Three Reasons Why Campers Love Camp Laurel

Children are gearing up for the final push in the school year. College students are finishing up projects and studying for finals. If you couldn’t hear the buzz in the air signaling summer right around the corner, here are some extra reasons camp people are getting excited for this summer.


During the school year, children might be lucky to have classes with friends, but their primary focus is learning. Peer interactions are limited to hallway conversations, lunchtime, passing friends between classes and recess for younger children. At Camp Laurel they spend all morning, afternoon and evening interacting with their peers. Whether they’re huddling up in flag football, finishing a project in ceramics, rehearsing their lines for the upcoming play or hanging out in the cabin, campers are always encouraged to interact with their friends.

Time is Different

Campers learn that time at camp works differently. Throughout the school year there are several countdowns usually measured in months. Two months until winter break, six months until spring break and nine months until summer. At Camp Laurel, we’re counting time both ways. We know there is always something fun and exciting on the horizon, but we also measure time in weeks that have passed. Everyone realizes their time at camp is limited and they’re looking to make the most of it. Camp has so many “you had to be there” memories because campers are living so vividly in the moment and those moments stick with them.

Built for Children

Thinking about the “real world” from a child’s perspective reminds us that children are often told to prepare and wait until they are grownups. Camp, on the other hand, is an environment dedicated to youth. Campers create incredible memories because camp focuses on who and where they are now. Camp is a place all about children living in the moment and being themselves.

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A One-of-a-Kind Basketball Camp Experience

Camp Horseshoe Basketball Camp is a unique experience like no other! Campers spend five days at Camp Horseshoe’s gorgeous 140 acre Northwoods facility; a state-of-the-art campus featuring every athletic, adventure and waterfront activity under the sun, along with high-level basketball instruction from some of the top high school basketball coaches in the country.  We have a long tradition of success, with alumni that includes multiple NBA players and a long list of NCAA student athletes.

High-Level Instruction

Our cabin and activities staff are highly trained and committed to making sure that every camper is safe and enjoying every moment of camp!   Our basketball program is run by a team of some of the finest, most well-respected coaches in the midwest, featuring former IBCA Coaches of the Year award winners and Illinois state champions.  Our program is performanced planned, featuring plenty of invaluable, one-on-one instruction in technique and skills as well as two regulation full court games for every camper each day.  There will also be plenty of time for off-court leisure activities.

Authentic Summer Camp Experience

Camp Horseshoe Basketball Camp creates the ideal atmosphere for campers to get the absolute maximum out of his week long experience.  Campers will have the opportunity to enjoy everything we have to offer including our lifeguard-supervised waterfront which features brand new inflatables; tubing, fishing, climbing wall, high ropes course, 300-foot zip-line, trampball, archery, tennis, pickleball and so much more!  All of our facilities from the courts to the cabins and bathrooms are new, clean, and up to date.  Our health center is staffed by registered nurses who live on the premises.

Camp Values

At Camp Horseshoe, each Horseshoe boy is cheered, included, and accepted.  Our goal is to help you become the best basketball player you’re capable of being, nothing less. Our basketball coaches provide the campers with daily motivational messages relating to life both on and off the basketball court, such as developing confidence, integrity, teamwork, passion and determination. We’re confident that your son will leave Horseshoe Basketball Camp with improved skills both on and off the court, meaningful relationships, and amazing memories that will last a lifetime!

Spring and New Beginnings

Brant Lake Dance Camp:

Given that Spring and New Beginnings are the themes of the month and we all LOVE to Dance, let’s try something new together! At Brant Lake Dance Camp we encourage everyone to try as many different dance forms as they can while at camp.

Diversity in your training will not only make you a stronger dancer it will exercise your brain and stimulate your creativity as well. So, if you love your Contemporary at home try a Jazz class and a Modern class at camp. There is sure to be new ways to move and your body that you’ve never thought of before and you’ll love the way you feel when you master a new combination. Even better you’ll love the addition of this new found technique in creating your own Enchoreo piece. 

“Our Guest Artist, Lynn, inspired me to try some things I never had done before and I liked them so much I used them in my Enchoreo piece.”

With three levels of Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Hip Hop and Modern professionally taught at BLDC you’re sure to find a new Love of Dance to add to your current Love of Dance.

