Our Directors and Staff
Jon O'Brian, Camp Director
Jon O'Brian grew up in Jamestown, New York, and attended the YMCA as a child. He learned to swim at the YMCA and was an active member of the Youth Department, directed by Spiro Bello. At age seven, he attended Camp Onyahsa for the first time because his father had been a loyal camper at YMCA Camp in the Woods on Bear Lake, NY. Jon returned to Onyahsa each summer, and the Camp became more important to him as his family experienced significant challenges. Eventually, Jon attended Onyahsa on scholarships, as did his younger sister and brother.
Jon joined the staff at age sixteen, by washing dishes and eventually moving into additional roles. He also worked on the Waterfront and earned his Lifeguarding certification at Camp. He became a lifeguard at the YMCA under Harold Leach when the Camp season ended. Jon also worked in the Youth Department with Spiro and eventually worked in most YMCA departments, including maintenance. His tenure at Onyahsa continued as well, and he served as a Senior Counselor, Assistant Waterfront Director, and Assistant Camp Director upon Spiro's retirement.
By the mid-1980s, the Camp began to experience difficulties, especially concerning the physical site. Buildings were old, and the administration had not provided funding to maintain the facility. It was during this time that enrollment began to suffer.
By 1987, Jon became Camp Director when Mark Eckendorf received a promotion to YMCA CEO. Jon worked on rebuilding the staff, the program, and gradually the facility. The Camp's facility, reputation, and curriculum improved with the tremendous help of a committed staff, loyal camp parents, incredible volunteers, generous donors, and foundation funding. In 1998 a capital campaign raised over $2 million to renew the site, and Camp began to offer year-round programs on a limited basis.
As Jon rebuilt the Camp program, he continued to work on his education, graduating summa cum laude from SUNY Fredonia, spending a semester at the Sorbonne in Paris, completing his Master's degree, and pursuing doctoral work at the University at Buffalo in History. He also found time to travel, visiting most nations in Western Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and India before being hired on a tenure track position at Jamestown Community College, his Alma Mater, as a History Professor.
Today Jon continues in these complementary roles of Camp Director and College Professor. Most importantly, he and his wife Rachel were married—at Camp—in 2014, with many of the Camp staff and board in attendance. Five years ago, Rachel gave birth to their daughter, Jacqueline; the O'Brians reside at Camp year-round. Rachel has taken on essential roles in programming, cooking, and even Camp grounds work. They look forward to your attendance or visit soon.
Our Camp Onyahsa staff consists of experienced teachers, college students, high school students, and many former Onyahsa campers. All of these highly committed and competent adults are carefully screened, chosen, and trained by the YMCA.
In addition to hosting international campers; staff members from China, Canada, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkmenistan, France, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Japan, and the Czech Republic have brought greater cultural diversity and international understanding to Onyahsa over the past few seasons.
If you are interested in applying or volunteering at Camp Onyahsa, please contact the Camp Administration Office by calling 716-664-2802 ×238 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp Board of Management
The Camp Board of Management is a dedicated group of volunteers who set policy, raise funds, and oversee operations and development. The additional roles of the Camp Board include assisting with Camp Onyahsa site projects, special planning, and other endeavors.
Contact the camp office at 716-664-2802 ×238 if you are interested in joining this committee or the building and grounds subcommittee.