People of Sanborn: Maren

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Name: Maren MacDonald
Current Role: Riding Director
Tenure at Sanborn: Maren’s first year on staff was 1994 and she has worked here year-round for 19 years.
Fun Fact: She has a love for canines in addition to her passion for equines. For about 10 years, the MacDonald family has been adopting a variety of sweet shelter dogs. Right now, they have 5 dogs!

Favorite memory of your time at COEC? Years later, Maren remembers one experience in particular that stands out to her. During one of her last summers as a wrangler, she was leading the 5-day long trip around 39 Mile Mountain. They’d had a tough week of weather - 4 days of rain - and the staff decided to hawk the horses alone after dinner so that the campers could get into their tents and be warm and dry. Maren recalls standing with another staff member while hawking and starting to laugh uncontrollably. She describes it as a comedy reel - spurred perhaps by delirium or just a funny joke. During the whole hawking experience, the two of them told so many hilarious jokes that the campers actually came out of the tents and asked if they were crying. They were, but it was from laughing so hard! Maren distinctly remembers feeling grateful in that moment because they were some of the worst weather circumstances, yet everyone was still able to find some humor and happiness.

Favorite cookie? Maren is a big fan of the original chocolate chip with chocolate chunks.

Silliest, most fun thing you’ve done at camp? A few years ago, she recalls turning the horses into zoo animals for Gymkhana. Each session, the horses usually are painted with a few colors, maybe a mane braid or decoration, and some motivational phrases. This time, however, they went all out and the horses ended up looking like lions, zebras, and more. Maren remembers it taking a lot of investment and work, but it was so enjoyable for everyone to participate in that it was worth it.

Favorite camp tradition? Maren’s most cherished part of camp is the staff Vespers during staff week. She loves that all of the staff come to Boys Old Sunday Rocks, and that Vespers is geared toward reflecting on Sandy and Laura’s influence and their great vision for this place. She hopes that our founders can see how far this place has come.

Maren is also invested in and proud of the High Trails GROW STRONG program - she was an instrumental part of its creation. Big Spring already had the BOOM program (the Brotherhood of Outdoorsmen) that allowed them to name the interpersonal skills we learn at camp. Maren knew High Trails needed a program like this, and the idea actually came to her when she was commuting to and from Colorado Springs often and had a lot of driving time to think. High Trails had always been such a big part of her life and she wanted to be able to put language to the skills that campers learned at High Trails, too. Right around that time, her niece was attending camp - Maren was very invested in her growth and her positive experience at camp, so this was another motivation for her to create the program.
Maren calls High Trails “one of the most profound beacons” in the world because we have women leading women and supporting other women in a culture where they might not always receive that support. They are supported in their growth, as well as celebrated for it. So, Maren came up with the phrase “Grow Strong” and played around with it as an acronym - it now stands for “Growing Responsibility in Our World, A Sisterhood Transforming and Renewing Our Never-ending Growth.” Maren has found this project to be so rewarding and humbling, even more so because many other people have contributed to it and taken it to a whole new level.

If you could go on any all-day trail ride, where would you go and what theme would it be? Maren would venture out to the Witcher Fish Pond, through Quick’s and Tie Cabin. The theme would be Pioneers or Homesteaders - something historically-based. She really loves the historical ties we have here at camp and would love to encourage campers to put themselves in settlers’ boots to try to imagine what it was like back then. It would be a testament to the fortitude of humans - how creative can you be?

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Emily Burnham
About Emily Burnham

Emily has worn a variety of hats here at Sanborn over the years. She began as a camper, then worked on staff for four summers while affectionately known as “Edna,” taught as an instructor at High Trails Outdoor Education Center, and now works as the Program Specialist for High Trails. Her favorite things about camp include eating liberal quantities of chippy dippy bars, singing a little bit too loudly at Vespers, and watching campers accomplish incredible feats. She recently graduated with a degree in sociology from Colorado College and now lives at camp, counting down the days until summer each year.