Campership, Conistonian, and Current Camper Parent Gives Back

campership-parent-camper-giving-tuesdayKati “Koehler” Kelley grew up in Newport, NH in a strict, protective family and didn’t have many experiences outside of her small town. In 1979, Kati and her older sister received camperships through Coniston from the Catholic Women’s Club of Saint Patrick’s Church in their town.” Being able to attend Camp Coniston was a true gift as my family didn’t have the financial means to send us,” said Kati.


Camp was Kati’s first time being away from home and meeting children from other states and countries who had different backgrounds. “I felt very fortunate being given the opportunity to have so much independence at such a young age,” said Kati. She was able to choose her own activities and it was her responsibility to get there on time. “I loved being able to choose my own path.”


The most memorable part about Coniston for Kati was standing in line waiting for meals — singing, dancing and just being overall goofy with her new and old friends. “Camp gave me a positive approach on life and taught me the importance of making choices that make me happy. It was these early years where Coniston gave me the opportunity to be self-reliant and build my confidence. Camp allowed my relationships to come alive and taught me not to be afraid to try new things. I always knew I wanted to give my kids the same experience someday.”


Today Kati is the Vice President of Marketing at HarbourOne Bank in MA and she sends her two daughters Ava (13) and Emily (12) to Coniston each summer. “As a mother, I appreciate Camp’s policy on having no electronics. My girls are able to learn how to form new relationships in person not online.”


“The values Camp Coniston is creating for youth are incredibly powerful and life changing. I not only want this for my own kids, but for as many kids as possible no matter their financial ability. This is why I donate to Coniston. Coniston helped shape the person I am today, is helping to nurture my children and I am happy to give this gift to any child.”


We know the Coniston Experience can be enormously transformative in Campers’ lives as we have seen with Kati’s story. Support from people like you — those who have experienced firsthand the great change Coniston brings to young people — makes this growth possible.

The 2016 Summer Staff are Giving Back

2016-ymca-camp-coniston-staff-campership-1You may have read about this story on Facebook or perhaps watched a video on Camp’s YouTube channel, but what the 2016 Summer Staff accomplished must be re-told. During staff training this summer Program Director, Parker Olson was on a mission to educate his fellow Conistonians about the importance of giving back.


To educate the staff, Parker first found similar products which would cost the same amount as a campership — a pool table or a fancy laptop. He then asked the staff what value these material items had to them. He received the response of “little value”. Parker then let everyone know that these products are equivalent in cost to sending a child in financial need to Camp. He spoke about his personal memories of his camper days and how much Camp has meant to him. Working together as a group and donating the cost of coffee for a week the staff raised the $1650 in only a few days with a 96% participation rate.


Do you think a group of people from your office or school could join together like the 2016 Summer Staff to make a summer at Coniston possible for a child?

Staff in our Afterschool Programs are going above and beyond for youth in our communities!

after-school-above-and-beyond-award-1It is often said that Coniston staff make the magic of Coniston happen, our Afterschool staff are no different. Afterschool staff work hard all school year to provide care for the children in our community. They spend after school hours creating community, building relationships, helping with homework, teaching healthy living, providing a space for safe play and so much more. Better yet, they do it with a smile. It’s for that reason Nicole Berthiaume, Afterschool Director, implemented the Above and Beyond Award. This award is given monthly, to a staff member from one of our five Afterschool sites, who has shown exemplary efforts for the children in their program. The first recipient of the award is Shyann Desrochers.


Shyann is a staff member in our New London program. No challenge is too much for Shyann. She arrives early each day to help set up and prepare. She always puts her best foot forward and is positive about her team. Shyann is the ‘coach’ for the most energetic and active group of children in her program. Through consistency, patience and intentional follow-through she has created a safe and fun space for her team. She has helped them develop a sense of respect and care for each other and her as their coach. Shyann received a gift certificate with her award and chose to buy coffee and hot chocolate for the entire New London staff. Her actions demonstrate her selfless nature and we are fortunate to have her working with local children in our community.


