Honoring Lee Forest Black

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Lee Forest Black, husband of Molly, great grandson of our founders Hughie and Selma, grandson of Marvin and Annette Black, son of Mickey and Barbara, brother and brother-in-law to Anna Black Morin and Eric Morin and best-ever uncle to Ruby and Hattie Morin.

Lee was a bright and shining light of goodness and kindness everywhere, but his favorite place in the world was camp. Lee loved every little bit of camp life. He loved nature walks and the bird feeders in front of his bungalow. He loved funny hats and costumes at lineups. And he especially loved camp snacks.

Lee also loved the big stuff. The buses rolling in on Opening Day, the “Skeeter Swift,” the ‘A’ Game that takes place during Color Days — that his longtime friends and bunkmates still attend, and the 4th of July Fireworks display; Lee always curated the perfect pre-fireworks playlist, sharing his love of music with all of us.

“Lee’s Rink” is named after him and many campers have visited “Lee’s Forest” on the other side of Marvin’s house. It’s secluded, and you have to hike Chipmunk Trail to get there, but it’s one of the most beautiful, peaceful places at Pine Forest. It’s extraordinary but unassuming, like Lee.

Lee was a devoted, loving husband, son, grandson, brother and uncle. He was an outstanding camp director who never took himself too seriously. Lee’s greatest wish for everyone at camp was to feel the happiness he felt there. His legacy is found in each and every bunkmate, camper, and counselor’s life he touched, in the smile and laughter that will echo through the Forest when we think of him.

To honor Lee, donations are invited to the Hughie & Selma Black Foundation, funding organizations that provide camp experiences for children of all socio-economic backgrounds.

We look forward to celebrating Lee with our camp community in the future.

Remembering Aunt Blanche

Aunt Blanche Milligan, Beloved Outdoor Leader at PFC, passes away at age 102

Aunt Blanche was the Outdoor and Overnight Hiking leader at Pine Forest Camp for over 50 years. She was a very special part of PFC as was her husband Uncle Mike Milligan. For generations of campers, she embodied the beauty and strength of the great outdoors. She was an original. In her pleated khaki shorts and scout blouse, with windswept grey hair, she drove a green truck named “Greenie” and always had a trusty dog beside her. She was a camp legend.

Aunt Blanche lead many a camper to their first true encounter with the wonders of nature. She took girls out on overnight hikes, picked wild blueberries and taught them to cook over an open fire. She was a true naturalist and environmentalist long before the first Earth Day or an EPA. She was a Pioneer.

Aunt Blanche was a gentle but hearty soul. A humble, natural, unassuming woman, she took great joy in introducing campers to the simple, natural life. She knew that for some campers it would be the one and only time in their lives that they would come face to face with the natural, wild world. She was small in stature but she was mighty.

Aunt Blanche and her love of nature will always remain as much a part of Pine Forest as the pine trees that surround us during summer and the sounds of laughter in the mountain air. May her lasting legacy be the many lives she touched at camp and in the world.

For those Alumni who would like to make a donation in her memory, her family is recommending:

Juniata College: https://www.juniata.edu/ or the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society: https://www.centralpahumane.org/

Notes of condolences can be sent to Aunt Blanche’s sister, Carolyn Snow, at 143 Swartz Rd., Altoona, Pa. 16601

“Visiting Day” Summer 2020

Mitchell Field is empty, but my heart is full.

Usually today’s the one day, Visiting Day, that Mitchell Field is full of cars. Not this year. But camp IS alive with the sounds of happy campers as we host families for the second weekend of Family Camp 2020. They are here to connect to their camping roots. PFC is part of the rhythm of their lives. And it’s their love of camp and the fun that they, and the staff that are here, bring to this place, that fills my heart with gratitude, joy and optimism.

Before we finish Family Camp in just 2 weeks, we’ll have had almost 100 PFC families here! And we know that there are many, many who couldn’t come in person this summer but feel the ties that bind them to this special place. And they’ll be back.

This year, parents aren’t breaking the tape and running into camp, but we’ve got plenty of parents and campers running around, playing tennis, shooting hoops, paddling canoes and having a great time. And it feels good. It feels right.

There may be a hole in the summer, but it’s not forever. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward to. So I’ll take a break on this special day, walk across the field that was named after me, the year that I was born, and I’ll think about the many happy families who reunited here and, most of all, I’ll look forward to the many, many more to come.


Camp in Our Heart

“Camp in Our Heart” by Hillary Slovin, a PFC Alum & current camp parent:

As we’ve always said, Pine Forest Camp is so much more than just a place in Greeley, PA.  It’s a magical feeing that exists in our hearts and one we hold on to, all year long, until we can back be together again at camp.  Never has this been more true and more necessary for us parents and our children than it is now.  Our campers now have to carry feeling inside of them until they can be together again, “Up Where the Sky Begins.”

