Outside Influences

A Thousand Summers has the great fortune to partner with some of the highest quality outdoor adventure summer camps in the United States. Though their natural environments differ, they share common philosophies of social and emotional growth through supportive communities and outdoor experiences.

“Outside” looks different for the kids in our A Thousand Summers program depending on which camp they attend. They might spend their summer exploring Rocky Mountain National Park or the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. They may find themselves at the bottom of a rock canyon in the Utah desert or learning about ancient cultures at Mesa Verde and in the Four Corners region. They may learn to love the remote North Woods of Maine and the Appalachian Trail or the stunning lakes of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some even get to venture internationally to canoe through the pristine wilderness and interconnected waterways of the Canadian Boundary Waters. And starting this summer (2022), some of our campers will have the amazing experience of living in the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest at our newest associate camp, Camp Nor’wester.

I see the impact of camp on my son. He is much more responsible, independent, and confident in himself. Thank you for allowing these low income kids to have these opportunities and beautiful experiences in their lives…You have had a great impact on my son’s life that he will never forget.

  • parent of a Sanborn Western Camps camper

“My son had very welcoming and friendly camp counselors. He LOVED them. I know that those counselors made a huge difference for him. He was AFFIRMED. He was encouraged. He was accepted. It was great.”

  • parent of a Camp Kawanhee for Boys camper

Regardless of which camp they attend, all of our kids experience incredible scenery and invigorating activities from sunup to sundown. The highlight of their day might be standing on the summit of a snow-capped 14,000-foot peak, hiking to a pristine lake deep in the backcountry, or sleeping under the stars on a multi-night backpacking trip. Maybe they enjoy a lunch on the trail in the middle of a wildflower meadow, a shaded forest, or on the fragile tundra. They might feel the exhilaration of sliding down a summer snowfield or rafting or canoeing through whitewater canyons.

“Being outside and with other kids—this has been a huge lack in his life, and I am so glad he has gotten a chance to do both of those. He is maturing so much, and I can see the leaps from before to after camp. He is calmer, he is more confident, he feels more steady within himself. It is wonderful.” 

  • parent of Kooch-i-Ching camper

They could spend their days learning backcountry camping and survival skills—how to build a fire, cook outdoors, pitch a tent, build a shelter, use a map and compass, administer first aid, and Leave No Trace. They may overcome fear and self-doubt on a technical climbing route or create lifelong memories when things don’t go as planned on a challenging hike. They might experience the peaceful sounds of the canoe or kayak paddle dipping gently into the smooth water or the exhaustion of spending the day battling a strong headwind or navigating difficult portages.

“Each year I talk about the small summer successes that have pushed my daughter to growth. But now, as the years have passed, I see an overall picture, one that has deeply been shaped by her experiences at summer camp, the loving guidance of the camp, and the commitment of her mentor. She is passionate, driven, not willing to accept no as an answer, motivated to take the difficult route, and determined to succeed. It has been a beautiful journey to watch unfold. I cannot wait to see how that continues throughout high school and into her leadership years at camp.” 

  • parent of a Clearwater Camp for Girls camper

Maybe their day is spent as simply as splashing their friends in a cold mountain stream, building rudimentary stick dams in the creek, and letting their imaginations roam. Their time may be spent collecting firewood, finding the perfect flat spot to pitch a tent, and ending the day by roasting marshmallows and singing songs with friends around a campfire.

However they choose to spend their days at camp and whatever “outside” looks like at that particular camp, the kids learn and grow through their experiences. Their time away from home in a challenging yet supportive outdoor environment pushes them out of their comfort zone. They try new activities, meet new people, and discover new things about themselves. They become more confident, more independent, more responsible, and more resilient. Camp teaches kids life lessons and helps them develop essential social-emotional skills that stretch their potential and help them realize there are no limits to what they are capable of achieving.

“My son definitely feels like he was able to overcome some challenges and anxiety this summer. He has come home with a more relaxed demeanor and things don’t seem to agitate him as much as they did before…he seems to be much more able to roll with things since his return.”

