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Archives Campers hike, swim, praise at Guggeheim

July 31, 2019


By Darcy Fargo

SARANAC LAKE – On a warm, cloudy Tuesday, shrieks of laughter could be heard in the woods, by the lake and in the gathering areas. Camp Guggenheim was in session.

According to Conner Cummings, this year’s camp director, around 270 campers signed up to attend one of the six camp sessions offered this season, which extends from June 30 to Aug. 9. Weeks one through five target youth ages 12-15, while the sixth week is open to ages 16-18.

“The staff gets together ahead of the first week for prep,” Cummings said. “It’s our time to plan, it’s a time for team building and figuring out how we work together as a staff. We grow as a small Catholic faith community.”
Cummings noted that the planning and evaluating continues as the season goes.

“The first week tends to be the smallest in terms of number of campers, so it gives us a chance to make sure everything is working, and the kids are responding well,” he said. “We tweak as the summer goes. Different weeks have different personalities, too. We try to tailor to the group, to some extent.”

In a typical camp day, campers have breakfast and participate in one of four morning activities.

“They spend a day in each of the morning programs,” Cummings said. “They do one day of project adventure – a sort of obstacle course and outdoor games; they do one day of waterfront activities; a day of arts and crafts; and a day focused on liturgy – it’s sort of bible study and aspects of the liturgy.”

In the afternoon, campers choose their activity from a list of available options.

“We have rappelling, hiking, basketball, games,” he said. “And then we have a different camp-wide activity every night. We have camp Olympics, a variety show, a bonfire, a dance.”

Campers participate in Mass daily, including one celebrated each week by Bishop Terry R. LaValley, and have time for brief Adoration set aside each day, as well as an Adoration chapel.

“We also offer a reconciliation night,” he said. “For many kids, that’s their favorite night.”

The camp staff is bolstered by assistance from the Teen Vision program, a sort of counselor-in-training opportunity for youth ages 16-18.

“It’s a two-week program,” Cummings said. “The teens grow in leadership, they build community, and they see the different aspects of what it’s like to be on staff. It’s something I did as a camper. It really challenges our young people to be leaders.”

Together, the staff and Teen Visions participants try to make Camp Guggenheim a place where campers can forge friendships and grow in their love of the Lord, Cummings said.

“One of the greatest things about camp – it provides community. These are not just people you’re going to see one week a year. You’re going to want to go out of your way to see them, you’ll want to hang out with them. It’s a great place to interact with different people from all over and create a genuine friend group and faith group centered around Christ.”

And the campers say it’s a great experience for them.

“It’s fun,” said Emma Kompan, 12, from Constable, a first-time camper who attended week three. “My favorite thing so far has been playing ‘Werewolf,’ (a role-playing mystery game). And I’ve met a lot of people.”

“It’s fun every year,” added Noah Parker, 14, of Massena, a second-year camper. “I went to week one last year. I picked week three this year. I think I’ll be doing week three next year, too.”

Parker said his favorite part of camp is, “getting to meet new people and getting closer to God.”
Cummings said the staff hates to see the camp season end.

“We love being here,” he said. “Most of us are really sad when it starts to wind down. We’re thankful we get to sleep again, but we always miss the campers and the joy they have for their faith and for camp.”

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