Jeff Cobb, FLC-AA President
Earlier this year many of you received a message officially introducing the FLC Alumni Association and I am excited to share more here. I am joined as President of our Board by Jane Bernstein (Vice President), Mary Hearst Egan (Secretary), and Marc Grelsamer (Treasurer). As stated before, we have two main goals.
First, we want to solidify the connection between Forest Lake Camp and its alumni, including staff, campers (18yo+), and those who have participated in the wedding celebrations held on the grounds of FLC. This connection will help support the camp’s mission of providing memorable experiences for children during the summer, and for newlyweds, schools and other groups in the spring and fall.
Second, moving forward we will take the lead in administering the Ollie Van Cise Scholarship Fund. The Fund is named in honor of an FLC icon who gave 30 years of his life to Forest Lake Camp, most spent as the Junior Camp Head Counselor, where he introduced generations of FLC boys to camp traditions and important life lessons of kindness, reliability, fairness and decency. The Fund provides partial financial support to supplement to families who are unable to afford the full tuition cost of a FLC session.
The Fund has been in operation as an informal program for approximately 10 years. During this time the Blanck and Kelly families have demonstrated their willingness to make FLC accessible to as many families as possible. It is our hope that the FLC-AA can remove the administrative burden from camp leadership and solicit more outside donations to support the Fund.
With your help, FLC will not only be able to serve more deserving boys and girls, but can then continue to focus its resources to continually improve the program, people and facilities at FLC. FLC leadership has already seen the difference that the Confer Pavilion, a new mess hall and other amenities have made in camp life. There is no doubt that the difference an FLC experience makes in the lives of children is even more profound. We want to build on this success!
How can you help? We hope you will assist with both donations and publicity. Doubtless you know others who may be interested in supporting this cause. Perhaps you can contact them or provide us with important information. We would also like to reconnect with FLC alumni who are temporarily detached from us!
For deserving kids that you identify, you might even suggest to their parents that they apply. The Fund will prioritize children of Alumni and the application process is as simple as possible. Parents may learn more by visiting: https://forestlakecamp.com/parents-info/scholarships/ . The applications are considered by members of the FLC-AA Board, and then parents are contacted regarding their eligibility.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of our goals, and we hope to see you at our next FLC Alumni Reunion the weekend of August 21-23, 2020.
Mary (Hearst) Egan, FLC-AA Board Secretary
It’s YOUR day! Alumni of all ages and their families are invited to return home to Forest Lake Camp August 21-23rd, 2020 for a full weekend of camp activities. Highlights will include a softball game, color war, and of course campfire! Also on the lineup of activities: canoeing, kayaking, archery, a hike to lookout, tennis, climbing wall, and more! You won’t want to miss out!
But who exactly is a Forest Lake Camp alum?
In the traditional sense both campers and counselors are of course Forest Lake alumni. However, in true FLC spirit, the camp has extended itself beyond the traditional and welcomes all couples who hosted their wedding at FLC, and anyone who has attended FLC’s infamous family camp. Whether you were a camper for eight weeks, or bunked for one night during these momentous occasions you undoubtedly experienced the magic that is FLC.
Next summer Forest Lake will celebrate 95 years of the boy’s camp, and 30 years of the girl’s camp! Pack your sleeping bags & flash flights (or torches for those of you joining us from abroad), and don’t forget to bring your mess hall singing voices. This will be an occasion that you won’t want to miss!
Look out for more information over the next few months. Registration will open on February 1, 2020.
Once There Was An Adirondack Camp For Boys
Jane Bernstein, FLC-AA Vice President
I met Gary Confer in 1988 when he came to our house to introduce us to Forest Lake Camp. I had an instant connection with Gary and confidence in his philosophy and leadership, so we enrolled Keith without hesitation. Over the summers of 1988 and 1989 I had many conversations with Gary about the valuable influence that a camp experience has on the lives of children. I spent sixteen years at an all girls’ camp in Ulster County, starting in the youngest cabin and finishing as Head Counselor; and, like Gary, I was an elementary school teacher. Later, in Keith’s second summer, Gary mentioned that after fifty-two successful years, the Confers were opening a “sister” camp and asked if I would be interested in working in the inaugural season…so it began.
That first summer was a whirlwind. Of course, everything was new but we ladies were fortunate to have such great support. I knew that Gary had our backs from day one. He allowed us to carve out our own experience and try new things. Ultimately, it all fell into place, but I could not have managed the first season without the daily meetings and brain storming with the Hill Office. Jeff Cobb and Mike Clarke were always there to show me the ropes. My small, but fabulous staff – Nicola McAuley (second HC through the late nineties), Kate O’Rourke (whose three children are now campers/counselor), Jenn Bahr, Kathleen Treanor, Judith Christiansen, Bari Lynn, Chrissy Katchen, Cathy Ann Bennett, and Stella McLaughlin – worked tirelessly for nine weeks to ensure that our girls were happy, learning and thriving. The enthusiasm of that first staff was infectious.
