Over the last few years you may have noticed back country ski supplies included on BBC’s wish list. Tuna scours the fall ski swaps and often returns with poles and boots to add to BBC’s collection. Last winter’s registration form included a box to mark interest in skiing the back country of BBC! In 2017 Tuna and GiGi led campers into the snow covered forrest on skis.
A long time snow camper Nick Champine enjoys having fun skiing with Tuna and other campers and having the freedom to go anywhere. He says, “The hills are fun! It’s different than skiing at a resort because you have to go uphill in order to go down and there are less people.” He’s looking forward to learning more this winter.
The development of a back country ski program at BBC Winter Camps allows campers to try their hand at a new skill while enjoying the beautiful winter scenery. Tuna has teamed up with a local telemark teacher, John Tidd, to provide instruction to adults who may have interest in helping campers learn how to ski safely in the back country. If you have interest in volunteering at snow camps in this way contact Tuna (brandon at bethanybirches.org)
The summer of 2017 was the most attended summer in the history of BBC. Praise God! Well over 400 campers came over the course of 7 weeks of summer camp. Serving this many campers required that we also have one of the largest staff teams in the camp’s history. Many different marketing events, individuals, and advertisements helped to make this summer’s registration so momentous. I also believe that campers wouldn’t come (and keep coming!) if it weren’t for the impact camp has on them.
A small group of campers (and staff) were impacted this summer by a new week- long program. The Expedition week was created to be an adventure-based program for a small group of middle school campers. This backpacking-based program provided a unique and powerful atmosphere for campers to find each other and God.
The group of 10 campers and three staff spent their first day at camp focused on team building to prepare themselves for the three-day overnight backpacking trip during the 2nd half of the week. Because this was designed to be a smaller group, campers quickly built meaningful relationships with their counselors and each other. Mim “Sully” Beck, an expedition counselor, describes how those relationships were built:
“One of the best parts of the week was being able to interact so closely with the group of campers and other counselors. We quickly became well acquainted and comfortable around each other as we learned how to pack our bags and cook our food. Even before we left for the trip, we found ourselves bonding while shouting out-of-tune camp songs at the tree houses. Multiple times on the trip we found ourselves laughing and playing games or telling riddles to keep ourselves entertained. One of the most profound experiences on the trail was when we reached the Killington summit. Relaxing in God’s presence after a day of hiking had a positive impact on all of us.”
Current culture has made it easy for most Middle Schoolers to miss out on nature-focused activities. Kids, instead, experience the world behind the glass of their mobile devices and other screens. BBC has always sought to help “human life, wild life and plant life coexist in harmony (statement from original bylaws).” One of the other counselors on this trip, Erin “Corgi” Beidler, describes how campers met God during the week: “Sitting around the camp stove eating freeze-dried chili our group had some of the best conversations. From playing charades to discussing faith the group was open to sharing their experiences. I remember one discussion in particular when we were talking about Moses leading the Israelites out into the wilderness. God gave them just enough manna to survive for that day but no more. We discussed how through the challenge of the hike and whatever challenges life brings God can give each of us enough of what we need to get through. I saw God so much during the three days of hiking. Campers were so willing to share and help each other through the challenges of the hike. I truly believe that being together in such a demanding environment helped the group grow closer to each other, to nature, and to God.”
The impact of this session on campers (and staff) was clear. Expedition will return next year. If you know a 12-14-year-old who would benefit from an experience like this, please encourage them to sign up!
The Bethany Birches Camp experience teaches many things. Some campers learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, some learn how to cook food over a fire while others uncover gifts God has given them. Learning at camp isn’t limited to campers. Bev Goshow (AKA Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos – that’s her camp name) thought she was coming for one week of serving in the kitchen back in 2010. Seven summers later she is retiring as the camp shepherd for BBC’s youngest campers. Thank you Grandma Cookie Dough Chaos for being open to how God would use you. The following paragraphs are Grandma’s reflections on her path to becoming a camp shepherd at BBC.
