Campers: Looking Forward to Your Arrival!

Our first day of camp is just a few days away and boy are we getting excited to welcome you to Gwynn Valley for another terrific summer (our 82nd year).  If you are a new camper family we are excited to have you join our camp family.  If you are a returning camper family welcome back and you will be amazed by the changes on site that await your arrival.  Our new Dining Room and surrounding facilities are amazing and we’ve been breaking them in for you and your new camp friends.   

 

We’ve been preparing for this day all year long and most extensively over the past three weeks in training our staff.  Our Leadership Team arrived first to plan and nail down the foundations for creating the best possible summer.  Next our Adventure staff came on the scene to begin to work together in all of our outdoor pursuits.  Life Guard training, Wilderness First Aid, CPR, Basic First Aid, and Transportation training were taught over the last few days.  Following that was All Staff training which started on Friday June 2nd.  It’s been a flurry of activity and sessions on many topics from Developing Super Staff to Outdoor Cooking and Risk Management.  By the time you arrive we will be a well oiled machine waiting to guide you through the best summer ever.   

Molly and Daniel – Our Brookside and Hillside Head Counselors

When your family arrives on Saturday for A Session, you’ll be greeted by directors and head counselors and then stop by the Health Care Center just to answer a couple of questions.  Please bring those med forms unless you’ve already mailed those in.  From there our SIT’s will show you to your cabin to meet your counselors.  Your family will be with you the whole time and will see where you will be living as well as meet other children and their families who are arriving for A Session.  You’ll be making new friends right from the start.  Our super Team Maintenance crew will whisk away your luggage so you and your family can focus on your arrival and your upcoming camp experience with us. 

We are jumping for joy for your arrival!

Our first day is a lot of fun as we begin our time together.  Lots of activities will unfold on that first Saturday afternoon and you’ll jump right into choosing some of the great programs available to you while at camp, as well as attending some programs that first day.  Your family will be able to view pictures and updates that evening and everyday while you’re at camp.  A camp experience is almost indescribable, so we help with that and keep our camera lens trained on activities and the total camp experience.   We look forward to seeing you and please call us if you have any questions.  Stay tuned!

Great backdrop for Wizards and Giants

PS  Included in this blog are just a few of our staff having as much fun as you will this summer.  

 

Remembering Betty Gwynn Boyd

Betty Gwynn Boyd, 85, of Winter Park, FL, formerly of Black Mountain and Brevard, NC, died peacefully in her sleep Saturday morning, May 27, 2017.  Born on March 21, 1932, she grew up in Davidson, NC until she moved to Pennsylvania where she graduated from Ambler High School in 1950.  She received her BA in religion at the College of Wooster (Ohio), and her teaching certificate at Kent State University.

After marrying Howie Boyd in 1957, she worked as a school teacher in Texas and Virginia while he served as a Navy pilot.  They then moved to Brazil with their three daughters where they spent two happy and adventurous years while he pursued his doctorate.  In 1968, Betty and her twin sister Barbara inherited a camp in Brevard, NC, from their aunt Mary Gwynn.  Betty and Barbara had spent many happy childhood summers at camp with their Aunt Mary.  Betty and Howie went on to direct Gwynn Valley for 30 years.  Betty and Howie’s legacy lives on at Gwynn Valley Camp which continues to enrich children’s lives today. Both Betty and Howie were true mentors to many of today’s leaders in camping both in NC and across the nation.  One of Gwynn Valley’s values is “acceptance” and Betty and her husband really focused on creating an atmosphere where children and staff felt the comfort of camp’s inclusiveness.  Both were advocates of camp integration as well as bringing in staff from all over the world.  This still stands true today.

Following retirement Betty and Howie spent a year doing mission work in Mexico with the Presbyterian border ministries.  Other volunteer work included Transylvania Christian Ministries, tutoring at El Centro, and helping out at a local daycare center.  She was a member of Brevard Davidson River and Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church.  In all of her endeavors Betty earned the love of many through her kind and generous spirit.

