Staff Orientation has been amazing and the weather has been spectacular. With counselors now assigned to cabins, we are focused on learning all about our wonderful campers, learning the Laurel South culture, readying the cabins and program areas and bonding as a cohesive unit. Camp looks great. In fact, the only thing that could make it look better is the faces of 400 campers arriving this Thursday!!! We can’t wait to see you!
For camp directors, July and August are hectic, exciting, fun-filled and challenging months.
So what do we do the rest of the year? The question should be: What don’t we do? Camp directors work as hard in the “off-season” as they do during actual camp sessions. Some of it is visible to campers, parents and staff members – but much of it no one ever sees.
The old days – when camp directing was a summer job for teachers – are long gone. Camps today run 24/7/365. I know I speak for my fellow camp directors when I say: We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here are just a few tasks that demand our attention, beginning the moment the last bus pulls out of the parking lot.
Construction begins on new projects we, and many camps, do each year. There are buildings to be built, courts to be resurfaced, roofs to be re-shingled…the list is endless. This is exciting stuff: planning, building and getting new facilities, cabins and program areas ready for the following summer! Returning campers and staff love “being in the know,” and hearing what’s new and improved for the coming season.
Camper recruiting and retention. Working with families is a fun process. We arrange meetings, talk by phone and email, get together – and we do it more than once. Camp/family relationships are very important, and ongoing. You may be surprised to learn that this winter, we’re already talking with families about their 2012 plans.
Camping conferences. These are where we learn about everything from insurance regulations and ADHD research to cool new foods and safe new beds. We meet our colleagues, share ideas, and get re-energized about the upcoming summer.
Leadership meetings. Like many camps, our full leadership staff gets together during the year. We review the past season, prepare for the next, and constantly take stock of who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Program planning. We spend 10 months getting ready for a 2-month special event. From scheduling trips to making sure the daily routine does not become a rut, we plan every detail. Longer-term planning includes major building projects.
Meals. The food service calendar is incredibly complex. From the first dinner in late May for 25 people through late June when 550 campers and counselors suddenly need three meals a day, snacks, canteen, OD snacks, cookouts and more… the food service staff is crucial. Training the staff, planning menus and getting meal counts right takes a ton of off-season “prep work.”
Everything else. Here are a few of the thousands of items: making a laundry plan. Writing and sending out newsletters. Reserving buses. Distributing DVDs. Revising our staff handbooks and training sessions. Renewing all necessary certifications. Updating technology. Tracking medical mailings. Writing blogs.
Our goal as camp directors is to control as much as we can when campers and staff are home – so that when they’re at camp we can devote as much time, energy and care to them as we can.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a phone call to answer. An email to respond to. And a potentially great new counselor waiting to be interviewed.
Director, Laurel South
How would you describe the essential elements of a summer camp? Do the adventures of spending days with peers, learning new skills, trying new activities, bonfires and skits, great counselors— all the fun of the whole experience— first come to mind? These are definitely important elements of summer camp from a camper’s perspective, but there are a lot of other elements that have to be in place for a camp to be successful year after year. Have you ever wondered what it takes to set the scene and develop communities where good times can take place? I have.
The camp experience is part of the heritage and culture of the United States, and for generations, American families have sent their children to camp—about 10 million children last year alone! As you can guess, each camp has it’s own story and distinct cultural and physical environment, so each camp experience is unique.
The ACA is the professional organization that educates camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, program quality, and the health and safety of campers and staff. The ACA also establishes guidelines for policies, procedures, and practices when running a camp. Each year, camp professionals gather for a national conference to discuss their work. Last year’s conference title alone, 20/20 Toolbox: Tomorrow’s Camps, Today’s Realities
The staff at Camp Laurel South works all year to make sure that facilities are maintained and prepared for when camp is in session. There are so many details to take care of— from making sure that buildings are cared for, to improving camp facilities, adding or updating equipment and ensuring that health and safety codes are met. Camp owners and managers also have to keep up with changing demographics and expectations from their clientele. So long before campers arrive, camp staff are learning about new practices, meeting up to date regulations, putting current ideas into practice and working towards providing the best of the best.
There are activities and events to plan, qualified counselors to recruit, ideas for even more fun than last year to implement and new campers to meet around the country. As camper’s needs and tastes change over the years, camp staff are dedicated to making each year as special as the last–and while traditions are an important part of camp life there is lots of room for fresh programs too.
Here’s some of what’s happening at Camp Laurel South. . .and what’s new for 2011. First things first. After the addition of a ten court Tennis Complex in 2010, and new Dining Hall and Kitchen in 2009, all the sports fields have been lighted for 2011 so campers can play games (Soccer, Basketball, Football and more) after the sun goes down. Laurel South has also upgraded its watercraft fleet with two brand new Mastercraft Pro Star 197 Championship Tour Ski Boats and a brand new 16-Person San Pan Fishing Pontoon Boat. Guess what – we also underground irrigated all our lawns and fields so we’ll be Laurel South Green all summer long!
We have so much going on…it’s hard to believe there’s only a week left of camp!! What an incredible summer it’s been…the weather has been nearly perfect and everywhere we look, from the ballfields to the waterfront, the stables to adventure, the theater to the arts, this has truly been a magical summer! What’s ahead? Our amazing theater performances…intercamp games and tournaments…exciting dance and gymnastics shows…and let’s not forget Funtown!! With one week left, we’re starting to reflect on the wonderful memories we’ve made so far… Still lots to do…and the beat goes on!
