Author: Aaron Tell

Nicole Nystrom

Hello everybody! My name is Nikki Nystrom. I’m a 24-year-old from Pittsburgh, PA. Let’s take it back to the beginning, where I first met the Leahy family at my university’s career fair in 2014!

My senior year of college was just around the corner when I stumbled across the Camp Chen-A-Wanda booth and thought “Why not?!” because I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be post-college; I thought this was the perfect time for an adventure and what an adventure it has been!

I joined the Chenny family as a General counselor and loved every second of it. The friendships I made with everyone around me were so genuine and incredible, and little did I know, it would only continue to get better!

During my summer camp career, I have been able to work as a Basketball Specialist, Group Leader, and now a Head Counselor for Navajo camp! Being a camp counselor can be very challenging, but there are a ton of benefits from it as well. Over the last few summers, I’ve learned how to be a great role model, leader, and friend. All of my campers mean the world to me and the bond we have built will always have a special place in my heart.For me, the best part about working at camp is seeing everyone have a great time while making new memories. Having a great time is what camp is all about! I’ve had the opportunity to experience some AWESOME activities, day trips, and days/nights off while working at Chenny. This past summer, I was able to take a trip to the West Coast and see a ton of remarkable places with the GC division. The memories I have made in the last few summers will never leave my head and I’m always looking forward to making new ones every summer. Chen-A-Wanda has had such a huge impact on my life. I feel that I have grown into a better person every time I step foot in camp. Thank you, Chenny, for giving me new friendships, experiences, and of course, Ruben! Hurry up summer 2018!!


Michelle Flax

My Chenny story starts back in 2002 when I started at camp Chen-A-Wanda as a Middy girl at the age of 10. Previous summers before, I had spent my summer days at a local day camp on Long Island and was getting bored. I wanted a change and a new experience. When I toured Chen-A-Wanda, I instantly felt at home. The atmosphere, the warmth, and camp spirit were contagious and I knew this was going to be my summer home for a long time.

However, I started camp that summer in 2002 and cried every day. I was homesick, missed my friends and parents, and didn’t think it was the place for me. I was comforted day after day by amazing counselors, Head Counselors, and friends, but that was a very hard summer for me. My parents remember driving halfway to camp to get me but turning around knowing this was an experience I had to get through on my own. Little did they think I would get off that bus on the last day of camp and say to them “I think I want to go back next summer.” I think their faces dropped to the ground. We spent a lot of time preparing for that next summer, hoping it would be different. I was eager to go back and they were hoping I would be less homesick. I was anxious but wanted to try the experience again and give it my all, and I did.

Going back that following summer was the best decision I ever made. Without camp, my life would be completely different and I would be a totally different person then I am today. I spent those next summers Inter to CIT, creating bonds with my camp friends, walking arm in arm down girl’s side, living in a bunk with my best friends, chanting during meals in the dining hall, spending most of my days on the tennis courts, joining sports teams (although I was never a great athlete), working on my summer tan, walking up the hill and creating memories that would last a lifetime. My camper days were some of the best days of my life. I looked forward to camp every summer, living 10 for 2 to spending time with my camp friends.

My transition from camper to counselor was scary. How could I go from living in a bunk with my camp friends to being a counselor in charge of my own campers? However, my Junior Counselor summer was one of my favorite summers at camp to this day. I lived in a bunk with my Freshmen girls (who are now about to be CIT’s and Junior Counselors) and had amazing co-counselors. I loved bonding with my campers and I made new camp friends while keeping the old as well. I went on to be a counselor for three summers becoming Olympic Captain, Color War Lieutenant and being awarded counselor of the year. I thought my counselor years couldn’t get better, and then I became a Group Leader for the Inter girls in 2012. I loved being a group leader for my Inter girls and building relationships with my counselors as well. However, nothing can compare to the day when Gary Shields called me to base camp to ask me if I would come back the following summer to be an Assistant Head Counselor. I was nervous, scared, and excited all at the same time. Of course, I said yes and started Summer 2013 in Mohican Camp (middle ages) under Amy Simmons, one of my best camp friends to this day. That summer was truly amazing. Since then I have been in both Navajo and Mohican camp as the Girls Head Counselor with each summer getting better and better than the last. Now, I am entering my sixteenth summer at this amazing place as the Mohican girls side Head Counselor for the sixth year and I am so excited what this summer has in store for me. In the offseason, I took a career path that would allow me to come back to camp summer after summer. In the winter I work as a Special Education Teacher in Manhattan and just completed my master’s degree in General Education and Special Education 1-6. My job is both rewarding and challenging, but working with kids, I knew was always my path in life.

