Category Archives: Camper

Memories from a Summer Lost

By Aaron Selkow, CLC Owner/Director

In her book, A Manufactured Wilderness, Abigail A. Van Slyck refers to summer camps as, “ …a central feature of North American life – for the children who attend them, for the adults who work at them, and even for the former campers of all ages who cherish vivid (if not exclusively pleasant) memories of their camp experiences.” Van Slyck’s examination provides many other insights into how camps became such a valued and dynamic asset to the American experience, but at a time when we watch the summer come to a close after most camps (including Chestnut Lake) were unable to operate for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 crisis, I underlined this sentence while searching for some inspiration.

My memories of camp – as a child tugging at the leg of my parents to let me stay, as a camper for ten summers, as a young adult staff member for four seasons, and as a camp professional for more than 25 years and counting – are vivid, and as Van Slyck suggests parenthetically, they are not exclusively pleasant. As a young child, I made a friend that is still the person I turn to when I need to laugh. In subsequent summers, I would arrive as an only child to find my brothers waiting for me at camp; ten months apart without so much as a call could do nothing to dim the powerful glow of positive energy, shared exploration, and reinforcement that we offered each other. I found my first crush at camp, stumbled through my first kiss on the bridge after a dance, and learned to make a fire. Of course, I also had other experiences in my youth at camp that counter-balanced those idyllic ones. I upset other campers by excluding them from our inner circle. I told untruths to counselors to get out of trouble, and I flexed my ego in ways that have led to a lifetime search for more self-awareness and humility. And while I may have learned to build a fire – once even starting it with a homemade bow drill – I also threw caterpillars in a few. And once, after an overnight trip with my own campers as their beloved role model and counselor, I was the one that encouraged us all to throw eggs from the van while I stood atop the moving vehicle. When we returned to camp, a phone call from a civilian with great vision and a pencil landed our group in a conversation with the camp’s director. He threatened to send the kids home if they didn’t confess, and he meant it. As my co-counselor and I watched our boys stand up to the pressure being asserted by a man who once served as a translator in a Japanese POW camp, we felt pride to see them protecting us. Later that day, however, we cracked. As we walked to the director’s house – certain we would be sent from our summer home – we felt the weight of our poor decisions and anticipated the course of our lives veering towards a much darker and lonelier place. I have wondered for years what might have been different had we actually been fired that day. He must have somehow known that the second chance afforded us as 18 year-olds would contribute to our rehabilitation into upstanding adults, professionals, spouses, and parents.

That was not a high point in my counselor career, though it taught me a valuable lesson. Better memories were formed and more lessons learned when I bonded with children that continue to reach out to me today to share good news and tough times because we trust and respect each other. In my first summer as a counselor in 1987, I was shifted to live with a group of 14-year-olds at my ripe-old-age of 17 and – for the first time – allowed myself to be truly vulnerable. When I said goodbye to them, I let tears flow freely. For all of the years since then, I’ve become more aware and protective of the need for being real, allow my emotions to show, and provide a counterpoint to the toxic masculinity that can be absorbed by kids when they’re so impressionable. When my role shifted to leadership in the summer, I suddenly understood that camp was not only just for me any longer – I was there to serve others and my job was to be a protective factor that could help the next generation of campers make their own memories in an environment that was safe: safe for them to try new things, to be open to new people, to fail forward, and to be given second chances to discover the best versions of themselves that were somewhere amidst the woods, lakes, cabins, dining halls, and other architecture of these intentionally-constructed, but still simple, environments.

Now fast-forward to the summer of 2020 and a virus has ruined these kinds of experiences for too many of our children.

There are camps that ran this summer despite the restrictions and hurdles of COVID-19, but not enough to serve the needs and desires of all children, young adults, and parents across North America who want the memories due to them this year. Those camps did so at great risks and costs, while others – like Chestnut Lake Camp – made their own decisions to shutter for the season to protect our campers and staff from those very same risks. Each camp needed to assess the massive complexities of this moment and be true to their mission and character, as our leaders did at Chestnut Lake. Never before was the very existence of summer camps threatened in this way; no time before forced the passionate and dynamic leaders of camps to make the choice of camp or no camp for families.

