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Woodloch's 20th "Chuck Russell" Reunion... one for the ages!

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~shared by J. Ranner

I think George S Patton, one of our nation's greatest military leaders, said it best: "Americans love a winner... Americans play to win all the time." Which is certainly true if you really think about it. Why do we go nuts when our team wins the Super Bowl? Why does it feel so good to finally land that big promotion you've been working towards? Or mustering the courage to ask that cute girl out... and getting her to say yes? Yup, tackling challenges and emerging out the other side victorious feels really, REALLY good. 

Needless to say, "winning" takes on all sorts of forms. It's not necessarily always about getting that trophy or leaving everyone else behind in the dust. Sometimes, "winning" in life simply means putting your best foot forward, becoming (or at least trying to become) the best person you can be, and leaving the world off as a better place than you did when you got here. Based on my life experiences, the people I've met and the way things have unfolded, that's what "winning" has come to mean to me.

Many years ago, a man named Chuck Russell visited our resort every year on his family vacation from long distances- much like many of you fine folks continue to do to this day. And, in short, Chuck was a special kind of man. "He was EVERYWHERE," says Joey Ranner, Activities Director. "Chuck quickly developed a reputation for being 'that guy'- you know, the one that everybody seemed to flock to because he was the life of the party. He whistled, he cheered and had a great time no matter what." Though he loved to win (again, who DOESN'T?), regardless of the outcome Chuck was quick to shake hands in the true spirit of Woodloch sportsmanship. Chuck made a lot of new friends and created countless memories with every vacation he took.

Sadly, Chuck lost a very rough battle with cancer in 1995. The entire Woodloch Family was devestated by the loss of Chuck. "He was just a great guy," says Joey Ranner. "We realized fairly quickly that we wanted to find a way to not only remember Chuck but also the wonderful spirit of the Woodloch games that he embodied." Thus, we established "The Chuck Russell Award." During each of our 9 weeks of summer, we would select one individual who seemed to carry the torch that Chuck ignited and recognize them at our weekly "Awards Ceremony" in the Nightclub. "It was a bittersweet kind of thing," says Ranner. "We all truly missed Chuck, but it was rather warming to see so many of our guests keep that fire alive." 

20 years have passed since our first Chuck Russell Award winners were recognized... so we thought we'd do what we at Woodloch do best: reunite everyone for some FUN. 

From April 24th-26th, Woodloch invited all of our past Chuck Russell winners up for a little reunion.  After a weekend filled with all of our favorite events including "Name That Tune," Horse Races and Family Olympics, our crowds migrated to the Nightclub for a celebration. "Not only was Woodloch holding their 57th Anniversary, but we were celebrating 20 years of Chuck Russell recipients," says John Kiesendahl, owner. "We're blessed and have a lot to celebrate."


Following a video tribute to Chuck and 180 past Chuck Russell winners, everyone raised their champagne glasses in memory of Chuck, in celebration of friends that we have, and all the memories to come.  In total, 65 past winners joined us on stage for a group shot. We also inducted an "honorary" member into the Chuck Russell class. Mr. Bill Wolf has visited Woodloch over 204 times (more than ANY other guest!) and always follows the action. "Bill was a police officer working the beat and would visit my dad's luncheonette before my family bought Woodloch," says John. "Right from the beginning, Bill was there visiting us."

Honored by this award, Bill simply replied, "I wish I had more money at the time. I could have been a partner!" 


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Bill & Mary Wolf

The weekend couldn't have been more picture perfect for both guests and staff alike. "So many smiles and laughs," says Joey Ranner. "I know that right now, Chuck sees all that this has become and is smiling right back at us." 

"We are so blessed with loyal guests that come back year after year, and create a culture that you just can't beat," says John. "They make a spirit of Woodloch Pines where people come for the first time, and they make it cotagious. Our guests and their wonderful spirits truly make Woodloch what it is." 

