At Camp Waukeela, kids are allowed to be kids.

They’re allowed to take a break from the pressures of the modern world. They are encouraged to follow and discover their intuition and decide what they want to do, who they want to be in a space with people who will never judge them, and who will find ways to join in on their fun.

Massive cities began to spring up in the dawn of the modern era in the late 1800s. With this, nature was no longer readily available to people. Education professionals started to wonder how this disconnect from the natural world would affect the children, as many of their fondest memories were times of unstructured play and discovery. A worry that the children of the present would not experience this sort of freedom emerged—and from it—a brilliant solution. A solution that has carried through to the 21st century, and from which a billion-dollar industry has arisen: summer camp.

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In the early 1920s, amidst the emerging industry of camp, a man named Fred B. Philbrick started Camp Waukeela on the shores of Crystal Lake in the foothills of the White Mountains. The small camp was a great success, attracting kids from the busy streets of Boston, as well as many from the local area. Waukeela was unique in its care of and belief in young girls’ ability to be independent. The 1920s at Waukeela were filled with adventure. Campers and counselors lived in simple platform tents and spent their days riding horses down the not-yet-paved roads of Eaton. By the 1930s, the simple platform tents had been transformed into rustic wooden cabins whose walls would soon be filled by camper’s names. Waukeela was a special place, and people who came to it would often stay for many years, feeling a strong sense of belonging.

lakeside summer camp for girls

Not much has changed since the beginning of camp. The world is, of course, very different than it was 100 years ago—and camp has had to adapt to these realities—but people who visit camp after 50 or 60 years still say they see it just the same as they did back then. It still has that same powerfully magical feeling that started all those years ago. Still, children seek independence and friendship while being bolstered by the assurance that they are, in fact, capable. And, of course, at camp are able to nurture a deep and wholistic connection with nature in a world where, for many, access to natural beauty is waning.

If you let any Waukeela camper, counselor, or alumnus tell you a camp story, you will watch their face light up—and they’ll offer you a bouquet of wild, imaginative, and hilarious encounters that seem to be sitting, always, just at the tip of the tongue, as if this story had just happened yesterday.

You’ll start to notice, however, that every story—even the silliest—answers an invisible question. It’s a question you did not know you’d pondered: What does it mean to be a kid?

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Waukeela is located in one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the world! The camp offers fantastic hiking, camping, canoeing, and climbing trips for campers. No matter the current skill level and expereince, campers come home with a new appreciation of the great outdoors.

What does it mean to be a kid? It means letting go of expectations and embracing life’s mysteries. It means following the voice inside your head that asks: What if? And, Why? It means asking to paint your own face at the face-paint stand and completely covering it in your favorite color. It looks like finding a cardboard box big enough to fit in and going into it every time you can.  It might sound like screaming at the top of your lungs because you are excited about candy. At Waukeela, we are constantly asking this question and seeing the beautiful answer unfold right in front of our eyes. Kids are allowed to be kids. They’re allowed to take a break from the pressures of the modern world. They are encouraged to follow and discover their intuition and decide what they want to do, who they want to be in a space with people who will never judge them, and who will find ways to join in on their fun.

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In a world in which the pressures young people are faced with are escalating, Waukeela stands to be different. It is a small nook that witnesses children growing into themselves at a disproportionate pace. Through its years of history and under its current directors, an important truth has been revealed: people grow when they are asked to do hard things … but only if they are given the support and encouragement needed. The pressures of the modern world—college, extracurricular activities, schoolwork, fitting in socially—are all big hurdles that children are often not prepared for. Especially when they haven’t had the opportunity to overcome hard things on their own.

Every summer, campers from far and wide come to Waukeela and find that they can be away from home, make new friends, and do things they never thought they could. All while having the most supportive community behind them. Kids are asked to do hard things, such as sleep in simple wooden structures, face bugs daily, try new things outside of their comfort zones, and live in community with people who come from different backgrounds. All of these hurdles are little victories that help them build a sense of self-reliance and esteem that carries them through the rest of their lives.

As children become teenagers, they begin to discern what is presented to them into what feels true and right for them—and what doesn’t. At this crucial time in their lives, it is important to have relatable role models who can help them find what resonates for them.

The process of discovering what isn’t true for them is still vital because it exposes the hard boundaries of their personality and teaches them how to say, “No,” when needed. However, the process of finding what does feel true is done mostly through other people. Especially, relatable role models.

Relatable and positive role models are people who are close in age to children and teenagers and who represent the next stage in their lives. Because camp is such a tight-knit community, younger kids experience these role models in older campers, and older campers see their future selves in counselors. Looking ahead at people who are at the stage of life in which they will soon be experiencing provides a safe reference for people to aspire to. For young kids to see what it is like to be a teenager—and not be ignored by them—sends a message that inspires acceptance and growth.