  • parent of a Camp Thunderbird camper

“I am always astounded at what a different young woman comes home from camp each year…there is a new maturity, a clarity about the purpose of her life and her place in the world, a newfound understanding of what is truly important in life and her role in making a difference in other’s lives.”

  • parent of a Cheley Colorado Camps camper

The A Thousand Summers Campership Program opens up a whole new world to our kids and, in many cases, has a profound impact. The parents of our campers regularly tell us how incredibly grateful they are for this opportunity and what a remarkable difference it made for their child. As you can see from the parent comments we’ve included here, the particular camp they attend or the natural environment of the camp doesn’t matter. The personal growth experienced is universal.

“I have seen lots of different programs throughout my life that are geared toward kids and their growth. This is one of the best I have seen by far. My favorite part of this is growth in themselves in an austere environment. It is far too easy for our kids in today’s world to stay in a comfort zone of screens and social media. By unplugging them for a long period of time and sending them into areas where discomfort is going to be normal, they tap into a whole new area of development and self-discovery. This is just an amazing thing, and I can’t say enough about how much it has helped my son.” 

  • parent of a Colvig Silver Camps camper

Summer camp is powerful in many ways and unquestionably important in the development of young people. Thank you to our wonderful associate camps who provide such rich programming opportunities and experiences for the kids we serve. And thank you to everyone who finds it in his or her heart to share the gift of camp, whether that gift is for their own family members or for kids who deserve the opportunities and advantages that summer camp provides.

“This opportunity that you have given our daughter to attend camp in a different ecosystem, surrounded by inspiring counselors with college experience, has been a window into another way of life she will always have with her… Our family is grateful and blessed with your generosity, which has helped our daughter explore beyond what our family can provide.”

  • parent of an Ogichi Daa Kwe camper


Bridging the Summer Achievement Gap


To a certain extent, all children experience learning loss during the summer months when the school year ends. The temporary cessation of formal classes provided by the school has the effect of reducing the amount of quality organized learning opportunities resulting in the loss of some of the educational growth that previously occurred during the academic year. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).

The achievement gap refers to the persistent disparity of test scores and assessments between groups of students, especially groups defined by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and gender. Summer plays a huge role in the problem — and the solution. Johns Hopkins University researchers estimate that as much as two-thirds of the achievement gap can be traced to summer learning loss in school. And because that loss is cumulative, the achievement gap may never close. Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 4.58.52 PMDuring the summer months, under-represented children tread water at best or even fall behind, while children from more advantaged families build their skills steadily.

Many Americans have a wonderful image of summer as a carefree, happy time when “kids can be kids,” and take for granted the prospect of enriching experiences such as summer camps, time with family, and trips to museums, parks, and libraries. Unfortunately, many under-represented youths face anything but idyllic summer months, often struggling to access educational opportunities, as well as basic needs such as healthy meals and adequate adult supervision.


Parents with the means invest more time and money than ever before in their children while lower-income families, which are now more likely to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources (1).

Children whose families are not struggling financially have more opportunities to participate in camps and other educational programs during the summer that will help their minds stay sharp and retain more of what they learned during the school year (2).

Longitudinal studies indicate that the effects of summer learning programs endure for at least two years after participation (3).

achievement gap graph

We believe that the children of families who are financially disadvantaged should have the same opportunity. A Thousand Summers Camperships help under-represented children learn independence and safe risk-taking, build essential mentor relationships, and reap the benefits of connecting with nature. Research shows that summer learning programs such as summer camps remove barriers to success, with participating students showing improved school attendance, and more positive attitudes toward learning.


1. New York Times, Feb 9, 2012, Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say. Sean F. Reardon, Stanford University, Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality and the Uncertain Life Chances of Low-Income Children
2. The American Camp Association 2016
3. Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning, RAND Corporation 2011

Support the Jack Cheley Endowment Campaign

In recognition of 30 years of the John Austin Cheley Foundation (A Thousand Summers) and in conjunction with Cheley Colorado Camps’ 100th-anniversary celebrations we are honoring Jack Cheley’s legacy with a campaign to establish the Jack Cheley Endowed Campership.