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Eddie Russell & Family




Woodloch hosts "Foodie Weekend"... and unveils new dishes!

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~Shared by J. Ranner

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  

Understood. I'm a writer, and not a chef. I will leave that work to the professionals. Which is good, considering the Woodloch culinary team is among the best in the Poconos. 

The dining experience at Woodloch has been a big part of our identity since we opened our doors back in 1958.  Early visitors enjoyed many German and Italian dishes along with traditional comfort foods.  And of course, our seafood smorgasbord... jumbo shrimp, crab legs and everything else one could ask for attractively displayed and simply begging to be enjoyed. Flash forward to 2015- while we still enjoy many of those classic dishes, as tastes evolve and trends shift, so must we! Menus at our resort, Grille Room, the Boat House Restaurant and TREE at The Lodge at Woodloch are constantly working to up their game and give guests the best possible dining experience.

So we thought we'd have a little fun with them. 

We held a special "Foodie Weekend" April 17th - 19th, featuring wine classes, chocolate making, special cooking demonstrations and the marquee event, our "Battle of the Kitchens."

"We decided to pit all 5 of our kitchens against each other for a little friendly competition... after all, that is what Woodloch is ALL about!" says Bobby Kiesendahl, head of food service here at Woodloch. "We decided to have each kitchen prepare a signature soup, pasta and dessert. The best dish- as chosen by our guests, will be featured on our new summer menus.

After a little bit of coaxing (i.e. opening our Night Club doors), well over a hundred "taste-testers" set out to sample, assess, and ultimately vote on their favorite dishes. Executive Chef Stevan Sundberg kept a watchful eye over both kitchens and diners alike. "This is great. A friendly contest like this really sparks culinary creativity and rivalry- needless to say, everyone wins."



When all was said and done, results were as follows:

BEST SOUP: "Country Potato Soup" by THE MAIN KITCHEN. It was a creamy soup with a Ramp Pesto Garnish. Simple, but a homerun nonetheless. 

BEST PASTA: "Shrimply Devine" also by THE MAIN KITCHEN. Campanelli with sauteed shrimp, garlic, spinach and basil. Not surprising that a pasta with shrimp flair takes the gold at Woodloch! 

BEST DESSERT: "Cafe Mocha Mousse" by THE GRILLE ROOM at Woodloch Springs. Homemade cappuccino mousse with fresh whipped cream, cocoa powder and chocolate grafate'. Coffee and chocolate? That's the stuff DREAMS are made of. 

BEST OVERALL: THE MAIN KITCHEN. Woodloch's oldest kitchen holds off the "youngsters" for this year... but they've got a bullseye on their backs now. "Our chefs are just as competitive as our guests," says Steve. "You know next year, the other kitchens will pull out all of the stops in order to take the trophy home. There's nothing quite like bragging rights." 


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JDRF "Carnival for a Cause" Returns to Woodloch

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“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.”
- U.S. Navy SEALS motto

Football fans out there have hit a lull. It’s the offseason- eyes are glued to the NFL network watching free agency tickers and prospects working out at the combine. This is what I’ve come to perceive as “desperation.” Anything to get our “fix.”

Me? I like to reminisce and stroll down memory lane. Hot off the heels of their 4th Super Bowl win, my mind goes back to the day when the New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl. The year was 2002, and prior to that, players were introduced one by one as they took center stage in the year’s biggest sporting event. In an act of originality (some might say, “defiance”), the Pats chose to be introduced as “a team” as they stormed the field. At the time, my brother said, “Game over, man.” And he was right. The team went on to claim a HUGE underdog victory and thus, a dynasty was born.

I never cease to be amazed by what true teamwork can accomplish. Pick an objective, dedicate yourselves, never give up and anything is possible. Even tackling diseases. For the second straight year, Woodloch is very pleased to announce that it once again partnering with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to work to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes. We will be hosting our second "Carnival for a Cause" weekend May 1st - 3rd, 2015. 

