It started 10 years ago with a question. How can we bring families together to enjoy the outdoors while raising money for camp? The answer, the WA WA Wally Waddle. This Mother’s Day tradition will once again take place at the Vassar Farms Ecological Preserve in Poughkeepsie, NY and features 3 races.
100 yard dash with Wally for kids 6 and younger. 1 mile race for kids 13 and younger.5k for anyone who can run/walk/hop 3.1 miles.
The Wally Waddle comes alive with the help of WA WA Segowea alumni and current staff members, members of the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club, and community business sponsors. The Waddle features not only 3 races, but also face painting, balloon animals, and arts & craft projects led by Camp Segowea staff.
As we enter our 10th year we have raised over $30,000 to help send children to Camp Segowea. Registrations for the events, day-of raffles, and donations collected around this healthy, community event go towards sending children to Camp WA WA for two-week sessions. Your participation at the Waddle is not only important for the fun of having more friends to join us, but also to help us send more kids to Camp each summer.
For those that spent time at Camp WA WA Segowea, located on over 450 acres of secluded land in the “5 Towns” area of New Marlborough County in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, there are a whole bunch of things that can seem like a fairly normal part of a summer vocabulary. There’s doing “Campers Kapers” (chores) every day, hiking to “Ump” (Umpachene Falls, the nearest waterfall), walking on the log (it floats, and rolls, in the camp lake), and looking forward to the “Gold Rush” (a popular game that involves searching for gold painted rocks) to name just a few.
To people that have never been to Camp WA WA Segowea, all of this can be pretty new and confusing! It is common for new friends and families to notice the unabashed love alumni have for our special summer home and also wonder, “What is ‘WA WA’ and what do kids do there?”
And while camp’s website has lots of information about Camp WA WA’s summer programs, getting to talk with someone close to Camp WA WA about the underlying culture of the camp and about what they understand to be, “the WA WA way” is usually the most helpful route to understanding the answers to that question.
When asked, “What do you love most about Camp WA WA?” on their surveys, many campers write in, “EVERYTHING.” For them Camp WA WA is much more than a sleep-away camp, it is the place to meet new friends, see old friends, and build memories that can be indescribable to anyone that wasn’t with them for their time there.
Alumni have said that their take-aways from Camp WA WA are life-changing, and see the impact of being together in community with campers within a similar age range and also from a wide-range of backgrounds as a cornerstone of the program. More than the small details, like what skill classes they chose to take in the afternoon, it is the larger traditions of sleeping in simple cabins to the sounds of crickets (and pirates- but that’s a whole other blog post!), increasing self-sufficiency skills like how to build a fire, or swim, or row a boat, and the tremendous amount of singing and laughter (sometimes at the same time!) that fill summer weeks that leave a lasting impression.
As Camp WA WA’s 91st summer in the Berkshires approaches, everyone is looking forward to many more families joining the Camp WA WA Family. Those interested in learning more can meet our Lily Mercogliano Easton, our Camp Director and an alumna of the camp from 1993, at one of the following upcoming information sessions:
BROOKLYN, NY: January 12, 12pm-3pm, “Schools Out for Summer” Fair at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.
CAPITAL DISTRICT: March 13, 6pm-8pm, “Slingerlands Elementary School Camp Fair” at Slingerlands Elementary School in Delmar, NY.
DUTCHESS COUNTY: April 28 & 29 at “Kid Venture” at Dutchess County Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY.
DUTCHESS COUNTY: May 15, 9am-11am at the 10th Annual “WA WA Wally Waddle 5K Race and Walk” at Vassar Farms, Poughkeepsie, NY.
BERKSHIRES: June 1, 11:30 AM- 3 PM at “Planting Day Spring Open House” at Camp WA WA Segowea in Southfield, MA.
At the end of each two week session, camp is closed with a candle light ceremony and the words, “May the light of Segowea stay with you all year long and bring you right back here next summer!” Summer 2019 will be tremendous, and welcoming new families and youth will be one of the biggest highlights.
Camp WA WA Family Camp over Labor Day Weekend is an opportunity for everyone in a family to unwind and take in the very last moments of summer!
