JAN. 23, 2017
When I first started working full-time for Eagle’s Nest the focus of my job as an intern was to market for camp by traveling across the Southeast to give slide shows at campers’ homes. Back in those days I traveled with a slide projector and two full carousels of slides. It’s hard to image that campers and their families sat with rapt attention as I rhythmically clicked through 200 or so slides telling story after story about what awaited them at Eagle’s Nest.
I loved everything about those early years “On the Road” for Eagle’s Nest. I learned so much from staying with camper families and witnessing their daily lives and routines. Those times with seasoned parents informed my own routines when I became a parent years later. It was also fun to reconnect with campers from the previous summer and hear their accolades about their experiences at camp and on Hante. At each party tended to be a bit of a mini reunion, and throughout the slide show campers would share their stories about going down sliding rock for the first time, or how many hotdogs they ate at the cookout, or about the counselor that comforted and supported them. Some stories were outrageously funny, and others where touching and made me realize the value of the work that I was doing by being a teacher and caregiver to children. And of course, I loved being able to escape to the warmth and sunshine of Southern Florida in January. Who wouldn’t!
Throughout my years at Eagle’s Nest, I’ve continued to travel to campers homes and tell people about the wonderful place I spend my summers. These days, I’m not the main “roady”, but I still get out there, and my heart is still warmed by the hugs and the stories that great me.
Tomorrow, I’m heading back out on the road. This time I’m going somewhere I’ve never gone to recruit campers – New England! I guess I’ll be trading in the sunshine of Florida for the snow in Massachusetts. I’ll be giving parties in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and I’m so excited that two of the parties and at the homes of staff members that I worked with in the 90ties. They are parents now and their children are campers. I think that the parents may be more excited about the party than the kids.
Liz, Marlin and I still have room in our calendars this year, and we would love to travel to see you. At Eagle’s Nest, we rely on our camper families to share Eagle’s Nest with their friends. You are our best recruiters and we need your help to introduce more kids and families to Eagle’s Nest. Could you host a party? Don’t worry, we won’t bring 200 slides! But we will bring a camp presentation that we can watch while eating pizza and cho chos. If so, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Liz (email@example.com) and we’ll help you set it up. It’s easy and fun, and it is a huge gift to Eagle’s Nest!
Paige Lester-Niles, Camp Director
DEC. 19, 2016
I had the pleasure of traveling to Atlanta and have a table at a camp fair. It was a great camp fair, and I am so thankful that Eagle’s Nest was able to participate in it. There were all types of programs, and everyone showcased the different types of adventures available to children. People really pulled out all the stops. Some tables had flat screen TVs playing their camp video, large banners that almost touched the ceiling, and giveaways on their table. Do you know what I had on the Eagle’s Nest table? Trinkets. I had baskets woven by friends, beautiful pottery, and a couple of stained glass pieces. I even filled one pottery piece with glitter. I thought that was a nice touch! Comparatively speaking there wasn’t much on our table. I had parents walk up to the table and look above my head for a banner that stated who I was and where I was coming from. To their questioning looks I answered, “I would love to tell you about the wonderful place that is Eagle’s Nest!” That got their attention and I was able to convey the love I have for our foundation. I connected with the people who visited our table, and I invited people to our Atlanta camp party.
That was special to me. Just like camp, our table was simply magical. It showed what kids can do when given the opportunity to spend time at the Nest. To me, that is the most special part about Eagle’s Nest Camp. Kids grow by learning compassion and building confidence within themselves. I was also excited because towards the end of the day one of my past table children, Abby, stopped by. Abby went to camp, was a JC, participated in the Hante program, and was a student at The Outdoor Academy. We ran to greet each other from across the room. That type of friendship is what we build here at Eagle’s Nest. We were very excited to see one another. You could tell by the laughs and smiles we shared. The Eagle’s Nest Camp community extends past the summer and across the country. I believe camp is a wonderful experience that every child should have the chance to enjoy.
Ayana Brown, Camp Program Manager
OCT. 31, 2016
Those of us who have experienced Eagle’s Nest firsthand know how incredible this community is. We understand what it feels like to hike through chilly mountain creeks, laugh with our table family at meals, and grow in confidence as we challenge ourselves to try new things. Each summer I witness campers and staff learning, connecting, and becoming the best versions of themselves, and they encourage me to do the same. Simply put, Eagle’s Nest is magical.
