April 30, 2012

Staff Spotlight: Julia Dorn

Camp Orkila was wrapping up it's tour of Bellingham last week, having just had a wonderful chat with Julie T., when that old saying came suddenly to mind: why not catch two fish with one worm? or... mail two letters with one stamp? or... sing two songs with one voice? Umm... Annnywayyy, we realized that Julia Dorn also lives in Bellingham.

Orkila: Julia! What's your personal camp history? What will you be doing at camp this year?
JD: I am returning for my second year on the staff, but when I was new last year, I decided to be a counselor because of my experiences as a camper (in Loowits, LDI, and CIT's). I wanted to share all of my experiences and be able to give kids the same, or even better, summer that I had. It is the most magical place on earth and I would love for kids to be given a great camp experience:)

Orkila: What have you been up to since last summer?
JD: This year I have been going to school at Western Washington University. I am currently taking French, Psychology, and English and I love it! Between classes and studying, I have been hanging out with all of my new friends up here and having a lot of fun:)

Orkila: What’s your favorite part of camp? And what keeps you coming back?
JD: My favorite part of camp is most definitely the DORK DANCE:) It is the best because we can all dress up and be goofy and dance! Other than that, I love value sessions.

Orkila: Why can’t you ride “my little red wagon”?
JD: You can't ride my little red wagon because "THE FRONT WHEEL'S BROKEN AND THE AXEL'S DRAGGING" That's my favorite cheer:)

April 28, 2012


HAPPYTALK!  This Y guides Expedition, 300 strong, arrived at camp ready for FUN!  See photographic evidence below:

 There were smiles!

 Things got silly...

                                                                Things got safe...

 Faces were painted...

Things got sillier...!

Thanks HAPPYTALK for a wonderful weekend!  We loved having you!

Girl Scouts!

The Girl Scout Service Unit 421 graced Camp Orkila with their vibrant, enthusiastic, and cheerful presence last weekend!  There were hunts to be scavenged, marine ecosystems to be investigated, and outdoor living skills to acquire - woo hoo!

Girl Scouts Galore!

April 27, 2012

The Circuit

Orkila's Circuit is located near Tracy Strong Village. The Circuit is a high ropes course that consists of a series of elements that go from tree to tree eventually making an entire circuit. Participants climb up a tree at one of two locations to a platform where they clip into the element.

April 25, 2012


We offer sailing through our Teen Expedition program. Teens have the opportunity to go on one or two week sailing trips (depending on what program they have signed up for) through the islands. The San Juan Islands are a popular sailing and boating destination, with amazing scenery and abundant wildlife it's not hard to understand why!

April 23, 2012

Staff Spotlight: Julie Thompson

Staff Spotlight Series was recently on an hisotrical tour of Bellingham, WA, learning about the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858. One could argue that a lot has happened since then. The real news on everyone's mind, however, is one of the town's newest and most prodigious members of the collegiate community, Julie Thompson. She graciously stepped away from her studies to answer a few questions for us.

Orkila: So Julie, you have been coming to camp for quite a few years, yes? Tell us about your progression over the years, won't you? What will you be doing this year?

JT: This summer will be my 8th summer coming to Orkila. As a camper I was a Turtleback for 3 years, then I was a LDI in 2008, a CIT in 2009, a OSI in 2010, and a Turtleback counselor last summer (2011). This summer I will be returning as a cabin counselor, unsure of my unit but I will be happy anywhere.

Orkila: Now, what have you been up to lately? Where are you right now!?

JT: This year I am a college freshman at Western Washington University in Bellingham, and I am loving it. I have been adjusting to life away from Seattle and taking many classes to figure out what possible majors I am interested in. I have been taking Spanish classes and I even traveled to Mexico in March, hoping to soon become fluent.

Orkila: Excelente. What’s your favorite part of camp? And what keeps you coming back?

JT: In reality I love everything about camp (the people, the place, the games, the songs, the atmosphere, the sunsets...) but if I had to choose one thing as a favorite part it would be the ability to make a positive difference in a camper's life. Being a role model for younger kids is such a rewarding aspect of being a counselor, it makes the summer completely worthwhile. I love working with kids and seeing them grow during their time at camp, and I am looking forward to seeing that again this summer.

