September 12, 2018
Counting the days until next summer!

Begrudgingly, we returned to our winter desks wishing we could still hear the sound of camp bells ringing and feel the energetic charge powered by campers and staff filling the shores of Lake Plantagenet.

The Thunderbird experience is an abundance of new and old friendships, trials and successes, infused with smiles and laughter. We expect Thunderbird campers to have this myriad of experiences, and we value each, knowing every moment contributes to the overall experience. As we strive to create an environment that is both challenging and nurturing, it is our goal that, in the end, the smiles and successes prevail in their memories and the challenges provide building blocks for resiliency and perseverance.

We are proud of all that our campers accomplished in the summer of 2018. We never cease to be impressed by how quickly kids learn to water-ski for the first time, create a fantastic piece of pottery or art and conquer their fears to ride a horse, climb the wall or sail. For our girls and boys who desired to keep up their athletic skills, we trained and played a match or two against one another and nearby camps. It is always great to see our campers play competitively for fun.

We love that the phrase, “I am bored,” is not part of the Thunderbird vocabulary. Our campers were engaged during both activities and free time. Tree forts, tire swings, box hockey, “Nine Square in the Air” and hammocks were in constant use. The gaga pit, street hockey, tether ball and ping-pong tables always had a crowd cheering on the participants. There was also never a shortage of rowdy card games being played. The latter, inspired the idea for our final banquet gift of Thunderbird playing cards. All first session campers should have received their deck after the close of the camp season.

We are excited for the launch our new website. The process of rebuilding and re-branding provided us the opportunity to evaluate both our “Jumping Off” and “Adventure” Program offerings and options. As we walked through the process, we revisited our program philosophy of providing stepping-stones for new growth opportunities. When the website rebuilding process came to fruition, we felt gratified knowing that our multi-specialty and adventure program combination experience is unparalleled in the Midwest and perhaps across the country.

To this point, we are proud of the “Jumping Off “camping trips our campers chose to participate in this summer. In addition to our scheduled climbing, fishing and sailing trips, at girls camp, our eight to ten years olds completed overnight bike trips riding more than 20 miles each way to Bemidji State Park. Eleven and twelve year year olds participated in canoe and hiking trips, photography all-days, and the Progression (our finished 7th graders) girls group hiked on the Superior Hiking Trail and in the Porcupine Mountains and paddled through the Voyageur National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on incredible adventures.  At boys camp, the youngest boys discovered new fishing holes, enjoyed horseback cookouts and village campouts and sleepovers in the tree house. The middle age boys biked and hiked at Itasca and Bemidji State Park. And, the Progression boys group completed a mix of backpacking and canoe trips on the Superior Hiking Trail, Voyageur National Park and in the Canadian Kenora District to the renowned Isinglass Lake.

Cabin groups at both camps enjoyed overnights at local campsites where they went berry picking, funyaking and swimming. Most cabins finished off their evenings with a healthy dose of S’mores or scrambled brownies! We are happy to report that even nervous campers enjoyed their overnights. This is a true testament to the support offered by our cabin counselors and fellow campers, helping them overcome their concerns. In true Thunderbird form, a few campers enjoyed “sleep-unders” and felt equally supported.

Knowing that “adventure” has different meanings for each camper is what motivates us to create and offer new adventure opportunities for our older campers. This past season, a group of finished ninth grade girls ventured out on an inaugural half season JL trip. The adventure included camping, sight seeing, day hiking and rafting through North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Upon their return, the girls chatted non-stop about the fun they had on their trip!  These moments make us look forward to providing more customized opportunities for our older campers.

In combination, our adventure programs, Adventure Quest, Canadian Canoe, PNW, JL and CIT, traveled well over 5000 miles, covering fifteen states and four Canadian providences. Thunderbird campers could be found from Boston to Burlington to Jackson Hole to Portland to Banff, Canada to the San Juan Islands.  They hiked, biked, backpacked, kayaked and traveled waterways through some of the most spectacular landmarks in North America: Acadia, Grand Teton, Glacier, Olympic, Mt. Rainier and North Cascade National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Quetico Provincial Park, the mighty Mississippi River and more. They dipped their feet and swam in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Lake Superior and countless glacial lakes and rivers in the mountains they traversed.

We know that our older campers serve as role models to our younger ones, even our eight year olds start looking forward to participating in some aspect of our adventure programs. It is a testament to your trust and understanding of how these experiences offer unique growth opportunities for your children that motivate us to continue to offer these programs and relentlessly pursue new adventures to captivate the interests of all our campers.

Our Canadian Canoe Adventure boys win the award for the most exciting travel story!  Due to wildfires near their route on the Bloodvein River in Canada, we chose to evacuate them. Our campers, staff, their canoes and all their gear were air lifted out on two floatplanes. The entire process from our learning about the fires to evacuating them took less than eight hours. Brick, along with the help of our trip director and a few knowledgeable alumni, rerouted the group the next day to an incredible journey in Quetico Provincial Park.  We know both experiences will be etched in their memories forever.

If you are relatively new to camp or have yet to learn about our Adventure Program opportunities, our new website clearly explains these program offerings. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact your respective camp director.

First year camper parents, we plan to reach out to you in the upcoming weeks to chat about your child’s first Thunderbird summer.  And, as we make plans to travel around the country, we will be reaching out to all of you.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or comments.

This letter marks the opening of the 2019 enrollment season.

Chicago Reunion: our first reunion is in Chicago. Many of our older campers travel in for this event, so we send out the information to everyone. Both the boys and girls camp reunions will be on Saturday, October 20th with the time to be determined soon at the Glencoe Community Center in Glencoe, IL.

Other reunions will be posted as we create our travel calendar. If you are interested in hosting, please let us know.

As you may recall, we work to create cabins and a community that includes campers from all across the country and therefore limit our enrollment in certain towns and suburbs where we have a strong representation. Since last spring, we have kept a list of siblings, cousins and friends who are interested in signing up for the first time. If you have a child who is ready for camp or know someone who does, please let us know so we can be sure to save space and set up a time to connect about the 2019 season.

Thank you again for entrusting your children to our staff and us. We will remember the 2018 season fondly and are ready to gear up for 2019.

Best, Michael, Shari and Roger