Dear Followers, Friends and the Faithful to Asto Wamah,
I am very excited to be writing to you about all that has happened at CAW during the past year. We had a great group of campers and staff as well as a number of new additions to our programs and facility this summer.
Whenever I review a session, season or year at camp, I always seem to begin with the weather. As you well know, good weather is of critical importance at camp. Sunny, hot and dry were the descriptors that stood out this summer. Some may say too sunny, too hot, or too dry; however, when you are talking about living outdoors for 7+ weeks, the summer of 2016 was close to perfect.
Enrollment was surprisingly strong considering we had just been through a low-enrollment year in 2015. Last summer we counted 3,752 camper days, whereas this summer the number was 4,499. If it weren’t for a few no-shows, all bunks would have been filled.
Most of the 320 campers who attended were from CT but a number traveled long distances to arrive. Word of mouth continues to be our most valued form of PR. More and more families are finding us on the Internet and using our virtual tour video as an introduction to CAW. On the Camper Evaluation form at the end of each session, each child was asked to complete this sentence: “Because of my stay at Asto Wamah I learned to be…”. The most common responses were more polite, nicer/kinder, willing to try new things, respectful, open minded, positive, more outgoing, braver, responsible, patient and grateful—all characteristics we strive for every summer. Parents were sent a Survey Monkey evaluation soon after the end of each session. 100% of the responding parents viewed the experience as “positive” and 91% indicated that their child would be returning in 2017. We are most grateful for our good fortune and excellent reputation as well as the exceptional group of people with whom we partner.
A very sincere tribute goes to the extraordinary staff that work tirelessly to make sure that an Asto Wamah experience is the best available for each of our campers. From cabin counselors to program leaders, our entire staff is made up of adults who have either grown up at CAW or have served on staff in the past. They are devoted and loyal and each serves as an important role model to the campers in our care. They are a strong team that puts their hearts and souls into their duties. Clearly the heroes of Asto Wamah!
Some changes to the facility stood out this summer. It was almost a year ago that the Lodge floor was stripped and brought back to its original color and sheen. It had survived the wear and tear of camp life for 60 years and we trust that this new and improved version will continue to do so for decades to come. Another facility improvement was the resurfacing of the 39-year old tennis court. The addition of pickle ball brought new excitement to the court. Without question, however, the biggest impact to programming came with the Gaga Pit. It is played in a 20-foot diameter octagon with a sandy floor and has 36-inch high walls. It is basically a game of dodge ball. Its popularity was amazing! It entertained both campers and staff as no other game ever has—much more popular than tetherball, ping-pong, knock hockey and horseshoes combined! A Columbia Boy Scout built the Gaga Pit as part of an Eagle Scout project.
Several major changes were made to our daily schedule this summer. The most drastic change was allowing campers to choose from a list of options in place of participating in General Swim. If it was 95° (and after the first 3 weeks it usually was), everyone went swimming. The list of activity options on cooler days included a game on the field (always popular), fishing (a favorite amongst the boys), learning to play the ukulele or keyboard (big hit with an enthusiastic group), an art activity geared to a small group (terrific opportunity for the creative camper) or an adventure in the woods with our nature-man. It did not take the staff long to get used to this new flexibility and enjoy the wider range of choices. Those who wanted to swim enjoyed less crowding and a more enthusiastic crowd.
Several years ago we lost our most recent piano to old age and dampness. In restoring a ‘music’ option, we purchased a keyboard which was available to staff and campers throughout the day. Campers also learned how to play our 8 new ukuleles and produced a good number of excellent Talent Show acts.
The need for campership money remained strong in 2016. Sixty six of our 320 campers this summer attended as a result of campership support. Twenty of those 66 were first year campers. All in all, they attended for a total of 138 weeks. The result was a wonderfully diverse group of young people who enriched Asto Wamah with talents, excitement and life experiences. For CAW, the ability to share an Asto Wamah experience with a child, regardless of his or her financial situation, is a blessing that we attribute to the 100th Fund and its generous donors.
Asto Wamah is presently thriving. We have worked to maintain a reputation that attracts new camp families to us and keeps the old returning year after year. I hope this letter has confirmed that Asto Wamah, in its 107th year, continues to prosper. We believe in the life-long lessons youth can learn through a positive camp experience. Providing a community where children can grow and develop while exposing them to various challenging and adventurous activities is what Asto Wamah has done since its beginning. Thank you for your past support and know that donations of any size are sincerely appreciated and prudently used to support Camp Asto Wamah as it enters its 108th year.