Winter 2024

Blue Sparks Newsletter

Dear Camp Community,

So much about camp revolves around the old and the new. Participate in old traditions, make new friends; relish in the old way of life (without technology!), and build new skills.

In this issue of Blue Sparks, we will honor the new and the old – a new flag was raised this summer to recognize a camper from a country not represented before, and an old tradition continues as we look at how shields have changed (or not changed) over the years. We will also talk about motor trips, camp projects, feature several impactful alum, and remember Peg Marie, an alum who gave so much to this beloved place. 


Liz Bateman Rambo

PS. Please fill out this Alum Contact Form so that we can build our contact list

New Flag Raised at Camp!

It is not every year that Camp Jeanne d’Arc raises a new country flag in the Hearth. But last summer, we were proud to add the flag of Vietnam to the dozens of flags that adorn the ceiling in the Camp mess hall. Every time a camper from a country that had not been previously represented comes to camp, we add the new flag.

Camper Minh Phan (pictured here wearing glasses), from Vietnam, was honored with a flag raising ceremony and the playing of her national anthem to celebrate the new addition. 

Minh was referred to camp by alum Claire Cormier Thielke who lives in Hong Kong. Over the years, Claire and her sister-in-law, Alexa Nadal Cormier, had shared stories with Minh's mother about the formative role Camp had played in their lives.  

Minh’s mother explained that they “took her to the camp after a family trip to the U.S and she was so brave to go back by herself on a 24-hour flight. Everyone said it was too dangerous for her to do it.”

Claire and Alexa, who met as campers in Woodsheart, were overjoyed that Minh took the plunge. Minh bravely traveled from her native Ho Chi Minh City to reach Camp, kicking off her life as a CJDA Woodsheart. Meant to be!

Shields: A Tradition That Connects Us!

Shields! They are like the crown jewel of the Camp Jeanne d’Arc experience. A tangible relic of activities, awards, camp spirit, traditions … and more. Holding a shield in your hand, you can almost place yourself back at Banquet Night – Merrill, New York on a later summer evening, dressed up in uniform, hair brushed and styled, legs shaved (finally!), and butterflies in your stomach (did the Les win a cup?).  

Each year, every new camper is given a shield and every returning camper brings their shield back to camp. Camp staff follow a century-old tradition of painting stencils of camp activities and awards onto each shield. The shields are then presented to campers on Awards Night or Banquet Night. 

The emblems painted onto the shields are meaningful and no two shields are quite the same. For newer campers, the shields are sparse, while seasoned campers have barely enough room to add a new mark. Some are adorned with archery pins or senior club icons. While others show Smugglers or Polar Bear Club.  


Pictured here is Fran McIntyre’s shield when she was a camper in the 1950s. Notice the standard Fleur de Lis as well as horseback riding, waterski, canoe, arts and crafts, fencing, sailing, mountaineering, swimming, tennis, golf, drama, and more. A current camper’s shield is likely to feature the same things!

In fact, the shields from the 1950s are virtually identical to the ones distributed today – maybe some slight variations in wood grain, beveled edges, width, and spacing of the shield’s peaks. But the honoring of camp spirit, skill acquisition, and leadership are the same!

Who still has their shield?

Remembering Peg Marie, A Life-long Jeanne d'Arcer

The Camp Jeanne d’Arc community lost one of our most devoted alum in October 2023, Peg Marie. Peg was born in Schenectady, NY on February 14, 1955 and died peacefully at Kingsway Community on October 17, 2023.


In her obituary, her family was sure to mention Peg’s love of camp: “During High School, Peg spent every summer at Camp Jeanne d'Arc on Chateaugay Lake in the Adirondacks where she made many lifelong friends and created treasured memories. Recently, Peg attended the 100-year anniversary celebration of the Camp, and reconnected with many friends.”

