an ambulance headed to Children’s Hospital in Boston.

After a week-long hospital stay, we went home. Prescriptions and instructions in hand, we began educating our family, friends, schools—everyone who had contact with Jacob in his day-to-day routine. They became part of Jacob’s team—embracing the opportunity to support him and us as we settled into Jacob’s new lifelong reality.

The months flew by, and the New Year began. We had a great team caring for Jacob, and he felt safe and trusted those around him to help him in managing his disease. And, as the summer camp registration forms began to roll in, he looked forward to spending a summer outside exploring.

I stayed close to home when choosing a program—I work from home part time, so I can easily help in Jacob’s care. By mid-February we had chosen a program. It was close to home and promised lots of outdoor exploration. One more call to finalize details and we’d be set—or so I thought. After a month of discussions about Jacob’s care and my willingness to be available at a moment’s notice, the program’s Board decided that they weren’t prepared to care for Jacob. My heart sank. Summer programs were filling up and this program had seemed ideal. I hung up the phone and began searching online for more options. SDYMCA/Camp Lincoln came up.

I had heard about it through a friend, but I hadn’t considered it an option: Kingston, after all, is 15 minutes away, at best—outside of my comfort zone at the time. And was I emotionally ready for weeks of discussions with another program to convince them that we’d work together to keep my son healthy and safe?

I picked up the phone and left a message on Camp Director Jeff Gleason’s voicemail. No more than 15 minutes went by and my phone rang. It was Jeff. After a brief introduction, Jeff simply said to me, “Send Jacob to Camp Lincoln—we’ll take care of him.”

I vaguely remember the other details he shared—full-time camp nurse; great, responsible counselors; etc., but I didn’t need the details. “We’ll take care of him” were the words I hung on that day. They were the words I needed.

Jacob is now 12. He’s attended Camp Lincoln since the summer of 2008. And while it was Jeff’s simple statement that convinced me to sign up, there are far more things that have kept Jacob, and now his younger sister, Annelise, returning year after year. For them there have been mountain biking camps, cooking camps, epic card games, spirit paddles, counselors that remember them year after year and whom they are genuinely sad to leave at the end of a session. For me there have been thoughtful, attentive camp nurses and counselors, and the witnessing of Jacob take increased responsibility for his care in an inspiring, confidence building setting. But even more than this, what I’ve most appreciated is SDYMCA/Camp Lincoln’s sincere willingness to be part of our team.

It’s this sincere commitment that moved me to join the Board. And it’s this commitment that excites me most about our organization’s plans to build a facility in Exeter. It’s our opportunity to share with more families, individuals, and the community in general those things that my family has experienced: an organization that works to build positive experiences and genuine relationships with those around them. (Tweet this!)

By Carole Matthews, Southern District YMCA Board Member

Dust Off The Camp Trunk

It has been a number of years, perhaps nearly a decade, since the camp trunk has made its way down from the attic. That trunk carries a lot of memories; Camp Nellie Huckins decals, and remnants of pine needles and sand from the shores of Lake Ossipee still wedged in the corners. Summers have come and gone, and just like her big sister (now in college) this summer is Anna’s first opportunity to head off for two weeks of overnight camp at Nellie Huckins. She will have the chance to discover for herself all the magic and adventure that overnight camp brings.

The camp experience is like no other and as a parent I know that my daughter, who is in 4th grade, is ready for her first two weeks away from home. Anna’s summers at Camp Lincoln helped to prepare her for overnight camp…and they helped me too! I know that the YMCA philosophy of nurturing and encouraging our children to be independent, to develop new skills, and to grow socially in a safe and responsible environment is the foundation of all Y camp experiences. As a parent I am assured that my daughter will have the opportunity to improve her skills on the waterfront, archery range, tennis court and outdoor programs and most importantly will become more independent. There is something that happens at camp…special camp songs, traditions that become your own, and a sense of friendship that runs deep beyond the last giggle before the flashlights are turned out.

As a parent I am thankful for the skills and sense of confidence that Anna developed during her time at Camp Lincoln, and when we pack the camp trunk this year and head off to Huckins I know Anna will be ready…and so will I.