5 Things To Know Before Your First Summer At Camp

The night before you head off to camp for the first time, there will probably be a hundred different things running through your head. Will I fit in? Will the food be good? Will I have fun? (the answer to all of the above is yes, by the way!) The anticipation of heading to sleepaway camp can be enough to give even a seasoned campers butterflies, but as long as you know these five things, you can head into your first sleepaway camp experience with confidence:

You’ll Try New Things

From the moment you step onto the campgrounds, you’ll be surrounded by new things. You will quickly learn the layout of the camp and find the quickest way to get from your cabin to your favorite activity. You’ll spend the summer trying new foods, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new activities, and learning new skills that you’ll carry with you throughout the school year. Camp has this unique way of making you feel safe and confident to try new things, and you’ll continuously learn new things about yourself in the process. You’ll learn new problem-solving strategies, time management skills and conflict resolution. You’ll leave camp confident that you can do new things!

You’ll Make New Friends

At America’s Finest Summer Camps, you will have the opportunity to meet friends that you may have never met otherwise. Campers from all over the country, and across the globe, come to America’s Finest Summer Camps for a camp experience of a lifetime. You will, without a doubt, make new friends, laugh until you cry, and go home with plenty of new phone numbers so you can keep in touch with your friends even when you aren’t at camp. Some of the campers that you bunk with could become lifelong friends. You will be surrounded by people of all different races and backgrounds, and if you’re not the type to walk up and introduce yourself to strangers, your camp counselors will make sure you get connected with the right people.

You’ll Learn To Be Independent

If this is your first time away from home, you may be nervous about your newfound independence. But you’re never alone, and your counselor will help you feel confident about making your own decisions and choices, and you’ll quickly begin to enjoy the feeling that comes with being responsible and independent. From making your bed on a daily basis to following a schedule, camp will help you learn skills that will foster independence and responsibility long after you leave camp. This is something your parents will notice right away when you come home from a summer at camp; you will grow and mature in many ways without even realizing it.

You’ll Connect with Counselors from All Over

Many campers say that the relationships they make with counselors is one of the most unique parts of their sleepaway camp experience. Before you ever get to camp, you can be sure that there are counselors who know you are coming, know your name, and know this is your first summer.  Your counselors are already excited to see you and are ready to show you all the things they love about camp. Your camp counselor might be from the same state as you, or they might be from a country you’ve never visited. Camp gives you the chance to connect with counselors from all over!

It’s Going to Be the Summer of Your Life!

If you get butterflies thinking about your first camp experience, you’re perfectly normal! It’s completely natural to get nervous about trying something new. But, instead of worrying about the unknown, try to focus on the facts: America’s Finest Summer Camps have been giving kids the ultimate camp experience for decades, and if it wasn’t the coolest place on the planet, why do so many campers come back year after year? And why do they come back as counselors? It’s because America’s Finest Summer Camps have perfected the sleepaway camp experience and know how to make a first-timer feel confident, secure, happy, safe and at home.

You only get to experience camp for the first time once, so try to soak in every little minute. You are about to embark on an adventure you’ll never forget!

Life Skills You Learn at Camp

Camp Laurel: 

Going to camp was never about learning “life-skills” when I was a camper. I loved camp and returned every summer to have fun and hang with my friends. I didn’t realize until much later in life how beneficial spending every summer at Camp Laurel would be. So, with the ability to look back now, I’m going to talk about the most meaningful skills I gained because of my time as a camper.

First Impressions

My college roommate once asked me how I was able to introduce myself to anyone and everyone so easily. This was the first time I realized how big an impact camp had on me. Camp Laurel helped me learn this early on because no matter how tight-knit our friends were, we were always excited to meet new campers and counselors.

Camp also taught me to get to know people beyond first impressions. Sometimes it’s easy to make snap-judgments of people, but at camp I learned to never judge a book by its cover.


My second night at camp I participated in one of my favorite camp traditions: Egg Drop. It seems so simple: our cabin is given supplies to safely drop an egg from the top of our climbing wall without breaking it. Looking at it now, I can see how intentional that evening program was because it allowed everyone in our cabin to creatively find a solution to our dilemma. But this is one of a countless number of opportunities to campers are given to communicate.

Clean up, cabin dance-offs, Group Sing, College Days…All things that helped me learn how to communicate effectively with a wide range of other campers and counselors.

Trying New Things

There’s no place like camp to try new things. For seven weeks, I had the opportunity to learn how to waterski, climb, become a Laurel Gladiator, shoot a bow and arrow, try out for the play, learn an instrument, go camping, make something (anything!) in ceramics. And those are only the things that pop into mind on top of enjoying the things I loved before camp like basketball, tennis and painting. Camp Laurel let me get out of my comfort zone in the most comfortable way. I was able to try so much because the counselors were willing to instruct and coach me with a positive attitude. I never felt like I wasn’t good enough at something. Now, when new opportunities come about, I’m excited to try them and learn how to get better.

