Author: Aaron Tell

Rachael Reilly

Hi everyone!! My name is Rachael Reilly and I’m from Indiana, Pennsylvania. I’m currently a High School Business Teacher at Clarion-Limestone – on the other side of Pennsylvania! This will be my fifth summer at Chenny and I’ll be returning as one of the Girls Side Assistant Head Counselors!

I started my Chenny adventure back in 2014! One of my best friends, Shelby Runyan, and I started our journey together. As we drove up to camp for orientation, we both second-guessed our decision. We were about a minute away from camp and SERIOUSLY considered turning around and driving home. What were we thinking working at a summer camp all summer? What if they don’t like us? What if we hate it? BOY WERE WE WRONG. Summer 2014 ended up being one of the best summers of my life and I have never regretted my decision.

During my first summer at camp, I was a Basketball Specialist and a counselor for the GC girls. Little did I know, these girls would become some of my best friends – I still stay in contact with most of them to this day! I was given the opportunity to be a Captain for Olympics (Go Madagascar) and then a Lieutenant for Color War (Gold Zombies)! Both of these events were easily the most exhausting and most rewarding times for me at camp! The next summer, I became a Group Leader for the youngest girls on camp, the Freshmen. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum! I went from some of the oldest girls on camp to the youngest girls on camp – I was nervous, to say the least. As much as I didn’t want to admit it at times, I ended up loving the younger age group. During my third summer, I was the Group Leader for the same girls, when they moved up a division to Juniors. Which leaves me at my current position at camp, Girls Side Assistant Head Counselor!

During my previous four years at camp, there were countless times where I literally couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to do what I was doing. Trapeze? Climbing Tower? Tubing? Dancing on tables at meals? Got paid for it all of it. There were times where it literally didn’t seem real. Wearing a red and gold tutu around camp…and it being socially acceptable? Sure, why not?

Camp was really a life-changing experience for me. I truly believe that I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without the experiences and friendships that I’ve gained through camp. The friendships that I have made at camp are irreplaceable. Those people are always there for me, literally whenever I need them. Whether it’s a Facetime call from my campers or group texts with my co-counselors, I always have someone there. I have hundreds of friends from all over the world and that’s something that I’m extremely thankful for. I talk about the people I’ve met at camp in my classroom all the time – my students are always so baffled that I know people from all over.

So all in all, I was able to find myself during my few years at Chen-A-Wanda. I grew into the person that I needed and wanted to be. I couldn’t be more thankful for Jon, Elissa, Brian, and Laura, (and the countless people that I’ve met over the years) for giving me the opportunity of working at Camp Chen-A-Wanda. I am forever grateful and thankful for Camp Chen-A-Wanda.

Sam “Skinny” Smith

Hi, I’m Sam “Skinny” Smith and this is my Camp Chen-A-Wanda story…

It was the almost the Summer of 2014. The summer was quickly approaching and me being a 19-year-old student, I had no plans for the summer. Luckily, a good friend of mine, Michael Evans, got in contact with me and started explaining how he had applied to work at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. Next thing, I am all set to work as a counselor at Camp Chen-A-Wanda!

I still remember the mad panic of getting the job, then rushing the visa, and finally, after all the flights and travel, getting to camp (three days after Staff Orientation had begun). I had made it and I will never forget my first night walking into the Counselors Lounge, jet-lagged, and desperate for my bed. The instant I walked in, Michael jumped at me and drags me to a group of four people playing a game. I remember first being terrified and then quickly getting to know them, and I still see a few of them every year at camp.

Even though my friend who introduced me to the idea of working at a summer camp was not up for a second summer, I did. The homely, friendly, and active style of camp had me instantly thinking I will be coming back here for more! Four summers so far in fact (and counting).

I don’t know whether it was “my boys” or the general camp vibe and excitement from all the campers and staff alike, but camp soon felt like home. Now as my next summer approaches, I am known by all my friends for constantly talking about camp and trying to recruit them to the next summer. It seems to be the first thing I ask people about if they mention looking for outdoor work.

I can honestly say that I have made some of my strongest connections through camp and still have members of the “Cheny Family” that I haven’t seen in multiple years, but can still speak to on a day to day basis! The summer at CAW are always different and seem to be getting better and better each year. Although “my boys” were CIT’s last year and some of the will not be returning this summer, I am still confident I will have a great summer back at camp. Now if I can only speed up time and get there now…

Jason Levine

Hey, Chenny fam! My name is Jason Levine, and this is going to be my thirteenth summer at camp. I’m 21 years old, so it’s safe to say that camp has been my summer home for as long as I can remember. This summer I’m excited to be a part of Head Staff, organizing Evening Activities and other things around camp. Although I’ll definitely miss spending every day with my old division, I’m looking forward to being able to interact with the entire camp. My journey at Chenny has helped me find out who I am, and who I want to be. It all began back in 2006…

When I first came to camp as a Junior boy, I was very shy and never really ventured out of my comfort zone. I was super nervous on that first day, but luckily, I had a friend from my town who was coming back for his second summer. He introduced me to everyone in my division during a game of Gaga, which turned out to be my favorite sport at camp. More importantly, those people turned out to be some of my best friends.