Our Camp Director, Lily Mercogliano Easton, brings her family of four to Camp WA WA Family Camp and in this latest blog post she shares her three favorite features of this unique summer escape.
1. Building Community With Other Families! A vacation with other people for my kids to meet and play with is my favorite kind of vacation because it is easier for my husband and I to relax while they are off having fun!
2. Natural Wonders Provide Endless Entertainment! Searching for frogs, tossing rocks in the lake, running across the field, watching for beavers, taking out a canoe, and collecting sticks provide my kids with endless ways to have fun. It is magical to watch how that final walk down the dusty camp road into our lakeside valley pushes away digital needs and replaces them with the strongest desire to explore outside!
3. Cooking is Optional! Camp WA WA’s Camp Cook prepares delicious hot meals all day Saturday and Sunday, and breakfast on Monday. All meals are served family style in the dining hall. A cereal and yogurt bar at breakfast, and lunchtime and dinner salad, soup, and PBJ bar in addition to the main courses means everyone can find what they want. Campers help set and clear the tables, and can join in with meal prep only if desired!
Camp WA WA Family Camp 2018 is Friday, August 31 through Monday, September 3. Day passes are available for Sunday, September 1. Rent a family cabin for the whole weekend or come visit for the day!
Registration for Family Camp is completed online at campdoc.com. Group Cabins are limited to first come basis. For questions, please email our Camp Director by August 12.
The idea of giving back is central to the “WA WA Way,” our unwritten code of how we treat each other, and our beloved camp, when we are at Camp WA WA Segowea (and hopefully, when we are out in the wider world too!).
We all participate in chores every day, and we all extend the gift of friendship to our fellow campers. We also keep in mind that camp is home to wildlife for the entire year and we are only guests during the summer, a notion that requires we give our furry friends and local fauna both space and respect at all times!
And we extend the camp experience to as many campers as possible each year, regardless of financial ability to cover all of the costs of a camp session.
Smith Park of New York, Inc., the non-profit organization that runs Camp WA WA Segowea, gives generous “Campership” scholarships ranging from over $1,000 to $100 to meet the needs of our families. In 2017 Smith Park gave out over $25,000 in Camperships to 36 campers! This year our program capacity has expanded, and over 40 campers have applied for campership support to attend camp.
We continue the tradition of “Campership” scholarships because we know that every camper that comes to Camp WA WA will give back in one way or another. And with this in mind we celebrate each and every camper that makes the effort to attend for the very first time or return for another year!
Starting this Monday, June 18, we are launching our second annual “Director’s Drive”- a special fund intended to get our final campers to camp this summer! You can donate to the Camp WA WA Director’s Fund via our fundraiser on Facebook HERE or directly through our paypal account found HERE.
I will give generously to the Camp WA WA Director’s Drive because I was once a kid who needed campership in order to attend and I want all campers to have the same chance to experience Camp WA WA! I hope you will give generously too!
Swimming in a pristine lake, reading under the shade of generations-old oak trees, racing through the woods during a game of capture the flag, sleeping in a bunk-bed and drifting off to the croaks of bullfrogs or the far-off hoots of a great horned owl, living and playing with people of all backgrounds: that is Camp WA WA Segowea. Kids find their independence, make lifetime friendships, and learn how to live conscientiously in a community. Everyone’s experiences and journeys are unique, but Smith Park of New York (SPONY), believes Camp WA WA Segowea offers true, life-changing growth that should be accessible to all kids, from all backgrounds.
SPONY alumni and friends are the backbone of these experiences. They help to fund Camper Scholarships through events, social campaign fundraising, and through volunteer service. This is how Camp WA WA Segowea can give the summer outdoor camp experience to those that need a little extra help.
The Annual WA WA Wally Waddle 5K and Kids Run is organized by WA WA Alumni in cooperation with the Mid-Hudson Road Runners Club and held on Mother’s Day every year at Vassar Farms Ecological Preserve in Poughkeepsie, NY. This popular family event directly funds Camper Scholarship for Camp WA WA Segowea. Registrations for the events, day-of raffles, and donations collected around this healthy, community event go towards sending children to Camp WA WA for two-week sessions. Your participation at the Waddle is not only important for the fun of having more friends to join us, but also to help us send more kids to Camp each summer.
