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The JACF Annual CAMPaign is a movement to reconnect with your inner camp and share your stories to raise awareness of the impact that summer camp has had on you. With your support the John Austin Cheley Foundation will continue to bring this opportunity and this impact to more and more low income and underserved youth all across the United States.

DONATE NOW to our Annual CAMPaign and ensure the “inner camp” experience for low income, underserved youth around the country. Help us reach our goal of raising $600,000 for camperships for summer 2015.

Make your meaningful contribution TODAY and along with it spread the word about JACF and its impact by writing your own inner camp stories and sharing them here and/or on your own social media pages, with photos and videos, too, and with the hash tag #channelyourinnercamp.


Luis O, a JACF camper for the past two summers at Sanborn Western Camps, shared his great inner camp story with us at our 25th Anniversary Gala just a few weeks ago:

“Throughout my life, I have lived in the same house in Chicago with my two parents and occasionally my grandparents. I was born into poverty. My mother maintained a job as a janitor while my father desperately tried to find a job. From the background I am coming from, something as luxurious as a month away at one of the best camps in America was not something I could ask for. My experience at camp would have me going home with a greater sense of who I was. Camp gave me the confidence to talk, which for going now to a school like Exeter where every class is a discussion was huge. Not only has camp given me the time of my life, it has also helped with grades, class participation, meeting new friends, and living a healthy lifestyle. Without camp, I can’t say that I would be where I am today.”

John Austin Cheley Foundation

– How about replying with a post of your own “inner camp” story to help us achieve the goal of raising $600,000 for the summer of 2015 to provide camperships for youth to attend extended-stay wilderness summer camps that have a proven track record of positively impacting youth development.

– Consider making a meaningful pledge today to pass forward the “inner camp” experience to youth like Luis all around the country – click here to contribute to our Annual CAMPaign online.

 JACF Campers shared their inner camp stories in the following videos – click here to take a peek!



12 thoughts on “#channelyourinnercamp”

  1. Grateful for my Inner-Camp:

    So… we decided it would be wonderful and wise to head to 12k+ feet of altitude with our 5-year-old, 8-year-old and decidedly non-hiker 9-year-old dog for a hike last weekend. It was a gorgeous and blustery fall day in Colorado. Absolutely stunning and I was cruising along thinking “this is the life!”… when the whining started.

    THEY (all three of them – two boys and one dog) were ready to go back. Quit. Turn around.
    Ugh. We had JUST gotten to the trailhead after much ado regarding non-itchy clothing, wrong turns, etc.

    Time to rustle up some skills gleaned from masterful camp counselors and fellow campers a long time ago…

    We began to sing — each of us singing one word of the song, bouncing it along to the next. “High. On. This. Mountain. The. Clouds. Down. Below. Feeling. So. Strong. And. Alive.”
    We paused for Strip Stops – to remove all of those layers I had so carefully wrangled them into seemingly a few short yards earlier.
    We peed on trees.
    We yodeled and listened to it echo back to us.
    We ate snacks that included CHOCOLATE… (my wise counselors had elicited unbelievable feats from us, their ragtag bunch of campers, via the mere suggestion that they just might have smuggled an entire package of Oreos in their already laden backpacks).

    We stopped at the top — where, miraculously, we suddenly were — and looked around, awestruck.
    We took goofy pictures wearing silly hats.

    Then we put on our packs and headed back to the trailhead — victorious, pink-cheeked and delighting in each other.

    4 miles. With MY ragtag crew. Thank you, Camp (for so, so much)… THIS is the life.


  2. Spending time in nature is something I do when I need to recharge. It helps me forget the stresses of everyday life and rediscover my “inner camp.” For me, that means remembering my summers spent on the trail with special friends, sharing adventures that made us physically and emotionally stronger. It reminds me that “reaching the summit” requires persistence, teamwork, and believing in myself. It encourages me to take time to witness the beauty around me and enjoy the quiet moments. The same lessons apply to the “peaks” I push myself towards in my personal and professional life. The best part is that when I eventually reach the summit (just like when I was at camp), the view is even more inspiring when it is celebrated with the people who helped me get there.


  3. All I have to do to rediscover my “inner camp” is to hear the wind blowing through the pine trees. That sound does for me what the sound of waves crashing on the shore does for many others—it brings a sense of peace, of happiness, and of connection.

