A Life is Precious

Our little Samantha started to crawl last week.  She quickly moves towards  shiny beads, tiny Barbie accessories and board game pieces that get left on the floor by her older sisters.  Now it is time to make sure the baby gate is up and that the house is “baby proof”.  I sometimes think to myself, “how is the youngest of three going to survive her toddler-hood unscathed?”

As you give your heart, love, time and energy to the lives of these little people, there is always the fear that something awful can happen to them. From the time they are born we try to handle them with care.  We bring them home from the hospital, tucked in their approved car seat, driving carefully down the street with our hazards flashing.  We read our parenting books, research the products we buy, and strive to keep our sleep deprived brains working. As they grow older we realize as scary as those first couple months seem, they are the easy years. As they grow older we fall more in love with them.  We send them off into the world; pray and cross our fingers that they will be cared for and safe when we are not with them.  We try to teach them to not trust strangers, to follow their gut if something doesn’t feel right, that their bodies are theirs and sacred, and to look both ways when crossing the street.  We love them with every ounce of our being. It is unfathomable to think of them being taken from us under any circumstances.

As we send them to school in a car equipped with best convertible baby car seats, to their friend’s houses, to camp, to the mall, to birthday parties, someday to college and to travel the world we are forced to trust.  We are forced to trust our children’s intuition, the quality of their caretakers, and any safety measures taken.  We are forced to trust our own ability to deal if all else fails.  Furthermore, we are forced to face the reality that no matter how hard we try to take all the risk out of life, it will unfortunately always be there.

As a nation, we will hopefully move through this with love and grace. As youth industries, we will hopefully strive to improve whatever we can to lessen the risk.  And as parents and caretakers, we will hopefully continue to trust our inner guidance and strength however difficult that may seem.

My heart aches for those affected by this latest tragedy.  My emotions relate to every parent that can’t imagine what it must feel like to lose a child.   My mind continues to block out the temptation to get too driven by fear.  And my spirit continues to kiss, hug and release my children out into this world knowing that each moment of life is precious.

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After all it’s up to you

“The future “dew-dryers” for all the world are the young explorers who have caught a vision of what they might accomplish with one little life and who are determined in their heart of hearts that they shall not be at all satisfied with small petty games or with little selfish self-seeking achievements;  young folks who have tasted real life at its best and are living it every day for all that there is in them; young people everywhere who consider their lives as a trust to be used for the uplift of humanity along any one of a thousand different lines of endeavor, young people who have seen visions and dreamed dreams of the things that are yet to be.” –Frank H. Cheley, “After All It’s Up To You.”

Yesterday I began reading Frank H. Cheley’s book, “After All It’s Up To You” that he wrote in 1935. It is a book about leadership and the value of people’s potential. The principles that Frank speaks about in his book are actively being taught around camp and I believe that it is a great lesson that we are instilling in our youth. At Cheley Colorado Camps we encourage the campers to be leaders or “Dew-Dryers” as Frank would call them. Leadership and success are not defined by strength, wealth or material items. “Success does not lie in what you have, but in what you are; not in one’s ability to get, but in one’s ability to give.” Our campers are taught that to be a good leader you must be a good role model to others and serve others to the best of their ability. If someone is not benefiting others and creating a better world for future generations their value is lost. Whether it’s having a positive attitude on the basketball court, assisting a fellow camper on a hike or sharing advice with the younger units, our campers are putting into practice the values that will make them into great leaders.  “Real and lasting success is entirely a matter of living up to ideals- honesty, integrity and neighborly kindness; a staunch belief that right is right and wrong is wrong and that there can be no middle ground,” said Cyrus H. K. Curtis, publisher of The Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post.

At Cheley the campers get to whole-heartedly participate in a variety of worth-while activities that will hopefully give them the hunger for adventure and a thirst for life. The campers are encouraged to experience self-realization while at Cheley through their programs and community building activities. On the Cheley website there is a quote that says, “Campers often say that they feel more alive, more connected and more themselves at Cheley.” Cheley provides a safe and supportive atmosphere that allows our campers to reflect and learn about themselves. Understanding and loving oneself is the first step in becoming a great leader, and it is fun to watch as the campers develop into themselves and seek to become fully independent and responsible.

Gabrielle Carrier

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As the seasons change, so does the staff at Cheley Camps

We often joke about the comments we get when we are out in the world and we tell someone that we run an overnight summer camp.  Often the response is, “Wow, how fun, so what do you do in the winter?”  Without going into too much detail, we respond with, “Get ready for the summer”.   The Cheley family certainly does not do this alone and never has.

