St Louis Cheley in the Community

Name of Event: Stand Up for Nature Earth Day 2017, a “Cheley in the Community” effort by Ava Goldson

Date and Time:
Saturday, April 22, 2017
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM CDT

I want to be there!:
email and we will make sure Ava knows to expect you

Location: Centennial Greenway Trail Head in Clayton Shaw Park
Centennial Greenway
St. Louis, MO 63105

Celebrate Earth Day by planting new healthy plants, digging up weeds, mulching and cleaning up any litter at the Trail Head for the Centennial Greenway in Shaw Park. Be a part of Ava Goldson’s Stand Up for Nature Task Force (inspired by her experience at Cheley Colorado Camps and wanting to do a “Cheley in the Community” event), in partnership with the wonderful team at Great Rivers Greenway! Bring a picnic lunch, if you like, and enjoy the Clayton Shaw Park afterwards with the rest of Ava’s team!

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Cheley’s Commitment to Professional Development

One of things that I have appreciated most about working at Cheley Colorado Camps is the commitment, which we as an organization have, to continuing education and professional development. Based on my Strength’s Finder results- one of my top 5 strengths is that of ‘Learner’. So for me, professional development is especially important and extremely valued. There’s nothing better than an opportunity to learn something new or learn more about a particular subject. Just last week, I had the opportunity to attend the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) National Conference in San Francisco. This “ACA”, not to be confused with the American Camp Association (ACA), is for counseling professionals as opposed to camping professionals. For me, it’s both! The opportunity to be a member of both of these highly regarded associations means that I have access to information on the latest trends and other educational material, conferences, online resources, networking with colleagues, and much more. Because I have a counseling degree, I was able to spend the week learning from experts in the mental health field. I returned from my trip feeling rejuvenated and inspired by the extraordinary group of people working to empower diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.

The conference is held yearly and has sessions that cover various topics in the counseling profession. A few of the topics covered this year included: adoption, therapeutic programs for youth, self-injury, grief, LGBT issues, wellness through nature, and exploring positive self-concepts with students. One session that I attended in particular, and will be writing a second blog on, was titled “How to Talk So Gamers Will Listen & Listen So Gamers Will Talk.” This specific session was a five hour pre-conference session. My blog will focus on insights into the gamer world, how to connect with gamers, and guidelines for parents.

Part of what make us a top-notch organization is our commitment to staying on top of the latest trends in our field and using that information to better the Cheley Experience for our campers and staff. We truly believe that we are partners with parents in raising their children. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone else here at Cheley if we might be able to help in some way. Attending conferences like ACA (both of them) helps us to really be in tune with the needs of our campers, parents, and staff. If a camper is spending the summer with us, we absolutely want to help with their development; attending conferences like this helps me to do just that.

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News from the Fish Creek Ranch

Just before Christmas, when shopping is all the rage, I got to do my favorite type of shopping. My favorite thing to shop for is horses. Going to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding facility in Canon City is the answer to my wildest horse shopping dreams. The Colorado Correctional Industries in Canon City, Colorado works with the BLM to train, adopt out, house, and care for up to 3,500 mustangs at a time. It’s horsey heaven!

At the holding facility, people can find just about any horse to meet their needs. You can find horses that are saddle trained, halter trained, pack burros, old and young horses, mares or gelding, burros, and horses of many different colors. Adopting a saddle trained horse, which I get to watch be ridden by the inmates first and then can ride myself, have to meet certain qualifications before they are consider adoptable. The horses have to load in a trailer, pick their feet up, be able to catch, as well as a few other criteria that make them great candidates for being camp horses, think Munchie, Felon, or Spitfire. Inmates, get training from horse trainers, to start and get horses going, it’s simply amazing what their horses are exposed to before we get them. In December I adopted 3! Clyde, Chow, and Rusty!
In addition to the saddle trained horses, I love to walk through the pens of horses that are considered untouched. Meaning that while they’ve seen humans, through being fed and other exposure, no one has worked with them in any manner. Some are tall, some are small, some are thin, some are stocky, and it’s like the perfect shoe store but for horses. I picked out a cute, stocky, sorrel that was friendly enough that I could pet in the pen. I will work with him and hopefully have him ready by the time camp starts, I’ve named him Pickle, and he was born in a long term management pasture in Oklahoma. When he arrived, he had never been touched or haltered, now he is packing a saddle and bridle and is almost ready to be ridden. He’s such a lover and has already stolen my heart.

