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Camp Wah-Nee is a coed summer camp for children and teenagers. Founded in 1931, the camp is located just outside Torrington, Connecticut, in Litchfield County. The camp is situated by Park Pond, referred to by those at the camp as "Shadow Lake". Wah-Nee has been running for over eighty years, and each summer's session is seven weeks in duration. Campers and staff come for the full season.
The camp has gone through a series of long-term owners; the first known was Cap Gordon, who was succeeded by the Diamants, the Kings and in the mid-1960s by Mike and Coco Gordon (who met while counselors at Wah-Nee in 1956). The Gordon family continued running Wah-Nee through the summer of 1993, when the business was sold to the Strickers and Transports. In 2005, the Strickers and Transports bought the property from the Gordon family and the camp is now owned solely by the Strickers.
Dave and Donna Stricker (owners) are assisted in running the camp by three camp directors. There is also an Assistant Head Counselor for each gender of camper. The camp has a head coach for athletics as well as a number of counselors.
New facilities and programs
Since 2006 the Strickers have introduced a wide range of new and improved facilities at the camp, most notably an Indoor Gym/Sports and Arts Center. It features two full court basketball courts and a state-of-the-art theater downstairs. The theater is air-conditioned and features theater seating, lighting and sound. The camp also offers Little League hardball, a Lacrosse program, and a Fine Arts program. Every basketball, tennis and volleyball court in camp has been taken up and renewed/resurfaced. The main outdoor basketball court (called the "A" Court) has a scoreboard, and all basketball, tennis and hockey facilities have lights for night play. In addition the two hockey rinks have been resurfaced with a material that is specially made for inline skating. The Lodge also received a makeover with a new "Living Room" and deck, and the Mini Lodge also has a new "Living Room". Every bunk has either been rebuilt or renewed in these last 5–9 years.
The campers are split up into age-similar groups, known as "Divisions," by the grade they are about to enter. Campers come from all over the United States, most from the Northeast (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, etc.), some from Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Texas, and many other states, plus a number from overseas (campers from Russia, Spain, France, Chile, etc.), all of which adds to camper diversity.
|Entering grade||Boys Division||Girls Division|
|9th||Senior 1s||Lodge 1|
|10th||Senior 2s||Lodge 2|
|11th||Super Seniors||Mini Lodge|
Entering 12th grade, campers become "Waitrons". The Waitrons serve the camp in the dining hall, known as "Conyers Hall", in recognition of Jimmy Conyers, the head chef and also the longest tenured returner (now 51 years.) Staff is assembled by camp leadership each summer, and features "general counselors" whom travel with their kids all day. Virtually every general counselor grew up at Camp Wah-Nee, and they know every tradition and custom. "Specialty counselors" who teach various activities and sports. Some specialists are from overseas, and most of them return yearly.
Campers and counselors who have been at Wah-Nee for five years get special jackets, and those there for their 10th summer receive a Wah-Nee watch commemorating the event. Many of each are given out each summer. Those who return to Wah-Nee year-after-year are known as "Wah-Neeites." Every Friday night, they have a thing called services where they give out camper of the week awards.
On August 15, 2010, the New York Times ran an article about Color War at Camp Wah-Nee. It appeared on the front page of the Metropolitan section. Color War occurs during the last week of camp and the start is usually begun with a significant event to kick-start these events. The camp is split into two teams: red and white. Each team has generals and lieutenants, who are often veteran Wah-Neeites staff members. During Color War, teams are named, members learn songs for their team, and a plaque is painted by each team to hang permanently in the Dining Hall.
Two days after Color War, there is an annual Wah-Nee Banquet, located in Conyer's Hall. The dining hall is decorated based on a mystery theme, and is always a surprise to everyone at camp. Awards are given out during the banquet, with the most prestigious being Camper of the Year and Lorna Kazarsky (Most Improved Camper).
The official alma mater is called "In Dreams", which is always recited at the end of Friday night services. Divisions form a circle and interlock hands, and the Camper of the Week sends a wish throughout the circle. This wish is passed through by squeezing the hand of the person next to you.
In dreams, I saw a silvery lake,
Beneath a starry sky.
A road just meant for friends to take,
With pine trees reaching high.
There was warmth there beyond imagination,
And a spirit inspired by strong ties.
As my hopes rose in great anticipation,
Of a thought of a camp in dream's disguise.
I woke and thought could it be so?
Such visions are too few.
Yet when I came to Shadow Lake,
I saw my dreams come true.
Yes I found my every aspiration,
In a camp where my friends will always be.
This dream, this dream come true,
IT'S CAMP WAH-NEE!!