We are extremely grateful for the many talented and amazing people that have contributed to Cheley Camps’ success over the years.  When Frank set out to start building the beautiful facility we still have today, Lansing Smith completely supported him finically.  When Frank died and Jack was only 23, Ernie Altick and the secretary, Kelly helped to carry it forward.  And through the years the list grows and goes on.

As we move into our 93rd year, we will have some changes in our year-round staff.  Paul Weidig and Betty Schacht are both leaving Cheley Camps to pursue other interests.  We will miss both of them as they begin the next chapter in their lives.  Both of them brought professionalism and maturity to the Cheley Camps organization.

Paul Weidig joined the year round staff in 2006 after decades of being involved with Cheley one way or another.  Each year, he has worked hard to hire awesome summer staff, has taken on the management of the nurses, as well as the position of the Boys’ Camp Director, he has directed Family Camp for the past  several years and has been an integral part of the Cheley Experience. We have been blessed by his music, his tireless listening ear coupled with great advice, and amazing work ethic.  He has been a great addition to our year-round staff, and we are grateful that he will remain a colleague and continue his involvement with Cheley.  During the summer, Paul has always been around to lend an ear or support a new staff member in understanding the expectations and traditions at Cheley.

Betty Schacht joined the year round staff in 2008 after working as our accountant since 2000.  As the enrollment manager, she has been a wonderful addition to our year round staff.  Parents are constantly commenting about Betty’s support and understanding.  We have enjoyed her maturity along with her humor, her business and accounting talents, her endless patience and organizational skills.  Over the past four years, she has created strong systems and improvements in the Enrollment Manager position and helps us hold the organization to a high standard.  There is a good chance she will stay involved with Cheley as a business consultant.

We wanted to let people know about these changes for a few reasons.  First of all, many of you have developed a friendship with one or both of these people.  Second, we want to let you know before you call the Denver office and get a new staff member on the phone.  Third, we want to put the word out there to see if you know of or can recommend any qualified people to fill these positions.  We have talked with a few people already, but we are starting the full process now.  We are fortunate that we have many contacts in the industry and have a good idea of the skills needed in these positions. If you, or someone you may know, are interested in exploring a position with Cheley, please contact Jeff at the Denver office.

We would like to thank both Betty and Paul for their dedication to the Cheley Experience. We will miss them and we wish them luck with their future endeavors.

Sincerely,

The Cheley Family

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Cheley provides culture

One of the greatest things about Cheley Colorado Camps is the opportunity to learn about new cultures. Campers and staff come from all over the United States and even the world to attend camp at this establishment. Whether it’s a difference in accents, languages, traditions or location, campers get to understand and work hand in hand with their peers from all over the globe.  This past summer we had 52 international campers which are about 6% of the total 911 campers representing Saudi Arabia, Mexico, France, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, Canada, UK, China, Brazil, Hong Kong, Seychelles, Russia, Turkey, Singapore and Taiwan. Along with the 52 international campers we had 10 international staff members out of 206.  The majority of them hear about Cheley through the internet, exchange programs or family members that have attended Cheley. The registration process is the same as our native campers.

It is a unique experience for the children because they get to know people whose lives are very different from their own. Not only do they learn about the differences, they also get to recognize the similarities that they have. As I was talking to one of my international co-workers from Hungary we got the opportunity to exchange music. It was an interesting experience for me because although we live very different lives we also have many similarities and share the same taste in music. It was neat to realize that although we dress differently, speak differently and live thousands of miles apart we are more alike than different. I have gotten the opportunity to witness many of the campers as they share similar experiences as I have with my co-workers. I love watching them educate one another on their languages, traditions, and hometowns. They bond over sports, celebrities, music and more creating an irreplaceable experience that they could not find elsewhere.

Another neat thing about having a diverse group of backgrounds at camp is that it often times sparks the campers’ passion to travel. I believe it is very important for youth to want to see the world and learn about other cultures because it makes them more open minded and well rounded. After meeting people from these countries and states I have seen the desire to travel grow in these children. Attending camp with people from all over the country and the world has also prepared campers for their future when they work in businesses or attend schools where they are exposed to different lifestyles.

The opportunities at Cheley are endless and the campers enjoyed everything that camp has to offer including making long distance friendships that will last a lifetime.

