Experience White Memorial Camp!

How COVID-19 Affected Camp This Summer

Jordan Munns leads a session with 2021 campers

I have been working as a counselor at White Memorial Camp for two years now. It would have been three if last summer did not get canceled due to Covid-19. Before becoming a counselor, I was a camper at Camp White for about eight years. I’ve seen first hand how much close contact there is at camp my whole life, and this year, I had to watch that change. 

When I got to camp as a kid, I was ready to go from the start. The moment I got checked in and unpacked, I was hanging out with my cabin mates. It was odd this year seeing the check in so different. We had to set up a drive-thru with everyone wearing masks. It was a slower process, as we had to test every camper that was coming that week. If the camper’s test came back negative, another staff member would drive them to their cabin on the golf cart, rather than them walking to the cabin or their parents driving them to the cabin. Because of this, Parents could not help them unpack, they did not get to know who their child’s counselor was, and I can’t imagine how tough that was on some families. If I was a new camper this year, I would have been a little hesitant. I also would not have been able to make my bed, thankfully I learned or else the campers this year would have had very poorly made beds. While most of the campers were very excited, this all still led to a very weird mood for the start of camp. 

After check-in, our goal was to make camp as normal as we could. We still played games, we still went swimming, we still did high ropes, but unless we were in our pods, we had to wear masks. Our pods were our cabins, so my campers and I were a pod together, and the counselors and theirs. While it was great to still be able to be maskless around some people, having to mask up around others was probably a weird change for returning campers. We couldn’t swim with the other campers since you can’t wear masks in the pool (at least not comfortably, or safely probably), and if we wanted to play campwide capture the flag or alpha wolf, we had to put masks on. This is no diss on masks, as they do keep us safe and healthy, but it is very hard to run and be active in one. This became extremely apparent to me during a game of capture the flag one week. As we were explaining rules I told the campers they would have to wear masks at all times, and no amount of complaining could change that (though they still continued to complain to me). I asked the other counselors to run the game so I could make sure people were still wearing their masks. I had hoped it would be an easy job, but I think we all know it wasn’t. I spent the whole time calling out to pretty much the entire camp at one point or another to get their mask back on. As the games continued, I noticed how much more tired they all looked than usual, how much they were sweating, so we had to end a round early. I always thought capture the flag was one of the most fun things to do during camp, but because of the masks, campers were more focused on being uncomfortable rather than the game. It made me sad because I want them to have as much fun as I did as a camper, but safety always has to come first. 

While all this sounds like a bummer, and it was to an extent, I should mention it was still an amazing year. Campers still screamed down the zipline, laughed at the campfire and talent show, gaga was still as intense a game as ever, and there were smiles all around, we just could not always see them. Despite having to scale back the adventure that is camp, I still felt like this year was much more impactful for me as a counselor than the previous summer. So while Covid really made camp a lot harder to pull off, I think the fact that the staff I am surrounded by were able to put a summer together that was still an absolute blast shows that our camp cannot be stopped by a year off, and as long as campers keep coming, Camp White is going to be the best summer experience you can have.

Jordan Munns, Camp Counselor

Returning to Camp

2021 Cottonwood Camp group photo

This summer, I had the opportunity to go down to Council Grove and spend a

week working during Cottonwood Camp. It was a week of activities, games, and

absolute joy, for both the campers and myself. Coming this summer was a wonderful

experience for me, particularly because I first came to Camp White as a volunteer 6

years ago. At the time, I was a junior in high school. Earlier that summer, I went to

Emporia State for a week-long teacher preparation camp. One of the other attendees

told me that she was going to go work a camp in a couple of weeks. She said they

needed more male volunteers and asked if I was interested in coming with her. I thought

on it for a bit and then decided to give it a try.

At the time, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do for my career and was

seriously considering if teaching was going to be a good fit for me. Now, six years later,

I returned to White Memorial Camp as a special education teacher. I came back having

a skill-set that I didn’t have previously. It allowed me to not only better serve the

campers, but to enjoy my time there more. It was great to be able to give the campers a

week where they could enjoy all that the camp has to offer. My interactions with each of

them were wonderful. Never have I painted, laughed, or danced more in a week than I

did during those five days. It was easily the highlight of my summer and I look forward to

returning as a volunteer next year.

Garrett Tatro, Volunteer Counselor

Why PRXC and Why PRXC at WMC?

