For months now, we’ve been telling you to expect some fantastic surprises
during WEEK 7 of camp. We have been deliberating on what would make
this final camp week truly unique.
We decided to look in our suggestion box and we noticed that lots of parents
have asked us to do something (anything!) to help their kids be more
successful in school. That's it! What better purpose for our
last week of camp than to help you get great grades in September? So
we are pleased to announce our . . .
While we were getting ready to start a new blog page for
winter, I had the idea to update the format a bit. What
do you think of the new look? Most of you probably don't
visit our activities page anymore but you'll see some
changes there too if you look. A lot of theindividual
been updated with pictures from last summer. Who knows,
you might be internet famous!
In other exciting news, we announced the plans for this
summer's Weekend Adventures! All the information
including dates, day trip destinations, and downloadable
pdf can be found on ourWeekend
If you don't already know, Weekend Adventures are
weekend-long camping trips for campers who want to spend
more time with their CK-NJ friends instead of going
as many of you already know, this past weekend was our 25th camp reunion.
Those that were able to make it met up at the Ice Vault in Wayne, NJ for a
truly epic afternoon! We had about 250 people in attendance. Many campers,
parents and camp staff were ice skating, eating pizza, catching up and
sharing memories from the summer. We also had a few special things
At this time of year, we at the camp office spend
quite a bit of time looking back at last summer and
evaluating how it went. Not only do we have our own
notes and observations, but we get some amazing feedback
from our campers, camper parents, and staff. It’s great
to read about everyone’s favorite memories and what they
liked best about camp. Our camp families overwhelmingly
rave about how strong our staff is and how they love the
overall camp experience. We also get lots of opinions,
suggestions, and questions about our constantly evolving
camp program. Right now, the what jumps out at me are
all the things our people have to say about activities.
die-hard camp fans have to admit now that summer is
truly over. Blairstown just had a couple of nights
of hard frost. The school year doesn't feel new
any longer (hope you got some good teachers because
they're yours 'til June!). And playing outside in
daylight until 9PM is a distant memory.
summer IS over. But, wait! CAMP itself isn't
over because we're going to gather soon for our
2015 CK-NJ Reunion! Invitations have been
sent to our campers from last summer and we're hoping
the staff who live close enough will be joining us.
The reunion is always fun and we look forward to seeing
you on November 15. We'll have a special CK-NJ
reunion gift for you and you'll learn what the new bunk
group theme will be for 2016.
In the meantime, we are also getting excited about
Summer 2016. Thinking about summer all the time is
something that camp directors do. It takes a lot
of time, planning and work to bring together all of the
people and ideas that make summer camp the experience we
are all so excited about.
Sign My Petition to Extend Summer an Extra Two Months!
not passively accept the end of summer! Like many of you
out there, I believe that summer is just too darn short!
Just because the leaves are changing colors and the
calendar says so, doesn't mean we have to believe it's
autumn. And what about spring - who needs it? We
could easily skip it without too many people even
noticing. Sign my petition for a shorter school
year and a longer summer!
I guess that's what we
decided because we didn't end up writing any blogs during the summer.
We're having too much fun to stop and write. So we're making this blog
about "the rest of the year".
Camp directors have a lot of jokes
about that phrase: the rest of the year. That's because people outside
of the camp world often think that we don't do anything from September
through May. They imagine that either we have other jobs or that we
just hang out playing foosball and making s'mores.
Camp is right around the corner and I can barely contain
my excitement! It's so hard to concentrate and get
Top Ten Reasons I Can’t Wait for CK 2015
10- Rock of July-I missed the first half last year because
I was taking my CPR recertification!When I finally got there, all I heard
from everyone was how awesome it was so far.I am really looking forward to being a
part of the whole event this summer!
Many Seasons of Camp Sign-Ups Summer camp takes place in . . . the summer, of
course!But, as you know, a few
of us work all year getting ready for an awesome camp season.One part of that work is spreading the word about our camp, talking
to interested families, giving tours, signing up campers, etc.
used to be (in the “good old days”) that most families signed their kids up
for camp in the fall or early winter.That was the season of camp sign-ups.Well, things have changed and now the season of camp sign-ups is very
long, practically the whole year!
with this change, we have noticed that each family seems to have its
preferred season to think about camp and make a decision for the summer.We still have those “super early birds”, the ones that are signing up
for next year’s camp before they’ve even washed their camper’s clothes the
day they step off the bus.Then
we have the “autumn early birds” who want to have their summer plans --
vacation and camp -- finalized before Thanksgiving.