–Gabrielle Carrier

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Cowboy Bob

Today Cheley Colorado Camps got a visit from one of its most memorable alumni, Robert Dern. Dern is known better as Cowboy Bob while at camp. He has been part of the Cheley family for 75 eventful years. He says his life was changed in 1937 the second he stepped foot on Cheley soil as a camper. His mother asked their family doctor in Colorado Springs, Leo Bayfore, if he knew of any camps to send her two sons. Bayfore, being married to Chief Cheley’s sister, told Derns mother there was only one camp she needed to send her sons, Cheley Colorado Camps. So that is exactly what she did. Dern was a camper for nine years and at the age of 15 became a counselor’s aid and an assistant wrangler during the Second World War for the first term of the summer because they were desperate for staff. Dern was so good at what he did that the Cheley’s promoted him to head wrangler for Ski Hi by the second term. The next year he came back as the head wrangler for Haiyaha.

Ten years later Robert Dern’s first child attended Cheley and eventually all five children followed in his footsteps. Keeping the tradition alive, eight out of nine of his grandchildren have attended Cheley as well. In 1993, Dern came back to Cheley to work for Cheley/Children’s Hospital Burn Camp for 13 years. From 2001-2004, he decided to come back as full time staff as the Fishing Manager. “I was here when Don Cheley was born, all of my kids and eight out of nine of my grandkids have attended Cheley. This camp has been very influential in my life” Dern said.

Dern currently comes to Cheley once a week with his son Bill to fish with the campers. He is also an active member with the John Austin Cheley Foundation. Cowboy Bob is a legacy at camp and both the campers and staff look forward to his weekly visits for a little piece of Cheley history.

-Gabby

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Update from Cheley

The High Park fire has continued to grow but is not moving in the direction of the Trail’s End Ranches or the Land O Peaks Cheley property.

The fire has impacted some of our program areas.  Our rafting program is conducted on the Poudre River and access to that area has been closed due to the fire traffic.  Instead of rafting, we have contracted with the same company to provide access to the CSU High Ropes Course.  The campers are excited for this new adventure at Cheley.  We are also excited because it follows the scope and sequence of our programming.

The horseback riding programs at BTE and GTE have also been impacted.  The National Forest Service has closed many of the areas we ride to from BTE and GTE.  Because of these closures, we are sending the TE rides out of the Fish Creek Ranch (the Cheley ranch just before you drive into the main camp property).  Our main focus is the well-being of the campers and staff while we work to limit the impact on their activities.

We have also been monitoring a structure fire in Estes Park.  It is on the other side of town and is moving away from us.  We are also not concerned about the fire at this time (except that we know some homeowners in that area).  Many of you outside of the area will probably not hear of this fire.  We did see that DenverPost.com has a small story on the fire, and we wanted to be proactive with our communication.

Again, at this time, we are monitoring both fires and we are not concerned about Cheley properties.

The Cheley Family

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Our mission

Dear Cheley family

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

“Great things happen when youth and mountains meet.”

Our mission guides us everyday.  We realize we have set our standards high, and it takes a diligent effort to achieve our mission every summer.  Building lasting character and resiliency can be difficult.  Resiliency is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”  To strengthen resiliency, one has to experience challenge and change.  At Cheley, this may mean failing to reach the peak on a hike because of weather or a slow hiker in the group, or not receiving a recognition or patch because the camper did not stay focused on the goal.  It may mean falling off a horse or not getting all of your first choices for activities.  These setbacks give both campers and staff an opportunity to strengthen their resiliency.

Building resiliency helps build character.  Character is often revealed in challenging times which means there may be occasions when campers and staff have to be tested.  These tests may come in not getting along with a bunk mate, waiting out a storm in a tent all day, or struggling to ride a mountain bike up the Cheley Challenge.  Overcoming challenges teaches children that they can overcome other challenges.  Every year we hear stories of campers who have drawn on their growth from camp when they are meeting tribulations at school or with friends.  This nature of growth develops through success and failure.

Our goal this summer is to witness as many camper and staff successes as possible.  We also realize there will be some failures.  As an organization, our goal is not only to be one of the premier summer camps, but to be a shining example of an extraordinary company.  We strive to succeed in our customer service, our relationships, and our communication.  Unfortunately, there may be a few times when we will miss the mark.  I invite you, actually I beg you, please to let me know when we miss the mark.  And please let me know as soon as it happens so we can do whatever we can to fix it.  Even after 92 years in business, there are areas where we can grow and improve.  I also love to hear specific examples when our staff exceeds expectations.  I love to share those stories with the entire staff and especially the specific staff member.

In closing, I want to thank you.  To thank you for your continued support of Frank Cheley’s vision; for entrusting us with the development and growth of your children; for your belief in the impact on a child who spends time in the wilderness surrounded by strong role-models; for understanding the value of a camp experience, and thank you for spreading the word about the impact of a summer at Cheley Camps.

In these difficult economic times, we realize that families have to make tough decisions.  We feel Cheley is a valuable experience in the growth and development of a child who only has so many years to experience childhood.  As we plan for this summer, we realize we have a commitment to you to provide a magical, transformational experience for your child and your family.

