The Impact of Camp

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Camp, at its core, is transformational. When the impact can’t be ordered from Amazon or booked online or saved in a que (because you can’t put confidence or independence in a nice little package with gift wrap and a bow), the true benefits of camp shine.

In an interview between the American Camp Association (ACA) and Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO, Michael talks about the power of the camp life on building these attributes;

Planned freedom is one of the great things about Keewaydin and all camps. There are those times at camp without structure, between activities, when kids just have to invent what they will do. Coming from urban environments in particular with everything so highly organized, where kids are so thoroughly programmed, it’s great to be able to allow kids the freedom to make decisions about what they will do. The key is to get kids into the natural world, to give them some understanding of what this is like.


If you think of just one program like, let’s say, archery – yes, we are building the ability to shoot an arrow at a target. But when you look at the progression in teaching a child to actually hit the target, after learning the different parts of the bow, how to aim, safety, how to pull the string back and the final rewarding feeling of letting it go, all these different parts add up to confidence building in our campers.


When you are confident in yourself, independence is the next thing that builds. You don’t need your friend to help you choose the next activity; you know what you want to do. We also coach the campers in how to choose the activity that is best for them, not the one their friend is doing. By the end of the week, when we offer campers choice activities, we typically see friends split up to do different activities and meet new people.


Camp Chief Ouray has been working with children since 1908. When I meet past campers, I can still see that part of their experience showing in how they carry themselves and interact with the next generation of counselors. It shows the power of camp.

We’d love to know more about how Camp Chief Ouray, or any camp experience, has transformed your child. Please comment below and share your story!

Michael Ohl
-Executive of Camp Chief Ouray



Preparing Your Camper


Camp Chief Ouray is a beautiful setting in the picturesque Rocky Mountains. We sit at an elevation of 8,700 feet above sea level, which brings with it a certain amount of issues that we commonly see in our campers. Things like altitude issues, sun exposure and weather changes. So, let’s look at these items and see what you can do to help your child acclimate to the climate and conditions of our elevation.


Altitude issues are generally caused by thin air and not enough water. Symptoms we commonly see are nausea, bloody noses, headache, and in some cases vomiting. We are a very dry climate and recommend campers bring two water bottles that they can fill at different times of the day to help stay hydrated. However, if they do not start drinking water before arriving, their bodies may not be prepared for the immediate influx.

What you can do: have your camper(s) start drinking a full water bottle before and after lunch at home. This will help their bodies get used to the increase and help them acclimate better to our environment.



Sun exposure manifest as sunburn. We ask parents to pack sunscreen so we can ensure that each camper puts it on. Spray sunscreen is easy to use and counselors can spray down the campers then ask them to rub it in. If we have lotion sunscreen, we will still make sure they put it on, but then ask other campers to help each other get the hard to reach places.

What you can do: ensure you pack enough that it can be reapplied 2-3 times per day. Also a hat and sunglasses will help cut down on fatigue over a long, sunny day.



Our location does get it share of rain, typically in the afternoon. But beyond weather patterns, we also see some big changes in temperature, sometimes 20-30 degrees between mid-day and midnight.

What you can do: think in layers. Shorts are great, but having sweatpants to put over them helps when the sun starts setting will help a lot. T-shirts can be fun, but a light jacket or sweatshirt helps in the morning and evening with the lower temperatures at those times. Our staff will make sure your camper has what they need for the day in their bags, and even pack with them (“everyone show me your water bottles, great, put them in your bags”), but having names on items never hurts either.



In the end, we want each camper to have an experience that is great. These little steps will help set your child up for success in our mountain environment, which in turn makes the counselors jobs easier in watching over the cabin.



-Michael Ohl, Camp Chief Ouray Executive

Camp as a “Friend Maker”

Camp programs are magical in so many ways; we teach campers new skills, we build confidence through progressive programming, we explore other cultures, and we facilitate making new friends. Perhaps the biggest thing on this list we do for campers, is help them find and make new friends.

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It is tough today, so much technology to distract children (and adults) from making real connections. Camp is one of the few places left that really pushes social interaction without the influence of technology.