In October, Jack Hearne also from the New London program received the Above and Beyond Award. Jack, a senior in High School, continues to impress and (through example) lead us. His quiet, thoughtful way creates a safe and comfortable environment for the kindergarten group he leads. He pays attention to individuals, recognizing what each child needs for support. Jack can always be found playing with his group or staying close to help manage any situation that arises. Jack is an important, attentive, strong member of our team and we are so grateful to have him working with us in the afternoon.


Thank you to both Shyann and Jack for helping Coniston’s Afterschool program be one of our most important outreach efforts. The love and support you give to these children is invaluable for local families. It takes a village to raise little humans and because of you the communities around us our benefitting.

Nelson McLean Fund

nelson-mclean-coniston-campership-summer-campIn the spring of 2015, the YMCA Camp Coniston Board of Directors established and donated a $35,000 campership in honor of NELSON MCLEAN. Nelson was the longest employee in the history of Coniston and has always supported the campership campaign. He began his work in 1983 and retired as the camp’s bookkeeper in 2015. His 32 years of service to our YMCA were witness to many changes, including Coniston becoming known as one of the finest camps in the US.


Nelson’s life story is one of giving back. He spent his entire career working with youth through schools, his church and the YMCA. This campership is a testament to his generosity, compassion and a legacy to his life’s mission of helping “young people become worthy adults.” All children receiving this Campership have had struggles in their home life that range from single parent households to dealing with a parent with a brain tumor. Two weeks at camp is always a much needed and anticipated break for these children.


When a camper is awarded the Nelson McLean Campership, the cost of camp is paid in full so a child may make new friends and participate in the camp program that Mr. McLean believed in for over 30 years.

Where the Journey Began

Erma-Sanders-Catherine-Malatesta-Carl-WitherellThere are places in life where memories are built and lives change—Camp is one of those places. Footprints are left on the hearts of everyone who attends, and the Coniston Experience ripples through the campers back to their families, their schools, and their communities.


Erma Sanders was a woman whose influence at Coniston helped shape who many of us are today. Both she and her husband Bob created a long-term foundation for Camp, so we can continue to build an exceptional staff and help nurture future generations of campers.


Catherine Malatesta was a camper who brought her enthusiastic and outgoing personality to camp. She was always one to help a fellow camper and be a ray of sunshine in everyone’s day. After returning home from Coniston her parents could see the transformation Camp had on their daughter. Catherine’s loving spirt will always be remembered atCamp and to honor her over 300 people were compelled to give more than $40,000 to fund a Campership in her name.


Carl Witherell was a man who liked to leave footprints quietly, through unspoken gifts. His dream was to help local youth by providing them with meaningful, life-changing experiences. Over the past 33 years his estate has sent an entire summer’s worth of kids to camp, and his legacy lives on forever.


What is the real value to our community, to our society, to the world, when we support the camp through our gifts? The value is immeasurable and life-changing — one child at a time. We thank Erma, Catherine, and Carl for supporting Camp in numerous ways; they have shown us the power of giving, and because of them thousands of deserving children get to have the Coniston Experience.


I hope you will see the value of donating to Coniston, and how you can make a difference in the life of a camper. After all, Catherine only came to camp for two years and those summers not only were the memories she loved the most, but they helped to shape the person she was.





John Tilley
Camp Director

Sanders Hall at the Boat House

1989 Erma Bob SandersCamp is a place where we care for each other and respect our differences, while sharing a common experience.


From 1969 to 1990, Erma Sanders helped to establish this foundation and created life-changing moments for many Conistonians like you.


For some, Erma was a behind the scenes person, quietly making Camp powerful. For others, Erma was a figure whose lessons are still used to this day. For everyone, Erma changed the Coniston experience.


To honor her we plan to renovate the Boat House, which has been under-utilized since the Sanders’ retirement. Our efforts will breathe new life into this iconic building, so that once again friendships and life lessons can be experienced by all campers and staff in this space—just as they were by you.