Sincerely,

Jeff Cheley and the Cheley Staff

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The Seasons of a Camp Director

It’s March 1st. I can’t believe it is March 1st.   Almost daily, I think, where is the time going?  I never feel like I can fit it all in.   I always want it to slow down just a touch or have a couple more hours in the day.  I jokingly ask Ellie and Kate if they can please stop growing because there is a part of me that wishes they would stay little forever. I revel in their little hands and feet, their missing teeth, the pictures they draw, the things they say and the little I love you notes they write. I don’t really want these seasons to race by.

For the past couple of years, we have been working with a family business consultant.  As we have moved into the 4th generation of Cheley, it remains a priority for our family business that we dot our i’s, cross our t’s and everything in between. We often touch on the seasonal aspect of our lives. In the fall we take a quick breath and get back into the routine of our non-camp life, we call our city friends back, remind them that we exist and make plans for lunch.  In the winter we think, what can we accomplish now so we are better prepared later, what can we be doing better, and what can we learn from our colleagues as we travel to conferences and educational sessions?   And then we start to see the spring approach, we sneak in a family vacation and some date nights.  We know that it passes so quickly, and we are back into the fun, non-stop, throws of summer.  And through all the seasons, we work to put together the 200 staff that will make the summer magical and enroll the amazing campers and families that so graciously come into our lives.

As camp directors, our whole professional purpose is to prepare for the summer.   It’s like a wonderfully big deadline on the horizon.  It’s Showtime.  We have three summer months to deliver the awesome experience that we promised we would.

I continue to strive to live in the moment and embrace the passing of seasons.  Hello March and Spring.  Summer here we come.  Bring it on.

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Ann McCollum’s trek in Nepal

After six years as a camper and four years as a backpacking counselor at Cheley, in 1988 I signed up for a course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to broaden my experience, to get beyond the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and also to see if the backcountry skills I had learned and practiced were universal.  Did the skills and knowledge I learned at Cheley line up with what other backpackers, hikers, and climbers were doing in the mountains?  Could I “hang” with them? So I embarked on a 35 day mountaineering course in the Alaska Range, traveling over, living on, and climbing up ice and glaciers in the shadow of Mt. Denali.  The verdict? A definitive ‘YES.’  Cheley taught me very well, and I have since gone on to build a career leading and educating others in the outdoors and pursuing my own adventures around the world.

Recently I trekked for three weeks in a remote region of Nepal – an area called Dolpo — high on the northwestern Tibetan border.  Once again, the 30 year old foundation of my Cheley experience kicked in along with jets wäre somit Chat as I adventured high into the Himalayas, well over 16,000 feet.  I was comfortable carrying a pack, knew how to live comfortably in a tent, loved rest days when I could sit in my Crazy Creek chair for hours on end soaking in the warmth of the sun, had become adept at spotting camouflaged animals in the rocky crags, and was confident that this entire experience would earn a five-star rating.  I even drew on the well-practiced art of pacing myself and playing encouraging “tapes” in my head when the going got tough . . .

Step.  Breathe.  Step.  Breathe.  Step.  Breathe.

Don’t look up.  Just keep moving.  The pass is high.  Just get to that rock, your next landmark.  Two more landmarks and you can stop to rest . . . have some water.

Finding my rhythm of breathing, carefully mapping out my line up the talus trail, and stepping gently, I glanced at my altimeter.  14,200 feet.  Hmmm, that’s Long’s Peak. Breathe.  400 more feet to go to the campsite.  I can do this.  Almost there.


When I arrived at the campsite perched high in a rocky couloir, the last to arrive, I turned and looked back down, then across the valley to the un-named 16,000 foot peak draped in glaciers.  I did it! I breathed a deep breath, one that you could only get when you stopped moving.  Catching my breathe and turning to look around the campsite, the others were busy getting their gear in order, adding layers, and settling in.  It was a rather lonely arrival, but I was relieved to be there.

I scrambled to find my tent which had already been pitched by our team of porters, and just as the sun went down, dropping temperatures at least 30 degrees in just a few minutes, I dove in, exhausted.  I thought about the evening ahead of me:  Change clothes and get warm, have a hot drink and dinner, get to sleep.  Tomorrow we would wake in the cold shadow of 14,600 feet and prepare to climb over the next pass at 16,400.  It would be a challenge for me, because I was struggling with an illness which came over me just as we gained significant altitude — an illness which was the basis for my late arrival and eventual helicopter evacuation from the trek — and I was low on energy.