This $150,000 fund will ensure that a deserving camper attends Cheley Camps every year in Jack’s name, in perpetuity, developing lasting character and resiliency for the recipient through challenging experiences in a supportive and natural environment – just as Jack intended.

Bob Allen Street Family Challenge Match

Your tax-deductible donation can have twice the impact thanks to the Bob Allen Street Family Challenge Match which will match campaign donations dollar-for-dollar up to $45,000. With your help and powered by this exciting challenge match we aim to raise the remaining $90,000 to fully fund this Endowed Campership.  

Meet Our Newest Trustees

We are very excited to welcome six new trustees to our governing board. They each begin their first three-year term of service on July 1, 2021, and bring valuable experience and important skills to our organization as well as a tremendous passion for camp and for advancing kids.


John Ceraolo: Boca Raton, FL

John is a former camper, CILT, and counselor at Boys Trails End at Cheley Camps. He began his career in information technology and held positions of increasing responsibility leading to executive roles in and being noted as an internationally recognized expert in cybersecurity. John is ready to give back to where it all began, his experience at summer camp.


Natasha El-Scari: Kansas City, MO

Natasha is a poet, performer, writer, and educator who has been widely published and featured at numerous universities and venues nationwide. She is the mother of two children, both of whom are former A Thousand Summers campers. Natasha is our first campership parent to be elected to the Board of Trustees.



Sara Erickson: Kennebunk, ME

Sara is a Boston native who has over 25 years of experience working in the medical field in public health, pediatrics, and internal medicine. Dr. Erickson currently works at York Hospital in Wells and Samford, Maine. Sara enjoys skiing, taking her two rescue labs Mookie and Outlook hiking and to the beach, eating lots of lobster, and going to visit her children who live all up and down the east coast.


Sarah Littlefield: Reading, MA

Sarah is currently the Director of Aloha Camp in Fairlee, VT. Before that, she worked in independent schools and school consulting and owned a healthcare business. She brings with her extensive experience in youth program development, small business administration, sales, customer service, recruitment, and staff development. She lives just outside of Boston with her husband, Chris, two teenage sons, Johnston and Hayes, and their Goldendoodle, Leah.


Lindsay Nyquist: Durango, CO

Lindsay fell in love with summer camps at age 19 when she worked as a counselor at Colvig Silver Camps in Durango, CO. She spent her next eight summers there, eventually taking on the role of Assistant Director. Lindsay has been a mentor for our campership program since 2007. She now serves as the Director of Marketing & Communication at Fort Lewis College in Durango, where she is passionate about helping students from underserved communities obtain a college education.


Francesca Sally: Atlanta, GA

Francesca is pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business with a concentration in Strategy and Innovation. Francesca has served as Social Chair of Blacks in Business, is a Graduate Research Assistant, and was recently elected as the first-ever African American President of Scheller’s Graduate Business Council (student-body President). In her free time, Francesca enjoys volunteering with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, traveling, hiking, playing/watching sports and discovering new restaurants.

Click here to view a full listing of our current Board of Trustees

Former Trustee Presentation and Q&A

We hope you will all join us for a short Zoom presentation and Q&A session for all former trustees. Tim Lucas, Executive Director, and Alyssa Street, Development Director, will talk about what we have going on this summer and be on hand to answer any questions you may have. If you plan to join this event please register below.

    Laughing, Learning, and Leading

    Each year, A Thousand Summers is honored to have some of our campers selected to prestigious leadership positions and programs at our associate camps. This year is no exception.

    Our campers are regularly recognized for their strong personal and social skills, their successful camp outcomes, and their positive contributions to the camp community. Some of our kids are hired and return to camp as staff members, giving them the opportunity to give back and provide a fun and personally enriching experience for other kids.