The advent of technology and a digital age that has altered how our children learn and connect to others, the greater risks of liability and security that plague society, the high costs of operating immersive programs, and even the destruction of nature and resources could not keep camps from opening before 2020. Camps and camp leaders adapted, innovated, and worked their way through contemporary challenges to ensure that another generation of children could discover themselves and each other at camp. While the pandemic outbreak we continue to navigate may have stolen the opportunities for countless campers, staff, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders to create new, vivid memories at camp in 2020, the very existence of this extraordinary catastrophe has become an opportunity for a true camp memory to form.

In years from now, our children will remember the summer that was lost to COVID-19. Some children and adults will actually look back at this summer as one where they felt like a Trailblazer if they happen to be at one of the camps that has found a pathway through the logistics, limitations, bureaucracy, and understandable concerns to operate in chaos. There will be memories therein for a relatively small group of children that will be able to look back on being among the first to wear a mask at Color War, to have temperature checks become as common as water breaks, and to submit COVID test results as a means of admission to their Happy Place. But it’s as much a memory for the exponentially greater number of people who have had to adjust to a summer without – what greater story of resiliency have we ever had than the need to cope with a summer of camp denied?

Simon Sinek – in Together is Better – suggests that, “Our struggles are short-term steps we must take on our way to long-term success.” The story of summer camp – whether one written by a researcher like Van Slyck or as part of a personal narrative – has always been replete with memories of joy as well as struggle. Friendships and broken hearts, successes and failures, and dreams realized and shattered all dot the scatter plots of experiences for camp people. The summer of 2020 should be that short-term, kick-in-the-teeth moment that can lead to even more special long-term success. This is our perfect chance to become stronger, smarter, and more creative. We tend to like the tales of comebacks and rebounds from adverse conditions because they inspire us to believe that things can get better, and that problems can be fixed. This should be a Comeback Story for the ages.

Right now, there are many broken aspects of our lives that are impacting the way that young people will someday grow into older people. Van Slyck describes summer camps as, “fertile sites for examining a constellation of concerns that have informed – that continue to inform – conceptions of modern childhood.” Let this season of missed memories inform conceptions for our children – and for all of us that continue to have a childish spirit that was shaped at summer camp – to help them to be more resistant and strong as they count down the days to their next summer at camp. Until then, let us appreciate the camp memories that are present now. And let’s continue our countdown towards the summer of 2021, when we reopen to families and staff never before more ready to celebrate the very existence of our society’s greatest antidote to a widespread viral threat: summer camp.

And They Lived Happily Ever After

By Aaron Selkow, CLC Owner/Director

Memorial Day weekend in 1994 was a very special time for me. It wasn’t extraordinary solely because of the fun I had with Paul, Michele, and Jill staying in a dilapidated motel in Atlantic City, New Jersey for a few days. The butterflies I was consumed by as I prepared to drive from the Jersey Shore to Pinemere Camp at the end of the weekend for my first season as a year-round camp professional were notable, but it was something that happened while I was walking on the beach with Paul that was the most remarkable. Something that changed the course of my life forever.

I met Ann Kleiner. Some of you know her as your best and most trusted friend, or as the consummate professional that has been the backbone of an organization for the last 20 years that you’re connected to. Ann is my inspirational and tireless life partner, mother of our exceptional daughter, and the catalyst keeping our extended family, friends, and lives together. And now she will be working alongside me as we become the owners and directors of Chestnut Lake Camp in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

That weekend more than 25 years ago was the first chapter in our life together. Before that, Ann and I had grown up two miles and two years apart without knowing how closely-connected and interwoven our experiences had been: mutual friends of our own and through our families, countless seasons on courts and fields playing sports not far from each other, summers at camps just miles apart, the same venue to celebrate our coming-of-age in the Jewish community with friends — Union Fire House in Narberth — and a simpatico that we would discover almost immediately on our first date in November of 1995. That first date was followed by an inseparable bond and relentless laughter that hasn’t stopped, even when our most difficult moments have surfaced since we were married in 1998. Meeting on the beach that day gifted us love and companionship that I have trouble believing anyone else has, and now we’re taking on a new challenge that will test our resolve and relationship while providing us with a too-good-to-be-true opportunity to ride off into the sunset of our lives.

