Echo Lake Sunsets

Camp Laurel 

Everything at camp is moving. There are friends to see, activities to do and memories to be made all the time. One of the joys of being a camper is there’s always something happening, even if it’s just hanging with cabinmates and counselors. Often times it isn’t until we’re back home when we realize just how great our summer was. We’ll remember a random talk with a camper from another cabin on a walk to the Field House. Or a time one of our counselors organized a goofy game in the cabin. In real time, it can be hard to appreciate these moments as they happen minute to minute.

But every now and then, everything at camp stops for a few moments and feels perfect. The place this happens most often for me is seeing the sun go down over Echo Lake. The sheer beauty of the scene can force us to stop and appreciate the colors in the sky, the warmth of the sun and the beauty of being surrounded by great friends. And that’s the true wonder of camp.

It isn’t simply the sunset, the friends or the counselors, it’s how it all works together. And a sunset over Echo Lake reminds me to appreciate every moment I have at Camp Laurel.

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Sports Academy Women Lead the Pack

Brant Lake Sports Academy Women Lead the Pack!

Camp Directors Test Their Boundaries

My hunger for competition has only grown stronger as I grow older. As I juggle 3 kids with busy schedules, volunteer town board positions and a job, I realize that opening myself up to new athletic and social adventures has not only enriches my life but has set me up to be the best role model I can be both for my campers and my family. Whether it’s a spin class, a 5k or a triathlon, be active, stay, set goals and inspire someone. What are you doing today? Read more about Rachel




Sports Academy Supports Chloe

Kudos goes out today to Assistant Director, Chloe Grimes for completing her first ever NYC Marathon. “I set my mind to accomplishing this goal and if I wasn’t surrounded by such positive people, it would’ve been a hard goal to achieve”, says Chloe.

“It feels good to know that my Brant Lake Sports Academy girls were cheering me on every step of the way.”

Chloe’s sports interests range from little league softball to AAU basketball, which brought her to discover a professional career as an athletic trainer for a wide range of sports. In addition to running, she also plays Urban Professional League basketball. Learn more about how Chloe’s leadership guides Sports Academy girls during the summer.


Sports Academy Girls Can Too

Campers at Brant Lake Sports Academy are just like Chloe and Rachel. They learn what’s required to be a female athlete. In an encouraging environment, they can push themselves mentally and physically to be their best. We focus on improving the athletic skills of motivated, sports-loving girls by providing training in many different sports.

Our soccer, lacrosse, basketball and volleyball coaches are dedicated to teaching girls that they too can be empowered through sports. The nurturing and supportive environment at Brant Lake Sports Academy provides a unique place where girls can feel comfortable to push their limits and realize their potential on and off the field.

10 Things You Need to Know About BLDC

It may seem like simply a lot of fun but what you come away with from a summer at Brant Lake Dance Camp is immeasurably beneficial to your growth and your life.

Ten things you’ll get out of Brant Lake Dance Camp:

  1. You’ll learn new skills; like making great friends and how to roast the perfect marshmallow after finding your own perfect marshmallow stick.
  2. You’ll learn to overcome adversity; like how to deal with and take care of a little bug bite, or that the marshmallow that you burnt really still tastes good.
  3. You’ll gain courage; because you will try things that you would never try at home, like Yoga or Tap (or toasted marshmallows).
  4. You’ll become confident; because you’ve mastered things you would never have tried at home – like tap dance or marshmallow pulled taffy! (- notice a theme here?)
  5. You develop compassion; as you help a friend master a combination she finds way more difficult than you did (insert your own compassionate marshmallow story here.)
  6. You appreciate diversity because girls are coming to camp from all over the world and Teachers are teaching things you never saw before. (One of them even brought, yep, lemon flavored marshmallows for everyone to try!)
  7. You just plain have a great time. No pretense, no expectations on you from anyone other than yourself. You dance and play all day with your friends and at night everyone goes home together and when you wake up you do it all again!
  8. You make memories that will last a lifetime, when you see your first shooting star while lying on the ground at the shore of beautiful pristine Brant Lake.

How Camp Fosters Independence for Parents and Children

Spending a summer at a sleepaway camp is a fun way for campers to gain a new sense of responsibility and independence. For many campers, their first summer camp experience is their first experience away from home. As they learn to navigate a new place, adhere to a new schedule and new rules, and adapt to many new personalities, they gain a sense of independence that will help them mature and grow in new ways. However, the kids aren’t the only ones who do some growing over the summer. When parents say goodbye to their kids for the summer, they get to see the result of all of their hard work, modeling, and teaching as their children go off without them. Although it’s a bittersweet moment, it’s a milestone for both parents and kids.