Betty is survived by her brother, Price H. Gwynn, III of Charlotte, NC, her daughters Eve Boyd of Philadelphia, Mary Boyd-Brown (Dave) of Columbus, OH, and Ginger Van Valkenburgh (Mark) of Winter Park, five grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and several nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Howie Boyd and twin sister, Barbara Orloff.

The family would like to thank Betty’s caretakers over the last few months of her life from Highland Farms Retirement Community, Westminster Winter Park and Vitas Hospice Care.  A memorial service and celebration of Betty’s life will be held at Westminster Winter Park on Saturday, June 3 at 2:00 pm.  In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Gwynn Valley Campership Foundation.

How to Deal with Pre-Camp Jitters: Anxiety & Excitement as Two Sides of the Same Coin

Feeling anxious?  Instead of trying to calm down, try renaming the feeling as excitement.  These two emotions actually feel the same physiologically, your heart beats fast and cortisol surges.  The difference lies in how we conceptualize that feeling.  Both feelings indicate that uncertainty lies ahead: excitement indicates it’s something to look forward to, while anxiety indicates it’s something to be feared.  When we do anything for the first time, there’s always uncertainty.  We all need uncertainty; in fact, you can’t grow* without it.  Stepping out of your comfort zone will always feel, well, uncomfortable and that’s a good thing!
Here’s how to re-frame anxiety as excitement:
When your child expresses they are nervous or anxious about camp, acknowledge their feelings and normalize them.  You could say something like:  “Those butterflies in your stomach are just telling you you’re uncertain about what’s going to happen.  That’s what we feel when we try something new.  It’s exciting to try new things!”  Then, you can remind them of a time they were successful trying something new they were nervous about (ie. the first time they tried a new sport, went to a sleepover, started a new school, talked in front of the class, dove into the water headfirst, etc.).  Be encouraging and positive, reinforce that there’s something to look forward to.  Shift the focus by talking about the aspects they might be excited about.  If they stay focused on aspects they are anxious about, make a plan with them to address specific concerns.
Other ways to build excitement:
  • Make sure your child has seen the video of camp, talk about the different activities that camp offers, and ask them what they are most looking forward to.
  • Have them help pick out new gear they need for camp (ie. flashlight, sleeping bag, stationary for writing home).  Note: Having them pick out the items helps them feel ownership of the decision to go to camp.
  • Hang up pictures of camp or have a countdown calendar to camp.
  • Schedule a tour or come to the Open House. Call us for details 828-885-2900
  • “Practice” for camp by sleeping over with family or friends, or camping out in the yard.
Small comforts with big impact:
  • Make sure to pack their favorite “stuffie” or “lovie”
  • Have your child pick out a picture of your family to take with them.
  • Request for your child to have meals with their friend or sibling.
  • Be sure to write letters or send emails to them while they’re at camp.  Please remember we have a No Package policy.
  • Please do not tell your camper you will come pick them up if they are homesick because we find this undermines their confidence and does not set them up to succeed.  Instead, remind them that they are ready and reassure them that you know they can do it and will have fun!  Read more about homesickness,
Sources: Read more about re-framing anxiety as excitement in these articles:
Khazan, Olga. (2016, March 23). Can Three Words Turn Anxiety Into Success? The Atlantic.  Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com
Dahl, Melissa. (2016, March 23). You’re Excited Not Nervous.  You Just Keep Telling Yourself That. New York Magazine.  Retrieved from http://www.nymag.com
The science is found in this study published by the American Psychological Association:
Brooks, A.W. “Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 143, no. 3 (June 2014): 1144–1158. (Received Outstanding Dissertation Award by International Association for Conflict Management 2013.)
*Want to feel like a child development pro?  Help your child develop a growth mindset.

CAMP IS POWERFUL! VIDEO UPDATE ON BUILDING PROGRESS!

Dear Campers, Parents and Friends,

For centuries, nature has been a source of healing and inspiration. Now, studies show exposure to nature has endless physical, cognitive, social, creative and emotional benefits for children. I am not at all surprised by this finding. This is why a good camp experience adds so much to the overall development of the whole child. Today’s children get 50% less unstructured outdoor play time than kids of the 1970’s, according to the Alliance for Childhood, a non-profit group. Our lives are over-scheduled, so free time, for both children and adults is sparse. We are hyper-competitive and dictated by security concerns. Video games and electronic devices vie for children’s time, and all the while, parents are dealing with the demands of balancing work and home life.

