Mission and History


The mission statement of The Main Idea

The Main Idea provides economically disadvantaged girls with a summer camp experience that helps build self-confidence and promotes leadership skills, all within the natural splendor of the Maine woods.  The empowerment that comes from learning to resolve conflicts and make productive life choices teaches the girls to respect one another and enables them to build a community upon which they can rely all year round.

Founded in 1969 by longtime Camp Walden Director Helen Herz Cohen, The Main Idea has changed girls lives for over fifty years. Over the course of 10 days, Main Idea campers learn to swim in a lake, go canoeing and sailing, make keep-sakes in arts and crafts, play tennis, learn about sustainable living through visits to a local farm, ride a horse, and challenge themselves with a two-day hiking trip and camp-out under the stars.  And they return summer after summer – in a typical year, 70% of our campers, and 40% of our staff, are “veterans.”

For more than 45 years, The Main Idea has transformed the lives of over 4,000 girls who forge bonds with their fellow campers and counselors that extend far beyond the camp experience.  Through the self-confidence gained and the leadership skills learned, many Main Idea campers have gone on to college and graduate school, eager to make a difference in the world and pass it forward.

Our campers themselves say it best:

“You always have growing to do and coming to camp you always want to make progress and push yourself more.”

 “It helped me to be a lot more open-minded and get along with people that I wouldn’t normally talk to” 

“Being here and learning to trust people helps me with my self-esteem.  I can go beyond my boundaries…”