Unirondack: A Special Place
Founded in 1951 by the New York State Convention of Universalists, Unirondack is a Unitarian Universalist Camp and Conference Center located in the forever wild forests of the Western Adirondack Mountains.
The main buildings of camp sit atop a hill overlooking beautiful Beaver Lake. Our performing arts center, boathouse and art shop, campfire circle, cookout area, athletic field and swimming beach sit directly at the water’s edge.
Unirondack is a community that is shaped and re-shaped each summer by its staff members, campers, and volunteers. We offer some things in common with other summer camps: a beautiful lakeside setting, a wide range of daily activities, family-style meals, and the chance to spend time away in the woods. But what truly makes us unique is the energy, caring and creativity of the people who call Unirondack home.
Our enrollment is small relative to other children’s camps, with approximately 15 counselors and 60 campers in each of our youth sessions, allowing counselors to provide personal attention to campers, creating a close-knit community. The exceptional young adults chosen to comprise our counseling staff receive professional training in leadership, program planning and implementation, conflict resolution, child development, safety and first aid, and methods of fostering an inclusive community.
Inventiveness runs rampant. Where else can you build a city in the sand, construct a cardboard/duct tape canoe, participate in a hilarious game show, paint your counselor, take on the persona of your favorite Harry Potter character, play shoe golf, learn circus arts, perform in a play, and still have time each day to swim, kayak, sing, and read poetry around a campfire?
Though we take pride in the creativity and abundance of our activities, Unirondack is more than its activities. It is a place where many people feel completely at home for the first time in their lives. At Unirondack we live the values that are inherent in Unitarian Universalist principles—acceptance, compassion, and decision-making through the democratic process.
Each camper matters. We take time to figure out what our campers need and want. Campers and staff members share their thoughts and feelings about camp and our community during our daily “Camp Council.” Counselors spend their days getting to know campers through shared activities, long talks during cabin time, organized discussion groups, bursts of spontaneous fun, and that careful learning about another person that takes time and patience. Like that great teacher one remembers forever, our campers hold dear the relationships they form with their counselors, and the friendships they make with each other are meaningful ones that continue through the years.
At Unirondack we cherish the uniqueness of each camper. We welcome the nerdy, the creative, the free-spirited, the independent, the flamboyant, the hesitant, the shy, and the self-assured. We are a place of personal safety—a place to flourish. We are a place where silliness is acceptable behavior and fun is joined with learning. We are a place where campers get to do things they just don’t get to do during their “normal” everyday lives. We are a place of self-reflection and discovery.
Parents often report that their children have somehow changed over the summer, become more confident, developed new skills, and learned things about themselves and others. They are surprised by the tears on departure day from their child—often the same child who was doubtful camp was for him or her.
Children, teens, adults and families who have spent a weekend, a week or a summer at Unirondack yearn to return again and again, for Unirondack is a special place — a community that allows us to be ourselves while being part of something greater.