Author: Elissa

The End

To Our Chen-A-Wanda Parents at home that have read our blogs, watched our videos, sifted through thousands and thousands of pictures, loved our Instagram posts and stories and believed in us enough to send your kids to spread their wings with us at Camp Chen-A-Wanda. We can’t thank you enough for sharing your children with us this summer. I have spent the past 49 nights writing to you at home in hopes of giving you a glance and what is happening inside our gates but tonight I wrote this letter and read it to your children for our last evening activity of Summer ’22. They were arm in arm with one another, crying happy tears for the love they feel here and sad tears because summer has come to an end. It has been the most magnificent summer and it is because of your children, the heart and soul to Camp Chen-A-Wanda. Thank you again for believing in us to care for your babies and enjoy them tomorrow when they are back in your arms.

Jon and I decided to write this letter  to you all before camp even began. We wrote this as we awaited your arrival. We wanted to jot down our wishes and hopes for the summer that was ahead of us all. So this letter was written before you came.


To Our Camp Chen-A-Wanda family:

It’s June 11th, the night before you, our staff start your journey to camp.  We can only imagine how nervous you may be right now and maybe even some of you are contemplating not coming because of all those nerves but we hope you find the strength to get in that car or on that flight and face any fears or doubts you may be feeling right now. We hope you believe in the decision you made to be a camp counselor and we hope you know what is just around the corner for you – an amazing summer and one that you each deserve to experience.  We hope you love orientation and hope you make incredible friends this summer. We can’t wait until you meet your kids and fall head over heels for them. We know that these people you don’t yet know will impact your lives in ways you just cant possibly imagine. We hope on our last night, your kids are sitting in your laps or draped all over you but most importantly that they creep into your heart.  This will be a hard job and it will require strength you may not even know you have. But we believe in you and we know if you take that leap, you will most definitely fly.

To all our campers who will be here in just a few short weeks. We know the crazy years we have all just experienced and we hope that this summer will feel normal for you.  You all deserve normal and we are working so hard to give you a safe place to play and to grow and to feel free. We hope Covid and masks and breaking news will not be a thing for any of us and we want this summer to be exactly what you all need. We hope you know that you will all be accepted and loved for exactly who you are and we hope you make friends and let people into your lives who make you feel special. We hope you love the staff that are coming from all over the globe to be here just for you and we want to give you experiences that will enrich your lives and open your hearts. We hope you try new things this summer and push yourselves outside your comfort zones. We will be there for you when things may be hard and we hope you know that we will be there to help pick you up if you fall and we will be there for you when you need us. We hope you appreciate your life away from your phones and devices and we hope you embrace talking to one another and learning the art of communication with your friends. That is a skill you will need and it’s the reason why your friendships here are so special and long-lasting. We hope you have an amazing summer you leave better and more confident than when you arrived.

Hey Collegiates, Seniors & Supers – We hope you enjoy curfew and all those extra upper camp perks this summer.   We hope your optional nights help make you feel like the bigs kids on camp. You have earned those privileges and our hope is that this summer is absolutely amazing for you. We hope there aren’t too many raids and upper camp shenanigans this summer but we sure you hope you love what is in store for you. To our GC’s – this is it, your last and final true camper summer. You have so much too look forward too and we know that the west coast trip will truly make this summer unlike any other you have experienced. & Our hope is that you and the CIT’s bond together on that trip of yours and you all realize that though you are 2 divisions, you really are one family. 

To our cool kids in the back of the Hall, our CIT’s . We hope you come to camp with an open heart and a willingness to truly be one bunk & one division. That alone will make all the difference and will set the tone for how amazing your summer can be. We hope you know how much everyone on camp will look up to you this summer and how this summer is your summer to shine. We hope you love every minute, every moment, every second of your CIT summer. The Hill will be yours and we want nothing more than to give you an incredible summer that will change your lives for the better. We hope you love and adore your campers because we know they will love you right back. It’s now your turn to be the hero of summer ’22 and we believe in each and every one of you. We are so excited for you to experience a trip of a lifetime and hope you and the GC’s of course, will love the West Coast. And we hope when Jon and I are standing up on Shields Hall stage as we read this letter aloud to you on our last night, we hope you are arm in arm, holding onto one another feeling sad it’s over but so incredibly happy that it happened. 

