Bringing Tradition To Today: Making Summers Extraordinary

Every day at summer camp is exciting and busy, but every camper looks forward to those special camp events and traditions that are unique to each camp. I still have vivid memories of our camp talent show and the wonderful skit our staff put together using a sheet, a bright flash light and their own shadows. It took place thirty years ago, but it still brings a smile to my face, and that one memory triggers a hundred others.

The AFSC family of camps each have their own special camp traditions that bring the entire camp together for friendly competition, unique bonding activities, wonderful gourmet treats, and a chance to show off talents and teamwork. Here’s a quick summary of each for you but be sure to check out the Camp web sites linked here!

Camp Laurel’s Quest is a tradition that goes back 60 years. During the first week of summer, campers are divided into 18 different teams and they compete in fun and zany activities all day long. The winners are treated to a gourmet Chinese dinner at the home of directors Jem and Debbie. We usually think of big all-camp activities happening at the end of the summer, but Quest brings campers together within days of their arrival, kicking off a summer of friendship and bonding, gathering force as the camp progresses.

Laurel also hosts College Days and Lobster and Steak Banquet. College Days (which lasts five days!) is Laurel’s answer to the camp color war and includes spirit, fun, games, tug ‘o war, swim meets, track meets, staff competitions, Apache relays, silent meals, treasure hunts, dance competitions and much more. Laurel then finishes camp with a flourish by hosting a meal with lobster direct from the sea. After all, who could come to camp in Maine and not love lobster? The campers finish their summer with speeches, traditional songs and a night sleeping under the stars.

Laurel South’s activities may have traditional names, but they go above and beyond the same old, same old. Every summer begins with an Opening Ceremony that includes a Keeper of the Flame, who delivers the first spark of fire to each summer. Mid-season, the entire camp breaks into two teams for Laurel South’s annual Spirit Days…an amazing two day event which is filled with relays, sports, songs, cheers and an all-camp Apache relay. After a full summer of fun and instruction, the Keeper of the Flame extinguishes the fire until the following season, when everyone joins together again for another incredible summer. During this very special ceremony, each cabin performs a song or skit highlighting memories of the summer gone by. Laurel South also ends each summer with a Lobster Banquet….

At Starlight, campers look forward to MTV Night, one of the biggest lip-synch competitions anywhere! Throughout the course of the summer, each bunk comes up with, practices and performs a live music video to compete within their division for a chance to make it to this big night. Twenty acts make it to the finals and the entire camp comes together to watch on the magical outdoor stage. At the end of the night, the winning bunk/act is presented with a trophy and a pizza party! Camp Starlight, which works on the brother/sister model of having separate boys’ and girls’ sides of camp, also hosts Spirit of Starlight, the best night on Girls side! Each division picks a theme to represent their age group and the feelings they have for camp. A song, dance, cheer, banner and cake are all created to show the spirit of the each age group. As each division performs, the others are cheering on their camp “sisters” in this friendly, energetic competition to show us what they are all about. Its fun, it’s loud and the spirit is out of this world. After we crown a winner, the entire girl’s side unites for cake, hugs and we sing our traditional camp song “Friends, Friends, Friends.”

As we said earlier, every camp has a take on the camp stand-by, the color war, and at Camp Weequahic, that event is Tribals, which takes place at the end of the first session. The campers are divided into four teams, each representing the four classic elements: earth, wind, fire and water. The previous summer’s winning team keeps the same name (i.e., Seneca) while the other three teams have new names. The events include everything from athletics to spirit events. Other events campers can look forward to are Ms. Weequahic – girls dress up male counselors who then put on a talent (or lack thereof) show; Ron Dagan has been performing at Weequahic for over 20 years; and enjoying different evening activities created over the years: Weequahic Goldrush, Panic, and others.

Such special events are the memory-makers of summer camp, and whichever camp you decide to send your children to, their staff, counselors and bunkmates will come together in friendships that will last a lifetime!

Susan

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The Last Job of Its Kind — Camp Counselor

By now you probably have a pretty good idea about what life is like for campers at summer camps, but there is an entirely different world behind the scenes of summer — the life of a camp counselor. Imagine a job where you can make new friends, participate in fun summer activities and have unique opportunities for personal growth and development. Indeed, being a camp counselor might just be “the last throwback job.” It’s intense, it’s 24-7, and there are few jobs like it for young adults.