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, policy influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D.

We created a connection with JDRF through Joey Ranner, our Social and Activities Director. His granddaughter, Jillian, was diagnosed with T1D when she was younger. “Speaking with guests and friends about her condition, I realized how widespread it was and wanted to find a way to help,” says Ranner. “Working together with JDRF and so many friends, we were able to bring a fundraising effort to fruition last year, and the response was incredible.”

JDRF Woodloch
In 2014, a collaboration of Woodloch guests, friends, local business partners and staff were able to raise over $15,000 for JDRF- roughly, triple our original expectations! Perhaps it is a result of our unconventional fundraising tactics- many of which we are giving another go in 2015. Planned events include:


  • A “Polar Plunge” into the still ice laden Lake Teedyuskung by the Kiesendahl Family, who own the resort. We are hoping to raise $2,000 by April 15th for this to happen… what better way to spend some of your tax refund?
  • A guest-staff “Dance-A-Thon” for Woodloch prizes
  • A Rivalry Olympics between local high schools
  • A Karate “Break-A-Board-A-Thon” featuring local students from Elite Martial Arts Institute
  • Our famous “Midway Carnival” featuring games, snacks, balloon animals, magicians, inflatable bounce houses and more (in other words, “THE BEST DAY EVER”).

hotel resort poconos

great family vacations


A portion of the proceeds from this weekend- as well as ALL of the proceeds from our fundraising events, will be donated to JDRF. This year, we have upped our expectations to raise $25,000- but we need your help.

“We have lofty goals,” says Ranner, “but certainly not unattainable. I know what we’re capable of when we work together. The Woodloch family, our guests and all of our friends LOVE a good challenge and are ready to make things happen.”

pocono mountain resort JDRF

Highlights from the 2014 "Polar Plunge".... BRRRR!

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Karate students from Elite Martial Arts GETTING IT DONE!

hotel resort pennsylvania JDRF

Our 2014 "Dance-A-Thon" Team... proud to call them our own! 


Woodloch and Kidologie Team up for "Pre-Summer" Connecticut Event!

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Poconos Resorts, all inclusiveSoon...

~shared by J. Ranner

It's been said a couple-two-tree' times that "variety is the spice of life." Which, for the most part, is true. Change comes along and keeps things interesting in multiple facets of life.

Perhaps this is no more obvious than with the change of the seasons. Each season brings goods and bads, things to look forward to and things that you may hope will pass. I speak for no one other than myself, but after the winter that the Northeast is STILL fighting our way through, I am most definitely looking forward to SUMMER returning to the Pocono Mountains. Despite the enormous piles of snow still on the ground, sunshine, ice cream, and lazy days at the swimming pool will be back soon enough. That brings me comfort.

Which is why we're very excited to share news of Kidologie's 3rd Annual "Get Ready for Summer" event in the city of Newtown, Connecticut. It's all happening Sunday, March 15th from 11 am - 3 pm at the Reed Intermediate School. In addition to being a fundraiser for community scholarships, the event offers all of us a radiant beacon of hope for the summer fun that awaits us on the horizon! Summer camps, museums, aquariums, zoos and more will be present to show us all the things we have to look foward to. Not to mention hands-on activities for kids of all ages and live entertainment... all in all, a pretty sweet deal. 

Attendees will also be handed a "goodie bag" upon check in. They are packed full of vouchers, prizes, snack samples and more. And as a special show sponsor, Woodloch decided to go "Willy Wonka" style on things. One of the limited goodie bags will contain a "GOLDEN TICKET" redeemable for a free stay at Woodloch (even better than chocolate, in our humble opinion).  Even if you don't take the grand prize, cheer up, Charlie- more than 20 additional prizes will be raffled off! And it all goes to a good cause... everyone wins!

So ignore the weather reports, pretend those mountainous snow drifts aren't there and THINK positive!  As the great George Harrison once said, "All things must pass." Summer will be here before we know it!  We look forward to spending some time in "The Constitution State"- we hope to see you as well! 

