“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.
“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
We can give our children many things, but as parents, we cannot give them character, independence, optimism, and enthusiasm – these are qualities that children have to discover and develop on their own. And that is the true gift of camp. Camp is a place that provides a safe environment to find adventure, friendship and ultimately to find one’s self, to find one’s true character.
At camp we often call ourselves a camp “family,” and for those summer months we really are. We are one community, relying on each other and looking out for one another. It feels like family. And at its heart, that is how Martin Luther King Jr. wanted us to look at the world around us: one family, each of us treated with respect and compassion. May the strength and love that we feel at camp send ripples to the world around us. For those of us lucky enough to go to camp, it’s our obligation to make it so.
Let us know what your kids are doing out in the world for Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
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 trouble with camp is that camp ends.
The buses pull out this morning. In an instant, camp is silent. But the air will be filled with happy memories. Pine Forest’s 89th summer has come to a close and it was one of the best ever.
Thank you campers and counselors, housekeeping and maintenance, nurses and doctors and office staff, one and all, for making it such a tremendous season.
And now it’s back to home and school. But everyone who shared this wonderful summer comes home a little different. A little better. Keep the spirit of PFC alive all year long. Stay in touch.
Pine Forest is more than a place in Greeley, PA. It’s a place in our hearts.
Like the song says, “All our bags are packed, we’re ready to go.”
Mountain Baggage, R&B, UPS, FedEx, parent pick-up.
Today we pack up, have our awards ceremonies, and tonight it’s the candlelight. It feels like we just arrived. But we’re coming home with so much more than we can pack in a bag; new friends, new adventures, new confidence. There isn’t a duffle bag or shipping company big enough to handle it.
Those are the things that we carry.
The transition to “the real world” isn’t always easy for you and your campers. Here are some tips to help both of you make the transition as smooth as possible.
Yes, they’ll be SO happy to see you. They’re also very, very sad.
They’re sad to leave camp! They’re sad to leave their friends! They’re sad to leave their counselors! They’re sad to leave their independence and camp persona! It’s okay (great actually)! It means you gave them the best gift ever!
In the last week alone, they experience Color Days, the play, song and cheer, a gymnastics show, banquet, packing and more. Over the past seven weeks they’ve been living with ten other people, hanging out with friends day and night, participating in activities from sun up to sun down. Enough said.
It might take a few hours or a few days to be entirely “on.” They might even seem a little numb. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or didn’t miss you. It doesn’t mean that they won’t open up and start gushing in a few days. Nothing is wrong. They just need time! Things that are normal: wanting to talk to their camp friends immediately, all-day, every day for a few days (yes, they just spent seven weeks with them – we know). Wanting to spend some time alone before jumping into the deep end of home life (think family gatherings, sporting events, play dates). Any combination of the above. Normal. Normal. Normal.
Think about your two best friends who live far away.
Friend one: you pick up the phone no matter what, even if you only have a minute. Though it’s been months, you know she’ll cut right to the chase and start where things left off. Or not. Maybe you just answer a quick question, maybe you talk about who got the final rose- you can hang up when you need to. One word answers, longer answers, anything goes. No pressure.
Friend two: You love her. Really. You LOVE her as much as friend one. But you really only pick up when you have time to sit, totally focused, for an hour-long catch-up. So, no. You don’t always pick up. Because you’re at work, or you’re making dinner, or you’re about to get the kids ready for bed, or you just don’t feel like telling your life story. That. Sounds. Exhausting.
The moral? Be friend one. You’ll learn more!
What was this morning like?
Which activity was the best?
Who was the goofiest counselor in your bunk?
Less good questions/statements:
Tell me EVERYTHING about camp.
Can you explain your weekly schedule?
What were all of your counselors like?
Ask a few, manageable, lighthearted questions every hour on that first day. You’ll open up that can of worms without having to pry, without overwhelming your fresh-off-the-bus camper.
At camp they were the most independent versions of themselves and they’re still basking in the glow of those camp freedoms. Advocating for themselves, making independent choices— it’s why you sent them to camp! Think about how you felt the first time you came home from college. It was a little weird! Think about small liberties you can introduce to reinforce your camper’s summer growth. If you have an eight-year-old who didn’t make his or her bed before camp, encourage him or her to make the bed at home (even if it isn’t as beautiful as you’d like). Though seemingly a “chore,” having your camper do things for him or herself at home will continue the summer’s momentum and make him or her feel happy and confident. And isn’t that what this whole camp thing was about from the start?
We had our OLD TIMERS’ CLUB meeting today at Pine Forest! Our campers (And counselors!) that have been at Pine Forest for 3+ years celebrated being OLD TIMERS with an ice cream party and a special gift this afternoon! Our newly-inducted 3-year campers and counselors are well on their way to a spot on our 10-year tree.