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.
Every Friday night at Camp Weequahic, we enjoy a tradition that has occurred since our founding in 1953 – Campfire.
After a great day at CW, campers and staff don a white shirt and walk with their bunkmates to the beach. Once there, everyone is offered the choice of two 10-minute services: a Shabbat or a non-denominational service. Normally, camp splits evenly between these two options and many will change which they visit each week.
At the end of these short services, everyone gets together around the campfire which Cole, our camp director, lights. As the fire begins to burn, Cole spends ten minutes talking about one of camp values: Gratitude, Attitude and Courage. He uses stories, quotes, and poems to make everyone think a bit more about the topic of the week and get them excited to practice that value more in their own lives.
Campers then enjoy the awards part of the evening. The kids who have stood out over the previous week are recognized by all of our Program Heads in front of the entire camp. Then, it’s the Division Heads’ turn to give our their own awards – Camper of the Week and Honor Bunk.
DSC In a new and already loved tradition, Honor Bunk (the cleanest bunk of the week for each division) gets to come forward and spin the Prize Wheel. While there are a number of fun prizes available, everyone seems to want “Walk the Plank” and the chance to make a senior staff member dive into the lake in front of the whole camp – with their cloths on!
At the end of Campfire, our photographers show a fun slideshow of all the best photos of the week for the entire camp. Kids get a chance to cheer for one another when their smiling face comes across the screen.
Once the slideshow is over and the only light is from the campfire and the stars and moon above, we joinarms and sing Taps and Alma Mater with our CITs leading the whole way. Then, as campers and staff are dismissed, everyone enjoys homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk before heading off to their bunks and bed.
Campfire is a fantastic tradition involving laughter, community, and a bit of learning in a beautiful and memorable setting. We are thrilled to continue this deep tradition at Camp Weequahic. Hope to see you around the campfire soon!
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!
Whether you’re a new or returning staff member who is preparing to work at camp this summer, the decibel level of those first few days at camp are always a bit above what you anticipate. Of course, we hear noise every day. But camp noise is different than other noise. A camp staff member once relayed a memory of her first summer at camp. She recalled the shock of the day the campers arrived. ‘It was suddenly very loud,’ she said. ‘They don’t prepare you for that at orientation. Then again, there is probably no way they could.’ She is right. There is no way to describe what several hundred excited children who have been waiting for a moment for ten months sounds like. It’s certainly not noise pollution, though. It much more closely resembles environmentally friendly noise. It’s the noise of excitement, happiness and anticipation.
A strange phenomenon happens with environmentally friendly noise. You not only expect it, but anticipate hearing it every day. You don’t even realize how much you look forward to camp noise until the end of camp. When the buses pull away on the last day of camp, the quietness that settles over the campus is one of the saddest moments of the summer. You realize the kids are gone, and the summer really is over. Even after you return home, you find yourself wishing to hear the sounds that defined your summer–bugle calls to signal daily activities, constant cheering and laughter, mealtimes with hundreds of other people. Everyday noise just seems like noise pollution.
We look forward to celebrating our 62nd summer at Camp Weequahic starting this June. Founded in 1953 by an incredible family of educators, CW was built to be an amazing community in which children can learn, laugh, and grow. And, while CW has changed a little over time, we continue to focus on one thing: caring for our campers. We would like to tell you about a great tradition that helps us accomplish that goal.
Following dinner and our 45-minute ‘Free Play’ time, all of our campers and counselors gather at the Flagpole in the middle of Main Campus. Lined up from youngest to oldest, our campers and staff learn about the upcoming evening activities and get a quick preview of the following day’s fun. Before we move to EA, however, we open the floor to Nominations.
Nominations are made by staff members to recognize campers who have done something that was gracious, helped someone else, and/or was courageous. Maybe someone got a cheer going for a friend trying to successfully climb the 50’ climbing tower for the first time. Maybe a camper was found cleaning up a program area at the end of an activity without being asked. Perhaps a bunk created a colorful thank you note and left it for the cleaning staff.