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Our special "lake games" are just a few short weeks away! 

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So much fun on the horizon... hang in there! 



Woodloch Summer 2015 Promo Video from EDGE, Woodloch, BK Hope Cures on Vimeo.


Woodloch Asks: Are You Making "We-time?" Your Job May Depend on it...

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08 27 14 AKP WLP DAY 3 20

~shared by J. Ranner

It’s funny how the human mind works.

For instance, I spent 4 years and a small fortune working towards my college education only to find that I retained just a select quantity of information from those wild years.  I wouldn't say I'm a dumb kid- certain things just seemed to resonate more with me: “supply and Demand,” a philosophical joke about Renee Descartes and of course, my favorite, “The Law of the Farm.”

I will save you a few thousand dollars and sum up “The Law of the Farm” for you: basically, you reap what you sow. In all facets of life, what you put into something ultimately defines what you will get out of it.  Businesses, exercise routines, and even our relationships… sooner or later, they will ALL ultimately reflect the amount of time and energy that we put into them.

I say this largely because of a recent article that was published in The Wall Street Journal. It brought up the issue of father’s consciously pumping the breaks every once in a while in the wonderful world of work to MAKE TIME to be there for their children.  This isn’t always necessarily for “THE BIG EVENTS” (i.e. ballet recitals, birthdays, proms etc) but also for everyday type things. After all, there are stories to be read, baseball mitts that are begging to be used for catch, and tea parties that request your attendance.

The crux of the article states that making time for family despite a busy work week (which we ALL know about) will ultimately enrich both the HOME and WORK lives. It seems almost counterintuitive to a degree,  but studies have shown that men that are able to “skip out” and “walk away” every so often ultimately have more career satisfaction (as the job can’t be blamed for falling out in relationships).  Such men are also less likely to quit their current jobs. “Happier” employees become “better” employees, and better employees earn promotions and progress their careers. Simple as that. Everyone wins.

Which brings me to my next point.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the vacation decision making process for Woodloch for the past 15 years, and I’ve noticed a trend among many families that eventually find their way to the beautiful Lake Teedyuskung.  The decision to actually GET AWAY for even a few days, which could and SHOULD be a simple “yes,” often comes with weeks, if not months of deliberation.  We tend to feel guilty not only about money spent but also about time we are taking away from the all-important world of work.

Enter, again, “The Law of the Farm.” Although it is, at first sight, a tough call to make, it is better to slowly fortify both your home and work life by creating opportunities for family bonding.  Not to toot our own horn too much… but what better place to do that than at “The #1 Hotel for Families in America?”



Pocono Mountains, family reunions

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As all of our veteran guests know, and as many of our incoming new guests will find out, our resort was built upon a solid foundation of family bonding. Almost everything that we do, every game that we offer and every memory that is forged here revolves around YOU spending time with those that mean the most to you! 

The opportunities are EVERYWHERE around you- the question is, are you willing to allow yourself to seize it? I’m hoping you say yes. Vacations aside, in my life experience I’ve come to find that all these “little things” are really “the big things” in the end.



When you get there, I hope you've made the right decisions. 

08 11 14 AKP WLP DAY 2 145

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Woodloch Scouts are "all-in" for OPERATION COOKIE DROP!

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~shared by J. Ranner

It’s a typical off-season Friday afternoon at Woodloch.  The air is cold, but the sun is shining and the winds are still.  Though things appear calm, we all know that something is coming. We don’t let our guard down for one second in anticipation of what is on the horizon. No, nothing scary- actually quite the opposite: we have another weekend jam-packed with Girl Scout groups.

As they arrive in our lobby, one by one they bop along with a wonderful zest for life and warming smiles on their faces.  They’re here to participate in our marquee events such as Scavenger Hunt, Winter Olympics, Cupcake Wars and more not only for the coveted gold medals but also for customized Woodloch badges that will soon be stitched on their sashes.  Needless to say, their presence is always known- their enthusiasm and laughter buzz like a nest of honeybees wherever they travel off to.