    We want to introduce you to three of our campers who are leaping into leadership roles this summer:

    Meet Tomas 

    • Tomas D.
    • 10th grade, 16 years old
    • Lives in Miami Beach, Florida
    • Has attended Camp Kawanhee for 3 years (2017-2019)

    I have seen counselors from the Leadership Program and how they inspire younger campers. It is amazing to be chosen…Being a leader at camp is a pressure, but a good kind of pressure. I know I am now going to be able to have a positive impact on younger campers. – Tomas D.

    His first year as a camper, Tomas was nervous. Getting on a plane alone for the first time was scary, as was going to Maine, which was just a word on a map.  When he got there, he was instantly comforted by counselors and lodgemates, welcomed, and introduced to all of the activities. He knew right away he was going to love camp.

    Over the years, Tomas tried a lot of the camp activities.  His second year he tried sailing but did not like it—he couldn’t even stay on the boat. His third year, he wanted to give sailing another try and found he really enjoyed it. He ended up receiving the Barnacle Award that year. Tomas hopes to use his sailing experience and what he has learned about perseverance to encourage younger campers who may not succeed at an activity right off.  If they just keep trying they will find somewhere that they will succeed.

    Tomas has put that resilience and hard work to good use away from camp as well. He is on the rowing team at school and has the coxswain position because he knows how to guide the boat. He knows how to lead the crew and to get people to follow by showing them the way, not pushing them to do something they do not want to. He is a natural leader that people like to follow.

    According to Tomas, Kawanhee is a tight community and as a junior counselor this summer he will draw on what he has observed and been taught by his counselors. “I have seen counselors from the Leadership Program and how they inspire younger campers.  It is amazing to be chosen. With school being from home, every day has been repetition so to escape away to camp is so exciting.  Being a leader at camp is a pressure but a good kind of pressure. I know I am now going to be able to have a positive impact on younger campers.”

    Liz Standen, the co-Executive Director of Camp Kawanhee, speaks very highly of Tomas and is excited to have him back at camp in a leadership role this summer. Liz says, “Tomas is a boy who demonstrates social maturity well beyond his years.  He is resourceful and his many interests and contributions to the community are notable, especially in the positive attitude and motivation he brings to all that he does.”

    Tomas’ mentor, Gwendolyn Foote, agrees and believes that Kawanhee couldn’t have chosen a better candidate for their Leadership Program. Gwendolyn mentored Tomas at school when he was in 8th grade and shares that he was an amazing leader, helping the other students and supplementing the lesson she was teaching. Tomas would pull kids aside that were struggling with the lesson and guide them to the solution. Tomas is a very interpersonal person and likes communicating, collaborating, and brainstorming with others so the pandemic isolation has been a challenge. Gwendolyn is excited that he will be going to camp to interact with others again. Most importantly, “The kids he will be leading at camp are lucky for him to be their role model. He’s got no ego. He is patient. He is a true leader and teacher.”

    Tomas’ mom, Stella, is so grateful for Tomas’ time at camp. His brother attended a different camp, and Kawanhee became Tomas’ own special place where he could thrive. Stella is excited for Tomas this summer and all that he will gain from the experience. “We are so happy and thankful for the opportunity for Tomas to go to camp and be selected for the Leadership Program. He really needs camp this summer after a difficult year of remote learning. I cannot think of a better place for him to be.”

    We can’t either, Stella, and we look forward to hearing about Tomas’ positive impact on the Kawanhee community he loves so much!

    Meet Jade 

    • Jade L.
    • 11th grade, 17 years old
    • Lives in Chicago, Illinois
    • Has attended Clearwater Camp for Girls for 3 summers (2017-2019)

    I’m willing to put the kids first… to give them a memorable experience. I think it’s fun to be around kids, and I want to be a positive role model, encourage them when they might be down or need a boost. – Jade L.

    When Jade was a first summer camper at Clearwater Camp for Girls, she was shy but curious with a spark in her eyes that yearned for adventure. She was reserved at first, but once she got to know the people around her, other campers knew she was a true friend. The following summers Jade participated in more and more activities, especially all of the water sports and the hiking trips, and came out of her shell in her cabin.