Prairie Run Cross Country Camp (PRXC) week is one of my favorite weeks of the year! I love seeing all sorts of kids start out as strangers and end the week as great friends. I get the chance to share the knowledge I’ve gained about running from my career as an athlete and then as a coach. This camp is held in July and helps kickstart summer training for the middle school and high school cross country season. But, PRXC week is also a good reminder of what cross country is all about — making friends, having fun, and running fast. 

Coach Ceja and a group of 2021 PRXC campers

With PRXC, we have the opportunity to incorporate running, education about running, and camp activities. All three in one place. That way, running can be fun, not overwhelming, and shows athletes the balance that should always be present in any athletic endeavor. Our goal is to mesh running education while still doing all the camp activities typical of a camp experience. We have the luxury of having live zoom meetings with professional runners, including olympians, who are eager to share their inspiring stories of competing at the highest levels possible while also sharing the wisdom they’ve gained along the way. In addition, KS college coaches can easily find their way out to WMC to talk about what it would be like to be their college runner. 

We are fortunate to have PRXC at WMC because their staff is engaged in any activity that is thrown their way, including going on a group run with cross country runners of all levels to working high ropes courses or playing competitive capture the flag.

WMC offers a beautiful location right here in KS! Soft surface running can be followed by a jump in the lake or a race to the cafeteria for some much needed food. PRXC is ideal for any kid who is interested in running, no matter where they are in their running journey. The learning and fun never stops during PRXC week at WMC. Happy running!

-Javier Ceja


PRXC Co-Director

A Special Goodbye: Retiring Staff

We would like to be more vigilant about honoring the staff and volunteers who give years of service to camp. If you know anyone that you feel should be recognized, send that information to info@whitememorialcamp.com.

This past year, we have had a few of our staff retire or move on from their camp role. While we at WMC are sad to see them go and are already missing them; we are excited for their future endeavors! You may have had interactions with these staff members over the years, and for that reason we could use your help in wishing them well! 

Staff leaving include:

Pam Lansing – Housekeeper/Hospitality for over 10 years. Although Pam has finished her journey with WMC, she is continuing her professional career with a local insurance agency. Pam always went above and beyond to add personal care for each event and cared greatly for the staff and guests that came through our gates. Pam would donate items from home, recruit family to help with minor repairs, and always had a new idea she wanted to test out to make things run smoother!

Shirley Spittles – Shirley stepped down as our Office Manager a few years ago and continues to help when she can; including as volunteer Secretary for our Board of Officers. You may have also seen Shirley welcoming guests, serving coffee or running errands on behalf of camp. For over 9 years, Shirley has been such a generous person to work with. Always willing to help wherever needed. Shirley spends her days with family and stays involved with the local community. You can’t walk anywhere next to Shirley without running into someone who knows her. Shirley has a great way of seeing things from a different perspective, reminding us to consider what the guests might think! Did we mention that she’s a big ball of positive energy? 

Tricia Austin – Volunteer Accountant and procurer of delicious cookies for over 6 years. Tricia and her husband, Pastor John Austin, are long time supporters and avid advocates for Camp. Tricia has really helped reshape the behind-the-scenes logistics of our organization. Sound financial advice, great spokesperson, networker, and an incredibly kind individual. Always a great source of advice and a good sounding board, Tricia’s years of experience and passion for her work were greatly needed and appreciated.

To show our appreciation, we are putting together a gift for these three individuals. If you have a photo, message, quip or simple “thank you” for one (or all) of the staff that you would like to submit, I know they would appreciate the thought. It doesn’t have to be much, but it can be as much as you want! 

To send farewell greetings contact our Marketing Director, Christian, at Info@whitememorialcamp.com.
In your email please include the tagline “Retirement Gift,” the name of the person your submission is for along with your name, and then whatever message you would like to share.

To All Campers,

It’s me. Yes, the actual campgrounds! Do you remember what I look like? You can’t miss me. I’m a peninsula in the middle of the prairie! The camp with the big lake and stone cabins. Yep, me! Your old Pal White Memorial Camp. I know, I have a long name. Just call me, WMC, or “Camp” for short. Here’s the thing, I really miss you. Normally I only have to wait one year to see you — but it’s been forever!

Do not worry. I know it’s not your fault. In fact, I had to ask my guests to give me some space until I could be sure I was safe enough for everyone to come back. We have all been doing our part to help each other. Still, I’ve noticed the grass is green, the weather is getting warm, and I’m getting impatient. Where is everyone?