Peg Marie gave to Camp in very meaningful ways. As a favor for the 90th reunion, Peg Marie gave every attendee a basket which she had hand-crafted. The gift tag reads “Camp Jeanne d’Arc. 90 Years of Camp Spirit”. At the Save Woodsheart campaign last year, several alum donated their Peg Marie baskets for auction. We were happy that Peg was able to be at camp during the 100th reunion and connect with many of her camp comrades.  

Peg’s impact on the CJDA community will be lasting. Her friendship, her generosity, and her spirit will certainly live on.

Alum Spotlight: Nicole Epps, A Community Leader in Brooklyn

The strong Jeanne d’Arc women I get to talk to while interviewing for Blue Sparks inspire me! Nicole Epps, a camper in the 90s is now the Chief Operating and Financial Officer for Brooklyn Org.

I loved talking to Nicole about Brooklyn Org, formerly the Brooklyn Community Foundation, a community philanthropy organization providing immeasurable support to communities and nonprofit partners that are leading transformational change for Brooklyn. 

We talked a lot about CJDA and how camp provides unparalleled opportunities to be a leader and build confidence in who you are. Stripped away from identities at school or sports or home, camp is a place where girls can grow confident in their own identities.

Nicole was a member of the Senior Mountaineering Club and she talked about how powerful that experience was for her. She ran an overnight hike where she needed to procure supplies, plan meals, research the route, ensure safety, and lead younger campers into a new (perhaps scary) experience of an overnight hike. We were laughing because typically, counselors contrived tricky situations for the trip leader to have to react to and demonstrate leadership skills. However, during Nicole’s trip, she faced a real emergency. 

A young camper overturned a log unleashing a swarm of angry bees. The camper was stung multiple times. The incident was alarming and required quick thinking and mature reasoning. Nicole stepped up to support the camper as well as the panicked group. Nicole recounts how this was a formative experience for her journey in becoming the leader she is now. 

Nicole has a 14 year-old daughter, Gracen, also a CJDA alum, and still keeps in touch with some camp friends. Gracen met fellow alum Dawn Reres Wilson’s daughter, Cassie, at camp and Gracen and Cassie continue the CJDA sisterhood.

We finished our conversation dwelling on the importance of single sex spaces where girls can be surrounded by examples of leadership and confidence.Campers can not only look up to other campers, but see growth in themselves as they become young women who receive leadership awards, gain entrance into high-skill-level clubs, earn archery or riflery pins, or put themselves into unfamiliar territories (preferably without bees!).

Thank you Nicole, you are a valued member of the CJDA alum community!

Motor Trip Poll

Let’s talk Motor Trips! Yes, being at camp was awesome. But the chance to leave camp with all of your camp besties… that was the best! I recently polled the CJDA Facebook page to find out which motor trips were the most memorable. And the results were so fun to review.

Lake Placid was a big one. From the quirky Santa’s Workshop to the Olympic site to the shops and natural sites, motor trips to Lake Placid generated nostalgic and pleasant memories for many alumni. Blown glass Christmas decor, Olympic bobsledding, cliffside coaster, and quaint village shopping were some of the highlights. 

Other popular motor trips were to Vermont, Ausable Chasm, white water rafting, the Von Trapp Family Lodge, and amusement parks like Great Escape and Park Safari.


But the coolest motor trip of all was when the 1976 campers got to go to the Summer Olympics in Montreal! Campers were able to view gymnastic preliminary events and they even met an Olympic Javelin thrower from New Jersey!  

Where are the 2024 campers headed on their motor trip this summer? Burlington Vermont! Just like many of you, they will shop in town, see the sites, and most importantly tour the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory.

Motor trips were great, but as alum Livvy Dineen noted, “staying at camp for a day on water was fun too!” And for the campers that did go on the trips, whether you got off the bus with a new sweatshirt or a stack of candy bars, coming back “home” to camp was the best feeling of all.

Jeanne d'Arcers in California

The East Coast and Puerto Rico are not the only places to find JDA alum! I recently spoke with two alum who currently live in California. Here are some mini-spotlights for our Cali crew!