Whoever is nominated gets to come forward to help lower the flag that evening. We normally have 8 to 12 kids, and the older campers help the youngest to lower the flag while the camp stands quietly.
We are excited to end the day as a whole camp celebrating campers who have done something remarkable. We love ‘catching’ our kids doing something great and pointing this out to everyone at camp!
Time can sometimes be the biggest paradox. Take the distance between the beginning and end of camp, for instance. Even though it still seems like just yesterday we were welcoming the buses for the start of Summer 2012, it also seems like it has taken forever for this coming weekend to get here. We’ve been counting the days since we said goodbye last summer and have spent the winter putting together the biggest and best Camp Weequahic summer ever! And speaking of that time paradox…
Even though we’ve been here for a few weeks now, making a few tweaks to the campus as well as meeting and getting to know our staff while preparing them to meet our campers, the time has flown…until now. Now that we’re down to those last TWO DAYS before the start of camp, it seems like the clock has stopped again. We’re ready. The staff is ready. The campus is ready. Now all we need is our campers! And so we wait…We wish we had a magic button that we could press that would speed up time to Saturday and then press it again to slow the summer down once all of our campers have arrived.
As long as there has been summer camp, archery has been a part of it. Although the amount of available activities at summer camp has grown immensely since the early days of camp, archery still remains popular. It’s a classic outdoor sport that doesn’t require the stamina or athletic prowess of, say, soccer, but a good eye, good aim, and precision when firing. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in being able to see yourself move closer to achieving a goal. It’s not always apparent that your swim stroke has gotten better since the beginning of the summer, or that your baseball pitch has improved over the past couple of weeks. Although your counselors and friends may compliment you and tell you that you’re better than you used to be, there isn’t really anything tangible for you to immediately be able to tell for yourself. With archery, however, there is a target with a bull’s-eye on it. It’s not at all unusual for campers to begin the summer not even being able to hit the target and then, as the summer moves along, hit and then inch closer and closer to the bull’s-eye. The closer they get to that bull’s-eye, the more arrows campers want to shoot.
It seems like a small goal, and it is really. However, it’s still an exercise in goal setting. Hitting the bull’s-eye requires focus, and being focused requires you to survey your surroundings, determine where you need to aim, and then focus on the details as you attempt to hit your target. Being successful at archery requires this same effort from everyone. Campers have no advantage if they run faster, jump higher, or throw harder. Every camper enters the archery range on a level playing field with the same potential for hitting a bull’s-eye. Some get lucky, some work hard. Either way, archery promises a path to success for anyone who is willing to set a goal, take aim, and work hard. Perhaps that is why after decades of being a summer camp staple, archery remains one of the most popular activities.
Have you noticed subtle pleasant but odd changes since your children returned from summer camp? Have you peeked into your son’s room and noticed that he made his bed? Were you tempted to take your daughter’s temperature the other night because she volunteered to clean up her room? Maybe they just seem calmer or are better about sticking to routines about which you went hoarse more than once preaching to them before you put them on that bus or plane headed to their favorite summer zip code. Perhaps they’re better about saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ or spend less time all out at war with each other over little things like the remote control and whether they’re going to watch The Voice or Modern Family. Did they really mature that much at summer camp?
Not that you’re complaining. It’s a nice, unexpected bonus. When you initially enrolled them for camp, you were thinking it would be good for them to spend their summer working on arts and crafts projects, learning how to sail, going swimming, doing the silly things that kids do at camp, and playing sports instead of using up your entire cell phone data plan during twelve hour texting marathons or playing the Kinect so much that you can no longer tell whether you’re watching a video game or an actual television program. You thought, ‘Maybe they’ll even make a few new friends.’ But, oddly, it’s the smaller things they seem to be bringing away from their summer camp experiences that you find yourself enjoying the most.
Sure, you read all about the benefits of sending children to summer camp before you decided to send them. But you didn’t allow yourself to actually have expectations that your children would come home friendlier, more dutiful, more flexible, able to manage their time better, and generally happier–in short, more mature. Those are the special changes that you enjoy seeing and that make summer camp that much more valuable your eyes.