Bangor Y’s Camp Jordan is a ‘magic’ Maine tradition
BANGOR, Maine — Going to camp is a Maine summer tradition. For some families, going to Camp Jordan is a tradition for generations.
Camp Jordan, operated by the Bangor YMCA, opened its gates in 1908 and has been located on Branch Lake since 1923. Many staff members, like Jayci Fournier and John Quinn, have been involved with the camp for over a decade.
“We’ve seen a couple generations of the kids come up through the program and seeing them on staff, and seeing the change now is mind-boggling,” said Quinn.
Quinn is the Adventure Program manager and said he has seen many campers come to Camp Jordan homesick, or troubled in some way, but sees a big change by the end of the week.
“We also have a few kids each summer that refuse to leave. They’re signed up for one week, and end up staying for two or three,” said Quinn.
Jayci Fournier, a former Camp Jordan camper, is now the assistant director of Camp Jordan. She was a camper for three summers before participating in the Leadership School associated with Camp Jordan for six years.
“Every kid should be leaving camp with appreciation, belonging and new relationships. Creating a space that we can make sure that each kid is leaving with that experience is, for us, a successful summer,” said Fournier.
Audrey Co, the Marketing and Development Manager of Bangor YMCA, recalled one camper who was referred to Camp Jordan because he struggled with bullying. Co said he was homesick at the beginning of the week, but by the end, he had a lot more confidence and had found a place where he wouldn’t be bullied.
“He found a place where he felt belonged and he found kids that he could relate to,” said Co.
That camper heard about Camp Jordan from his uncle. Quinn said most people hear about the camp through word of mouth.
“We ask people how they find out about camp all the time, and it’s always word of mouth, because the kids that go to camp and the parents that have their kids at camp and the alumni are our best salespeople in the world, because they love camp so much and they’ll probably talk more than someone wants to hear about it,” said Quinn.
Those “salespeople” tend to be relatives that went to Camp Jordan themselves. Quinn and Fournier recall grandparents dropping their grandkids off at camp and how they reminisce. They wander around camp talking about meaningful experiences or pointing out what has changed since they went to camp.
These alumni become a family themselves. Co said it doesn’t matter the background a person has, once one Camp Jordan camper finds another Camp Jordan camper, there is already a bond.
“We have a family that comes from Spain every year, and they got stuck in an airport on their way here one year in New York, and there was a storm, and they weren’t able to fly up here right away. They were young campers flying on their own and there was a women that was also in the airport from the area that had been to Camp Jordan has a camper, and stayed with the girls, called us, contacted the parents and spoke Spanish. She was a Camp Jordan alumni, and was able to make sure they were all taken care of while they were there,” said Fournier.
No matter when a camper visited Camp Jordan, they will always remember what the counselors call, “Camp Magic.”
“It’s those little anchor moments that stick with you. When you’re thinking back on your time as a camper, or that connection you made or that task that you accomplished, or the prank that your cabin pulled or that conversation that you had with your counselor, or whatever when you look back a couple years later, you don’t remember a whole week, there’s way too much going on in a week, but those little anchor moments that make it up,” said Quinn.
Campers participate in nature, arts and crafts, sports and water activities. This includes activities such as bracelet making, horseback riding, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, fire building, shelter building and the high- and low-ropes course.
“It gives kids the opportunity to challenge themselves, and face some fears of heights,” said Fournier speaking of the ropes course.
The camp has four sessions this summer, each lasting one week with its own theme. Hollywood Week will run from July 9-15. Holiday Week will run from July 16-22. Around the World will run from July 23-29, and Color Wars will run from July 30-August 5.
The Color Wars was a new theme that was added last year where kids are split into groups and colors. Throughout the week, the color groups compete to get the most points by the end of the week.