In addition to having my heart stolen by ponies, I’ve recently happily handed it over to the man of my dreams and changed my last name to Schroeder. We’re excited to start building our life while living at Cheley.
Much love to everyone.  Please let me know if you have any questions.



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The Blue Sky Cup

There is a sense of challenge and adventure in my soul that partly stems from being a teen at camp. As an adult with a demanding life that sense still appears from time to time; that longing to attempt challenges even if I fall short of my goal or fail. A couple of weeks ago was the “6th Annual Blue Sky Cup”. Hayden Fisher and Jim Nollsch started this fundraiser 6 years ago to raise money to aid in finding a cure for arthritis. The challenge is to “ski a little harder, for a little longer, than any day of the year.” At minimum, you need to ski 40,000 vertical feet, ride 5 chairs in Blue Sky Basin and ride 15 different chairs on the mountain, ski a race course, and have a minimum of four people on your team in costume. There are other fun challenges that gain you points along the way.

I thought this sounded like an awesome day for a wonderful cause, but had not committed to it. On Monday morning before the event, Jeff says loudly and kind of passively from his office, “there is this Blue Sky Cup this Friday…” before he could even finish his sentence I jumped in with, “we need to do it, and we should do it on tele mark skis. I think we would be the first team to compete on tele mark skis” My mind was made up we needed to attempt it. We needed at least 2 or more crazy people to join us on teles (or more if we can find them). We roped in Karl, David and Peter. We had a team, now we needed a costume that would not take too much effort to pull together. It’s Mardi Gras season, and I have lots of supplies in that department, so Mardi Gras it was.

As the day got closer I started to get very nervous. Could I handle the physical demand of this challenge? Do I have what it takes? I started to think about what gear I would need to be prepared; water, quick snacks, and layers. It brought me back to being a camper with a looming physical and mental feat in front of me. I am grateful that I love the feeling of putting myself in these challenging situations- which has continued throughout my adult life.
We put our day job and life’s responsibilities on hold and we were off to Vail. It was a beautiful, warm day (maybe too warm). We had an amazing team assembled and our costumes were sufficient and not too annoying to wear while skiing. We cruised through the beginning of the day with beautiful fresh groomers. We were checking off our chairs and our fun extra points. We got Prima, Pronto, Log Chute, Highline out of the way with fresh legs. We headed to the back bowls, checked off 4 chairs and then bam… our chairlift stopped for a windy, kind of frightening, and valuable ten minutes. We finally got to the top to find that the back bowls were now closed. We headed to the front of the mountain; the lift lines quickly grow. The snow was slow and slushy; the hours in the day were slipping away, my legs started to ache and it started to set in that we may not make it to 40,000 vertical feet. That familiar feeling comes, “We are going to get close to the top of this peak and we are going to have to turn around because there is not enough time to do it safely!” We skied as quickly as we could for the next two hours finishing up with 37,500 vertical feet. We did not make it. We had five competitive people on our team and there was some disappointment that we wouldn’t achieve “the goal.” But as the day ended, we started talking about what we did right, what we could have done differently, how much fun we had spending the day together and how we did accomplish that goal of “skiing a little bit harder, for a little bit longer, than any other day of the season.” We didn’t make the 40,000 vertical feet and just like my days at camp we were happy. Jeff saw David the next day at ski school drop-off and David summed it up perfectly when he said, “It just makes me smile.”

As I forage through the responsibilities of adulthood and long gone are the days of being a carefree camper at camp; I still relish the experiences that push my body, mind and soul. I celebrate the peaks of which I don’t make it to the top and value successful failures. I am grateful for my experiences in the mountains at camp as they fostered the sense of challenge and adventure. I love the moments when I get to dig down to find that sense again. I happily return to my day job of making it possible for youth from all over the world to come to camp for a similar experience.
The Blue Sky Cup is already on our calendars for next year. We will have a bigger team, bigger smiles, and we will reach 40,000 vertical feet.

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Spots Open at Cheley

It is March and summer is on the horizon! We are busy preparing for a fabulous 97th summer. We continue to be humbled by the interest in the Cheley Experience. One of our units for first term (Lower Chipeta) and five of our second term units are full with waitlist.

