Category: Staff Spotlight

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!!


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!!

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!