How fast time passes when you’re having an amazing time! Wednesday evening, we were all captivated by the sensational performance of Beauty and the Beast, and we can’t wait to watch our campers in Grease tonight! Yesterday was our final “S” Day of the session…everyone had an awesome day at Funtown…going on exciting rides like Dragon’s Descent, playing games to win prizes, eating treats and enjoying time with their friends. Today and tomorrow are our final program days of the session and what incredible culminating activities are planned: Dance and Gymnastics shows, the Zip Line and Giant Swing at Adventure…5th Grade Day Trip…the action goes on and on. Soon we’ll have our final Banquet and Council Fire before Monday’s Departure Day…we can’t wait to meet the many families joining us on that special day, and we don’t look at it as the end of the session, but rather as the beginning of the countdown to Laurel South summer of 2011!
It’s been an amazing week at Camp Laurel South! After completing our first week of program, yesterday was our first “S” day. Our 8th Graders are at Acadia National park having an amazing time. The 9th Graders just returned from their whitewater rafting trip as part of their Adventure Bound Experience. The rest of camp had a later wake up followed by our incredible “S” day breakfast of chocolate chip, M&M or blueberry pancakes, scones and cheese omelets…our Saco and Kino campers had the best time at Splashtown Water Park while our Allagash and Baxter campers enjoyed a cool beach party on Crescent Lake and our 7th graders headed off to Sparetime for an afternoon of bowling. Today we are back into regular program (baseball, basketball, tennis, waterskiing, archery, ceramics, horseback riding and so much more!) and, by tonight, our 8th and 9th graders will be back with their summer family. The schedule is packed full of fun. We can’t wait for the fireworks this Sunday! The weekend calls for magnificent Maine weather. The fun is non-stop in Casco!!
Summer 2010 is finally here and it’s hard to believe we’ve been in Casco for nearly a week!!! We had an amazing opening day as the staff enthusiastically welcomed our First Session campers. Old friendships were rekindled and new ones began as the Laurel South family finally gathered as one. Friday was our annual Moose Stomp Day…schedules were created…s’mores were devoured…we bumper tubed on Crescent Lake…and we concluded our day with our Council Fire celebrating fun and friendship. On Saturday, full activity and program began. The ballfields, courts, waterfront, theater and Challenge Course were alive with activity. Our 7th grade girls just returned from an amazing camping trip and our 8th graders and CIT’s head out tomorrow on their Acadia and White Water Rafting trips. Intercamps and Tournaments began today and tomorrow is our first “S” day of the summer. The action never ends at Laurel South!
Just about 15 days until we’re all together again on the shores of Crescent Lake. We’ve been in Maine for about three weeks with 20 counselors who joined us from all over the United States who are part of our Pre Camp Crew. Along with our contractors (builders, roofers, hard court painters, electricians, landscapers, turf and field specialists, boat mechanics and others) these counselors are weed-whacking, cleaning up and getting everything ready for your arrival.
It’s a lot like regular camp now….except there are no campers yet. We get up…have breakfast…then have four hours of activity in the morning (working on the grounds, setting up all the sports equipment, moving picnic and ping pong tables, raking leaves, getting the barns ready, etc.) Then we have lunch…followed by more activity (setting up docks, sorting staff shirts, setting new routes on the Climbing Towers) until it’s time to…eat dinner. After dinner the counselors get a good break, play volleyball, take a swim, work out in the Fitness Center and enjoy Maine.
In a few days, all the pre-season training will begin. Inner Quest from Virginia comes to certify the adventure staff; swim staff update their waterfront certifications; outdoor trippers head all over Maine and New Hampshire to scout our camping trips; equestrian staff will break-in our ponies and horses…and it will all come together.
Dagni and I love being up here at this time of year….but we can’t wait for you to get here. Tonight we have our annual Pre Camp bar-b-que at The Pines to thank these awesome counselors for the hard work.
Get psyched! We’ll see you in Casco before you know it!!
We’re so excited to begin the May countdown to camp. The staff is hired…the fields are green…the new Tennis Complex is just about finished…and we’re getting ready to start moving beds and cubbies in anticipation of arrival day. Believe it or not, our first group of “Pre Camp Staff” head to Maine in a couple weeks to work on opening preparations.
Max has been busy in the Gainesville office communicating with the 200 plus counselors and staff members who begin their journey soon from all over the country…and the world…to Casco. We have counselors coming from more than 50 colleges throughout the United States.
Starting in early June, Laurel South becomes a beehive of activity as staff begin to arrive for departmental training programs. Counselors working in Archery, Equestrian, Waterskiing and Riflery will join us on Crescent Lake to fine tune their skills. We’ll also be running our lifeguard certification program. In early June, the Adventure Staff (Outdoor Tripping and Ropes) join us for an orientation program with Inner Quest and SOLO Wilderness Expeditions, two groups from Virginia and New Hampshire which have been leading our adventure orientation programs for 15 years! And a few days before the counselors arrive, the Campus Leaders come to work with me, Dagni, Max and Laz to get everything ready for Staff Orientation
We’ll check in from time to time to keep you updated with news from camp.
In the meantime, start laying out your clothes and gear for Summer 2010. We’re psyched and can’t wait to see you soon!
As always, Dagni joins me in sending warmest and best regards,