Category: Parents

Firsts and Lasts

Firsts & Lasts

Written By: Jolly Corley


Visiting Day 2010

There are childhood milestones that most of us as parents expect: first word, first step, first day of kindergarten, even the first summer of sleep away camp. I, like every parent, watched and cheered each of these milestones. This summer we experienced the first of a new kind of milestone in this phase of parenting…the last.

This summer was my son’s last summer at his camp. I was not expecting the “last” moments that mark the steady beat of time to his adulthood. The emotions of the last summer at camp came as a surprise. Most likely the surprise came because I wasn’t ready and let’s be honest, it also marks my getting older. It crosses my mind often – how can I be old enough to have a child who (fill in the blank: is in high school, is turning 16, will be driving soon…), but I realize that those thoughts bring about a mindset that laments rather than celebrates.

It is interesting that as children grow older the milestones can turn to sadness rather than the elation we feel when a child takes their first step. So, I remind myself to celebrate these milestones as accomplishments. Soon my guidance and teaching may be appreciated rather than viewed as nagging. As my children get older I can begin to enjoy the fruits of my labor in new ways, like conversing with a young adult who is thoughtful, well spoken and respectful. That it is my own journey of parenthood.

What surprised me even more than my own new parenting experiences was my son’s response to his last summer; I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

I assume that all parents who send their children to camp see the value in it. I am a little embarrassed (considering my profession) to admit that the moment I truly understood what camp meant to my son came halfway through his final summer. When we were at dinner with his camp friends and their parents, the boys sat at one table and the parents at another. At first, I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to spend the night catching up with him. Without Bunk1 showing me photographic proof that he was still at camp, I may not have been convinced. This was his 10th summer at camp and his communication with us parents was pretty much non-existent. Within minutes of everyone settling in I was able to witness something more telling than the many times he has told me how much he loved camp and his buddies.

Visiting Day 2018

I watched as the group of 15-year-old boys talked and laughed. The ease and intimacy they shared was incredible. During visiting day over the years, we had met his friends but on visiting day we focused on him, not his interaction with his friends. He kept in contact with them but due to our location in the Midwest he never visited with them outside of summer camp. I was in awe and incredibly grateful for this shared moment I witnessed. I knew in that moment why he loved camp and I began to understand his sadness with this being his last summer. He felt understood, supported and loved (not that a 15-year-old boy would use those words).

I have no idea what was being said at their table, but the expressions and laughter were undeniable. They cared for each other in a brotherhood that I would never fully understand but one for which I am completely grateful. In that brotherhood there are both wonderful moments and challenging moments. Together they learned to sail, played their hardest to beat rival camps in every sport imaginable, cheered and chanted and enjoy the benefits we all know camp provides our children. They did not always see eye to eye; they fought, got annoyed and hurt each other’s feelings and pride. It is in fact those moments that really solidified the brotherhood that I witnessed that evening. They made it through the good and bad times together.

I wish I had understood this a bit more when he was going through the growing pains of various moments of camp: when he and his buddies didn’t love a particular ‘mean’ counselor or when they struggled to share space together without getting annoyed and lash out at each other. I think if I had understood this more I would have worried less about the decision to have him away from me for that long during those impressionable times from 6-15 years old. I would have understood that it is not in fact the happiest moments that make for growth in the bonds he shares. It is the difficult times that they shared and conquered together. It is the shared intensity of living together 24-7 for seven weeks, in an atmosphere where technology does not interrupt or hide them from each other. They understand and support each other both at their best and worst. It is the shared experiences until the very end that bonded them together.

My son came home devastated. Tears and sleep allowed for time to mend his hurting heart. His fear was not staying in touch with his buddies that had become such a part of him. Fantasy football helps a little, social media makes it easier…but the sadness of what he is missing was made crystal clear when he got to spend a weekend with camp friends recently. The mother hosting the boys said something that struck me. She said, “The boys stayed up until midnight talking and laughing. Not once was the television or Xbox turned on. My son never does that with his friends at home. They always have one or the other on.”

