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Session One has Begun!!

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Woohoo!  Summer 2014 has officially begun with the arrival of our Session One campers.  We could not be more excited!  Today was a busy day.  The clouds and rain changed into a beautiful sunny afternoon/evening just as the campers on the bus arrived.  Campers were introduced to their cabin mates, went on a round robin to various key places on camp, had swim assessments, signed up for classes, and more.  We had a yummy spaghetti dinner and ended the night with our opening campfire.  All is well at Camp Jorn, and tomorrow looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.   On a closing note, Happy Fathers Day to all of our wonderful CJ fathers and father figures.

Rainy Day Activities!

Hello Everyone,

Today has been a crazy day, with hail this morning and thunderstorms this afternoon! Although the kids are having fun making candy sushi, friendship bracelets, and tie-dying! There was a few sunny hours where the kids got to play messy twister!

The White Water Rafting trip went very well! There was not a rain drop the entire trip and everyone had a blast! All the kids said “That was Awesome!” when they got back to camp.

Tonight we have our weekly Sock Hop! Which will be indoors, and everyone will be dressing in their finest superhero outfits.

Hope everyone has a nice Thursday! We are sad that tomorrow is our last full day with Session One Campers, but we will have Friendship Fire tomorrow night!

60 Years in the Making

Friendship Fire-We the Elders

Greetings all!

Another summer is roaring towards us! Every summer brings with it new excitement and it’s own uniqueness, but this year marks a very special place in our history.  This summer, we are celebrating our 60th anniversary!!  60 years is an accomplishment, but for CJ it feels like an even bigger accomplishment because it involves so many.  In the camping world, we say “we’re in the relationship business,” and it’s true.  Our history is only important because of all the connections and relationships we’ve made with the people that have crossed our path.  Not only would we not be in existence without you, but we wouldn’t have had such a rich and fulfilling past and an even brighter future to look forward to, without you.  For that, we thank you!

This August 16 through 19, we’ll be wrapping up our summer with a 60th anniversary weekend celebration, and we hope you can join us!  Friday evening, August 16, will kick off the weekend with a group dinner and performance from Bret & Frisk.  Saturday will host many of your favorite camp activities like canoeing on Rest Lake, horseback riding, water skiing, archery, etc.  We’ll also have a special celebration Saturday night.  Sunday, we’ll host our Up-North community pancake breakfast and leave you to your leisure to enjoy CJ.  To register, please check out our 60th anniversary page on our website or call the camp office at 715-543-8808.

We’re also in the process of creating a Camp Jorn History book, with help of author “Buckshot” Anderson.  Buckhot, is gathering stories from alumni to add to the book and get a feel of what the last 60 years at camp have been like.  If you’d like to share your CJ story to be considered for the book, please go to our online questionnaire.  The book will also feature photos from over the last 60 years.  If you’d like to see our historical photos you can view them at SmugMug or on our Camp Jorn YMCA Facebook page.

Although things have changed in many ways over the last 60 years at Camp Jorn, many things remain the same.  Children still sing the same songs, take the same bus ride up to camp, swim & play in Rest Lake, have camp outs at Fox Island, and come to camp for new adventures and leave as better people than when they arrived.  That is what CJ is at it’s heart, and something that will stand the test of time.

CJ Love


Ahhhh!WOW.  That’s my word for the summer of 2012 at Camp Jorn YMCA.  WOW!!

It was our biggest summer yet in terms of number of campers, but that’s just one part of the story.

The rest of the story can be seen in the many photos below from our sessions at CJ; the rest of the story can be seen in the eyes of the campers, and heard in the words of the campers; the rest of the story is written in the tall pine trees, in the sparkle of sun on Rest Lake, in the sound of laughter and the hush of reverence.

It’s a story of friendship, fun, challenge, and growth.  The story is in all of us who are part of Camp Jorn.

Camp Jorn YMCA Hosts a New Spring Event; Bringing the love from the Northwoods to Lake County, IL

Summer is so close, we can almost taste it!  The trees and plants are blooming, the temperatures are rising, and the sun is staying out longer each day.  This can only mean one thing…camp is almost here!!  With all the excitement and anticipation buzzing in the air, we (the CJ staff) thought we should have an event to not only use that electric energy and get everyone super excited for the summer, but also allow campers to meet some of their fellow session mates, and some of the summer staff before they get to camp.  We also thought it would be great for parents get a chance to meet the staff, which for many doesn’t happen unless they make the trek to the magical place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  So, this past Saturday, May 12th, Camp Jorn YMCA had its first ever Spring Campfire where we brought a little bit of the CJ spirit from the Northwoods to the Old School Forest Preserve in Lake County, IL.