In my tent I had time to lie there under my down bag and reflect on my struggle – Why is this so hard for me? Besides the physical illness, there is something else . . . what was it?

The next day as I started ahead of the group and was eventually passed by everyone except my trusty Tibetan friends, Thinle and his horse (who were both charged with keeping an eye on me!), I began to reflect on my experiences climbing a mountain or meeting a challenge at Cheley.  Approaching a summit of a peak or a pass, whether one was at the front, the middle, or the end, there was always a sense of accomplishment as a group.  There were words of encouragement, there were shouts up and down of “Way to go!” and “Keep it up!”  If you were the last to crest the summit, often someone waited for you, grabbed your hand, and walked the last few steps in unison, laughing, smiling, high fives all around.  At the least they were shouting encouragement from above until the moment you stepped up. And then, for the final celebration, the group sang “Netherlands” together, arms around one another’s shoulders, basking together in the fellowship of accomplishment.

This is what was missing.

Though I was with an amazing group of people – one of the best, most fun, and interesting groups I have ever trekked with — we were a group of individuals reaching individual goals, not a cohesive unit, succeeding and failing together.

It took me several weeks after I returned home (and a body full of oxygen) to fully absorb this realization. Something nagged at me about the experience.  Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot about myself, made solid friends within the group, and experienced the culture of Dolpo that was unforgettable. But I realized that the culture that defines the Cheley experience, that of accomplishing a challenge together, the intentional fellowship, is what gives such a wilderness challenge its lasting deep meaning.  There is a difference between being alone in a group and being in alliance to reach your goals.  I prefer the latter when I am faced with the challenges of the mountains, and I am grateful to Cheley for modeling and personifying this for me as a youth.

So, with Dick the Bunny strapped in his usual spot on the back of my pack, I will continue to explore the peaks and valleys of the highest cathedrals of the world, always learning, always growing, and always carrying the strength of Cheley fellowship to help me over those high passes.

Please join me on a trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, this May 2012 – it’s the ultimate extension of you Cheley experience!  If interested, contact me at abmcc64@aol.com.

For a description of the trek go to  http://www.kamzang.com/KamzangJourneys/featured-treks/kamzang-nepal-everest-base-camp-trek.htm.  For more information on me, visit my website at www.annmccollum.com.  Hope to hear from you!

–Ann McCollum

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Don and Carole Cheley’s trip to China

After returning from almost three weeks in Hong Kong and China we know one thing for sure, international travel is an educational experience. At the International Camp Congress in Hong Kong, Don and I joined with camp people from all over the world. There are camps in Turkey that serve primarily Saudi Arabians, & Turks. In Greece, just three hours from Athens, a daughter and her mom run a camp on a the Aegean sea, serving kids from Greece. With the debt crisis in Greece, running a financially viable camp is a challenge.

Across the ocean to Asia, camps in Taiwan, Singapore and Mongolia are doing well, as are camps in Russia. In Japan, camp directors are getting trained to work with grieving children. Japan will soon offer grief camps for the thousands of children affected by the earthquake/tsunami. Japanese camp directors came to a grief camp in Texas this past summer to visit and learn. Our neighbors up north in Canada and down south in Mexico and Colombia continue to offer excellent programs for youth as well. Across the world, “camp gives kids a world of good.”

We also had the chance to go to Stanley Market in Hong Kong to visit with Cheley alum Andy Aldeen and his family.  We love to reconnect with our wonderful alumni.

As soon as the conference was over, we flew to Beijing where we were able to connect with Andy Schorr, another Cheley alum, who moved there to teach English. Andy has a new business for local hotels to subscribe to for their guests.   It specializes in giving tips on where to eat and what to do in Beijing. He treated us to some amazing meals in places most tourists would never know about! And gave us tips about the less visited places in the city that were fabulous.

We saw all the sights in the Beijing area we could in three days, including the Forbidden Palace, The Summer Palace, Tienanmen Square, Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Markets, and The Great Wall of China (about 40k from the city). Our next stop was a grand visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors, followed by a cruise on the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam site, then on to Shanghai.  We hear that another alum, Thomas Demerath lives there, but we were unable to reach him.  Saying goodbye to our fellow travelers on our China tour, we returned to Denver from Shanghai.

Our trip was memorable, we saw and experienced so many wonders, the air was dirty, there were lots of people, and China was a fascinating, quickly developing country with a history that spans 5,000 years.

Don and I loved our tour and are grateful for the opportunity to explore the globe. It is truly a privilege to be broadened and deepened by our exposure to different cultures. We are excited to be working with directors from Colombia, Turkey and Russia to bring kids from those countries to Cheley next summer. Peace through the camp experience is our wish for the future.

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