And of course, THE COOKIES. They always seem to have them in close reach.  For years, our scout groups would have some extra boxes here and there and simply leave them with staff as a “thank you” for a fun weekend (or perhaps as an underhand attempt at gaining a few more points for Scavenger Hunt… but who are we to judge?). Thin mints became a staple in our break rooms.   

As Woodloch employees, however, fresh baked goods are never really out of our reach- extra breads from the bakery are often left up for grabs to those who need it. As sweet of a gesture as it may be, the treats could be put to a better use. And those thoughts led to the creation of our annual “OPERATION COOKIE DROP.”

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Throughout the winter months, each visiting Girl Scout will be given the opportunity to donate a box of Girl Scout cookies into our special “Drop Crate” located in our Main Lobby. Upon doing so, they receive a special gift from Woodloch as a “thank you.” At the end of the season, every last Caramel DeLite, Shortbread, Peanut Butter Pattie and everything in between will be shipped overseas to the brave men and women serving in our armed forces.  Everyone is invited to drop hand-written letters into our mailbox for the soldiers as well.

I’m a firm believer in “little things”- when all is said and done, they end up really being the “BIG THINGS” after all.  In this case, it’s not just a cookie that a soldier is receiving. 

The cookies are a warm and happy reminder of home, bringing comfort to those who are clearly in an uncomfortable place. 

They’re a reminder to our protectors of exactly what they’re protecting.   

“They’re a small token of gratitude… but it’s a great way for all of us to start,” says Joey Ranner, Activities Director. “I have to smile every time we start initiatives like this- our guests (Scouts and non-scouts alike) spring into action and share that Woodloch warmth with others. Our collaboration collected well over 1,000 boxes of cookies for troops last year. Watching a plan unfold firsthand reminds me of how fortunate I am to work with such good company.”

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If you’ve happened to outgrow your berets and would still like to help, fear not: all of our guests are free to write letters in our lobby and purchase cookies for the cause.  

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Woodloch's "12 Days of Giving" Recap

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~ shared by J. Ranner

"No one has ever become poor by giving."

- Anne Frank


I sincerely cannot believe how fast another holiday season has come and gone.  It seems like only yesterday I was parading around in my awesome Indiana Jones Halloween costume and thinking to myself, "ehh... we've got time." A metaphorical boulder started chasing us all down and suddenly we've arrived in a brand new year with all of the holidays a spirited blur. 

I've been fortunate enough to always have a good holiday. I have a large family so there's never a true sense of loneliness. There was no shortage of delicious food and fun times with the people I truly care most about in this world. 

Yet as I age, I still find the most rewarding part of the holidays to be bringing joy to those who truly need it. The holidays aren't always the best time of year for some people; as a matter of fact, they can actually be the most difficult.  Which is why when someone, and it can be ANYONE, goes out of their way just the teeniest bit to make someone's holiday a little bit better, it can change the world in ways that none of us have the ability to comprehend. 

For the second year in a row, Woodloch Resort celebrated "12 Days of Giving." Essentially, we had 12 different surprises for friends... and even complete strangers. "We've been very fortunate to endure these past 7 years in business," says John Kiesendahl, owner. "Woodloch was built on a the cornerstones of family, friendship, heart and warmth. What better way to show the appreciation for what we have than to pay it forward?" 

Through a bustling holiday season swirling with snow squalls, staff meetings and very busy weekends, dedicated volunteers headed out into the cold and shared Woodloch warmth with the world!

Here's a recap!


Day 1: "The Angel Tree"- Woodloch employees selected names off of our "Angel Tree" and brought holiday joy to local youth that otherwise wouldn't have had it. Dozens of kids were greeted by those gifts Christmas morning.

