The Big Picture

It’s easy for children to think of their entire lives in the context of their “nucleus,”’ their home, their community, their school, their family, their friends. They typically have no need to seek beyond their immediate surroundings, and their perspective of the world is seen through a restrictive lens based on where they live and the things they’ve experienced. Attending a sleepaway camp gives children and teens a way to broaden their worldview, to see themselves as a small (yet important) part of the bigger picture. America’s Finest Summer Camps get campers out of their comfort zones and allow them to catch a glimpse of how much world they have to explore.

Exposure To A New Place
For campers who have lived their entire lives in the hustle and bustle of a big city are in for a shock when they step foot onto the campgrounds. For some campers, the first time they explore the wilderness or really see a constellation is at camp. Even campers from rural areas are in for a treat as they spend the summer in a place busy with people, excitement and adventure. The experience of the journey from home to camp can help campers see that there is much more to explore outside of their familiar life.

Exposure To New People
America’s Finest Summer Camps bring people together from all across the globe, and is responsible for thousands of lifelong friendships. Boys and girls spend night and day with others who come from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and experiences. Working, playing and growing together at camp allows campers to break through stereotypes and appreciate diversity in a brand new way. Some campers come from places where everyone thinks, looks and acts just like them. It’s refreshing for them to see that the world is full of incredible people with so much to teach them.

Exposure To Independence
Sleepaway camps give campers the opportunity to venture out in a new place without their parents walking them through it. This experience helps campers gain a sense of independence and realize that they are strong enough, smart enough and more than capable enough to make positive decisions on their own. Giving campers this sense of freedom and independence allows them to do some self-discovery to understand further who they are and what they can contribute to the world around them. They learn things about themselves that they didn’t know, and they begin to ask the questions that will help them determine who they are becoming outside of their family and friends.

Exposure To New Activities
America’s Finest Summer Camps packs every day of the summer with fun and adventure. Some campers arrive never having been on a boat before, or never having access to a dance class or have never been rock climbing, but camp changes all of that. Camp is the place where so many “firsts” happen, all of which open up new windows in the brain and increase their understanding of the countless adventures and travels awaiting them. Some campers fall in love with sports they never even knew existed, which can be the first step in a lifelong passion. Campers who have the sleepaway camp experience go home with a desire to learn more about the world around them. This exposure to new things and people shifts their perspective and helps them realize that there is so much to the world than what they know.

It’s important for children and teens to understand that the world doesn’t actually revolve around them. They are part of something bigger, and the sooner we can ignite the excitement in discovering just what that “something” is, the better. The sooner campers can grasp the idea of a big wide world just waiting for their gifts and talents, the sooner we can develop leaders who are excited to serve, lead, love and explore the world beyond their comfort zone.

Dance Concerts to See this Holiday Season

Brant Lake Dance Camp

October’s the month to plan what Dance Company you’re going to see this Holiday Season.

As developing dancers at BLDC, we all know there are many ways to learn and grow as dancers. We always talk about watching and learning from other dancers. Since we are not physically at camp now (insert ugly crying face), there are many other amazing opportunities to learn and watch other dancers!

With the holidays right around the corner, now is the time to plan your concert dates. Buy the tickets now and get it on your Holiday calendars. For me this means my personal favorite dance performance is ready to get back on stage: The Christmas Spectacular starring The Radio City Rockettes. It’s an unbelievable show filled with beautiful lights, props, costumes, and the most talented dancers! This show has been a beloved holiday tradition for generations in NYC and my family.

Another way I see our BLDC dancers connecting to the Christmas Spectacular is the passion to try new things! This year’s show will have a few new and exciting elements added in. The director said “100 drones, representing Christmas lights, will magically surround Santa Claus on stage, forming various shapes and patterns.” How amazing?!

Now is the time to get your tickets and make that plan whether you’re an NYC Ballet Nutcracker fan, or Prefer BAM to see Mark Morris’ Hard Nut, or a Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular fan, or your favorite home city performance. If you’re in the NYC area November through December, I recommend seeing the show!
ROCK(ETTE) ON!!!!