Some of you may be nervous about visiting me because of the pandemic. You might wonder if I’m safe enough, or maybe I’m TOO safe and will not be fun anymore — and I hope you know that I understand those feelings completely. I hope you will ask the staff about me if you have any questions. I just want to “humble-brag” that I have been doing my best to get ready for you. While you have been stuck in Zoom meetings, I have been practicing. Even Camps have homework! I have been researching other camps to see how they operated last year, studied state and national health and safety guidelines. Not to mention all of the help I have received from so many people who also want to be sure you can come back and have fun! You can be sure I have a clean bill of health!

They say we should stay socially distant — that’s no problem! One thing I did NOT do during the pandemic was diet! I still have over 165 acres for us to spread out and explore! Guess that means more time outside playing games! Did you know that my cabins are already set up to allow for socially distant sleeping? And the CDC just decreased the pod-group distance limit to 3 feet. Even better! We still have to wear masks — don’t worry, I will still recognize you! They also say we should keep clean and wash hands. Between you and me, this camp staff has been doing an excellent job of that and will keep the place in tip-top shape for you! They air out all of my buildings regularly, too! 

What else is new with me? Well, it’s been far too quiet. Where is the laughter, howling, whistle blowing, and singing? I need a group of excited, well-behaved, and adventurous campers to come test out the Camp Bell to make sure it still rings! I miss hearing you all share your favorite camp memories around the Bell on the last day of camp.  I can’t wait until there are enough people on site to smoosh down the grass on the hiking trails and light campfires to scatter the bugs.

I’m Bored. There has been nothing good to watch! I’ve watched every camp movie I can think of on Netflix and sung every camp song to myself, but it’s not the same! I miss watching you all hit bullseyes at archery, climb to the top of the rock wall, zipline for the first time, race kayaks to the buoy and back, taking hayrack rides, holding talent shows and carnivals… Please come back and sing camp songs because I cannot get the tune of “Baby Shark” out of my head! 

As soon as you get here, I’m sure I’ll go back to normal because I want you to feel welcome, safe, and cared for. I want to be the kind of camp that opens my doors to anyone who wants to be here! I want to be the kind of Camp you tell your friends at home about. I want to be YOUR camp! But you better get here soon, or else the raccoons will eat all of the marshmallows — See you soon!

Your Friend,


A Place For Everyone

What day is it? Is it time for camp?

Despite the warm weather, it’s still January. Which can only mean one thing — IT’S A NEW YEAR, FOLKS!

Take a deep breath — I can almost smell the campfire and bug spray! That deep breath is important (though not recommended while applying bug spray), because in times of transition, big or small, it is necessary to take a pause and evaluate our surroundings.

I’m blessed, because as I take in my surroundings, I see Camp!

As I catch my breath and think of this idea of what a camp should be, the first thing that comes to mind is “inclusive.” Camp has been and will continue to be an oasis for all, allowing people from all walks of life a chance to escape their daily reality for a brief respite and return home renewed. Camp encourages us to be different, meet different people, and try different things. We grow by interacting with people who are different from us. Thanks to camp I have grown as a person and a leader and met the most amazing humans — all very different from each other! The great thing is that we know right away that we had one thing in common, we love camp. The rest is just miniscule details.

Other thoughts come to mind as I admire the prairie.  Camp is meant to be safe. Camp is meant to be healing. Camp is meant to allow for peaceful expression. Camp is also about practicing structure, discipline, respect and coping with the world beyond our stone gates so that you can take this idea of “camp” everywhere you go. Camp is fun and camp is here for you!

Camp will carry on this year. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Camp will look different, but we will not lose sight of our surroundings. Safety and structure have always been the most important fundamentals of running our camp. So even if the tactics have changed, our goals have not. It is through safety and structure that we can let loose and have fun. And we miss having fun! Camp may look different, but it’s still Camp, and it’s still for you.

Our team here loves you, misses you, and wishes you a safe, happy, and positive start to your year and we hope to see you soon!

Check out the rest of the January Edition of Smoke Signals here!

One of my favorite camper quotes comes from a guest attending our Arrowhead Camp for folks with I/DD many years ago. When overwhelmed, stressed, and finding it hard to see past an obstacle, their words remind me to try to catch my breath, take a step back, and look at things from another perspective. The quote came on a Wednesday, which anyone who has ever worked during a week-long camp knows how awesome of an experience it is. But, you also know how draining a Wednesday can be. Wednesday’s are when homesick feelings kick in, the “newness” has worn off, personalities begin to clash, the staff is drained, and that after-lunch nap is not to be interrupted unless Camp is on fire.