As a Mom of two kids at camp, it goes without saying how deeply I hoped they’d at camp this summer and how heartbroken we all are that they cannot be.  But, I thank our camp leaders for putting the safety of our children in the forefront and making the unimaginable decision to postpone camp until 2021. Although so strange and unfamiliar, we’re now figuring out what our summer will look like….participating in camp zoom calls, staying in touch with friends and hopefully making plans for seeing one another when it’s safe to do so.

Already my kids seem to be growing even closer to their camp friends (which didn’t even seem possible!) through all of this and their love and appreciation for PFC has deepened as well.  This is a silver lining for sure. So this is what camp looks like for now but thankfully it won’t be forever and summer 2021 will be here before we know it.  Until then, camp will continue to exist in our children hearts and minds, through their memories of summers past and in looking forward to their incredible summers at Pine Forest Camp that are yet to come.

Finding an Overnight Camp…

You may have read the blog “The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Leiber that appeared in the NY Times in 2014, entitled “Finding an Overnight Camp that’s Truly Worth It.” If not, it’s worth the read!

Leiber raises five “essential” questions that parents should ask when choosing a summer camp that is truly worth it. Here are the questions from the article and our answers. We think that they truly set Pine Forest apart, above and beyond others. Read on!

1) “Where are other children going?” 
As Leiber says, this is a trick question. There is a natural instinct to send your child to the same camp as his or her friends in the neighborhood. The answer should be that a worthwhile overnight  camp has a diversity of geographic areas represented. Overnight camp friends should not be the same as friends at home. That’s the biggest difference from day camp. Every child has friends from home and school, but let camp introduce them to a whole new group of friends, some that span great distances, with different interests, styles and stories. Let your child reinvent him or herself!  An investment in camp should broaden a child’s circle of friends.

Here’s an interesting statistic: At PFC we have campers from 114 towns, 15 states and 4 countries. There’s a whole world of new friends out there, and they might be living right in your cabin!

2) “What are the retention figures?”  
This is one of our favorites. Once a child starts at camp there is a 90% return the next year. This continues until “graduating” as 11th graders. Our retention rates are trulyamazing. The author asks if we do follow up on those few who don’t return, and of course we do. Every camper is an integral part of our camp family. Honestly, the few children who depart before their final year do so for reasons unrelated to camp, a family trip is planned, a team requires practice at home, etc.

The blog also asks the retention rate of counselors and the percentage of counselors who are former campers. Here’s an answer that you might not expect: first as to counselor retention, our standards are high. Counselors are not automatically asked to return, in fact we are very selective about who meets our standards. Also, the truth is that not every former camper makes a great counselor. The transition is not easy. Not every young adult can make the change from being the one who is looked after to the person who does the looking after. New counselors bring new ideas, new energy and a gung-ho spirit, that not every former camper possesses.  Our experience and firm belief is that the best counselor team is a mix, new and old. We want the most enthusiastic, positive  role models for campers, whomever they are!

3) “What can they do here that they can’t do at home?”  
Here’s the beginning of a truly endless list that starts with wake-up and goes till lights-out. Good morning, it’s group clean up, then off to rock-climbing, mountain biking, martial arts, sailing, canoeing the rapids of the Delaware. Travel with your camp basketball team to play another camp. Play Capture the Assagi, be on a dance team, join a rock band, hike the Appalachian Trail, go on an overnight in a yurt, cook wood-burning pizza, go to a Triple A small-town baseball game, be in a bunk skit,  link arms with a whole camp and sing songs around a campfire, have a bunk outdoor picnic.

And by the way, we try not to do things that you do at home. So on trips we stay in college dorms-not hotels, we don’t normally go to amusement parks, bowling, movie theaters. It’s on purpose! You can do that at home with your parents!

4) “What makes your camp unique?”
To us, that really is the most important question. Our camp organization is 90 years old and has been in one family for 5 generations. There are thousands of camps in the USA, hundreds that are old but very few,  if any,  can say that. Our longevity and track record is truly unmatched. Our facilities are modern. The range of activity choices, amazing. Our camp is staff second to none, filled with coaches and teachers and camp folk. The ratios of staff to campers, almost 2:1. We have a rare range of campers from all over. But it’s our 5 generations and 90-year story of success that is truly extraordinary.

5) “Can you tell me about the ties that bind.”
Here the author was really asking about the soul of a camp.  He mentions his daughter, at lineup, watching two staff members honored who fell in love and became engaged at camp. He’s speaking to a sense of self, a sense of identity that links a person to his or her camp for all of time. All you have to do is look around Pine Forest to see our ties that bind: from names on courts and fields to our Old Timers Tree and memory wall. If you’ve never done so, just take a minute to check out our online database of Old Timers Tree names or our PFC Couples Who Met at Camp. Both speak to the heart and soul of camp, and that heart and soul is you: each and every camper who spends one summer or ten in Greeley, PA.

