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 weddings and sweaty pre-teens have in common? They both fit well at Bethany Birches! Honestly! Weddings have been held at Bethany Birches since the earliest years. Since the construction of the new pavilion we’ve been able to host weddings at any time of year. Many folks who get married here have a special connection to the place. Jane decided to get married here because, as a young girl, camp was filled with meaning and life and God. When she got married, she wanted that meaningful moment to happen in a meaningful place. For Ben and Megan, it was similar. “We chose Bethany Birches as the venue for our wedding because camp has been a special place for us throughout our relationship and in our lives. We met at camp, began our relationship there, and got engaged there. It has a special sense of safety and serenity found in few other places.” Perhaps you haven’t had those powerful experiences here, or have a friend who’s looking for a wedding venue. Megan pointed out that camp “has all we need to have a lovely wedding – excellent facilities, lodging included, and breathtaking scenery everywhere you look.”
Regarding the sweaty pre-teens, we caught up with Nicole, a middle school teacher who recently brought the whole Hartford Middle School to camp! She says, “We were looking for an outdoor spot with access to facilities and a trained staff who could plan some team building activities for us. We are a newly formed team of middle school teachers with about 75 middle school students who needed to bond and get to know each other outside of the traditional academic setting. Your staff was so flexible with planning, and it suited us perfectly. While we were at BBC, we participated in structured team building activities, free time and group meals. Our students, being middle schoolers, get very little self-directed outside play time, and this was one of their favorite parts. They loved the 9-ball game and the gaga-ball. It was an amazing experience where they could just have fun and be kids. Anyone looking for teambuilding activities and experiences should consider BBC and the staff!”
Other school groups have spent time at Bethany Birches. Let us know if there’s a way we can support you and your group whether it’s a school, family or church group. Or maybe, we can provide a special place for one of the most special days of your life.
Greetings Friends, a little while back I announced that Dan “Chick” Laubach was moving on from Bethany Birches at the end of August.
We launched a search in March and received 27 applications by the time we closed the application period this summer. After extending an offer to an applicant and receiving a “no” from him, I opened a discussion with a friend familiar to Bethany Birches. We call her Wonder Woman. Outside of camp she is known as Courtney Hollingsworth. She has volunteered as Camp Shepherd, Day Camp Manager, and Kitchen Aid, among other things. She’s filled with energy and love and was looking to get back into ministry of some kind after supervising the front office at the Woodstock Inn. Prior to that she was in seminary and before that she was a director of high school youth ministry at her home church in CA.
The only agreement we have come to at this time is that she will be full time through next summer. Her and I will consider her fit after she’s been here a few months and see if we would like to arrange a longer tenure or not.
She has already begun! She has an email address (email@example.com). Feel free to reach out to her and introduce yourself. She is currently working from a distance lightly and will start here at camp on the 27th of Aug and overlap with Chick for a week and then take the reigns.
Courtney/Wonder Woman with a baby sea turtle
Thanks to each of you who have been involved with the camp and have helped to cause our ongoing success. Please welcome Wonder Woman warmly. I hope you’ll come out to camp soon if you haven’t been recently. Next option to be here is the Benefit Auction September 29.
That’s right folks. This is your chance to apply for your dream job. Being the Program Director at BBC is perhaps one of the most fun (and most challenging) jobs out there. Just think – it could be your job to run (or delegate) Wet and Wild Wednesday. It could be your job to run (or delegate) the annual cardboard sled and boat races. I mean, how awesome is that? Not to mention recruiting and training staff, budgeting, performance reviews… oh wait, those perhaps are not the most fun parts.
Seriously though, if you have any interest, apply now! I hope to select the next BBC Program Director by June 1 of this year. That gives you a month and a half to finish your application and tidy up your resume. Start here: http://www.bethanybirches.org/pd
And if you’re not going to apply, would you pray for the process? Pray that God nudges an ideal fit this direction and that we have the wisdom to see that person when they show up.
Why do all good things come to an end? So that new good things can begin!
Dan “Chick” Laubach has served as program director since May 2015. He has decided to finish his service at Bethany Birches effective the end of August 2018. He has made important contributions (and will continue to this year… and he evens plans to volunteer beyond this year). While he was program director, summer and winter registrations were opened earlier than ever. I believe that has contributed to the ongoing increase in attendance (in fact, half of programs offered in a calendar year have waiting lists… we’re expecting even more waiting lists this year). Chick has also contributed to a professionalism in the office. He has helped to upgrade policies and procedures and has sharpened some of our marketing and communications plans.