When we asked the tough questions of each other that people raise amid career shifts, we agreed that it was time to prioritize a bit differently. The freedom to imagine new routes and routines can be welcomed and feared at once, but as we navigated those conversations, we found familiar ground. Joining forces to lead a summer camp was not so different, in that sense, from the decision to get married in a backyard tent with origami birds and only a few months of planning, or stopping and starting infertility treatments and an adoption process in the same few minutes sitting in a car on an August afternoon, or buying a house without talking about selling the one we already couldn’t afford. Run a summer camp together? Okay, sure. We can do that.

But like those examples of spontaneity, there was nothing truly astonishing about exploring camp in this way. The foundation of understanding, trust, and the willingness to push each other were just beneath the surface allowing us to feel spontaneous. In actuality, we had been working towards this — separately and together — since we met in 1994. Nine years of co-work at Pinemere while we started to raise our daughter at camp, learning that only one of us was ready to leave Pinemere in 2008 and being okay with that, sustaining love and sanity through almost three years of New York City commuting and lots of travel, and then running two camps 15 miles apart simultaneously for another nine years set us up for being able to pivot like this. There was also a massive amount of good luck, and very special people, that caused this all to materialize.

Running a camp together that has a history but room for growth, and being in charge but with the security of an exceptional family to guide and support us on our journey, gives us confidence in our decision to lean into the unprecedented weirdness and challenge of the present. COVID-19 drove so many camps to close (including those that Ann and I were helping to lead,) but the same pandemic helped to give way to this career needle for us to thread. There are risks and unknowns, just as there are enticements and opportunities. We are just the right mix of scared and joyful about what lies ahead. And off we go.

We’re beginning the next chapter in our lives, thankful for all that we’ve experienced so far, and looking ahead to the growth that will come. I can still picture being in my Jeep Wrangler in 1994, sitting on the Atlantic City Expressway in bumper-to-bumper traffic with angry commuters who were sad to be leaving the fun of the weekend behind them to return to the Real World. I didn’t know what would happen in the years to follow, but I must have had a sense that my life was suddenly better. The music was turned up, the time passed easily, and my thoughts of Ann consumed my head and heart on that day and every day since. Here’s to lots more moments like that…including those we will have in Beach Lake with our new family at Chestnut Lake Camp.

A Summer Camp Tradition at CLC

Every summer, Lou and Sue Flego visit Chestnut Lake Summer Camp for one of the campers’ favorite traditions: Square Dancing! Younger campers learn simple calls like “Up to the middle with a tap, tap, tap.” while returning campers perfect calls like “Step to an ocean wave.” For two days, the campers practice in their 8-person sets, preparing for the competition on the final night.

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Once the squares are set, the girls take over and coordinate what each set will wear. The build-up to the final competition is pretty intense. The championship bracelets that the winners receive are highly coveted at Chestnut Lake Camp. The campers show up for the final competition decked out in coordinating outfits…there is plenty of plaid and pigtails!

Before the competition begins, Sue lightens the mood with some line dancing. Staff and campers join in as they slide and turn to “Popcorn” and “Montego Bay.” Once the line dancing is finished, the sets form their squares and prepare for the dance-off. Counselors take their spots outside of the squares, cheering on their campers and coaching them through the difficult calls. Lou, Sue, Debbi and Paul judge the squares and ask the sets that miss calls to sit down. After a while, there are only two sets left. Lou pauses to congratulate the final two squares and then moves them to the center.

As the music starts back up, all of the campers and counselors cheer the final sets on as they concentrate on executing each and every call. After the calls become more and more difficult, Lou finally has one of the sets sit down, which means that the only square still standing has won the special Lou & Sue bracelets!

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Square Dancing with Lou and Sue is a favorite Summer Camp Tradition at Chestnut Lake!

Chestnut Lake Summer Camp 4th of July Regatta

The first week of Chestnut Lake Summer Camp 2015 has been amazing! We started preparing for our 4th of July celebration on Saturday.  The lower campus decorated their bunks in patriotic themes while the upper campus turned our golf carts into parade floats.

