For 98 summers, students from St. Mark's School have gone up to Brantwood Camp in Peterborough, NH, as volunteers working primarily with low-income youth. This year was no different. In addition to students volunteering their time, St. Mark's alumni and faculty are continually involved with the Camp in a variety of ways: as camp staff, trustees, supporters, and advocates to the greater community.
Brantwood is a summer program for boys and girls, enrolling campers between the ages of 11 and 15, mostly from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend summer camp.
In 2018, Max Hinkley '15 returned to Brantwood, for a sixth consecutive year, working summer as a Permanent Counselor at the boys' camp. This summer, Mr. Hinkley was part of the Senior Staff, serving as Camp Commissary and director of the ropes course program. He is the first St. Marker in almost 30 years to work at Brantwood for at least six summers.
St. Markers Lindsay Strong '19, Samantha Leslie '20, Catherine Pellini '20, and Alie Hyland '20 all served as volunteer Brantwood counselors at the girls' camp. Nathaniel King '20 volunteered at the boys' camp. Volunteers at Brantwood live with the campers, coaching them in games and leading them throughout the busy sixteen-day program. Two other current St. Markers—Tom Paugh '19 and Will Osborne '20—have also volunteered as Brantwood counselors in the past.
Brantwood campers engage in athletic competition; work on achievement "challenges" involving first aid, swimming, and other aspects of camp life; and prepare their cabins-- called "shacks" in the Brantwood tradition-- for daily inspection. Spirit and collaborative teamwork are important parts of the overall experience, and campers are active on ropes course elements, hikes, visits to Brantwood's property on Silver Lake in Nelson, NH, and enthusiastic singing at campfire gatherings each evening. The Five Brantwood Ideals-- Honesty, Loyalty, Cooperation, Good Sportsmanship, and Unselfishness-- are emphasized throughout. Opportunities for leadership development make it particularly rewarding for St. Markers, many of whom have found the Brantwood experience a significant asset in the college application process, in their collegiate endeavors, and on beyond college into their lives and careers.
Currently, Head of School John C. Warren '74, St. Mark's Chaplain Barbara Talcott, and St. Mark's Communications Manager Nick Noble '76 serve on the Brantwood Board from the School, while former Senior Master Henry Large is an Associate Trustee of the Camp. Mr. Noble is also a former Brantwood counselor and Director, as well as the Camp Historian, having written two books about Brantwood.
In addition to Mr. Warren and Mr. Noble, St. Mark's alumni also currently serving as Brantwood Trustees include Linzee Coolidge '55, John Hall '57, Brinley Hall '59, Stephen DiCicco '64, Jonathan Gillette '65, Peter DiMaggio '74, Peter Swaim '75. Tom Martinson '80, Chris Perkins '87, and Julie Merritt '96. Honorary Trustees of Brantwood include SM alumni Peter Freeman '50, Oakleigh Thorne '50, Bob Colgate '62, James Hamlen '64, and former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean '53. All are past Brantwood counselors.
Brantwood was founded in 1904 as a summer retreat for boys sponsored by various Episcopal parishes in Massachusetts. Lacking manpower to staff its programs during the First World War, Brantwood was closed. In 1920, Brantwood reopened under the auspices of St. Mark's School, as a memorial to William H. Cheney, St. Mark's Class of 1916, who was killed in the war. Cheney's mother, Mrs. Mary Lyon Cheney Schofield, had been Chair of the original Brantwood Board at the time of its closing.
Since 1920, more than 1000 St. Markers have spent time up at Brantwood as volunteer counselors, working primarily with inner city youth from the Northeast. Many St. Markers went on to become members of the Permanent Staff, while more than two dozen have served as Director, Associate Director, or Assistant Director at Brantwood Camp over the years.
In 1982, Brantwood started a program for girls, and today both Brantwood for Boys and Brantwood for Girls are thriving successfully on the slopes of North Pack Mountain in New Hampshire, exemplifying the spirit of service to others that has been the hallmark of St. Mark's School over a century-and-a-half.
Throughout the years, St. Markers have found their time at Brantwood to be uniquely challenging and rewarding. "It is difficult to explain the nature of the Brantwood experience," wrote one St. Mark's alumnus. "You have to witness it in action, be a part of it, in order to define it." For the volunteer shack counselor it is an exciting and demanding job "leading the kids, living with them, coaching with them, tutoring them, and guiding them throughout the two-week term. The Five Brantwood Ideals are emphasized daily. Suffice it to say that Brantwood is more than a fresh-air camp, more than a sports camp. It is a camp where you learn, but that learning goes beyond the various challenges studied by its campers. It is an idealistic place formed by realities. It is a realistic place dedicated to its ideals."
Each spring, Brantwood is also the site for the week-long III Form Lion Term experience. At Brantwood in 2018, III Formers hiked, kept journals, learned campcraft, helped rebuild an outdoor chapel, worked at various projects and tasks, and got to know each other even better as classmates. Several III Formers commented on the value of their Brantwood Lion Term adventure as a positive bonding experience, and they also enjoyed both the service activities and the hike up Mount Monadnock. "It made me push myself, really challenge myself," said Jeremiah Ojeah '21. "Brantwood was amazing!"