Family Camp — Share the Summer Magic

by Tom Rosenberg

Countless camp parents visiting camp on opening days or visitor days wistfully remark on how they would love the chance to go to camp either for the first time or to rekindle the summer camp magic they discovered in their youth. In the midst of their hurried lives, families are yearning to vacation together in settings where adults and children alike can find a menu of activities structured to suit them. Younger children are eager to try camp with their older siblings, but parents aren't sure they are “ready” to experience camp on their own yet. Family camp can be the answer to these various needs.

Blue Star Camps' Family and Friends Camp is a four-day answer to the hurried, fragmented, omni-directional lives that most families face on a daily basis. It was designed to be a mountain oasis to which two, three, or even four generations of a family and their friends can retreat from often geographically dispersed locations for a four-day weekend of rekindled fun and new adventures. It isn't so easy for multiple generations of a family to gather from near and far for a vacation that suits all ages. Many children are growing up with limited opportunities to enjoy their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. We have fewer opportunities to gather the clan and enjoy life together. Family and Friends Camp brings everyone together and offers adventure for each person at their own level in a safe and exciting environment away from the distractions of the “real” world.

Every Family and Friends Camp session at Blue Star offers a glimpse into a variety of families who want to make the most of their time together in the great outdoors with their children. Here are a few examples from the past two seasons:

  • Five families from Alabama chose to enjoy their vacation together because it's fun, safe, and affordable — and everyone can find the activities and pace that suits them best.
  • Grandparents living in California met up with their Maryland-based children and grandchildren for an annual reunion and fun-filled camp experience.
  • Four generations of an Atlanta family, gathered from Massachusetts, Georgia, and the Carolinas so that young cousins, their parents, grandparents, and great-grandmother can enjoy all the activities together.
  • Long-time camp friends, now fathers of young sons, brought their families together hoping that their kids would love camp as they do and become life-long friends, too.
  • A Florida family was interested in sending their two children to a regular season of sleep-away camp, but wasn't sure their children were ready to be at camp on their own. The family camp experience was an ideal way to introduce their children to camp and gain a better understanding of a successful camp experience.

Opportunities for Togetherness . . . and Independence

A typical day at our Family and Friends Camp offers adults and children the opportunity to make choices and exercise independence. It provides a safe environment for adults and children alike to take risks and test boundaries. It's a chance for kids and adults to learn new skills and refine their old favorites. Qualified staff affords parents the luxury of participating as much or as little as they wish each day.

A flexible schedule allows parents to decide which activities they would like to enjoy on their own or with their kids each day. Kids of camp age participate in activities in camp groups lead by qualified counselors as they would in a four-, six-, or eight-week Blue Star camp session. A full day of new and exciting activities for precamp-aged children lead by very attentive counselors is also available. Infants and toddlers are paired with a nanny for the duration of camp so that parents can enjoy camp, too!

Activities

Kids enjoy a taste of the wide ranging variety of activities available at camp: pony rides, target sports, fishing, tennis, Frisbee® golf, kickball, Newcomb, arts and crafts, photography, rock climbing, nature hikes, ropes course, swimming and boating, campfires, farm and barn, pottery, hikes, and more. These activities also are available for adults and kids to participate in together. In addition, adult-only activities include: trail rides, mountain biking, high ropes course, yoga, mountain hiking, and more. Camp is even for the youngest family members. Children three and younger who are paired up with a doting nanny for the duration of their stay have the opportunity to explore the great outdoors and enjoy the expansive woods, animal, and unusual sounds and smells.

Each day at family camp offers three delicious kosher meals as well as snacks throughout the day. At least two evening programs are offered each evening: one for children (scavenger hunts, super-sloppy games, campfires) and one for older children and adults (casino night, folk dance, corn roast). On Friday night as an early evening program, Jewish and non-Jewish families choose to celebrate the Sabbath in Blue Star's chapel.

The Logistics and Details

Family camp is an excellent opportunity for families to learn new ways to communicate and relate to each other by working and living together outside their usual setting. Quality time and creative experiences help nurture relationships the old fashioned way. At Blue Star, each family is typically housed in their own rustic wood frame cabin with screened windows and tiled bathrooms. Adults enjoy twin or double bedding while children are excited to enjoy bunks. Linens are provided as is a daily towel service.

We determined that it was more efficient and cost effective to provide all services within the same basic tuition. All those who attend pay one per-person tuition that includes: cabins, meals, nannies, counselors, activity instruction, activity supplies, bed linens, pillows, towels, etc. The camp store is open each day and offers snacks, souvenirs, stamps, and stationery. Family camp tuition for 2006 is $375 for adults and $215 for children. When compared to a four-day hotel vacation, it's easy to see why families look forward to returning to family camp year after year.

Like traditional summer programs for children, family camps leave lasting memories. Young children talk about the experience with their friends all year long — and their parents and grandparents look forward to returning so they can progress in their climbing or paddling skills. We have learned through our experience that family camp provides the opportunity for families and friends to reconnect, enjoy quality time together, and explore the outdoors. It also allows us to expand our programs and introduce the benefits of camp to new audiences.

Tom Rosenberg is a director at Blue Star Camps in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where he's been a camper, summer staff member, or camp professional for twenty-seven years. He is presently serving as Treasurer on the American Camp Association Board of Directors.

Originally published in the 2006 July/August issue of Camping Magazine.

 

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