I love learning. Finding out new information or someone teaching me about a subject that I know nothing about is endlessly exciting to me. At camp, there are so, so many opportunities to learn. One of the ways that I think I have learned the most is in the area of sustainability. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that Stewards of the Earth is one of our core values. When I interviewed to work at camp, I admitted that this was the core value that I was the most nervous about being to able to live out, not because I don't think it's important, but because I don't have very much experience with it at all. Before this job, I didn't know what foods are and aren't compost able, I had never taken care of chickens, and I could not tell you which plants on camp were native and which were non-native. Now, I feel comfortable with all of those things, and I like to talk about them. However, since I'm still a sustainability/stewardship novice, I will be linking to several articles throughout this post written by people who know much more than I do about the subject.
I mention sustainability because it's important for what I actually want to talk about: something that I have started to call the de-pineification. Over the last couple months, the camp landscape has changed pretty dramatically. The red pines that surround our amphitheater and the edge of the road leading to our dining hall have all been cut down, leaving a bare, straw-covered meadow where several dozen trees once stood. And I'm going to tell you why that's a good thing (or at least try).
When I first found out that all of the trees were going to be cut down, I was pretty mortified. At a very basic level, my opinion was: cutting trees down = automatically bad choice. What I found out was that these trees were going to fall down anyway at some point. The red pines had fallen victim to something called the pine bark beetle, causing them to die. So not only were these trees sick, but if we left them be, we could not control when or where they would fall. Remember where I said the pines were? It's one of the parts of camp that is the most traversed throughout the year, meaning that a spontaneously fallen tree could be devastating. So it made more sense to get rid of them now, when there are no groups on camp, and keep camp safe for everyone.
Not only that, but the red pines were only visitors anyway. They are the only species of pines on camp that are non-native to Brown County, brought in during the 1960s to stop erosion and play into a fad at the time of planting Christmas tree farms. Of all of the pine trees on camp, the pine bark beetle has only attacked the red pines, which is kind of the best form of poetic justice for our native plants. You might think, "If they are non-native, why didn't you just cut them down earlier." The simplified answer to that is, "because they weren't hurting anything." Red pines are not invasive and did the job that they were intended for, which was to stop erosion. There was no need to cut down healthy trees just because they were non-native.
So, we've cut down all of these trees down; what do we do next? We are incredibly lucky to be involved with groups like the Nature Conservancy who not only help us identify and remove non-native species, but also support and nurture the natives ones. Through working with them, the meadow will eventually become a pollinator field made up of native plants. I'm kind of way too excited about the pollinator field because of one big thing: we get to be beekeepers. Camp is going to be home to a hive of bees, which will get their pollen from a combination of pollinator trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. We have been working with a number of people to help us decide what to plant, and it is just so fun to listen to what they have to say, and it's fun to see just how excited they are, too. We have an awesome opportunity to not only create an awesome teaching experience for our campers and participants, but we are fostering growth for some of our native species in a space that has been taken up by non-native plants for more than 50 years. If that's not stewardship, then I don't know what is.
Articles from people who are smarter than me:
Forest Health Problems Impacting Indiana Forest Resources
Honey Bee Information and Trivia
Indiana DNR Resource Guide of Yellowwood State Park (talks about red pine-to-hardwood conversion in a state forest close to camp)
Indiana Pollinator Guide
Posted by Lauren Owen, Program Staff 2016-2017
Many years ago I made a friend at CYO Camp. I was a camp counselor and she was a counselor in training. She quickly became more than a friend though. She was caregiver for my first child. We also experienced pregnancy together, my second, her first, both boys. The boys are still friends today. That was over 20 years ago. And while we met at camp and our bond was nurtured in our experiences there it was through our common experience as women, wives and mothers that made us friends and ultimately family.
My friends name? Annie Beeson Endris. Annie was mama to Nathan and Clare, wife to Ned, Benedict Inn Program Director and a Spiritual Director until she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in May of 2015. She is missed dearly. Annie was deeply spiritual and devoted to women and their successes and challenges in life. She touched lives in a way that was meaningful. Annie had a light about her and her presence exuded love.
Our work and our friendship ultimately led to collaboration. Our goal was to provide a weekend that supports women on their faith journey and in their lives. As working moms who were often looking for ways to nurture themselves as spiritual women both Annie & I wanted to offer something that provided a space and time for women to take a step back, breathe and potentially reconnect with their faith or discover something new.
It is in her honor that CYO Camp continues to offer our Women’s Only Weekend (WOW). While Annie is not here is person we know her spirit lives on in the important work women do for themselves and in this weekend.
WOW is April 21-23 this spring. I hope you will consider joining us or inviting a woman in your life to be a part of the weekend.
Angi K Sullivan, CYO Camp Co-Director
WOW 2014, Annie is the one in the middle wearing the green shirt.