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On the afternoon of the 4th, our older campers organized a parade for the younger campers. Kaya, Sani and Varsity marched in formation and drove their floats down Chestnut Lake Avenue. As the procession passed the campers, the Kaya, Sani and Varsity threw candy as everyone cheered. Uncle Sam even made a guest appearance at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

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Next up for our Independence Day celebration was Regatta. Campers organized into their tribes and started preparing to sail their boats in the pool, but first they watched their division leaders compete in a belly busting competition which was amusing as well. Later that evening the whole camp gathered together on the slope.  We all joined in for the singing of the National Anthem. As the National Anthem ended, our annual fireworks display began high above the stage.

Now the campers are anxiously waiting to see their families on Visiting Day at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

Tribal Campfire

Tribal Campfire is one of the most popular traditions at Chestnut Lake Camp. On our first Friday night of the session, after the Community Service Award winners were announced, new campers and staff found out if they would be a Minsi Wolf or an Unami Turtle. The returning campers, who were dressed head to toe in white or green, were bursting with excitement as they prepared to accept new members to their tribes.

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Dressed in red, the new campers and staff were led from the campfire site down to the lake where they stood in a large circle and recited the Tribal Oath with Debbi and Paul. d7290a4e-d25f-4f54-9297-26aab9236e43

As they walked back to the campfire, the Unami Turtles and Minsi Wolves lined either side of the path creating a special and unique atmosphere.

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At the campfire, the two teams sat with their tribes and sang their tribal chants. The new campers and staff in each division were called to stand in front of the campfire while blue team members painted a stripe of their new tribe’s color on each of their cheeks. Excitement grew as they waited for Paul to tell them to face their new tribe. As each group turned around, members of the Unami Turtles and the Minsi Wolves ran to greet their new members. Next up….the first tribal competition.

CLC Opening Campfire 2015

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The lighting of Opening Campfire officially signals that our summer family is back together. This summer’s Opening Campfire had more spirit and energy than ever before! As we all gathered at the Campfire Site, everyone was singing, laughing and dancing as they waited for the special moment to begin.

 

Every Opening Campfire at Chestnut Lake actually starts when we say goodbye the summer before. The ashes from Closing Campfire are gathered in a container and buried, waiting in the ground until the following summer’s Opening Campfire.

During our first day of camp, each age division was given a special piece of wood that every camper and counselor was asked to sign. They talked about what Chestnut Lake means to them. These planks of wood were then added to the campfire. u472085_p15052934

At Opening Campfire, CLC’s youngest campers dug up the ashes and during Debbi and Paul’s welcome speech, they sprinkled the previous summer’s ashes onto the fire. This represents how each and every camper’s spirit carries forward summer after      summer. As we always say, once you’re a part of Chestnut Lake, Chestnut Lake is a part of you. Since the Ciqala dug the ashes up last summer, the Yazhi received the      privilege this summer. All of camp anxiously awaited as the Yazhi located the spot where the ashes were buried and pulled them from the ground.

After Debbi, Paul, Masey, Kelsie, Dan, Niki and Mike welcomed the campers, Varsity led the entire camp in the CLC alma mater. As alma mater ended, Garin lit the             traditional “Hello 2015” sign and camp broke out into our favorite chant, “Chestnut ‘til I Die!” We are all looking forward to another amazing summer at Chestnut Lake Camp.

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Brotherly Love at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp

What could be better than riding the bus throughIMG_2054 the gates of Chestnut Lake Summer Camp for the start of summer 2015? Sharing that experience with your brother, of course! Xander Arnold is returning to his         summer home and this time his younger brother, Drake, is along for the ride. Drake came to visit Xander on Visiting Day last year and decided that he wanted to join him at camp this summer. They are both very excited to be sharing this experience           together and look forward to making memories that will last a lifetime. We asked the Arnold brothers to tell us a little more about themselves and what they love most about camp.

Xander:

My name is Xander Arnold and I am 9 years old. I am a rising 4th grader at The Bullis School. I live in Rockville, MD. I love to play and watch basketball and football.

Your favorite camp memories:

My favorite camp memories are being at tribal campfire, woodshop, the lake and banquet. As you can see…I have a lot of great memories.