A camp counselor’s day begins bright and early, when the campers wake up. They get up with the kids, get dressed, share breakfast together and motivate the campers to start their day. Cabin counselors for the youngest campers (grades 1-5) stay with them throughout the day, like a big brother or sister, ushering them through their daily routine of activities, meals and field trips. Campers develop close relationships with their counselors over the summer, and the counselors take on the roles of surrogate parent, mentor, leader, role model, and friend. The counselors work hard to maintain a great relationship with campers (Read more here about the training counselors receive.)

While counselors have fun and get to participate in camp activities, they also have a tremendous amount of responsibility. “I learned to be a leader as a camp counselor,” Disney CEO Michael Eisner told Charlie Rose in a 2005 interview. In his memoir, simply titled Camp, Eisner reminisces about his many summers as a camper and then counselor. In the corporate world, Eisner says, no one is willing to give you real responsibility until you are in your 30s or even in your 40s. At camp, that opportunity comes much earlier and the payoff is huge.

David Knee, a counselor at Starlight who runs the camp’s counselor-in-transition program, couldn’t agree with Eisner more. “The position of counselor provides you with learning far beyond camp. It transcends camp to enable you to conduct yourself as a professional in any environment through community service, care for others, and the development of pedagogy, training skills, etc.”

Knee began his camping career as a camper 14 years ago. He is now the person responsible for building the counselor-in-transition program – grooming the eldest campers to be the counselors of tomorrow. Regardless of what camp your child attends, if they are interested in one day being a counselor, they will probably need to complete some sort of transition program like the one David runs at Starlight.

Starlight’s program takes two years and after this training, CAs are eligible for staff positions. Camp Starlight’s “Counselor Apprentices” are usually 15 or 16 years old, and they receive specialized training as well as mentoring from current counselors, whom they shadow. “They are observing and instructing at the same time,” Knee says of the CA’s dual role as trainee and counselor. An important part of the CA training program is letting the CAs see the “backstage process” of camp, Knee says. Even campers who have attended the same camp for years don’t see all the hard work it takes to make camp great. So Starlight’s program begins right after campers’ “senior summer” at camp and includes a bus trip down the California coast just after visiting day for the group.

Through such transition programs and experiences, counselors can grow and flourish in the leadership roles they are given and prove themselves capable before and during high school, not just after they graduate. But the lessons learned at camp also provide excellent tie-ins to other careers that involve working with children, including teaching, coaching, and social work; not to mention careers in business, management and administration. Being a counselor demands highly refined interpersonal, time management and training skills — assets for any career and in any profession.

Take a look around – you might be surprised how many former counselors are in your world!

Susan

The First Call Home

The first days at camp can be nerve-wracking – not necessarily for the campers, who are likely having the time of their lives with new friends and full days of activities and fun, but for the parents, who are waiting for word about how it’s going. The anxiety can be especially high for parents of first-time campers. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering about your child making friends, liking their counselors and being able to keep up in all the sports and other activities. The answers to these questions and many more are nearly always a resounding YES (followed by a short story)!!

Parents of repeat campers can rest assured that no news is good news during the first week of camp. If something is proving challenging, the camp directors will call you immediately. Some camps make sure to call parents of all new campers within 72 hours of arrival just to check in. These calls don’t involve the camper, as they are still adjusting.

If everything is going well, the first call from your child will come about one week to 10 days after camp begins. The philosophy behind this policy is that kids need time to settle into life at camp. I admit, by the end of a week, after I had settled in and made friends and had fun every day, I would have had nothing but good things to report back home!

These phone calls – regardless of how well the camp experience is going though, do need some forethought. The idea is for parents and campers to share about life at camp. Before the phone call, campers are sometimes reminded by their counselors to think about 10 things they love about camp also. When the conversation is directed (Tell me about your cabin mates. What activities are you in? Tell me about the trips you’ve taken. How is the food?) kids will spend time focusing on their positive experiences.

As all counselors and camp staff know, even after the best phone call between parents and kids, there can be post-call syndrome. Kids can get a little teary and miss home briefly, but they are with their favorite counselor, who will stay and with them and get them back into camp life. Unfortunately, there is no such built in support system at home for the parents after they hang up. My advice is for parents to make the call together, if possible, or to have a friend with you during the call. When you hang up, you can then celebrate your child’s successes with someone!

After the first phone call, parents should receive frequent letters home from their child and write regular letters or emails to their camper. More durable than a phone call, letters and e-mails can be saved, re-read and processed over time. The later calls are often less emotional than the first ones – kids have so much more to share about how much fun they are having, after all.