From the start, we thought that the idea for the event was a great one, but we couldn’t believe the amount of interest in it until we saw it!  We had over 100 campers, parents, and friends turn out to our little Spring Campfire event!  To start it off, there was a meet and greet for campers, parents, and staff, with two fires going and s’mores for all.  Some awesome field games followed, and then it was time for our main Campfire program.  At Camp Jorn YMCA, we call our evening all-camp activity, our Campfire program.  For this program, we had a great introduction by our Camp Director, Sarah, followed by some of our favorite songs and skits led by some of our summer staff.  For some campers, they were learning these songs and seeing these skits for the first time.  And, for others, they were catching up with old camp friends on what had been going on throughput the past year and embracing the songs and skits like they were welcoming them back from a long hibernation.  Oh, those crazy camp songs that only other camp people understand and appreciate….And, Parents got to enjoy the night right along with their campers, and get a taste of what Camp Jorn is all about.

All in all, the two hour program was a blast, and we couldn’t have asked for a better night!  We look forward to hosting many of these Campfire’s in the future and can’t wait to see all of those campers that attended, this summer!

If you have some great photos or video from the Spring Campfire event, we would love to see it!  Please email Caroline with any pictures or video to

Take care, and CJ love


Hi CJ Family!

As we get closer to the most amazing summer of 2012, one of the things we think a lot about is the trips that all of our campers will go on!

Trips have always been an important part of the Camp Jorn experience.  Canoe trips on our beautiful chain of lakes, hiking trips to the Bay, or even day trips on camp property are opportunities to grow and learn.

Some people really love trips.  Some people get annoyed by the weather or the bugs.  At Camp Jorn, we believe the great things about trips heavily outweigh the challenges!!

As a Camp Jorn camper, you will definitely get a chance to learn some true camping skills.  Our staff are eager to teach CJ campers about things like how to set up a tent, how to gather different kinds of wood and start a campfire, how to cook a meal over a camp stove or fire, how to paddle a canoe or pack a backpack properly, and how to leave your campsite looking like no one was there.  It’s the art of minimum impact camping, and we’re proud to show it off!

Usually, our younger cabins go on a “day trip,” or a short overnight trip close to camp as their first trip experience.  Fox Island is a great place for these kinds of trips, as is the Bay, and even the athletic field in the middle of camp!  Some of our younger cabin groups have even been known to set up a tent in their cabin!  In any case, younger campers learn some of the basics about camping, and they play some fun games with their cabin in the process.

Older cabin groups go on a one or two night trip, and learn a bit more about what it takes to live in the wilderness for a short time.  We are so proud watching these campers go out with their counselors and JCs in canoes or on a backpacking trail!  Although sometimes it rains, or the mosquitoes come out to play, everyone who comes back from their trip can say “I did that!”  These kids learn the value of working together to get where they want to go, provide their own meals, and get along in a small group.  And they usually have a great time, and have some great stories to tell when they get back!!

TEVA campers go on a 3-4 night trip when they’re at camp.  CITs are gone for 5-8 nights on a canoe or backpacking trip.  The sense of self-confidence and accomplishment these leadership campers gain while on this trips is clearly evident when they get back into camp.  And the close-knit feeling of the group is a bond that can’t be broken- ask any of the TEVAs and CITs you know!!

Not only do trips help increase self-esteem and bring a group closer together, but research shows that trips help kids learn self-efficacy, or the concept that we can control our own functioning, and the events that affect our lives.  Check out this link for an excellent article on this concept.

I especially like this excerpt from the article:  “An individual’s positive judgment based on their efficacy promotes active involvement in activities and contributes to the growth of competencies needed in that activity.”  In other words, the self-efficacy learned on the trail carries over in a positive way into the life of the child outside of camp.

Let us know your thoughts on trips! We’d love to hear what trips you’ve been on, what you learned from them, and encouraging words for our campers who have not yet experienced a trip!

A Camp Jorn Story

This story came to us from a social worker who wanted to express her feelings about what Camp Jorn YMCA can do for kids.  It can be hard sometimes for those of us who have experienced Camp Jorn to put into words what camp means to us, but this story embraces the essence when we think of our Camp Jorn.  Enjoy.

I first became aware of Camp Jorn YMCA when, as the classroom social worker, I asked the students in my classroom who would like to attend camp that summer.

Immediately, Peter shot up from his seat. He knew exactly where he wanted to go. Well, not exactly, he had to scramble to recall the name of the camp since it had been two years, back in the 4th grade, when he had attended Camp Jorn.   When we pulled up the Camp Jorn website, surprisingly we found Peter’s picture on their home page.  It is also worth noting that when I asked Peter’s junior high classmates who of them were interested in attending camp, only Peter responded. I sadly noted that even by junior high, some children had lost their hope or enthusiasm for the pleasures of good things to come….. but not Peter!