Pleasejoin us for the 9th Annual WA WA Wally Waddle 5K and Kids Runs.
We are so excited to be able to continue the WA WA Segowea Camp experience for the 90th year here at Smith Park! Last year, we began the journey of not only managing the facilities but also doing the hiring, running the program, and having total responsibility in all camp matters! It was such a smashing success of “doing it ourselves”, this summer we are continuing the journey and seeing how much more we can create together! Read more about this and other things going on this spring check out issue #7 of the Firefly below.
It may not feel like it right now, but spring is on the way, and with it the 9th Annual WA WA Wally Waddle 5k and kids run. This Mother’s Day tradition will once again take place at Vassar Farms and features 3 races: a 100 yard dash with Wally for kids 6 and younger, a 1 mile race for kids 13 and younger and a 5k for anyone who can run/walk/hop 3.1 miles. Preregistration ends at midnight Friday May 11th.
January brings many things: hopes and goals for the New Year, a return to school from holiday breaks, and for many of us, the beginning of our countdown to summer camp!
This January, we were fortunate to get a special note from a parent whose child attended Camp WA WA for the first time last summer. We are happy to share the letter in it’s entirety below. This letter beautifully highlights the experience thousands of campers have had at WA WA over the past 90 years, and is such an awesome reminder of how powerful our program can be for an individual camper. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Dear Camp WA WA…
I’m writing this letter as if you were a dear friend… because – it feels like you are. We don’t “know each other” personally – you know my daughter. Do you remember her because SHE REMEMBERS YOU! In fact, she talks about YOU all the time! You see, last year – my daughter had the blessing and gift of receiving a scholarship to visit you. Did you know you changed her life?
Let me tell you Wa Wa – you are MY friend for life now too.
You might not know this but the little girl who left and the little girl who came back were two very different people. You are a very good friend to have – you give little girls so many things. I sent you a little girl with anxiety and fears and some broken pieces… I had no idea you would send me back a child who was brave and self-confident – who learned skills to fix her OWN broken pieces.
This little girl has not had an easy life. She was so scared to travel to WA WA where she knew no one and had no friends. She had never been away from me for more the 2 nights! She balked 2 weeks before camp started but we talked a lot about being brave and we packed… OK we over-packed.
On drop-off day she was scared – I was terrified. Who were these people I was trusting with my little girl with her broken wings and fears? Would you know that she can get nervous sometimes when she doesn’t have a friend by her side? Would you know she practiced swimming for 2 weeks because she was terrified of the water test? Would you know that she wanted her bunk to be pretty and that she was didn’t like certain foods? She cried when I left and I almost took her back home but I gave her a pep talk and then I cried all the way to my car and sat in a parking lot wanting to go back and get her. And then for 2 weeks I chewed my nails off… and I too learned how to be brave.
I trusted you WA WA and you didn’t let me down. I got the first letters and they were hesitant but they were happy. I got more and they became joyful. She made friends – she became part of a family of people I never knew but they were HERS. YOU ARE HERS. You are not mine – you never WILL be mine except that through her – you are eternally mine. Because the day I picked up that little girl she cried again and so did I. But then – she cried on the way home – because she hated leaving her WA WA family. That’s what she calls you – her WA WA family. You became family last year. You changed a life. You helped a scared little girl become a brave little girl.
It has taken me months to write you this letter – to thank you… but you see last week the letter for WA WA came and I saw her face explode in joy again and the stories started again and the calendar went on the wall and the pictures on Facebook that have shown me memories that I am not a part of reminded me that I hadn’t written you to tell you – WA WA – you are amazing. There will never be a way to properly thank you for all the beautiful joy, love and care you give – you are not a camp – you are a family – and you change lives one at a time. Thank you for becoming part of our family.
Summer 2018 “Make it Ourselves Camp” will bring out the best in our staff, campers, and facilities!
Summer 2018 at Camp WA WA Segowea will feature the theme “Make it Ourselves Camp!” This theme will add additional excitement to our “Classic WA WA” experience and give campers even more of what they love most about “WA WA!”
