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, before he used to work and a big industrial company, where they work with all kind of machinery, from packers to Turret Slitters.

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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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 with SEO Gilbert, 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
What is a penny stock?
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 Huntsville, AL Uncontested Divorce Lawyers they had created from their wonderful idea AmazeLaw Marketing to showcase their skills and talents as lawyers. 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. It definitely has taught them patience and perseverance, they came up with the idea but then had to raise money for their plan. Once they had accomplished that, they had to investigate the laws of both countries on how to get the supplies over legally. Once they had accomplished that they had to go through the required OSHA safety inspections and got all the paperwork on any liquids that were required for water treatment. Through this new friendship they learned about their home, and some of the hardships involved with a lack of water and they learned that you can achieve what feels impossible if you put your mind to it.

If you have a moment you should check out their website at

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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AFR/ANG Teen Summit Camp

By: Nathan Wilson

This August marked the 6th summer Cheley has hosted the Teen Summit Camp, a six day program for the children of Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members. This year we had 120 deserving teens selected from all over the country that applied for this leadership development program. Through a variety of funding, the teen’s families do not bear any of the cost for attending, including travel.

When we designed this program six years ago, we attempted to inculcate as much of the traditional Cheley experience into this much shorter timeframe. No minute goes wasted. Teens begin the morning at 6:00 a.m. with a variety of activities to choose from: yoga, zumba, running, calisthenics, etc. that focus on physical well-being. Immediately following breakfast, campers depart on the traditional Cheley activities that we all know and love. By 4:00 p.m. everyone is back at Land of Peaks where campers go through two hours of engaging leadership development rotations and listen to professional speakers that we bring in from all over the country. After dinner, campers have another leadership rotation followed by a night social, full of dancing, laughing, and smores. Totally exhausted but completely fulfilled everyone is in bed by midnight to do it all again the next day.

This year we were joined for our banquet and recognition night by the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, three star, Lt. Gen. James Jackson. Gen. Jackson expressed his gratitude for the sacrifices these sons and daughters of service members have made while their parent(s) have been deployed and away at training. Many of these teens have had to step up and help run a household at a young age. It was a meaningful night, and long before the charter buses arrived the next morning to take everyone back to the airport, tears flowed, hugs had been exchanged, and promises to keep in touch made.

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How many of you have seen the movie Inside Out? If you have not seen it, you should go when you go home and take your family.
Inside Out is about a little girl named Riley. The movie takes place in the headquarters of her brain. You watch her life unfold as five emotions personified as the characters Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy control her daily life. Riley’s lead emotion is Joy. And Joy works very hard to make sure that Riley has the best life possible.

Joy recognizes why the other emotions need to be present. She needs Fear to keep her safe, Disgust to keep her from being bothered by bad food or people, and Anger to help her face things when they seem unfair. Joy doesn’t see the reason for having Sadness- she does not want Riley to ever feel sad.

When Riley turns 11, her parents make a surprising decision to move from their happy life in Minnesota to San Francisco.
As they pull into their new home, the emotions chime in. Sadness whimpers, “I don’t want to live here.” “It is the worst,” Disgust agrees. “The absolute worst.” “This house stinks!” Anger agrees. “San Francisco is terrible”, says Fear. Joy is determined to keep Riley happy through this difficult transition, but Sadness is messing that up.

Joy and Sadness accidently get thrown out of the control room and go on an adventure within Riley’s mind. While the rest of the emotions, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, try to navigate Riley’s life without the leadership of Joy and the presence of Sadness, everything within Riley starts to go haywire.
As Sadness and Joy try to get back to the control panel, they run into Riley’s old imaginary friend named Bing Bong. Bing Bong is part cat, part elephant and part dolphin, but is made up of cotton candy. How people come up with this stuff, I will never know! Bing Bong helps the two emotions try to get things back under control.
At the conclusion of the movie, Joy realizes the importance of Sadness. She finally sees that it Sadness that evokes empathy from others and unites people in response to loss, particularly her parents, which is exactly what Riley needs right now.

There are many other plot lines in this movie that I promise I have not given away, and you may have an entirely different interpretation!
Telling you the story of this movie leads me to this. Of course it is important to experience many emotions. That is what makes us dynamic and alive. But, like Riley, there are some people that have Joy as the lead emotion in their brain or their personality. If you do not have Joy as the leader in your brain, is there a way to train that emotion to take the lead?

There are brain scientists and psychologist that say you can work towards this goal. In gathering information from folks like Kristin Race who wrote Mindful Parenting and Dan Harris who wrote 10% Happier, these are the five practices that I have found to help Joy be a prevalent emotion within you.

1. Savor: This is the practice of being mindful and noticing the good things around you. Prolong the good stuff, make it linger, take it all in, and eventually it will become a habit. Savor the past by reminiscing, savor the future through positive anticipation, and savor the present by practicing mindfulness. By doing this, you are training your brain to nurture the seeds of happiness. Practice this while you are at camp. Peace be the journey, right?