I’d begun working with Peter during his 6th grade year. He came across as a bouncy, sweet kid, but I knew from reading records that his past had been laden with significant family turmoil, displacement from his parents’ home, poverty, as well as a learning disability. At the time he was living with his grandmother. Finances were so tight that when the electric bill went unpaid, the family lived without electricity for a few weeks. Despite family struggles, Peter flourished in school during 6th grade. He went from an impulsive, not very directed kid, to a boy who was conducting himself in a more meaningful, thoughtful manner. Things were looking up. And now he would top off the academic year by returning to Camp Jorn.It was clear in working with Peter’s family that they not only needed the financial support to plan for camp, but also the “maternal function” of someone working out the details between camp and home – that was me.  I was warmly and ably assisted in this process by Camp Jorn’s Registrar, Emir Butler. She and her lovely Irish lilt were my first personal contact with Camp Jorn. She was personal and personable, interested in Peter, and ready to assist me in the many ways needed to support him.

Peter was so excited to return. Earlier, toward the end of the 2010 academic year, our Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL) classroom that Peter attended was closed. I’d had to inform Peter that not only was our classroom team of teachers, aides,  and  support staff disbanding, but that he would be moving to a classroom several towns away. He’d looked at me and said, “Every time something good happens to me, it gets taken away.” We both had tears in our eyes. Since that 6th grade year, Peter had not yet regained his grip on being the student he had become. He continually found himself in a vicious cycle of depression, lack of focus, and limited motivation. But then Camp Jorn returned for him. From about March to June, the largest part of our work together was preparing, with his father, to attend camp. We made decisions about TEVA, locating camping clothing and supplies, and just being excited together. His excitement filled me with happiness for him and renewed hope for his future.

I had heard from a colleague that Camp Jorn offered a one-week camp scholarship if a social worker professional donated time to the camp. So I volunteered to spend a week at Camp Jorn, which gave Peter an extra week added to the two-week scholarship from SEDOL, I knew that the longer Peter was in the camp environment, the less likely that he would fall prey to all the difficulties a boy in his circumstances can find themselves in when they have three months of free time and no structured recreational activities available. 

If you’ve ever seen the 1954 movie Brigadoon, that’s a bit of what I felt as I entered Camp Jorn that Saturday in August. Brigadoon is this magical place that emerges out of the fog once every 100 years. The town’s people come alive and merriment ensues. For some kids, more fortunate than Peter, I imagine Camp Jorn is the icing on the cake of their lives. For kids like Peter, it’s much, much more.. Last summer, when I experienced Camp Jorn firsthand, I understood why Peter reports to me that going to Camp Jorn is the best part of his life.

There are many factors. First of all, the beautiful setting. The land and the water are novel and a wonder for many urban kids. Things in their urban neighborhoods can be treacherous and unmanageable. At Camp Jorn they learn to feel the magnificence of our world in a manageable way. They are given opportunities to explore the environment, engage with others, and succeed in ways often unknown to them. 

Kids, in the school environment, are primarily there to learn, but Camp Jorn is designed to put the cares of life, sometimes lives burdened with worries, loss and limitations, off to the side and focus on play and friendship building. I know for Peter, and I imagine for other kids, school can be a place where students with learning problems or family concerns are forever feeling lesser than others. Not at Camp Jorn. Camp Jorn programs and activities are set up for children to succeed, not necessarily in all areas, but in many. These successes can and do linger with Peter throughout the year.

The counselors are terrific. Many of the camp counselors, counselors in training, and even some of the  administrative staff have attended Camp Jorn in their youth. They have wonderful memories of their experience, know what it has done for them, and want to provide it for others. Many of the counselors  are high school or college students themselves and, therefore, “tell it like it is,” which I believe promotes a sense of realness, a sense of alternative family, a sense of community, and above all, a sense of playfulness. The ability to play is an essential ingredient for developing creativity and a joyful life.

Even though his second experience with Camp Jorn was as wonderful for him as the first had been, Peter has continued to struggle. During his rough 7th grade year, Peter and I maintained contact in a slightly different way, not as the direct therapist working with him in the classroom, but as an outreach worker. Whenever we speak about Camp Jorn, Peter lights up.

This spring, when beginning our planning for Peter’s next summer at Camp Jorn, Emir asked me what would happen to Peter and Camp Jorn when I no longer worked with him. She reported that repeatedly she has seen a camp “regular” fall off the radar, never to be heard from again. I was so moved by her personal investment in this child. Attitudes and dedication like this among Camp Jorn people are ultimately what makes it such an important experience for kids like Peter.