Day 2: "Blanket the World"- teaming up with several local businesses in the Honesdale and Hawley area, we collected over 100 toasty warm blankets to be shipped all over the world to those in need.

Day 3: "Operation Christmas Child"- care packages stuffed with everyday personal items- including school supplies, personal hygiene items and accessories - were collected and sent oversees to underprivileged children. It's a program that certainly expands year after year!

Day 4: "Adopt A Family"- our departments banded up and gathered all the elements for a nice holiday and surprised a local family in need.

Dessin Group Picture

Day 5: "S.O.S - Save Our Shelter"- The Dessin Animal Shelter of Honesdale, PA has been fighting to keep its doors open due to financial woes. In addition to hosting a benefit weekend for the shelter in October, Woodloch has been working closely with The Boy Scouts of America and The Girl Scouts of America to continually gather supplies for the animals in need- everything from food to treats to toys to cleaning items are ALWAYS in demand!

spa resort, golf getawaysDay 6: "Show on the Road" - Eric and Sammy of the Social Department (and stars of the Woodloch stage!) loaded up their sleigh with sound equipment and surprised residents of the Ellen Memorial Health Care Center with a holiday musical show! Even St. Nick himself showed up with world-famous Woodloch chocolate chip cookies for everyone!

Day 7: "Random Tabbing" - There's no feeling in the world quite like having a delicious meal... then finding out that someone has picked up the check for you! For a week, Woodloch's Boat House Restaurant randomly took care of the tabs for unsuspecting diners. 

Day 8: "Thanking An Employee" - We're a family here... and family takes care of their own! Several employees were discretely given a few extra dollars for the holiday season.

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Day 9: "Filling The Tanks" - We've all fueled up our vehicles before in the bitter cold- I think the general consensus is that there is little to no joy in the experience! However, we sent two of our lovely ladies out at The Market at Woodloch to not only pump gas for unsuspecting customers... but to pay for it as well. Plenty of smiles resulted for so many reasons! 

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Day 11: "Holiday Cooking Class" - Joey Ranner (our activities director) and Dave Nordenhold (dessert chef and creator of delicousness) performed their famous "Cooking Class" for almost 50 local seniors in Wayne County's outreach program. Special thanks to our BFF's at Avery Transportation for helping them to arrive in style! 

kiley coffee salvation armyDay 10: "Salvation Coffee Drop" - Speaking of things that can certainly add to the stress of the holidays... having to shop in the cold!  That's why we loaded up our famous Woodloch Bakery truck with hot coffee and our famous baked goods to shoppers at our local Salvation Army. Fatigued shoppers were given a spot of java to help them endure the elements! 

girls PSP 12 days

Day 12: "#PSPSTRONG" - Needless to say, it was a long and tough year for those who work so hard to keep the great state of Pennsylvania safe.  We loaded up our trucks and stopped at State Police barracks in Blooming Grove and Honesdale with coffee and plenty of crumb cake. Just a small (but infinitely tasty!) token of our appreciation for all that they do!


Needless to say, it was a very rewarding holiday for all of us here at Woodloch. But I think the key lesson to be learned here is to keep the giving spirit with you, all year long. Even the smallest things that we do can influence change in the BIGGEST of ways! 

Woodloch Flood Clean-Up: So close!

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"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."

-Oprah Winfrey


Just a quick update for everyone with a few photos!

Despite a few setbacks with weather and state inspections, our pool is just about ready for re-opening.  

"I'm very proud of our progress," says John Kiesendahl, owner. "Despite the catastrophic damage that had occurred, our team rallied and worked tirelessly to bring us back to this point." Historical records show that it has been over 100 years since the last time Lake Teedyuskung saw a "cloudburst" like the one we saw in August- we saw about 9 inches of rain fall in a little over an hour.

Instead of simply choosing to do a "band-aid quick fix," Woodloch has elected to use the opportunity to give the facility the facelift it deserves. "You truly do reap what you sow," says Kiesendahl. "This is going to be done right, and Woodloch is going to be better for it on the other side." 