How did you know Chestnut Lake Summer Camp was the right camp for you:

I love how organized everything was when I visited the camp. Paul and Debbi were so nice when I visited.

Favorite camp activity:           IMG_2326

I love anything at the lake!

Favorite Camp Food(s):

French fries and green beans.

Favorite Sports Team:

Seattle Seahawks

Favorite Band/Musician:

Avicii, Pitbull and Ne-Yo

Favorite Book:

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Describe Chestnut Lake in 4 words:

Amazing, Summertime, New Friends, Home

Drake:

My name is Drake Arnold and I am 7 years old. I can’t wait to be with my big brother Xander at camp this summer. I love to play Minecraft, soccer and track. I like to swim, play basketball and be with my friends.

What are you looking forward to most about Camp?

I can’t wait to do the flying squirrel and lake activities.

How do feel about being the youngest Chestnut Lake Summer Camper this summer?

Amazing, awesome and extraordinary! I can’t wait to be everyone’s little buddy!

Favorite Food(s):

Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza and rice & beans.  IMG_2651

Favorite Sports Team:

Redskins (shhhh)

Favorite Band/Musician:

Bastellie (Pompaii), Maroon 5

Favorite Book:

Big Hero 6

Describe Chestnut Lake in 4 words:

I CAN NOT WAIT!

Brotherly Love at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

Chestnut Lake Discovery Camp – A Family Tradition!

Going to summer camp for the first time can be an anxious experience for a child.        Chestnut Lake strives to make the transition to camp life easier by offering campers the opportunity to participate in an introductory experience to Chestnut Lake called Discovery Camp.  Chestnut Lake Discovery Camp introduces campers to life at CLC and all of the exciting things that Chestnut Lake has to offer. Jordyn and Henry Faragalli                participated in Discovery Camp last year after hearing about Chestnut Lake from their cousins, Noah Grossman (6 years at CLC), Abby Grossman (4 years at CLC) and Aaron Grossman (2nd summer at CLC) This summer, Jordyn will be returning as a first year camper in the Yazhi Division and Henry will be returning for Discovery Camp along with his younger brother Zachary. Jordyn, Henry and Zachary shared some information about themselves and their thoughts on the upcoming summer at Chestnut Lake Camp.

 

Jordyn:         IMG_0498                     

My name is Jordyn Faragalli. I live in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania. I’m 9 years old and currently in 3rd grade at the Shipley School. I have an older sister, a twin brother and a younger brother. I also have a dog named Lola. I love doing gymnastics and riding roller coasters and water slides .
My cousins went to Chestnut Lake Camp and said how great it was……best summers!
This will be my first summer at Chestnut Lake and I’m so excited. I can’t wait to do gymnastics, swim in the lake and ride the flying squirrel and the zip line. I went to Discovery Camp last year and knew Chestnut Lake was a great place. The activities were so much fun. All the counselors were so nice and my Big Sisterss were great,too! I loved everything about my experience at Discovery Camp and now I can’t wait to spend my first summer away at CLC.

Favorite Song: Uptown Funk

Favorite Book: Like Bug Juice on a Burger

Favorite Foods: Grilled Cheese, Yogurt, Fruit, S’mores and Cake

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 Jordyn at Discovery Camp with her CLC Big Sisters, Sabrina and Berenice

 

 

Henry:        IMG_0492

My name is Henry Faragalli. I’m 9 years old and I’m currently in 3rd grade. I have two sisters (one of which is my twin), a younger brother and a dog named Lola . I love to play basketball and swim.
This will be my second time at Discovery Camp. I can’t wait to ride mountain bikes and the banana boat, too! Also, my younger brother is going to       Discovery Camp which will be awesome!

Favorite Sports Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Favorite Foods: Grilled cheese, chicken

sandwiches, pizza and waffles

Favorite singer: Nick Jonas

 

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 Henry at Discovery Camp with his CLC Big Brother, Ben

 

 

Zach:          IMG_1431

My name is Zach Faragalli. I’m 7 years old and currently in 1st grade at The Haverford School. I am the youngest of 4 kids. I have 2 older sisters and an older brother. And I can’t forget our dog Lola! I love to play football, basketball and baseball. I’m so excited about Discovery Camp. It’s my first time and I can’t wait to ride the banana boat!!