I’ve learned from speaking to Peter over these past years and observing him at Camp Jorn this past summer, and observing Camp Jorn itself, that in the right setting, with activities thoroughly orchestrated to enhance fun, skill building, playfulness, friendship, and community, the participants at Camp Jorn are exposed to the sweetest experiences in life. The thoroughness and the duration of the Camp Jorn experience actually set in motion, for youths like Peter, a sense of hope, and in my experience as a social worker, hope is one of the most valuable things we can give to our kids.

Camp Jorn sharing its pride and spirit with the world


This past Tuesday, March 20th, Camp Jorn YMCA joined several other YMCA camps to show our support for our favorite Y camp by wearing shirts, hats, pants, or whatever we could find to school/work.  Many of our campers, alumni, staff, friends, and supporters have pride in showing off their Camp Jorn spirit to the rest of the world because of what CJ means to them and what camp does for their own spirit.

pride: pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself

spirit: enthusiasm, energy, zeal, ardor, fire;  nature, drift, tenor, gist, essence, sense

Whether you are a camper looking forward to your first year at Camp Jorn, or an alumni that has accumulated mass amounts of CJ apparel…we are grateful to have you as a part of our CJ family.

Thanks to everyone for showing your pride in Camp Jorn, and your spirit for telling the world about this wonderful place and people!!

Staff Training: What Sets Camp Jorn Apart


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As we finish up staff interviewing and hiring for the summer of 2012, we turn to the work of creating the highest quality Staff Training program we can.  Our campers deserve only the BEST OF THE BEST!  Staff Training week is one of the most challenging yet incredibly rewarding weeks of the summer for our staff, as they ready themselves for the amazing job of helping campers recognize and develop value in themselves and in the world around them.

Typically, the management team of Directors arrives early in June, working for a few days on things like getting their program areas ready and putting together lesson plans for classes.  We also talk about aspects of good supervision, helping the counseling staff do their best, and what it takes to run a great program all summer long.

Then the assistants, instructors, counselors and junior counselors arrive and the enthusiasm and level of excitement increase by a million percent!!  Of course, we need to get our certifications in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and Lifeguarding completed.  Then we spend the next several days getting ready for the important work ahead of us.

This year, we’re excited to have the folks from uLEAD running some excellent sessions for our staff.  uLEAD is an organization that provides “unique leadership experiences for asset development.”  Based in Indiana, uLEAD offers measurable experiences for leadership, growth, and change, utilizing their Leadership3 model.  This model “was created to affect lasting change and leadership that sticks by focusing on six core principles.”  These principles are: design, balance, community, competence, skills, and vision.  uLEAD works with the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets model, and focuses as well on the concept of Servant Leadership.  We are confident that our investment in this training will result in an extremely valuable experience for staff, that will enable them to provide the highest quality Camp Jorn experience for campers.

The remainder of our Staff Training week consists of SO many things, it’s sometimes tough to comprehend!

  • Trips orientation and training
  • Emergency procedures and drills
  • Child Abuse Prevention and policies
  • Child development, relationship-building, behavior management
  • Role playing camper situations
  • Teaching practices, program progression, recognition of accomplishments
  • Environmental stewardship, conservation practices, appreciating our natural world
  • Evening programs, themes, campfires, songs, fun!

The list goes on!  In the end, we arrive at our first camper session READY and chomping at the bit to get started with the BEST SUMMER EVER, 2012!!!

Learning at Camp???

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I know, it’s crazy, right?  Learning is what you have to do the rest of the year at school!!  Camp is all about fun, activities, and friends, not learning!!

Hate to break it to you, but there’s actually a LOT of learning going on at Camp!  But don’t worry, it’s only the FUN kind you don’t even notice.

Check it out- you’re really learning all these great things!

  • How to make friends, and be a friend
  • How to live in a cabin with a bunch of other people and take care of yourself and your stuff
  • How to shoot a bow and arrow
  • How to water ski
  • How to get along with people who are different from you
  • How to take care of and ride a horse
  • How to make a dream catcher
  • How to set up a tent and cook food over a campfire
  • Why identifying poison ivy is important
  • What a Bluff Lion is
  • How to swim, paddle a canoe, or sail
  • What an eagle’s nest looks like
  • What it’s like to try something you never thought you’d ever do
  • That you can live without your iPod (at least for a little while)
  • That hiking boots work better for canoe trips than flip flops
  • That counselors are really cool and are great examples for how you can live


  • What it means to really be yourself

Feel free to comment and share some of the things you’ve learned at camp.