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.
Sunday was AWESOME! Dare we say it was the … BEST REUNION EVER? A big thank you to everyone who came out to party with us. Campers, counselors, key staff, & more! Busses were flooded with campers from the New York area, North Jersey, and even Maryland — we were so thrilled with the turnout. Doesn’t it feel great to be back together again? Yesterday was so great, we can’t even IMAGINE how great Summer 2020 will be. We only have 226 more days to wait and see and no, it’s never to early to start counting down. We can’t wait!
Keep the summer alive all year long!
- Keep in touch with camp friends! Write LETTERS!
- Login to Mom & Dad’s parent portal and look at pictures from this past summer and the summers before!
- Come to the 2019 reunion: Sunday, November 10th from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM @ The Funplex in Mt. Laurel, NJ!
- Keep up with our Upcoming Events page for events in your area!
- Watch videos on our Vimeo page!
- Wear your Pine Forest Camp shirts from this and past summers!
- And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram: @pineforestcamp!
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.
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.
- Don’t take it personally.
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!
- Remember: They’re exhausted.
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.
- Be patient.
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.
- Focus on small moments and questions.
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.
- Give them wings.
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?