When Melissa Cartner, our new Summer Camp Director, needed a camp nickname, she turned to her favorite childhood book, Winnie the Pooh. There, she found the character of Kanga–the warm, protective mother to energetic Roo. As the oldest of three who often helped her mother, Melissa felt like the character fit her well. “The name Kanga says that I’m sort of like the camp mom—caring, nurturing and loving…but still stern enough to get the job done.”

And her job is a crucial one. As Summer Camp Director, Melissa is responsible for recruiting, hiring and training summer staff so that camp sessions run smoothly and, ultimately, result in a safe, fun experience for every camper. Her example as a caring, responsible leader sets the tone for the rest of the staff all summer.

When selecting summer staff, Melissa focuses on 3 key traits:  High Energy, Fun and Reliability. “High energy is a must for a counselor”, she explains. In addition, “I want to have a fun staff” because a fun staff will ensure that campers are having a good time. But Melissa knows that fun is only part of the staff equation. “If they can’t handle the many responsibilities of the summer, they won’t be here,” she declares.

Melissa’s background in camping began in upstate New York, where she grew up in the beautiful Finger Lakes region. She first served as a cabin counselor and then as Leadership Director at Camp Y-Owasco. When a former Y-Owasco colleague, Joe Murphy, was looking for a Program Director at Camp Wood last summer, she packed her bags and moved to Kansas—intending to stay for just the season. But when August came around, Melissa wasn’t quite ready to leave. Camp Wood YMCA, its staff and the Flint Hills had won her over.

She signed on as an Intern and after assisting with off-season programming throughout the fall, accepted the Summer Camp Director position in January, when Joe Murphy left the position to be closer to family. Melissa is thankful to Joe, whom she considers a mentor. “He showed me how to take my passion for helping kids and shift it into a camp setting…and for that, I am ever grateful.”

In addition to her commitment to youth development, Melissa brings a passion for service and the outdoors to camp. We feel that these values, along with her commitment to hiring high-quality staff, make Melissa a great fit for Camp Wood YMCA. We hope you will help us welcome her into the Camp Wood YMCA family.

5 Quick Facts about “Kanga”

  1. Favorite Camp Wood Traditions: Mealtime Mockeries. “I absolutely love the energy and the feeling in the dining hall.” And campout night “because it’s a time for cabins to be together and sleep under the stars, something every child should experience.”

  2. Best Campfire Songs: “Flea, Fly, Mosquito” and “The Mushroom Song”

  3. Why Summer 2016 is going to be the best yet: “Brand new cabins are being built, mini-camp is making a comeback and new all-camp games are being created!”

  4. If she could read any book…It would be the Harry Potter series.

  5. A message for parents nervous about their child’s first camp experience: “When you send your children to Camp Wood, they will be taken care of by a hand-selected group of counselors in a safe and fun environment. I can assure you that they will have one of the best summers of their lives!”

Over the next few months, we’ll introduce you to many of the wonderful staff members that Melissa has hired already to make Camp Wood’s 100th summer the best summer yet. Watch our Facebook page for the exciting announcements!