Camp is one place where unstructured outdoor play exists in its finest form. Outdoor play at camp is meaningful and relevant to how we live today. Camp helps to reinvent the outdoor experience. Camp allows the child to get close to nature in a fun and hands-on manner. Sometime back in the sixties adult directed sports for children began to replace pickup games and unstructured free play. As you might guess after 9/11 children did not venture as far from home and play was mostly supervised.

Gwynn Valley is a giant playground where children are well supervised in a nurturing environment. The traditional playground and the playground industry are redefining themselves to meet the demands of our high-tech world. Traditional playgrounds have incorporated technology into physical exercise for children who are participating. It’s an active and fun way to relate to the modern child who’s been raised in a technological world. Camp’s massive playground comes without technology and all the things that provide for all the senses that children need to take in on a daily basis.

First and foremost are the relationships they make while here at camp with other children and staff. The playful camp environments are large and varied from sports, to adventure challenges, to creative/artistic skills, to nature itself utilizing all types of forest surroundings, streams and meadows. All of this plays into life skills for growing happy and healthy children. How often does one get to go directly to the source where your food comes from.  How often does one get to participate in harvesting the food that they will eat at their next meal.  How often does one get to physically interact with the animals that are a part of a farm to fork program.

Camp leaders, manufacturers, educators and researchers must work together to better understand the physical, cognitive, social and emotional aspects of what happens when children play. Whether they’re playing tag, biking the flow of single track, or placing rubber bands to create the  tie-dye masterpiece, they are using all their senses and building the foundations for making the whole person. Camp’s playground is a nurturing and meaningful place for children where experiences build confidence, spur on creativity, and  help build strong relationships.  Play is powerful and camp is powerful.

PS – Here’s a link to a video on our new dining room / kitchen building progress!  Enjoy!

New Building Update

Summer Camp and Children’s Mental Health

Dear Parents and Friends,

On Friday I will be attending a workshop on Mental Health for Camp Leaders. The North Carolina Youth Camp Association is sponsoring this event by bringing in two speakers that will discuss these issues with camp owners and directors.  This is a topic that has received a fair amount of attention in our industry and the field of education at the national level in conversations and workshops over the past couple of years.

While summer camp is certainly not a cure all, we definitely know that it greatly benefits the overall mental health of children who attend.  Studies have proven the effects of playing in nature, being away from the “screen life”, collaborative living, positive role modeling, under-scheduling instead of over-scheduling, gaining resiliency and much more.  Each year we all see the effects of the complicated choices and lifestyles that children are exposed to.  Some of those choices pull them in directions that aren’t always what’s best for their own mental and physical well being.  Camp is a safe haven where they can thrive, guided by young adult role models through their camp journey and toward positive measurable outcomes (more on that in a later post here).Airstrip biking

The American Camp Association recently  published an article on Anxiety and the Importance of Play: An Interview with Shimi Kang, MD.  Just click on the title and you’ll be taken to the article.  After reading this, I think it’s something our parents would be interested in.  I hope you enjoy it and hope your new year is off to a great start.

Change and Transition Starting the Year Off!

Dear Campers, Parents and Friends,

Happy New Year to all of our Gwynn Valley families and friends! It seems that the New Year always brings change and sometimes transition. Andy Savage, who has been the Assistant Director of Staff and Program at Gwynn Valley for the past ten years, has turned in his resignation because Andy, Beth and their two young daughters, Maggie Grace and Ella, will be moving to New Zealand in early February. Andy’s last day in the office with us will be Jan. 31st. Andy and Beth’s new adventure is an exciting opportunity to be the first New Zealand distributors for a local company here in Brevard called Sylvan Sport. The company makes camping/outdoor/utility trailers that are easily pulled behind cars and trucks. As many of you know, Andy’s father and siblings all live in New Zealand, and they are all extremely excited about the move.