2. Practice Gratitude: This simple act fills us with optimism and self-confidence, knowing that others are there for us. When we express our gratitude to someone, we get kindness and appreciation in return. It deepens our connection with others. Try to practice this daily even for little things. Thank the staff for giving everything they have to make your Cheley experience a great one. Send a thank you note to your parents for sending you to camp because it is their gift to you- financially and emotionally.

3. Give and Be Kind: When you give someone something, it makes not only them happy, but you happy. Studies show that being kind makes us feel less stressed, isolated and angry, and more connected to the world, open to new experiences and more joyful. I often hear you all say “at camp you are your best self.” I would imagine that part of that is striving to be more kind to the people around you. Of course we want you to aim for this at camp, and also in your own community at home.

4. Practice Empathy- To empathize is to have the ability to care about other people, to imagine and understand the thoughts, behaviors, or ideas of others, especially those that are different from us. When we empathize, we become less judgmental and angry, and in turn develop patience. This also strengthens our relationships with those around us which is essential to happiness.
5. Quiet your mind- Without sounding like a yogi, an essential oil believer, or someone who collects crystals and lives in a yurt, scientific studies show that we can rewire our brains to achieve more joyfulness by taking a short time out of our day to quiet the chatter in our minds. Big organizations like Google, Twitter and the military have put meditation into practice and have found that their people have become more effective, resilient and happier. Scientists have conducted studies on people’s brains that do short doses of meditation, and have found that it has grown the grey matter related to self-awareness and compassion and has shrunk the area associated with stress.

Trying to quiet your mind is not an easy task, believe me I know. It’s like holding a live fish out of the water and as hard as you try your mind will start, “My bum hurts because this bench is hard,” “I wonder what is for lunch,” and “I wonder how long this chapel talk will be.” As our lives continue to move so quickly and we constantly have things coming at us and it seems as though anxiety is not going anywhere, I think it is important skill to learn. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we help teach you 21st century skills. You have vespers, solos, chapel, rest hour and we have now. So humor me and let’s give it a try. Sit up straight. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath, when your mind starts to wonder start over and start over again and again and take your mind just back to your breath. Try it for one minute and then maybe try to take it to five minutes.
I do not think that life is always about being happy. As pointed out in the movie, it’s important to feel and live with all the emotions. If I could choose one emotion to take the lead, it would Joy and I think aiming to have more Joy in your life is a pretty good goal. It benefits you as well as the people around you.
So, take a short time out of your day to quiet the chatter, savor, practice gratitude and empathy, give and be kind.
We hope you are having a great term.

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What do you do with an Idea?

This is a children’s book that was introduced to me at charity lunch I attended and once I read it I had the urge to share it with you all.

What do you do with an Idea?
One day, I had an idea. Where did it come from? Why is it here?
I wondered, “What do you do with an idea?”
At first, I didn’t think much of it. It seemed kind of strange and fragile. I didn’t know what to do with it. So I just walked away from it.
I acted like it did not belong to me.
But it followed me.
I worried about what others would think. What would people say about my idea?
I kept it to myself. I hid it away and didn’t talk about it. I tried to act like everything was the same as it was before my idea showed up.
But there was something magical about my idea. I had to admit, I felt better and happier when it was around.
It wanted food. It wanted to play. Actually it wanted a lot of attention.
It grew bigger. And we became friends.
I showed it to other people even though I was afraid of what they would say. I was afraid that if people saw it, they would laugh at it. I was afraid they would think it was silly. And many of them did. They said it was no good. They said it was too weird. They said it was a waste of time and that it would never become anything.

And, at first, I believed them. I actually thought about giving up on my idea. I almost listen to them.
But then I realized, what do they really know? This is MY idea, I thought. No one knows it like I do. And it’s ok if it’s different, and weird, and maybe a little crazy.
I decided to protect it, to care for it. I fed it good food. I worked with it, I played with it. But most of all, I gave it my attention.
My idea grew and grew. And so did my love for it.
I built it a new house, one with an open roof where it look up at the stars- a place where it could be safe to dream, since I found a web link with a roofing company that could do this work.
I liked being with my idea. It made me more alive, like I could do anything. It encouraged me to think big… and then, to think bigger.
It shared its secrets with me. It showed me how to walk on my hands. “Because” it said, “it is good to have the ability to see things differently.”
I couldn’t imagine my life without it.
Then one day something amazing happened. My idea changed right before my very eyes. It spread its wings, took flight and burst into the sky.
I don’t know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn’t just a part of me anymore…it was now a part of everything.
And then, I realized what do you do with an idea?… You change the world.

How many of you have ever had a really good idea? How many of you were afraid to share it? How many of you have ever seen another person’s idea and thought I wish I would have thought of that?
I think in this day and age it is a challenge to find the time or the brain space to think of new creative ideas. During your school year, you probably have a tremendous amount of things on your plate. School work, sports, music, practices, going from one thing to the next and the continuous temptation to be plugged in, to check someone’s status or to think what you want your status to say.