In 1978 I was 10 years old and a 5th grader at St. Christopher Catholic School on the west side of Indianapolis. I had just become best friends with the new girl (Gesche Huneke) and was navigating “new math” and the spring kickball schedule. Life was pretty good as 5th grade goes, but it was about to change. In the spring of that year I would hear a presentation that would ultimately guide the rest of my life. The presentation was a slide show filled with smiles of campers from CYO Camp Rancho Framasa and CYO Camp Christina. The pictures also included images of the pool at Rancho, the horses and various other activities. Two college age students were our presenters in the basement of St. Chris. A slide projector was set up when we arrived and the presenters were all smiles and full of energy. I wish I could say I remember the presentation in detail and that I knew that this was the place I’d be most influenced and grow into the human being I am today but, hey I was only 10 and honestly I don’t remember much at all about that presentation. I remember the smiles and I remember that a classmate, Gus Miller, was in one of the slide photos. Gus had red hair and a huge smile. My friends and I probably teased him about being in this photo. We knew nothing about this camp so we undoubtedly labeled it as lame. My new best friend and I went anyway. I’m not sure why we decided to go to camp but once we attended camp we fell head over heels in love. We went back year after year, often twice in one summer. Once we were too old we became Counselors in Training. We brought others with us and appointed ourselves cheer leaders for all things CYO Camp. I loved my counselors (especially Trish Franckhauser McClanahan), the activities (mostly campfire and the horses), being outside, the songs (Circle Game & Stewball), and the friends I made. Of course, I wanted to work at camp as soon as I was old enough and at the young age of 17, my dream of being a CYO Camp counselor came true.
Thirty plus years have passed since that school visit and many things have changed and many have stayed the same at CYO Camp. We still visit schools to spread the word of our programs. I actually lead school visits for years. It always made me smile to think of the little Gesche’s and Gus’ out in the audience. I’m more office oriented these days and it does seems more apt to send the younger staff to share our enthusiasm for camp and to spread the word of faith, fun, friendships, silliness, etc. that is CYO Camp.
We happen to be in the middle of school visit “season” currently. Long gone are the days of the slide show, but our staff members still visit schools and are still full of smiles and energy. They often start with a song and ask for volunteers to dress up. They conclude with time for students to ask questions. Its high energy and fun just like camp!
When staff members return from a school visit there are always stories. The best part of these stories for me is the question session at the end. “Is there a unicorn? Can I bring my dog? Will there be lunch?” are a few of my favorites. I love this. I also love thinking about the ones who will attend camp this summer and how their lives might be changed just as mine was changed because camp is a place where positive change truly happens. Over 1800 kids this summer will either begin or continue their relationship with camp. They will run, play, laugh, pray, sing, dance, and know the goodness of our Creator through the hands of our staff members. They will also experience positive peer and adult relationships without the distractions of technology. They will experience true wholesome fun. They will get to be kids in a world that demands more and more of them each day.
I know all of this to be true; from 10 year old camper to 16 year old Counselor in Training to Counselor to Co-Director to the “mama” of the “camp family” I’ve seen the story of camp play out again and again. I have seen campers become counselors; counselors become our camp leaders and then ultimately leave camp for careers as teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. In addition, they become parents. Parents who believe in camp often sending their own children to camp. In all of the roles that our past campers and counselors fulfill we know they are out in the world spreading a bit of camp love wherever they go thus making our world a lovelier place to be.
When I was that 10 year old girl at St. Christopher’s School I had no idea what camp could do for me or what I had to give to camp. I now know its significance. I've actually known it for a good long while now. Not just for me but for so many others. Camp has made a difference. I’d like to go back in time and meet 10 year old me so I could tell her to hold on for an amazing ride! I’d tell her to savor it, savor it all, even the hard stuff because you will grow and you will be a part of impacting others to grow and your life will be all the better for it.
Angi Sullivan, CYO Camp Co-Director
My girl and I had our first of what I hope is many weekends away together.
Rock climbing, creek stomping, tree painting, tie-dying, canoeing, singing, good food eating, good friend chatting, new friends, campfire skits, and bunk bed sleeping (or two on a twin mattress, so we're extra close).
A lot of rain, fear of heights, me realizing I didn't actually know how to canoe after we were already on the lake.
It was full of fun and adventure.
There is something beautiful about witnessing each others highs and lows away from home and realizing we can't do much more than be witness to them while offering each other encouragement.
She climbed, I rowed, we played and played- damp, chilled, eventually not aware of either.
We'll go back next year and hopefully the year after that!
I can't help but wonder what each year we retreat together will bring. I noticed how different the experience looked for mothers with older children. They got to sleep in their own bunk, for instance.
How many years will she want to go with me? How many more years will she push my cheeks together, like she did, and tell me the best part was just being with her mama?
I try to remember, our time together is as good now as it was when she was too little to go on retreat; it's just different.
I suspect each year will be different too, and it won't matter whether we are snuggled on a twin or I am left way behind on the trail, I know I'll be grateful to be there with her.