    Jade is grateful to have had the opportunity to go to Clearwater Camp for Girls for the last several years and meet people from all over the world. At camp Jade learned to be good with being herself, without concern about trying to be different to fit in.  At camp, everyone is different, from different areas of the country, different ethnicities, different income levels but they all become a family. When Jade is at camp, she becomes her best self.

    Camp has helped Jade become independent and more confident. Her increased confidence made the transition from middle school to high school much smoother. It gave her confidence to approach a teacher when she had questions, where before she was too shy. As a result, her grades have improved. Her confidence gives her a voice when she sees others being bullied and she speaks up for them.

    Camille Vicino, Jade’s mentor at Metro Achievement Center in Chicago, shares, “When Jade talks about camp she comes to life. She talks about her friends, cooking over campfires and not having a cell phone with the biggest smile. She’s learned to feel valued through the campership program. She has learned that she is able to achieve big things and work hard to achieve her goals. She is a leader by example, always doing what’s asked of her and ready to step up when needed.“

    For summer 2021, Jade will have a new adventure at camp, participating in Clearwater’s Leadership program, the equivalent of a Counselor In Training (CIT) program. Jade will learn how to teach activities, take care of campers in their cabins and participate in seminars. Seminars cover topics such as conflict resolution, problem solving, and community building. Through this experience, Jade hopes she can be a role model for younger Latino campers and that they will see someone in Leadership that looks like them.

    Jade is child-focused. She loves to work with young people, and she will bring that joy to the other campers at Clearwater. Jade says, “I’m willing to put the kids first…give them a memorable experience. I think it’s fun to be around kids, and I want to be a positive role model, encourage them when they might be down or need a boost.”

    Additionally, Jade wants to set her career path in education. This summer will be a fantastic opportunity for her to put some teaching into practice. Jade is looking forward to teaching swimming and said that she’d like to bring water polo to camp. And, according to the directors of Clearwater, they would love that!

    Liz Baker, the Executive Director at Clearwater, says that “Jade is a good listener, and this will be a big help to our campers and staff this summer. She knows that getting to know people as individuals is a vital part of being a leader. Jade is an excellent person for our girls to look up to!”

    Erika, Jade’s mom, is proud that Jade was selected for the Leadership Program. “Attending camp and being in the Leadership program will help Jade as she moves on to college. She feels confident in being away from home and this will give her the confidence that no matter where she goes and whatever she experiences, it will be ok. She can handle it.”

    We agree—Jade is prepared for anything and everything and will be a wonderful role model and teacher!

    Meet Branden
    • 21 years old, sophomore at Bradley University
    • Lives in Chicago, Illinois
    • Attended Camp Kawanhee for 3 years (2015-2017)
    • 2021 Kawanhee Staff

    I love the idea that younger Hispanic campers will see me and know that they can be a leader someday. I want to be a role model for them. I will bring a unique perspective because of my diverse background. It feels like an honor. – Branden M.

    Branden was a camper at Kawanhee for two summers and then one summer as a Junior Counselor. He is a sophomore at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, double majoring in political science and economics. He hopes to go to law school in the future and was inspired to pursue a legal career by Mark Standen, the co-Executive Director of Camp Kawanhee who is an attorney. This will be Branden’s first summer as a counselor.

    Liz Standen, Mark’s wife and the co-Executive Director of Kawanhee said of Branden being on staff this summer, “We were so happy to see Branden’s staff application.  Branden is a responsible, polite, positive person, who is also kind, compassionate and sensitive.  Can’t wait to see how these qualities will be shared with our campers this summer!”

    Branden’s camp story and his pathway to leadership are told best by Branden himself:

    “Being away from home and at camp, I was able to let my guard down and be a kid. I love the amount of kind, empathetic support the camp leaders were able to provide for me. They were willing to give me the tools to learn. I want to support others like I have been supported. Camp is a safe place where everyone is allowed to be themselves, and I want to offer that to others and protect this safe haven.