How Camp Fosters Independence In Children

Without their parents by their side, campers quickly learn that they are responsible for themselves. While counselors are around for guidance and support, campers are given clear expectations at the beginning of camp and are expected to follow these guidelines without being constantly reminded. Things like keeping their space tidy, respecting quiet time and mealtime rules, getting to places on time, and maintaining their personal hygiene are their responsibilities. They get a taste of freedom while still being carefully supervised. They are given the privilege of free time, in which they can pick which activity they’d like to do. They learn quickly that as long as they don’t abuse this privilege, they have many freedoms and choices in regards to their camp experience.

And while camp provides many sports, events, and activities to keep campers entertained, there are parts of the day that are unscheduled. Being at camp teaches campers how to productively manage this “downtime” without needing to be constantly entertained. Campers also learn independence during meal times, as they pick what they want to eat and are responsible for making healthy choices, not wasting food, and cleaning up after themselves. 

Meeting new friends is part of the traditional sleepaway camp experience, and even this aspect of camp helps foster independence in children. Starting conversations with strangers, working well with others, resolving differences with respect, and being inclusive of others are all things campers experience at America’s Finest Summer Camps. They do most of these things on their own, and the relationships they build are authentic and based on their own personal connections with their peers. For many of the younger campers, their parents are still very active in creating social connections, but at camp, they learn to make friends all on their own.

What Camp Does For Parents

It’s common to see parents a little teary-eyed as they say goodbye to their kids on the first day of camp. It’s a significant milestone; trusting your child to go off into the world and hoping you’ve equipped them with everything they need to be successful. Thankfully, this is camp, not college, and your children will be surrounded by people who can help guide them and steer them towards positive decision making.

By “letting go” for the summer, parents have time to reflect on the types of people their children are becoming, and can finally see the results of all of their hard work as parents. Seeing how successful your child is at camp can help you feel comfortable giving them more responsibilities and freedoms at home. Hearing about how you child felt confident making their own choices and decisions at camp and how he/she enjoyed being independent can make it easier for you to give your child more independent in other aspects of his/her life as well.

Although this expanding independence is a sign that your baby isn’t a baby anymore, it also means that they have absorbed the lessons you’ve taught them are applying them correctly. The whole idea behind parenting is to raise happy, healthy, and productive people who can work independently within society. America’s Finest Summer Camps help with this.

Spending the summer at camp is one way children can begin to spread their wings, find their sense of self, and discover who they are as individuals. Giving campers this independence is crucial for their self-esteem and self-worth, and is a great practice run for when they are finally out on their own. Going to camp is an emotional milestone, but a powerful one that parents and campers will remember forever.

The Value of Tradition at Laurel South

The holidays are around the corner.  During this time of year, the word “tradition” gets thrown around a lot.  The word “tradition” is often confused with “routine.”  They’ve both become something that we do on a regular basis to establish or maintain a consistency or pattern in our behavior.  So, what really distinguishes “tradition” from “routine”?

Tradition is, by definition, community oriented.  It’s a shared custom, belief, or activity with a common understanding of the reason for its practice. Tradition is something that is a common bond between multiple generations.  It’s an acknowledgment that an event or action was significant to someone tied to our past, and the observance of traditions is our way of paying tribute to that event or action as well demonstrating our understanding of it.

Routine, unlike tradition, is not necessarily multi-generational or even long-term.  It’s something done for a specified length of time.  While we maintain some routines for all or much of our lives, others are short term. Routine is task oriented.  We take up routines to accomplish a goal.  There is an intended result in routine.  Tradition, however, is an observance.  Routine is a way of moving forward, whereas tradition pays tribute to the importance of the past.

By now, you’re surely asking yourself what any of this has to do with summer camp. In a culture that places a significant amount of importance on the establishment of routine, the value of tradition is increasingly less understood and appreciated.  Laurel South is grounded in tradition.  It’s a place where campers and counselors alike get refresher courses in the power of tradition.  Whether it’s singing at a campfire, the Camp Brother/Sister program or Spirit Day, there are so many opportunities every summer for those at Laurel South to bond through tradition.  Many former campers and counselors name “tradition” as one of their highlights of summer camp.  If tradition has become an element of holidays past, consider giving your children a future opportunity to experience and enjoy traditions at Laurel South.

