When you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.
Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Weequahic is one of the most popular activities each summer!
There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.
The healing power of nature
Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.
For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.
Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!
Connecting with the natural world
But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.
New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.
With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Weequahic may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!
The journey is the destination
Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.
Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.
Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!
I wish you could have seen my face the first day of summer camp; my excitement was so contagious I was worried the nurse would put me in quarantine. That being said, my excitement had nothing to do with sports. So far as I was concerned, sports were just another stressful school activity, and to be honest I was initially disappointed when I first saw “basketball” on my daily schedule.
Fast forward a week later, and I was signing up for golf and baseball of my own free will, and even organizing pickup games during rest hour. While I’d dreaded sports at school, they quickly become one of my favorite activities at camp!
So what happened? Well, it might sound a little cheesy, but it didn’t take much camp spirit to change my attitude. Let me explain…
Camp is “different.” In a good way.
Although many of the team sports at camp are familiar from the team sports at school, the experience of participating in sports at camp can be a completely different experience. In a good way, of course.
For campers who thrive on organized sports at school, camp offers a unique opportunity: a chance to hone skills in a more focused environment, and access to incredible coaches who are completely invested in helping their campers have a blast and build their skills. “You mean I get to spend all day long outside playing games?” For sporty campers, the athletics program at camp is paradise.
For campers who might be less inclined towards sports at school, on the other hand, camp offers a different kind of advantage: a chance to try a wide variety of sports in a stress-free environment, without the pressures that come along with the high-stakes atmosphere of organized team competitions at school.
Learning to challenge yourself
I know I wasn’t the only convert; many other campers who would never describe themselves as sporty outside of camp found themselves discovering the more positive, pro-personal-growth side of athletics during their time at camp. If the school environment sucks the fun out of volleyball for you, just try it at camp! It’s a totally different game. Trust me.
When competitive sports let me down at school, I thought it was everyone else’s fault. But getting a chance to chill out and try new things at camp taught me that actually, it wasn’t anybody’s fault; I just needed to relax and learn to be okay with winning some days and losing on others. You know, just like life.
Camp is a great environment to try new things
Regardless of a camper’s feelings towards sports at school, the number one difference that camp has to offer is this: variety.
At camp, it’s not a question of fitting a sport or two around academics; it’s a question of fitting as many sports as you can imagine into a single day! Roller hockey, golf, flag football, lacrosse, cheerleading, baseball, tennis, soccer… and those are just the tip of the iceberg.
The chances for finding a sport that suits you are endless, and if you don’t care for a particular game you aren’t stuck with it; after all, a new one will be starting up next period.
Keep an open mind
So here’s my advice to a new camper who might be anxious about team activities at camp: relax, give it a try, and keep an open mind. The best part of camp is that the scenery is always changing. Even if you decide that an activity isn’t up your alley, you can always sign up for something new next time.
…And once you do discover your favorite sport, it’s just a question of signing up as much as possible!
During the school year, there is no better way to learn about camp than to have a home visit with our camp director, Cole Kelly. These roughly one hour gatherings give each family time to ask any and all questions they have about the camp, learn more about the overall program, and see pictures of our campers’ daily lives.
The goal of each visit is to build a connection between your family and camp. We are going to be caring for your camper for three or six weeks. Therefore, it is vitally important that each family feel comfortable with Cole as he sets the tone, oversees all staff hiring, and is an integral part in each camper’s experience. And, when parents call during the summer, Cole will be the person calling them back to answer questions.
Another reason for the home visit is answer all the questions that arise. What is the daily program like? How do you select, hire and train your staff? What are the campers in my child’s age group like? These questions, and many more, are asked in the comfort of your own home and with (or without) your camper present.
If you are interested in learning more about CW, please call us to speak. If after learning more you’d like a home visit, we’ll be happy to schedule a time when Cole and stop by to learn more about your family.
So what makes a great summer camp experience for your child? Awesome friends, a ton of fun activities and great memories, but most of all an amazing group of staff members. The counselors we hand pick to join our staff are really what makes the camp experience that much better for campers. But what draws counselors in to the Weequahic family? Let’s ask some of our new and returning staff members to find out!
Camp: “Sidney, this is your second summer. It’s great to have you back! What brought you back to CW?”
Sidney (Junior Girls): “I had an incredible all around experience last summer, so I had to come back for another. I was also really excited to see returning staff who have become some of my best friends. And, of course, I can’t forget the awesome campers here!”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you had such a great time. Tell us what your favorite part of this experience has been?”
