Author: Aaron Tell

Sabrina Malen

Dear Chen-A-Wanda,

The memories I made at camp are some of the most poignant of my life. In the subtlest of ways, camp is the place you grow up. It wasn’t until I was older that I was finally able to appreciate the true gift my parents had given me when they sent me to camp. Knowingly (on their part) they had given me an experience that would teach me skills that would translate to the real world. Camp provided me with independence, resilience, and sisterhood all of which I continue to use every day.

For those reading this that know me, know I could go on and on and on about some of my favorite camp memories (and with freakish accuracy too). From my favorite counselors (Mama Jamie and Sarah Weaver) to Girls Sing (we were robbed) to the Mass Raid of ’98 and my unforgettable nickname (Saboat), which comes with its very own cheer and permanent reminder of my camp crush camp. These are all a tattoo of happiness etched on my heart never to be forgotten. However, what I really wanted to stress about being an alumnus of this HOLY place is the lifelong bond it creates among its members. This past year, we saw one of our own battle for her life against cancer at 32 years old. Without a second thought, our division (now 15+ summers removed from camp) rallied behind her. It could have been one day or many years since some of us had last spoken and it didn’t matter, camp is special that way, and the reason it is so important to so many.

To my crew who are still in my everyday life, I love you. LW, RM, RL & CR you will forever be my family and although I am 33 years old, a mother and wife I still “can’t imagine just one day not waking up to my best friends,” Only 7 more summers until my new journey at camp begins with my son’s first summer, to say I’m excited for him is an understatement, is it 2025 yet?.

SM ‘94-‘01

Zack Krieger

My name is Zack Krieger, most people just call me Krieger or just the “shirtless running guy,” and I’ll be one of the Athletic Directors at camp this summer. This will be my 4th summer at Camp Chen-a-Wanda and if you had asked me when I first applied way back in 2014 if I would come back for more years, I wouldn’t have been able to give a straight answer. After the first summer, I can proudly say I’m coming back, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

A lot of people will say that camp is their second home, but due to some odd circumstances in my life, Chen-a-Wanda became my home. Not second, not home-away-from-home, but just home. I applied to camp during my second year at East Stroudsburg University where I’m getting a History Education degree and minor in Athletic Coaching. I needed something to do during the summer because my dad had moved to Missouri before I entered High School and then my mom had just accepted a four-year job in Iowa. That left me at my house in Pennsylvania during the summers alone paying for any bills that were from me living in the house. Now as great as it sounds having a home that used to hold eight people all to myself, after the first summer it got pretty boring. All I would do was run and work a job at Red Lobster to try to pay for the real world bills for my summer home. I came across Camp Chen-a-Wanda because our school sent out an email to all students in the athletic program with job opportunities. It seemed like the perfect plan, I was away from the house so I wouldn’t have to pay electric bills because I wouldn’t be using any electricity. I wouldn’t have to worry about feeding myself, doing laundry, and any other real-world responsibilities AND it would look great on a resume for wanting to be in education. The only problem was, I tend to be incredibly quiet and not as outgoing, so I was only going if I went with someone. I was able to convince one of my teammates, Zygmunt (yeah his name was Zygmunt), to go with me that way I could train for cross country with someone and be a little more comfortable at camp.

Turns out as soon as I stepped foot at Chen-a-Wanda, I already made connections and friends that I still have today. I met Tom who goes to the same university that my dad works at in Missouri, Eddie who knew my track teams Graduate Assistant, and Jes who all I needed to know was that he was Australian and we’d be friends. Small world huh. Despite those quick connections, I still flew relatively under the radar my first year. As a track athlete, there wasn’t really a specialist position for someone who could only run, so I was a General Counselor. I became better friends with my Collegiates than I have with people I go to school with. People will always tell you how difficult kids can be, but you don’t get told how absolutely hilarious they can be, and really make each day interesting. After a summer of running at 5:30 am and playing games all day, came the day when the campers leave. They all get on buses and head back to their homes. That day is always one of the more memorable ones because I CRIED MY EYES OUT. Something I never thought I’d do and there I was about to turn Thompson, PA into Waterworld just after spending a few weeks with these kids. I ran back to my bunk, grabbed my sunglasses and knew – I’m going to come back.

My second year at Camp was a little different. Zyggy wasn’t coming back since he had to do internships for athletic training, so I lost my morning running buddy. I also had to be more involved in the rest of camp itself and I was an Assistant Group Leader to Brett Croen. Still best friends with my campers, I ended up having the opportunity to be Captain of both Olympics and Color War (wanted to remind Jes Farley-Steere if he’s reading this about who won both). Along with that, I gained some wicked skills at playing tennis, a sport I’ve never even thought about. At the end of the summer, I was one of the Counselors of the Year, solidifying a successful summer. Then the buses came, and so did the tears and sunglasses. So I came back.