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  4. I caught it my first year at camp when I was just a couple months shy of seven years old. Over the span of the ten summers I spent at camp, I kept catching it. My wife has it too, but she didn’t catch it at camp so I guess there are other places you can catch it. I think my two boys have it. They’ve been to the same camp I went to and I think one of them might have it just as bad as I do. With all of the scary things going around these days, I’ve thought about calling the authorities to warn them about it.

    It’s affected my life in almost every way. When I finished college and started looking at career choices it was really difficult to find a place to work that would accept me with it and not really worry about it. In fact, the reason I sought my employer out was because I knew that it was something they were experts at dealing with. The same is true for my wife. When we met and started dating, the first thing I told her was that I had it. Can you imagine how happy I was when she told me she had it too? Those kinds of secrets don’t make for good surprises in a marriage.

    When my parents were still alive, they worried constantly about me because they knew that what I had could put me in danger from time to time. Looking back, now that I am retired, there were some dangerous moments but I am really lucky; I made it through without a scratch. I did have a few bouts of really bad diarrhea from it but those went away with some equally strong medicine. Some of my friends that have known me forever have worried about me, but more than anything, I think they just wonder why I don’t do something about it. To their way of thinking, they think that it is really disruptive and is harming my children. But as I said, my wife has it too so we know that our kids can learn to live with it. In fact, as we’ve discovered together, it has made us believe that in the end, having it has made us stronger as a family, quite adaptable, and richer in ways that many people are not.

    I know there are no cures for what I have. It’s terminal. I know I will have it the rest of my life and I suppose there is a small chance that it could be the thing that actually causes my death. Yes, I caught it at camp. What I caught has several names. I call it a sense of adventure. Others call it a sense of wonder, others still; wanderlust.

    I’ve lived, worked, or traveled to eighty-five countries around the world and forty-nine states (sorry Iowa, someday I’ll meet you too). Because of my work, I’ve met and worked with royalty and world leaders and walked and talked to some of the most amazing people, both notoriously good and evil, that this world has ever known. The several hours I walked the streets of New York and Los Angeles with Nelson Mandela will live with me forever. I’ve sat in the Czar’s box watching Swan Lake at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and I’ve lived and worked in the least developed nation on earth. I’ve been to war zones and refugee camps, and I’ve been to palaces and castles. I’ve seen, heard, smelled, touched, and experienced more in this world than I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams. Thinking back, it was camp that first gave me the courage, the desire, and the belief in myself that I could actually do it.

    It wasn’t just one moment in camp, but the collection of all the moments that really made me who I am. It was climbing the mountain in the rain and cold to reach the top for the reward of the view that made me who I am. It was listening to the ghost stories and being frightened out of my mind and laughing about it later that made me who I am. It was taking care to brush and graze the horse even though I was tired and hungry after a long day of trail riding that made me who I am. It was stopping to listen to, and appreciate, the silence in nature or the wind through the aspen trees that made me who I am. It was gazing up at millions of stars on a dark night on top of a 13,000 foot pass that made me who I am.

    There is no doubt in my mind, not one doubt, that camp had a huge part in making me who I am today.

  5. Being at camp not only allowed me to make new friends, and catch up with old ones, it gave me the opportunity to discover myself. By being put in situations with people I normally wouldn’t be with, I learned so much about myself. Camp gave me the feeling of truly living, living without regret. living with love, living in nature. My camp mates were never my friends, since the minute I met them, they were my family who I would feel lost without. The best feeling in the world is falling asleep with a smile because you are in the most beautiful place in the world with the most amazing people. My friends are forever, we are bonded by our experiences and love. With out camp, I never would have had to opportunity to meet some of my best friends, or have been able to discover my true happiness. Camp showed me what it was like to truly love and live, and that is to be surrounded by wonderful people, in the gorgeous wilderness. I have grown from being at camp because I embraced every moment i spent with the people I love. I found what makes me smile in my sleep.

    Much love and happiness!


  6. Camp has shaped me in many different ways. One of the ways camp has shaped me is by helping me become a better leader. Before camp I was scared to stand up for myself, but camp has made me more confident so I can stand up for myself. Another way camp has shaped me is that it has made me appreciate and love nature. Before camp I didn’t want to do anything outside because I thought it was boring. But during camp, I found out that you can do so many fun things outside, such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, canoeing, and river rafting. Another way camp has shaped me is that I can be at a place outside of home and still feel like I’m at home.. Camp is a place where I can be free and have fun with friends. It’s a place where I don’t have to worry about anything. It’s a place where everything you do is fun. Camp is a second home to me. And I will never forget it.

