Camp Laurel South Blog

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Spirit Days!!

SDWhen we woke up on Wednesday morning, no one had any idea that Spirit Days would break.  In the next few hours, Spirit Days broke in stunning fashion. It was amazing!  For the next two days, the Blue Space Rangers and Green Cowboys squared off in the friendliest of competitions.  The ball fields, waterfront and all areas in between were filled with Laurel South Spirit and Pride.  At the end of the two day contest, we reunited as one, because, as the cheer goes: “Blue and Green are one big team!” _U2C6136 At the conclusion of our Closing Ceremonies, we were able to have the most amazing fireworks display in all of Maine!!!  While we were disappointed to not have them on the 4th of July, it was an awesome way to end Spirit Days!

After a well-deserved late wake up, we are right back into our “B” Day schedule.  We have two separate Tennis Intercamps today and a Climbing competition hosted by our friends at Camp Laurel.  Tomorrow is another “S” Day which means our talented campers will amaze us with the Camper Variety show followed by the famous Laurel South Carnival!  Sunday, our 8th Graders are off to North Conway for an exciting two day, one night trip to the White Mountains.

It’s been a memorable summer already, and it just keeps getting better and better!

The Action Never Stops!

IMG_4238What an amazing “S” Day we had yesterday!  The majority of camp traveled to Canobie Lake Park and we all had an awesome time!  The rides, the games, the fun and, most importantly, the time spent with our cabinmates and counselors couldn’t be beat.  Meanwhile, our incredible group of CIT’s had a Magical Mystery Bus Tour that took them to such exciting destinations as Hacker’s Hill, Quaker Ridge, Old Orchard Beach and Old Port, Portland.  They truly had a wonderful time seeing the beauty of Maine while reminiscing about all of the memories created over their lengthy camp careers!

IMG_4185Today’s “A” Day has been packed with excitement as well.  We had our first ever group venture to LL Bean in Freeport to take a Fly Fishing class.  Advanced Golf hit the local links early today for a round.  And Intercamp Games and Tournaments are in full swing.

It’s hard to believe we are reaching the half-way point of the session, but we’re excited there are so many wonderful times ahead.  The action never stops in Casco!

Happy 4th of July!

4thYesterday, our 8th and 9th Graders returned from their trips to Acadia National Park and White Water Rafting on the Kennebec River.  They had a blast!  As great as it was, we’re all so happy to have the entire Laurel South family reunited in Casco.  We’re back in full gear with programming and excitement fills the air everywhere over Crescent Lake.  There are incredible dishes being created in our brand new Culinary Studio, the Athletics Instruction has been awesome, the creativity shown at the Arts’ Centers and Theater are second to none, and of course our Waterfront is always a hotbed of activity.

Our 7 Year Club had a great night out at dinner this week, reminiscing about camp over the past 7, 8, and even 9 years!  Where have the years gone?

We are hopeful Obwana will cooperate and the weather will allow us to enjoy the best fireworks show in Casco tonight.  Even if he doesn’t, a little liquid sunshine will never dampen the Laurel South spirit.

The fun never ends at Laurel South!

Camp is in Full Swing!

IMG_2973What an amazing start to the 2014 camp season!!!  The campers may have arrived less than a week ago, but the action has been nonstop.  Our 8th Graders left this morning for their awesome three day trip to Acadia National Park, and our CIT’s departed for their white water rafting trip.  They’ve checked in – everyone’s having a ball!  Our 5th Grade Day Trip to Aquaboggan was today as well.  Activities are in full swing.  From the Ballfields and Courts to the A&C Center and Riding Rings, the new Culinary Studio to the Waterfront, the sounds of happy campers ring out everywhere.  Last night was our first Social, and we’re excited for our Drive-In Movie tonight.  Tomorrow is our first “S” Day.  Saco and Kineo will head to Splashtown, the 7th Graders will spend the afternoon at Seacoast Fun Park, and Baxter and Allagash will have their awesome annual Beach Party. The good times just keep coming.  What a beautiful day in the state of Maine!!!