Karen Prior and family live in Exeter, NH. Karen is a YMCA enthusiast and we are grateful for her service! Best wishes to Anna as she heads off to overnight camp this summer.

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Wedding Bells at Camp Lincoln

It was around age 7 that I had my first Camp Lincoln experience.  My mom got a new job and my brother and I needed somewhere to go for the summer. When my mom told me we were going to be attending summer camp, I could not have been more excited! Swimming, canoeing, ropes course, archery, crafts…is there a better way to spend your summer than that?

After years of the best summers of my life as a camper, I became a C.I.T (counselor in training) and was privileged to meet and learn with many individuals with whom I created lifelong friendships. Being part of the C.I.T program was my favorite part of Camp Lincoln. Many of us stayed from the first day of summer, until the last.

Coming back for many summers as a counselor was great. When it was time to apply for college, camp really inspired me. The core values that we learned and taught each day at the YMCA were caring, respect, responsibility, and honesty. My college application essay was all about how important these values are to my life.

During the summer of 2005, one of my fellow C.I.T friends brought his college roommate, Ryan, to join the Camp Lincoln team. Ryan and I became great friends, and we got married on September 29, 2012! We decided to go back to the place we met, beautiful camp, to take some of our wedding pictures.

I’m currently working for the YMCA as the Site Director of the Danville School’s School Age Child Care Program. On top of that, I work in the Danville Elementary School as an ASD Tutor (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Camp was fun! I had some of the best days of my childhood as a camper. I created genuine and lifelong friendships, and met my husband! The core values of the YMCA have continued to be the values of my day to day life. Camp helped make me into the kind of person that wakes up each morning with a goal to keep these values alive in the children that I work with each day.

Written by Jessie DeBlois (Forsblad)

Jessie and Ryan

65 Years Of Building Citizenship

Last month my husband, Kevin and I had the honor of facilitating the Youth and Government Caucus at Exeter High School for the Southern District. This is our 25th year with the Y & G Program and it never fails to amaze me how dedicated our high school students are to the study of government and the process of legislation.

We began working with Debi Clark Valentine over 35 years ago, when she approached Kevin at Littleton High School and asked him if he would advise a delegation. Little did we know how addictive this annual event would be for us and the number of students it would impact. After retiring in 2006, we found that we wanted to return to the program and, hopefully, volunteer our time to help out in some small way. Debi was kind enough to welcome us “home” and asked if we would serve as advisers to the Senate and House of Representatives.

We had the honor of seeing our students take part in the simulation of NH State Government – taking on the roles of legislators, Governors, Supreme Court justices, lobbyists and Executive Council members. We continue to watch in awe as hundreds of students converge on the State House in Concord each spring and masterfully debate with passion the legislation they have written. This, the 65th year of Youth and Government, is a testimony to the legacy of this program and the impact it has had on thousands of young people over the years – many of whom have gone on to work in federal, state and local government jobs or volunteer their time to their respective communities. It is, indeed an honor to work with these young people and the incredible YMCA staff who have made Y & G possible for so many years.

On March 16, the Exeter High School delegation will attend a Pre Legislative Training Session at the NH State Capitol to prepare for the culminating Model State Legislature in April. Learn more about New Hampshire YMCA Youth and Government.

Many thanks to Helen and Kevin Joyce for their continuing support of the Southern District YMCA Youth and Government program.

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Memories Of A Camp Legend

I guess at this point in my Camp Lincoln career I could be considered a camp legend (one of those people that has been at camp so long you’re confident they’re never going to leave).

I started camp at a young age; working my way up from Traditional Camp to On the Road, Bikes and Beaches, and others. Finally I had no other choice but to become a Junior Counselor In Training in 2005. Becoming a CIT was a big deal and is a lot different from being a camper.