One of our initiatives last summer was to begin measuring that “magic” in a more concrete way. Using a survey created by the American Camp Association, we were able to receive feedback from campers about their experience at Eagle’s Nest. On the final day of each session, campers were asked to complete a 14 question, anonymous survey that measures common camp outcomes. It is made up of questions about a variety of things, including trying new activities, decision-making, cooperation, and connectedness to the natural world. Campers rated their growth in each outcome on a scale that ranges from “decreased” to “increased a lot”.
There are several reasons we initiated outcome measurement this summer. By examining campers’ self-reported growth, we can determine the aspects of our program that are very successful, as well as the areas that need improvement. This firsthand feedback from campers will help us continue to evolve as an organization and cultivate an environment that is conducive to growth. Additionally, the results of this survey provide concrete evidence that children are learning important life skills at camp and growing in confidence and character.
We hope you’ll spend some time looking at the results of this summer’s survey. We were very pleased to find that campers indicated the most growth in the fields of taking care of themselves, trying new things, and feeling comfortable in the outdoors, all of which are significant aspects of the Eagle’s Nest experience.
I don’t think we’ll ever be able to fully articulate or measure the magic of Eagle’s Nest Camp (some things are better felt than said), but we’re excited to have some data to back up something we all believe wholeheartedly: Camp is AWESOME.
Liz Snyder, Assistant Camp Director
SEP. 22, 2016
More often than you can probably guess, we have marriages between wonderful people who met at Eagle’s Nest. Some went to camp for years and years together and some met each other working on staff over just one summer. I always think to myself , what a terrific place to really get to know someone, to see how they live their lives day in and day out, how they treat those around them, how they participate in the community and so much more. What insights you gain in that time together!
This September marked a very special Eagle’s Nest wedding between my son Walter and new wonderful daughter in law Caitlin Cutchin. Walter grew up from almost Day 1 at camp. Caitlin joined the ranks when she was a bit older at about age 10. I love it that they have had the benefit of living in a community together, working hard side by side, sharing friendships and high adventures. It is a great start to the years ahead.
Walter and Caitlin
We would love to hear from all of you out there who met your partner in life at Eagle’s Nest – I know there are lots of you. Send us your stories and a picture or two and we will hopefully be able to compile them all one day. What a fun read that would be! I guess I should get busy writing my story too since my husband and I met at ENC, Paige Lester-Niles, you need to get writing too.
Congratulations to our newest Nest Couple Walter and Caitlin!
Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director
SEP. 16, 2016
This year has been full of wonderful connections in our alumni community. Groups of old and new friends are coming together all over the country to share their stories of Camp, Hante and Outdoor Academy experiences. Here at Eagle’s Nest, we are making a consorted effort to improve our Alumni Relations, deepen the connections our alumni have with each other, and creating a network of people who have walked similar paths and share memories of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Outdoor Academy celebrated its 20th year in 2016 with an all-day festive reunion in Pisgah Forest. Since April we have been ramping up our alumni involvement, and bringing folks back into the circle of the Nest. In the spring we asked for updated contact information from everyone in the ENF family and had a great response, but we still have many alumni connected to their parent’s home, email and phone numbers… We want your updated contact information: Update your Contact Info
Just last week an Alumni Survey was launched to deepen the connections within our community. Over 100 alums responded with feedback and comments. The purpose of this survey is to focus our efforts on the areas our alumni care about, get them involved in mentoring, recruitment and engagement with our board and staff. 74% of survey participants reported that Eagle’s Nest and The Outdoor Academy have significantly affected their life choices, proof that the experiences gained at 43 Hart Road are transformative and powerful…We want your input and ideas: Alumni Survey
Semester 42 Reunion
Eagle’s Nest has also been traveling to cities far and wide to host official Regional Alumni Gatherings. These casual events are intended to connect alums with others in their geographical area. We usually meet and greet at a restaurant, have drinks and appetizers and much merriment ensues!
