All of this is wonderfully set against the neutral backdrop of nature, in response to her impartial challenges and rewards.
Boys love to compete. There is a full schedule of intramural games as well as competitions with neighboring camps. The stress is on good sportsmanship – losing with the same grace as winning – and teamwork. Everyone gets to play without any pressure that “you already have to be good.” A boy is encouraged to join in to improve himself, or to discover a new interest.
Counselors are recruited from the United States and abroad. Many of the staff are teachers and college students, who well understand the Ordways’ objective that Winona Camps provide an education in friendly, woodland group living. With a very positive ratio of usually 4 boys to 1 counselor, campers get to know their “Uncles” well. Staff members approach their work as a long-range commitment to youth and their ideals, and their return rate is consequently very high. Authority is well-tempered with a compassionate sense of “having been there once myself.”
Living with a group of other people from different backgrounds and cultures, prepares campers for life well beyond their Winona years. Boys from nearly every state plus an international mix of 23 foreign countries from four continents and the Caribbean, spend the summer together. As adults, they will more readily be able to see through diverse social and geographic labels to underlying human values. An alumnus wrote: “May I mention as a small acknowledgment and appreciation of the Winona spirit all over the world, that I founded the first private camp in Hungary and conducted it strictly on outlines learned in Maine.”*
Winona is a place for kids to grow up. At the same time it is a place for adults to “grow down.” When a camper meets a goal or uncovers some hidden talent, the sense of achievement is shared by his counselor. People take time to listen to one another. The thrill of discovery, the awe of nature, the quietness of a busy day’s reflection, the challenges of wilderness trails – these are experiences common to everyone at Winona Camps – boys and adults alike.