Ella, Andy, Beth & Maggie Grace

Ella, Andy, Beth & Maggie Grace

Andy was first hired by Howie and Betty Boyd in 1988 as a young international to fill a cabin counselor role. He joined the full time GV team 10 years ago and as many of you know, he has been a great asset to camp and touched many lives throughout his 27 summers at Gwynn Valley. He has been involved in almost every part of the program as well as being the expert liaison for international hiring. One of his strengths that we will miss, is his attention to staying in touch with many friends and staff of Gwynn Valley. I contend that he was “FACEBOOK” before Facebook was invented. He has excelled at traveling and meeting new and returning families on the road for us, interviewing and helping to train our wonderful staff, re-creating and promoting what we call our camp store, bringing the “FISH” Philosophy to camp, overseeing our waterfront programs for many years, and countless other duties.

We will miss his presence and positive energy as we enter into the New Year and the summer ahead. We know that he and Beth will seize this new career opportunity just as he has similarly helped to shape Gwynn Valley in his time here. Andy and Beth will be leaving some strong ties with camp but as we all know the world seems to shrink and we know that many GV friends and family will remain in contact with them. We wish them the best and may God hold them in the palm of His hand.

Grant, Anne, and the GV Team

Happy Holidays from Gwynn Valley!

Dear Campers, Parents and Friends,

As we all know, blessings come in so many different ways.  As families and friends gather for this time of year it is especially important to recognize and give thanks for all that is good and all that brings peace and joy.  Sometimes even our challenges open doors that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened.  Anne and I are especially grateful for our campers and families and the work we do here at Gwynn Valley.  We believe that a good camp experience is an essential part of developing the whole child and the outcomes translate in wonderful ways on the big stage of life.

Camp is a place of community providing multiple positive opportunities for interaction and character development.  And … it’s just plain fun.  Maggie has always said, “camp brings out the best version of ourselves”.  I do love the Holidays, all its ceremony, spiritual significance, friends and family, good food and more.  What I cherish almost as much is our opening of camp, which captures much of what the Holidays embody.

We are doubly excited this year to be in the process of building our new Dining Room, Kitchen, Program Office and Staff Living Room.  Things are going well and we’ve included a video to update you on construction.  We’ve also shared video highlights from all of our sessions as well as our 2016 “U Rock” video.  We hope this brings back fond memories of the summer and will provide you and your family anticipation of our 2017 summer.   Please note that any Mountainside and Riverside footage is included in the Main Camp sessions that correlate with those dates.   If you haven’t reapplied for this summer, be sure to check our session availability here or contact our office.

U Rock 2016

New Building Construction

A Session Highlights

B Session Highlights

C Session Highlights

D Session Highlights

E Session Highlights

 

Peace and Joy from all of us to you and yours!

Grant , Anne and the GV Team

Give Thanks and Get Outdoors!

Dear Campers, Parents, and Friends,

One of my favorite times of the year is approaching this week- Thanksgiving and then the Holiday’s for many different faiths just after that.  We here at Gwynn Valley have so much to be thankful for as we roll into this busy season.  Enrollment has been very strong this year and staff hiring is going well as we prepare for another great summer here at camp.  Our building project is progressing nicely (see pics). Anne and I were on the site today meeting with builders and architects to go over details during the construction process.  It’s exciting to envision what the next few months hold as our dreams are created right before our eyes.

Kitchen and Program Office Walls going up

Kitchen and Program Office Walls going up

Looking through the kitchen wall toward Dining Room and Lake

Looking through the kitchen wall toward Dining Room and Lake

 

Wall separating Dining Room from Kitchen

Wall separating Dining Room from Kitchen

It’s also been very dry weather here and forest fire precautions are at an all time high.  It has been good for building purposes but not so good for our normally rain forest environment.  We haven’t had a good rain here in over a month and a half.  Fires are just to the south of us near the NC/SC border and have been contained to some extent.  We could use about an inch and a half of rainfall to turn this situation around.  Living where we do, I’m optimistic that rains will come and all will be well.