We know our alums are meeting up on their own too, and love to hear the happenings from these get-togethers! Recently, the students of Semester 42 (Spring 2016) gathered for a Labor Day Reunion in the Mountains. They laughed and played and made a commitment to future OA students. This group of fresh, young Alumni banded together and collected a donation for the Alumni Scholarship Fund in honor of Semester 42.
Our Alumni Community has the opportunity to both celebrate Eagle’s Nest history and guide our future. Whether you’re hosting a promotions party, recommending a friend, fundraising for scholarships, or serving as a resource to an interested family, your involvement will create opportunities for more young adventurers to experience Eagle’s Nest Camp, Hante and The Outdoor Academy.
Upcoming Alumni Events:
- Nest of the West! Colorado Alumni Hike at Chautauqua Park, Boulder CO Saturday October 15th @ 8:30am Nest of the West Event Details
- Atlanta Alumni Gathering at Smokebelly BBQ Friday November 18th @ 6:00pm (event details coming soon!)
- Asheville Alumni Gathering date TBD, sometime in December!
Cara Varney, Annual Fund & Alumni Manager
SEP. 9, 2016
“I bet you’re really good at building fires after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
I’ve heard that a few times, usually when I’m crouched beside a pile of smoking sticks that just won’t seem to light. You’d think that after a 147 day stretch of backcountry travel I’d be a fire master, but my ability to get a good blaze going is limited at best. Truth be told, I only built one fire on the AT. Most nights I’d sit by fires ignited by fellow hikers or I’d fall asleep right after dinner, full-bellied and exhausted.
Campfires are often referred to as “wilderness television”. They’re the perfect centerpiece for sharing stories of adventure and singing songs passed down from generation to generation. I can’t count the number of times I’ve lost myself in daydreams while staring into hot coals, or watched glowing embers float upward toward a sky full of stars. Fires are magical.
And so, in May I decided that I’d spend the next three months getting better at making fires.
Our Opening Day schedule shifted a bit this summer, making room for a camp-wide game and a special ceremony for our oldest campers (CITs), among other things. I took the lead on preparing the CIT ceremony, which, we decided, should begin with a fire on Nature Hill. This was it – the chance to hone my skills. I was stoked (and really hoped my fire would be, too).
On the first evening of each session, I walked up to Nature Hill alone, collecting materials along the way: tiny pieces of dry Hemlock, small sticks, and a pocket-full of dryer lint from the Laundry Hut. As I prepared the fire, I quietly thought about words I wanted to share with the CITs as they began their session. I also thought about my own goals for the weeks ahead. In the busy day-to-day life at camp, quiet, introspective moments aren’t always easy to find, so I relished these times beside the fire ring.
On some occasions, a camper who felt a little homesick or a counselor seeking advice would come up and join me as I worked. We’d talk about different methods of building fires, snapping sticks and delicately adding them to our tee-pee of wood. Somewhere along the way, the homesick camper would laugh, and the counselor and I would talk through a tough issue, all before flame first touched those little sticks.
On one of the final nights of the summer, I made my way to Nature Hill a few minutes before our JPA/PA campfire. There were a couple counselors trying to get the fire going and not having much luck. We’d had a lot of rain the days before, and everything was wet. I kneeled beside them and tried to help, but nothing would catch. A few minutes later 60+ campers arrived, excited about campfire singing and s’mores. I could feel the anxiety swelling in the two counselors working on the fire. I assured them that we’d get it going (although I was beginning to worry a little myself). The three of us continued to work together as the campers sang, and eventually ignited a beautiful, albeit small, blaze.
When the campers went to their cabins a little while later, we stuck around for a few minutes to enjoy the dying fire and laughed about how we didn’t think we’d get it going. I realized a couple of things in that moment that will stick with me. I improved my fire-building skills this summer, but I’m certainly still not great at it. But through the process, I connected with campers, staff, and myself in a special way. Sure, I could’ve poured fuel on some wood and had a roaring fire each and every time, but slowly and intentionally building the fires created a space for me to listen, share, and connect. I’ve always been drawn to beautiful campfires, roaring flames, and glowing coals, but this summer I found magic in the process.
Liz Snyder, Assistant Camp Director