That is our wish for what lays ahead for us all. 


So.. here we are at the end, it’s Friday night, August 12th, it’s our last night and as we look out at this sea of beautiful faces and see how you are holding onto one another, arm in arm, it appears our hopes for what was to be, happened for us all. Our staff made the most wonderful connections with each other and the campers and our campers were the heartbeat that made camp feel alive all summer long. You all made a difference in our lives and we truly hope we made a difference in yours. 

We ask each and every one of you sitting here in front of us to remember, on those cold winter nights how this place made you feel and how it filled your heart with so much joy. How Camp Chen-A-Wanda changed you for the better and how we all created a world of kindness and compassion that will last far beyond the 7 weeks we just spent here. So as you head back out to the “real world” share a little Chenny with everyone you meet. Be kind, put down those devices and talk to one another, hold hands with your friends, find time to stargaze, tell those you love how much they mean to you and always be the river.

Thank you Chenny for a summer we will never forget. 

We Love You!!

Elissa & Jon

Banquet Bliss

Reality has set in that our last few days of summer 2022 are upon us. It is a mix of emotion here at camp as we are organizing for the end. With Color War behind us and banquet happening tonight, the end of summer 2022 is coming closer. We have only one more day and this magical summer will come to a close.

As the sun was setting over Fiddle Lake, we were all dressed up in our best outfits and headed to the beach and everyone took pictures together with friends & counselors. Everyone looked beautiful. The vibe was insane and just so full of joy. Kids stood on the dock, arm in arm smiling for that group picture that will be looked at a million times as soon they return home only to remind us of this very night.  It was a night that had a tangible feeling attached to it – we looked gorgeous, felt happy and it showed on every person here at camp.  Living free and happy is how we choose to live up here. This night was perfect and as they walked into the Lodge for banquet dinner we walked into a world under the sea.  We ate delicious food, sang at the top of our lungs and danced together and everyone felt the love. There were Congo lines all around the Lodge and the party was hopping and the energy was just incredible.

After dinner it was off to Shields Hall for our end of the year division Awards. Each Division highlighted the following campers in 3 areas; Honor Camper, Athlete of the Year and All Around Camper. They are truly standout campers and we couldn’t be more proud to highlight and honor them on this great night. To receive an award on this night is the highest honor we can give our campers. These are remarkable campers who deserve all the accolades and praise they were given. We have outstanding campers and tonight the light was bright on the campers we recognized with these extremely prestigious awards. What an honor, what a night and oh what a feeling!!!!

FRESHMEN Lily Schwartz Charli Houlis Blair Amster
JUNIORS Emma Shey Emmy Sanon Maya Park
MIDDIES Charlotte Cangiano Gabby Hassenbein Charli McClure
INTERS Julie Gold Victoria Portonova Alexandra Ortiz
COLLEGIATES Maya Kushner Jordana Kohen Ava Mallin
SENIORS Mia Koenig Sammy Keane Hayley Plotnick
SUPERS Abby Bussel Emily Benisch Paige Arenberg
GC’s Jillian Shohet Brooke Gordon Natalie Portnoy
CIT Of The Year Annie Isaacson