Each summer has been a totally different experience, the third summer I was able to be a Co-Group Leader with Jes, so I got to share my responsibilities with one of my best friends. My fondest memory of that summer wasn’t the trip to Boston (although that’s up there), but the super intense ultimate frisbee games with our boys. Camp is pretty good about making simple things truly memorable. I got even better at tennis (not to toot my horn, but I beat the tennis girl), became even better friends with my campers, and yes, of course, cried when the buses left. So I’m coming back.

Now with the real world looming over my shoulder, camp is still that steady decision. I’m not coming back to avoid paying bills or living alone; I’m coming back for the friends, the frisbee games, the laughs, the experience, and even the tears. Camp isn’t that second home to me, it’s just home. So I’m coming back.

Anthony Cascio

Well hello there! My name is Anthony Cascio in real life but at camp, most people call me “Cash.” My camp career has been a very interesting and exciting time in my life that I never get tired of telling. It all started in 2013 when I was a little 20-year-old kid from Miami, Florida. *Dramatically fade into my past*

I was working at a trampoline park minding my own business when an old friend from elementary school came up to me and started talking to me. When I said we should catch up sometime, she told me that she was actually going to a summer camp in three weeks. She gave me some information and I checked out the website and was amazed at what I saw. Everything I love in one place – is it possible?! Every sport you can ever imagine, a giant lake with inflatables and I could go for free? Sign me up! I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get in since it was so close to June. I emailed Jon Grabow to see if any spots were left and he told me to put in an application and we would talk. The next week, I had my interview and all of a sudden I was buying a ticket to Pennsylvania to fly out in less than two weeks. I couldn’t believe it happened so fast, I was terrified, nervous and excited all at the same time. I had no clue what to expect. I had never left my house for more than a week before this and now I was leaving for two months! Little did I know, it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life…

Arriving at camp was such a strange experience because I was completely blind to what I was getting myself into. I got out of a van and was greeted by a man in a superman onesie and alligator slippers. That man was Chantz Sawyer. His excitement for me, a total stranger, was so uplifting. All those nerves disappeared for a brief moment because a man in a superman onesie and alligator slippers jumped off a golf cart and gave me a giant hug. I’ve never felt so welcomed before in my life. I knew I had made a good decision to come here right after that moment. I was put in the youngest division, the Freshman, and super nervous about it. The first two weeks of camp flew by, and I was still keeping to myself and just hanging out with my kids, not really socializing outside of my division. Olympics started up and one of my close friends got the honor of being an Olympic Captain and the entire camp cheered, and was so excited for him. I was a little jealous because I knew I was just like him but was too nervous to show it. Seeing that happen to him, really pushed me to be myself and just have fun. I turned it around during Olympics and enjoyed myself from then on out. From coaching my kids through sports, painting my face with the team colors, and screaming at the top of my lungs to cheer my team on – I had fun and that’s what was missing. I ended that summer being rewarded with Color War Lieutenant and Counselor of the Year, all while finding a new summer home.

The next three summers, I was a Group Leader, the first two were with my original boys and I was able to stick with them throughout their summers in Cherokee. After the first year, the division went from 18 kids to 51. It’s a whole different world when you go from a general counselor for eighteen kids to being a Group Leader of fifty-one kids. It pushed me into a version of myself that stayed organized, while also keeping that fun element that camp should always have. The fate of fifty-one kids summers was in the hands of me and my twenty counselors and I loved every minute of it.

My third Group Leader summer, I was lucky enough to be with the CIT boys. Which was a total 180 from Cherokee camp. I went from dealing with homesickness most nights to girl problems. It was a huge wake-up call, but I was excited to change it up. The CIT boys welcomed me with open arms and I had one of the best summers yet with ten CIT boys. We had late night talks about life, non-stop biddy ball games, and countless days in the gym. I almost felt like I was a CIT with them. They taught me so much about myself in those seven weeks. Since they had been going to camp for so many more years than me, they really showed me that you can truly be whoever you want at camp. Camp is a no judgment zone, so you can literally be whoever you want and people will love you for it. The more unique you are, the more you are loved. This place takes kids who at home might be shy, insecure, quiet and turns them into the total opposite. These CIT boys showed me how truly accepting Camp Chen-A-Wanda can be and it made me so happy to see that these kinds of places do exist. By the end of that summer, I was pushed into a spot where I had to make speeches in front of the entire camp and I wasn’t scared. If you had told me my first summer here that in three years, I would be stepping out in front of the entire camp and doing an improv speech about whatever came to my head, I would more than likely call you a liar. Before this, I couldn’t talk in front of five people without starting to stutter or freeze up. Now I was stepping out in front of 700 people and still stuttering and freezing. Yet I wasn’t embarrassed about it. I said made up words like “funnest” and the entire camp would laugh, and I just laughed with them. I didn’t even hesitate. I just continued speaking and everyone seemed to love it and cheer me on. I had found this confidence that I’ve always wanted, but was way to insecure about myself to ever get up and do something like that. I was a completely different person after that year.