Growing up with everyone, we became as close as brothers. We would argue and fight, but at the end of the day, we all had each other’s backs. We had some awesome counselors along the way who became role models to all of us. As I got older, porch talks with them helped me learn a lot about life, and about what I wanted to do. I also started trying new things, whether it was new food in the dining hall or a new activity around camp.

As a culmination of many years together, our division got to be the first “Chen-A-Wanderers,” and take a 10 day trip to California. I had never been to the West Coast before, and I pretty much fell in love with it as soon as we hopped off the plane at LAX. I got to see San Diego, LA, Hollywood, the Grand Canyon, Vegas, and so many other places, all with my best friends in the world. It really was a life-changing trip, and when college applications rolled around a few years later, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Half of the schools I applied to were in California, and I wound up at the beautiful UCLA. If it wasn’t for camp, I might be stuck at a school where it actually rains!

As a Junior Counselor the following summer, I was very intrigued to see the other side of things at camp. I was lucky enough to live in the same bunk as my older brother Scott, and I was able to create bonds with the campers almost immediately. To this day, even though I moved out of their division, I still think of them as my little brothers, and I’m beyond excited to see how they do as CITs this year.

The next year, I moved divisions and became an Assistant Group Leader to Anthony Cascio, who taught me how to use creativity to create a memorable summer for the kids. He was also a role model in his work ethic, always going above and beyond to make things fun. That summer was definitely a good learning experience and helped me to become the type of counselor that I always wanted as a kid.

The next two summers, I was a Group Leader for the same kids, and it was awesome to watch them grow up. They all had such different personalities, but they never failed to make me laugh. I got to encourage them to try new activities, just like my counselors did for me. My favorite thing was coordinating their Lip Sync, something I was always too shy to do as a camper. They got really into it, and we took home the gold in 2016. In those two summers as a Group Leader, I finally got out of my shell and made a ton of new friends. I think one of the most important things to learn in life is how to make friends in new environments, and I can say without a doubt that college has been so much better because I learned this lesson at camp.

Finally, in 2017, I won Group Leader of the Year, and it was one of the best moments of my life. Being surrounded by all my friends and little brothers cheering me on made me realize that working with kids is really what I love. So, I decided to switch gears a bit, and although I’ll be graduating next year with a degree in computer science and engineering, I am going to become a teacher.

All in all, camp has helped me to be more confident and outgoing, which is important when you go to school 3,000 miles away from home. It has given me friends from all around the world and has shown me what makes me truly happy. People at school often ask me why I continue to love camp, and I never have a real answer. It’s something that can’t be explained, even after living through it for twelve summers. I still have a lot to learn, but because of my experiences at Chenny, I know I’m ready for anything.

Ruben Morales

Hola! My name is Ruben Morales and I’m from Princeton, NJ. I’m currently studying athletic training at Kean University.

In 2014, I started my Chenny journey when I came across the camps flyer during study hall at my school. I was a camper at a wilderness camp when I was younger, but I knew this would be totally different. After much thought, I decided to give it a go! I remember arriving at camp and being completely doubtful. The first two weeks were tough for me. I don’t consider myself a social or outgoing person that can just walk up and talk to new people, but camp helped me with that!

Joining the Chenny family was so much more than I thought it would be. I have made so many special friendships with staff from all over the world, each year adding more and more to the list. I originally applied for a soccer specialist position, but all roles were filled. I ended up working as a general counselor my first year and that was the best decision I have made. I was put in a bunk with the Senior boys and they quickly became family. I can say that those boys made my decision to return to camp very easy. I returned for my second summer as soccer specialist. I was very excited because I was still able to live with my campers while teaching the sport that I love. It only got better from there.

In 2016, I returned as Group Leader for my GC boys. This was such a great summer for me. I got to share the experience of going on the West Coast Trip with them. After this, I didn’t see them as my campers, but as my brothers. My fourth year, I came back as one of the Athletic Directors; I had a fun time in my new position at camp. I learned a ton of new things and had completely different responsibilities from my last few roles at camp. One cool thing about joining the Chenny family is that you’ll make friendships that will last for a really long time. It’s just incredible to me how we all come together from all over the world to this place in Pennsylvania and become a huge family. The best part it only takes 8 weeks to make these relationships. I’m also thankful that I was able to meet such wonderful girl like Nikki! I can’t wait for Summer ’18!

