Q&A: Distinguished Club counselors look back on successful week

Kreable Young | Staff Photographer
Justin Blanchard, Ginny Renjilian and Sadie Renjilian are Counselors of the Week for Week Five at Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

Reporter’s Note: Each week, the directors at Boys’ and Girls’ Club recognize a few Club counselors who performed exceptionally within their groups. After a busy Week Five with Track and Field Day and Air Band preparations, Club directors named Justin Blanchard, Ginny Renjilian and Sadie Renjilian “Counselors of the Week.” Blanchard, who usually works with Group 7 Boys, filled in as the SAC Boys counselor. The Renjilians’ Group 3 Girls were also short staffed. The Daily met up with Justin, Ginny and Sadie to talk about meditation, Air Band, and vegetarian indoctrination.

What did you do this week that earned you the title Counselors of the Week?

Ginny: We all received Counselors of the Week for the same reason. We all stepped up when we were short-staffed this week. Justin took over a new group. We usually have three counselors for our group, but this week there were only two of us. We were stretched a little thin, but it still turned out to be a great week.

Justin: We just made sure the groups are still having fun. The Club director’s been communicating with us, telling us we need to be flexible at certain times. It worked out without a hitch.

Sadie: Yeah, the office was very understanding this week, and it turned out to be a great week with no bumps in the road.

What did you do for Track and Field Day?

Ginny: Our girls are too young to compete with the other groups in Track and Field Day so we had “Field Fun Day.” The kids got to run around, build sandcastles, and play “Freeze Dance,” which was a lot of fun.

Ginny: The Counselors in Training set up all the events, and we got to rotate our kids through them.

Sadie: Every other day, though, we’re responsible for setting up the events for our group.

Justin: I did not compete in the race, personally. My guys did an awesome job. We put together some great relay teams. It was just a lot of fun. I tried to keep the energy up, and it seemed liked everyone was excited even though they usually just want to hang out within their group. It was a really energetic day.

How did the CITs do?

Sadie: They were awesome. We have a great group of CITs this year.

How long have you been coming to Club?

Ginny: We’ve all been coming to Club our entire lives. Justin and I have worked here before, but this is Sadie’s first year as counselor.

What is your favorite part about Club?

Justin: Personally, I like seeing Club grow from year to year. I like seeing the staff cycle through, how the kids grow up through different groups, and how the games change to reflect the times.

Sadie: My campers this year were my campers when they were 5 years old at Children’s School. It’s pretty amazing to see them grow up and be part of Club. They can cut things with scissors and play sports. It’s so fun watching them grow up.

You talked about how Club changes, but Club is also known for being steeped in tradition. How important is tradition at Club?

Justin: Absolutely. I think the line between change and tradition is a very fine line and something they’re still trying to figure out. There are a lot of good traditions here that I think the directors and counselors do a great job maintaining.

Ginny: We have kids in our groups that are fifth-generation Chautauquans, and they talk about how their great-great-grandfather was in charge of the waterfront. I think that tradition is really important because a lot of parents of Clubbers grew up at Club and were counselors here, so they want to see that their kids are experiencing the same things they did. At the same time, we’re evolving. For instance, we got rid of the game “Bench Ball” because we decided it wasn’t safe.

Sadie: There may be those fifth-generation kids, but, at the same time, we’re not. I started coming when I was 6 years old. It’s also important that the kids who are here for a week, who are here for the first time have fun, too.

A major part of that is the counselors and the attitude they bring to the activities. We play this game called “Scoccer,” which is a combination of scooters and soccer. The game isn’t fun only for the good athletes. It’s fun because everyone is into it.

The kids know they can talk to us and braid our hair and feel comfortable at Club. They don’t have fun because of tradition. They have fun because of how we take tradition and make it accessible for the kids — whether it’s their first year or their eighth year.

Have you done anything new this year that you would like to see become a tradition at Club?

Ginny: Meditation has been great this year. We have all the kids lay down in the field, close their eyes and relax. Then we tell them a scene like they’re on a beach and the waves are in the background. It allows them to wind down and relax for part of the day.

Sadie: Part of meditation is stretching, which I think is one of the best new things. It also relaxes them. We have them come up with chants because when we play games they’ll start chanting things like “Get Sadie out!” which can be hurtful to some kids. So we’ve had them come up with alternative chants that are funny like “Stretching is silly” and “Meat is madness.” Ginny and I are vegetarians so we’ve been trying to indoctrinate them.

We had a really long talk with our group about how there are no winners and no losers at Club.

Ginny: That’s our Group 3 Girls’ motto: “Everyone’s a winner and no one is a loser.” That’s something that we want to work on at Club, because it can get very competitive. The idea of serious competition is not something we want for our girls. We’re the “hippie group.”

Air Band is Thursday. What are you doing to prepare for Air Band this week?

Ginny: So we chose our leads this week, and we had the kids audition. Everyone who auditioned got a lead in the show. We are writing the background dances, and the girls have already learned the choreography for three or four songs. We’re playing a medley of songs, so there are a lot of opportunities for everyone to stand out.

Sadie: The girls are all so talented and smart, and we don’t want to control the show. They’re helping us write it and show us cool dance moves. At this stage, they are so into it. It’s all they want to do. It’s all they talk about.

Justin: Group 7 Boys already have some dance moves choreographed and we’re finding our leads. We’re getting the ball rolling, but I think we’re a little behind the Group 3 Girls.