The first floor will continue to serve as space for a wide variety of waterfront activities. The upstairs will be transformed into a hall where future leaders will be trained and camp programs held—all while overlooking beautiful  Lake Coniston.


If you are interested in honoring Erma through a donation toward Sanders Hall in the Boat House, please visit or make a check payable to YMCA Camp Coniston with Erma Sanders in the memo line and mail it to PO Box 185, Grantham, NH 03753.

Catherine Malatesta: Heaven On Earth

A diagnosis of fast-spreading sarcoma didn’t change the fact that sixteen-year-old Catherine Malatesta’s spirit could light up a room. She was a natural leader in every aspect of her life and loved being center stage. She left the hospital to perform in her school’s musical, attend junior prom, and pass her AP exams. When she couldn’t leave her hospital bed, she recorded a campaign speech so she could be elected Student Council President. Through her resilience and strength, she set an incredible example for all who knew her and even for those who didn’t.


Catherine was a charismatic person, full of life. The friendships she made and the moments she spent at Coniston were life-changing. During the summers she was able to release from the rigors of her daily schedule and be herself, with no judgment from her peers. It was because of the amazing Coniston sisterhood she experienced that this was her heaven on earth.


On Catherine’s birthday in November her family visited Coniston to spend time at her most favorite place. The weather was beautiful and it was very special for them to be able to walk the grounds and experience places that meant so much to Catherine. That difficult day was made a bit easier by being surrounded by Catherine’s spirit.


Catherine-Malatesta-YMCA-Camp-ConistonThe Malatesta family has been overwhelmed by the support they have received in their daughter’s memory. With the funds directed to Camp Coniston an annual Campership in Catherine’s name has been established, and now a child who would otherwise be unable to attend Camp because of financial hardship will be able to experience the magic that Catherine lived for. Catherine’s parents expressed that she would have been over the moon to know that a child would receive this opportunity.


Catherine’s exuberance, infectious smile, fearless personality, steadfast loyalty, confidence, courage, grace and enduring love for others have left an indelible mark on all of our lives.


To all the donors of the Catherine Malatesta Fund
“This is my broken, but strong heart speaking directly to your generous and kind heart…thank you so very much for embracing my family and not turning your back during this terrible odyssey and for loving us as your own.”

— Jennifer Goodwin, Catherine’s Mother

Carl Witherell: Changing Lives Since 1984

Carl-Witherell-CampershipIt was not out for fame or recognition that Carl Witherell did what he did, but rather out of a deep love and affection Camp Experiences have on each child and their community. Through Witherell’s estate his dream of sending kids to Camp has been achieved by thousands—truly changing lives. His generosity and foresight inspires us all to leave a legacy to this world through the growth of a child.

Celebrating 100 Years of Girls Camp!

100-years-girls-campThis summer, Coniston will pass another important milestone that says a lot about the camp and the history of our community.We often forget how far our country has come. In 1916 the Sullivan County YMCA decided to offer programs not only for boys, but for girls, making Girls Camp 100 years old this summer. At the same time, members of our board were known to support the local Suffragette’s Union. Suffragettes were men and women who advocated for women’s right to vote as it was not until 1920 when women won this right. Throughout history, the Coniston community understood it was important to bring all people together, and before women had the right to vote they were welcome at our Camp! Today we are humbled by how closely Boys and Girls Camp work together to change lives and build a better society.

Welcome to Lindsey Tompkins our New Director of Development & Communications

lindsey-tompkins-conistonArriving at Coniston on March 1st, Lindsey comes to us with 12+ years of experience in marketing and communications. With her she brings an energetic personality and a true passion for developing youth. She works in partnership with the entire Coniston staff and with alumni to ensure that communications strategies, messages and tactics are aligned with the board’s overall plan. Lindsey lives with her husband and soon to be three children in Henniker, NH. During her free time she loves spending time with her family, unplugged and outdoors.

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