Celebrating a Century Building Character Through Outdoor Adventure
Rutland, MA – In January 2024, the Heart of New England Council, Boy Scouts of America will kick off a year-long celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Camp Wanocksett in Dublin, NH, one of two premier summer camps operated by the council.
The celebration begins with an alumni reunion to take place on January 13, 2024, from 2:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Billiards Café, 39 Main Street, Ayer, MA, and the launch of The Wanocksett History Project, a historic archive and oral history of the beloved camp intended to preserve memorabilia and memories from generations of campers and staff.
Camp Wanocksett current and past campers, Scouting volunteers, staff, and alumni are invited to bring their photos, patches, and other memorabilia to the reunion so they may be added to the archive. There will also be the opportunity to participate in a short video interview to be added to the camp’s oral history.
The celebration continues with an alumni service day at Camp Wanocksett on April 27, 2024, and a Family Fun Day and Road Race on June 29, 2024, and concludes with a 100th Anniversary dinner on November 9, 2024.
Details and registration information for the reunion and all 100th Anniversary events, can be found at campwanocksett.org/cw100, along with information about Camp Wanocksett’s current program offerings.
Still a Place for Summer Camps?
In the hyper-connected, technology-driven world of 2024, is there still a place for summer camps? Mark Barbernitz, CEO of Heart of New England Council thinks so.
“Scouting changes lives for the good.” he says. “A week at camp provides an unforgettable experience for young people. They are challenged to put their leadership and organization skills to work; to conquer obstacles they thought were beyond their abilities. Being a leader to other Scouts, swimming a mile, rappelling off a tower, are just a few of the things Scouts experience at summer camp.”
“In addition to the fun and activities, a week at camp can also give young people a fresh perspective on some of the pressing challenges of our time from climate change to an increasingly diverse and divided population,” Barbernitz says. “There is time for solemn reflection in nature. Watching the mist rise off the lake in the morning or watching a deer grazing in the field brings home the message that all of us are responsible for protecting the environment. The new friends they meet around the campfire may come from very different backgrounds. Scouting brings them together and those bonds that are built at camp often stay with them for life.”
Memories of Camp Wanocksett
Dan Megan, a middle school civics teacher from Dedham grew up at the camp. His mother was the camp nurse, and his older brothers were on the camp staff. Megan joined the staff in 1990 and has served as Camp Director since 2009. With the milestone anniversary approaching Megan views part of his job as honoring the efforts of past generations for the benefit of the future. “Camp Wanocksett is bigger than our individual memories and stories,” he notes. “It’s about the folks who came before us, and the folks who will come after us. I think of those men from Leominster, ‘The Pioneers’ we call them. They had the vision of what could be. I personally feel an obligation to do the best I can to keep that going.”
“My favorite thing about camp is the staff. They’re the ones who make it a fun place to be.” says Tristan Fuller (13), a camper from Winchendon, MA. “Camp is one of the best experiences a Scout could have!”
Anna Burns (15), whose Sturbridge, MA troop attends Camp Wanocksett each summer, appreciates the welcoming atmosphere of the camp. “I love how the overall vibe of the camp is just full of positivity and energy!” she says. “It’s just so easy to have fun and make amazing memories. By Saturday it will be hard to believe how fast the week flew by and you’re going to want to go back again.”
That’s a feeling shared by her troopmate Addison Oxman (16) “The staff are always kind and supportive.” she says. “I was very anxious about going to camp my first year as a Scout. That all changed after the first day. I had so much fun that I’ve come back for a second week almost every year.”
“I am thankful for every chosen brother and sister I’ve gained through every camp experience, and for every challenging situation that’s helped me grow.” says longtime staff member Branden Morris of Chelmsford, MA.
“Being very shy for much of my youth, my experience on camp staff taught me how to be outgoing, and how to not take myself so seriously, while at the same time teaching me how to be serious when I needed to be; how to take responsibility for things in my life, and how to be a generally good human,” former staff member Steve Sterling recalls.
The History of Camp Wanocksett
In 1924, the Wachusett Council BSA purchased 12 acres of what had been the Bullard Farm on picturesque Thorndike Pond in Dublin, NH to create a new Boy Scout summer camp. Since then, the camp has grown to encompass more than 220 acres, and tens of thousands of young people have spent a week or more of their summers at the camp hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, sailing, singing songs and building friendships.
In addition to being a place of rich history and natural beauty, Camp Wanocksett provides young people with priceless opportunities to develop critical life skills through outdoor programming. Learning things like cooking and first aid; how to keep to a schedule and be on time; how to live in close quarters with people from very diverse backgrounds; to be responsible and take care of their own and other’s belongings. In a program that heavily emphasizes guided youth leadership, they cooperate, work together, and learn to lead responsibly.
In its hundred-year history Camp Wanocksett has weathered the Great Depression, a World War, changing societal norms, an explosion of alternative extra-curricular opportunities for youth, the rapid evolution of technology, three council mergers and a global pandemic that canceled the 2020 camp season.
The late 1960s saw a building boom at the camp thanks to a major capital campaign and support from area businesses. In recent years, following the opening of BSA membership to all youth, Camp Wanocksett has adapted to be more accessible to Scouts of all abilities, modernized restroom, showers and cabins to accommodate all genders, and added programs from waterskiing to robotics to ensure all campers will find activities that capture their interest.
Now operated by the Rutland-based Heart of New England Council, BSA, Camp Wanocksett annually hosts more than 1300 young people ages 10-17 from all over New England and beyond during a seven-week summer season. The camp fields a seasonal staff of 70 mostly older teens and young adults. Hundreds of other Scouts visit throughout the rest of the year. Wanocksett is a popular destination for weekend camping and a base for Scouts hiking nearby Mt. Monadnock.
The Boy Scouts of America provides the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. The Heart of New England Council is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Rutland that serves more than 4,000 youth in 62 communities throughout Central Massachusetts with the support of more than 1,800 adult volunteers. Visit www.hnebsa.org for more information. To find a Scouting unit in your local community, visit www.beascout.org.