  7. My experience at camp has changed me. I see nature in more detailed ways than before, and also respect nature more.

    It shaped me into a better leader and follower. I became more patient with people and also learned to get along with other groups of people.

    I also became more active. For example, I would rather be outside doing something, than doing something inside, like just sitting on electronics.

    I became more confident, patient, relaxed, and outgoing. I liked to challenge myself mentally and physically with camp activities, such as climbing huge mountains, rock climbing, mountain biking and other camp activities.

    In all ways, camp has shaped me into a better person.

  8. Archery is one of the many skills I was privileged to learn in my years at Cheley Colorado Camps. Without the financial assistance I received form the John Austin Cheley Foundation, my experience at Cheley would not have been possible.

    It is hard for me to describe my five summers at camp in the Rocky Mountains because much of the time was spent with new friends and new experiences that are truly indescribable unless you have been there. For a city boy with little opportunity to participate in activities such as white water rafting, multiple day trail rides, and mountain biking, the JACF campership offered me the chance to learn about and love the outdoors.

    Cheley challenged me to be a risk taker and an adventurer. Each year our unit was challenged to create a Code of Living that provided opportunities for leadership and fellowship, and helped me become a more mature and self-confident person. My high school’s motto says that we should be “a man for others,” and my years at Cheley have contributed to my understanding of what that motto really means and how I should go about living up to it.

    I will be graduating from high school this year and moving on to a new stage in my life. I am looking forward to a successful matriculation into college life and attribute much of that confidence to my years at summer camp in the mountains of Colorado. I also hope that my future will return me to Cheley in some capacity so that I may continue to experience the wonders of this remarkable place.



    I am a statue
    I always knew.

    But I never knew what I was.

    Hibernating in my personal cave
    I was afraid of being seen.

    When summer hit me like the
    Contact between
    A Hammer and
    It shaped me into who I am today

    Entering Colorado
    With nothing but
    Low self esteem
    I felt like it was a huge mistake.

    Mountains bigger than
    Empire State Buildings.

    I knew I was not home.

    But after my journey I knew
    I was wrong.

    My personal cave had a huge hole
    And Colorado filled it
    With exuberance and joy.

    Marmots and Picas
    Welcomed me
    With their squeaks
    And smiles.

    And trees
    Protected me
    From the incoming storms.

    When I summited
    3 mountains
    I was more than accomplished.
    My statute
    Was even greater in stature
    And strength.
    I was shaped into
    A new person
    Who was
    On top of the world.

  10. I have always been quiet. I like to keep to myself, unless around friends or family. That’s just how I have always been. That was my down fall. I had a hard time speaking in class, making New friends, and being in public. Being shy caused me to miss so many opportunities in my life. So going to camp made me nervous. Being around new people that I had never met, being in a new place without my family was scary. I got to Colvig Silver Camps and I barely talked and made few friends on the first day. Then the days started to go by. I slowly grew to know the people around me and started to grow bolder. I began acting as I did around my friends and family. It was a big change for me. I went from not talking to new people to bursting out and greeting them face to face with confidence. When I got back from camp everyone noticed a huge difference in my attitude. I was louder, raised my hand more in class, and made many many new friends. (It even shocked me a little bit.) Camp helped me become the real me and brought me out of my shell and gave me new confidence. I am grateful to Colvig Silver Camps for giving me the opportunity to become and show the real me.

  11. I am a true city kid. Born and raised in the Windy City. The closest thing to the

    wilderness I had ever seen before receiving the Cheley Foundation Campership was

    the urban skyscraper jungle. As a young boy I had read about the American Indians

    and early American settlers living and traveling across the beautiful American

    landscape. I would eagerly turn the pages of the National Geographic magazine that

    depicted the mountains, forests, and prairies of this great majestic land. As a bike

    messenger I have had time to master the skills of the urban wilderness while carefully

    navigating through mounds of traffic; much noise; and a lot of people, but always felt the

    burning desire to experience the nature and tranquility of the true wilderness.

    Thankfully, receiving the Cheley Foundation Campership has offered me the

    chance! I have been afforded the opportunity to travel to the East Coast to the beautiful

    and luscious woodlands of Maine. There I stayed at Camp Kawanhee for three weeks

    which was full of exploration and adventure. I white water rafted; mountain climbed;

    and mastered my swimming and sailing in Lake Webb. After arriving back home to

    Chicago, I realized that I had made monumental changes after experiencing camp. I

    realized that camp had truly shaped me as a person in a positive way. The experiences

    at Camp Kawanhee increased my confidence, bravery, and sense of adventure.

