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Rani Fink Houlis

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.

Ally Grossman

My name is Ally Grossman and I am one of the Girls Side Head Counselors at Chenny. I am 30 years old and a Kindergarten teacher in Jericho, NY. While this is my tenth summer as a Head Counselor, I did not start out this way….

Twenty two summers ago in June of 1997 at the age of 9, I began my Chen-A-Wanda journey. It’s hard to believe that all of our campers and even much of our staff wasn’t even born, (no not because I’m THAT old), because with every year the number people that have shaped my summer experiences grow exponentially and it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t there!

As a camper, Chenny was my absolute happy place. I wasn’t the best athlete, but could hold my own on a field or court if it meant winning a Color War game. I loved being a part of the Camp plays, and looked up to the older kids who held leading roles, until I held a few myself. I LIVED for Girls Sing, and was the resident songwriter of my division. My counselors (Julie, Steph, Sarah and Kim to name a few) were my heroes and in my mind and the epitome of cool. Most importantly I made the friends of a lifetime who to this day are the people I tell absolutely everything to, and laugh harder than anyone with. We went from attending bunk sleepovers and bat mitzvahs to yearly girls weekend trips to Vermont, walking down the aisle as bridesmaids at weddings, and Secret Santa gatherings that end in Camp song sing alongs.













After my camper years I transitioned to being a counselor. At the time i thought that that Camp would never be the same…and I was right…but this chapter was equally as amazing. It was during these years that I continued to bond with my childhood friends, but met even more amazing friends, this time from all around the world! There’s an amazing bonded feeling that one has with co counselors. You work together for long hours to do your best to change and shape the lives of the campers and make sure they’re creating the memories they’ll take with them. It’s also an amazing coming of age when you’re making the most amazing memories yourself! I had the opportunity to take on leadership roles as Olympic and Color War Captains which were easily some of the hardest and best days of my life.


My campers were and continue to be my little sisters. There’s no better feeling than realizing that you’re now looked up to by your campers, in the way you looked up to your own. I watched them grow from toothless 8 year olds to amazing young women, counselors themselves and  now college graduates who are now taking on the world as young professionals. Most importantly they remain the best of friends. Their continued closeness is one of my favorite successes that I helped to pass down the importance of Camp friendship to the next generation.

As someone who has always loved children, I knew that there was really only one career path that ever made sense…to become a teacher. This would allow me to fulfill my passion for shaping the future during the year, but also gives me the flexibility to continue to come back to Camp each summer. Some have called it “living the dream” and I agree! My experience in the classroom has allowed me to learn and grow as a head counselor, and my experiences each summer come back with me to my classroom and help me to grow as a teacher. In short, I couldn’t be luckier to have not one but two dream jobs! My summer dream job consists of spending my days out doors, singing and dancing during meals, passing down traditions, leading trips and activities, guiding counselors through decision making and conflict resolution, helping kids form and foster life long friendships,  and every once and a while even having some time off to continue to foster new and lasting friendships of my own!!

The past twenty two summers my life have been shaped by literally hundreds of campers, counselors, staff and families who have come and gone, and many who still remain. Every single one of them has been an important part of my continuing journey. The one thing I can say to anyone reading this, whether you’re a new staff member, returning camper, or transitioning to a new role is that the best is yet to come, because just when you think your summer will never be the same, you’re right…it’s better!

Happier We Could Not Be, On Color War Day 3

We can’t believe that it’s Color War Day 3 already. Today started with another action-packed morning full of games. Whether it was the intense game of water polo being played by the Super Boys, or the Middy Girls playing steal the bacon, which might be one of the cutest sites you’ve every seen. It was if someone took this morning right out of the encyclopedia’s definition of Color War. There was fierce competition, incredible dedication, and unparalleled spirit coursing through everyone’s veins, all set in the warm sunny weather at C-A-W.

The afternoon gave way to Track & Field for the Boys and Swimming & Boating for the Girls. The weather was incredible, and this morning’s energy carried right on through to the afternoon. The boys threw softballs and footballs, hit fungo, and ran individual and relay races. While the boys were up the hill, the girls were at the pool and lake. Our girls had a fabulous time swimming individual and relay races, rowing boats, and paddling with kick-boards. Both Track & Field and Swimming & Boating give our kids the most incredible feeling of accomplishment for their team. The entire camp was there to cheer them on whether they come in 1st or 4th, its their effort that counts.