Mariana De La Fuente

When did you go to camp? I have the best memories from camp, I went to CJDA 4 times as a camper and one time as an Aid. I was in Orioles in 1990, Falcons in ‘91, T-birds in ‘92 and Owls in ‘93.

Where are you from and where do you live now? I am from Mexico City and currently living in San Diego, CA. 

What do you do now? I am an architect and an interior designer. I am a professor at the architecture school at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) 

What was your favorite camp activity? I would say sailing and canoeing, (I’m still sailing at this point in life, I just love to be by the water). And I remember I was pretty good at archery too. I am a member for the senior canoe club, senior sailing club and I was awarded once with the “Lorraine Cup”

What impact has camp had on your life? Camp was a great experience and helped develop many tools to be successful in life. Starting with being away from my family for eight weeks, learning and practicing another language, meeting new friends from all over the world, team work (go Jolis!) and all those adventures and activities just transformed my life.


Kay Bateman Burke

When did you go to camp? I started at JDA in ‘87 as a Chick, ‘88 as a Cardinal, ‘91 as an Oriole, and ‘93 as an Owl.

Where are you from and where do you live now? I am from the Philly area, and now live in San Francisco. 

What do you do now? I have been a nurse for 24 years, though about half of that time I’ve spent in Nursing Informatics. I help to formulate strategies for nurses to effectively use technology in their clinical practice. This includes Electronic Health Record, data & analytics (including the use of AI), mobile devices, alarms & alert systems, and other digital tools that are needed to help nurses provide the most efficient and high-quality care for patients. I am lucky to have a leadership role at UCSF Health in this specialized field of nursing and I love my job!  

What was your favorite camp activity? My favorite camp activity was sailing and waterskiing.


What impact has camp had on your life? To me, camp was very formative: the confidence I gained and independence that was fostered - especially in my early adolescence - really shaped who I am. I also made incredible friends - and I stay in touch with several of them!

Camp Project Corner

The Woodsheart Renovation continues in Woodsheart in preparation for campers’ arrival in June. See here for the last update. 

Campers destined for Woodsheart will be happy to hear that in order to accommodate the new Cardinal cabin (previous Woodhseart living room), the first floor bathroom has received a complete renovation!

The wall between the existing bathroom and the old cardinal counselor room was removed and additional showers and bathroom stalls were added. The old “chart room/ map room/ music room/ camp craft room” (depending on when you attended camp), will now be our Cardinal counselor room. 

We are very excited that the refurbished Woodsheart will be enjoyed by campers this summer. And the Cardinal campers and counselors will be excited to break in the new and improved bathroom situation!

What's Coming Next?

The timeline looks busy for all things Camp this Spring. Between a new septic system in the Hearth, ACA Accreditation, the Foundation’s Archive event, and prepping for the start of summer, we are excited to get into Spring! Here’s what’s up next for Camp:


April 8th - Maintenance team reports to Camp

April 14th - “What’s in the Archive?” CJDA Foundation event

Late April - Sandy opens the Chalet 

June 16th - Lifeguards report to Camp

June 19th - Pre-camp begins

June 28th - First day of Camp


Where in the World are Sandy and Randy?

Jeanne d’Arc camp directors Sandy and Randy Abbott have been busy in the off-season.  They hosted several camp fairs across the country and parties in New York and Puerto Rico.

In April, Sandy will travel to camp to kick off the spring season and meet with Rolland Thomas, head of maintenance, and his crew to get things going to prepare for the start of camp.

But don’t worry, they are not too busy to chat with prospective camp families. The Abbotts held popular “Curious about Camp Q&A” zoom sessions to help prospective camp families learn more about what to expect at camp.

I also heard that the ‘23 Falcons and ‘23 Owls scheduled Zoom sessions with their favorite camp directors.  It's hard work to build a camp family and Sandy and Randy are here for it!

Connect with Camp Jeanne d'Arc!
Find us on Social Media
Come see what we're up to on social media!!

Not on social media? We want to hear from you! Send me a note with what you've been up to!
Facebook  Instagram