You may be asking, how does Camp Chief Ouray do this? Our programs are intentionally designed to allow children to explore, learn and connect. If we only look at the cabin structure; we have eight campers sleeping in one building with two counselors.

Campers arrive to claim their bunk and are instantly greeted upon arrival by the counselors. This sets the stage of the first connection for the camper and can help set their minds at ease. As more and more campers arrive, the counselors introduce those who don’t know the others. Again, our staff are being intentional about how quickly this happens. By dinner the first night, everyone in the cabin should know the names of their cabin mates.

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What about those campers with friends joining them? When it is two campers out of eight, this is not a problem. When we are talking half the cabin or more of friends wanting to be together, this can allow a clique to form and could leave the ‘new’ campers out of immediate, somewhat easy connections.

With the cabin as the core group, and an intentional push to introduce campers to each other, what does this do to those four friends who wanted to be together but are not? Camp Chief Ouray allows for activity time where these friends can sign up together, or even a structured free time where they will be able to connect during the week and just hang out or catch up. The big thing is that they will be making new friends over the course of the week with the help of the staff. Who knows, these new friends could become lifetime members of the family.


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Michael D. Ohl

Executive of Camp Chief Ouray


Summer is right around the corner and the executive team at Camp Chief Ouray is gearing up for the rest of the staff to arrive for training and kick off CCO 2015!  We often get a lot of questions on our staff; how old are they, where do we find them, what training do they receive and other inquiries along that line.  These are all great questions- and something that weighs on the minds of every parent, grandparent and family member as they send us their special camper.

First, we follow recommendations from the American Camp Association for our staffing.  For Camp Chief Ouray, we are mainly hiring staff who are 18 years of age and older.  Members of our camp staff who supervise the counselors have to be over 21 years of age, as well as at least one of our trip staff so they can drive a rental vehicle.

Camp Chief Ouray staff members come from all over the world but the majority is from the United States.  We recruit staff and then put them through a tough interview process.  We are looking for people who have experience working with children and are excited about sharing the natural world around them.


BREAK! You’re registered for the Camp Magic Mud Run, right!? Bring the whole family, or challenge your friends to an adventurous, muddy, and most of all fun challenge in either our 2k or 5k courses! This event will benefit the Camp Chief Ouray scholarship fund to help send kids to camp. All Participants will receive a t-shirt, have the opportunity to be sprayed off by the local Fire Dept. and enjoy a meal after the race. To register, go to and enter the key word: 2015 Camp Magic Mud Run.

Okay, back to the good stuff….


Our staff goes through ten days (!) of training before our first campers arrive on site.  During these days, we are covering multiple topics ranging from the proper way to run activity areas (like archery or climbing), to how staff members should deal with a possible bullying situation, to homesickness.  This wide range of topics and training is reinforced to the staff on a daily basis as the summer is progressing.

We love talking about camp, so if you have questions on anything, please reach out to us and ask! Even if you aren’t the first person to ask, we would rather you hear the answer straight from us than from anyone else.

We are excited about the summer and we’re just 36 short days away! See you at Camp!




-Michael Ohl, Camp Executive, Camp Chief Ouray


Helpful websites:

Creating the Fun and Games

The past several weeks of summer camp so far have been filled with memories, adventures, and craziness. We are not entirely certain how it got to be the ninth session already, but there are only a few more days left until the summer of 2014 is in the books.

As many may know, to make each session even more fun and special, CCO has themes for each week of camp. This doesn’t dictate the whole week, but instead, guides the fun.  Cabins often change their cabin identity in some fashion according to the theme.  Counselors also will typically embody certain characters that coincide with the imagined plots that tie the theme and camp agenda together throughout each day. These characters that fit the theme typically make an appearance in short skits at the beginning of the week and reappear in the dining hall each day.  Their stories often parallel with the conflict behind many of the all-camp games in the evenings as well. Although this has been happening for quite some time, the themes have been planned and played out uniquely this summer.