They are followed
by what we sometimes call the “school vacation panic birds”, who suddenly
become energized about camp decisions right after the long school holiday.
. . .
Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and Frito Pie
If you’ve been following news in the camp world
(and who doesn’t?) then you know that Hillary Clinton recently spoke to
about 2,000 assembled camp professionals at the Tri-State Camp Conference in
Atlantic City.Katie represented
Campus Kids at this auspicious occasion.
As often happens in these
types of situations, there can be lots of positive spin-off after the main
event.For the camp world in
general, this has been wonderful publicity to reinforce the importance of
camp in children’s lives and the educational and social benefits that
For Campus Kids-NJ, we’ve already had a surprising benefit!Camps were asked to submit some of their favorite traditions, songs,
games and foods as part of the celebration.Of course, we couldn’t resist sharing our Frito Pie recipe.And guess what happened?
Someone on Hillary’s staff shared it with Bill, who as you may know is an
enthusiastic eater, and he liked it so much that he sent it up to the people
at Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and now it’s going to be an official
USA Recipeand one of the recommendations for
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act! So put on
your CK-NJ t-shirts, kids, and get ready to chow down on authentic Frito Pie
at an upcoming school lunch.Be
sure to tell the lunch ladies that you are an original CK-NJ camper who has
eaten this delightful food where it tastes best: Campus Kids!They’ll probably give you an extra scoop.
If you’d like the
original CK-NJ Frito Pie recipe,
Hope your spring is off to a good start (despite the snow) and that
you are looking forward to summer!
March 19, 2015
Farewell, Winter I'm
going to sneak in this final blog of the winter. Even though we've
found many ways to complain about the harsh weather, I'm still glad to live
where we experience four distinct seasons and I wouldn't want to give up any
of them, even winter. So I say "farewell" with a mixture of relief and
Winter's end means not only that we are coming closer to
summer camp season, but that the rest of the world -- outside
our camp office -- starts to think about summer almost as much
as we do! In particular, those folks who have not made their camp
plans, both camper families and staff, are realizing that it's time to make
So what happened this winter and what comes next?
Well, we had an unexpectedly high number of camp tours, despite the fact
that it seemed to snow every weekend. And we attended a bunch of camp
fairs. We also got some great work done with staff, both our
leadership team and our staff assistants. We continued to do research
and build up our resource library for all of our camp activities. We
reviewed staff applications and references and conducted interviews for both
new and returning staff who are in the U.S. as well as other countries.
We attended some great professional development activities, including the
Tri-State Camp Conference that ended just a few hours ago. And we did
a lot of marketing, which for us means finding the best ways to tell folks
about the value of camp in general and Campus Kids specifically; lots of
website activity, social media and advertising.
This week we started to send
out the introduction letters to the campers either
coming back to camp this summer or coming for the first
time! When a camper enrolls, one of the first things we
send to him or her is a “welcome to” or a “welcome back”
questionnaire to get to know him or her a little better,
and to then have a brief introduction article in the
Sundial about each camper! We’ve started getting our
first ones back in the mail, which means we’re gearing
up to meet the first round of campers in the next issue
of The Sundial! One of these forms came in the most
COLORFUL and CREATIVELY decorated envelope we’ve ever
seen! This is a picture of the awesome surprise we found
in the mail, and we were sure to be very careful when we
opened it. After all, we couldn’t just rip it open like
a plain white envelope!
weekend, we held our first meeting of the entire CK-NJ
2015 Leadership Team.Because
our team is spread out over the US and England, we met
online using Skype and Google docs to take notes.We
spent over two hours going over our new leadership
structure and making plans for the summer.
time I blogged I was coming back from an EPIC
adventure in Fort Lee, where I learned a few new
tips on what great customer service looks. Since
then I’ve taken a few train rides into the city for
some camp conferences, been working hard in the
office finding new resources to give counselors new
ideas for activities this summer, and also working
on updating our “Meet the Leadership Team” page on
is our 25th summer! We started our camp in 1991 on our
original Hackettstown campus, living all in one dorm,
having about a dozen counselors and between 35 and 70
campers at a time. We introduced a new combination of
features to the summer camp world: weekday sleep-away
camp, daily individual choice of activities, low-key
competitive philosophy, operating a traditional camp
program on a school campus that was close to home. We
countered conventional camp wisdom by allowing our kids
to make a call home at night and letting parents visit
when they wanted to (though very few did). We also
attracted a more diverse group of kids than was typical
for a private camp.
everyone! We hope you had a wonderful
holiday season and a happy New Year's Eve!
