ELLSWORTH, Maine -  The shrill ringing of a bell echoed throughout the tall pine trees at the YMCA’ s Camp Jordan on Branch Lake in Ellsworth on a recent morning, sending birds flying into the air.
At the sound of the bell more than 100 campers burst from King Dining Hall, laughing and talking to friends, making their way to go canoeing, fishing or tubing.
This summer marks the 100th year that Camp Jordan has taught young campers skills such as how to paddle a canoe, build a fire or set up a tent.
But survival skills aren’ t all that Camp Jordan has sought to instill in its campers for the past century.
“Our focus has been teaching values and building a community where people feel comfortable with who they are,” said Camp Director Jim Bentley, who has been directing camps for the YMCA for more than 20 years. “We want to teach people to value people.”
The camp was named in honor of Robert A. Jordan, who first brought a group of boys together to go camping in tents in Enfield in 1908.
In 1925 the camp moved to its current location on Branch Lake in Ellsworth where it has thrived since.
Several buildings, including a new dining hall and sleeping cabins, have been built since the move to Branch Lake to allow more campers to stay.
According to Bentley, the camp averages 115 campers a week in the summer. Many of those are returning from past years or have parents who attended the camp.
“Grandparents who came here bring their grandchildren. We have a consistency with tradition,” said Bentley.
The YMCA seeks to instill four core values into its camp participants: honesty, caring, respect and responsibility.
Learning those values is an important reason children look back on camp memories so fondly, Bentley said.
“It’ s amazing the impact the camp has on people,” he said. “One man called [who] only stayed two weeks in 1948 and 1949, and he still remembers everything.
“With these values friendships and memories that last a lifetime are created.”
Bentley added that the camp has maintained many of its original activities and that has helped create a family tradition.
“We don’ t get into any novelty activities like paintball and we don’ t allow cell phones or iPods,” said Bentley. “We want to get kids away from their regular environment.”
Campers can participate in archery, a high-ropes course, swimming, sports, learn how to sail and much more.
“There are so many kids that aren’ t exposed to nature nowadays, this camp encourages them to try new things and step out of the box,” said Kathy Gillespie, the YMCA director of children and member services.
“I get to do a lot of interesting things I don’ t normally get to do during the summer,” said 14-year-old Molly Sosa of Bar Harbor, who is in her third year attending the camp. “It’ s a lot of fun and I laugh a lot.”
Many counselors are former campers who found they wanted to give back to the camp that had given them years of fun experiences.
“The kind of people you meet at camp are different,” said Jarod Leavey, a 19-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., who started going to the camp 12 years ago. “Whoever you are, the campers are always going to accept you.”
Counselor Paige Clifton, 19, of Hampden also finds the job rewarding.
“You teach [the campers] values while they are having fun,” said Clifton, who has been attending camp for the past decade.
According to Leavey and Clifton, the hardest part of camp is leaving.
“You get so emotionally attached to all of the campers,” said Leavey. Campers “come in not wanting to be at camp, then leave kicking and screaming to stay another week.”
For alumni who found it hard to leave, the camp is holding a 100th anniversary celebration Aug. 22-24 for them to come back and stay.
“We want alumni to be able to come with their families and share stories,” said Gillespie.
The event will have a video booth for people to record stories and will offer fun and games for all.
Alumni are invited to come for the day or stay overnight, though if they stay overnight Bentley asks that they register beforehand.
More than 60 people have registered for the event so far, and many more are expected to attend.
“It coincides with the [American] Folk Festival [in Bangor], so we are hoping a lot of people will go back and forth,” said Gillespie.
For more information on the camp or the alumni celebration in August, call the Camp Jordan office at 667-8708.