The Importance of Camp Routines

Camp Laurel South:

Camp is all about having fun, developing friendships and creating memories that last a lifetime. Campers love the activities, living with their closest friends and trying new things. They could go on and on about how much they love wakeboarding, playing ping-pong during free time or simply laughing through every day. What campers (and counselors!) don’t always realize is how impactful their camp routine is.

To an outsider, summer camp may look like little more than highly organized chaos: but the scheduling of Laurel South is very intentional, sophisticated and made for the benefit of each camper. Campers are waking up and going to sleep at roughly the same time each day. Meals are well-rounded with plenty of options. Campers are active for several hours and they’re constantly smiling. And while they experience different activities from day to day, the time spent at these programs is the same.

Camp is unlike anywhere else because everyone is in a similar routine. And research shows that children and adults who have a structured schedule sleep and generally feel better. The routine of camp is often overlooked, but camp directors and parents know it’s one of the best benefits for children.

Spring Cleaning and Prepping for Camp

Brant Lake Dance Camp

I know that it’s a bit early but, I am definitely thinking of Spring. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved all of the snow that we’re having at Brant Lake this Winter but, I find myself crossing the street just to walk in the sun.   

I’ve decided to do Spring Cleaning early. I guess you can say that I’m trying to give Spring a little nudge, (or maybe because I can’t find my Airpods). I know, you’re thinking, why am I writing about Spring Cleaning on the Dance Camp BLOG? Well, for two reasons

  1. An unexpected snow day is a great time to sort through all of your dance clothes and make room for new! I mean, we all have that leo lurking in the way back of the drawer that we have loved and can’t say goodbye to but, maybe we need to do a @MariKondo and thank it for all it has given to the joy in our lives and move on.
  2. Make a list of my favorite things that I can’t live without and are coming to camp with me. (Clever how cleaning up can bring us to this list.)


  1. My comfy cozy slippers (to walk to breakfast in)
  2. My good luck green headband (We’re going to win this summer!)
  3. XL water bottle
  4. Yellow rain jacket (because, we believe that when the rain is bouncing off the ground, it is still keeping me dry.)
  5. Tie dye tank (/shorts) for Tye Dye Tuesdays                                     
  6. My Hawaiian print shirt for Luau
  7. Coda (you remember da puppy!…stuffed with rainbow sprinkles?…)
  8. Comfy old tee shirt
  9. RAINBOW TUTU (I found it in the back of my drawer!)
  10. Animal onesie

So, don’t wait for the next snow day, do your Spring Cleaning and make your Top Ten List to bring to camp this summer.

(Special thanks to our Directors of Fun, Liv ‘n Sassy who helped put this list together.)

Snail Mail – Handwritten Letters are Much More Personal


When was the last time you wrote a handwritten letter? When was the last time you went out to the mailbox to find a handwritten letter addressed to you? If you are like most people, receiving a letter in the mailbox instead of an inbox is a special treat to be treasured. The idea that someone took the time to sit down and put their thoughts to you on paper, find an envelope, a stamp and get it out into the mailbox is something to be admired in this fast-paced world, which is what makes receiving mail so special.

At America’s Finest Summer Camps, campers look forward to filling their friends and family back home in on the details of their camp experience through a series of handwritten notes. But participating in the ancient art of “snail mail” is about more than just touching base with friends and family back home. Writing and receiving letters benefits campers in many ways.

During their break away from school, students typically have fewer chances to practice their basic reading and writing skills. Writing letters helps campers fine-tune this skill in a way that is fun and personal. There is no pressure to get all of the spelling right or indent properly, just an opportunity for campers to practice their penmanship and creative writing skills. Receiving letters from home also gives them a chance to brush up on their reading skills.

For campers who are growing up in a technology-driven world, a letter from home while at camp may be their first experience in getting something personal in the mail. There is an anticipation that comes with waiting for the recipient to receive their letter, and then excitement in receiving the response. This experience could foster a love and appreciation for handwritten notes in campers, and encourage them to continue the tradition throughout their lives.

A letter from home can be just the thing a homesick camper needs to feel better. A letter is a tangible treasure campers can hold onto and look back on whenever they want. It is a tangible reminder of their life back home and a connection to their loved ones.

Campers can write as many handwritten letters home as they wish. They are encouraged to use their quiet times to reflect on their day and write about their experiences and adventure to share with people back home.

