A Counselor Once…

The Big 3

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A Counselor Once…

Ben Pickman (front row, 2nd from the right in this 2010 photo), was a six-year camper, four-year counselor, and the 2017 dean of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Chris Thurston (back left) and Joel Evans (back right) were terrific role models for the guys in bunk 5B.

The bond that a camper can form with his counselors can be truly special. For nearly my entire time as a camper at Manitou, I had two counselors who seemingly were always in my bunk: Chris Thurston and Joel Evans. Both were integral in shaping my experience at Manitou. And last summer, both surprised me by spending a few days at camp as college league came to a close.

Chris was working in Boston last summer and so his visit was less of a surprise, though it was great to see him back at camp. But Joel, who is from Geelong, Australia and traveled halfway across the world for five summers when he was a counselor, was going to have to make a major trip if he wanted to visit Manitou. When I was a CIT, Joel said that he would visit on my Pres Night and sure enough he made true to his promise.

Of the many memories I have of that night, one that I’ll never forget is how the entire theatre gave Joel a standing ovation when I thanked him for making the journey from Australia to Maine to support one of his former campers. The reaction he got on Pres Night was truly special and unexpected.

Joel showed up in his first summer at Manitou expecting to be a scuba instructor. But after less than two weeks, he soon was teaching swimming to Manitou’s eager waterfront swimmers. He stuck around for four more summers watching my bunkmates and me grow and mature. He did plenty of unexpectedly positive things while we were campers and he had a huge positive impact on me. But, to actually see him at camp on Pres Night was surreal. To think about the reaction he received — an applause of gratitude and appreciation — is a moment I’ll never forget.

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Alex Schiff (left) was a seven-year camper and joins the Manitou Waterski staff this summer as a Junior Counselor.

As a sophomore camper, homesickness is inevitable. It’s easy to miss your friends and family when it’s only your first or second summer away from home.

One night as a high-sophomore, after a fun day full of activities, I found myself longing for home. But right then, as if he knew how my friends and I were feeling, a new counselor walked into our bunk, guitar in hand. He sat down in the middle of the cabin and began to sing “One Day.”

I still remember, seven years later, how his singing made me feel at home like I was part of another family at camp. He sang us to sleep and put our entire cabin at ease. Every summer since then, I have returned to see that counselor, Andy Ambat, comforting campers and staff with his songs, profuse kindness, and uplifting attitude. Counselors like Andy make the Manitou experience truly special.


  • Each summer, we ask our campers to share a letter with their counselors (you’ll read them during the staff training week). Other camps do this and last year, the American Camp Association published this letter written by an 8th-grader. His goals and aspirations for his summer experience align well with anything our campers would write.
  • Maine has so much to offer and this article highlights some lesser known attractions including the nearby Colby College Museum of Art, about a 10-minute drive from Manitou.

Important Dates

June 1 – All forms are due