Our Director 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 there and was an active member of the Youth Department, directed by Spiro Bello. He attended Camp Onyahsa for the first time at age seven, 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, washing dishes and having fun. He also worked on the Waterfront, and earned his Lifeguarding certification at Camp. When the season ended, he became a lifeguard at the YMCA under Harold Leach. 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, Waterfront Director, and upon Spiro’s retirement, Assistant Camp Director.
By the mid-1980s, the Camp began to experience difficulties, especially with regard to the physical site; buildings were old, and the administration had not been given the funding to maintain the facility. Enrollment began to suffer.
By 1987, Jon was named Camp Director when Mark Eckendorf was promoted to YMCA CEO. Jon worked on rebuilding the staff, the program, and gradually the facility. With the tremendous help of a committed staff, loyal camp parents, wonderful volunteers, and very generous donor and foundation funding, the Camp’s facility, reputation, and curriculum improved. In 1998 a capital campaign raised over $2million to renew the site, and Camp began to offer year-round programs on a limited basis.
Through this time, Jon had continued to work on his own education, graduating summa cum laude from SUNY Fredonia, spending a semester at the Sorbonne in Paris, and completing his Master’s degree from the University at Buffalo in History. He also found time to travel, visiting most nations in Western Europe, Russia, and India before he was hired in a tenure-track at Jamestown Community College, his Alma Mater, as a History Instructor.
Today Jon continues in these complementary roles of Camp Director and College Professor, and also continues to travel, having most recently visited China and Japan (where Onyahsa has exchange programs) and Poland. Most importantly, he and his wife Rachel were married—right at Camp—in 2014 with many of the Camp staff and board in attendance. Last year Rachel gave birth to their first child, Jacqueline, and the O’Brians reside at Camp year-round. Rachel has taken on important roles in programming, cooking, and even grounds work. They look forward to your attendance or visit soon.
Our camp staff is comprised of experienced teachers, college students, and high school students; many of whom were former Onyahsa campers. All of these highly committed and competent adults are carefully screened, chosen, and trained by the YMCA. Most have returned from previous seasons on the Camp Onyahsa staff.
In addition to hosting international campers; staff members from Canada, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Sweden, France, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Japan, and the Czech Republic have brought greater cultural diversity and international understanding to Onyahsa over the past few seasons.
Please contact the camp office at 716-664-2802 ×238 if you are interested in applying or volunteering at camp.
Camp Board of Management
The Camp Board of Management is dedicated group of volunteers who set policy, raise funds, and oversee operations and development. Other groups assist with site projects, special planning, and other endeavors.
Contact the camp office at the camp office at 716-664-2802 ×238 if you are interested in joining.