~ Amber “Cheeks” Bergey, Volunteer Coordinator & Day Camp Director
As a child I loved attending Camp Sankanac in Spring City, Pa. At that time I was unaware of the seed being planted and nourished. Fast forward to 2010. My husband Dave (aka Woodchip) and I volunteered one week at BBC. I was helping in the old kitchen. When I wasn’t in the kitchen I enjoyed Fireside and soon found myself actively singing with the kids. I’m not sure what happened to me that week. I found myself going down the slip n slide laughing the entire way while campers chanted “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!”
Before leaving camp, Amber (aka Cheeks) identified one of my gifts as loving children and invited me to be the shepherd the following year. She told me to pray about it. I told her I wouldn’t! I was afraid of what God was calling me to do! My husband Dave felt differently. Dave said right away, “She’ll do it.” He then turned to me and said “You’ll be great at this! It’s right up your alley.”
Preparing for the first year of shepherding brought a lot of anxiety. I had no formal education to do this job. I was just a willing helper. I was fearful the counselors would correct one of my Bible stories! Nothing like that happened. I prayed God would be present and this was for HIM, not Bev. I LOVED my new role!
The highlight of shepherding over the last few years was to share about a loving God and the way of Jesus with 6 to 9 year old campers. I had the total attention of campers when telling them the Bible stories in flannelgraph! You usually could hear a pin drop – even with 84 active kids!
One of the memories that stands out was when I shared the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Quietly the children filed passed me as I gave them bread and fish (Swedish) and told them Jesus loves them. It was so reverent and peaceful. I cried like a baby as the last child went through.
As a camp shepherd I always had one goal: to plant seeds for children to know Jesus as their personal savior and to nourish those seeds in whatever way possible.
Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Working at camp involves a lot of repetition, and as someone who generally revolts against rigid routines, sometimes I felt like I was going crazy. But somehow, beyond all my expectations, God met me in the repetition.
I came to camp expecting that I would meet God in some life-redefining way. In fact, that was one big reason I initially hesitated about working at BBC this summer ― I expected that I would meet God in some big way, and I was afraid of finding him like that. Because finding God meant that I would have to own up to a lot of things, and I did not want to spend the emotional energy, I guess. But I did not meet God, not in the way I thought, anyway, which fit in so well with our theme of “Expect the Unexpected.” No, he did not revealed himself to me in some flashy Damascus road moment. Instead, he pulled me gently back to him, one small moment at a time.
Every week, I repeated the same advice to my campers, heard the same Bible stories, sang the same songs, cooked the same food, did the same activities.
I knew what was coming next. In the logistical sense, I knew exactly what to expect.
Now, when you do something over and over again, and know you will keep doing it over and over again, you have two choices: you can either jade yourself to what you are doing, or you can look for new threads of meaning within the repetition.
I found myself handing out the same advice to my girls this summer, different campers, different ages, different situations. I told them how important it is to learn to love yourself, because if you dislike yourself, then loving your neighbor as you love yourself quickly derails into a nightmare. And by the fifth or sixth time that I heard those words coming out of my mouth, I realized, hey, maybe I should give my own advice a try.
And maybe after the 50th morning of singing that all God’s critters got a place in the choir, I could remember that that meant me, someone who has felt on the outside for a while, not sure of her place in the choir or if she wants to sing at all.
And maybe by the seventh time hearing that God’s best friend Moses killed a man would it actually sink in that, hey, God might want to be best friends with me, too, someone who has not killed anything but maybe some mosquitos.
I usually look for God in the strange, unfamiliar places. I can see him working best when I am outside of my comfort zone. I like to go on adventures, push myself, find weird new places to explore, and hope to bump into God along the way.
But this summer, I learned to look for him in the small, quiet moments, in the spider crawling up my leg, in the curious eyes of children, in the encouragement of fellow staff, in the silly song lyrics.
