Posts Tagged ‘staff’


Tuesday, February 5th, 2013


To Join Us at…


WHAT: A Camp for Higher Functioning Developmentally Disabled Adults.

WHEN: March 18-22, 2013

WHERE: Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, GAIMG_1045

Come Be Part of Our Team! Together we will…

  • Provide Basic First Aid
  • Distribution Prescribed Medications to our Campers
  • Deal With any Accidents or Injuries
  • Have TIME to ENJOY CAMP and Be a Part of Changing Lives! The campers will certainly change yours!


Training Provided along with Support throughout the week. Housing (Air Conditioned/Heated Private Rooms) and

All Meals are Included.


Visit our to Sign Up or Learn More. Or Contact Kit Sluder, RN/Health Services Director bye-mail: email hidden; JavaScript is required or by phone: 704-266-2267.



Camp Blue Skies is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) foundation.

Amazing Blue Skies Camper Thank You Letter

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Sometimes it is hard to know exactly how it feels to be a Camp Blue Skies camper. Thanks to a caring mom and eloquent camper we feel honored to share this rare window into a camper experience.  Here is a recap of this amazing letter we received last week

Hi, Rebecca –

My son was so enthusiastic about his camp experience that I asked him if he’d like to write a letter about it.  He talked, and I typed as fast as I could.  I figured he’d be able to say a lot more this way than if he tried to have the thoughts and do the writing at the same time.

Please feel free to share it with anybody else you think might want to see it.

My thanks once again to you all.

Parent, NC 2011


To the staff of Camp Blue Skies –

I want to thank everybody for a wonderful week.  I really appreciated how much Liz and Rebecca and made us feel comfortable and relaxed and just having a good time.  I really had fun being there and seeing the way it was really a place where people can enjoy nature.  We should definitely take more time to do that.

I liked the cabins a lot.  The bed was really comfortable.  The people who owned the cabins made us feel warm and wanting to help us come back to a beautiful cabin.

The activities were probably the funnest of all.  I loved just going out on the lake and watching the leaves spin around.  I enjoyed the fishing and our fishing sports person who helped us learn to fish better, and I thank him for all his help and his enthusiasm.  I especially enjoyed him showing me how to hold a fish in its mouth and putting it in the water.  That was fun.  I’ve never done that before.  I thought that was very well organized.

I thought the rides we went on like the swing and the zip line was just phenomenal.  I had the pleasure of learning how to take an adventure I’ve never taken before.  I never thought I really could do the zip line.  I was so relaxed but feeling like I was going to fall.  It was fun to be with a counselor, who was very sweet and went on the zip line with meThe counselor and I both love animals and especially cats.  We talked about her dog and the cat that was over at the farm.  All the animals on the farm had different names.  The orange cat I’m always going to remember.  He loved me.  The counselor was there and saw how much the cat welcomed me.  He licked and licked and licked my face and he laid in my arms.  Everybody liked that.

I loved the dude ranch.  I enjoyed watching the horses and learning about their everyday life.  It was really small but it was really fun having just those animals around, and not real big.

I enjoyed the teepee that was there.  We got to walk up the hill and see it.  It looked like what the native American Indians used to live in.  It was painted different colors.  I enjoyed doing the pots up there and putting dirt in the pots and watering the plants.

What also was fun was doing the banner.  I didn’t have much to do on it because there wasn’t a lot of space, but I did put on it the pattern of a river that made it look like nature.  That was really fun, even though nobody could see where it was.

The banjo playing was just amazing.  It was like scenes of being in the West or North Carolina.  We had a campfire inside the cafeteria.  That was probably the funnest.  Everybody was singing camp stuff

Even though I was pushing myself to walk, I enjoyed the hike.  The hike leader helped us know what nature is all about.

The food was good, even though some was camp and some wasn’t, but it had a blend.  That’s what was fun.