So after that summer, I was offered a Head Staff position. My dream of becoming Head Staff after my first year of camp has finally come true. I was offered “Programs Manager,” which was a huge role for me. I had my own desk. I was basically a full on adult on camp. (Just kidding. There are no adults in camp. We’re all kids at heart. I mean, were at a summer camp. Come on now.) The job consisted of scheduling every sporting event on and off camp, while also running electives. This was way different than any other job I had on camp. I wasn’t as active with the kids; I was more of a supporting cast member, which I didn’t mind. Instead of working with one division, I was able to affect and work will all divisions. I still did find time to look out my window and see kids playing frisbee, football, or just tossing a baseball around, and I made sure to join in on the fun! When it comes to sports and getting chances to spend time with campers, nothing is going to stop me from jumping in. Some of my favorite times that summer was when campers would come into my office just to tell me when they were playing ultimate frisbee or biddy ball. One of the biggest moments that summer was when I was asked to be in Head Staff Lip Sync. My biggest fear since I was a kid…dancing or singing on a stage in front of people…I was able to get past public speaking, but this was different. This had basically both of my fears all in one night. Since I was at camp, I wasn’t nervous. I said yes pretty quickly! I ended up conquering my fear and doing three different songs in front of the entire camp. It showed me that when it comes to fears, camp has this way of pushing people to get over whatever fear or insecurity you might have. Between the campers cheering and the counselors non-stop support, it’s just about impossible to not feel loved no matter what you do here.

Camp has been one of the best things to happen to me since I was born; I feel being born is a pretty big part of your life, but camp is a very strong second. For a good reason too, these kids have become such a big part of my life and I can’t imagine a year not going back to camp to see them. It’s like watching your favorite TV show weekly, except this is a two-month long episode and ten months in between each episode. You’ve just gotta see what happens next episode or you will feel like you’ve fallen behind and missed out. Not only are the kids a huge reason I love camp, but it’s also the friendships you make there. Over my 5 years of being there, I have found some of my best friends. In my first year during orientation, I’ll never forget it, I was playing basketball alone in shields hall when three people walked in and asked if I wanted to play. We played two on two and I was loving it. Within the next three days, I felt so close to those people since they were some of my first friends there. I had a heart to heart with my now, best friend Chris Murphree, where we actually got so deep in conversation we cried. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I knew this guy for less than a week and we had already cried together. If that’s not a good sign of an amazing bromance then I don’t know what is.

Heading into my 6th summer, I don’t know what to expect. I’m going in as a new role, an Assistant Head Counselor and I couldn’t be happier about it! I’ve wanted this type of role since my first summer, and it’s finally happening! I always looked up to the guys that have been in this role before me and wanted to be just like them and now, five years later, I am one of those guys. This camp has brought me so much happiness and great memories that I can’t wait to have this opportunity to bring happiness and great memories right back to new campers, old campers and counselors. I dont want to jinx it or anything, but I think the summer of 2018 for a lack of better words will be the “Funnest” summer yet!

Dan Godshall

My name is Dan Godshall, I am 32 years old and I am from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. I am just one of an amazing team of Head Counselors on camp. I am currently teaching Physical Education and directing the basketball and volleyball programs at The American School Foundation of Mexico City. I have been living in Mexico City for a total of six years now.

My first summer at camp, I arrived with three of my friends from college, Slippery Rock University, having never been to a camp myself. My first position on camp was as a Rock Climbing Specialist, living in a bunk with GC boys. I had been studying to be a health and physical education teacher, and in all honesty, I came to camp with the intention of padding my resume and doing something I had never done before graduating and getting a job. That one summer changed everything and altered my course completely. I did not know or expect that I would be approaching my 13th summer this year, having spent every summer of my 20s at camp.

In my time at camp, I have been tasked with many different roles including Rock Climbing Specialist/Director, Waterfront Director, Color War and Olympic captains and Head Counselor to almost every division on camp at one time or another. I am happy to say that was able to witness camp blossom to its current stature from where it had been a few years ago. This kind of growth comes from special people, the kinds of people that camp seems to assemble every year.