Throughout my Chenny journey, I have met many people that have helped shape me into the strong, kind-hearted, loving and independent person I am today. I have learned many life lessons, fallen in love, and created friendships and memories to last a lifetime. I have watched my campers grow from little girls into young adults and helped them along the way as they became counselors to their very own campers. Camp has been an amazing experience for me and I am so excited to see where the next chapter takes me as the rest of my journey is still to come! Bring on Chenny 18!!

Jocelyn Rossell

Hi. My name is Jocelyn Rossell and Camp Chen-A-Wanda is my home my away from home, my constant, and my happy place- even as an Alumni. As we all know, camp is a bubble and I feel truly grateful to have been a part of it.

My days at camp started in 2004 as a Junior girl. My parents say that I was born ready for camp and happily waved them off the bus on that first day wearing my custom Chenny shirt, red and gold hot loops, and my nails painted red and gold with Chen-A-Wanda across them. From that day, I knew that camp would be my home away from home. From playing on the sports fields to dancing in the dining hall, from writing songs for Girl’s Sing to Color War, and inevitably crying my eyes out on the last day, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to get to do it all again the next summer.

I was a CIT in 2011 and I thought nothing could beat that summer. I had done it all, even spray-painted Arts and Crafts, but I still couldn’t imagine my life without this place. I remember sitting on the Lake Court crying my eyes out, thinking how I’d come back and not get to be a camper and do it all over again. However, I thankfully realized that I did get to do it all over again, but instead through the eyes of eager young campers, just like I was eight summers before. I quickly saw them make those best friends connections with camper and counselors that we wouldn’t trade for the world, got to write songs for them to have them put on an amazing Girl’s Sing, and got to watch them develop a love for camp that is irreplaceable.

Those girls that I CIT’ed for were CITs themselves this past summer and used the quote “Did It For the Story.” While it may have felt like the end for them, like it did for me, I only hope that they go on to appreciate the counselor part of camp as much as I did. While my chapter at camp has come to a close, it definitely hasn’t meant that that was the end of the story. Though I still joke that I would love to be a Junior girl all over again, I would not trade my camp experience for the world. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about camp, talk to a camp friend, or have a song remind me such a specific memory of a certain summer.

I truly have camp to thank for shaping me into the person I am today. It was the place I grew up and learned the most, and those lessons have been with me every step of the way since. It was a place that’s given me life-long friends and little sisters that I couldn’t imagine my life without. To any camper or staff, new or returning, don’t take Chen-A-Wanda for granted, cherish each moment that you have inside that bubble because sadly it isn’t always possible for you to return. I left my mark and my camp story was over, but I will never not cherish Chen-A-Wanda and all that it gave me.

Nancy Leffler Berman

How Lucky Am I? I have been a camper since I was 5 years old. Yes, 5 years old (at my first camp) and when visiting day came and my parents ran over to hug me…I wouldn’t get up from my Nok Hockey game (lol). My camp day memories are as clear as the day they happened; being a Color War Lieutenant, a Color War General, creating and publishing the camp yearbook to candles floating on the lake as we sang our alma mater on the last night of camp…I was simply heartbroken when I took my first job and had to give up camp.

