Category: Staff Spotlight

Eddie Los

As I sit here and try to put words onto paper about my camp journey there are a few questions I ask myself. What’s the best way to make others understand what Camp Chen-A-Wanda means to me? Where do I start? What do I talk about? What makes me come back year after year? What is camp like?

Even though, through my eyes, I am sure many will be able to relate to the story I am about to tell, in some way. I think this is why camp is a very special place because we can all relate, even though we all come from every little corner on this earth. We share one thing, one bond that cannot be broken or taken from us. This is what is so special about this place. Only the experiences can make one understand, words can only draw a picture but cannot fill it in with color that is up to you. So here is my best attempt at drawing a picture…

Name: Eddie Los
Position: Baseball Director
Years at Camp: Entering 4th
Where do I start?

My journey to camp started in January 2015, I recently turned 24 and was about to attend my fourth university in six years. I was lost, struggling to find my identity. Little did I know, I was about to find exactly what I was looking for. As I was looking for a job, I stumbled across a summer camp position. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to apply since I was going to school to become a teacher. I sat down and spent nearly three hours filling out the application. After I sent in the application, I waited nearly a week without hearing anything and decided to email the camp directly:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Grabow, 
My name is Eddie Los and I have just applied for a position at Camp Chen-A-Wanda. I just wanted to email you both and say that I am really looking forward for an opportunity to be a part of the camp this summer. I feel like with an opportunity I could succeed very well this summer under your staff.   
Look forward to hearing from you both.  
Sincerely, Eddie 

This email started a domino effect for the coming week that led to me signing a contract to become a Baseball Specialist. While in talks, I asked If there was anything I could do to help at camp and I was told about pre-camp. Which leads me to my next question.

What do I talk about? 

My very first experience at camp was with a few men that helped acclimate myself to camp. They welcomed me with open arms, which isn’t anything out of the ordinary at camp, it’s a way of life. Once you make that right down camp road, drive under the arch, you become part of a unique family. My first summer started with a small group and quickly expanded to nearly 800 campers and staff members. The next few weeks were quiet for me. I am normally a shy and reserved person. I don’t normally go out of my comfort zone at all. Until I met someone by the name of Melvin, I was sitting in the lodge eating and he sat down across from me and said, “Just the man I am looking for.” He had asked if I’d like to participate in the staff talent show. After talking, I had agreed that if I wanted to color my picture in, I would have to step out of my comfort zone a little. That was just the beginning of my first summer at camp. After that, I was asked to be a Captain of Olympics and shortly following, Captain of Color War. The summer ended with an honor that I am still proud of, being named Counselor of the Year. If I can give anyone words of advice, it’s don’t be afraid to try new things and face your fears while at camp. If I didn’t do those things and step out of my comfort zone, I don’t think I would have been able to understand the meaning of what my first-year entailed. We hold the ability to make camp amazing. We get out, what we put in. Which brings me to my next question…

What brings me back year after year? 

It’s hard to explain, camp allows me to step out of my comfort zone. I may have been part of probably one of the worst lip sync experience ever in camp history and when I say, “I may have,” I was. I stood up on stage and didn’t know what I was doing. I kept saying, “Watermelon, cantaloupe,” but not even those two words could save me. I knew that this would be talked about, but I also knew that it wouldn’t bother me. You do things at camp for the kids. Maybe I didn’t nail the performance (or come anywhere close) but maybe I was able to give a camper confidence to get up on stage and perform. To me camp is not about myself, it’s about the campers and having a good laugh and I gave camp enough reason to laugh for the next few days with that performance. This is why I come back year after year, to share and make memories with the camp Chen-A-Wanda family and build relationships with everyone that steps foot on that spot on the map in Thompson, PA.

What does camp mean to me?

Camp is so much more than just a summer job. Not once have I talked about my passion and love for the game of baseball, which is my job at camp because that is just a fraction of what camp means to me. Not everyone can relate to the camp experience if I talk baseball but they can relate if I talk about everything that camp has to offer. This leads me to my last question…

What is camp like? 

Now, this is where my story ends. This question is not for me to answer. Not even words can describe what camp is like. This question needs to be answered with the experience of camp itself. I did what I could do to draw the picture. It’s your time to color the picture in yourself. Every picture will be unique but will have one thing in common, it’s filled in with the experience that camp has tattooed in our memory and those experience can never be taken away from us. We get to cherish them as long as we live.

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!

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!!