Confident Campers at Brant Lake Sports Academy

Did you know that between the ages of 8 and 14, confidence levels in girls decreases by 30 percent? Did you know that sports increase confidence in girls as we increase physical activity, which eventually leads to greater overall health?

At Brant Lake Sports Academy, our goal is to motivate and increase self-esteem in girls through sports by providing them with access to top-notch facilities and high-quality coaching. By placing girls in a safe environment at camp where they can not only grow physically, but emotionally and socially, girls go home feeling better about themselves. They leave camp excited to show their friends and families what they learned and talk about their experiences.

I recently came across this New York Times article with tips we can use in our everyday lives to increase confidence in girls, just like we do with our campers at Brant Lake Sports Academy.

Thankful for Brant Lake Dance Camp

‘Tis the season to be thankful! After eight summers at Brant Lake Dance Camp, I still thank my parents for sending me to such a magical place all those years ago. I feel immense gratitude for all BLDC has done for me. From singing the Alma Mater with our arms draped over each other to our epic lip sync battles, camp is a place filled with love, laughter and lifelong friends. After eight years I still have regular reunions with Z Cabin of 2010!

Brant Lake Dance Camp is a place that fosters leadership, confidence and unconditional love. What’s unique about BLDC is that competition doesn’t exist, we as a community push each other to grow in this art that we love. Mia Michaels said it best: “If you dance with your heart, your body will follow.” I also learned if you dance with your best friends the fun will follow. I love how BLDC mixes a structured dance curriculum (with amazing teachers) while still emphasizing the fun of camp. What other place brings girls who all love to dance together while having campfires and cozy movie nights? At Brant Lake Dance Camp you come for the dance, and stay for the friendships!

The best part about going from camper to counselor to key staff is that I get to grow with those campers who return with me. Whether it be the lifelong camper who is in her last summer or the camper who worked endlessly over the summer to get her triple pirouette and debuts it during WIPs (Works In Progress). I was at another camp for five years before coming to BLDC, and I realized Brant Lake Dance Camp goes beyond what it means to be an exceptional camp.

I thank Brant Lake for giving me a place to enjoy my summers, and for also helping me realize what I wanted to do career-wise. As an aspiring educator in my first graduate school year, I get to use what I learned at BLDC in my classrooms.

So, while I am munching on my turkey this month, I am also counting down the days ‘till camp and reminiscing about BLDC Cupcake Wars and snuggling up with hot chocolate on the rocking chairs with my Brant Lake Dance Camp family.

Five True Things about Camp Laurel

  1. At camp you learn more about yourself in one day than you do in one month in the real world. And that’s not an exaggeration. At camp, every day can be a transformative experience. So many campers accomplish new things they wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to try at home, all with the support of passionate counselors.
  2. Speaking of passionate counselors, at camp you meet the most spectacular people, and they will inevitably become some of your closest friends. That’s the beauty of an experience like camp: you get to know people from different backgrounds but find the similarities you share. As a bonus, you now have friends from all the country and around the world!
  3. Camp is sort of like s’mores, you can’t just have one (or in this case, you can’t just go once). Of course, once I got a taste of Camp Laurel, I couldn’t stay away. Camp Laurel feels like the home I never knew I was missing. When I’m there everything is right with the world. 
  4. Once camp is over, you will try and try to articulate what it means to you. But it’s impossible to talk fully about camp to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Much of my life in the winter is spent in this sappy mood—missing people and places that are a few months away. I’m so happy that I have something/someone worth missing; I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  5. Camp Laurel is the most magical place I’ve ever been lucky enough to experience. Camp is laughing harder than you ever have in your life, playing games with new friends and singing songs in The Lodge at the top of your lungs. Camp is looking out the window of the bus as you slowly pull away and thinking: I’m not done with you yet. Camp is knowing you have a home away from home.


Get a Real Job

For many counselors at America’s Finest Summer Camps, their experience as a camp counselor is also their first experience in the workforce. Many counselors have the opportunity to spend the summer on one of the nation’s most beautiful campsites, enjoying all of the classic sleepaway camp adventures, and get paid for it. Their first job is not spent waiting tables or washing cars or serving coffee, but instead spent shaping the lives of kids and teens and learning valuable life skills they can apply to their future careers.