It did not take long for our pioneer girls to be fully immersed in all that FLC had to offer. Athletics, Trips, Gymnastics, Crafts, Drama and Waterfront were now chosen with a decidedly “girl power” enthusiasm. Ginny Confer’s Riding program reigned supreme! We brought a particular spin to all performances, skits, parodies, campfires and original cabin songs at Banquet. We turned special activities like Fourth of July, Color War and Banquet into extravaganzas. Before long, our songs in the DR rivaled the traditional cheers from the boys in volume and spirit. We were a compact group allowing us to load up the entire camp in a van, or two, and head to Glens Falls for roller skating or a movie. “Lazy Day” breakfasts in the cabin were unique to the Girls’ Camp and just one of the special memories we hold dear.
Though our numbers were small in 1990, our spirits and hearts were huge. The Pioneer campers and staff of thirty years ago laid the foundation of the vibrant, expanded and high quality camp experience that is so evident today. Well done, ladies! Here’s to our FLC daughters, granddaughters and the exciting decades to come.
FLC General Camp Update
Geoff Blanck & Tobin Kelly
From late June until Mid-August, the atmosphere at Forest Lake Camp would look more than familiar to all of you who attended FLC over the long course of its history. Though we’ve evolved some program elements like the CIT program (now called LIT) or the Wilderness experience, the essence of camp; happy campers, loud mess hall cheers, the camaraderie of color wars, the routine of cabin clean-up and activities, remain true as ever to the spirit of FLC.
You only have to sit in the mess hall for one dinner or attend one chapel (and we encourage you all to do so!) to have the timelessness of camp wash over you and to fall back to your own time spent at the end of Forest Lake Road.
In the summer of 2019 camp thrived. A fantastic staff, amazing weather and the great efforts of our Directors and others made this a summer to remember. We expanded our Wilderness program so that every camper gets off camp for at least one adventure in the Adirondacks. We leapt forward with our LIT (Leader in Training) program which now includes lifeguard training along with formal opportunities for community stewardship and giving back to the FLC community. We had about 200 campers spend a part of their summer with us this year from 8 countries and 17 states. We opened up a new cabin in Girls camp that was enjoyed by this year’s LIT group.
We continue to add to the physical plant at FLC. Many of you have had the chance to dive off our new docks, shoot hoops in the Confer Pavilion or eat in the new Mess Hall which have all been added in the past 10 years in addition to this year’s new cabin. By next summer you would have the chance to dance in our new dance studio, play tennis on the new tennis court (located where the old 3rd lower court was for those who can remember it), or even sleep in the old latrine on boys hill (we’ll need a new name once we remodel it!).
Part of what makes all of this building and improvement possible is that camp isn’t just for young campers anymore! In the past 10 years, we have done a tremendous amount of work to build camp from the 8 week summer camp that it has been historically, into a place that has energy for 6 months of the year.
Our year now begins in early May, as we open camp as soon as the snow melts to welcome our first weddings and school groups of the season by mid-May. As soon as camp ends, we operate at a breakneck pace through 8 weddings, family camp and a multitude of schools and other groups.
We’ve formed some amazing partnerships over the years of growing camp and we take great pride in the fact that we are now able to provide the gift of FLC and the Adirondacks to these groups of people who would never otherwise have the chance to experience it. All of our guests are treated like family and become part of our extended family for the years to come.
Our partnership with Bonnie Brae, a school that serves at risk boys who are in crisis from New Jersey, is an example of the amazing experience we are grateful to provide. Bonnie Brae’s students are almost all from an urban population of boys who have suffered abuse, trauma or neglect. Most have also never been out of a city. The week that they spend at FLC is transformative and you only have to take one look at their website (www.bonnie-brae.org) to immediately see how they feel about camp.
This year, we piloted a camp for children with Usher Syndrome called USHthis. These children with Usher’s will all eventually lose both their sight and hearing. Because this is a rare disease effecting fewer than 1 in 10,000 people, many of the children attending the pilot camp this year had never met anyone else with Usher’s. To see the bonds that were created among this group and with our staff and our family campers who were on site was miraculous. We expect our relationship with this camp and the sponsoring non-profit called Ava’s Voice to expand with time.
This expansion has come slowly over nearly a decade, and we have now run almost 60 weddings and managed dozens of other experiences with schools, churches and companies in addition to the ones highlighted above. Each and every one of them feels unique.
And, this expansion is what has also allowed us to do all of the enhancements that benefit what we still see as our core family; our summer campers. Not only with the obvious building improvements but in more subtle ways as we have been able to expand our staff and improve most of the underlying physical plant (septic, electrical, plumbing) in the process. As was tangible when we ran USHthis alongside family camp, the intersection of the different parts of our family provide opportunities for all. A rising tide truly lifts all boats in this case.
In the next several years, our thirst for improvement (while keeping some things just the same) will continue. We will complete our new “Arts Campus” down where the old clay courts used to be in the next 24 months, will renovate the camp Lodge, and will improve/replace laundry and the infirmary. All of this while making sure that we never lose our commitment to each camper, each day and each experience our family has in the beautiful place we like to think of as home.
Finally, we would like to leave you on this note. The yellow farm house has been turned into the ‘Alumni House’ and it is available for Alumni to use whenever you would like to visit camp. It is free of charge (suggested donation to the Scholarship Fund) and just needs to be booked in advance. Included in the Alumni House is an archive room where we have displayed 90+ years of history of FLC. There you may find pictures, stories and your cabin list from when you were here at FLC. We welcome and encourage you to visit us any time and bring back those fond memories of summer days.