With Thanksgiving just a day away and Black Friday just after, I’m proud that many stores have chosen to close their doors for the day of Thanksgiving and have urged their employees to get together with family and friends.  We believe that family and friends mean a great deal and that our employees deserve time off to rest, re-energize, and reflect on the spirit of the season.  Last year REI, the outdoor retailer, was closed on Black Friday encouraging everyone to Get Outdoors!  We whole heartedly agree.

We find that more and more of our campers come to camp with less and less connection with nature.  While National Parks visits were higher than they’ve ever been last year, the demographics are not what you might think.  It’s the greying generation who are visiting, camping, hiking, and soaking up our brilliant natural resources.  The parks belong to us all but only some are using them.  Seventy one percent of millennials said they would be “very uncomfortable” on a one week vacation without connectivity.

To make a long story short, we encourage you and your family to get outside this weekend at some point.  Go for a hike, ride bikes together, have a picnic if the weather is good, because any time spent outdoors with loved ones is good.  Nature does us a world of good and affects everything from stress hormones to heart rate to brain waves to protein markers and indicates that when we spend time in green space, there is something profound going on.  Research has shown that being outdoors helps lower the incidence of a host of ailments including, anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, and migraines.  Outside environs also help those of us with ADD and ADHD.  When we engage outdoors we stimulate areas of our brains responsible for problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, and creative thinking.  We gain curiosity and a sense of balance between our technological world and our natural world.

So… get outdoors over the next few days and spend quality time with family and friends.  We live in and around beautiful places and don’t forget to give thanks for that also!

PS     In the past I’ve posted some videos by Danny MacAskill who is a mountain biker of exceptional skills.  If you or your family mountain bikes, or if you don’t , it’s fun to watch.  Danny is a Scotsman and the video showcases some of Scotland’s natural beauty.  Click on the link below to view Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out!

Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out

The Spirit of Camp and Election Day!

 

Dear Parents, Campers and Friends,

We are winding down from probably the most beautiful time of the year (my opinion only) here at camp.  Most of the leaves have fallen and the weather has been brilliant over the past several weeks.  We actually need some rain, but that I’m sure will come.  We’ve had successful home shows on our annual promotional tour, with some yet to occur over the next couple of weeks.  Anne, Maggie, Andy,  and I have enjoyed seeing our camp families on the road and meeting new ones as we travel about the southeast and beyond.  Enrollment is strong and staff hiring is going well.  Our building project is right on schedule with walls and framework beginning in a couple of weeks.  Most of the time since camp ended has been devoted to building a strong foundation for this project and we all know how important strong foundations are in our buildings and our lives.

I communicate this news to you on Election Day, which is and should be a day to celebrate our freedom to choose candidates to represent us on many levels of government and also relish in the fact that we are so fortunate to live in a democracy.   With this backdrop of beauty, progress, and the privilege to exercise our right to vote, I have been disappointed by the way many campaigns have taken a darker path to reach their goals.  For the past many weeks Anne and I have been the recipients of mail, email, social media, phone calls and seen way too many derogatory commercials by candidates trying to vie for our vote.  The mudslinging and fearmongering has reached an all-time high.

Through all this, I think of our children who are witnessing this unnecessary back and forth dialogue that literally shakes the foundations of our lives.  And then I think of camp.  Camp is a place where children and adults come from all walks of life to gather together to learn, live, work and have fun with one another.  Camp is where we teach one another to lay our personal differences aside and enjoy the time we have with old friends and new ones in this beautiful place.   One of our camp values, created by Mary Gwynn, is acceptance. Camp has always been and always will be a “no put down zone”.  No matter who you are or where you come from you will be lifted up and given a chance to experience life in a positive and forgiving setting.  We are not perfect and we know that.  At Gwynn Valley we do our best to create an atmosphere of civility and respect for those who enter our gates.

Let’s utilize this camp spirit as we move forward after this week.  Let us hope and pray for peace and unity in our country no matter who is chosen from the balloting.  It is time to adopt a humble spirit to cross the boundaries and barriers that have polarized our lives for the past many months.  Let us go forth to rekindle a spirit of moving forward together, on common ground.  We must keep those foundations strong for those who are just beginning their lives.  We should mentor and guide these children and young people in the spirit of good citizenship and kindness for all man and woman kind.  We look forward to having your children join us this coming summer here at Gwynn Valley.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Nelson Henderson

Exciting Times Here in the Valley!