My memories of that summer are foggy, but I remember the people, the color of our t-shirts, the CIT hunt (when no one could find me for what seemed like an eternity), and being invited back to camp as a Senior CIT. I decided to turn down the offer. I suddenly had no desire to return to camp as a Senior CIT. I blame turning 15. Looking back, I get it. It takes a special kind of person to volunteer their entire summer to something, not knowing exactly what you would get in return. I took it upon myself to make a phone call to camp to turn down the position. However, that wasn’t the end of it. My mother made it very clear that I actually had no choice in the matter, and because sometimes you just don’t mess with mom, I ended up at Camp Lincoln that year.

The summer of 2006 was the best of my life. I will never forget it. I remember everything from that summer. My counselors, peers, each cabin I was placed in, the names of my campers, and my buddy tag number. I went from not wanting to return to camp, to winning my first Spirit Paddle. Yes, the coveted third session Sr. CIT Spirit Paddle was mine. After my Senior CIT summer I never wanted to leave camp (and I still haven’t!)

Since 2007 I have worked my way up from Camp Counselor, to Arts & Crafts Director, to CIT Director, to my current position as the Summer Program Director. The memories are endless, along with my collection of camp paddles and staff t-shirts.

I am who I am because of Camp Lincoln. Without Camp, I would be the shy, introverted, follower I was destined to become. Camp Lincoln gave me the power to believe in myself, to make the impossible possible, and to never give up on my dreams.

I know that someday I will have to move on and get a ‘big girl job’. LAPRing and Zumbaquatics will no longer be the most exciting part of my day and I won’t be able to carry around a box of Cheez-Its wherever I go. Someday I may leave camp, but camp will never leave me.

Courtney Hoelen
Senior Staff member at YMCA Camp Lincoln

Are you a Camp Lincoln alum who would like to share your Y story? You can do so here!

Courtney in costume at YMCA Camp Lincoln

Courtney in costume at YMCA Camp Lincoln

Adult Camper For Life

I first heard about Sandy Island Camp, a family Y camp on Lake Winnipesaukee, when I was backpacking through Europe. It’s not so much that this Y camp is world famous but rather a group of gregarious men I met in Italy were constantly talking about this 66 acre island in the heart of a New Hampshire lake. From their countless stories, I could tell that “Sandy” had a significant influence on their lives. Being a native Californian, I had very little exposure to camps. In fact the only away camp I attended was nestled in the Hollywood foothills.

It turned out I fell in love with one of those gregarious “Sandy” men, Dave Todaro. I moved 3,000 miles to close the gap of our long distance romance and start a new life on the East Coast. Now that I was part of the inner circle, I began my journey of understanding the magic of Sandy Island. Dave spent his childhood summers at camp with his four older sisters because his dad was the camp director. I found it fascinating that families would vacation at the same location year after year. Dave made countless lifelong friends and as he and his friends grew older they became camp staff spending their summers working and tightening those bonds of friendship. At some point in each of their lives, summers were taken up with careers which ended their reign of summer-long occupancy. In order to get their “Sandy” fix, this group of friends started coming back to the island as campers each year for Labor Day weekend.

I had been in New Hampshire for only 10 weeks before I first stepped foot on Sandy Island that fateful September weekend. Little did I know at the time, my visit to “Sandy” was a test I needed to pass before Dave would consider a marriage proposal. Luckily, I immediately fell in love with the island and its wonderful campers. Over the years the camp family grew. Soon there were weddings-some performed on the island-and newborn ‘Sandyites”.

I have been coming to camp for the past 12 years. My whole family now looks forward to our Sandy Island week. It’s a time to reconnect and unplug. I have realized through the years that this family camp is more than a rock in the middle of lake where you kayak, swim, and play bocce. This is a place that bonds people to one another because it is timeless.

This is a place where you can step back from your daily commitments and relax with friends and family on a beach, on a lodge porch or in a sailboat. This is a place that when the sun is shining you are throwing the ball with your children or playing shuffle board and when it’s raining you find a spot to introduce a classic board game.This is a place where we can all get back to what is really important…connecting with one another.

This Californian found the meaning of “Y camp,” and is now a camper for life!

Lisa Todaro lives in North Hampton with her husband, Dave, and their two children.

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