It’s a Beautiful Day in the State of Maine!

blog photoOh, what a beautiful day in the state of Maine!!!  It was another amazing Arrival Day.  The weather was gorgeous, camp looked great, and by the end of the day, the entire Laurel South family was reunited! Old friendships were rekindled, and new ones were forged.  All around camp you could see and hear how excited everyone was to be back at their summer home. We all gathered for our traditional, first night cookout dinner followed by exciting Evening Programs.  At the end of the day, each cabin wound down, bonding with their cabin mates and counselors.

Today is Moose Stomp Day.  Each cabin will have the chance to Bumper Tube, play some exciting, team building games with our incredible Adventure Staff, chill at the Downeast Lodge with snow cones, take photos for the end of the year Camper Books and getting to know each other even better.  Of course tonight will be our Opening Ceremony Council Fire. Tomorrow is our first “A” Day.  Each camper will have an individualized schedule, and camp will be in full swing.  The action is nonstop at Laurel South, and we are so excited to be back!!!

Two Days and Counting!

LSBlogOur Staff Orientation is well underway as we get ready for Camper Arrival this Thursday!  We can hardly wait.  Camp looks amazing and we’re so excited to see you soon!  The new Mastercrafts Pro Stars are set; the Fields are lined; the Courts are ready; the Art Studios are filled with supplies; the brand new Culinary Studio is spectacular; our  Ponies and Horses are trained;  the Cabins look amazing; the new girls’ cabin, Eastport,  is done and looks awesome.  All we’re missing now is the most amazing campers anywhere!! Thursday will be here before you know it.  We can’t wait to see you soon!

Digital Detox

Dani Ackerman, our friend from Elmwood Day Camp, wrote this great blog that we thought was worth sharing. Take a look:

Do you ever feel addicted to your phone or find that your whole day is spent staring at a screen? I certainly do! I recently returned from CampMinder Camp (a conference focused on camp technology) in Boulder, Colorado. At this conference, I attended a great session called “Digital Detox,” run by Levi Felix. In this session, it was stressed that this “addiction” to technology is not necessarily bad nor should we feel guilty about it. We should simply find time to “disconnect to reconnect.” He highlighted several strategies that offer us an opportunity to reclaim our “me time” and offer us more time to connect with others. Here are a few of my favorites….

  • Eat at least 1 meal a day without a device: Use this time for yourself or to be fully present with others.
  • Use the phone FIRST to contact people: There is a more personal connection when speaking with someone on the phone instead of texting or e-mailing.
  • Schedule mini breaks throughout the day or mini “digital detoxes” where you are not connected to your phone, television, radio, etc.
  • Give your eyes a break and follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes look at something that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Set a technology curfew: Turn off your phone and television 60 – 90 minutes before bed. You will likely get better sleep as a result.
  • Avoid multi-tasking: No one is as good at multi-tasking as they think. Instead of multi-tasking, create a schedule for yourself each day.
  • Disable push notifications on your phone that are not critical: This will help eliminate unneeded digital distractions.
  • Create tech-free walls/areas in your home: There should be certain places in your home where technology is not used (like the bathroom, for example).

One of the things I enjoy most about camp is that I can digitally detox. I can be fully present in each moment of camp because I am not distracted by the many different forms of technology. At Elmwood, there is a no cell phone policy, we avoid using e-mail during the summer and we do not have any activities that involve video games or computers. No one is walking around camp bumping into each other because they are staring at their cell phones. (which often happens to me when walking around NYC). Everyone is fully present in the moment. I admit that separating from my phone during the day is always a bit of a challenge at first, but it feels great to be fully engaged in camp and building relationships with campers and staff all day long. I can be completely plugged into all the wonderful things that are happening… and then it is always fun looking at my phone at the end of the day (absence does make the heart grow fonder after all).