Lower Chipeta is full with a waiting list both terms. During first term, we have space for boys 9 to 17 or girls 12 to 17. Second term, we have space for boys or girls 12 to 17. These numbers can always change with cancellations or a few registrations in a unit.

Now more than ever, children need a break from technology and the constant “on-the-go” lifestyle that we tend to lead. At camp, children are able to spend time being better people. They learn how to care about others, communicate at a deeper level, and just be a kid.

Check out our amazing 2016 Promotional video. You can also watch the unit videos from 2016 on Vimeo.

If you know someone that would be interested in the Cheley Experience, please share our website and promotional video with them. We have also created a website with some wonderful text to help you share the Cheley Experience with your contacts. Check it out at

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To Our Beloved International Families

There have been a lot of stories in the U.S. news about an apparent change in attitude that some Americans have towards different cultures. We want to assure you that we value different cultures and perspectives, and that we are committed to ensuring your child feels as though they belong here at Cheley Camps. For over 95 years, we have welcomed campers and staff from different states, countries, backgrounds, religious beliefs, and cultures. The Cheley Experience is enhanced by diversity. We value having campers and staff from all over the world as our young people develop friendships, learn from one another, have a better understanding of perspectives, and gain an appreciation for the differences among cultures as a result of being a part of the Cheley community.

Our campers develop a Code of Living on the second night of camp. The Code of Living is a collection of values that the campers strive to live up to throughout the summer. The Code often includes words like respect, unity, and integrity. Each unit will talk about the contributions that each camper will make to the success of the unit. We realize that we have a responsibility to protect the essence of the camp experience.

The Cheley Experience is strengthened by our international campers and staff. Your family is important to our program and to our community. We also want you to know that your children will be treated with the same respect and honor that every child receives at Cheley.

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A Winter Note From Cara on the Ranch

On the first very cold and snow day (currently 3 degrees and we got about 4” of snow overnight) I hide in my office finding inside tasks to stay nice and warm. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to bundle up to feed and break ice for all the ponies on property first! This time of year we only have about 15 horses to look after on Fish Creek Ranch. All of the rest of horses reside in eastern Colorado, about 2 ½ hours away. They’re well looked after and enjoy the freedom of 8+ months off.

The horses in Estes Park tend to experience more snow and colder temperatures than their eastern counterparts, so we try to only keep around the ones that need work and/or more attention for whatever reason. Some horses still here are Monroe and Lancaster, who are both moving towards being ridden and Max and Tiger, who are spending their time learning ground manners.

During the winter a lot of what I do, with a lot of help from the year round team, is maintenance and getting camp back up to top operating condition. A lot of time is spent working with the horses left on property and making sure they’re in a better spot than they were at the end of last summer. This includes ground work for the young ones, moving towards saddling or riding for others, and taking lessons to help improve both my riding as well as our overall horse herd. One thing I absolutely love about working with horses is that there is always more to learn. For those of you who have been to the colts program you may know Lancaster, one of the mustangs, working with him to get him ready to ride has been a huge lesson for me. He’s easily been one of the toughest cases I’ve ever worked with, not that he’s wild or overly naughty, he just thinks differently than I’m used to. Putting in the hours to get him to where he is now, ready to ride, has been both frustrating and extremely rewarding.

Well, I’m off to spend a little more time breaking ice and making sure all of our critters, including our newest ranch addition, the goats, are healthy and good. Enjoy your winter, stay warm and positive and we can’t wait to have you back, hopefully for the summer of 2017.

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The Passing of Louis Sass

Louis Carl Sass Jr. died peacefully in his home surrounded by family and love on Friday, October 28, 2016. The Rosary and Celebration of Life will both be held at Most Precious Blood Church at 2250 S Harrison St, Denver, CO 80210. The Rosary will be on Thursday, November 3rd at 7 P.M. The Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, November 4th at 10 A.M. with a reception to follow.

Louis was born on April 27, 1944. He was the oldest of three boys, all born in San Tomé, Venezuela. His parents Louis Sass and Virginia Sass (Cheley) were from Denver, Colorado; however, his father was a petroleum geologist so they grew up in various locations. They moved from Venezuela to Pittsburg when Louis was seven, then later to Summit, New Jersey, and eventually to Miami, Florida for Louis’ senior year of high school.