A summer at sleepaway camp introduces campers to some of life’s most simple pleasures, such as songs around a campfire, enjoying a sunset and appreciating the art of snail mail. Just another way America’s Finest Summer Camps gives campers experiences that they may not have had anywhere else!

Rainy Days at Camp

A rainy day at camp is better than a sunny day stuck at home!

Summer weather in the northeast can be unpredictable. Sometimes you have weeks of high temps and sunshine, other weeks you’ve got off-and-on rainstorms. Thankfully, America’s Finest Summer Camps are designed to provide an exceptional camp experience, rain or shine.

When it rains, the entire camp is prepared. There are countless indoor activities to keep campers entertained and occupied until the sun comes back out.

Performing Arts

There is no better way to spend a rainy day than enjoying a good show. America’s Finest Summer Camps give creative campers an outlet to work on their performance and musical interests. From theatre improve to dance and instrument practice, campers can express themselves through the creative arts. Regardless of skill level, every camper is welcome to participate in some of the many performing arts options at camp.

Creative Arts

While music, theatre, and dance may be the rainy day option for some, other creative campers prefer the visual arts. America’s Finest Summer Camps introduces campers to woodworking, ceramics, drawing, jewelry and candle making. Aspiring artists can channel their inner creativity in many different ways at camp.

Other Rainy Day Options

The America’s Finest Summer Camp experience is designed to give every camper a unique and personalized sleepaway camp experience. This is why some programs offer additional options for campers who have specific interests, such as radio broadcasting, science, cooking, and digital photography. These options keep kids in their zone as the rain comes pouring down.


Indoor Athletics

While many of camp’s sports programs are designed to be played outside in the beautiful summer weather, some indoor options allow campers to stay active without getting soaked. Gymnastics, fitness and aerobics, figure skating, and basketball are a few examples of sports that can be moved indoors. These options give campers plenty of possibilities for rainy day fun.

America’s Finest Summer Camps always have a plan. Camp staff and counselors are prepared for rainy days and have tricks up their sleeves to ensure a rainy day is still just as much fun as a sunny days. The best part about rainy days at camp is that you are still surrounded by friends.

We never let a little rain ruin our fun at camp. No matter what the weather forecast says, campers fill every day with new activities, great food, new friends and adventure!

Full Circle at Camp

A significant number of our counselors are campers who just can’t get enough of America’s Finest Summer Camps. Some of our veteran camp counselors and staff members started out as wide-eyed, excited, first-time campers who fell in love with sleepaway camp. The camp experience is ingrained so deep into their life that there’s no place they’d rather spend their summer. Some can barely remember a summer that wasn’t spent at America’s Finest Summer Camps, and they love it that way.

The first year a counselor comes back to camp in a leadership position instead of a camper can be a surreal experience. As they grow as campers, they are given new roles and responsibilities in leadership that prepares them for this role. They serve as big brothers and big sisters for first-time campers and are trusted by counselors and staff to set a good example for younger campers. This prepares them for their role as the ultimate summer role model. When campers evolve into counselors, it means they are fully equipped and ready to help first-time campers have the happiest, safest and most memorable summer of their lives.

Counselors who grew up at summer camp know the campgrounds like the back of their hands. They have formed relationships with other counselors and staff, are familiar with schedules, rules, traditions, and expectations that make camp run smoothly. Their experience as a camper gives them a head start on camp routines and helps them lead in confidence.

Full circle counselors, those who transition from camper to counselor, can share the love of sleepaway camp in a way that others can’t. New counselors can learn to fall in love with camp, but full circle counselors have this love embedded in who they are and naturally share this love with new campers. These counselors have experienced almost everything a camper can experience, so they’re able to relate with common new camper experiences.

America’s Finest Summer Camps loves all of our counselors, but there is a special place in our heart for full circle counselors. We’ve watched these campers grow and evolve into responsible young adults who are passionate about providing the best sleep away camp experience for every camper, just like a counselor did for them.

The first summer spent as a counselor is a unique blend of new experiences and comfortable familiarity. Counselors quickly fall into the familiarity of camp, while happily embracing their new roles and responsibilities. Every day is different as a counselor and provides a new appreciation and respect for the leaders who came before them.

Every year, campers reach the point where they have to decide whether to end their summer camp experience or come back as a counselor. We know that being a camp counselor isn’t for everyone, but view it as the most significant indicator of success when campers choose to come back as a leader. Camp wouldn’t be the same without our dedicated counselors!