Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Camp Allen Today

In an effort to discover how my beloved Camp Allen has changed since I was last there, I set up an interview with their Executive Director, Mary Constance, who has been there since 2004. I also spoke with Lois Stachura Gunderson, a partially blind junior counselor employed by Camp Allen during the summers of 1959 through 1961.

From 1960-1969 this camp had three directors. The male director from1960-1962 accelerated change by creating additional outings and sporting events, always displaying his outgoing personality.

Campers were somewhat shocked by the new female director who took over the position in 1962. She was there until 1969. Positive improvements were made, including a chapel and a new dorm. But the easy going ways of camp life began to disappear.

One Sunday night in 1964, she had us in tears, lecturing campers in the chapel on how ungrateful we were. I did not return after 1965, as her strict adherence to camper’s neatness and conduct made camp more like a school. At the end of her terror–I mean tenure–a young male director replaced her in 1969 who enacted one lasting change by making the camp co-ed, as it remains today.

With the new director, good days were prevalent once again with his cheerful emphasis on outings, sports, and swimming. The demographic of the camp was also beginning to change, with more multi-handicapped people there. Mary Constance told me that “By the mid seventies Camp Allen was for multi-handicapped children/teens.”

By 2004 when Mary Constance became executive director, countless changes had occurred. As Lois Stachura said to me on Saturday, “You would not recognize the camp. It is so large now counselors come from all over the world.” She fondly remembered the old Camp Allen, saying “It was small; we were like a big family.”

Mary informed me of changes which have occurred in the past 43 years. The pine grove is gone and the chapel stands there now. There is a new double cabin, a new pavilion, and a new swimming pool. After she became director, there were necessary repairs to the aging pavilion and immediate updates to the old electrical system. As Mary told me, though, “The daily schedule is the same as you remember.” I suppose that while some things must change, you do tend to stick with what works. An example of that schedule and a daily menu can be found on Camp Allen website.

The camp now has ten-day sessions which begin in June and end by late August. There are 65 campers to each session. The camp accepts people with vision problems combined with mobility/cognitive disabilities. They also accept children/teens/adults with other disabilities. Mary mentioned some of the campers’ favorite activities. “Everyone loves the bouncy house, where kids and adults can have fun bouncing on the inflated floor. Everyone loves sitting around the camp fire on Sunday nights when new campers check in. They sing and have s’mores,” she said.

The reputation of Camp Allen has skyrocketed under Mary Constance’s direction and has become one of the most popular camps in New England. Many campers return year after year. The age of campers ranges from very young to 79 years old.

The future is promising and more changes are already in place. They’re planning to construct a new shower house near the pool and there are plans to make repairs to the old pavilion as well.

If you want further information about Camp Allen, contact Mary Constance at 603-622-8471. Ziegler readers can email her at mary@campallen.org. Their website is www.campallennh.org
Write to them at:
56 Camp Allen Road
Bedford, New Hampshire 03110.

You can apply online, but do it early if you want you or your child to experience ten unforgettable days making new friends and having life long memories.

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