In summers the family took fantastic vacations, including trips to the Grand Canyon and to Yellowstone. Later Louis went to Cheley Colorado Camps, the camp that his grandfather founded near Rocky Mountain National Park. These adventures instilled in Louis a lasting love of the mountains, which he later shared with his children and grandchildren.

Louis enjoyed being a student and cherished his time at Colorado College, where he majored in math and physics. He later completed master’s degrees at both Carnegie Mellon and The University of Chicago. He was always a teacher at heart, and he spent much of his life working with young people, both in the traditional classroom and in outdoor settings. He worked for many years at Cheley Colorado Camps as a counselor and then as a director. He also taught math and physics at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado, and then after his “retirement” he went back to teaching at Colorado Community Colleges Online. Louis had incredible patience and an exceptional ability to teach students how to deconstruct complicated problems.

While working at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Louis met Carol Ann Cooper and they were married 8 months later. Despite the brief engagement, in Louis’ words, “it worked out pretty well” for them—they recently celebrated 45 years of marriage! Louis and Carol Ann had three children, Anna Marie, Louis, and Jennifer. They eventually moved to Denver, where Louis worked for the state of Colorado for several years and then for Public Service Company of Colorado as a Financial Analyst for 20 years.

Outdoor adventures with his family continued to be important for Louis. All of the kids have many fond memories of hiking and backpacking with mom and dad in the Colorado Rockies. Dad’s patience and encouragement was unlimited, and when the kids tired, they would ride on dad’s shoulders. Later Louis and Carol Ann traveled with their kids in the Canadian Rockies and then with kids and grandkids in the mountains of Colorado and Alaska. Louis found joy, peace, and strength in the outdoors. The psalm that hangs in the Frank H. Cheley Chapel “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help” was a favorite.

Louis joined the Catholic Church in 1980 and it became an important part of his life. As part of the Most Precious Blood community, he served on the Parish Council, helped the Marthas, and participated in the Sunday Lunch Program. Louis particularly appreciated the Catholic teaching of caring for all God’s creations, especially for those fellow humans with fewer resources. Without fanfare, he frequently reached out to and in support of others.

Other interests and passions for Louis included trains and music and dance. When it came to trains, Louis enjoyed everything about them— building models, railroad history, riding trains, and chasing them. Later in life, Louis was active with Colorado Friends of Old Time Music and Dance and Boulder Scandinavian Dance. He ran the Zesty Contra for many years and was a member of the CFOOTMAD Board of Directors. Louis and Carol Ann enjoyed many years of contra dancing, Scandinavian dancing, and waltzing with friends on weekends.

Louis’ devotion to his family was unparalleled. His three grandchildren, Ben and Henry Schubach and Aven Sass, were the apples of his eye, as he would say. He took great joy in their smiles and laughter, in their antics and foibles. Louis was always generous with his hugs even when the grandkids wanted to make him into a jungle gym. He walked many an extra mile just to be on a hike with his grandkids. For that he will use a good hiking watch he got at Top9Rated, so they don’t miss the curfew. And he was their best example for loving and accepting people without condition. He was the most wonderful Grandpa and Poppa.

Louis will be dearly missed by the family he so loved—his wife and partner Carol Ann Sass, his children Anna Marie, Louis, and Jennifer, his son-in-law Aaron Schubach (Anna Marie) and daughter-in-law Bryn Clark (Louis III), his grandchildren Ben and Henry Schubach and Aven Sass, his brother Tom Sass and his wife Peggy, and his brother John Sass and his wife Carol, his sister-in-law Veronica Schamberger and her husband Dan, his nieces Julie Horowitz, Dana Nickless, and Monika Schamberger, his cousins Rick Sass and Mimsi Janis, the Mascarenhas family, his best friend Jon Olsen, and many others.

Memorial contributions may be made in Louis’ honor to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the John Austin Cheley Foundation, or the Most Precious Blood Here For God Campaign.

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An Old Friend, A Special Guest

It was an evening none of us will soon forget. Hosted at Boy’s Trails End Ranch, BTE Campers, Haiyaha Campers, and numerous staff attentively listened to a very special guest at last night’s campfire.