FRESHMEN  Tyler Lefkowitz Jordan Schwebel Ryan Zaben
JUNIORS  Brody Scharaga & Spencer Braverman Brandon Carrasquillo & Spencer Simon Mason Kohen & Gabe Porat
MIDDIES  Harrison Pilkington Emmet Rosenberg Ethan Marin
INTERS  Enzo Vicente Jake Freeman Brody Adler
COLLEGIATES  Nate Wellikoff Matan Harel Jordan Morris
SENIORS  Elan Harel Cade McClure Dylan Adler
SUPERS Jason Marks Noah Caplan Justin Ghorchain
GC’s  Trent Hernandez  Brett Schuster Lincoln Williams
CIT’s of the Year Logan Saltzman

After the Awards, it was party time and we danced all night long. Shields Hall was full of campers who let loose and danced until their feet hurt. It was over the top fun having our last true dance party with our summer family. It’s so hard to believe the summer is coming to a close.  It just doesn’t seem real. As campers headed back to their bunks full of glow sticks, T-shirts, glow rings and other goodies that were given out at the party, everyone was exhausted and elated and had the times of their life tonight. It was a party like no other as we celebrated an amazing summer 2022. It was just an incredible way to celebrate with the most amazing people on the planet. Life is great.. One more day to go and we don’t want to blink because before we know it, we will boarding those buses and heading home. A truly remarkable night that reflects a truly remarkable summer.


Late Night with Leahy

Today was a brunch wake up and we were all so excited to have that extra sleep.  After our 5 day Color War, the sleep was so was well deserved.  The sun was shining and it was a relaxed dat at camp. Things are winding down and it feels like summer is getting close to the end. With only a few more day to go, reality is setting in – Summer ’22 is wrapping up.

We had free play all morning and the kids were loving the ease about today. After our 5 day Color War, a laid back morning was exactly what we all needed. After lunch, it was our last official activities of the summer. As I walked around camp, all you see are kids playing. I watched the Middy boys play a great game of fall football right next to a gaga tourney with the freshman girls. Everyone from our freshman through our CIT’s just played today. They were getting every inch of whats left of camp. When the last bugle rang today after the last official activity, everyone knew that was it and reality has set in.

The most anticipated evening activity of summer is Late Night with Leahy and tonights show was INCREDIBLE. So entertaining , there is no other way to describe it other than beyond belief funny and fabulously entertaining. Brian Leahy creates the most entertaining videos and produces a show that is funny beyond belief and wraps up our summer with the most perfect late night talk show twist.  There are incredibly funny videos, dances, TikToks and Beats Headphones giveaways.  Campers and staff absolutely went crazy for the hilarity of what they witnessed tonight. It was a perfect way to end a perfect day and the ideal warp up to summer 2022. Ask your camper how Late Night was and we know they’d say, “best show ever.”

Just two more days to go until summer ’22 is in our rear view mirror. We have had the most incredible summer to date and our Chenny spirit is flying high here. You can feel the energy, it’s undeniable and you can feel the shift of knowing we will soon be back home. Even as we are slowing down, the magic of teachable moments are happening here. Tonight two senior girls were having some troubles in their friendship and 3 CIT girls sat with these 2 girls and shared their heart. They said something that went straight my heart when I heard them say, “we wasted time with drama and holding grudges and believe us when we say, its not worth holding onto the pain and misunderstanding. Look beyond any mistakes you’ve made and move past it together. We would do anything to be Seniors again and to have the summers back with our best friends. But our time here is coming to an end. Learn from your mistakes and be the river.” This is a sentiment I have said on the daily as I encourage the kids to be the river and roll with life harder times. Watching our oldest girls help a few girls who so needed to hear that tonight was just so beautiful. It was full circle watching kids help kids with their knowledge and experience. I just sat, listened and watched as our CIT’s so beautifully helped these two girls who needed to hear this exact message tonight.

So onto our last 2 nights and we cannot wait to party like rock stars tomorrow night at Banquet. Ending with a bang Chenny style.


Red Harry Potter Wins Color War

Our last day of Color War started out with more games. All the campers played hard and were great competitors. It’s been a great 4 days of competition and today was no different. The weather was ideal and the mood was perfect. All the campers had great attitudes and an excitement to get out and play. Didnt matter if this was first Color War or 7th, everyone was pumped.   This five day competition brought out the best of us but it all came down to Sing. The score was so close that heading into to tonight’s Sing competition, it was any one’s game.

