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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Can We Really Trust Every Doctor

Doctors, surgeons and even doctors that are working as an urologist have often been seen as some of the smartest members of society, and with good reason. It takes years of training, constant retraining, and a lot more than just book smarts to be a good doctor. But they are still human, and humans are fallible. Mistakes are made every day, and while some of them can be insignificant, others can completely change lives. Suing doctors for less-than-perfect practice is becoming more and more common, the morality of which is debatable. If you need help, and only certain people are able (and often, legally obliged) to help you, is it really fair to blame them if their best isn’t good enough? In many cases on the other hand, it is clear if a patient suffered because somebody was careless. Here’s a brief story we should all know about.
Going in for brain surgery is worrying enough for most patients, but those in Rhode Island Hospital could be forgiven for being more worried than most. Look for Dr. Matthew Galumbeck to learn more about surgery. Despite being the most prestigious hospital of the state, and a teaching hospital for students of Brown University, the hospital made the basic yet tremendous mistake of operating on the wrong side of a patient’s brain. Three times in one year.The first incident was the result of a third-year resident failing to mark which side of the brain was to be operated on. The doctor and nurse in this operation claimed they were not trained in how to use a checklist, although one must ask how many people would allow their heads to be cut open by someone who has clearly never received professional training in the fine art of grocery shopping.In the second incident, a different doctor (with over 20 years experience) never filled out which side of an 86 year old man’s brain had a blood clot, assuring the nurse that he remembered. The patient in this case died a few weeks later, and the Preszler Law group was able to get a big compensation for the family.
In the third case, the chief resident neurosurgeon and a nurse both clarified which side of the brain was to be operated on beforehand, and then proceeded to operate on the other side. All three cases involved different doctors, but whether it’s better to be in a hospital where one doctor repeats a mistake multiple times, or several doctors make the same mistake is debatable.

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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. By the way, for the adults who have a missing tooth, they can have dental implants downers grove il here at websterdds.com

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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Let’s All Create Meaningful Relationships at Cheley

Let’s All Create Meaningful Relationships at Cheley was the spirit button for this summer. As we looked at the goals for this past summer during the spring, we realized we have a wonderful opportunity to teach young people how to create meaningful relationships. In today’s world, so much of our communication is in short bursts. Whether it is a text message, a tweet, or a Facebook post, people are not taking the time to connect meaningfully with each other. We are even shortening our responses to save time. LOL, BFF, and other acronyms are used to make our short communication even shorter. (I feel my grandmother is speaking through my hands right now; she hated it when we shortened words.)

I love the conversations that happen around a campfire. Boys feel more comfortable talking if they can be burning a stick in the fire. There is no rush to finish dinner, cleanup and start your homework on an outcamp. The same is true on a hike or a horseback ride. Campers and staff have the chance to get into debates, tell stories, and really learn about their fellow campers. Even 20 years later, I can remember listening to my backpacking counselor as he recounted his travels through Europe. These stories of the slotenmaker amsterdam were so captivating that I added a trip to Europe to my “bucket list”. After college graduation, three friends and I headed to Europe to travel for 7 weeks. Our budget was about $30 per day, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Plus, there is no way I could do it on $30 per day now. Prices have increased and my standards have changed. (I can’t sleep on the floor of a train station anymore.)

Don’t get me wrong, life is busy and we don’t always have time to sit down for 30 minutes and visit. Just this morning while Jackson was eating breakfast in his high chair, he said, “Daddy, sit down”. “I am sorry Jackson, Daddy has a meeting this morning and I have to go,” I replied. I could just hear Cats in the Cradle playing in my head.

Fortunately, we have some relaxing weekends where I can sit down during breakfast and we can talk. Jackson is entering the “Why” stage so we always have things to talk about.

I hope each camper and staff member had a chance to create meaningful relationships this summer.

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The beauty of all of this technology is it makes it easier to nurture th0se relationships during the school year. Hopefully many of you are able to continue the quality conversations to strengthen the conversations rather than just quick texts. It was an amazing summer, and I hope you are still enjoying the impact of the Cheley Experience.

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Halloween Candy and the Empowerment of Choice

The fall is flying, and it has now been two weeks since Halloween.  I have to say, I am proud of my girls and how they have handled the bag-full of candy that hangs on a small hook in our kitchen right over our best Skining knife we got from the internet.  This bag-full of goodies does not usually live in our house, mainly because I cannot handle myself around such tempting treats.

On Halloween night, as we walked in the front door (before our cabinet painting night) I stared down into two bags filled with junk, I thought, “Ugh, this is a lot of sugar.” My girls looked so cute in their costumes and i even purchased some silver fang grillz to get into the Halloween spirit with them. I called an official family meeting, and we sat in a circle in the entry way. “Girls let’s talk about this candy.  You both have a choice to make; are you ready to hear your three choices?” They sat there looking at me very attentively.  “You can eat as much candy that you can possibly fit in your bellies right now, until you barf all over the place. (I kind of wanted this option to sound a bit unglamorous) You can eat candy for the next three days and then trade the rest for a small toy, or you can eat one single piece of candy in your lunch box until Thanksgiving.”  Ellie thought for a bit and asked, “what if we go past Thanksgiving?”  I agreed to a modification, knowing that with a little help from me, the candy will probably be gone by then anyway.