Favorite Sports Team: New England Patriots (Tom Brady is awesome-I think I throw a spiral just like him)

Favorite Foods: Pizza and ice cream

Favorite band: Imagine Dragons

 

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The Faragalli Foursome-Sydni, Henry, Zach and Jordyn

Catching Up With Chestnut Lake Staff: Niki & Curtis

 

Niki & Curtis EngagementHowdy Chestnut Lake!

Niki and Curtis here. We hope 2015 has brought you all only great things so far and a lot of snow. Ok only kidding about the snow, I think everyone has gotten his or her fair share of it!

We have been keeping busy down in Missouri. Curtis has been busy working at an elementary school and playing his guitar. I have been splitting time teaching 6th grade health and girls high school PE. When we’re not in a classroom, we are on the field coaching soccer at rival high schools. Curtis and I are both in the process of earning our Masters Degrees! My degree will be Secondary Administration and Curtis’ will be in Special Education. When we are not juggling school and work you can find us planning our WEDDING! Our plates are full but we wouldn’t change anything!

Niki & Curtis Proposal

As most of you know, last summer was very exciting in more ways then one. Since becoming engaged at Chestnut Lake and returning home, we have been planning, planning, and planning. It takes a lot of work! Although it is a long process to say the least, we have made a lot of progress. We are still so happy we got to share this life changing moment with our camp family!

Speaking of our camp family, we could not be more excited for Summer 2015 at Chestnut Lake! This will mark Curtis’s 7th summer (4th year as Mato Division Leader) and my 6th summer (3rd as Varsity Girls Head Counselor) at Chestnut Lake! Camp will be here before we know it, and we are both super excited for what’s to come! The Movie Theater and Canteen are two huge additions that are going to be fantastic for camp. We have many great ideas and activities planned as well! Summer 2014 was amazing but we can’t wait to see what Summer 2015 will bring.

Niki & Curtis

118 Days until opening campfire!

CHESTNUT TIL I DIE!

Check Out The All New www.ChestnutLakeCamp.com!

Home-Page copyWe are excited to announce the launch of our totally redesigned website www.chestnutlakecamp.com!  The new website has been designed for Current Families, Prospective Families, Staff and Alumni and contains new and improved features including an Interactive Map, CLC Memories page and Alumni section.

 

CURRENT FAMILIES

Current-FamiliesCurrent campers and parents will enjoy checking out all the new photos, the new Camp Store and CLC Memories page that includes highlights of every amazing CLC summer. The Current Families page will still be home to the MY CLC login which is the gateway to web photos, emailing your child, CLC newsletters, signing up for summer phone calls and more. The new website was designed to provide our current families with up-to-the-minute news year round through our Blog, The Tribal Times, as well as links to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 

PROSPECTIVE FAMILIES

All-Abut-CLCWe understand how important it is to find the best match for your child when choosing a summer camp. The All About CLC section conveys the Spirit and Tradition of Chestnut Lake and provides information about our Program, Philosophy and much more. We invite you to explore our premier facilities through our Interactive Map and watch our Video to learn all about the Chestnut Lake Camp experience. Of course, the website can only tell you so much about Chestnut Lake, and we encourage you to meet us in person. Through the new website, you can schedule a summer tour on the Tour CLC page, use the Contact page to schedule a Home Visit and enroll in our two day experience designed specifically for future campers on our Discovery Camp page.

 

STAFF

Work-At-CLCOn the Work at CLC section, potential staff can watch a Video about the staff experience at Chestnut Lake, find out what a Typical Day is like and Apply online. Current staff can use the Staff Login to submit forms, update personal information and relive their previous summers through the summer photos.

 

ALUMNI

I’m Chestnut ‘til I die,

I’m Chestnut ‘til I die,

I know I am, I’m sure I am,

I’m Chestnut ‘til I die!

 

Once you’re a part of Chestnut Lake, Chestnut Lake is a part of you. We invite our former campers and staff to use the Alumni Registration. The Alumni Section allows you to connect with other Alumni, relive your summers through the CLC Memories page and stay current on all the great things happening at CLC through our Blog, The Tribal Times, as well as links to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.