Remember, parents are always allowed to call the camp and check in with camp staff to see how your child is.

At all camps, communication between the camp staff, parents and the campers is all about partnership, which is at the core of the camp philosophy. The counselors and staff really do care about the kids and want to make the family’s transition as smooth and as happy as possible for all. So please, don’t hesitate to be and keep in touch!

Susan

The Heart of Camp/Caring for Kids: Staff and Counselors

In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At AFSC, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.

Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. Each camp has a director of personnel or staff recruiter who focuses year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity.

The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. AFSC camps recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)

Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to each camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation at their respective camps. Each camp is especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for each camp’s particular mission and traditions.

Camp staff also get to show off their creative sides at orientation!

The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. Camp directors bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.They also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the directors’ meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.

Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.

All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.

With thanks to Carly Young for the Laurel South staff photo.

Susan

Getting Connected at Camp: From Txt to Talk

When I was a kid (way back in the mid-70s), keeping in touch with our parents was a hit or miss game. Phones didn’t have answering machines, and if you said you were going to the library with friends, your parents had no real way to check if you were studying or partying. These days, parents can call up their kids’ cell phone location using GPS and keep in constant touch using Facebook and text messaging. I had pen pals around the country and loved writing and receiving handwritten letters. Today, both my 8 and 6 year olds have their own e-mail accounts for keeping in touch with grandparents and we share family news and photos over Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes it’s all a bit overwhelming and I miss those days of being excited to check the mailbox for a letter or card.

There are few places in this world however, that can re-connect us and let our kids experience the “good old communication days.” Summer camp is one such place.

High-Tech for Parents

Sleepaway summer camps these days are a refreshing and wonderful mix of high- and low-tech communication methods. The good old days of camp were fine, and I loved receiving letters, but I can’t imagine being a parent waiting for the occasional letter home now (looking back, my letters were ridiculously bereft of real information; I sent wish lists!). Today’s parents have instant access to the world of camp through camp websites and social networking sites like Facebook. Many camps, for example, has a secure parent-only section that requires a log-in and password. Through this portal, parents can view photos, send one-way e-mails to campers, schedule phone calls, read blogs from counselors and staff and keep their camper’s information up-to-date. These portals are also easy to find: look for links with names like CampMinder, CampOffice, or links for current families.

Campers still make occasional phone calls home — check your Parent Handbook for details. Parents of new campers usually receive a call from the camp’s director within the first three days with a progress report on how the adjustment process is going.

A little low-tech as well

Even with all this communication technology at hand though, most summer camps still recommend that parents send at least some handwritten letters to their campers. Campers love them, and it keeps the art of writing letters alive. Don’t type and print out your letters either. Reading a handwritten letter is so rare and special these days — give your kids that gift! Margaret Shepherd has an excellent book on the art of handwritten letters if you are interested.

Low-Tech for Campers

For some campers, especially those in the tween and teen years, adjusting to the low-tech nature of summer camp can be surprisingly quick and painless, despite recent stories in the media, including this one from NPR, that claim young people’s constant reliance on technology is eroding their interpersonal skills. Camps nip this problem in the bud. Campers simply aren’t allowed to bring cell phones or web-enabled devices with them. Campers can receive (but not respond to) e-mails from their parents and family and most camps print out e-mails for campers to read, keeping the kids at a distance from the almighty computer to continue communicating face to face.

Living at camp requires campers to express themselves and their needs verbally, whether its in conversations with friends or with counselors and other staff. Life goes much more smoothly for a camper who can talk openly with others and be a good listening ear for a homesick friend.

As adults who grew up in a less technological age, we know that the core of friendship lies in the things we share and the stories we tell with others. Staying up late and whispering secrets in the dark leads to friendships that last a lifetime, which is why talk will always trump a text message.

Thanks to Caitlinator and Mkyl Roventine for the photos.

Susan

Camp Weequahic — The Three-Week Camp with the Full Season Experience

“The greatest asset of Camp Weequahic is that we have put together a full traditional camp experience and power packed it into three-weeks,” says Cole Kelly, Camp Weequahic’s co-director. The camp runs two three-week sessions (June 26-July 17 and July 21-August 11 in 2010) and you’ll be amazed at what they manage to to squeeze into a mere 21 days. Campers get to experience two-day specialty camps with guest instructors; participate in county tournaments in eight different sports; go on off-campus trips; and take part in special events (backwards day!) and evening activities. Families also have the option of sending their kids to both sessions for a total of six weeks of camp. To make the super-six option completely stress free, there are activities at camp for those staying over the break. “It’s an amazing summer, whichever option families choose,” says Kelly.