We've been back to work for a couple of weeks
now and we think things are back to normal.
When we figure out what normal means, I'm sure
we will write a very lengthy blog
getting ready to introduce the leadership team
(watch out for the upcoming issue of the
"Sundial"). This year we will be meeting
with the team online for training and planning
purposes. I'm really excited to hear all
the ideas this new team will bring to camp.
Today I’m back in the office after spending yesterday at
an EPIC camp workshop in Fort Lee! I use the word epic
not only because I thought it was a great experience and
I learned a lot, but because it’s also an acronym in the
camping world meaning Emerging Professionals in Camping.
At the workshop, I found myself surrounded by people
around my age who are also just starting out in the
professional world of camping and who want to understand
more about camp in general. These workshops and
conferences that are organized by members of the ACA
(American Camping Association), provide an invaluable
opportunity to come together from all different camping
backgrounds and learn about new strategies, to share
ideas, and to collaborate with individuals who simply
just “get camp.”
The 2014 reunion weekend is finally here! We can't
wait to see you all on Sunday! And by all of you, I mean
the current campers and their families from the summer
of 2014. Sorry, but we don't have enough pizza and soda
for everyone from the past 25 summers. If you
haven't submitted the RSVP, it's not too late! You
can sign up anytime this weekend. We want everyone
Reunion information can be found here.
and staff refer to the camp they attend as “my camp”, which is exactly as it
should be. Camp belongs to every one of us. Camp is our second
home where each person feels accepted and loved and where each is completely
comfortable. For Campus Kids-NJ we are particularly aware of this as
we begin celebrating our upcoming 25th summer. Campus and staff alumni
from across the years still know that they have a place at camp, that they
could come back and feel like they’ve never left. That’s “camp
Last night I got to experience another wonderful expression
of camp fellowship at a retirement dinner held by the American Camp
Association in Pennsylvania (called ACA-Keystone Regional Section).
The career of our friend and 28-year executive director of ACA-KRS, Michael
Chauveau, was celebrated at a very nice dinner that, of course, featured a
‘smores buffet for dessert (complete with little campfires for roasting the
The tea kettle has been whistling more times
than not this month as the temperatures fall and
snowflakes begin to form. Tom and I kicked off
the staff assistant interviews last week,
meaning we have a little over a month to go
before any decisions are made on the final team.
During these interviews, one question we’ve
asked is “Who from camp do you consider to be a
role model or has made a positive impact in your
life?” Although the names of the individual
counselors vary, the consistency in which
they’re described is almost uncanny. Each
counselor made them feel safe, made them laugh,
and provided an environment that allowed campers
to take risks, being taught that the success of
the experience has different meanings for each
each also described this sense of mutual respect
that the counselors dished out, making the
campers feel more like peers rather than
children that needed a babysitter.
The most important thing we do for our campers is staff
recruitment, hiring, training and supervision.It’s a four-part process that takes place 12
months a year and determines, more than anything else,
the quality of the camp experience for our children.It’s what makes camp work logistically and, more
importantly, it’s what gives camp its heart and soul.
cycle starts by defining the positions and
revising/writing the job descriptions.This fall we’ve made some changes to several key
positions in camp, which are very exciting.We also spend a lot of time in the fall talking
to staff from last summer, including inviting back those
who we know would be awesome returning staff members.Every returning staff members must be able to
articulate why they want to come back, what they will
contribute to camp as a returner, and how the campers
will benefit by their presence.We help each returning staff member develop goals
for next summer, believing that this is the best way to
maintain motivation and focus on the needs of our
Staff recruitment, of course, depends
these days on Internet advertising, but many of our best
new staff members find us by referral from their friends
who are already on the staff.Our recruitment materials try to convey how truly
amazing this job is while also making clear that it is
hard work and requires a selfless focus on the needs of
our campers.Many staff are attracted to our camp because of
its philosophy, our amazing facilities at Blair Academy,
and the fact that their job includes being both a bunk
counselor and an activity instructor.They have a lot of responsibility and variety in
their work. (Having weekends off doesn't hurt the