God knows what we need more than we know for ourselves. He knows I can be skittish, he knows I am stubborn, but he also knows how much I delight in small moments of beauty, and he used that understanding to give me what I needed: a gentle push in a better direction that, with enough encouragement, will eventually lead me home.
As I have settled back into the repetition of my life away from camp, into my college routine, I catch myself thinking about camp a lot. I find I am craving the outdoors, craving rain showers and cast-iron griddles and grease fires and charcoal hand prints on my legs, craving the company of children, craving the peace I found on the hill ― these things that separately I can replicate anywhere, but that all together create something beautiful, something powerful, something unique to Bethany Birches.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work at Bethany Birches, and I am looking forward to returning next summer, ready to embrace the unexpected from day one.
Liesl “Kiki” Graber
2017 BBC Summer Counselor
This summer was the most attended summer in the history of BBC. Praise God! We had well over 400 camper weeks throughout the seven weeks of summer. These high numbers required that we also have one of the largest staff teams in the camp’s history. Many different marketing events, individuals, and advertisements helped to make this summer’s registration so momentous, but I also believe that campers wouldn’t come (and keep coming!) if it weren’t for the ways camp impacts them.
Camp is uniquely powerful in the lives of children for many different reasons. One of the most important reasons, I believe, is the connection between camper and counselor. During the school year children spend 99% of their time with peers (fellow students) and with older adults (parents/teachers). Peers are easy for them to connect with, but often not much of a role model. Adults can be great role models, but difficult to make powerful connections with. Young, maturing, 20-something counselors help bridge that gap. They are fun to be with and people the campers can look up to. Many campers, in fact, realize that they too can grow up to be like these counselors some day. Liesl was an excellent example this summer. In the paragraphs that follow she shares her experiences this summer and you can see that while she made a real impact in the lives of her campers God also used BBC to make a real impact in her own life.
I’ve been reflecting on summer highlights lately despite the recent cold temps and skiing at nearby recently opened VT resorts and the 3 weeks of Day Camp was definitely a highlight.
Are there parents who will drive their kid to BBC each day for a week? Are 5 year olds old enough to cook meals over the fire and run around outside most of the day? Are there any past counselors who want to volunteer a week at day camp? Will daylong program aid in reaching BBC’s mission of helping young people develop their relationship with God?
The answers to the first 3 questions above seem to be a resounding YES! And hopefully as the years go on we’ll find the answer to the last question to be yes too.
Day camp returned to BBC in 2016 after a 12 year hiatus! 18 campers attended over the course of 3 different weeks. In 2017 that number climbed to 35 campers over the course of 3 weeks. Parents are willing to drive their kids up Lynds Hill for a daylong experience. One camper dad commented that he loves the fact that his son gets to spend all day outside. Another mom mentioned hoping this experience would prepare her son for overnight camp. A different camper parent was psyched she could jump start her son’s BBC experience as she has fond memories of her own BBC experience. And still another camper parent values the faith-based emphasis she always finds at Bethany Birches.
Each day camp week included traditional favorites at BBC. First time campers were exuberant to be eating ice cream out of the pig trough. Others enjoyed being launched on the trampoline or taking their first stab at kayaking. Campers also enjoyed activities that encouraged them to make new friends (silly songs and teambuilding games) and soak in the creation around them (cooking over the fire and swimming in the pond). Each week had a different theme (A Bug’s Life, Making Music and Holiday Roundup) to help focus the activities and lessons for the week.
All of the above contributed to fun for day campers but it’s the staff that determines the experience for the campers. Part of the successful return of day camp must be attributed to veteran staff volunteering to return to counsel the youngest of BBC Campers. Max “Nye” Halik who has served in the role of camper, counselor, volunteer and assistant program director over the past 10 years describes why volunteering at day camp made sense to him.