    I found my long lost brothers at camp. I met kids from all over the world. Now as I consider study abroad opportunities, I can ask friends from camp who live all over the world to give me pointers on their country. I have no limits.

    Being given the opportunity to go to camp and enter a world I didn’t even know existed and getting to know those around me and their character was a true gift. Camp made me the confident individual I am now. Now I understand that I belong here—that I deserve to have a seat at this table and I can talk to anyone. I lacked this belief before camp.

    I love the idea that younger Hispanic campers will see me and know that they can be a leader someday. I want to be a role model for them. I will bring a unique perspective because of my diverse background. It feels like an honor.

    I want to take this time to truly thank A Thousand Summers for everything that you’ve done for me and all the other Foundation campers. Without you, this city kid wouldn’t have experienced a 7 AM polar plunge in Webb Lake! Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to climb the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. I wouldn’t have been able to go to that little town in Weld, Maine, and eat pink hot dogs with my long-lost brothers!

    Camp has impacted me in more ways than I can even begin to explain. It provided me with a sense of confidence, the pathway to self-discovery, and above all taught me to be more empathetic in my daily life. I am determined to one day pay it forward and send a Cheley Foundation camper to camp!”

    We can’t wait for that day, Branden, and are proud of the path you are blazing!

    A Thousand Summers Campers in 2021 Leadership Programs

    Congratulations to our A Thousand Summers campers and alums in leadership positions this summer! We are so proud of our campers, their achievements, and their strong leadership skills. They will be incredible role models for the campers they work with this summer, and we wish them the best!

    Empowering Young Voices

    A Thousand Summers works with incredible kids around the country who, as a result of their time at camp, are making a difference in their communities. Will is a 9th grader at Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado, who loves basketball, math, and hanging out with his friends. He competes in mock trial competitions and hopes to pursue future studies in statistics as applied to the sciences or possibly the sports industry.

    This summer will be Will’s third summer in the BTE unit at Cheley Colorado Camps. His favorite camp activity is mountain biking, but he is also excited to try more backpacking this summer. More than anything else, Will is looking forward to getting back out into nature, away from technology, and reconnecting with his camp friends after two years of not being together.



    “Camp helps you grow as a person by being able to talk about anything freely and also just being more adventurous, doing things you may not usually do, and pushing your comfort zone.” – Will, Cheley Colorado Camps, Boys Trails End Campership Recipient

    During his time at camp, Will’s love of nature and his environmental awareness have grown. Climate change and global warming are issues of central concern to Will. This summer and early fall he watched forest fires ravage the hillsides above his hometown of Boulder but also destroy large sections of Rocky Mountain National Park, coming very close to BTE and the beautiful land he has come to know over the last few summers at camp.

    Will combined those environmental concerns and experiences with the skills he learned at camp and designed an impactful Capstone Project this past fall. The Capstone Program, started in 2012, invites our returning campers, with their mentor’s support, to design and lead a service project during the school year in their local community. Through the Capstone Program, campers build upon the personal growth and development attained through their camp experiences and further develop leadership skills that can serve them now and in the future.

    Will focused his Capstone Project on the “Get Out The Vote” campaign as a way to call attention to climate change and other issues of concern to him. When asked about why he chose the “Get Out the Vote” campaign, Will explained that his 5th grade teacher (Karen Halverson) encouraged her students to express their voices and that she had organized a march of her elementary students through the University of Colorado campus to encourage college students to register to vote. At 15, Will is not yet able to vote and so couldn’t make his own voice heard at the ballot box. As a result of the experiences with his 5th grade teacher and his growing environmental awareness enhanced by camp, Will knew that he could make a difference by talking to others and helping them realize that their vote matters.