As we all worked our bodies to the bone with a day of physical challenges, the night was meant to test our brains. It was Quiz Night and it was awesome. Each group had trivia tests that covered everything from pop culture to sports to history and everything in between. Every topic was covered and every camper was challenged. It was a team effort as they hummed and hawed over the answers. A giant trivial pursuit if you will. The night was amazing and one thing we all realized that our minds are sharp and we are all smart as a whip. After all our kids got to compete, it was off to Shields Hall to watch the counselors in a serious battle of the brains contest. After 40 challenging questions, the race was close but Red Summer squeaked out the win tonight.

Calling it an action-packed day would be the understatement of the year, and tomorrow will be even busier. Day 3 is in the books, and we are off to bed to recharge as we dream about the amazing time we are about to have tomorrow.

Chenny Out.

Watermelon, Cantaloupe…

Day 2 of Color War started with a jolt of energy from morning’s psych speeches, which set the tone for a day full of sports. The games were fierce yet friendly, fun and spirited. This is what we do at Color War. We play fair, we play hard and we always support one another. You see the desire to win in our campers faces but you always see respect for the game and for each other. As I walked around camp, I could not help but to be inspired by our campers’ immense spirit and passion for Color War. Kids were decked out in red and gold glitter, tutus, mustaches, glasses, and much more, while counselors are walking around in colored capes. Everywhere I walked there were “PSYCH Circles” with kids screaming of excitement. Whether it was with just their teammates, their friends, or their division, that camp spirit and emotion is just contagious.

Tonight was a camp favorite. Rope Burning and Water Boiling are activities that only camp people get. Build a fire, burn a rope or boil water, and call it evening. Well, it is so so so much more than that. The spirit, passion, and dedication our campers and staff show, when they are continually cheering for those in the fire pits is just the very definition of spirit and enthusiasm. Many think that it’s the wood, leaves, bark, and hay that fuel the fire, but it’s really the team sitting in front of them. The cheers of “Watermelon, cantaloupe, ugh baby burn that rope,” “build that fire higher, higher,” and many many more is really what gives the “burners” the strength and drive to accomplish this challenge. All four teams started their fires quite quickly, which can often be a challenge, and soon thereafter, for the second time in CHEN-A-WANDA history, water boiling finished ahead of rope burning. What can we say, the girls from Red Summer simply rock! It wasn’t long after until the boys from Red Summer and then from Gold Winter had their ropes break from the immense flames.

It was an amazing day and even a more amazing night. Walking down from the hill you could see some of our campers get emotional, holding each other arm and arm as they walked down to canteen, recording yet another amazing memory for Summer 2016. Although the day is over, there is another action-packed day of Color War ahead. The boys will head to Track & Field while the girls head down to the Pool and Lake.

We are two days into this unforgettable competition and everyone’s energy level is just as high as when we started. It just keeps getting better and better, and we can’t wait for another great day.

Chenny Out.

Color War Day One… It Has Only Just Begun…

Our campers could hardly sleep as they were filled with excitement from last night’s amazing breakout. From the reveille bugle this morning, all the way through our oldest campers going to bed tonight, you could feel the color war spirit in the air. It is a feeling like no other, a feeling of competition, spirit, camaraderie, and just pure love of camp and all that it stands for.

Today started with Tugs of War. Seeing the campers march up the hill with faces painted, hair sprayed red or gold, and wacky clothing of all sorts, it is just so apparent that our kids are feelin’ that color war pride from head to toe. The competition was fierce as the rope pulling started. It’s actually quite an amazing site to see our entire camp on one field cheering on their friends, siblings, and counselors. It’s extraordinary to hear that whistle blow and to watch both teams pull as hard as they can, and in the blink of an eye it is over. One team prevails, and then like clockwork, the teams come together an erupt with high fives, cheers, and song, as if they weren’t competing against those very same people only seconds ago.

The action packed morning was followed by an afternoon full of games. The sun was shining, the music was playing, and our kids were just having the most amazing time on the fields with every swing of the bat, throw of the ball, and touchdown scored.

After an amazing afternoon, the evening started with Mass Games and ended with Contest Night. It was a picture perfect evening to have our campers playing Softball and BBG at twilight and participating in relay races as the evening went on. Weather it was the Freshmen, Juniors, Middies, or Inters enjoying the fun contests and relay races in Shields Hall, or the Collegiates, Seniors, Supers, GCs, and CITs on the outdoor court, the music was bumpin’, the spirit was intense, and fun was had by all.

It was just an AMAZING day. This is the best part of camp. Color War encompasses every important part of this incredible journey and this incredible place we call home.

It’s only day one of color war and we can’t wait for more!!!

Chenny Out.