It will be my best part.
Locals- Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County has wonderful mother/daughter, father/son, family, and summer camps. As someone who is not a Catholic or Christian, I felt very welcome and at ease there.
Kelly Sage, Mother Daughter Participant 2016
You will find a new landscape at camp this year!
The towering Red Pine Trees that you have become accustomed to see in camp’s landscape were planted here during a 1960s fad to plant Christmas Tree Farms. Over the last 50 years, they have grown tall and provided the landscape that inspired the beautiful “Pines Amphitheater”, where we celebrate outdoor Mass, prayer services, listen to Steve bellow “The first rule at camp….”, and create crazy, silly fun during drama!
What the original planters of the pines did not realize is that 50 years later, these Red Pines would become victim to the Pine Bark Beetle! The Pine Bark Beetles have burrowed under the bark of our pine trees, cutting off the flow of nutrients for the trees, causing them to slowly die. They have helped teach us an interesting lesson on the benefit of native vs. non-native plants: The Red Pines are the only non-native pines planted on camp, and they are the only pine trees to fall victim to the Pine Bark Beetle. The beetles do not touch the native pine trees.
Lucky for us, we are a part of the 30 year Forest Bank program; where we get to work with consultants from The Nature Conservancy that support us in maintaining a healthy forest. In consultation with them, we have removed our red pines and have received a Federal EQIP grant to plant a pollinator field with native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
While we are sad to say goodbye to our pine trees, we are excited for this pollinator field, which will bring to life a healthy and new home for native flora, fauna, and fungi!
A huge thanks to The Nature Conservancy for helping us live out one of our Core Values, Stewards of the Earth!
Anne Taube, Assistant Camp Director
At camp, I would easily say that about 90% of my job is working with kids. For however long they're here, it's my job to bring them into camp and help them learn something new and maybe leave as a slightly different person. What I love is that with every group I get, I think I also learn something new. There was a group that came through a couple weeks ago, and something that one of the kids said still sticks out to me and reminds me of my role here. This kid was a freshman in high school, the kind who was too cool to really look excited about any of the activities, and worked really hard to establish himself as the one who couldn't care less. He did join in the activities, and I was at least happy that he was bonding with his groupmates, even if he didn't want to admit that he was having fun to me. After most of our team building actvities, we go through processing with our group to see what they have learned from their day. On this day, I picked my favorite processing activity: Pick one word or phrase to describe this day and tell me why. This kid was the last one to answer. I asked him what he chose, and he carefully gave his response:
"Ok, why did you pick 'disciples'?"
"Because today, you were like Jesus and we were like the disciples. We followed you into these activities, but we didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into, like when the disciples brought Jesus the loaves and the fish and He said that he would feed 5,000 people. We were skeptical, but we did it anyway. Once we were done, we realized that you, like Jesus, had a plan all along."
Now, I have never had a bad response to this question. I have had rushed responses, responses that the kids think I want to hear, responses that are just a different phrasing of someone else's response, but this is still my favorite response that I've ever had. It reminds me of the importance of what I do, the importance of my attitude, and the importance of how I interact with a group. Kids don't get enough credit, and this response from the kid that I had basically written off as uninterested was a powerful reminder that what we do does have an impact, even if it doesn't seem like it in that moment or in that day. I doubt that kid knows how much of an impact he's had on me, but he has helped me see the growth in all of my kids, to reach out to the ones who seem the least interested, and to never underestimate the ability of kids to surprise adults with their empathy, honesty, and wisdom. Thanks R, you rock.
Posted by Lauren Owen, Program Staff, 2016-2017
“Children who feel a connection with the natural world are happier, healthier, and smarter.” Richard Louv
Knowing that we connect kids to the natural world is one of my favorite things about camp. Kids are outside and connected to NATURE whether they attend summer camp or a school year program. I think most of us probably have a favorite memory of time spent outside either alone, with peers or an important adult. I remember CYO Camp and my grandparent’s backyard as two outdoor spaces where I could roam and explore. I have such wonderful memories of both places.
At camp I played in the creek, ran among the trees, sought out raccoon and deer, rode horses, and basked in the sun! I was immersed in the natural world and was having the time of my life with friends and counselors.
In my grandparents backyard I explored a garden, sandbox, a creek, trees, sun, sky and more! From this experience I learned where my food comes from, how to care for the neighborhood creek (never litter) and just “be.”
Those early outdoor experiences at camp eventually led me to a career connecting other people with nature. I love what camp does. When we connect kids to nature we connect them to God, to each other, to the greater community and to the future. As we get busy with Fall school groups my greatest hope is that we can reach more kids than we did last year.
Yours in the Outdoors,
Angi Sullivan, CYO Camp Co-Director
Camp is such an unique experience! Our staff take turns sharing their perspectives of the experience that is CYO Camp Rancho Framasa!
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