Out There is a running series highlighting some of the out-of-the-way places that rely on Viasat for connectivity.
As a child, Tammy Fortune’s camp experience changed her life. Those summers affected her so deeply she devoted her life to children, and is now director of the very camp she once attended. Fortune is the lead staff member at Camp Wa-Klo in southwest New Hampshire, a summer camp founded in 1938 by two female educators. The camp’s name merges those of the two founders: Ethel Kloberg and Olive Watkinson.
Fortune’s mom attended the camp in 1958, and in 1996, Fortune followed suit.
“This past summer marks my 26th at Camp Wa-Klo,” she said from her office, where quiet is again returning as the staff wraps up another successful camp session. “I view my role as simply keeping it for the next generation.”
The camp’s remote site is among the keys to its success. And so is its internet service. Camp Wa-Klo relies on Viasat Internet – a service tailormade for remote locations – to keep the business running smoothly. It’s an asset Fortune describes as vital, and one that allows her to focus on what’s most important: The campers and their experiences.
“I loved being a camper at Wa-Klo, but I’m receiving so much joy from creating the camp magic for our campers and staff now,” she said. “Growing up my mother would say ‘If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life’. I feel honored to have found a career where this is true.”
Fortune was 10 the first summer she attended the camp, and quickly felt the magic she now works to bring to others.
“I grew up in a small town and had been with the same kids since preschool,” she said. “But at Wa-Klo, I was able to figure out who I wanted to be, not just my sibling’s younger sister. I did things at camp I never had the confidence to do at home; I broke out of my lane.”
She sees similar transformations happen for Camp Wa-Klo attendees year after year.
What started as a girls camp has evolved into a place that also welcomes transgender and gender non-conforming youth. The goal for all is to empower them as they become adults.
Campers, who typically start attending after first grade and continue through their junior year of high school, are encouraged to grow in confidence and independence. It starts with choosing their own schedule and activities, and honoring those commitments throughout each day.
“It’s all about choices, and it’s all self-driven; the kids really own their experience,” Fortune said. “After a few weeks at Wa-Klo, you can see the growth. They’re even holding themselves differently.”
Camp Wa-Klo is located on the banks of picturesque Thorndike Pond with the backdrop of Mount Monadnock, the most prominent peak in southern New Hampshire. The 90-acre property offers an abundance of activities for the campers – including horseback riding, theater, water skiing, fencing. archery and gymnastics.
Internet vital to success
Behind the scenes, the internet is an essential part of the camp’s success – used for connecting with families, ordering supplies, tracking health records, registering campers and taking payments.
“Our internet service is vital to the success of our business,” Fortune said. “And having a strong internet provider has helped our marketing drastically.”
But finding the right provider was a challenge for Camp Wa-Klo. Given its remote location, cable and fiber internet isn’t an option. Fortune tried several other options before finding Viasat. It has served the camp for two years.
“Viasat was the first service to come in that gave us consistent internet, something we could count on. Our previous provider was so slow I couldn’t have more than two people working in my office. It was very difficult to run a business without reliable internet. With Viasat, we can have a group of people online at once.”
And that’s important, because while campers aren’t online, their families still want to know how their children are faring. Camp Wa-Klo staff provides that reassurance via the internet.
“We upload photos every day for our camp families,” Fortune said. “When you don’t get to see your child for several weeks, those photos are your only connection. Through them, they can see the experience their children are having.
“Before Viasat, when we didn’t have good internet, I had to send people into the city to upload photos from Panera Bread. That was one of our biggest hardships with poor internet service because these families count on those photos.”
Each spring, Fortune also video chats with every new and returning family to get updates on each camper, set goals for the summer, and connect with the girls before camp begins.
To ensure people can always reach her, Fortune uses Google Voice. It provides her with a phone number that syncs across her devices, giving her the same number whether she’s at camp or at her winter home. The service works solely over the internet.
“With a strong internet provider, we are able to continue to use our internet phone number while at camp despite having no cell service,” she said.
All of it contributes to a smoothly running business. And that allows Fortune and her staff to focus on what matters most to them: Making each child’s time at camp as positive and impactful as possible.”