Eddie Los

As I sit here and try to put words onto paper about my camp journey there are a few questions I ask myself. What’s the best way to make others understand what Camp Chen-A-Wanda means to me? Where do I start? What do I talk about? What makes me come back year after year? What is camp like?

Even though, through my eyes, I am sure many will be able to relate to the story I am about to tell, in some way. I think this is why camp is a very special place because we can all relate, even though we all come from every little corner on this earth. We share one thing, one bond that cannot be broken or taken from us. This is what is so special about this place. Only the experiences can make one understand, words can only draw a picture but cannot fill it in with color that is up to you. So here is my best attempt at drawing a picture…

Name: Eddie Los
Position: Baseball Director
Years at Camp: Entering 4th
Where do I start?

My journey to camp started in January 2015, I recently turned 24 and was about to attend my fourth university in six years. I was lost, struggling to find my identity. Little did I know, I was about to find exactly what I was looking for. As I was looking for a job, I stumbled across a summer camp position. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply since I was going to school to become a teacher. I sat down and spent nearly three hours filling out the application. After I sent in the application, I waited nearly a week without hearing anything and decided to email the camp directly:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Grabow, 
My name is Eddie Los and I have just applied for a position at Camp Chen-A-Wanda. I just wanted to email you both and say that I am really looking forward for an opportunity to be a part of the camp this summer. I feel like with an opportunity I could succeed very well this summer under your staff.   
Look forward to hearing from you both.  
Sincerely, Eddie 

This email started a domino effect for the coming week that led to me signing a contract to become a Baseball Specialist. While in talks, I asked If there was anything I could do to help at camp and I was told about pre-camp. Which leads me to my next question.

What do I talk about? 

My very first experience at camp was with a few men that helped acclimate myself to camp. They welcomed me with open arms, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary at camp, it’s a way of life. Once you make that right down camp road, drive under the arch, you become part of a unique family. My first summer started with a small group and quickly expanded to nearly 800 campers and staff members. The next few weeks were quiet for me. I am normally a shy and reserved person. I don’t normally go out of my comfort zone at all. Until I met someone by the name of Melvin, I was sitting in the lodge eating and he sat down across from me and said, “Just the man I am looking for.” He had asked if I’d like to participate in the staff talent show. After talking, I had agreed that if I wanted to color my picture in, I would have to step out of my comfort zone a little. That was just the beginning of my first summer at camp. After that, I was asked to be a Captain of Olympics and shortly following, Captain of Color War. The summer ended with an honor that I am still proud of, being named Counselor of the Year. If I can give anyone words of advice, it’s don’t be afraid to try new things and face your fears while at camp. If I didn’t do those things and step out of my comfort zone, I don’t think I would have been able to understand the meaning of what my first-year entailed. We hold the ability to make camp amazing. We get out, what we put in. Which brings me to my next question…

What brings me back year after year? 

It’s hard to explain, camp allows me to step out of my comfort zone. I may have been part of probably one of the worst lip sync experience ever in camp history and when I say, “I may have,” I was. I stood up on stage and didn’t know what I was doing. I kept saying, “Watermelon, cantaloupe,” but not even those two words could save me. I knew that this would be talked about, but I also knew that it wouldn’t bother me. You do things at camp for the kids. Maybe I didn’t nail the performance (or come anywhere close) but maybe I was able to give a camper confidence to get up on stage and perform. To me camp is not about myself, it’s about the campers and having a good laugh and I gave camp enough reason to laugh for the next few days with that performance. This is why I come back year after year, to share and make memories with the camp Chen-A-Wanda family and build relationships with everyone that steps foot on that spot on the map in Thompson, PA.

What does camp mean to me?

Camp is so much more than just a summer job. Not once have I talked about my passion and love for the game of baseball, which is my job at camp because that is just a fraction of what camp means to me. Not everyone can relate to the camp experience if I talk baseball but they can relate if I talk about everything that camp has to offer. This leads me to my last question…

What is camp like? 

Now, this is where my story ends. This question is not for me to answer. Not even words can describe what camp is like. This question needs to be answered with the experience of camp itself. I did what I could do to draw the picture. It’s your time to color the picture in yourself. Every picture will be unique but will have one thing in common, it’s filled in with the experience that camp has tattooed in our memory and those experience can never be taken away from us. We get to cherish them as long as we live.