I very much appreciate the amount of time he has allowed us for making the transition. He is going to continue managing the program throughout this winter and summer. He will depart at the end of summer 2018. If a replacement is found in time, I would consider him/her starting as soon as May 2018 for maximum transfer of knowledge, ideas, practices etc. However, if an ideal fit is found, we would start them whenever works best for them. The search for a new program director will begin shortly. We have some backend work to do to clarify the type of person we’re looking for and finalize some details. In the mean time, if you or someone you know has interest, please do reach out to me. Call the office, email or even text if you have my number.
We give Chick a big round of applause and wish him the very best in his future endeavors. Most importantly, may you be guided by God’s spirit and at peace into the unknown. Thanks for your service and can’t wait to see you back here as a volunteer.
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!
This year brought the 15th Annual Benefit Auction. This particular Saturday was abnormally warm. A perfect match for the abnormal generosity at the auction. We started out with Larry’s syrup. Each quart sold for $400! That’s abnormal.
Did you know that in the first 14 years of the auction the event has raised $400,000 to help make the Bethany Birches Camp experience accessible to all? This year’s event continued that trajectory! $51,042 was the total given during the auction this year thanks to many generous donors (both items and dollars) and a friend of camp who matched item #50 (Camperships) with $10,000! You can see the live bidding items and sale amounts here.
People coming out to the auction included friends as close as a stone’s throw from camp and more distant attendees from VA and PA and other nearby states.
One of my favorite things was seeing a few campers so excited to help that they waved items they were displaying and even danced a bit!
Please mark your calendars now to attend the 16th Annual Benefit auction scheduled for September 29, 2018!
Thanks to Erin “Tye Dye” Dye for this guest post. Tye Die is the camp shepherd this summer:
Thursday evenings this summer have been an opportunity for holy moments. Counselors have gotten to know their campers really well by the 5th night, campers submerse in good vibes from the week and excitement to go home, and for our worship times, this evening is a chance to have an “a ha” moment with the theme and how it relates to their own lives. During our Thursdays the last four weeks, we have looked the story of the woman at the well and her unexpected conversation with Jesus. When Jesus offers her living water, he shows us that he cares for everyone, even the unlikely people (a woman frowned upon by society as well as a Samaritan). As refreshing as the idea of living water sounds, this is an abstract concept of cleansing aspects of ourselves that we can’t pinpoint or see. In efforts to visualize the invisible, campers and staff participated in a demonstration to see the implications of receiving Jesus’s living water. Participants had an opportunity to pour something into a communal cup of water to make it cloudy (ketchup, mustard, pepper, etc.), and share something that personally clouds or weighs down their own spirits. Then as a group we enjoyed the visual of pouring overwhelming amounts of clean water (representing Jesus’ living water), flooding the cup and pushing out all the junk that we put in and that weighs us down, leaving us refreshed and free of burden. Campers consistently reported enjoyment of this activity and deeper appreciation of God’s desire to help us carry and bring relief for our burdens. It’s been a beautiful catalyst moment for the spiritual component of camp.
Campers have shared experiencing God at many different points throughout the summer. One of those experiences I was fortunate enough to witness as God worked through our high school campers. After one of our small group times, the girls of this particular cabin had heavy hearts over the things they shared and put in the cup during the demonstration. In an effort to put their minds at rest before going to sleep, the cabin counselor opted to pray for each girl of the cabin out loud and proceeded to highlight the delightful characteristics and joys each girl brought to the cabin. At the end of the counselor’s prayer, I had planned to pray similar things for the counselor leading the prayer. However, I never got the chance because the moment she paused one of the campers jumped at the opportunity to pray and pour encouragement on their counselor, and when she finished another camper took a turn to pray for me! This moment was not only pleasant to be prayed for, but more so to witness campers receiving God’s love through our program all week and a strong desire to return the experience. This also meant our campers felt comfortable enough to pray out loud in front of their peers, unprompted, and live out the example Jesus calls us to in encouraging and building one another up in our faith. Although the work of camp is long and challenging at times, it is certainly not without reward!