ErnstLIFE is good.
Women of Camp Ernst Wednesday

Look at these beautiful women! They met as Camp Ernst counselors in the 1950s and reunited this past weekend after all these years. They were full of “Do you remember…?” and laughter and, well, it was as though 50+ years hadn’t gone by since they were last together!

Camp truly builds memories and friends to last a lifetime.



S’more Family!

(It’s pretty hard to resist the s’more puns.)

This weekend’s S’more Festival was a great success! I think it was the 10th one we’ve had…so many years of our camp family supporting each other through a fun family day!

I heard parents say they were thrilled to have their campers show them around and to get to experience some of the fun stuff their kids did in the summer. I saw parents who had at one point in their lives been campers get to experience fun camp stuff together with their children. I heard campers reunite with their camp friends one last time before school started. I talked with families whose kids had made the decision to come to camp for the first time in 2015 because of their positive S’morefest experience.

All of these things were GREAT and I am so thankful for everyone who attended and helped us raise funds for our camper scholarship program! 

But I am most proud of our camp staff and the way they have created a camp family. This is not a family to replace your home family, but instead an additional family, one that accepts you, loves you, helps you, encourages you, acts silly with you, celebrates with you, and eats s’mores with you. This camp family of staff did a superb job this summer taking care of “their kids” (i.e., our kids!) and helping them feel a part of it. And this weekend, the camp family did it again, helping its own who couldn’t otherwise afford a week of camp.




Appropriately, this weekend is FAMILY CAMP…so look for more thoughts on FAMILY and CAMP next week!!

Summercamp 2014 in Review

This past summer we saw a record number of campers: 3354, to be exact. However, to me, the astonishing thing is not in the quantity but rather in the quality of the experience.

Our YMCA Camp Ernst counselors presented each week to each child as if it were their one and only. Campers were given their opportunity to shine, and shine they did!  Whether it be through conquering the fear of heights on the zipline, learning and teaching new string games, performing a strange talent, progressing up a swimming level, making music with friends, getting to know someone from another country, carrying around a log, starring in a movie, sharing snacks, leading a “dance off,” setting the logrolling record, or catching the dodgeball that won the tournament, campers were ALL OVER THE PLACE this summer making me proud.

When I ask, “Why do you come to Camp Ernst?” their overwhelming response is, “You can be yourself here.”

When I think about what makes that happen, I know that it is the camp counselors, who care with every fiber of their being, and their commitment to helping kids shine.

We look forward to serving more kids throughout the school year to come, but please know that mostly, our minds are on summer 2015 and how to make it even more magical!



The first awesome summer at the Rockin’ E Ranch is almost over! One more week of traditional ranch camp, then our first ever “Equine Adventure” session from Aug 10-13. This fall we’ll have lots more horsey options as well, including Ranch Days and even a Ranch weekend overnight. Hope to see you at the Ranch!

The first awesome summer at the Rockin’ E Ranch is almost over! One more week of traditional ranch camp, then our first ever “Equine Adventure” session from Aug 10-13. This fall we’ll have lots more horsey options as well, including Ranch Days and even a Ranch weekend overnight. Hope to see you at the Ranch!

A timeless tradition: Camp Songs!

Tonight it rained for our opening campfire so Megan (Program director) and I split the camp—she in the Lake area and I in the Valley—at two separate campfires. Later, I was telling her that the counselors sang one of my favorite classic camp songs, “Austrian Yodeler,” but they did it WRONG! Somehow it has morphed away from being a repeat-after-me song, and they have cut out the fun “oooohhhh, eeeee, ooooooaaaa…” part. It’s fine, it’s still fun…it’s just different.

Then I got an email from one of our country’s summercamp gurus, Gary Forster, who quoted a former camp director from NH about WHY CAMP SONGS ARE GREAT. That inspired me to tell you why I love camp songs!

When I was 12 and a camper for the first time, my counselor, Katee, was the “song queen” of camp. She knew EVERY song. Naturally, I wanted to be like her. I spent the next couple of years gathering camp songs from my friends who went to other camps, Girl Scout handbooks, and anyone else I could find. (this was pre-internet, of course… Today I could have just searched youtube!)

I typed them (yes, folks, on a typewriter!) and created a songbook for camp. By the time I was 15 and in my first year on staff, I was the “Song Queen” of Camp Ernst!

Now, as a mom, my kids have grown up with me singing fun camp songs during those car rides when toddlers get bored and whiny, and slow camp songs during the nights when they couldn’t get to sleep. Camp songs have been my friend in lonely times and have helped me celebrate successes, too. Camp songs are an endless source of inside jokes. My camp friends still send me emails on Tuesday that are signed, “Tuesday: Green Beans.” 

Singing a ridiculous song with nonsense lyrics and wild hand motions in front of 700 people at a campfire really breaks down those inhibitions one might initially feel.  Years and years of leading camp songs have given me the confidence to speak (or sing!) in front of any size group on just about any topic.