Tom Hornbein is an infamous mountaineer. In 1963, he was a member of the first ascent of the West Ridge of Mount Everest, as well as the first traverse of the mountain. He is one of the world’s most accomplished climbers, and an idol to generations of mountaineers.

But if you ask him, he will refuse to say he is a professional. Rather, he does it for the adventure and love of climbing mountains.

Originally from St. Louis, for reasons Tom does not know, he was sent to Cheley Colorado Camps when he was thirteen years old.

While initially homesick, Tom soon discovered an unknown and irreversible adoration for peaks.

With piercing blue eyes, his BK around his neck, and a continuous smile – Tom told us his story.

As a camper, Tom made his first ascent of Long’s Peak in his second year. An iconic mountain to Estes Park and Colorado, Long’s is a beautiful 14er that many seek to climb. It takes time, patience, and a respect for every challenge along the way.

Once a Backpacking and Hiking Counselor at Cheley, Tom began to tackle Long’s over and over again. He continued this in college, utilizing the peak as a sort of training ground. He believes he probably climbed her 80 times throughout his life.

Later down the road, an opportunity arouse that was immensely daunting, but beyond appealing for Tom.

Everest. With a team of climbing colleagues, Tom tackled the mountain in 1963 for nearly five months. During the journey, he described the mountain as inviting, provocative, exhilarating. When we later asked for the gritty details, he spoke of the frigid air, risky ascents, and lonely nights. Supremely, Tom spoke of uncertainty.

He said, “Mountains are just a metaphor for all the rest of life” and “Uncertainty is an essential part of the seasoning of life”.

Why did he climb? Initially inexplicable, Tom has since been able to pinpoint the reason for this fascination. He noted that one wonders “Is it even possible?” and “Can I push myself to the peak?”.

Further, doing so exposes you to how small you really are. The perspective from climbing mountains shows that even though you are in fact, a speck, you can still be a part of something incredible and grand.

Tom noted that in his life, there were these incredible pivotal moments that naturally occurred, and changed the path his life would take. For him, attending Cheley as a camper when he was thirteen was the greatest pivotal moment.

For showing him how to climb, preparing him for a long life of exploration, and leaving him mystified by the natural world and the people in it – Tom thanked Cheley.

He told us that he never wanted to be known as the guy that hiked Everest, so we will honor this and know him in other ways. We will remember him as a former-camper – passionate about mountains, and embracing of uncertainty.

Tom is not different from today’s campers. In fact, he said Everest has changed more than Boy’s Trails End has. The support and opportunity we offered to Tom years ago will be the same we give to our camper’s this very term.

With Tom’s wisdom in our hearts, and uncertainty driving our passions, we are overjoyed to see where our camper’s go in the future.

For a once-in-a-lifetime presentation, and sharing an inspirational evening with us, we thank Tom Hornbein once again.


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Bob Ditter at Cheley

Thank you Bob Ditter!

We were fortunate to welcome Bob Ditter back to Estes Park.

A well-known child, adolescent, and family therapist – Bob has been visiting Cheley Camps for nearly thirty years now. His work is well-known across the camping industry, and his visit has become a highlight to our own training.

He is an engaging story-teller, has a treasure chest of advice, and years of dedicated experience in counseling to share with us. While he has visited over 600 camps, Bob is happy to say he spends the most time at Cheley.

His reason for this? As he explains, it is clear the emotional connection he feels to our camp. His voice seems slightly strained, eyes briefly teary, and the entire staff hung closely to his every word.

He spoke of Cheley’s dedication – across generations and to every camper. We are 96 years old this year, and we have committed ourselves each summer to our mission statement:

“We build the lasting character and resiliency of young people, creating unique life experiences in a challenging and nurturing natural environment”

After he spoke of the significance of our positions and the impact we will have on campers from across the globe, he raised a critical question.

“Why are you all here?”

We all paused momentarily, and many in the audience replied. The common thread being that Cheley, itself, is so rare. It is one of the few places where judgment is replaced by encouragement and growth is so clearly seen. The most rare thing – we all WANT to be here.

Everyone working at Cheley is here because they are passionate about their work and the collective Cheley Mission. In this engaged environment, possibilities are endless and memories deeply cherished.

Bob has already opened our eyes to the powerful influence we all will have on campers, and the magic of Cheley as a whole. We are lucky to gather more of his wisdom, and continue preparing for the exciting summer on the way.

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