Of course! They have never had that kind of relationship. At camp they spend time on a lake, around a campfire and playing together. They only know how to talk to each other in person, unlike the home friends my son has who he Snap Chats, messages, etc.

Camp friends are in person, up close, in your space…authentic.




Advent of CR

Christian cultures around the world are celebrating the season of Advent. Depending on your background you may have had an Advent calendar or traditions when you were young; a way of counting down to Christmas/Hanukkah, or school break if you did not participate in religious holidays. Looking at the definition of “advent” it means “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.” As we approach the season of Advent we are also in the Advent of CR 2018. (I also like that ‘advent’ is part of the word adventure!) It is during this time of year that returning families are registering for camp, looking at the yearbook from last year and making play dates with camp friends; new families are meeting with Ann and Nat and getting excited for their first Robindel experience; returning staff are committing to another CR summer; new staff are filling out applications, interviewing with Jolly, and making their summer plans.

I have fallen into this pattern of practicing three Rs of retreat, reflection and reconnection each fall. In September, I retreat into my family and home here in MN. I spend time getting back into a routine where I am a mom, wife, friend and volunteer. I set up my MN office and retreat from the intensity of camp life. I let the thoughts about summer germinate without a lot of pushing…just being. Then, in October and November I spend time reflecting on camp, life and purpose. I do this through reading; meeting with mentors/people both in camping and other areas that I find inspiring; conferences; workshops; volunteering; yoga; and a lot of internal conversations and questions. Now I begin reconnecting. I will spend the next five months connecting with staff and campers…planning for the arrival of this notable event – CR 2018!

December – CR Winter News

We hope you enjoy our newsletter filled with photos of CR reunions, celebrations and camp spirit. We wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday season ahead.


Can’t Stop CR

Just in case you missed it, click HERE to see Robindel’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling” Justin Timberlake Lip Dub.

We think that it shows off our camp spirit pretty well!

Thanks to our spirited and creative staff and campers for putting this together!


First Day of Camp

June 27, 2015 is the day that many Robindel campers have been counting down to since August 16th of last summer. We see countdowns from the campers on Facebook and Instagram throughout the year and it makes us excited to plan for the summer as we visit with families, hire staff and plan the camp program. We are all filled with excitement for tomorrow’s opening day. We know that there are many emotions swirling around the households of our camp families today. We wish you all a wonderful night and we look forward to welcoming the campers to Robindel tomorrow.

Throughout the year we receive many wonderful letters from our campers and staff and we want to share some of them below. They embody the reasons why we are involved in camping. We love our campers and staff and we can’t wait to begin the 2015 summer!


As I sit here packing my carry on in preparation for this summer, I started to realize how much camp has impacted my life. Though this is my last summer as a camper, Robindel’s life lessons will stay with me forever. Exactly eight years ago from tomorrow, I walked onto a bus going to an unfamiliar place. I cried a lot on the bus and was frightened to be away from my parents for 7 weeks. But immediately as I stepped off the bus, I felt right at home. Robindel was the first place that fully accepted me for who I was. After I came home from my first summer, my parents noticed a change in me. They saw that I became more open minded, confident and felt comfortable in my own skin. Every summer after I came home from camp, I felt better about myself. My dad often says that when he sees me on Visiting Day, I’m my happiest self. At camp, I am my happiest self. I’m surrounded by my best friends in a beautiful place doing the things I love. How could I not be happy? Camp has giving me valuable life lessons, such as acceptance, respect, friendship, honesty, and trust and teamwork and for that I am eternally grateful. Robindel is a truly indescribable place. Though this is my last summer, Robindel will always be in my heart. I can’t imagine whom I would be without it. The most important lesson Robindel has taught me was to be myself. Ann and Nat, I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done for me. You have given me the greatest gift, confidence. I can’t wait for this summer- it’s going to be the best one yet!