Location, Location, Location

Camp Weequahic is nestled on 100 acres in picturesque Lakewood, Pennsylvania, which is located just 2-1/2 hours from New York City. “Our central location allows us to be the gateway to children who want to come from around the country and around the world for a great camp experience,” says Kelly. Children fly into JFK from all points foreign and domestic and are met at the jetway by camp staff and escorted to air-conditioned motorcoaches for the ride to Lakewood.

History and Tradition

While campers have access to the best of the best in today’s camping world (more on that later), the camp staff and campers never lose sight of the long, storied tradition of the camp, which goes back more than five decades. The camp was established in 1953 and it’s recreation hall walls are covered with plaques from the past 50 years of camp olympics. The camp motto, “Where Caring is a Tradition,” is still the guiding principle of all things Weequahic. Nothing takes a back seat to creating a supportive and caring community for campers, Kelly says.

Choice

Ideally, summer camp is a place where there is always something new and different and something special for everyone. At Camp Weequahic, choice rules. “We have 50 different activities for campers to experience, and everyone is encouraged to try new things and improve their skills at old favorites,” says Kelly. Whether your child wants to move up to the next level in tennis, master the newest sweet water skiing trick, or cook a gourmet meal, Camp Weequahic provides top-notch professional instruction in all their core areas. There are six activity periods throughout the day and every camper gets to pick their activities for at least two of those periods. (As the campers get older, their number of choice periods increase.) Weequahic also features cutting edge facilities, including a brand new roller hockey rink, gymnastics center and outdoor adventure course with climbing walls and a zip line. (Makes you want to enroll yourself, doesn’t it?)

Unfortunately, we moms (and dads) can’t enroll ourselves for all the fun Camp Weequahic has to offer. But if you’re interested in finding out more, you can take a virtual tour on the camp’s website by clicking here, and you can get in touch with camp staff, including Cole Kelly and his wife Kate, who serves as co-director, by sending an e-mail to info@weequahic.com.

All photos courtesy Camp Weequahic

Susan

Keeping Kids Safe at Camp: What Every Parent Needs to Ask/Know

Even when you are right there next to your child to offer comfort, care and treatment, accidents and injuries can be difficult to deal with. So as we prepare our kids to go to summer camp, it is important to ask some questions of the camp and prepare our children well. That way, everyone can rest assured they are having a summer of fun and making memories to last a lifetime in a safe environment.

We’ve discussed many issues parents need to consider when choosing a camp, enrolling their child and sending them on their way on this blog. As we get closer to the start of camp, here is a list of things to ensure are in place as you get your family ready for a summer away:

  • Camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. This requires camps to follow certain guidelines, including counselor to child ratios and other safety procedures.
  • Camp requires staff safety training.
  • Camp has emergency contact information for your child.
  • Camp has been notified of any medical conditions and/or allergies your child has. Be sure to be specific when you communicate with the staff. Let the camp know the specific name of the condition as well as warning signs and steps to take to help your child. Click here for an ACA article on administering medications at camp.
  • Camp has provided written health protocols and policies.

Beyond physical safety concerns, ask how the camp deals with homesickness. We’ve talked about that topic on this blog as well and will also be discussing staying connected in next week’s post.

Just as the camp can have multiple safety policies and procedures for kids, it is also important for our young ones to learn how to stay safe independently. So take the time (repeatedly) to ensure that you and your child

  • Know what’s safe and what isn’t. Review the camp’s handbooks for rules of conduct for campers. Review these with your child before he or she leaves for camp.
  • Understand which kinds of behavior are acceptable and which aren’t. Breaking the rules can put others in dangerous situations.
  • Have good hygiene practices. Cover sneezes and coughs with their elbows (not their hands) and wash hands frequently.
  • Know when to notify a staff member and ask for help. Not every bump and bruise requires medical attention – make sure you and your child knows which is which. Each AFSC camp has a health center with four to six nurses present (depending on the camp) and a doctor that is on campus or visits daily.