But I got another chance and I am still able to say #ILive10For2! My journey at Camp Chen-A-Wanda started the summer of 1995 when I was looking for a camp for my son, Howard (some of you may know him). We toured 3 camps, and this is the camp he loved.

Howard spent 2 summers at camp before my husband, Evan, started to work as the camp doctor for the first two weeks of the summer. In 2001 when my daughter, Sheri, was old enough to go into a bunk I was hired to work in the office.

This will be my 18th summer at Chen-A-Wanda. As the Office Manager, I work with everyone from Campers, Parents, Counselors, Support Staff to Head Staff. I do a lot of behind the scenes, from creating parent information, camper forms, scheduling camper phone calls, to making sure your camper has his/her allotted spending money for their trips. During Orientation Week, when I speak to the staff I always tell them, I am the person to ask when they aren’t sure who to ask since either I will know the answer or else I will know where to direct them.

How does one describe Chen-A-Wanda – it’s the place where as soon as you step on the camp grounds, you feel as though it was yesterday that you were with “your family.” It only takes hours for the “first timers” to be a part of the family! It’s a place where you can be yourself, where you grow and mature. It’s a place where you are ageless. It’s a place that time stands still, yet it flies by.

One of the greatest joys is seeing the personal growth of the kids. Before they know it, they are Junior Counselors, making that hard transition. But then, they realize how much fun it is, being looked up to, creating relationships with their campers just as they had looked up to their counselors.

There is nothing more beautiful than leaving my Mountain Top room as the sun rises; walking down the hill to beautiful Chenny Central. The start of another fun-filled day of music, activities and awesome singing in the Lodge. Watching these kids (staff included) dancing and singing their hearts out is indescribable. The icing on the cake, watching the sunset over Fiddle Lake as we close the office for the night.

Last weekend Evan and I drove to Pennsylvania. We went to some of our favorite places in the area before stopping at camp to drop some things off. As we drove down Camp road we saw people ice fishing on Fiddle Lake instead of boats and swimmers. It was quiet, but that feeling, that special feeling that I get every time I see the Chen-A-Wanda sign and I turn onto Camp Road was there…I knew I was home!

Stuart Rohatiner

It was the summer of 1980. I had attended Camp Olympus and knew Morey Baldwin. Right before the summer, Morey offered me a job as a Camp Counselor for six-year-old boys, the youngest bunk on camp! Long story short, it was a disaster as I didn’t have the maturity or patience. Two weeks into camp, I was miserable and Morey was ready to fire me and send me home for the summer. Urghh!

Mitch Steinhart, a long-time camper, and counselor at Camp Chen-A-Wanda heard about my plight and transitioned me into his bunk. I went from a Junior Counselor with six-year-olds to 13-year-olds, but the difference was Mitch Steinhart. The boys were so kind to me and a new bunk gave me a chance to regroup. Mitch had convinced Morey to move me into his bunk, so I had to earn my stay at camp and prove that Mitch did the right thing!

From that point on, I observed Mitch at work and he was outstanding. A year later, I was a Color War Captain. Crazy to think about that – I went from almost being fired for my lack of maturity and patience to leading half the camp during Color War! Mitch showed tremendous leadership; Mitch taught me many things about working with kids and other people. I always admired how Mitch found the good in people and always acted “bigger” than the situation. He was an incredible guiding force for me during my two summers at Camp Chen-A-Wanda. Even my grades in college improved after a summer with Mitch. Mitch is one of Camp Chena-A-Wanda’s alumni treasures. That’s the support, caring, kindness and true friendship I found at Camp Chen-A-Wanda. Thank you, Mitch Steinhart.

It doesn’t surprise me that Mitch is now a New Jersey Superior Court Judge. He had amazing judgment in his early 20s, and I wouldn’t doubt his judgment today.

Huge shout out to Fair Lawn’s Mitch Steinhart on his appointment as a New Jersey Superior Court judge. Thank you and Camp Chen-A-Wanda for the encouragement and leadership skills!!!