The Laurel Camps’ Melting Pot

Walking around the Laurel Camps on a typical day, you may not notice the vast geographic diversity of Camp Laurel and Laurel South.

We welcome campers from all over the United States and overseas. In 2013, The Laurel Camps welcomed campers across 16 countries, 5 continents and 42 out of the 50 states in the U.S. (Yes… 42!!)

Not only do we have campers from every US region, there’s vast diversity within each region. Take the Empire State of New York: we have campers from 34 different towns and cities. And from the sunshine state of Florida, campers hail from as far south as Key Biscayne all the way up the interstate to Gainesville! The northeast often leads the charge in terms of critical mass, but we also welcome campers from Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas and Ohio – to name just a few.

And what about staff? In 2013, our staff represented 43 of the 50 states. Not a bad representation!

Our geographic mix impacts the camp experience in so many ways.

We’re a break from “the neighborhood” and any prior stigmas. It’s a community where you can explore new interests and make new friends with less preconceived notions of who you are “supposed to be.”

Our campers and staff have a chance to learn the necessary skills to successfully get along with others from different cultures.

And of course, Laurel’s vast geographic diversity allows our campers and staff to make lifelong connections with friends across the world.

Camp provides so many different life skills; independence, problem solving, self-confidence – the list goes on and on. Let’s add encountering and embracing diversity to that list.

Like Father, Like Son

In 1977, Ron Scott, the former director of Camp Laurel, visited then potential camper Greg Racz’s father’s office. His mission: to talk about Camp Laurel. “A number of friends from Ethical Culture school already went there,” Greg recalls. It was an easy sell.

That summer, Greg made his first camp friend: Jem Sollinger. As the weeks – then years – passed, Greg grew to appreciate everything about Laurel; his fellow campers, the staff and the beauty of Maine. “Coming from New York City, being outdoors was great and I loved being able to play so much tennis.” As Jem recalls, no one was more consistent on the court than Greg, “He got everything back!”

More than 30 years later, “Laurel has only gotten prettier,” Greg says. He has a good way of knowing: His son, Daniel, is now a Laurel camper too. It seemed like “déjà vu all over again” in the early fall of 2012 when Jem visited Greg’s office to discuss Laurel for the next generation of Racz’s.

“Jem has done a phenomenal job,” Greg says of his longtime friend, now the camp director. “He’s got a great group of counselors.”

“Holly is still there with her husband, Warren,” Greg recalls, referencing 35-year Laurel veterans, Holly and Warren Williams. Amazingly, in 1980, Warren was Greg and Jem’s counselor in the Falcons.

Greg adds, “The waterfront is still drop-dead gorgeous and the many ping pong tables are a welcome addition,” speaking to another one of his passions!

Daniel’s route to camp was similar to his father’s. Daniel’s friends – at the same Ethical Culture school – also go to Laurel. Of course, he’d also heard about Laurel “100 times” from his dad, Greg. Getting off the bus, the first person Daniel saw was Jem. Some things never change.

Daniel’s favorite parts of camp are the sports facilities. “The Fieldhouse (a new addition since his father’s day) is great. It’s so big, with lots of space.”

Does he talk to his dad about the old days? “Yes,” Daniel says. “He likes to talk.”

Daniel’s younger brother Joshua may follow in his brother and father’s footsteps. He loved the water-slide on Visiting Day and Daniel would love to have his younger brother at camp with him, “It would be a lot of fun having a family member there.” That would make Greg doubly happy. “Visiting Day was too short,” he says. “It’s great to get a second chance at Laurel” – even if its just for a day.

And what about the second generation of campers from Laurel South. Founded in 1993, we expect the first influx of alumni campers over the next couple of years. “We can’t wait for the first alumni campers” says Laurel South director Roger Christian. “Family – isn’t  that what camp is all about?” At the Laurel Camps…it definitely is.

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