The Camp/College Connection

The Camp/College Connection

by PFC Alum and Camp Parent, Hillary Slovin

My 18 year old daughter is about to start her freshman year in college this fall.  As I nervously anticpate this milestone in her life, I am thinking about how it’s going to be for me and my thoughts turn to camp.  I’ve heard that the college “leaving the nest thing” feels a little like when they’re at camp.  Because of camp, for the past 9 summers, I know what it feels like to have an empty bedroom and quiet house, at least for 7 weeks.  We know how much camp helps children transition in to college life but maybe this will also help me, even just a little,  make the transition.

She just finished her first counselor summer at camp and, with that, she got off days where she’d come home for 24 hours.  I’d clear my calendar to spend all my time with her, stock the fridge with all her favorite things, do a bunch of loads of her laundry and off she’d go again.  As I watched her drive back out of the driveway, it dawned on me that perhaps this is a taste of what the next 4 years will be like with her, coming and going, to and from college, just like with camp.

I’ve read the articles about the endless benefits of camp and how it can help prepare kids for college but I never thought about how it can benefit us parents as well.  Yet another benefit of sending our kids to camp, as if we needed yet another reason!  As “young” parents, it’s hard to think so far ahead about this.  Whoever would’ve thought that us adults get to still feel benefits of overnight camp!
So thank you PFC for not only helping my child develop skills to be ready to leave for college but for me as well.  As I come home to an empty house after college drop-off, I plan on thinking about how the 7 weeks felt, summer after summer.  I will remember that, despite the absence, they do come back home, and most importantly, as even better people for it.
Just like with camp.

Hiding Behind My Sunglasses

Yes, that will be me on Saturday, hiding behind my sunglasses, holding back my tears.  Me, who promotes camp to other parents and me, who believes whole-heartedly in the lifelong benefits and pure and simple fun of overnight camp. But, still, that’ll be me.

It doesn’t matter how much you know they’ll love it, it doesn’t matter that you know they’re about to make friends and memories that will last for a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter that you know they’re about to have more fun than they ever thought imaginable.  The bottom line is, letting your child go, allowing and empowering them to spread their wings without you is hard.  Really hard.  I think of this as the most selfless act we, as parents, have probably ever done to date.  Putting our needs and wants second to what we know is best for our children. It’s something we do everyday, but this is the granddaddy act of them all.

But, I find all the comfort and solace I need knowing my children will be safe, loved and cared for by some of the most amazing people I know.  That they will be making friends and living with other amazing children who, like them, just want to have fun and take in all that camp has to offer.  I will, like you, pour over the posted pictures each night and hang on every word that comes to me in letters. All the while, reminding myself how lucky we all are…The kids who get to go, and we as parents who get to send them. Their summer ahead at Pine Forest Camp is going to be incredible. For all these reasons, I truly can’t wait for my children to get started.

Good luck, Mom and Dad. I like to keep the morning short and sweet and without a lot of fan-fair.  That’s my advice. And, of course, don’t forget to wear your sunglasses.

Hillary Slovin

PJSHOF: Pine Forest Camp Basketball!

To be honored on Tuesday, April 30th in Philadelphia, PA!  Click HERE to attend!

The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame honors the Pine Forest Camp team of the Jewish Basketball League for its dominance in one of the premier adult men’s league in our region. The league has enjoyed a long history of excellence which dates all the way back to the 1930’s where it was a precursor to the original SPHA’S co-captained by Hughie Black, Founder of Pine Forest Camp. .  The JBL was considered the league that attracted the very best players in the area during this era.

Norm Millan resurrected the league in 1989 after several years of dormancy. Pine Forest was awarded a franchise later that year.  Right from the start, the team was successful with a deep playoff run in its first year. In 1990, the team added several key players to round out a talented roster. This skilled squad of players employed a balance of perimeter shooting, precise ball movement and tenacious defense to win three consecutive championships and begin to cement their legacy in the league. The league itself was very strong, consisting of mostly former high school or college players from the region that were all Jewish.

Pine Forest Camp went on to win another 6 titles over an 8 year period. As the team aged, there were additions in the mid 2000s that contributed to the last two championships in 2005 and 2006.  In total, the team won 11 championships over a 16 year period (1990-2006).

The JBL concluded play in 2006 and is hoping for the next generation of basketball players in the region will resurrect the league, including, of course, the ultra successful Pine Forest Camp team about which the great Leaden Bernstein proclaimed: “This Pine Forest Team is the New York Yankees of the Jewish Basketball League and I predict that someday they will be in the Hall of Fame!”

Our honorees are:

Marvin Black, Owner

Mickey Black, Owner

Steve Chadwin, Coach

Paul Flicker

Howard Lassoff z’l

Sam Jacobs

Harris Pogust

Howard Kades

Eric Verman

Leon Rose

Ken Soffer

Adam Sherman

David Verman

Mike Spivak