One thing that brings tears to my eyes is how much you treat people with disabilities like we’re normal people and it makes it fun to come back and want to do it again.  There’s nobody angry and nobody yelling at you.  It’s just a camp like you’d want to do forever, and then come home and then come back again.  It’s so refreshing to wake up in the morning, even though it’s hard to get out of bed.  It’s refreshing to sit in the cafeteria and everybody mingling together and wanting to wake up in the morning to have fun and get ready to go.  Liz is always eager for everybody to be happy.  She said “Good morning, everybody, did you all sleep well?”  She has a way to make everybody to be happy.

I could say a lot more, but I’m just so happy and so proud that I went.  I never thought I could go back to camp.  I went to a camp in Michigan a long time ago and I didn’t enjoy it.  This was an experience I always wanted.   .

The counselors were really phenomenal.  They were really good people.  Everybody was families together, just blending in with love.  That’s all I see over there, is love.  It’s something I want to do next year. Dick is just phenomenal.  He’s a character.  A good character!  The way he brings out everybody as much as Liz does.  He’s amazing.  I so much want Liz and Dick and Rebecca to come back next year.  The nurses were wonderful.  They were really there for us all.  Jackie and Kit were just tremendous.  Jackie was always checking to see if I was ok.

I hope to see you all next year.


Camper,  NC 2011

Go Camp Blue Skies!

Volunteer Q&A from our NC 2011 Camp.

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Here is a little window into the volunteer experience from our last camp. Thank you to Mike Harris and Millie Cox  for their time at camp and for taking the time to answer some questions.

Q:What was your favorite memory? 

A: I would have to say my favorite was getting a camper to sing ‘I Can Fly’ to our cabin after lights were out.  It was quite moving, as the campers respected his work, and he took the opportunity very seriously.

A: Seeing Scott do the Zip line. Being asked to dance by one of the campers.
Q:Favorite Camper quote(s)?

A: ‘Ughhhhhhhh’, ‘How tall?’.  And ‘Hey Mike, I will take care of you.  We have to smell good for the ladies.’  And then he sprayed me with his special John Valvartos cologne.

Q:Any surprises? 

A: I was extremely surprised at how close I became to the campers.  Separating at the end of camp was surprisingly hard.

A: Feeling so at ease and comfortable around the campers. One, I had never been to camp in my life. Two, I had never been around adults with developmental disabilities. Three, I had always walked funny and crooked my whole life and felt self-conscious about this. On games day, I got to join a team and do the egg walk and other fun things. I had never had the courage to do this before. I figured that everyone would be staring at me but at Camp Blue Skies, no one cared — and there were others who walked funny like me!

Q: Anything you would do differently?

A: The camp did soooo many things right.  I did offer up a number of suggestions during camp.  I do like the idea of helping make the campers have a higher sense of value via hair cuts, mani and pedicures, etc. 

A: Can’t think of a thing. I think it’s great the way you have it.

Q: Proudest moment?

A: When virtually every cabin member came up to me at one time or another and said things like “Love you Mike.”  Or, “You are a great friend Mike.”  This gave me a feeling of adequately fulfilling my role.

A: One of the campers (who throughout the week, was not having much fun) came over and sat down with me, during free time, outside the cabin and after a few minutes, opened up to me and started a conversation. I feel like I really connected with him. 
Q: One thing that surprised you?

A: I was totally surprised at how functioning most of the campers really were.  It was just great to communicate with them, to hear their honest feelings on many different subjects.

Q: Something you would never change about camp?

A: Somehow you have created a special ‘family feel’ that makes the experience so special.  Never change that.

A: Location. Camp Harrison is THE perfect place.

Directors Corner- Highlights of North Carolina 2011

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Thought it might be nice to see what our Founder/ Director thought about our last camp. Here are some insights and highlights from the man himself, Dick Sesler.

Q: Favorite part of NC 2011?
: Observing the maturing of the campers and the volunteers - as each day progressed.

Q: Funniest moment for you, camper or staff?
: The skit with Liz – banana/bandana. 

Q: What would you never change about Camp Blue Skies?
: The dance and the award ceremony line of volunteers.

Q: What would you change for next year?
: More rest time or free time in the afternoon.