A few features guests can look forward to:

  • Brand new "family" changing rooms
  • Completely remodeled men's & women's locker rooms
  • Redesigned indoor pool bar
The end is in sight, gang. We're almost there- just remember to wait 30 minutes after eating before taking that first cannonball! 
DSC 0158Very tempting to just JUMP RIGHT IN!
golf resort, poconos vacationNew Locker Rooms!
DSC 0138New Shower Stalls
DSC 0149Kiddie Pool - just add water! 
spa resortBird's eye view of it all! 

Woodloch Flood Clean-Up: Almost There!

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~shared by J. Ranner

I have to say that there’s a proud tradition in my house every holiday season: at some point, we partake in the “Rocky” marathon.

We all have our favorites (I, for one, am partial to IV) but I have to say perhaps my favorite quote came from “Rocky Balboa”- the sixth and final film. As Rocky is talking to his son, he says,

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”

The Italian Stallion was 100% correct on this.

Back in August, our resort was hit with torrential downpours and flooding that washed away our indoor pool complex and 28 accommodations. There was millions of dollars in damage and quite honestly, things looked bleak. Where do you even begin to pick up the pieces?

But we responded. And in a big way.

For the past few months, construction crews, maintenance workers, carpenters, glaziers, plumbers, and everything in between have been working round the clock to not only repair the damage but to improve the facilities. All of the damaged guest rooms were completely remodeled and opened in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. And our pool is oh-so-close to being re-opened as well… with some pretty awesome upgrades to boot (more on that in the coming weeks!)

In the meantime, we wanted to share a few photos with you… we can hardly wait for the first cannonball!  

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A Very "Engaging" Festival of Lights Premiere at Woodloch

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~Shared by J. Ranner

When I was younger, a wise man once told me a bit of advice that has been rocking around in my head ever since. "There are two incredibly important days that are going to be coming up in your life," he said. "One will be when you meet the woman of your dreams- and the other will be the day you decide to spend the rest of your life with her." 

The man surely has a point.  There is no bigger decision that any of us make in our lives besides choosing who that "one and only" will be. So of course, when our minds are finally set, many of us attempt to find that special way to ask that all-important question!  Some proposals are very private, low key and informal while others are huge, over-the-top elaborate spectacles that rise to viral video fame.

And then some of them just hit the mark of perfection. 

On Friday, November 28th, 2014 at Woodloch Pines Resort, Matt Rufino of Mahopac, NY and Bethany Deer of Huntington, NY got engaged aboard our first holiday "Festival of Lights" tour of the season. Though temperatures were certainly chilly, the subtly incredible proposal melted everyone's hearts and illuminated everyone's night. 

"Her family and their vacation is very important to her- I knew this was a special place and her family would be here all at the same time, and I wanted to capture that," says Matt.

"We've been coming to Woodloch for the past 14 Thanksgivings," says Beth. "In my family, there has always been an unwritten rule that boyfriends / girlfriends are only invited when they get engaged." As far as she knew, Matt was still back home and the two were going to be spending the weekend apart. That was all about to change...

"I thought about a New York City Christmas proposal, but I thought it was a little cliche. Once I saw that Woodloch offered the 'Festival of Lights,' everything seemed to click." The stars had aligned, and the fates were pointing him in the right direction. Now all he needed was a flawless execution.

Of course, the element of surprise would be critical in this situation. "I got there Friday, got into my room and basically hid for the day," says Matt. "I forgot to eat breakfast, arrived just too late for lunch and basically was starving, but I didn't want to risk her finding me so I stayed in the room." You know it's true love when a hungry man forgoes a Woodloch meal! 

On Friday evening, Beth's family boarded our rides by the Heritage Nightclub- bundled up in blankets and eager to enjoy the musical light ride.  Unbeknownst to her, Matt was already inside the truck next to Mr. Patrick Kiesendahl, crouched like a ninja in full stealth mode. Through 25 cramping minutes, Matt's anticipation built up as the wagon rolled along the trail.