Sidney: “I would have to say watching and getting to know the kids and staff has been an incredible experience. Forming the awesome relationships that make up the Weequahic family has been great too.”
Camp: “And what have you learned this summer?”
Sidney: “I’ve learned a lot being here; especially patience, how to work well with many different types of people, leadership, and how much the little things truly matter.”
Camp: “I would have to agree completely with that statement. One last question for you. What will you miss the most when you leave?”
Sidney: “I will miss waking up every morning and being here at camp with this Weequahic family. This camp truly is a home away from home and it’s because of all of the wonderful people here.”
Camp: “Thank you so much Sidney! Jeremy, same questions for you. What brought you to camp?”
Jeremy (Senior Division): “Well this is my first summer here and what brought me to Weequahic was the fact that I really wanted to do something new, but also fun over the summer. After my first interview I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
Camp: “That’s great! And what has been your favorite part of this experience?”
Jeremy: “I would have to say interacting with all the campers. No two kids are alike, even siblings! You have to approach each one differently which I believe allowed me to grow as a person.”
Camp: “Wow, that’s amazing Jeremy. What have you learned from being here?”
Jeremy: “I’ve learned that attitude is everything. I came into this with an open mind and a positive attitude and it has been the best summer I’ve had in a long time.”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you have enjoyed your time here! Tell us what you will miss most when you leave?”
Jeremy: “I’ll definitely miss the campers and my fellow counselors. They are irreplaceable. I’ll miss my co-co’s because they have gone through this camp experience with me from start to finish and I wouldn’t trade a single one. I’ve built so many great relationships with the campers and their genuine happiness and joy for life gives me energy each day. The first few days without seeing their smiles or hearing their laughs will be pretty tough.”
Camp: “Thank you so much for sharing that with us!”
On behalf of all the counselors and staff members here at Weequahic, we would like to say thank you. Thank you for sending your kids have one of the best experiences of their lives here with us. Thank you for giving all of us a chance to be mentors to your children. We have all learned so much from every camper hear and have truly grown to admire the wonderful people they are growing up to be. It has been an amazing and memorable summer that we will always remember and we wish only the very best to each and every member of the Weequahic family this upcoming year.
Campers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts on stage at Camp Weequahic. You can see campers giggling in groups until they cry, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Even staff members get in on the action, letting their inner child emerge by singing, dancing and playing with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe here, safe to be silly, to use their imaginations and to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers.
Camp Weequahic encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Free time allows campers to explore the grounds and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a bunk or cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.
During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives kids the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side of themselves, kids develop a sense of humor which helps them navigate other areas of their lives. A good sense of humor helps kids to be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life, and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and home life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!
Counselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun and relatable, and are great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance, goof off and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins.)
Kids are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world”, so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Camp Weequahic, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.
In their book True North, Bill George and Peter Sims challenge readers to examine the qualities and influences that have made them great leaders through a series of motivational chapters complemented by interactive surveys. In the survey that follows the first chapter, readers are asked: “During your early years, which people had the greatest impact on you?” This is a very significant question to anyone who either attended camp as a child or who works at a camp as an adult.
It only takes a single summer to influence a camper for a lifetime, but the majority of campers attend summer camp for seven summers or more, which exponentially increases the chances of camp counselors having a lasting impact on their lives. Add the community environment of camp in which campers and staff live together 24 hours a day, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine that each camper’s life is not greatly impacted by at least one member of the camp staff. Such a conclusion is evident by the amount of former campers who state the influence of former staff members as one of the primary reasons they chose to return to camp as camp counselors themselves.
George and Sims challenge readers to “discern passion through life experience.” Such an intense task puts the role of camp counselors into a newperspective. Not only do counselors have the ability to greatly impact a child’s life, but to inspire passion in them through the experiences they provide at camp. This is an interesting concept because it is not one about which most camp staff tend to reflect throughout the summer. Camp is a temporary environment that is structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Combine this with the fast pace of camp, thinking tends to steer in the opposite direction. Yet, many campers –and even counselors– are so influenced by their camp experiences that they take away a passion for camp as well as the traditions and values they are taught there.
When examined from such a perspective, the role of camp counselors becomes so much more than a summer job, whether a staff member spends one summer or many summers at camp. When counselors pack their bags each summer and head off to camp, they are taking on the tremendous responsibility of inspiring children to become so deeply invested in the camp experience. It’s neither a small nor insignificant challenge. Yet the hurdles of living up to such high expectations is exactly what draws so many camp counselors to their summer camp roles each summer—and what makes them return in subsequent summers. In this regard, the campers have as much influence and inspire as much passion in the counselors as the counselors do to them. The two roles are interdependent.