Dear Gwynn Valley Friends,

These are exciting times here in the Valley.  Registration has opened for our 2017 season for campers and staff.  After some time off, we’re all back in the office and ready for some great changes coming to camp starting this fall.  As we all know, camp has a long history and many children and adults have come through the doors of Gwynn Valley in the last 81 years.  As we celebrate another great summer and our past, we also must look to envision our future.  We recognize our strengths in working with young people and partnering with parents to create great experiences for children and teens.  In order to offer quality programs we must keep our site up to date and viable as well.  

Many of you know that we are in the process of razing our Dining Room/Kitchen/Upper Dwellings building.  The Upper Dwellings building has occupied our site since the early 1900’s when Camp Connestee for Girls was in operation.  Since that time many additions and renovations have been added to that existing structure.  It has housed everyone from Miss Mary Gwynn to members of the leadership team over the years.  The downstairs has also acted as a “staff living room/counselor lounge”.  In the past 30 plus years, the building has expanded and more renovations, rooflines and facilities have been added.  Last year we began to take a look at our dining room and its aging roof that has been leaking and needed to be replaced.  Dale and his staff and professional contractors have re-roofed and patched it for years.  Due to the low pitch and ceiling height, the dining room has been very warm. The kitchen, where our wonderful food is prepared each day also was a hot environment in which to work and has shown its age and space limitations in recent times.  

Through discussions with architects and contractors it became evident that any work would be fruitless in trying to tie into existing rooflines and structures.  The age and structural integrity of the existing buildings was not going to support a new renovation.  Building code, as it relates to living structures that are attached to kitchens have also changed and the two require a great deal of work to make them safe for all parties involved.  At that point, it became evident that a total remake of the site was needed.  “Livability and workability” are concepts we embraced as we began to look to the future.  We wanted the design of the new building to be enduring, economically vibrant, efficient, functional, aesthetically pleasing and a comfortable place to add to the quality of life here at camp.  With these things in mind we began to move forward in the project for the new center of “downtown GV”.  The project will encompass our dining room, kitchen, program office, a covered outdoor pavilion with a fireplace and a staff living room.  Living quarters from the upper dwellings will be built in another location.  

It’s never easy to give up something that carries so many memories and has been at the center of camp for so long.  Change does not always come easy and we’ve heard many people express their sentiments about the project.  Camp’s site and buildings have been updated a lot in 20 years.  It is time to redesign this facility to work better with our numbers and our program.  The new design will bring so many good things to the table in the next chapter of Gwynn Valley.  Creating a new building also means creating a design that blends into our rustic setting. This will be an important part of the process as we make our way into the construction phase. Sustainability has always been an important part of our philosophy and we are working with electricians, lighting experts, plumbers and builders to utilize every means we can to save energy.  Post and beam rafters will accentuate the inside of the Dining Room and adjacent pavilion that will reach toward our waterfront.  The pavilion will offer a safe space for bad weather as well as a great meeting spot for evening programs and special times.  Final drawings and designs are beautiful.  This opportunity will also allow us to put our overhead power line underground that has spanned the Green for many years.  While we’ve lost a few trees, planting new ones will give us a chance to strategically place them where we need shade as well as open up our view to the Blue Ridge off to the West and North of camp.  Pathways will remain similar to what they are now and gathering areas for meals will be similar to what they have been in the past.  Downtown GV will be virtually the same, with a welcoming doorway for planning program and to partake of the wonderful food that has been a tradition at Gwynn Valley.    

While exciting things are taking place just down the path, we’re also working on revamping our website.  Look for some great new ways to view Gwynn Valley on your computer, tablet and phone.  

In October and November, we will be out on the road promoting camp, seeing our alumni and meeting prospective families.  Look for a gathering near you and bring a friend.  We’re excited about camp and the changes for 2017.   Stay tuned for updates and pictures from our project.