    Swimming in the rapids of Maine truly increased my bravery. Learning how to sail and

    even sailing solo through heavy winds boosted my confidence tremendously. Trekking

    through extremely difficult up-and-downhill Appalachian trails inspired my sense of

    adventure greatly and made me feel as if I were a native scout navigating through the

    woods on a raiding mission. After experiencing life at camp, I am much more outgoing

    here at home in Chitown. Now I show no fear in trying new things and exploring new

    places. Most city kids do not have a true “right of passage” anymore. I feel that camp

    was my right of passage from being a boy into becoming a young man. I am so very

    grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to the beautiful and tranquil Camp

    Kawanhee. I am overjoyed that my experience at camp has helped to shape me as a

    person in a very positive way.

  12. Here is my “inner camp” story in Spanish about how camp is helping me as a sleep deprived new dad!

    Muchas veces, vivimos cosas “estresantes” que con el tiempo parecen graciosas. Como papa primerizo, me encuentro con estas situaciones día a día.

    Por ejemplo, unas noches atrás, tuvimos en la familia una gran explosión a las doce de la noche. No sé porque, pero mi hijo Jacob de tres meses decidió no dormir. Él se despertó a la media noche y siguió despierto hasta las cuatro. Lo que paso entre estas largas horas fue más o menos un fracaso.

    Jacob grita como solo el lo puede hacer. Es una grito largo, y muy ruidoso que parece como los pitos del tren que pasa por nuestra casa cada hora. Pero en el caso de Jacob es como que el tren se choca directamente con tu cabeza y allí, sientes como si te sacudieran y tuvieras que responder a una emergencia q no espera. Creo que fue esta ruido que despertó a el perro.

    Black Dog, despierto y recién permitido en la casa (solo porque está a bajo Zero afuera esta semana) escapo del cuarto donde estaba encerrado y empezó a caminar por la casa también llorando. Creo que quería consolar al bebe.

    Sin saber del escape de Black Dog, al mismo tiempo que salió del cuarto para vigilar la casa en donde no debería estar, nuestro niño Lucas de tres años salió de su cuarto también para ir al baño. Lucas, quien tiene miedo de animales grandes, negros y desconocidos de estar en la casa por la noche se encerró en su baño. Y pobrecito porque no sabía que hacer, termino dormido en el piso del baño sin subir sus pantalones (espero cuando cresca no lea esta historia).

    Y ahora en la historia, entran los papas… De un hueco profundo, escucharon los gritos particulares del tren Jacob y después del choque familiar se salieron de su sueño con un dolor de cabeza intolerable. Todavía dormido el papa escuchó otro grito familiar y el sonido odiado de un perro que rasca el piso y deja pelos por toda la casa cuando se escapa de su lugar por la noche.

    La mama salió para poner el perro en su lugar, y el papa salió para calmar él bebe de tres meses. Los dos se dieron cuenta que Lucas no estaba en su cuarto. Muy preocupados, abrieron el cuarto de huéspedes para ver si tal vez estaba ahí. Allí terminaron despertando a la prima invitada quien estaba de visita y fue la última persona en la casa sin despertar.

    Ya fue la una de mañana. Las otras tres horas hasta las cuatro pasaran rápido en tratar de calmar uno por uno los participantes de la aventura.

    Fue allí, a las cuatro de la mañana que me di cuenta que tenía mucha suerte de asistir a un campo de verano como niño. En el campo de verano, me introdujeron a un concepto que se llama comportamiento de expedición. Este dicho significa que en circunstancias difíciles uno tiene que mantener una buena actitud, y ser líder de si mismo y dentro el grupo. Significa que uno tiene que tomar decisiones y hacer acciones siempre con lo mejor de ti puesto adelante. En este momento, después de toda la tormenta normal de la medianoche siendo papas primerizos, estaba muy agradecido por mi entrenamiento muchos años atrás en el campamento de verano, no siempre es afuera en la naturaleza que tienes que enfrentar situaciones de supervivencia, pero ayuda mucho haber estado en el bosque para resolver y manejar las situaciones que se presenten en donde quiera que estés, y adonde quiera que vas. Y yo, estoy listo para el enfrentamiento de muchas mas aventuras.

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