Olivia Damson,
Assistant Director, Brant Lake Dance Camp


Rockettes, A Christmas Spectacular 2017

 

Mark Morris, A Hard Nut

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Brant Lake Sports Academy

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What are you doing to spread the word?

WHAT IS IT?

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual international health campaign organized by major charities every October to increase awareness and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

Take action through exercise. Cycle for Survival or Race for the Cure are just two ways to get involved.

Wear swag.  Did you notice NFL players wearing pink cleats or celebrities with their pink ribbons? You can purchase your own swag too!

Host your own fundraiser.  Whether it’s in your office, at your school or even at your own home, there are many ways to independently raise money. Host a bake sale, organize a town run, make and sell your own pink gear.

WHY?

Breast cancer is one of the leading health crises for women in the United States. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. There is currently no known cure for breast cancer, and its early diagnosis is critical to survival.

THINK PINK IN THE MONTH OF OCTOBER AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!

Rachel Milim

Brant Lake Sports Academy

Camp Tradition Inspires Innovation

Laurel South:

Tradition. It’s one of those camp words. It brings forth images of making bracelets, playing games and campfires. All things that go hand-in-hand with every sleepaway camp. But what’s sometimes lost in the talk of tradition is how inspiring it can be. Tradition helps campers feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Camp becomes a second home, and friends become part of a camp family. In short, tradition helps campers feel safe. And camp helps campers feel comfortable taking “safe risks.

Campers will undoubtedly learn new things each summer. They’ll play new sports, conquer the climbing wall or learn to waterski. But steeped in camp tradition is another thing campers will find: creativity. When children are surrounded by positive reinforcement from their cabinmates and counselors, they move boldly forward with enthusiasm for new ideas. They also learn to communicate and listen effectively, taking in thoughts and guidance from those around them. Children talk endlessly with their friends about ideas, which helps them process steps for making their dreams a reality. It’s the perfect environment for inspiration and innovation. So when it comes to camp-words like “Tradition, Community and Values,” camp people should remember to include “Innovation.”

Why Campers Return as Counselors

For many campers, summer camp becomes a second home, a special place that welcomes you back every summer like family and supports you to be the best person you can be. America’s Finest Summer Camps become a staple in many campers lives’ and for a few of them, it becomes a home they never leave when they decide to return as counselors.

When they left summer camp they realized they didn’t want their last summer as a camper to be the last time they get to watch a sunset over the lake or sing a song around the campfire, they wanted to continue to live through those traditions. After spending eight summers as a camper that gets to experience all the playful fun of camp, campers will transition to the role of counselors to experience summer camp in a whole different way. Former Camper Counselors return to America’s Finest Summer Camps so they can help campers live the same amazing summers that they once did. These counselors recognize that when they were campers, their own counselors were the ones to push them out of their comfort zone and pick them up every time they were down, helping them become the individuals they are today. This is why so many campers return to become counselors, they want to change lives the way their own lives were changed. They want to help a camper find their passion and make them realize that camp is their home when they feel homesick. They want to help campers understand how special of a place camp is and that the happiness they find here will guide them for the rest of their lives, but most of all, campers return as counselors because they want to spread the love they have received from every summer spent at America’s Finest Summer Camps.

 

Things I Didn’t Expect to Learn as a Counselor

Camp Laurel

I came to camp believing I would make a difference. It was the biggest reason I chose to pursue being a counselor rather than heading off to an internship. I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt after accepting a job and how excited I was to get to camp. Then Orientation came and went, and the entire group of counselors for summer 2018 was ready to make a difference. What I didn’t expect was how much of a difference the campers would make to me. Here are a few of the lessons I learned from them:

Time is Everything

It’s easy to hear that respect is a two-way street; it’s different to live it. Campers and counselors always earn each other’s respect. Halfway through the summer my campers were listening and reacting better to what my co-counselors and I were saying than they were in the opening week. I realized this was because our engagement level with them was higher than ever, and our campers could see and feel the commitment we had for them. Spending extra time with them making bracelets at Rest Hour, reading stories at night and helping facilitate the fun made everyone’s lives happier and easier.