    “I just wanted to encourage people to vote no matter who they were voting for just to be able to express their voices in a time when everyone’s voice needs to be heard.”— Will

    Will got involved with local grassroots efforts and encouraged people to get out and vote by personally writing and sending over 300 postcards, making phone calls through a local phone bank, leaving sticky notes on the front doors of people who lived in areas with lower voting percentages, and inviting friends and family to join him in a socially distanced “drive-by parade” encouraging people to make their voices heard at the ballot box. He recruited several friends to help him in his efforts and received great support from his Capstone mentor, Darren Kelly.

    Will knew that not everyone he spoke with was going to actually vote or vote in the same way that he might if he were able to, but he learned a lot from the experience. Talking to complete strangers, especially about sensitive issues, was awkward at times, but he was able to build genuine conversations with people by first listening to and learning a little bit about them, respecting where they were coming from, and then sharing some things about himself—lessons that he learned in building friendships with new people at camp.

    His conversations with people during his Capstone Project showed him that “you may not have the same views but you could still relate in a lot of ways in that we’re all human and all going through a crazy time that we have to get through together.”

    Darren, Will’s mentor, shared that “for Will to call people out of the blue took a lot of guts and he got more comfortable with it over time. It definitely helped him grow and develop skills that he’s going to need for job interviews and things in the future.”

    Darren has known Will since he was in Kindergarten and was his soccer coach from 1st-8th grade. He loves being a mentor for A Thousand Summers and has enjoyed watching Will benefit from the camp experience. According to Darren, “Will raved the first summer he went to camp and talked about all the experiences he had that he hadn’t tried before. It definitely broadened his horizons and he overcame challenges, going farther than he thought he could. He just beams when he talks about camp and his experiences there.”

    Will’s mom, Madeleine, a former Cheley camper herself, attributes much of Will’s Capstone Project success to his time at camp. She has watched him learn how to navigate through difficult conversations and situations at camp, feel more comfortable around new people, and find his inner voice. She loves that camp constantly reinforces that “it’s a really good thing to be a good person.”

    In regards to Will’s Capstone Project, Madeleine shared that “it was an unbelievable experience to watch the President in his inaugural speech thank all of the people who helped get out the vote. I said to Will, ‘that was you!’ It was extremely empowering, and Will felt really proud about that.”

    In this challenging world we’re all living in with COVID and so many other social issues of concern, kids are having a hard time finding a sense of belonging and significance. They are struggling to feel as if they have much influence or control. Will wanted to do something to break out of that and make a difference. He was able to harness some positive energy out of a very strange and unprecedented time and do something that mattered.

    As Will’s mom said, “I think the Capstone Project really helps kids to feel important and that their contributions matter. The satisfaction that I saw Will get out of it was pretty big.” Darren, Will’s mentor agrees. He said, “It is very rewarding to do something like this as a volunteer and then see how much the kids grow from it and how much they appreciate it.”

    In the future, Will plans to get involved with the midterm election “Get Out The Vote” efforts in 2022 and he looks forward to 2024 when he will be old enough to vote and be involved on his college campus with encouraging other young people to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

    All of us at A Thousand Summers are proud of Will and how he is using his voice and the lessons he learned at camp to make a positive difference in the world. He has a bright future ahead of him and we look forward to following his journey.

    “A Thousand Summers is committed to empowering the young people we serve to be agents of change and create opportunities to do good in their communities. Will’s project is a great example of a young person following his passion, expressing his voice, and making a difference.” — Tim Lucas, Executive Director.

    Click below to view Will’s Capstone Project Presentation

    Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

    The kids in our Campership Program missed out on going to camp in 2020. For the past 12 months schools have focused largely on remote learning and many face-to-face interactions and activities have been canceled.  Kids need time outside and in person at camp to regroup, refocus, and restore balance in their lives. And so, with spring around the corner and optimism about camp being high, our campers’ excitement for the summer is growing! After a long wait, they will be able to reunite with friends and experience amazing and challenging outdoor adventures. Bright sunshine, time outdoors, and lots of support and care from counselors and other camp staff will positively impact the lives of our campers, strengthening connections and encouraging growth—just like a burst of spring!

    Click on the video below to hear from a few of our campers about what they are most excited about this summer.