It’s easy to go through one’s daily life without slowing enough to properly contemplate the potential influence each of us has over others. But when the concept of influence is examined through the perspective of camp, it’s very easy to see how little time is needed to influence someone for a lifetime.
Our campers are having a safe and fun summer thanks to all our staff but especially to our Division Heads. Our DH’s are the cream of the crop; they are very experienced with kids and are well respected in their communities. Alicia Willis is no exception and returned to Camp Weequahic this year for her sixth summer with us. Five summers ago, she was a counselor for Jinter girls and a gymnastics coach at Camp Weequahic. Her energy, work ethic, and ability to connect with all the campers make her well known and beloved by everyone at Camp Weequahic. We decided to ask Alicia a few questions to see what makes her time at Camp Weequahic so special.
Camp Weequahic: Hi Alicia. We’ve been lucky to have you with us for six years. We’d love to ask you a few questions about your time at Camp Weequahic. Tell us a little about your background.
Alicia: I am from Canada, born near the American border in the town of Sarnia, Ontario. I recently graduated with a Masters of Social Work. I have two siblings, one older brother and a younger sister. We are extremely close. In my free time I like to walk down to the beach with a good book or watch a movie with the family.
Camp Weequahic: What is your experience working with children?
Alicia: I have worked with children in multiple settings including my church, school, and other community centers in my neighborhood. I have also worked at Camp Weequahic for 6 summers in many roles including bunk counselor for 4 years and coaching gymnastics. I was a division head for Junior girls last summer. I’m excited to work with the Jinters this summer!
Camp Weequahic: We have loved having you for six summers. You have helped make Camp Weequahic the place it is today. What does camp mean to you?
Alicia: It is hard to put into words what Weequahic means to me. Camp is a place where unlikely friendships become strong life long bonds. Weequahic is a place where people can be their true self and all personalities are welcomed. It has quickly become my home for the months of June, July, and August. My home away from home.
Camp Weequahic: Camp is definitely a place to make amazing memories. We have countless examples of lifelong friendships formed at Camp Weequahic, all possible because of staff members like you. What are some of your goals for the summer?
Alicia: I want to be a positive support for the counselors and campers to ensure that the summer will be memorable for all. I am really excited for the new challenge spending time with 5th and 6th grade girls. I started as a counselor for this division, and I am excited to be back with this age group.
Camp Weequahic: We are so excited to have you back with this group. We know you’re doing an amazing job. What is your favorite camp activity?
Alicia: Gymnastics, of course! My first 4 years at camp I was a gymnastics coach and loved every minute of being in the gym. I believe it is the best place to be at camp. If ever someone wants to learn how to fly, the gym is the place to start.
Camp Weequahic. Many of our campers love gymnastics, the gym is always full of campers learning new tricks and skills. Lastly, tell us a fun fact about you.
Alicia: My first language is English, but when I was younger, I learned how to read in French before I could read in English.
Camp Weequahic: Oh wow, that’s really interesting. We love learning the different backgrounds of our staff and campers. Thanks Alicia for talking with us today! We’re excited to see what this summer has in store for us!
A fun summer at Camp Weequahic is only possible because of hard working staff members like Erica Linnell, our dance specialist. Dance is not her only interest; she will be attending medical school this August. We asked Erica to fill out a profile for our readers to show an inside scoop on the background of our talented employees.
Name: Erica Linnell
Role at camp: Dance specialist
Years at camp: 3rd year
Tell us a little about your background.
I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in neuroscience in 2013, and I will be starting medical school at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson this August. I was on the dance team at Vanderbilt, and I was also on a dance competition team for 10 years growing up.
What do you get out of working with children?
Working with children at camp has given me the opportunity to develop better leadership skills and mature as a person. It is a challenging and rewarding experience in that it allows me to really make a difference in the lives of children and help them grow over the course of the summer.
What does camp mean to you?
Camp means family, friendship, community, and development. Camp Weequahic is especially unique in that everyone from the youngest six-seven year old campers to the camp directors becomes a close family where everyone is accepted. We all have the chance to learn something new from each other and grow together as a community.
What are some of your goals for the summer?
This summer I hope to make a difference in the lives of kids and to continue to develop as a leader and caretaker. My goal is to make this one of the best and most fun summers yet for the campers and staff at Camp Weequahic.
