Connecting Generations for Good

Keewaydin and Songadeewin 2018

August 1, 2018

For the past 19 years, Daria Carden has been a fixture at Keewaydin, a camp for boys in Vermont.

“I’m the unofficial camp mom,” she says. In addition to her role as office manager, she also often finds herself locating lost retainers or testing new no-bake dessert recipes. But above all, she’s there to make sure the 350 boys who descend on the camp each summer have an experience that’s increasingly hard to find.

Each year, a handful of those 350 boys travel from Los Angeles to Keewaydin, escorted by Eisner Foundation staff. Handpicked by our partners at GOALS in Orange County, these boys (and several girls attending Songadeewin, the sister camp across the lake) are from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are chosen for their potential to contribute to and benefit from the experience.

They’re also now part of a long tradition of Eisner Foundation and Eisner family campers.

Michael Eisner himself counts Keewaydin as one of the most formative experiences of his life. His father attended the camp, and once his own sons were old enough, a third generation of Eisners also spent several weeks each summer kayaking, hiking, and gathering around a campfire in the Vermont wilderness. Soon, a fourth generation of Eisners will go too.

While some things have changed since Michael Eisner’s father first attended in 1924, much is still the same. “This rustic environment, where they’re unplugged, is so precious,” says Daria. “The cooperation, the interpersonal connections…they’re not typing on a screen.”

As the campers build relationships with their peers from all over the world, they’re also building relationships with longtime staff like Daria. Many return year after year, and sometimes will even transition to summer staff members once they’re old enough. “I’ve been watching them grow up,” says Daria, who herself is the mother of two daughters now in their twenties. “I didn’t have boys, and this way I get to. I definitely get the joy of still having kids.”

This year, she bonded with the campers through an unusual camp activity: knitting. After successfully recruiting several of the boys to give it a try, she walked them through the basics. “It was really exciting to watch them have an ‘aha’ moment, to watch them really get it,” she says.

It’s clear that Daria has left her mark on the campers. Just recently, a former camper now in his thirties went out of his way to stop by as he was passing through the area. She also keeps in touch with several of them through social media. But her favorite communication tool is more low-tech.

“I write Christmas cards that go all over the world. And I have a lovely collection of cards that I get back,” she says.

After 19 years, Daria continues to draw joy from her job. “The reward is in happy children who I know are taking away things that will make them good adults. I love that.”

Read more about our Keewaydin and Songadeewin campers here and here.

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