“As a counselor Mini Week (Launch half) was always my favorite week of the summer partially because you find that five-year-olds tend to be happy to do just about anything outside. One of the harder parts with that Mini Week was the “overnight” part – comforting little kiddos that found it difficult to get through nights without parents. When I heard that I could volunteer at Day Camp, I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to hang out with kids that still have that same enthusiasm for literally *every* activity, but could engage in bite-sized portions that wouldn’t be overwhelming. I’ll come back for Day Camp week any time – particularly as a volunteer it’s easier to take off a week of work knowing that I’ll be able to have fun-filled days with the happiest children you can imagine, with calmer evenings to plan out how we can share the word of God with his littlest children.”
Three sessions of day camp are in the line up for Summer 2018 with the hopes that more parents will drive up the hill each day to give their kids an outdoor, faith based experience with veteran BBC Staff.
Your child is going to love Summer 2017! There’s plenty of options for all age groups, more things to do at camp, and more choices to help him and her grow and develop emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually!
Exciting things for each age group:
More Options for Younger Campers
If your 9 year-old has experienced Launch and is now ready for a full week of camp sign them up for Core A! Core A is now for 9-12 year-olds to allow younger campers to experience “core” programming!
Discounted Rates for Day Camp Transportation
Day Camp will also continue for another year! This is a great alternative to summer day care, especially since your child will get to experience plenty of classic camp games and activities. Transportation is available from Woodstock for Day Campers and is offered using the typical tier pricing. Click here for pricing.
Your 10-13 year old can come to one, two, or all three! These weeks are the “core” of our programming here at camp. Theme days. Crazy camp-wide activities. Mission Impossible. Whether it’s their first or fourth time at BBC they’re sure to enjoy it!
Wilderness Adventure for Middle School Campers
Expedition is a great option to help your child put down their phone or iPad and experience creation first hand. They will learn important skills like team building, and wilderness living all to prepare them for a three day, two-night backpacking trip! This trip will be led by our experienced staff who will help your camper learn to live minimally and enjoy nature (and walking with a heavy load… seriously).
Exciting Trips for High School Campers
Summit High offers three overnight trip options. Your child can choose the trip that most interests them. This year, we have: White Water Rafting, Bromley Areal Adventure, and Music and Movies at the Treehouses. More info here.
Register this week (by Friday November 18th) and your child will receive a free t-shirt and DVD of your child’s week at camp.
Most campers come summer after summer. If you’re new to Bethany Birches, this page may answer some of your questions. If it doesn’t, call me at 802-672-5220. We hope to see you and your family here at camp this summer.
Dan “Chick” Laubach
“I love everything about camp. This is a great place to learn, grow, love and make new friends.”- Morgan, a camper.
Next Summer is kind of far away. The leaves just fell off the trees here in central VT. But, many of you are no doubt planning your summer vacations and other details of family life. It’s important to us that we have our dates in your hands as you do that planning. And so summer camp dates were released a month ago and now, this coming Friday, online registration for all summer sessions will be open! If you sign up the first week that registration is open, we’ll add the weeks video and tshirt to your registration at no charge.
New to Bethany Birches? This new parents page will answer many of your questions. If you have more questions, just send us a message here on the FB page. And if BBC is old hat to you and your family, will you do us a favor and tell your friends about camp? One mom told me that BBC is VT’s best kept secret. We don’t want it to be a secret!
I just love this quote from Sarah, a new camper mom. “My daughter had a terrific first year at Bethany Birches Camp. Her counselor was engaging, fun, thoughtful, and so helpful to her as she adjusted to life away from parents. She came home talking about the playing on the water trampoline, rock climbing, eating ice cream in a pig trough, and solving the mystery with fellow campers of who stole the chocolate chips!”
Many of you have been asking about Summer 2017 dates. We worked hard to put our schedule in order so we could get them to you. Put these on your calendar and plan now for summer camp!
