Simon Cundall, our Manager of Client Success (and resident Kiwi), knows camp – which is a good thing – because he pilots our Client Success team that trains, onboards, and works with our entire client base, week in and week out.
While Simon originally hails from New Zealand – where there’s no such thing as summer camp, mind you – he learned the ropes by spending nearly 10 years at River Way Ranch in California. Since the kids at River Way aren’t allowed to know anyone’s real names, Simon went by his camp name, Maui.
He started as a General Counselor; think archery, riflery, go-karts, even creating unique activities like car washes. He then served as a Division Leader, Evening Program Director, CIT Director, and Family Camp Director. After his time at River Way Ranch, Simon expanded his camp perspective with a year as Camp Director and Area Coordinator at Galileo Learning.
Given the all-hands mentality of camp, Simon has been a part of every aspect of the camp business (and has attended more camp weddings than anyone we’ve met).
Internet, meet Simon.
How would you describe camp in 5 words?
Literally. The. Best. Thing/Place. Ever.
What was the best part of your day during your time at camp?
I really enjoyed the made up activities. A camper might not remember archery but he will remember the one time at “Casino Night” when we staged a robbery. During “Casino Night,” kids can play all types of casino games and at the end of the night count up their chips and bid on prizes. There was one bunk that would put on this secret heist where they would try to steal all the ‘scorpion’ (mythical high value) chips. They had this secret pact and thought they pulled the wool over our eyes, but the counselors were all in on it. That, for me, is the magic of camp; the “it only happens at summer camp” type of things.
What part of the day did you dread at camp?
Anytime head lice became an issue. Having to comb through kids’ hair and do laundry until 5am. But we managed to make it fun in a way – we sat all the kids in chairs, put shampoo in their hair, and then dressed up like ninjas and hosed them with water.
What skills/talents did you gain from camp specifically?
- Turning nothing into something. If we’re running 10 minutes late and we have 100 kids getting restless, I’d have to get up there and lead a song, game or popcorn story. It’s something that would be outside my comfort zone but I need to get up there. Even if I think this isn’t going to be fun. It’s going to be fun if you make it fun.
- Being able to step back. After having worked at camp for five years, I could have led every song, every evening program. As a Director it was my time to be able to delegate, trust, and foster young people in camp positions. I had to be able to learn how to help other counselors and let them shine and have their time.
What was the most ridiculous story you remember about camp?
Counselor Hunt: where counselors hide, they’re each worth a certain number of points and the kids have to find them, catch them, and bring them back to the bank. Counselors would dress stealthily and make it really hard for kids to catch them. Once I made a cabin who was struggling to work together pick me up and carry me back to the bank
One of my counselors was having a tough time with his cabin and saw the Director “hiding” in the middle of the lake on a paddle-board. He jumped in, fully-clothed, and swam the Director back to shore… boy did he look cool to his cabin. It was all about making the event memorable.
What was your go-to snack at camp?
Otter Pops, hands down. I honestly would eat maybe 200 a summer. I was in California and it was almost 100 degrees every day. They were a quick, cold, sugar high.
Why was camp so meaningful for you?
The people! Incredible life long connections – River Way’s motto is ‘Memories and Friendships that last a Lifetime’ – I met my wife at camp. One of my best friend’s from camp married my wife’s twin sister. Three of my best friends from New Zealand all met their wives at summer camps as well. I’ve been to 12 camp weddings and have one more to go to. In my wedding party, 7 of the guys were from the camp world. There is no wedding like a camp wedding. It is next level party for sure.
Any other stand-out memories?
Once I found two boys playing video games under their beds during an activity period. As a consequence, we walked around and picked up trash together for the next hour and half, which turned into an unforgettable of laughs and clean-up. They still remember it and talk to me about it as one of their favorite days (Shout-out to Brandon & Ryan).
Fun fact: Simon loves to ski! He was lucky enough to work at the Whistler/Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 for Team USA.