It’s Encouraged to Find Help

I never realized how many questions the campers would ask! I thought I knew (almost) everything after orientation, but quickly realized I often needed to go to Campus Leaders for answers. At first I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know some things. Not only were my Campus Leaders incredibly helpful, they were also always there when I needed them. By seeking help when I was unsure about something, I was setting a great example for campers on how to seek answers themselves.

Kids Remember the Little Things

This should have been a no-brainer because I remember so many small details about the adults in my life as a child. This clicked for me at camp when a camper made a drawing for the counselors in our cabin. The drawing was of us from earlier in the summer at a Talent Show. Our campers talked about every little detail of our skit, which I had already forgotten. That made me realize the little things impact our legacy as much, if not more, than the big things.

I’m sure as I reflect on my summer throughout the fall and winter I’ll come up with even more examples of the things my campers taught me. For now, I’m thrilled I made the decision to be a counselor this summer and can’t wait to be back next year!

The Difference Camp Makes

Laurel South

Summer is over and it’s easy to spot the children who went to camp. They advocate for themselves. They’ve grown in their skills and interests. And they never stop talking about their summer. But campers share other similarities as well.

Being outside

Children who went to camp always want to play outside. They re-create games they made up with their cabinmates. They have the same rain-or-shine attitude about being outside and they tire more easily from video games and screen time. Campers know real memories are created through shared experiences.

Teamwork

Campers are surrounded by their peers from sunrise to sundown. They understand the importance of collaboration. They learn quickly when they work together they have more fun. They are happy to share their ideas on how things can be better and know how to listen and integrate input from others.

Working with Adults

Camp is all about having fun for campers, which is often facilitated by counselors. Having fun with and listening to counselors is a unique experience for children. They’re adults who haven’t yet lost their childlike wonder whose only agenda is to create a fun, positive and safe experience for their campers.

 

The Importance of International Staff

The staff at America’s Finest Summer Camps is comprised of a wide range of people that hail from countries scattered all over the globe. America’s Finest Summer Camps becomes a place infused with so many cultures and new traditions in the summer when staff come from places such as New Zealand, England, Mexico and South Africa. When all these people come to camp it can provide campers and other staff members with valuable insight into different lifestyles and help them learn about cultures that differ from their own.

It is so valuable to have these international staff members because it helps America’s Finest Summer Camps become a summer experience enriched with new ideas and cultures. Internationals can help bring new songs to sing around the campfire and new types of friendships bracelets to make for your friends, mixing up the regular everyday American camp customs.

They also inspire people to travel and experience new things, broadening minds on different opportunities to take advantage of across the world. It is so important to have international staff so that the campers can still keep learning even in the summer. Even though summer camp is supposed to be a break from school, campers are learning so many important lessons and things about all these different cultures when they come to America’s Finest Summer Camps. International staff helps campers remain curious and ask questions about things from all over the world, making America’s Finest Summer Camps a better place for campers every summer.

The Push and Pull of Connection

There are lots ways to think of the word ‘connection.’ You can talk about connecting to someone on the telephone, joining two transistors, connecting to the wireless. You can also talk about connecting with other people.

The first set of connections is mechanical – you plug pieces together or type in a few commands and you are connected. With humans, though, it’s a lot more emotional and it requires being in the present moment, together.

Not too long ago, to connect with someone across the city, state or the world, you had to make an expensive phone call or send a letter that would take well over a week.

Campers, you don’t know that world. Each of you were born into a world with literally instant communication with anyone, anywhere in the world. Rather than having to make individual connections like your parents did – phone call by phone call, letter by letter – you have group chats, Instagram broadcasts, and snapchats.

But, while you can connect with more people more easily, I wonder if you are less connected to your peers as your parents were to theirs? A lot of recent studies find you are not.

It seems that with the rise of connection over social media, we are being pushed further and further away from each other.

The Pull of Camp

Thankfully, for six glorious weeks each summer, we change that dynamic.

The individual social media ‘push’ turns into a camp-wide ‘pull’ of connection.  We connect not only to those around us but the very moments in which we live. We spend more time focused on life ‘where our feet are’, rather than being distracted by anything else.