These are all fairly simple ideas to keep families safe and camp is no different. If, as parents, we do our research, read the parent handbooks and camper manuals, ask all the right questions and talk with our children, everyone spends the summer relaxing, being cared for and as safe as possible. For more information, visit the ACA website and read more about this and other camp topics on their parent pages.

Thanks to Tom@HK and cjc4544 for the photos!

Susan

They’re In Good Hands: Getting Your Children to Summer Camp

Summer camp season 2010 doesn’t start for a few weeks, but if you haven’t made travel arrangements yet, it’s time to start planning! Depending on where you live and the camp your child will attend, you’ll have various transportation options at your disposal.

Your first step, however, doesn’t involve calling a travel agent or navigating to your favorite travel website. The family of AFSC summer camps are very experienced with the ins and outs and obstacles of getting children from all over the country and all around the world safely to camp.

As soon as you know which session your child will attend and have completed the enrollment process, review the camp’s website Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for specific details on your camp’s procedures. Once you have a plan in mind, call the camp and make your arrangements. It’s really that simple, and the staff’s reassurances about their personal touch and genuine caring about your child will keep your heart rate and blood pressure low.

Option 1 – The Drop-Off

The most hands-on way to get your child to camp, of course, is to drop them off yourself. For families who live within an easy day’s drive, this choice may make the most sense. Families who live farther away have been known to make the trek to camp a family road trip, stopping to see sights along the way. The bonus? Mom and Dad get to spend some time alone on the drive home!

Option 2 – The Magic Bus

Camp buses are magic because unlike ordinary bus lines, the only passengers are campers and their staff chaperones. Many camps

“bus stops” in several major cities with a day’s drive from the camp. Camp Weequahic, for example, which is located in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, charters buses to pick up campers outside of New York City, at one of two locations in New Jersey, in Philadelphia and in Baltimore.

As soon as the campers step on the bus they are basically at camp—parents can rest assured that their children are in the hands of experts who will handle every aspect of managing check-in, finding the right bunk, getting the luggage to their right place, etc. The bonus for taking the bus? Dropping kids off at the coach stop can make the transition to camp easier. Kids say their good-byes and then settle in for a ride with their friends, old and new.

Option 3 – Big Old Jet Airliner

If you live too far away to drive your child to camp or have them catch a ride on the bus, sending them by air is pretty much your only option. For parents whose children have never flown alone before, the idea alone can cause a cold sweat and a jump in blood-pressure. The airlines and the camps, however, are very experienced at helping kids navigate air travel. Parents are allowed to drop their kids off at the gate – when you receive your child’s boarding pass, you will get a special pass that allows you to accompany him or her past security. When you arrive at the gate, a special airline chaperon meets you at the top of the jetway and escorts your child all the way to his or her seat.

When your child arrives at the destination airport, camp chaperones meet him or her at the gate and provide  escort to baggage claim and to onto a camp shuttle or bus. Be sure to review the current TSA prohibited items list shortly before you leave – the list can change at any time. Also, review the airline’s website for their specific procedures regarding children flying alone. The more comfortable you feel before they leave, the less stressful everyone will be on departure day!

To Learn More

For more information on how each of the AFSC camps handle transportation, visit their websites by using the links at the top of this page.

Thanks to Caren Mack, John Trainor and Flare for the great photos!

Susan

The Magic of Starlight

“We want our kids to leave here at the end of the summer never questioning what will happen next year – they know they will come back to Starlight,” says David Miller, the Pennsylvania camp’s director. “There is something special and magical about the Starlight world,” says Miller.

Camp Starlight is a full-season (7-week) camp located in Starlight, PA (about two-and-a-half hours from New York City) which has been in continuous operation since 1947. David and his wife Allison bought the camp from the original owners in 1999, but some things just don’t change. Just driving into the facility up a secluded one mile road to the top of a mountain gives campers a sense of separation from the real world. Starlight is revealed at the peak of the overlook. The 70-acre lake is private to the camp, which enhances Miller’s goal of wanting everyone to feel safe and secure in the Starlight world. “This is their summer home,” he says. “When campers walk into the dining hall there are hundreds of plaques – one from every bunk from every summer since 1947. Campers know that there is a long tradition of fun and family here.”