Experienced staffers know that this dread is temporary. Thursday’s wash away the Wednesday blues, which leads to the Friday sorrows, where everyone is overwhelmed with the realization that camp is almost over and we will all miss our new friends. Camp is quite the emotional rollercoaster, y’all, and when you’re on the uphill Wednesday track, you can’t always see the fun slope on the other side.

On that particular Wednesday,  I walked outside after lunch (drained and ready for the nap of a lifetime), when I saw the “lovebirds” casually sitting on the patio. This camper and his girlfriend were inseparable, and anytime we saw them, they were sitting next to each other sporting the biggest grins on their faces. I gave a pleasant greeting and asked how their day was going. He replied “Guess what?” I took the bait. He said “guess how long we’ve been dating.” I said something obnoxious like “That depends, what day is it?” He stood up and announced with pride to the entire patio, “In 9 more months, we will have been dating for one whole year!” choking back my laughter, I congratulated them and wished them the best. On the inside I thought “With that way of thinking, after I save $32,000, I will have paid off my entire $36,000 student loan debt – YEAH!”

The quote isn’t revolutionary. It’s honestly a little silly and gave me a good laugh at the time. But it is also a subtle reminder of how we all see the same world in different ways. Everyone has their own way of thinking, and when we’re having difficulties with something, whether it’s completing a task, getting through a week, or trying to communicate our point with someone – we need to step back and remind ourselves to try a new angle. It may just alter our reality.

Now, on tough Wednesdays, I know that in three days I’ll be missing my campers. The other takeaway is one of severe optimism. You’ve been asked if you see the glass as half empty or half full? This camper saw a nearly empty glass and was already celebrating the day the glass would be overflowing. It may not be healthy to think that way 100% of the time, but I think it could be incredibly beneficial to try that exercise in positivity and self-appreciation once a week or so! And just think, in eleven months, you will have practiced happiness for an entire year!

Checkout the rest of our December Smoke Signals Edition here

WMC 2020 Fall Newsletter

Creating a Covid-Conscious Camp

We have continuously consulted the Morris County Health Department, resources from the UCC-Outdoor Ministries Association, American Camp Association, and a virtual community of camp professionals to implement strong and safe practices that we can use for our camp going forward. The cleaning and germ prevention tactics we’ve used for Covid-19 will be in place at WMC from now on, allowing camp to stay proactive on disease prevention. We’ve updated our Health and Safety manuals and our Emergency Action Plan includes a clearer sense of how to monitor and manage communicable diseases.

We canceled all camps and large events for 2020. To keep the camp spirit alive and find alternative revenue that was in line with our mission, we opened our doors to families and small groups to rent cabins and activities. Our hope was to provide respite from the chaos and an opportunity to get outdoors. Thanks to our spacious grounds and facilities, groups can isolate by household and keep distance from others by staying in different cabins. We opened our pool to on-site renters with no lifeguards on duty and followed guidelines recommended by Red Cross. We adapted our High Ropes Course and Archery to meet CDC guidelines. We allowed at least two days between cabin use for sanitization which helped keep our staff safe. Guests were provided pre-mixed bleach water spray bottles and notified of health expectations prior to their arrival. We require the use of masks, social distancing, and handwashing.

This summer was possible because groups were responsible for their own well-being. But what about those that are in our care – our campers? We will be monitoring methods used in schools. If we cannot open fully, then we may offer alternatives like weekend-long family camps, limit event sizes to smaller groups, or offer weekend Day Camps. We will research and implement tactics from camps that remained open and safe in 2020. Read below to see tactics successfully safe camps used this summer that we may consider implementing.

  • Share health screening tips for parents
  • On-arrival temperature checks for campers and staff
  • Set aside a room for quarantine away from others
  • Daily temperature checks for staff
  • Maintain social distancing indoors (staggered eating groups, limit group size, etc)
  • Frequent scheduled handwashing breaks
  • Daily cabin sanitization done by staff
  • Travel and interact in cabin groups only
  • Require and provide facemasks for staff to wear at all times and campers to wear when interacting outside of their cabin group.

A camp is successful when it is operating at its safest. Safety brings comfort, and comfort causes the community to grow and creativity to thrive. We want campers to be able to disconnect from the world of over-stimulation and negativity and have fun. So while implementing extra procedures and structure may seem counterintuitive to our goals, it is the means to success by providing our staff and guests the foundation that we all need to feel at ease and have a positive camp experience.