Two pretty impressive people had something similar to say about this need of connection. Albert Einstein talked about one thing he absolutely knew: we are here (on earth) for the sake of others. Mother Teresa talked about it in a slightly different way.  She said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

At America’s Finest Summer Camps, we get to practice this idea of belonging to one another. It’s a such a small community, we remove (almost all) technology, and we get to simply life and laugh and learn together. We make beds, share chores, play on teams, applaud the actors, and frolic together all day. It’s magic, isn’t it?

So the question is this: How can you take some this magic back home when your camp friends feel forever away?

Connection Back Home

Here are a few ideas on how to connect back home like you do at camp:

Idea #1: First of all, take a break from social media, Fort Nite, and other tech. Instead, go and do something with your parents, your siblings (yes, I said it!), or your friends. Play a card game, take a walk, throw a ball, build legos, cook something…. The key is to do something that requires you to interact face to face rather than with your thumbs.

Idea #2: Keep a gratitude journal. You talked about it every night at camp with your counselors. Why not do it at home? Get a small notebook, place it by your bed, and jot down your happies from that day every night before going to bed. Want extra credit? Share those thoughts with your parents. It helps you be more in the moment and realize what’s really important in your day.

Idea #3: Sit with someone new at lunch or reach out to some you’ve not met yet. Yes, I know it’s hard from a social situation but it is no less important. When you get to know people outside ‘your circle’, you stretch. When you stretch, you grow.

I’m sure you can take a few moments and come up with some ideas of your own. The key is to make the effort… and that takes courage and the right attitude. So, for the week ahead, do some pulling with those around you. Have a great week!

The 5 Coolest Things About Night Time At Camp

When you think of summer camp, you may picture sunshine sparkling off the lake, outdoor picnics, slathering on sunscreen before jumping in the pool, or playing games outside until the sun goes down. And while this is very much a part of the America’s Finest Summer Camp experience, there’s something almost magical that happens at camp when the sun goes down. Here are the five coolest things about night time at camp:

Stars

When the sun goes down and the moon rises over the camp, the entire vibe changes. What was just a high energy playground of fun and adventure turns into a calm, peaceful retreat in the mountains. And away from the city lights, the stars shine brighter than you could ever imagine! Just picture sitting with your fellow campers, searching for shooting stars and admiring the overwhelming majesty of the nighttime sky. Campers and counselors enjoy sitting in adirondack chairs and finding constellations in the sky. Not only is it a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day, but it’s also an opportunity for exploration.

Campfire

The campfire is a traditional part of the sleepaway camp experience and brings campers together unlike any other part of camp can. The bright reds and orange flames dancing against the black sky create an intimate and exciting environment in which campers can talk, sing, roast marshmallows, be silly and make memories. A campfire is a place where campers can reflect on their day, where they can share their adventures and stories with other campers, and where they can feel connected with nature. Many campers say that their nightly campfire meetings were their favorite part of camp, as it was a special way to end the day. You can’t do a sleepaway camp without a traditional campfire, and America’s Finest Summer Camps know how to do a fire right!

Fireflies

There’s nothing more endearing than watching a camper experience the magic of fireflies for the first time. Fireflies put on an illuminated show for campers as they make their appearance each night. The laughter and excitement that comes from catching one of these little creatures and examining them up close is an experience that many campers have for the first time at camp. These bright little flying bugs turn night time into a light show!

Night Time Sounds

While many of the nighttime aspects of camp can be seen, there is something to be said about the unique sounds of camp at night. From owls calling in the distance to the songs of crickets and the crackling of the fire, certain sounds will stick with campers forever. These sounds, many of which can only be heard once the noise of the day has faded, serve as a soundtrack to the summer nights that campers will never forget.

Cabin Time

As the campground settles down and busy campers head back to their cabins, more memories await. Cabin time allows campers to have quiet conversations with their bunkmates and share stories and details about their lives. This low key, quiet time is a great way for campers to connect with each other without the distractions of the day. This time gives campers a chance to journal or do some self-reflecting, prepare for the next day or simply get some much-needed rest.

America’s Finest Summer Camps are packed with fun, new adventures, new friendships, and excitement all day long. But when the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t stop. Campers love night time at camp because it brings a whole new feeling and vibe to sleepaway camp. Each night, campers fall asleep with images of campfires and fireflies dancing in their heads and wake up from a good night’s rest ready for another day of fun.