Some of the best moments from my camp memories are the times I stop for a second and I think “what am I doing right now!?”. That could relate to being on the trapeze, dressing up as a clown, delivering a terrible Justin Beiber performance on stage or dancing on a table at a meal. There is a long list of things I catch myself doing at camp that simply would not happen anywhere else.

Since coming to camp for the first time in the summer of 2006, I have been completely consumed by camp. My summer plans are a given whenever someone asks. The biggest problem I have when asked that question, is how do I explain camp? My teacher friends always ask why I do not take the summer off. The answer to these questions is simply because of the people and the stories. Over the years at camp, I have met literal thousands of people from all over the world. With those people, I have developed relationships worth crying over on the last days of camp, in two months time.

Each year is different, but the memories keep pilling up!

Jordan Levy

I should start by prefacing that every single password of mine has some version of Chen-A-Wanda in it. That’s because when I got there in 2001, it changed my life.

I walked onto the bus in 2001 knowing no one in my bunk, no one even in my division. It was before we had new camper get-togethers or first friends; I truly couldn’t have imagined what was in store for me that summer or what was to come from the choice my parents made (thanks, Mom and Dad) to send me to Camp Chen-A-Wanda.

It wasn’t the climbing tower or the wild rides on the banana boat (that we did multiple times in our clothes to be ridiculous) that would keep me coming back to camp, but the friendships I made. The friendships I made that first summer are ones that are still in my life today. As a Jersey girl, people in my hometown used to tell me I should just move to Long Island because of how much time I spent there. But my camp friends just meant more to me than I could explain to anyone. They “got me” on another level.

I remember the nights we stayed up all hours talking on the cubby room floor, the rest hours we piled on each other’s beds to watch Grey’s Anatomy on the smallest tv I’ve ever seen. It’s the number of times we laughed so hard you don’t want to know what happened. The times we tried to go on “raids” and got caught outside the bunk. The time we even raided the bunk next door!! The chicken patty competitions. The girls sing LOSSES we always encountered (still confused about a few of them lol). The time Lindsay and I ran off stage during Sign and Song (dancing isn’t our thing). First kisses we giggled about, first loves we saw each other through, and so many experiences that deepened our connection, keeping us all still so closely woven into one another’s lives today.

People don’t always get the “camp” bond, but it’s those moments that happen when you live with people that just can’t be rivaled. These girls literally grew up with me. They saw me through my weirdest awkward days to now, and for the most part…they somehow still like me.

When we get together we still usually break out in our old songs, and I’m confident I could sing you a majority of our Girls Sing and Color War songs verbatim. Even after months or years of not seeing each other, we recently sat together at a restaurant for hours and laughed harder the next morning about our antics in a way that you only can do with your camp friends.

But my camper days were only one chapter of my camp experience…

When I returned to camp in 2009, I really had no clue that attempting to make the Boys Side infamous midcourt shot would result in finding the guy I now LIVE with 9 years later. I mean…WHAT! I’m convinced we must have handed the baton to one another at some point in our prior summers, but to our knowledge, despite both starting in 2001, we really only “met” that summer in 2009.

Looking back on 2009, I really had no idea I would find the love of my life that summer let alone on the Biddy Court. Alex and I continued our relationship long distance with camp being our place to really “be” with each other. We became best friends who could talk all hours of the night and found a love that would grow beyond anything we ever imagined. We supported one another when one of us was captain, and rivaled each other in 2010 (I still believe Red Army lost because I left a t-shirt in the dining hall…we all know dynamite was a killer song!!!). We went on the craziest adventures, had the most insane days, and really built a foundation for our relationship that made our time apart unquestionably worth it.

2009 not only brought me my boyfriend but more camp friends where the conversations would be never ending on our porches or over boneless wings at Candlelight. We’d laugh harder with our campers who are now gorgeous girls in High School, some heading to college and have become friends I’m forever grateful for.

When my days at Chenny came to a close in 2012, it was really hard for me. I read the blog every night and texted everyone there for play by plays of camp. I think it’s because camp will always have the most special place in my heart. When I get the chance to visit, there’s a feeling I get in my stomach when I’m driving those winding roads. No, it’s not nausea, it’s the purest excitement for the place that let me grow into the person I am today. The place where so many significant events in my life happened that shaped me. It’s crazy to think that a place could have so much value. But when I look at Alex and our life together, or at my phone where half of the conversations I save are with camp friends, I know that first summer in 2001 was the beginning of this incredible journey that has truly led me to where I am now.

I couldn’t be more thankful for my time at camp, and am really so jealous of anyone stepping on that bus for the first time this summer!!!! Ya never know…maybe that bus will lead you to your best friends or the love of your life.