Orkila: Why can’t you ride “my little red wagon”?

JT: The front wheel's broken and the axel's draggin'! (obvi)

Orkila: Thank you! How quickly one forgets. Te vemos en el verano. (We'll see you this summer.)

April 21, 2012

Healthy Kids Day

Celebrate Healthy Kids Day with us on Saturday, April 28th!

Come out to meet and play with the people who work at Camps Orkila, Colman, and many other cool Y programs, too.

Watch this video to see what it's all about!:


Don't miss a minute of the fun!
- Free HKD T-shirts for the first 100 Kids!
- Facility Tours
- Summer Programs Information and Registration
- Educational Fun for Kids
- Fun Snacks
- Pool Activities
- Information on Nutrition & Healthy Snacks
- Play Time in the Gym
- Make and Take Art
- Teen Program Information
- Games for all ages
- Fitness Activities
- Safety Demonstrations

To see what's happening on Healthy Kids Day at a Y branch near you, go here: http://www.seattleymca.org/pages/hkd.aspx. We hope to see you on April 28th, but remember, it's great to be healthy EVERY day!

April 18, 2012

Final Week for Partners With Youth Campaign!

Giving the Gift of Camp

In early January, Camp Orkila and Camp Colman began this year's Partners With Youth, the annual initiative which allows us to help bring more kids, families, and schools to camp. (PWY!! Woo!!) This is a big piece of what we do because last year, in 2011, 1 in 7 summer campers and 2 in 3 school groups received financial assistance. This is how we give outstanding outdoor experiences to more kids every year. We've come a long way since January, and now, with one week to go, it's time for a final push... And you can help!

Looking back on the last few months, we see an awesome display of people's generosity and of their love of camp. Dozens of volunteers shared their camp stories while making phone calls (look left), and reaching out on-line and through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Many more have given their time to write 'thank you' letters (look right), and to spread the word to friends and family about camp and what we're trying to do.

"But what can I do right now!", you ask? How about this:

1. Follow this link, http://www.supportcampers.blogspot.com/ to learn more and to make a donation.
2. Share this message with someone you know.
3. Be inspired: Don Hillman was a camper at Orkila in the 1930s. Read more about his incredible life and one extraordinary friendship! Memorials in Don's name will support campers who will rely on financial assistance to attend Orkila. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?n=donald-e-hillman&pid=156896629
4. Sing and Jump for Joy because camp is almost here!

P.S. Many of you may have already volunteered, donated, and helped in other ways. Thank you! Thank you! We know that you have helped make a great summer for 2012. Let's keep it up for one more week!

April 17, 2012

The Ranges

We have both Archery and Riflery ranges at Camp Orkila! Both ranges are run by trained staff that not only ensure a safe environment but provide tips and help with our equipment.

The Riflery range has BB guns and various targets like bottles to aim for.

The Archery range has both large and small bows and traditional targets to aim for.

The Pond

Tucked away behind the Garden is our Pond. The Pond is surrounded by tall grass and bushes - the perfect bird sanctuary.

Within the Pond are all sorts of critters: salamanders, water bugs, dragonflies, and even turtles!

We encourage anyone who visits the Pond to explore what's beneath the surface by using buckets and nets, we even have microscopes to get a closer look.

April 16, 2012

Staff Spotlight: Ben Poor

Not long ago, the Staff Spotlight Series went out for a walk to enjoy the wonderful flowers that are blooming this time of year--such as yellow daffodils, red and white camellias, and others--when we bumped into returning staff member Ben Poor! Ben's a great person that we thought you all would like to meet, and many of you probably already know, so here he is!

Orkila: Ben! Is that you Ben? Since you're here,

I thought I'd ask you a few questions. What's your camp history? What units were you in as a camper, and what have you done as a staff member?

