In Episode 96, I’m talking with my friend Brooke Cheley-Klebe of Cheley Colorado Camps. We cover a range of summer camp-related topics including longer camp stays, adjusting to camp and overcoming homesickness, what it’s like for teenagers to have the much-needed break from screens, video games, and social media that traditional summer camp programs provide, and the life-long friendships that campers develop at camp.

Getting Unplugged at Camp (audio is in the intro for this episode):


  • It’s as important to build the character of the youth as it is to educate them.
  • Children return from a longer camp stay with freshness and with a new sense of confidence and independence.
  • Unplugging for an extended period of time gives kids the opportunity to develop new habits.
  • In a 27 day time period, kids really are able to jump into the camp experience, settle in, and make friendships.
  • Twenty-seven days is long enough for kids to have to work through it if they are homesick or if there’s somebody at camp that they don’t get along with.
  • A longer camp stay helps kids learn to appreciate their families and their siblings.


Audrey: “Cheley is very well respected and well-known all across the country and among camps as being an amazing, life-changing program with a very loyal following of long-time families.”

Brooke: “Parents say that when they see their children return from camp, they see this new sense of confidence and independence, and just this freshness about them that maybe they didn’t have when they left to go to camp.”

Brooke: “With camp being 27 days, kids really have the opportunity to set new habits. They don’t miss their devices. They really don’t.”

Audrey: “Your uniqueness in the length of stay is something that you’re offering that other camps aren’t.”

Brooke: “To some people, 27 days sounds really long but the thing I hear most from parents when they come to pick up their children is that the times goes by so fast!”

Audrey: “I always feel like the first week is sort of getting settled and overcoming homesickness for kids who are anticipating the stay, no matter how long it is. Settling in and getting to know your group and feeling comfortable takes a little while.”

Brooke: “There’s been a lot of research about just how over-programmed our children are. So with the camp being 27 days, they have the opportunity to get enough sleep, and to have downtime.”

Brooke: “We used to be really structured and then we came to this point where we said, ‘Let the kids drive it. Let them be bored and see what they come up with.’ And it’s been really beautiful. The kids love it. It makes them feel that they are the ones choosing how they want to spend their time. And it also gets in touch with that part of the brain that doesn’t get touched during the rest of the year.”

Audrey: “Because of the length of stay, they do get more time to hang out with each other and more downtime. Whereas in shorter camp stays, camps try to pack in all the activities offered by longer camps. But you can’t add in all that very valuable downtime, free time, letting kids just have that unstructured play.”

Audrey: “It’s just so beautiful to watch kids rediscover play. I think that that’s one of the magical things about 27 days of camp.”

Brooke: “We feel like we’re up against the school calendars, the sports coaches that say you have to be back for this camp or you won’t make the team, or this training, or whatever. But we are sticking to it. We feel like the design of our program and the things the campers get to do by the end of the term- they need to be there for that amount of time.”

Audrey: “They say that everyone’s overtraining in their one sport so going on a backpacking trip and getting that good cardio, climbing, being in the altitude, is probably great for almost every sport. Kids come back in better shape for sure.”

Audrey: “Many of the philosophies of the people who started camps still hold true today.”

Audrey: “Shifting a mindset is what we want to do with kids. Because it’s not just that we want them to experience something that is good in the moment, we want them to have this (long term) shift in mindset from camp.”

Brooke: “Teens like handing over their phones. They know that is good for their brains. They feel it. I think the connections they make at camp are so fulfilling and strong that it’s what gets them through the school year.”

Audrey: “Teenagers have always had just a pretty intense social experience, at school and in life. Now they have this whole other social experience (being on social media) that they have to manage. So they have to manage their day at school with people and then they have to manage this whole other social thing and it’s really hard, and it’s not good for their wellbeing.”

Brooke: “The activities that we’re doing are so challenging that they really have to push through. That gives them a basis to work off of in the school year. They get that they have the tools to do that.”

Audrey: “I’m really excited about all the research we’re seeing come out around the impact of camp on kids’ development. What I’ve found really interesting is that they’re finding that any length of camp stay is helpful for kids. But the benefits accrue for kids who come back to camp year after year.”

Brooke: “Make sure that your kids are ready for the camp experience because you want that first year to be successful so that it sets the foundation for them to want to return. I think that the magic is definitely in multi-summers. We love watching these kids grow up!”

Audrey: “The things they’ve experienced in those 27 days translate to lifelong changes in the person’s life.”

Audrey: “If we all sat around waiting to be ‘ready’ we would never do anything. You can’t really be ready until you’ve tried it.”

Brooke: “I often talk to parents that aren’t ready but the kids are ready. And in that instance, I think they need to come.”


Cheley Colorado Camp’s website:

You will also find Cheley Colorado Camp on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

Cheley Camps YouTube Channel

Untangled by Lisa Damour

Audrey’s website

Audrey’s email:


My 24 Hours Unplugged

Get Unplugged

Ep. 39: How to Handle Your Camper’s Homesickness

Ep. 74: Why Summer Camp?

100 Questions About Summer Camp

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