For 2021, We will set “decision deadlines” to share if and how we will proceed based on information we have at that time. We welcome an open dialogue about our hopes and expectations. In the meantime, we’re here to answer any of your questions, provide clarity, and encourage you and your camper to stay involved with camp.

Click to read the rest of the Fall newsletter

Tell Your Story

With the summer of Covid-19 finally coming to an end and the fall upon us, things at camp are starting to slow down. However, with the unprecedented summer we had, we are missing our campers and staff a bit extra this fall. So, we have been reminiscing on some of our favorite camp stories and we would love to hear yours too!

It’s simple, just think back to anything that makes you smile about your time at White Memorial Camp. It can be a first memory, funniest moment, life lesson, most memorable person, something you want to share with future campers, or even a story that a family member has shared from their time at camp.

Thought of one? Great, now send it to us!

The ways to share your story with us are nearly endless. You can send us a direct message or tag us on social media using @ExperienceWMC. You can email us at info@whitememorialcamp.com or call us at 620-767-5165. Shoot, you can even mail us a letter about your favorite story at 1271 S. 1050 RD, Council Grove, KS 66846.

Your story can be written, shared through video, or told by pictures. None of those work? We would love to set-up a quick interview to hear your story. Whatever the method, we just want to hear about the great moments created through WMC.

We are looking for stories from everyone. Whether you were a camper, volunteer, guest, staff member, parent of a camper or your grandparents went to camp here: we want to hear your story!

Time is irrelevant. Our history as a camp stretches all the way back to 1963, so we would love to hear about the fun moments had at WMC from the very beginning to today.

Fall is here and things at camp have begun to slow down for the time being, but that does not mean the camp spirit dies. As we prepare for next season’s camps, keep the camp spirit alive with us and share your favorite story from WMC!

Checkout our Facebook for more information: https://www.facebook.com/ExperienceWMC/videos/2751679805044880 

Directions to Share Your Story:

  1. Think of a fun story or memory you have from WMC. 
  2. Share it with us by messaging or tagging us on Facebook at @ExperienceWMC, email us your story at info@whitememorialcamp.com, call us at 620-767-5165, or send your favorite story through mail to 1271 S. 1050 rd. Council Grove, KS 66846.
  3. Stories can be shared with us through writing, told through video, or demonstrated through pictures

Local Kids to Camp FAQs for 2020

• Registration Deadline: JUNE 15th! This lets us know who is interested and allows us enough time to prepare.

• Who qualifies for this free camp? Local Kids to Camp is a FREE camp for youth that have completed grades 3-5 (or going into grades 4-6 in August of 2020) in Morris and Wabaunsee Counties, that attend local elementary schools at White City, Council Grove, and Prairie Heights. Home-school students from these areas are also invited.

• Will there be “camp store?” No Camp Store (Snack Shack) but WMC will provide afternoon snacks for everyone. 

• Why allow Local Kids to Camp to operate? This camp consists of a clear separation of groups by grades, which limits group sizes. All youth and families are from a similar geographic area monitored by local health departments and sharing similar COVID-19 case rates and testing.

• What activities will be allowed at camp? Most everything will be available to do at camp, however we will have smaller groups and more cleaning to do which might slow down our pace. That being said, we plan on swimming pool, kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, high ropes course, campfires, and all of our fun stuff. 

What safety measures will be in place for Local Kids to Camp?

During Camp:

•Staff will take temperatures and perform general screenings during check in and check out.

•General group sizes of approximately 20 people.

•Eating meals in shifts to keep indoor gatherings small.

•Scheduled breaks to wash hands, sanitize toys and equipment

•No “low ropes” course activities since spotting and working closely with each other is required. We WILL do high ropes course with extra cleaning measures. 

•Encourage general social distancing. 

Drop off and pick up: 

•Limiting extra guests during drop off (have extra family wait in the car with the AC or linger on benches in front of the office away from the main check in area.)

•Drop off kids and luggage at the dining hall. WMC staff will help campers take luggage down to cabins to help in limiting outside exposure. 

•Scheduled drop off and pick up times for campers, to limit large gatherings. 

What if Local Kids to Camp is cancelled?

If we do not receive enough interest from our registrations to meet the needs of our grant/donor funding, we will cancel camp for 2020. We will then prepare Local Kids to Camp for 2021 and hope to see you there!