Q: What was your proudest moment?
: On our last day, the conversations with the parents, the campers and their Cabin Captains about all the great things that happened during the week.  After camp, the stories from the volunteers about their experience and what they learned at camp.

Q: Coolest activity?
A: The drumming class and the artificial campfire (for our indoor campfire on the first night).

Q: One example from this camp that reminded you of why you started this in the first place?
: Again this year we had a new camper that had never been away from home without his parents.  His mother had high hopes that he might make it through one night at the most.  Not only did the camper stay the entire session, but he was engaged in every activity and never stopped smiling.

Thanks Dick for your insight, foresight and ability to make Camp Blue Skies a reality.

If you would like to personally ask Dick any other camp questions, come to our next camp March 12-16th in Atlanta, GA.



Dick Sesler’s Telling of How Our “Core” Blue Skies Family was Born.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

There is nothing quite like a Dick Sesler story.

It is nearly impossible to not get engrossed in every detail as he re-counts twists and turns using a great sense of humor, humility and a twinkle in his eye.

We just had to share this version of how our core team family was born.

Nine months before the start of our first camp we had just one team member (me) and one camper (my son Brent) – and a signed contract with Camp Harrison , which has a capacity of over 100 beds.

How we were able to attract 62 campers and volunteers and then put on an unbelievably successful one week camp is a good story.

It starts with the annual CampMinder conference in Western North Carolina.  CampMinder is the premier youth camping software for on-line camper applications and medical reports, plus much more.  

At the conference I was clearly an oddity – my campers were adults, they had developmental disabilities and I didn’t own a physical camp.  

One participant heard my story and quickly introduced me to one of her colleagues, Liz Golembeski.  I liked her immediately – plus she was highly qualified to be our program director.  She worked for Adventure Treks leading young people on challenging camping adventures in the Western States and had experience working with children with Autism.  My wife, Betsey, and I met with Liz and she soon signed on.  And then she left for three months somewhere in the mountains of CA, Oregon and Washington before returning a month before camp!

I met Rebecca Blecke (now Rebecca Hilinski) through the land broker who was helping me find a place to build a camp – an idea that fortunately was dismissed in favor of renting existing camps in their off season.  Rebecca reached out to me to ask if she could help. I knew her incredible skills of organization and detail – not my strong suits – and so I immediately found more work for her than either of us anticipated.  

She quickly assumed responsibility of our online donor management system, CampMinder, our books and records and our Foundation reports – plus a hundred other things that any small business, for profit or not for profit, requires.  Rebecca missed the second half of our first camp to get married – bad timing.  Somehow we made it through and she is now Assistant Director.

My goal for each camp is a ratio of one volunteer for every two campers.  With less than six months before the first camp I had successfully recruited less than a handful of volunteers – mostly those people who could not say no to me (at least the first time).  These included my sister, Becky, three of my fraternity brothers (class of ’71) and one of my best friends in Charlotte.  

Mary Tinkey’s name was given to me by Kathi Knier, the Development Director of InReach, an agency in Charlotte that serves adults and children with developmental disabilities.  Mary and Kathi are former presidents of the Junior League.  Mary and her husband have three teenage children and she is involved with multiple school endeavors.  Somehow Camp Blue Skies sounded like a good idea and once the momentum gathered, Mary’s hard work and drive convinced over 60 qualified and enthusiastic volunteers to help with camp!

I must have asked everyone in Charlotte to help me find someone to help with our medical service needs.  Then Kit Sluder appeared and suddenly Camp Blue Skies was complete.  Not only was Kit an experienced RN but she had worked in the camping world for many years including Camp Thunderbird, the sister camp for Camp Harrison.  Our team quickly learned from Kit that we had a long way to go in the medical service area.  She successfully recruited volunteer nurses and a doctor and then helped each parent and guardian complete our health forms.  Then she developed our medical and emergency protocols.  At camp, it was clear to me that Kit made camp a safe place where medical needs and emergencies can be handled professionally and without fanfare.  

So there you have it. Our Blue Skies family was born and the rest was history.

Our family tree is growing daily and we believe we have the best family reunions in town!

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