Well that was fun! Each winter and summer we host a family fun day to highlight all the good stuff the Bethany Birches program has to offer. This winter we will host 5 weekends of winter camp for grades 3-11. Find your session here: bethanybirches.org/winter
About 80 folks enjoyed winter family fun day this year. The youngest in attendance appeared to be less than a year old and the oldest seemed to be nearing 80. That’s what we like to see!
As the founder of our back country ski program I enjoyed leading that very much. We had some skiers who never skied before and a couple who were seasoned.
Of course there was lots of tubing! Due to the recent snow the run was a little slower the first half of the day. Waxing the tubes helped. Big thanks to neighbor Bob Lambert who faithfully drove the truck and trailer all day so people didn’t have to walk the steep 1/4 mile hill after each run.
Lunch was great! Thanks to Wonder Woman, Batman, Wendy, and Joanne for making great food and lots of it. I’m still wanting those brownies.
On top of the skiing, tubing and lunch we roasted marshmallows, painted snow, had an epic broom ball tournament in which there were 5 overtimes, knitted, played carpet ball, gaga and 9square among other things (including a very artistic drawing pictured here). Thanks to all of you who came out for the fun and I hope to see you up here for a winter camp!
What do “A Bugs Life”, “Wild Week” and “Splash Week” all have in common?! Each title is a theme for one of the weeks of day camp at BBC. Each week of day camp will include traditional BBC favorites such as, cooking over the fire, swimming in the pond and playing outside. The themes allow each week to be unique from each other.
Day Camp A (June 25 – 29) will explore A Bugs Life. Water bugs, spiders, lady bugs and other small insects. Each day will focus on a specific bug and what that bug can teach us about life. Along with songs and crafts to complement each critter.
Wild Week is happening the week of Jul 3-6 . Campers will spend time exploring the wild around them, understanding what nature can teach them and playing games simulating life in the wild.
Splash Week (Day Camp C, Jul 30 – Aug 3) will round out the 2018 day camp line up! All wet all the time. Day campers will join overnight campers as they explore what we can learn from the properties of water. Day campers will also enjoy daycamp specific crafts and activities related to the splash week theme.
Despite differing themes – each dayCamp Week will be chocked full of fun, friends faith and the outdoors! It’s a great taste of BBC for young campers. We hope to see you on the hill!
Last summer (2017) Day Camp C was the highest attended Day Camp Session to date at BBC. Wonder Woman was one of the counselors for that week and we are excited to announce she is returning for TWO DAY CAMP WEEKS THIS SUMMER! If you’re attending Day Camp A or C Wonder Woman will be one of your leaders. Below she describes why she’s excited to return for 2 sessions this summer:
Day Camp Rocks! And I am so excited to be returning to Bethany Birches Camp for a second summer as a volunteer Day-Camp counselor!
When I think back to last year, I can’t help but smile as I remember all of the fun that was had by campers and counselors alike in our week together. There are so many great memories to choose from – but swimming in the pond, going down the giant slip and slide, and eating ice cream out of a trough immediately come to mind. Each memory involves our whole group smiling, laughing, and just having a downright blast together!
Working with the youngest campers, while of course had a few challenging moments, was overall a true joy! They come to camp so full of energy and ready for fun. They have great imaginations and a wonderful spirit of play and adventure. And most of them had never been to camp before, so everything is new and exciting for them. We had the best time hiking out to the tree houses for a special lunch, singing at Jumpstart each morning with the overnight campers, doing craft projects, playing games, and experiencing all that camp has to offer!
While I admit that I personally enjoyed getting to participate in all of the awesome camp activities just as much as the kids did (who doesn’t love a jumping on the water trampoline?!? ), the reason I am coming back again is because, in addition to being awesomely fun, I found camp to be amazingly rewarding.
I loved getting to know each of the campers, and enjoyed their unique personalities and what they brought to camp each day- just by being them. Sometimes that was a Moana sing-a-long, a game of pretending to be robots on the playground, or a dream of catching their first frog at the pond…it was always a surprise waiting to happen.
And I was incredibly impressed by how great these little ones were at making new friends. While they essentially arrived as strangers, by the end of the first day each camper had a new buddy, and by the end of the week the whole group seemed like they had grown up together. Wow! What an example for us all.
But perhaps the best part for me was getting to help my campers succeed at trying new things. I loved getting to encourage them to go for it, cheering them on while they did, and then celebrating their successes and accomplishments. We had campers learn to swim, kayak for the first time, hike farther than they ever had before, and be willing to overcome fears -like going down the giant slip and slide for the first time, and then loving it!
The smiles on their faces that, exuded not only joy, but pride and confidence in themselves, were simply priceless.
And yes – I was gloriously exhausted at the end of each day, and thankful to go home to sleep in my own bed each night (a day-camp perk!).
But you really can’t beat camp, and I feel pretty lucky to get to be a part of it again.
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.
Backcountry skiing? What’s that? Well, basically, it’s when you get some skis and go into the mountains and ski… it’s beyond the resort. It takes human power (your legs) to get yourself up the hill. And then it takes gravity to get you down. The going up looks a little like this:
And my favorite part, going down, looks a little like this:
So what’s happening this winter at camp? We are doing backcountry skiing! We have some good areas for this. The hill above the pond (wide open, steep, safe). Nearby hills that are similarly open. If the snow is fast (i.e. icy), we’ll ski on flatter terrain in a more cross country style. If the snow is slow (i.e. powder) we’ll go all over the place and make turns!
Your child will learn basics of skiing and attempt telemark turns. They will get plenty of exercise and take skiing to a new level and beyond the resort.
You can sign up for this unique program within our winter camp program when you register for winter camp. There is no extra charge for backcountry skiing. Each session is an hour and a half and fit within the normal schedule. Your child will still be able to tube, skate and do all the other good stuff winter camp has to offer.
We want to offer you an opportunity to share the gift of camp with your child, family, or friends. This is an opportunity for parents to give your child a week of summer camp or weekend of winter camp for Christmas. For you donors, you can give to the Kids to Camp fund in honor of a friend or family member. In both cases, you will get a nice card to give them. You could also purchase items from The Birches (camp store) as a Christmas gift!
For Parents: Your child is already planning to come to camp, so why not make a nice Christmas gift out of it? We’ll send you a card with their name and any other notes you’d like us to put in. Then all you have to do is slip it under the tree Christmas morning. Give camp here. Want to give a gift from our camp store as well? You can!
For Donors:Make a donation to the “Kids to Camp” fund in honor of a family member or loved one. We’ll send you a card that you can give to them Christmas morning describing the donation. Want to give a gift from The Birches (camp store) as well? You can!
We hope your friends and family enjoy their Christmas gifts!