This summers’ Master of Fun and Games, Ben Kissam, sketches the outline to these characters and plots and then suggests how to have the actors (our counselors) appear throughout the week. Rather than just determining the full story before the campers arrive, he creates the base of the story beforehand and directs the plots’ details as the week goes on. He made a decision before the summer started to orchestrate the plot outline for each of the weeks so that the campers influence how things are going to go. Recognizing who the fun and games are created for, Ben values the thoughts of campers. He observes their reactions and scripts accordingly. The results of each weekly tale ultimately lies in their hands. Campers unite as each cabin or group of campers interprets and contributes to the weekly plot. For example, during Neverland week, he realized that the campers favored the humorous “Chad” character, Wendy’s lackadaisical couch-surfing boyfriend. Therefore, after a week of Peter Pan’s hidden jealousy for Chad and Wendy’s relationship, Peter and Chad decide to not fight over Wendy. Instead of deciding to give Chad the boot by having Peter Pan win Wendy’s heart, Peter and Chad called a truce  and proceeded to attend a dance party together as friends without her at the end of the week. The unforeseen plot twist of these scenes played by counselors models how Ben finds importance in highlighting people’s potential and creativity. He also has passion for child development and bettering their growth process.

Ben graduated this past Spring with a degree in Physical Education from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dedicated to youth development, Ben plans to dedicate his occupation towards children as a Physical Education teacher. He has accepted a teaching position at Denver Discovery School this fall.

Ben agreed to sit down with Kenzie, CCO’s Media Intern, to briefly answer a few questions pertaining to his approach to his position.

KENZIE: How have you gone about planning the theme weeks?

BEN: My goal for the summer has been to have the following week planned out before the campers arrived for the previous week. For example, I had session 3 nearly completed prior to campers getting here for session 2. This allows the ideas I come up with to “marinate” so-to-speak, so I can build off of them throughout the week. I’ve tried to structure the plot of each week very loosely. My goal with any of the ideas that I come up with is to make it broad enough that I can change it halfway through the week to something that I had not intended to. I don’t ever want to come up with such a specific idea that the kids don’t totally buy into it and then I’m left in a hole trying to dig my way out of it. I like to see what the kids get into and plan the week from there. I don’t think there has been a week this summer where I knew what would happen in the final skit on Thursday night at the beginning of the week.


KENZIE: Why do you feel this approach is best?

BEN: Camp is for the kids! I think of my position as a facilitator and not a diplomat. Kids have a much more unbiased and pure response to anything that you throw at them. If they think it’s funny, then they will tell you right away. If they think your idea is awful, you will also know really quickly. I want to take the abstract ideas that I come up with and watch what the kids do with them instead of deciding for them. Their responses allow me to be more creative as well.


KENZIE: Do you have any specific examples of this from this summer?

BEN:  The greatest example, and one of my favorite moments this summer, was during session 1. Superhero week was structured as a game show called “Who wants to be a superhero?” where 4 counselors competed for the rights to become the next famous superhero. An error in judgement I made came from only have 1 female competing against 3 other male counselors. It was amazing and hilarious to me to watch all the boy cabins scream at each other to get on the same page in the dining hall during the first “vote off” because they knew she was the biggest threat to win the show, as she would garner all the female votes. It was political, cunning, teamwork and wisdom all rolled into one. Kids continue to teach me things everyday.


KENZIE: What do you think the theme weeks add to CCO?

BEN: The theme weeks add an extra element to camp that the kids can all sink their teeth into. It helps unite groups of campers into cabins, and sometimes can unite the entire camp depending on the theme. The things the kids and counselors come up with are amazing. We have had 9 year olds running around camp selling Timeshare investments. We have had our camp director’s wedding reenacted by a group of 7 year old girls. I’ve watched cut throat screaming matches take place over whether dinosaurs or goats are better animals to support, and I honestly think it’s the greatest thing in the world. The amount of creativity our counselors have and the enthusiasm they walk around with gets kids to buy into literally anything. If we didn’t have theme weeks, I think camp would be a much more generic place. Kids would still have life changing moments and we would still teach them as many “Forever skills” as we do now, but they would leave with far less specific memories. The creativity and willingness to try new things that we have at CCO is something I believe carries over into the real world after each one of us leaves.


KENZIE: Is there a balance you look for when it comes to creating the theme weeks in relation to the counselors and campers?