Favorite camp activity: Tubing and Ropes Course (other than dance!)
Tell us a Fun Fact about you:
I love to travel and experience new places, especially historical sites. I have traveled to places such as Indonesia, Europe, Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Alaska. My favorite vacation was a safari in Tanzania!
It’s interesting how many times throughout the summer counselors are overheard beginning a sentence with the phrase ‘I never thought I would…’ Working at sleepaway camp is truly a collection of ‘I never thought I would…’ moments. All too often, those are also the remarks that speak for camp itself, because they’re epiphanies from the staff members themselves. Although the “I never thought I would…’ comments are as varied as the counselors, there are a few that consistently come up. From the mouths of the staff members themselves, ‘I never thought I would…’
Make so many new friends
Sure, I came to camp expecting to meet a few new people. But I’ve made dozens of friends this summer from all over the world. I feel closer to some of them than I do to people I’ve known for years. I never imagined that I could grow so close to someone in just a few weeks. I’ve wanted to travel abroad for years, but have been scared of going places where I didn’t know the language or the people. Now I can’t wait to go knowing that my new camp friends are going to be there waiting for me!
Be so enthusiastic about little things
One of the most awesome things about working at summer camp is that even the smallest of details are a big deal. The campers getexcited and I can’t help but feel it too. Going to our favorite activity during the day; getting ready for an evening activity; walking into a meal and seeing that it’s my favorite; telling silly knock-knock jokes in our cabin at night; and, in particular, those moments when I really connect with my campers.
Like working so hard
Camp is hard work! I start early in the morning and end late at night. It’s TOTALLY worth it though! I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Sometimes I forget that this is a job and I’m getting paid. So much happens in one day of camp. At night, I lay in bed and try to remember everything that happened during the day just because I don’t want to forget. I’ve started keeping a journal of my days at camp. This winter, when it’s cold outside and I’m missing camp, I’m going to read it. I’m so glad I decided to work at camp instead of accept an internship. This is SO much better than an office! Now I know I want to spend the rest of my life working with kids.
Talk a camper through something difficult
There are a lot of activities at camp and some of them require courage—especially if you’re a kid. I can’t imagine having the guts to maneuver a ropes course thirty feet in the air when I was ten. I really admire so many of my campers for trying brave and adventurous activities. The best part is being able to give the ones who are a little scared that extra push that they need to take on the adventure. There is nothing more gratifying than a smile and a high-five from a camper who just did something they thought they never could and knowing that I helped them do it.
Live so much in the moment
At camp, it’s simultaneously easy and impossible to forget about how short my time here really is.Every day just flies by, which is also reminder that the end of camp is one day closer. I find myself really wishing that I could slow down time, and I’ve started making an extra effort every day to savor each and every moment of camp. Doing so has made me very conscious of how much time I spend in my everyday life planning and thinking ahead. It’s really nice to keep things in the now. I hope to apply my new focus on living in the moment when I return home at the end of the summer, and stop spending so much time thinking about tomorrow.
Become so attached to my campers
I never imagined that I could become so close to a group of kids. I came to camp to be their leader. But it’s so much more than that. It’s impossible not to be attached after spending so much time with them at activities, at meals, in the cabin and getting to know them one-on-one. It’s blows my mind to think that I’ve become so attuned to their individual personalities in such a short amount of time. The summer isn’t even over, and I already know that I’m going to miss them.
Do you know what makes Camp Weequahic so special besides our campers? Our staff. Camp Weequahic takes great pride in the amazing staff we assemble each summer and the enthusiasm that they bring to camp. Orientation for the Summer 2014 staff begins tomorrow, and we can are confident that this is one of the most awesome groups of people we have ever assembled. Campers, it’s going to be an incredible summer!
To insure that our staff is one of the best, we have them arrive early at camp so that we can spend some time teaching them everything they need to know about Camp Weequahic and you (our campers) prior to your arrival to insure that they’re ready to help you have the best summer ever from the moment you step onto campus.
We, at Camp Weequahic, believe that every summer should be even better than the last, and our staff orientation is a critical part of that philosophy. Amongst the staff of 2014 will be faces that we know you are counting down the days to see as well as some new ones who we know you’re going love. Our 2014 staff members have expressed many times over how excited they are about spending the summer at Camp Weequahic working with our campers. The only thing missing is you! We’ll ALL be ready and waiting for your arrival in just 9 more days.