BP: Great questions Camp Orkila! I came to Camp for many years as a Camper, spending at least one summer as a Hoodoo, a Lizardhead, a Greywolf, a Loowit, an LDI kayak trip (Louballas + .5), and a CIT. Two years ago I worked in the Hoodoos and Mt. O as an Orkila Summer Intern, and last summer I fulfilled my heart's desire of being a Greywolf for the whole summer.

Orkila: Other than walking around enjoying the flowers, what have you been up to this year? Where are you right now!?

BP: This year, I started school at Occidental College in LA. This liberal arts schools feels a lot like Camp, especially with all the Orkila alumni I see around campus. I just got back from a beach camping trip to Santa Barbara, where I put many of my camp skills to the test, from games like Ninja to s'mores making, and story-telling around the campfire.

Orkila: What’s your favorite part of camp? And what keeps you coming back?

BP: Value Sessions, by far. I love hearing the personal stories campers tell during value sessions, and also feeling comfortable enough to share my own stories. I really love the feeling that Camp is a safe place where people can share things they wouldn't in other environments. I also love that the feeling of safeness allows people to act outside their comfort zone, from Giant Swings to Get Wet Get Dirty.

Orkila: You know what my last question is going to be, don't you? Well, here it is. Why can't you ride "my little red wagon?"

BP: Oh I sure saw this coming, Orkila. To answer this last question adequately, I prepared a top ten list:

Top Ten Reasons You Can't Ride My Little Red Wagon:

10. It was destroyed by a Pacific Sea Bear 9. You have been touching your face and not washing your hands 8. You only sent in 4 boxtops, 3 coupons, 2 proof of purchases, and one small nickel 7. Gaga Knuckles 6. We left it on Sucia 5. It's on 24 hour quarantine 4. It's the Snazzler 3. It got burned by the spark in a pile of sticks 2. ???1. Profit

Orkila: So true, Ben, there are a lot of different reasons why we can't ride little red wagons. Thanks for the conversation, it was great seeing you. Be sure to smell the flowering cherry trees as you go, their blossoms smell like sweet perfume. We'll see you at camp!

April 13, 2012

Working with Clay

There is something very satisfying about getting your hands dirty. In the Orkila Arts & Crafts Shoppe, we have plenty of clay to get your hands dirty! We have clay tools and pottery wheels to create whatever your mind can think up.

April 11, 2012

Polar Bear

P-O-L-A-R, Polar Bear that's what we are! Every session, bright and early on Friday, a group of people parade through camp announcing that "It's time for Polar Bear!" Anyone who wishes is welcome to come join us down on the beach by the dock. When the lifeguards give us the 'go ahead' we cheer and take the Polar Bear Plunge and run into the ocean. Following this chilly challenge, the pool is open for people to warm up in and hot chocolate is handed out to all of our Polar Bears!

April 9, 2012

Staff Spotlight: Kira McGieson

The Staff Spotlight Series has recently been on expedition and crossed paths with a truly unique species of staff member! For those who are interested, the scientific name for this person is something like Kirus McGiesonus. She is pictured below in her native habitat. Please read on to learn more!

Orkila: Wow! It's so great to see you! What a nice coincidence. It seems like only yesterday when I saw you last. So, remind me, how long have you been at camp, as a camper and then a member of the staff team?

KM: It's probably safe to say I've got a history at camp. This will be my 12th summer. I've been in lots of the classic units, but I gotta give a shout out to my DeCosmo days and my participation on the one and only Orkila Surf Camp expedition. I spent two years as a cabin counselor, the past two years on teen staff as an LDI Instructor and Shaggy Mice leader, and I'll be doing some of the same this summer.

Orkila: Nice. And what are you doing while camp is not in session? What's up with you these days?

KM: Right now, I'm in my room in Portland, OR where I'm about to graduate from Lewis and Clark College. Eeeep. I'm also lucky enough to work at a kayak shop here in Portland called Next Adventure, which I love.

Orkila: Congrautlaions and we hope you have an awesome graduation! But first, what is your favorite thing about camp?

My favorite part about camp is being able to share my love for things like paddling, the san juan islands, etc. with the youth I'm lucky enough to work with. This also happens to be what keeps me coming back.