Thank you both so much for being a reference for me regarding a position at (Day Camp). I am happy to say that I got the job and will be a camp counselor for the upcoming summer! I am very excited to use the skills I’ve learned at Robindel to help make a positive impact on young campers. I can say from the bottom of my heart that camp has shaped me into the person I am today. It’s not the beautiful campus, or the range of activities, or the amazing food, the reason that I love camp is because of all the wonderful people who I had the privilege of meeting through my six years at Robindel. It is through these people that I have learned many skills. Some of those include: teamwork, problem solving, organization, determination, and probably the most important, little time it takes to love a group of people. I am sure that any current, or ex-camper can all tell you that. The crazy part of all of this, is that you only get to see them (for the most part) for seven weeks out of the entire 52. The bonds that you form with the girls into your bunk become sisterly bonds. You genuinely love them. They are probably some of the greatest people I will have the chance to meet. You also meet incredible mentors who do so much to shape you into a caring, compassionate, and all around good person. The campers, counselors, administrators, and everyone who is involved with camp in any way, has no doubt changed my life. I am a completely different person than I was when I stepped off the bus in 2009. I grew more confident, mature, and more comfortable being who I am thanks to camp.


First off, I just wanted to wish you all an amazing summer.  Today is the 10 year anniversary from the time I stepped on the bus my Hemlock summer.  When I arrived at the bus stop I was excited and eager to attend Robindel, but I had no idea that camp would play such an important role in my life.  When I think of camp I immediately think of the sunsets, the main field, the lake, the infirmary, the dining hall, and Ann & Nat’s office.  Robindel, however, means so much more to me than these physical structures.

Robindel has provided me with best friends that I have been able to count on for ten years, and I I know I will have for the rest of my life.  I would not have been able to get through high school, let alone each day, without them.  Blue and White competition allowed me to grow, mature, and learn about the responsibilities of being in a position of power.  Robindel campers and staff taught me how to be a better friend, daughter, little sister, big sister, student, and ultimately a better person.  I owe so much of who I am today to Robindel.  Camp Robindel will always be my second home and a place where I learned the importance of standing up for myself and those around me.  Camp taught me to always “look on the bright side” and that life can be better with a positive attitude and a wide smile.

Although I say that I am “thanking Robindel” for allowing me to grow, I am really thanking all of you.  Thank you for providing me with a support group and place I can be my best self.

I admire all of you for continuing to influence and empower young girl’s lives the way you have impacted mine. I hope every Robindel camper is able to appreciate the experience and cherish each memory the way I have.


Happy almost camp! I’m not sure exactly what day the campers arrive but I know it is coming up so, yay! I bet you are very busy and I don’t want to take a lot of time out of your day but I wanted to say thank you. I have been meaning to send you a thank for a long time but couldn’t decide exactly what I wanted to say, with that here is it;

Thank you for everything you did for me while I was a counselor at CR. I have to admit when I first got to camp I didn’t understand what people meant when they said it was “home”, but today I do.  Not only around this time every year, but almost weekly I think about camp and the girls and I am reminded that there is always somewhere I can go ( if not physically then mentally) where I will feel “home”.  I love seeing all of the updates on social media and keeping up with all of the activities! I know for a few summers I thought I would be coming back and never made it work, and for that thank you for understanding and working with me.

I read a letter this week written by Hunter S. Thompson to a friend when he was younger that read “no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to for the rest of his life, but then again if that’s what you wind up doing by all means convince yourself you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.” I’ve always told myself I HAVE to do this or I HAVE to do that for my career, and camp was never on that list. I realize that camp has been one of the most important changes in my life so far. It really helped me to open my mind on what is the “norm” for success and what success will mean to me. It definitely helped me to get where I am today and will continue to guide my decisions throughout life.

After not going to camp last season, I took an internship with (a bureau of land management). I really hated it there and struggled with my decision all summer. In the end, it opened up a huge opportunity for me as and Outdoor Recreation Planner with (another bureau), which is where I am now. I have made great friends in a very short amount of time and I am really loving it here. I know I will make many more career moves in the future and I believe that camp will always be a huge part of it even after just one year. Like I said before I cannot thank you and everyone at camp enough for everything that CR has given to me.