“Classic WA WA”group activities such as capture the flag, the overnight, game night (known traditionally as “Casino Night”), carnival, and the olympics, along with individual skill choices such as swimming, boating, archery, and arts and crafts will again be offered as the basis for our 2018 programs.
“Make it Ourselves Camp” will add opportunities for campers to deepen their “WA WA” experience and build a tree house, maintain and harvest a camp garden, learn outdoor survival skills, and participate in enhanced classes to make textiles, build and cook in a solar oven and much more! When we reflected this fall on the success of summer 2017, what stood out as central to the WA WA experience is our ability to do things in the wilderness together. As “WA WAs” we saw a clear tradition of making and trying new things, and of building community while away from what we consider necessities during the rest of the year.
For Summer 2018: “Make It Ourselves Camp,” we are going to see how much further we can take our adventures at Camp WA WA Segowea! We want to consider how much more we can create together, what new challenges we can tackle, and even in what ways we can better care for our community!
The following programs and sessions will be offered for Summer 2018: “Do it Ourselves Camp” at Camp WA WA Segowea:
Session 1: July 15- July 28, 2018
Session 2: July 29- August 11, 2018
*1 week “Mini Sessions” are available for Base Camp during both sessions
Family Camp Labor Day Weekend: August 31- September 3, 2018
Base Camp, 8-14 year olds:
Campers thrive in a community environment that encourages self-expression, friendship building, risk taking, and outdoor play. Campers participate in twice daily all-camp activities, daily swim lessons, and choose afternoon skill building classes. Together with five to eight other campers and two experienced counselors, base campers create a cabin home that is an integral part of the larger Camp community. A sleep out under the stars is a highlight of the first week of each session and a camp dance closes the experience at the end of the second week.
Teen Camp, 12-14 year olds:
Teen Camp, Session 1: “Base Challenge:” Enjoy day outings into all the beauty that surrounds Camp WA WA! Special programming will include day hikes & a canoe outing, weekly overnights, and skill building experiences customized for our teen campers.
Session 2: “AT Challenge” Embark on a two-night, three day hike on the Appalachian Trail! Additional special programming will include day hikes and a canoe outing, and select skill building experiences customized for teen campers.
Leaders in Training (LITs) are 9th and 10th grade graduates who are beginning their journey towards becoming counselors. LITs can attend for 1 or 2 sessions and live in an independent cabin while assisting Base Camp counselors with the camp program.
Counselors in Training (CITs) are 10th grade graduates who join a month long program (Sessions 1 & 2) that prepares them to become Junior Counselors. CITs also have the option of becoming Certified Lifeguards and will be trained in First Aide and CPR. Both LITs and CITs engage in a leadership program that teaches the basics of camper development, skill instruction, and leadership potential.
To learn more about Camp WA WA Segowea, and for more information about our “Campership” scholarship program that provides tuition assistance to campers in need, please visit www.smithpark.org/campwawa! Registration will open just as soon as we finalize our 2018 updates. Register before January 15 to receive $100 off camper sessions!
It’s December, and we CANNOT WAIT for July to arrive!
Thank you to the many people who made our first Giving Tuesday fundraiser a success! With your help, we were able to surpass our goal and raise $1685 for camper scholarships. Wow!
That fundraising total can help several kids spend two weeks at camp. Many of our families need just a bit of financial help to make camp possible. They’re saving through the year. They’re doing payment plans. Our scholarship fund is often used to just close the remaining gap. That little bit of help is what I needed my first summer when I fell in love with WA WA and asked my parents if I could stay an extra two weeks! It’s a common story you’ll hear from many alumni.
If you missed Giving Tuesday, have no fear! We have several fundraisers and events coming up this winter and spring that could really use your support:
Gift Wrapping at Barnes and Noble in Poughkeepsie (12/2 from 3-9pm; 12/16 from 9am-9pm)
The Smith Park Board Annual Campaign
The CrowdRise Online Fundraiser
The Segowea NCAA Online Basketball Pool in Mid-March
The Wally Waddle 5K Walk/Run and Free Kids Runs on Mother’s Day at Vassar Farm