A first job is a milestone in any young adult’s life and is an opportunity to learn responsibility, time management, teamwork, and commitment. It teaches the value of hard work and gives the individual ownership over the money they make. The attitude towards an after-school or part-time job can be that of reluctance, as young adults sometimes feel that a job gets in the way of their social life. However, for the lucky few who get to be summer camp counselors for their first job, it’s a different story. Working as a counselor doesn’t feel like work, because it is fun.

Counselors are in charge of inspiring and motivating campers to try new things. They get to be in on the action as campers score goals, put on plays, and explore. They facilitate friendships, teach camp traditions, offer cures for homesickness and an ear to listen. They are role models for campers and serve as the big brothers or sisters that many campers have never had.

They are responsible for making sure campers are safe and responsible, that they get where they need to be and do what they’re supposed to do. They are in charge of teams of people and are required to be effective communicators for camp to run smoothly. If this isn’t a training ground for the world’s best leaders, we’re not sure what is. The skills counselors learn during their time at camp easily roll over into other aspects of their lives and prepare them for the future.

However, the job of the counselor is not confined to working with campers. Counselors also interact with a team of other counselors and staff, providing countless opportunities to foster their communication, teamwork, listening, and leadership skills. With so many counselors and staff at camp each summer, each counselor has the opportunity to learn how to work effectively with people with different ideas, backgrounds, communication styles, and personalities. If you can work with hundreds of kids all summer and a handful of other counselors, what can’t you handle?

If your idea of an ideal first job is clocking in and out of a business that you aren’t passionate about, to work alongside people you’re not crazy about, a job at America’s Finest Summer Camps is not for you. However, if you love the idea of changing lives, singing songs, eating s’mores, swimming, dancing, and connecting with people from all over the world all summer, and getting paid for it, we’re ready for your resume.

Sports At Camp

Sports play a significant role in the lives of boys and girls across the country. Many children are encouraged by parents and teachers to try a sport, make the team, and be the best. Although the intentions are good, many children and teenagers get burnt out quickly due to the pressure put on them by well-meaning adults. They quickly feel obligated to perform instead of finding the joy in the game. And while this is not the case for all children, it is becoming more and more of an issue across the country.

America’s Finest Summer Camps takes a slightly different approach towards kids and sports. Many campers come to camp with a predisposition about what sports they are good at and which ones they aren’t. They assume that since they’ve played soccer since they were 4, they are exclusively soccer players. They don’t realize that although they’re familiar with soccer, it’s not the only thing they are allowed to try and enjoy. America’s Finest Summer Camps encourage athletes to try new things, to branch out from their comfort zones and get active in a sport that is new to them. Gymnasts at home become volleyball players at camp. Basketball players discover their love for golf. Camp gives campers a chance to try new sports that may not be offered in their schools or communities. And of course, for those who are passionate about their sport, camp gives them the entire summer to do what they love, perfect their craft, and surround themselves with other athletes who are passionate about the sport.

Sports at camp are different than sports at home because the pressure is off. Sports are played to teach teamwork and sportsmanship. Sports are played to give campers a healthy way to relieve stress, to get in a good workout, and to practice goal setting. Sports at camp are designed to bring campers together through healthy competition. Participating in sports builds confidence and strengthens relationships, and provides a safe outlet for campers to try new things without judgment or pressure.

Team sports like baseball, basketball, flag football lacrosse, soccer, and softball bring campers together towards a common goal. These sports encourage campers to work together on the field or court, which then translates to working together in other areas of camp life too. Playing a team sport allows campers to connect with other campers whom they may not have met otherwise.

Individual sports like aerobics and figure skating still puts campers in group settings but allows them to focus on their personal skill set, goals, and abilities. No matter what type of sports campers play, they’re always surrounded by people who encourage them to be their best. There are no stressed-out parents to worry about, no crazy coaches screaming from the sidelines. Just friends, playing together for the fun of it.

Campers can engage in sports as much or as little as they want to at camp. Seasoned athletes can work on new skills and improving their current skills, while new athletes can feel safe trying something new surrounded by the encouragement and support of their counselors and fellow campers. America’s Finest Summer Camps have built a reputation for offering an incredible sleepaway camp experience that combines art, music, sports, good food, great friends and the beautiful outdoors in a way that every camper will easily fall in love with.