Hi, my name is Rani Fink Houlis and my first summer at Chen-A-Wanda was in 1987, I was just 8 years old in Bunk B. From the very first moment I got off the camp bus, on the dirt road, near the Apple Tree, I knew this place would forever change my life in so many ways.
I didn’t know how then, but I just knew it would be a 2nd home. Within a couple weeks, I remember having friendships that were nothing like I really had before; they felt more like sisters. We did everything together…but most of all, we bonded! Summer after summer, we would explore new things and experience new firsts together. Our first shaving sessions were on our bunk deck playing jacks and our first kisses were in the hockey ring. After spending 6 summers at Chenny, I decided to do a teen tour (although this was nothing like CAW and I often regret leaving). I had an itch to get back to CAW, I couldn’t move on yet. The summer I graduated college, I decided there was no place I would rather be than my summer home before I started working in the real world!
I came back to camp to be a Group Leader for the oldest girls in camp. I was always, and still am the biggest kid at heart so of course I even got in trouble that summer! I am sure some of you remember…I am the infamous or famous Group Leader to be the very first and very last to ever play in a Wayne County Tournament! You should know it was all in good fun because my girls prefer to sit on the sidelines polishing their nails and as the good counselor, I tried to rally them up! Well, it clearly worked because we won! My main crew from my early days weren’t there anymore, but there were still familiar faces of campers and counselors that were now in management positions. This always warmed my heart because they, too, knew the real meaning and feeling of Chen-A-Wanda. It’s almost indescribable how this place makes you feel. Years went by, life got in the way, and some of these friendships fell apart. A few years ago, I reconnected with a few of my camp friends and we picked up right where we left off. Instantly, best friends! They are a huge part of my life now and I couldn’t imagine them not being a part of my life. I truly can’t wait for my children to be a little older so they, too, can experience all the wonderful and exciting memories of Chen-A-Wanda.
While it may seem that the point of this post is for you to send your kids to Chen-A-Wanda, it’s actually just to express how lucky, thankful and proud I am of the long-lasting forever friendships with former Chenny Alumni. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I could pick up the phone to one of my friends or counselors from 30 years ago and we would pick up right where we left off as if no time has passed. Thank you Camp Chen-A-Wanda for these memories and offering so much more than a summer home.