Both Gold Star Wars and Red Harry Potter had phenomenal costumes and they were ready to sing their hearts out. They performed their Cheer, their March and their Alma Mater. Both teams were outstanding and the judges had a difficult decision to make.  As the artists held up their teams banners and plaques, the campers went crazy with excitement. Both Star Wars and Harry Potters artwork were amazing and will be hanging in the Rec Hall for all to see for years to come. The artists bring it all together with their creative work that tells the story of what we were all apart of this week.

The campers were waiting to hear the announcement of who won this years Color War. They watched the judges dance around as they played musical chairs and one by one, they were eliminated. It came down to one red and one gold left in the game. The music stopped and the Red judge grabbed the last seat. The Rec Hall erupted with excitement from the Red Harry Potter team who won Color War 2022. The race was so close with the final scores being Red Harry Potter 3,752 & Gold Star Wars 3,662. Only 90 points separated the teams.

The celebration was intense and the energy inside Shields Hall could move mountains. There were hugs and high fives and cheers of accomplishment. There were tears of defeat but those faded fast when our camp family came back together as one.  This night is a summer standout and brings up every emotion possible but in the end the feeling is being together and experiencing something that is bigger than us all. We went through this Color War as two separate teams, fought hard battles and gave it everything we got.

For five days our camp was divided and tonight we are again one. Back together for the end of a great summer.  We made memories that we will never forget and have gone through experiences that will impact who we are. What we learned during Color War is profound and we will carry these lessons throughout our lives. Only a few short days left and not a moment to waste.

We are excited for late wake up tomorrow and are grateful for the extra sleep. We still have three more days full of fun, friends and Banquet. It’s not over yet!!!



It was an absolutely perfect day for an Apache Relay. This race includes every single player on both teams and everyone matters in our Apache Relay. No matter if you are doing the elephant walk, diving to the bottom of the pool to pick up 8 spoons or assigned for infamous “unknown”, you count. There are 54 events that make up the Apache and each one of them are essential to the integrity of the race. It is a 3-hour event that utilizes the entire camp and being a part of it is just plain insane fun. To run the Apache is like nothing you have ever done before and after you have done it, you can’t wait to do it again. The race was close the whole way through with lead changes happening at every turn. You could hear the cheers from each team that took the lead but in the last few challenges Gold Star Wars crossed that finish line and celebrated with a burst of our joy and energy that was felt by everyone wearing gold shirts. Apache 2022 is in the books as one exciting race. There are events and activities that define Camp Chen-A-Wanda and Apache is one of them.

Girls  side had their track meet today and boys side battled in the pool at their swim meet. The kids had so much fun as they relayed to their finish lines getting cheers, praise and encouragement for their hard work and effort. The spirit was high and heat was on. To watch how this community gives one another support and encouragement is really life changing. It starts from our staff as they jump up and down cheering for the campers and that is infectious and it just catches on from there. There is so much positive energy in this camp, it is infectious, it is contagious and it is everywhere. This last week is giving us everything we want and everything we need. It’s passion, it’s hard work, its dedication and it’s knowing that summer is coming to an end in just a few days. It’s our last push and we are all giving it all we have.

Our night was spent at counselor games as we watched our staff play hard and play fair. Basketball, soccer and volleyball were the games our staff played tonight and it was so much fun watching them give it their all. We are all in this together and tonight our kids cheered as our staff was playing. Every minute & every moment we have left here is important and we aren’t wasting a second. This summer has been incredible and as we face the end of of Color War, we know camp is ending. One more day and in true Color War form, it all comes down to Sing!! There are only 50 points separating the teams and its anyones War. One last day to give it our all and one last night to make Color War 2022 the best on yet!!!!