One thing that makes Camp Starlight unique is how it straddles the line between a co-ed camp and a same-sex camp. There are separate facilities and staff for boys and girls, and they participate in separate sports and activities during the day. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Miller says. Those families that are looking for a single sex camp experience get the separation and camaraderie they are looking for, but the boys and girls all come together for morning ceremonies, dinner and many of the evening activities. The Starlight set-up works especially well for families with sons and daughters who want to attend camp together and are looking for high-quality activities. Miller adds, “my favorite time of day is the flag raising ceremony in the morning. Girls line up on one side and boys line up on the other, but brothers and sisters always have time to check in with each other and see how their day was. I love seeing the kids reconnect with each other.”

It is the connection between campers that is paramount at Starlight. When new kids arrive at camp, they are assigned to bunk with kids their age, but with different interests. “That’s what bunk bonding is all about,” Miller says, “learning about and loving people who aren’t carbon copies of yourself.” Some bunks stay together their entire eight years of summer camp, forming a real family of brothers or sisters. These children because they are given the opportunity of overnight camp usually adjust better to college and dorm life because they are used to living with others and being away from home.

Camp Starlight also works well for families with same sex siblings with different interests because the program is so well-rounded. Whether a child loves athletics, art, theater, adventure or water sports, or just loves to do it all, the quality of the Starlight program and facility make this a first-rate experience no matter what activities a child is drawn to. Camp Starlight also helps expand the horizons of campers by exposing them to all the different activities the camp has to offer. Campers have two choices in their daily program so they also have the time to develop their talents in their specific interest areas; especially as they get older. The two oldest bunks get to set their own daily schedules, for example.

Miller knows that some families have reservations about sending their children to a full-season, seven-week camp, especially when campers can start as young as third or fourth grade, but the benefits are tremendous. Rather than kids moving from camp to camp, week to week, there is truly time for kids to unwind, escape from the outside world and all its pressures and disconnect from technology. This type of summer program provides a real opportunity for kids to be themselves, get to know each other and make friendships that truly last a lifetime. There is no question that this is why such an extraordinarily high rate of campers return summer after summer. The summer is also long enough to do full season camp and still have family time to visit relatives or have a family vacation before school starts.

So if you’re thinking about full-season camp, you can learn more about Camp Starlight at www.campstarlight.com. As David says, “Most families who come to visit our camp end up enrolling their children,” Miller says. “There is something magical about this place.”

Come meet David and visit the Starlight world first-hand!

Susan

The Unique Experience of Maine

Camp Laurel

“There’s something special about camping in Maine”, says Jem Sollinger, director of Camp Laurel, a traditional camp with unparalleled, modern facilities. Indeed, the landscapes available in Maine are rarely seen elsewhere, and campers can take advantage of everything this amazing state has to offer.

Camp Laurel is located along beautiful Echo Lake, with nine miles of shoreline, and offers a full-season, 7-week camping experience. There are 250 boys and 250 girls in camp each year and everyone arrives and leaves on the same day. “It’s very much a family,” says Jem. The camp, which is in its 61st year, also offers a 5-week international option and hosts campers from France, Italy, Switzerland, Israel and Japan. “Our international campers are a very small portion of our population,” Jem says, “but they are an important addition to the camp community.”

“We also fully take advantage of our location,” Jem says. Campers take short trips to nearby Maine and New Hampshire destinations and get real outdoor experiences exploring the natural landscapes of surrounding areas. Campers especially take full advantage of the expansive waterfront, often water skiing 4-5 times per week, sailing daily on our fleet of more than 35 sailboats, playing tennis, baseball, lacrosse and participating in an amazing arts programs…..not to mention a world-class equestrian program.

If you are interested in touring Camp Laurel, Jem says you are welcome to visit any time. Just please call in advance to set up a visit. Prospective families also get a home visit before the camping season begins. Jem visits families regularly in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Boston.

Laurel South

Laurel South is in the Lakes region of Maine, in the town of Casco on beautiful Crescent Lake, with nine miles of shoreline. Camp Director Roger Christian, who has been with Laurel South for 14 years, spends much of his off season time meeting new camp families throughout the country as the camp emphasizes family and tradition. It doesn’t really matter, after all, whether your facilities are state of the art or how many miles of waterfront you have – as long as campers and their families feel that camp is home away from home.

Laurel South was born 15 years ago as a spin-off four week camp from the traditional full season Camp Laurel. “There was just a great need for a shorter, quality, co-ed season,” says Roger. Every year, Laurel South welcomes 200 boys and 200 girls in each of its two sessions. In those 4 weeks, campers at Laurel South experience an amazing, power packed program centered on Athletics, Arts, Waterfront, Adventure and Equestrian.

Susan