Orkila: What a nice chat we've had Kira! I just have one more question. Why can't you ride "my little red wagon?" ... Kira? Hello? What... Where did she go? Maybe she CAN ride my little red wagon. Well, it's clear that our staff lead busy lives in the off-season. We'll all see Kira this summer and we can't wait. Woo!

April 8, 2012

Easter Bunny! Spotted at Camp Orkila!

Saturday morning with blue skies, blooming flowers, and hundreds of easter eggs - Here at Camp Orkila we hosted the Lions Club annual Orcas Island Easter Egg Hunt! 

Several hundred kiddos were ready to track down those gleaming eggs bursting with treats, and when the bunny gave the signal, they were off on their search!

April 7, 2012


OTC (Orkila Tabernacle Choir) is a time during our campfires where we slow things down and sing songs.

We pass out OTC books which contain an array of songs that have been sung at Orkila for years. Musicians lead the campfire pit in singing three to four songs from the OTC books.

At the end of OTC, we sing our closing song 'Orkila, Orkila' as we send groups to return to their cabins for bedtime.

April 5, 2012

Expedition Meals

On trip, Expedition participants prepare their own meals. Every trip is sent with a spice kit to add some fun flavor and creativity to meals. Cooking outdoors is an exciting experience and seems to always make the food taste especially good. It is tradition in our expedition programs to hold a chow circle prior to eating a meal - this is when the group forms a circle, crosses their arms and holds each others' hands, and gives thanks to the chefs and food. When the chow circle has reached its close, someone says, "Peace and chow" and everyone responds, "chow and peace" and turns out of the circle.

April 3, 2012

Staff Spotlight: John Bourgeois

The Staff Spotlight Series is delighted to bring you:
John Bourgeois!
John is seen here as he and some campers get gussied up for the Dork Dance. Looking good everyone!

Orkila: Hi John, thanks again for taking some time to do this. Shall we just jump into it? So what units were you in as a camper, what have you done as a staff member? What will you be doing this year at camp, too?

JB: Of course I am happy to speak with you anytime, Ork. By going to camp this next summer, it will be my 7th year at Camp Orkila. I am excited to be the 'Earth and the Heavens,' in regard to the poem that is recited at the closing campfire. As a camper, I only had the extreme pleasure of doing skate camp, where I mingled, some, with the Grey Wolves. I never actually got to do full blown traditional camp. I then was a LDI, a CIT, and also an OSI. Now I have been on the staff as a counselor for 2 years. And this summer I was informed that I would be a counselor again. I don't know if I'm quite ready to give up counseling quite yet.

Orkila: What have you been up to this year? Where are you right now!?

JB: This past year, I have been spending my time at Oregon State University, for my sophomore terms in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Playing a lot of pick basketball as well as working at a Burrito restaurant on campus.
At this very moment, I am sitting on the couch at my friend's house, in my home town of Portland, OR. I am house-sitting for him, as well as pet-sitting. I'm currently on Spring Break, so I have been trying to get as much sleep as possible.

Orkila: What’s your favorite part of camp? And what keeps you coming back?

JB: My favorite part about camp is the inside jokes you make with the campers as well as your fellow staff. The campers, in my opinion, love these connections that you make with them. They will experience something that maybe 9 other kids get to experience, and that makes them feel really special. Something that they can talk the ears off of their parents on the ride home. Maybe a wacky story that a camper tells me or spur-of-the-moment song or dance that breaks out!
What definitely brings me back is campers recognizing me. When I was younger, I loved seeing the counselors return, a face I knew. So when I'm walking around on changeover day and I hear, "JOHHNN!!!!" and see a camper from 2 years ago that I had in my cabin beaming with joy to see me, it's really something else. It shows that I did have an impact, and I am a reason for them coming back. So, they are a reason I come back.

Orkila: I really do wish that we could talk forever John, but to close, in your own words, why can’t you ride "my little red wagon?"

JB: Well there have always been a variety of reasons why I am never really able to ride your little red wagon, ranging from a smashed differential to an improperly operating radiator. But it always seems to boil down to having the front wheel's broken and the axle dragging.