Here at camp one of the wonderful opportunities that you have is to just chill. Quiet the chatter and busyness in your mind. Clear your head when you are hiking the trail and watching your boots take each step, when you are on your horse looking out at nature, when you have the chance to play with a stick in the dirt or in the creek, or at vespers when you have the chance to just sit, so seldom do we just sit and do nothing. Now please when you are mountain biking just focus on that so you don’t fall. What creative ideas are you going to bring to better the community around you? Are you going to be awake and bring solutions or are you going to just go through the motions.
Now of course there are a million ideas that have change the world and I am sure some will come to your mind. It is an anniversary year for Cheley and I am often overwhelmed when I think about the amazing people that have helped to shape and mold this thing we call the Cheley experience.

From what I can gather Frank was largely an idea man. Many of his ideas were carried out and some never were. He raised Cocker Spaniels and they were kept in the current paint shed that is now at the trans barn. The kennel was originally in Lower Ski Hi. When someone was given their Top Hand at BTE or GTE he would also be given a puppy. We are pretty sure that our parents today would not think that was a good idea.
Some of you may know the story of Girls Trails End. As the story goes Frank started the boys camp first and a little girl came up to Frank and said when are you going to start a camp for me too. Great idea. So when GTE was first started it was called the Me Too Camp.

I reached out to some of Cheley alum that are no longer here and asked what ideas they brought to camp. It was super fun and inspiring to get responses.
Angela started the tradition of singing Jigalo at PJ breakfast. Which I imagine was not a song they were singing in the 30’s. Ann mentioned that she introduced the friendship knot and singing “I see the moon” in SR Chip.

This is one of my favorite stories but there was a little girl in Lower Chip that decided that we needed a Swinging W so she drew a picture and that same year Steve built it and now we have a swinging w.
Last summer I was sitting with some girls when someone received her patch and then you all did that thing were you pulled the string. When I asked about it you all said or yes we have been doing this for years it’s a tradition. I had no idea. I don’t know who came up with that or when it exactly started. But it was once someone’s idea, and now no one ever questions it. It is just what we do.
Some of you may have noticed the boxing gloves in Ski Hi. In the 60’s when boys would have conflicts they would put them in the ring and have them box it out. Crazy.

In the late seventies Marc Thompson brought the traditions of singing the Gambler to Haiyaha recognition and singing Netherlands on the top of peaks.
The ball of yarn campfire was started in Haiyaha by Nick in the 90’s and still happens today. As well as the Positive Mental Attitude Campfire in SC by Emily and still happens.
Judson, who is a youtube star for the evolution of dance, had the idea that Ski Hi would renovate the lean-to on the side of Cathedral. Later Nathan had the idea of building up the Village of the Indians behind Ski Hi

Bill Kalbac brought many ideas into camp like the Kalbac jars we use to go out of camp and the Pinecone patch to encourage a more well-rounded camper experience.
Who was here in the days of Cowga? I do not know how this has not swept the nation. But Clay was a Haiyaha counselor that had his own teenage boy version of yoga and they would do it before trash sweep on Sundays. One pose I remember was The Giggling Gorilla.
Barry said he was the one who started the tradition of hiding the painted rock between GTE and BTE. Which had to have been somewhere in the 80’s and they still do it today.
The current staff and campers here now inspire me. I love that swing crew is always thinking of ways to make their job better. Oliver is always problem solving. In fact the idea of having the swing crew came from a staff member about 5 years ago.

So here it is. What ideas, thoughts, and solutions are you going to bring to your community? Are you going to be alive and awake and think of and cultivate ideas? Or are you just going to go through the motions? What do you do with an idea?… You change the world. On a final note, make sure you”ll check the NootropicsInfo page.

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Staff Training

More busy days!

The Boy’s Store is officially OPEN with a fantastic stock! Sweatshirts, water bottles, Crazy Creeks, and plenty more. Staff have begun perusing through, we are excited for campers to stop in soon. Girl’s Store is working hard to open their doors as well, we hope to see them up and running tomorrow!

For the staff who will be driving camp vehicles this summer, they joined in on Van Training at the Estes Park Fair Grounds. Moving forward, backing up, and swerving through, our staff mastered an extensive cone course. I recommend a red dot magnifier to people that own a gun because It can give you better fovus and you can practice with best leading airsoft sniper. They are now ready and confident to maneuver the vans as needed.

Four groups across the Rockies to participate in Day Hike Training. Alumni staff led the ascents up Lily Lake, Cathedral, Twin Sisters, and Longs Peak. These leaders shared previous stories and quality advice to prepare our counselors for the adventures ahead. Their experience in these mountains is incredibly valued and we were happy to welcome old friends back to camp!

We are always learning here at Cheley, from each other and the mountains alike. On today’s hikes we were reminded of the wise words of the great Ferris Bueller,

“Life moves pretty fast.
If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

When headed up the trails, it’s easy to stare down at your feet and focus on the difficulty of the climb. In these moments, we encourage our staff and campers to carefully pause, look around, and embrace the challenge! Take a moment to truly notice the gorgeous wildlife around you, the incredible people by your side, and the unique opportunity at hand.

This summer will be like no other and we will all be challenged in amazing ways. Be sure to take moments to remember this, many are on the way.

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