Dear Aloha Family,
I am writing today to share news from a dear colleague. After 30 summers at Aloha, Sarah Gordon Littlefield has decided to step down from her role as Director later this month.
Gordo first came to Fairlee from her home in Ontario as a twelve-year-old camper. Incredibly, she still has her diaries from that time. Counselors and campers at Aloha have heard her read some of the entries aloud, which feature slightly angst-ridden, often humorous accounts of her early camp experiences.
Appointed Director in 2016, Gordo brought with her a depth of camp knowledge and experience built over the two decades she served as Assistant Director and as a Unit Head, Department Head, and tent counselor. She has led Aloha with passion, humor, and steadfast care as a tireless advocate and compassionate guide. One of Gordo’s superpowers is noticing what others do not, and in doing so, lifting people up so they reach beyond what they thought was possible to overcome or achieve.
One thing is certain, whether you’ve known Gordo for 15 minutes or 15 years: she exudes a deep passion for the Alohas that shines through in everything she does. She embodies the values we cherish: a love of the outdoors, a commitment to building community, and a dedication to Aloha’s traditions as well as a desire to create new ones. Always quick with a smile or a song, Gordo brings warmth and energy to her interactions with others, ready with an open heart and a listening ear.
Not required, but a special bonus for a camp director, is the ability to carry a tune. Gordo’s beautiful singing voice, perfected in a cappella groups, which most often, she leads, has been a gift at every Aloha assembly and Evening Circle. Further strengthening her camp credentials is her designation as “Mama Woodchuck” (the Woodchuck Hole is Aloha’s Campcraft department), and in 1995 as Head of Club, being awarded her Honorary Guide—Aloha’s high rank in Campcraft.
During this summer’s banquet celebration, Aloha campers and counselors recognized a remarkable milestone for Gordo—her 30th year with the Alohas. At the Aloha & Hive reunion just a few weeks ago, the stories did not stop about Gordo and her many adventures and connections with those in attendance. We will be celebrating Gordo and her decades of Aloha connections in Reveille this fall.
The next chapter—for our beloved Gordo and for our flagship program founded over a hundred years ago—will begin to take shape right away, as Gordo determines her next move professionally and we launch the search for her successor.
We will certainly miss her. We are looking forward to her next adventures and the stories they will bring.
Gordo has written a letter to the community, which we invite you to read below.
Vanessa Mendillo Riegler
When I first stepped foot on Aloha’s campus in 1983, I did not imagine that my association with the Foundation would span five decades. My mum reminds me often that when she and my aunt picked me up after that first seven-week summer, we stayed in the area that night, and drove back to camp after dark so I could simply sit in the car, sing camp songs, and cry. It never crossed my mind that almost forty years later, the “Gordo cry count” would become a staple of summer stories.
When I was approached to serve as Aloha’s Interim Director in 2016, and then appointed as Director a few months later, I answered the call with humility and wonder. My husband and I were several years in to the healthcare business we founded, but I stepped away from that work to help ensure that Aloha would continue to be well-shepherded. There were issues to address, challenges to overcome, and of course so many paths to walk and songs to sing. I embraced the work with all of the joy and passion at my disposal.
I did not enter that role at the time with the picture that leading Aloha Camp would be the culmination of my life’s work. My desire was to be of service to the place that – more than any other – had shaped me into the person I am today. For so many years, Aloha Camp had been my touchstone and my bulwark – her spirit of belonging and possibility the flame that fueled my delight. In recent years, I knew I needed to see some things to fruition: the Covid crisis would require diligence and attention to detail; our work in equity and inclusion would require courage and self-reflection; our long-awaited 115th reunion would require connection and vision. My skills and experience were needed, and there was work to be done.
So many campers and counselors come back to Aloha year after year. It is their hearts’ home – the place where they can be most authentically themselves, and where they feel valued and treasured for who they are. Sometimes people choose not to return, and when that happens, I celebrate that choice with exuberance and enthusiasm. Because I believe the power of that choice comes from what we do at camp. We believe in creating and nurturing a sense of belonging in a way that allows community members to find the confidence to do something different. We talk often about how amazing life would be if the rest of the world were like camp. I believe that those who leave for new adventures are taking the spirit of Aloha out into the world with them. They go forth believing that people are good, understanding that mistakes are a part of growing, and respecting themselves and others as they work to become the people they want to be, in – and for – the world.
As I consider my next adventure, I will take the spirit of Aloha Camp with me and trumpet the best of who we are far and wide. My work at Aloha has made us more resilient, more agile, more accountable, and more compassionate. I am proud of the community I’ve helped develop and shape, and I believe there has never been a more wonderful time to spend a summer on Lake Morey’s shores.
Aloha and love,
Sarah Gordon Littlefield