Finally, after the fireworks of the grand finale, instead of our usual "Auld Lang Syne" New Year's music, Matt arranged for Patrick to play "their song"- "Close Your Eyes" by Michael Buble. "When I found the song," says Matt, "he sang all the qualities that make Beth so beautiful and why I'm so happy that we have each other. I told Beth about the song and after she listened to it, she said she felt the exact same reunions, weddings

At that point, Beth suspected something was up, and Matt hopped out of the truck, ring in hand, dropped to one knee and asked the woman he loved to spend the rest of her days with him.  To the joy of all of her family members (and other surprised guests as well!) aboard the ride, she said "YES." After a round of applause, hugs, kisses, tears of JOY and smiles everywhere ushered the happy news back to the main building, where the tale of the perfect holiday proposal made guests and staff alike simultaneously swoon.

The happy couple has yet to set a date, but they've definitely been recommended a certain venue. "So many people have congratulated us and said, 'you definitely need to have a Woodloch Wedding.' I'm still just trying to get my mind wrapped around what just happened!"

Warmest of Wishes from Family and Friends!  

"A beautiful evening ride through Woodloch's Festival of Lights turned into a magical moment that will live forever in our minds and hearts.  Congratulations to Beth & Matt...2 beautiful people who deserve all the happiness in the world!!"

- Jeff Deer


"The look of amazement upon Bethany's face said it all. They are a perfectly matched couple who are truly in love. Best wishes, love, and happiness to them as they start their new chapter in life together!"

- Kari Deer


"Watching the proposal was like watching a moment in a movie. It was amazing and beautiful and I'm so happy that the family got to witness it. Congratulations to Beth and Matt!"

- Johnny Deer


"I was so pleased with how the whole thing was done - from Matt's respectful requests of me, to Woodloch's input and assistance in pulling off the surprise, to the beautiful and festive setting, to Bethany's precious reaction. It was a most memorable moment that I will treasure forever! There's no better feeling in the world than seeing your child made happy - thank you, Matt! Congratulations to you both, and may the Lord bless you and foster in you going forward as much joy and elation as was evidenced that evening at the Festival of Lights."

- John Deer


"Never before have I wished I was somewhere more than on Friday November 28. This was my first Thanksgiving not spent at Woodloch Pines in 16 years. Yes, Florida is beautiful, but this also happened to be the time that my one and only sister became engaged. My heart aches for the opportunity to have been there. My brother sent me the video he took. Driving, I couldn't fix my eyes to it. However, just by seeing a wonderful glimpse of Bethany's face, I knew exactly what had transpired. Job well done, Matt. It was great talking to you all on the phone directly after. I love you guys and remember... a couple who prays together, stays together. I'll be back next year! God bless you guys!"

- Benjamin Deer


"I was so thrilled to be there and be a part of this! It was a very emotional experience for me. All I could picture was Beth's mom and grandma smiling down from up above. Congratulations!"

- Jack Deer


"First, I have to give credit to Matt for coming up with a great way to surprise Beth. He knows how much family means to her. The staff at Woodloch, especially Tess, worked with him to create the most amazing and memorable way to propose. I am truly thankful that I was fortunate enough to be part of it."

- Jenn Porter


"My warmest congratulations to you. Matt, welcome aboard to the Woodloch family- you're in for life now!"

- Joey Ranner, Social Director


"I was so happy to be the person to answer the call when Matt phoned to make arrangements to propose to Beth. I was so lucky to have many more conversations with Matt making sure his betrothed would feel as special as he felt about her. Then it was so exciting to have our unknowing, unrelated guests come to the desk after the hay ride to tell the tale of a love story and how beautiful the moments were. It doesn’t get much better! (Unless you were Matt and Beth I guess!)

 - Tess Murray, Front Desk Manager

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