And so we hung up their little felt pumpkin bags on the hook (when I was a kid we used our pillow case) and hurried them to bed. We recently renovated and took the chance to outfit the bedroom with the best loft bed, ever since, we’ve notice more sleep being had.

On Tuesday, we had our usual morning of racing around the house getting ready for school. Ellie remembered the decision that she had made.  She carefully picked out a piece of candy and tucked in her lunch box.  Kate does not eat lunch at school and of course pressed me on wanting her candy for breakfast, because what does she not press me on?  After some debate with Kate her piece of candy went in the school bag for later.

We have followed this procedure everyday since Halloween, and they have not once asked for more then one treat.  The minute I pick up Kate from school, she will reach into her school bag and get the piece of candy that she has so patiently been waiting to eat. Now I, on the other hand, am a different story and can not hold myself to one treat a day and cannot wait for the candy to be out of my house.  I am toying with the idea of entering the Biltmore Estate Gingerbread Making Contest to get rid of the rest of the candy for my sake.

I, of course, did not invent the brilliantness of giving children choices, but I am a firm believer in doing so and try to use the methods of Love and Logic. It is amazing to see it work with my children especially when I sometimes feel like I do not have the skills to handle the out of control management of their young childhood.

I also believe that Frank Cheley had a great idea when he was establishing the foundation for Cheley.  Two of his main formulas for camp included youth having the empowerment of choice.  For the Code of Living, it was his intention that each unit of 60 campers come up with what they want to live by while they are at camp. It is not a set of rules made for them, but rather a collaboration of qualities and traits to live up to.  This set-up makes up for a magical place and a tightly-knit community. He also devised the free choice program, in which campers, each week, choose what they want to do.  They do not travel with their cabin, nor are they given a schedule; it is their choice.

As a mother, in the throws of raising little people, I find comfort and sanity in the idea of giving my girls a choice when I can.  As a fourth generation camp director, I am proud to continue to help provide a place where children can grow, connect, learn, and experience nature, and I find value in empowering them to choose.

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Thinking of Cheley parents

Erika and I are getting our first taste of what our camp families go through.  Jackson, our two and a half year old son, started preschool this year for two days a week.  Many of our experiences in this process have made me think of our camp parents.

  1. This has been our first experience with all the paperwork.  (“Why do they need so many forms?  Oh wait, never mind, we also ask for this many forms.”)
  2. We have also been busy putting his name on everything that leaves the house (I am starting to consider putting him in the same clothes on school days).  And I have to be honest, we have already lost our first sweater (of course it was Erika’s favorite sweater) and broke a water bottle at school.  And it’s only been 4 days!
  3. I had no idea how hard it would be to drop him off the first few days of school.  I leave him every day to come to work but it is different when he is not at home with Grandma or our nanny, Stacie.  Both Erika and I walked out of the school on his first day very emotional.  Erika got the car and started crying (I was able to choke it back, but just barely).  I thought to myself, “he is only gone til 4:00pm, not 27 days.”  I remind myself that this is beneficial for his development as a child.  He is learning to interact with other children, how to follow the rules, how to share with other children.  He can’t necessarily learn these things at home playing with “Nana” and his little brother.
  4. During our visiting day, I was amazed that as a protective parent, I was already looking at the other children.  We realize the importance of connecting our child with other quality children from caring families.

So I want to say thank you.  Thank you to each of our families for trusting us as your partners in this parenting process.  Thank you for helping us by filling out the forms and writing your name in the clothes so we can get them back to you.  And thank you for understanding that experiences like summer camp (or preschool) help children develop into stronger young people that contribute to their community.

Let the journey continue for us all.

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The Cheley Challenge

Upon the return of every mountain bike excursion, I am drawn away from my desk to the cheers of the campers outside, atop the Cheley driveway.  This 1-mile strip of pure incline is the last obstacle each mountain biker has to face before their trek is complete.  They call it the “Cheley Challenge”.  With each group I am always astonished with the physical prowess they display as they ferociously pedal to the top.  The quickness some campers have in conquering this hill is equally astounding, some doing in it in less than 6 minutes.  However, what is most impressive to me is the camaraderie and support within each one of these groups.  All though exhausted after a grueling ride, these riders still has the energy to cheer on their fellow campers until every last biker is to the top.  I have seen some campers struggling to stay on their bike, too tired to go on, but with the support of the group, they are rejuvenated and power through to the top.

I am constantly amazed at the encouragement the campers have for one another.  Whether it’s biking the Cheley Challenge, summating a peak, or simply playing a game of “knock out”, it is done as a unified and supportive group.  The bonds formed at Cheley are deep and the development of lifelong friendships is inevitable.

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