BEN:  I think a lot of what I do is similar to that of a Disney writer. My goal is to create characters and skits that appeal mainly to the kids, but with some subtle adult smiles tied into it. I like to tie in things from when our staff were kids, but make them likable enough that the kids love them too. The biggest grin I’ve ever had on my face came when I watched a group of girl campers standing on a log one night before vespers imitating Richard Simmons by shouting “We love fitness” and doing synchronized squats. Did they have any idea who Richard Simmons was? Probably not, but he was goofy enough that the kids all loved him.


The CCO staff, Ben especially, thanks each and every camper for coming to camp and making their jobs awesome. As the Master of Fun and Games, Ben praises the intelligence of  the campers and has felt honored to have the opportunity to assist in creating these memories.

Staff Training 2014

The 2014 summer season staff members spent Wednesday, May 28th to Friday, June 6  mentally and physically preparing themselves and Camp Chief Ouray in all possible ways.

The goal of the week was to completely prepare for an entire summer of fun,  safety, and success. While growing more familiar with one another, they have learned to best work effectively and efficiently together as team members. During the 9 days of staff training, there have been many discussions on topics such as group living, safety policies and protocols, facilitating properly, and exploring what it means to be well rounded individuals who take part in the development of young minds.

Staff participated in a discussion led by Camp Director, Marty Ferguson, on "The Whole Brain Child"

Staff participated in a discussion led by Camp Director, Marty Ferguson, on “The Whole Brain Child”

The staff took part in a variety of important talks and presentations on areas such as age characteristics, child psychology, “Leave No Trace” concepts, cabin culture, bullying prevention, child abuse prevention, and intentional friendship building. Another  presentation/ discussion was held on the ideas from the “Whole Brain Child” which were derived from the book written by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. These ideas guide parents and/or anyone who cares for children to help children continue to develop their emotional intelligence and transform everyday interactions into valuable brain-shaping moments.

Guest speakers, Laura and Jack of Camping Coast to Coast, stopped by to lead a lively discussion on facilitating play and fun.

Guest speakers, Laura and Jack of Camping Coast to Coast, stopped by to lead a lively discussion on facilitating play and fun.

Guests from beyond CCO  also stopped by to share their knowledge. On Thursday, June 5, CCO friends, Jack and Laura of Camping Coast to Coast,  visited the staff for a few hours to discuss how to facilitate playtime and fun. They explained and dug at why kids are able to succeed at summer camp and what we can do as counselors and leaders to foster the inspiration, memories, and positive messages that will stick with them for the rest of their lifetime.

Cabin counselor, Stefan, age 19, said that after this week of training he feels confident that staff is “completely full of wide-eyed anticipation to put our skills and learned values to work and practice.”

Counselors also cleaned all cabins and areas of camp thoroughly in preparation for the arrival of the seasons’ first campers on Sunday, June 8. Sharing laughter, knowledge, and experiences, they have grown closer and stronger as a functioning unit. Now that we are confident and prepared for nothing but greatness, excitement is officially through the roof and memories are anxiously waiting to be made!


Child Abuse Prevention presentation

Staff gathered to listen to a Child Abuse Prevention presentation

Summer 2014?!

Hello world!

A REALLY REALLY BIG GIGANTIC package has arrived at camp….


As craaazy as it may seem, the most wonderful summer of all time is beginning. Staff arrived at CCO this week from places all over such as Illinois, Oregon, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Washington and even the countries of Colombia and England to name a few! Some are familiar faces have been returning to CCO for many years and some have never even been to the state of Colorado. They’ve assembled to accomplish one very important and obvious mission: to train, practice, and learn every last thing that is needed in order to execute one seriously fantastic, magical, and insanely fun summer 2014. They will be getting down to business until all is 110% ready for each and every one of our campers to arrive  on the grounds of the best camp in the whole universe so they can enjoy the greatest time of their life. WOO!

Session 1 begins June 8th. We’re attempting our very best here to contain the sensations of  excitement and eagerness, though we can’t make any promises… This absurdly brilliant, undoubtedly talented, utterly friendly, and relentlessly enthusiastic team of leaders, supporters, and dreamers will be completely ready to rock. We can not wait.

2014 summer staff plays initiative games on arrival day

2014 summer staff plays initiative games on arrival day