Witnessing a genuine friendship between a 16-year-old and a 10-year-old is a rarity, yet its beauty is undeniable. Unlike the structured environments of many schools today, where interaction across age groups is limited, we view these friendships at camp as an invaluable opportunity for holistic development. The dynamic between a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old provides a rich source of learning for both parties. The younger camper gains insight into the complexities of teenagehood, preparing them for the journey ahead. They not only observe the 16-year-old’s experiences but also learn from their mistakes, contemplating what they envision for themselves as they approach their teenage years.

Conversely, the 16-year-old is afforded a precious reminder of the innocence of their own childhood. In the company of a 10-year-old, they are granted permission to embrace their playful side once more, while assuming a responsible role in the friendship. This duality allows the older camper to cultivate patience and a heightened sense of responsibility. Nurturing and looking after someone younger becomes a pathway for the 16-year-old to feel both important and reliable.

For teenagers who are on the brink of adulthood and who feel their independence rushing through them, their counselors represent people with impressionable impact on their lives.

The glimpse they provide into life after high school is immeasurable. The world of college or jobs or projects or whatever 20-year-olds get into these days is fascinating, magnetic, and scary. Teenagers need people who didn’t live it 10 or 15 years ago when things were different; they need people who are living in it now. People who can tell them about the big concepts of what is about to happen—along with the details that might otherwise fade with time from someone older.

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Nurturing and looking after someone younger becomes a pathway for the 16-year-old to feel both important and reliable.


The incredibly complicated feelings of early adulthood that, with time, blur into a single narrative and blend with the outcomes offer valuable insight for the younger generation when shared fresh. The oldest campers at camp are fascinated by the counselors; they are the most influential people in their lives, even when they only see them during the summer.

This inter-age connection is something Waukeela greatly values and puts special emphasis on fostering. Every camper is assigned a “G-time group”, a group of between eight and 10 kids all from different age groups led by one of the kids in the oldest age group. These groups go through G-time together, a time dedicated to bonding, reflecting, and intentionally building community, self-esteem, and awareness. These groups become very close throughout the summer and build relationships that last throughout their years at camp, and beyond.

A normal day at Waukeela is full of bizarre moments that feel impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Loud singing during meals, crazy constant ongoing games, silly jokes that make their way around camp quicker than anyone ever imagined, pretend weddings, funerals, graduations, and any major life event of stuffed animals, bugs, or people. All of these form a reality in which trying new thing is fun. Silliness and playfulness are the only mental states in which humans can learn new things, and the skills kids are learning at camp are so important that the environment has to be equally as silly and playful.

This kind of space where people are comfortable to try new things and where people feel like they belong doesn’t just happen. At Waukeela it has taken over 100 years of work and some very dedicated people to make it happen. The current directors, Graham and Gill Moore, are some of these incredibly committed people. They came to camp in 2015 as guests to the director at the time, and have since become directors themselves. One of their greatest skills is creating culture. This skill is not easy to find, and only great leaders are able to perfect it. They possess the ability to make people feel like they are a part of their family.

camp waukeela directors

Camp directors, Graham and Gillian Moore (center and right), are entering their ninth summer at Waukeela, having first experienced the Pine Grove in the summer of 2015 on a visit to see their daughters Ellie (left) and Rosie, who were both counselors that summer. One of their greatest skills is communication and creating culture. They possess the ability to make people feel like they are a part of their family.


Gill and Graham believe in the power of people; they believe that every human being is wonderfully complex and that we can all learn so much from each other. With these values at the forefront of their directorship, they have created a more loving camp. Waukeela has always been loving, but since Graham and Gill took over, there have been more intentional efforts into making this a community built on love. And it all starts with the two of them.

When someone first steps into camp, they are greeted by smiles, hugs, and excitement. This is the way Graham and Gill greet everyone they meet—waiters at restaurants, receptionists at hotels, even salespeople on the phone. They make friends with everyone they meet, and they are curious about and surprised by every new story, every new personality. And it is this infectious love of others that permeates through camp and shows people a different way of being in the world. A more loving one.

Waukeela is a special place. It has been for many years. It has changed thousands of people’s lives, and it will continue to do so for years to come. There is a unique magic that permeates the trees in this enchanted corner of the world, and if you ask anyone who has lived it, they will tell you more than you asked to hear. But you will never truly understand it until you have lived it yourself.

Camp Waukeela is an ACA New England Accredited Camp.

For additional information, visit

Camp Waukeela, Eaton, NH (603) 447-2260