The schedule is very similar to last year. Throughout the summer we will have three different weeks of “Core” for 9-13 year-olds. These weeks are the heart of Bethany Birches where we do classic and traditional BBC activities like Messy Monday, Wet and Wild Wednesday, Mud Pit, Plenty of Pond Time, and more! Campers are welcome to come to one, two, or all three of these weeks. And yes, we did adjust the aging of Core A to allow 9 year-olds to come to our Core program!
Summit weeks are for older campers who enjoy BBC but desire more free time, cooler games, and unique activities like Night Group Games! Summit High has trips and activities totally unique to that week, so stay tuned for more information on that!
If you’re a teen camper and you love camp why not consider the leadership development programs? They are the perfect way to get the inside track to being a counselor or staff member.
Summer ends with a week for the youngest campers. Launch is a great opportunity for your 6-10 year-olds to experience some classic BBC events and activities that have been specifically geared for their age. Is your child uncomfortable going overnight? Launch Day Camp! Perhaps they want to try overnight but for a short bit. Launch Half! The launch programs are a great introduction to any young camper.
We’ve also updated our website with these new dates. This is a great way to share about the upcoming summer with your friends!
Online Registration for Summer Camp will open Nov 11. In the meantime, check out information on Winter Camps coming up this February! Registration for winter is open right now!
Day camp is back! Cheeks has been hard at work planning. I wanted to share with you her recent plans for themes at Day Camp.
Each week of day camp will include a lot of traditional BBC Favorites including eating ice cream out of a pig trough, the slip n slide, swimming in the pond, exploring nature, team building activities and more. Each day will have blocks of time dedicated to the theme for the week. Read below for more details on each week.
Classic Week: (6/20-24)
This week is all about BBC Classics! Day Camp Director Amber “Cheeks” Bergey will pull from her 10 years as BBC Program Director to have the best, age appropriate BBC activities for Day Campers. Over the years BBC has gone “around the world”, hosted “muddy Olympics” and “carnivals”, directed “cinemas” and examined a plethora of themes to help young people make connections between faith, nature, relationships and God. Each day campers will get a great taste of what it’s like to be a BBC Camper while making new friends and having a wonderful time!
Wild Week: (6/27-7/1)
This week will focus on the “wild” activity happening around us in nature. Blocks of time each day will be dedicated to examining the wildlife around us. Catching critters in the brook, scavenger hunts leading to different trees and rocks, along with other hands on events will help campers have fun while learning about the wild life around us. It’s never too early to experience how being immersed in nature can put us in touch with The Creator.
Splash Week: (8/1-8/4 or 5?)
This week of Day Camp is in honor of many residential camper’s favorite day: Wet N Wild Wednesday! At Day Camp we’ll be wet and wild all week. Chunks of each day will be dedicated to water activities. If you don’t like to get wet, not to worry! Each day will have options for hands off water activities. Campers will have fun with traditional back yard splash games and also have fun working together to accomplish slippery challenges. Moments each day will also be spent examining how some of the properties of water can help us understand faith and a relationship with God.
I’ve been struck the last few days how much fun it is to bring friends to camp! This past week 2 volunteers who have been coming to camp for the past 18+ years brought two friends to camp. Each of them contributed to help the 2nd floor of the pavilion progress.
Merle Horst and Dave Mussleman are part of the Musser Woodcutting crew. This crew of guys have been cutting the camp’s wood for the last 18+ years. A few weeks ago I sent an email to Merle to see if he could round up some able volunteers to help us finish the 2nd floor of the pavilion. Dave was available and so were 2 friends – Lester and Will.
Thanks to Merle and Dave inviting friends a lot MORE was accomplished in 2 and a half days on the top floor of the pavilion. Beautiful barn doors, trim, wainscot caps, shelves were among their projects. Not to mention everyone seemed to have a lot of fun! Community building happens among campers, volunteers, staff and whoever finds themselves on the hill. Camp is always more fun with friends!
If you’re a camper family – consider inviting at least 1 new friend to BBC this summer! If you’re a volunteer – consider inviting a friend who’s never been to camp to join you the next time you’re on the hill!