So this week, as our campers hike up and down Camelback Road singing “Baby Shark” and “Reese Peanut Butter Cup,” I will smile and remember that camp songs are just one more tool in the cool camp counselor’s toolkit of building kids up. Sing on!



Just happy to be at camp!

The guy jumping in this picture (Ben) is the counselor…walking down Camelback Road with his group of 13 and 14 year old campers.

I love how in this shot you can just see that the ragtag group of kids is happy to be together and, well, just happy to be at camp.

I have accidentally neglected our tumblr for the last month as we’ve gotten camp up and running. Now, in the middle of week 3, I can look back and say, “WOW, it’s been a great summer so far!” 

I am so proud of the counselors, who are here for the campers and because they love helping kids shine. I am proud of our tradition of encouraging growth in spirit, mind, body, and friendship. And I am proud of the young leaders who are excited to be at camp today and who will carry our positive culture into the future.

Feeling blessed,






Hello from England

Hi all!! 

I’m Christina Schiesler and some of you may know me as the banana boat driver last summer!! I have been staying in the beautiful city of London on a film study tour with the University of Cincinnati. I’ve seen many sites where films and television shows have been filmed, including many sites where scenes from the Harry Potter films took place!

Though I am enjoying myself overseas, seeing all that I can in the short time I am here in London, I am most looking forward to the days following my cinema tour. One of the most amazing things I’ve gained from attending camp, is meeting so many wonderful people from all over the world, many of whom I have become very close with. 

In just a fews short days, I will travel from London to the beautiful city of Nottingham to visit and stay with Danny (Lakeview Unit Leader last summer) and Tilley (LIT Unit Leader last summer). Not only are Danny and Tilley opening up their homes to me, but also George Gadd, who will be leading the crew this summer, Gaz, last year’s Lakeview boy’s color leader, and Daniel who was in charge of movies last summer. Each of them are even giving me small tours of their cities!! What could be better than that?!

After all of the tiring traveling through London, it is going to be so amazing to see everyone. There is honestly nothing better than visiting an old friend, and even better than that having the chance to visit them in their home countries. I am so fortunate to have met every single one of them, and I can only thank camp for giving me that opportunity. I have met many of my best friends at camp, and nothing is better than being surround by friends thousands of miles from home. Thanks to camp, friendship can be found all over the world, and I am so thankful for it!! I can’t wait for another amazing summer at camp!

#TBT Family Camp in the 50s

Patty Burton Dietz sent me this picture of her and another toddler at family camp in the 50s. I have been thinking about family camp today since it’s MAY (!) and family camp will be here in about 3 weeks.

Since the 1950s, Camp Ernst has hosted Family Camp on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Some families who still attend have been with us since the beginning, through multiple generations! Many have great memories of tractor rides, meals in the Dining Hall, campfires, and chapel services. Just yesterday I received a camp scholarship donation from a former family camper whose advice to me was, “Eli, make sure people always know to walk around the campfire the RIGHT way.”  These longtime family campers love tradition…they have grown up with camp, and they have seen camp grow up as well.

We are always excited when new families come to establish a new tradition among their groups of neighbors, family friends, cousins, etc., and of course we love when the “old school” families come as well.

Basically, we just love to share our camp with moms, dads, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends all having a great time, enjoying horseback riding, ziplining, swimming, eating, and just being together.

Hope to see you here in a few weeks!


Let the Countdown Begin!

Can you believe there are only 38 days until the first week of summer 2014?

Today in the office, we were checking out our wall calendars and realized that tomorrow we’ll have to erase April and put up June.  It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here.  My initial reaction came in the form of an “eeekkkk” sound, but honestly, I couldn’t be more excited!


There are lots of signs that the summer is drawing near and the camp season is in full motion- the constant sound of the lawn mower, newly strung bows at the archery range, a fresh coat of paint on the boys cabins, and animals in the petting zoo (wait til you meet Wilbur, our potbelly pig)!


The only thing missing now is you!  Next week, the counselors will start trickling in to help get camp ready and go through lots of training to prepare for the summer.  Soon enough, you’ll be here, making new friends, trying new activities, and having the best week of your life.


We’ll get a small taste of summer this weekend with our Kids Night Out and Ranch Day Programs.  Maybe we will even see some of you here!

Hope you’re ready for a great summer!


Oh, the difference a month makes…

A month ago, our new superstar ranch director, Natalie, ran our first ever “Ranch Day.”  If you follow us on twitter you might remember that we said the participants went home with lots of new horse skills as well as having made friends with the other kids (and all the horses!).

Tomorrow we hold our second Ranch Day. I was looking at this photo

of last month’s event and couldn’t believe how cold it looked. And the grass had only barely turned green. Just wait until our pictures tomorrow! Not only do we have green grass, but tons of green leaves in the woods as well as the beautiful red buds in bloom right now.

Flash forward another month into the future and it will be time for Lead Week, our annual training of unit leaders and crew leaders, when we take care of final preparations for our OUTSTANDING summer. Time flies—and we are blessed to experience it flying by while doing the best job in the world: running a summercamp!

See you this summer!