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. 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.

–Abbey

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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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It is a beautiful day in Estes Park – with a light blue sky and a warm breeze bringing a calm energy to camp.

Pre-Camp preparation has significantly slowed as projects have been successfully completed. In the mean time, Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Leadership Training have begun.

WFA Trainees include sixty members of staff – ranging from positions such as Out Camping, Mountain Biking, Hiking, Horseback Riding, and Backpacking Counselors. From the National Outdoor Leadership School, we welcomed four instructors from Boulder, Colorado to better our staff’s preparedness in first aid and response.

While our counselors are especially experienced, this additional training allows Cheley Camps to facilitate even safer and more adventurous programs!

Leadership Training has kicked off as well, consisting of sixteen Assistant Directors and eight Directors. This staff arrived to camp Thursday, and has been diligently training ever since.

With a Directing Staff of twenty-four, Counseling Staff of about one hundred and ninety, and a thousand campers, this Leadership Training is essential to a great summer.

These additional trainings are one of the many reasons Cheley can offer such a unique camp experience. They bring about skills and knowledge that allow us to hike longer, bike further, and lead better and better.

We will work all summer to teach and inspire our campers, first by teaching and inspiring each other.

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Pre-Camp

Last Thursday, roughly thirty staff arrived to Estes Park to prepare camp for the summer. We call it “Pre-Camp”, but it is much more than that.

It is simultaneously an immense amount of work and an exciting time for staff. Every morning after breakfast, the crew meets at the Trans Station. Here, we review the work for the day, separate into groups depending on tasks, and tackle camp!

Roads have been swept, cabins diligently cleaned, and horses shoed. Every day new tasks are added to the list as camp is carefully surveyed by the leadership team of Richard “Smitty” Smith, Don and Jeff Cheley, and Maintenance Supervisor Mike Supinski and Bo Winslow.

I never knew how much work went into getting Cheley ready for campers, but after a long, snowy winter in the Rockies, the effort is definitely needed.

While the days are long, we are fortunate to enjoy delicious meals in between work, and a much appreciated coffee break at 2:00pm.

And we all know, it wouldn’t be Cheley Camps without making everyday memorable. Singing, dancing, laughing all day – Campers aren’t even here, but the fun-loving energy is already radiating throughout camp!

Pre-Camp marks the beginning. The beginning of new friendships, new adventures, and an incredible summer on the way. We could not be happier to be here.

On June 5th, we will welcome the full staff to camp and begin Staff Training. As the snow on the peaks continues to melt and camp becomes more ready, we anxiously prepare for a summer edging closer and closer!

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The Staff at Cheley

It’s April and the summer is truly on the horizon! We often get the question, “What do you do in the off season if you only operate in the summer?” Aside from enrolling, marketing, updateing our Data Recovery Software, taking care of the facility; the most important thing that we do is put together our summer staff.
Kudos to Alyse, Amber, Kim and Shawn for their hours of hard work in putting together the 2016 team.

What does it take to be a Cheley counselor?
Our counselors are at least 19 years old and many are 21 years old or over. Counseling staff have CPR certification and either First Aid or Wilderness First Aid certification, depending on their position. We look for people who are passionate about youth development, self-starters, compassionate, team players, have a love for the outdoors, and dedicated to making a difference.

Our Hiring Process
We start interviews in October for the following summer. Each staff members submits an application and three references. Interviews are conducted in person when possible, and by Skype or phone. We conduct reference checks, fingerprint checks (CBI and FBI database), National Sex Offender database checks, and review transcripts and driving records. International staff come through staffing agencies that conduct preliminary interviews and background checks in their home country, prior to our Skype interview. All staff members complete a sexual abuse prevention training course prior to the start of summer.

Staff Training
Cheley staff members participate in a comprehensive staff training, covering everything from Cheley policies and procedures to dealing with homesickness to program area training and lesson planning. We also have sessions on risk management and emergency preparedness, abuse prevention, van driving training, medication management and administration, and mandated reporting. For three days we learn from Bob Ditter, an award winning child psychologist. Bob teaches our staff counseling skills, how to work with boys, how to work with girls, and he provides tips for working with campers in a variety of settings. Many of our staff also have an opportunity to complete an overnight experiential training exercise. By the time the campers arrive, they are so ready!

During camp
We have a support system in place to manage our staff. We train, we teach, we encourage and provide a place for our staff to grow and strive to be their best selves.

We are psyched about the staff members we have in place so far and are looking forward to seeing them create the magic of the Cheley experience in 2016!

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Carrying the Code- The GRO Organization


Last summer I did a Chapel talk based off of the children’s book, “What Do You Do With An Idea?” Later that afternoon two Chipeta campers, Marcella Senti and Bridget Bullard came to tell me about what they had done with an idea. Of course, I was thrilled to hear about the amazing organization they had created from their wonderful idea. It is called GRO and its stands for Girls Reaching Out. How cool is that?

Then one cold wintery day sitting in the Denver office, they made my day again, calling to give me an update on their organization. I continue to be so inspired by these young women, reaching beyond their own lives to make a difference in the lives of others and I wanted to recognize them as campers “Carrying the Code” into their lives back home
As of 2013, the efforts of this small group of 13 to 14 year old girls, have been focused on achieving the goal of building a well in Malawi, Africa. They decided on this location because they met a group of Malawian students at their local college. Through this new friendship they learned about their home, and some of the hardships involved with a lack of water.

If you have a moment you should check out their website at www.girlsreachingout.wix.com/growithus

If you know of any Cheley campers or staff that should be recognized with “Carrying the Code” please let us know.

If you need an sexual assault lawyer in Houston, TX click here!

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Back in the Saddle


I would imagine it is with mixed emotions that we all get back into the saddle of our lives. It is nice to be sitting at my desk checking off tasks with the holiday break behind me. Although, the alarm was a shocker… I had to drag myself and all three girls out of bed, and remember how we do the morning routine. We had kind of a lazy break at home which is not typical for us. It was really nice. I loved spending the time with our family, the girls loved having the unstructured time to just hang out, and it was refreshing to just put the brakes on life for a bit. With that being said, this long winter break left me wondering: what does it feel like to have a long summer break without camp?!

I totally get that there are pool days, sports, family vacations, and other ways to add structure to your summer break. But how will your children get the MOST out of their summer? I am sure summer break seems like a long time from now, but now is the time to plan. If you want to get into the program of your choice, start to plant the seed with your children and have a plan in place for the summer break.

The time is now!  Happy January.

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