The Beginning of Camp

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Over the next week, campers will arrive at summer camps all over the country knowing that although each summer brings new surprises, it also brings the familiarity of a second family and home. For campers, camp is a touchstone of people, activities and events on which they can depend each summer.

For those who have never experienced summer camp, it’s difficult to imagine forming such tight bonds with others in the span of a month or two. Those who have attended or worked at a summer camp understand camps are more than a place where campers go to have fun and enjoy the outdoors each summer. They’re a place where friendships and networks are formed that last long beyond the teary goodbyes and hugs that mark the end of each summer.

Although almost ten months pass between summers, with camp family, it inevitably feels like everyone was together just minutes ago. Hugs are plentiful when campers reunite with their camp family and conversation comes easily. There’s also an easiness about the beautiful settings of summer camps that facilitates a relaxed atmosphere. Tradition is an easy place marker that helps everyone slip back into the summer routine.  And the thrill of the endless combination of opportunities to embark on new adventures is balanced with the everyday act of sitting down to meals with camp “siblings” or enjoying an ice cream together at the end of the day.

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We find ourselves filling with excitement and anticipation anxiously awaiting for Monday to arrive!

I Need Camp to Start Now!

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The cold and rainy weather is making my old bones hurt. As a high school teacher my brain hurts from calculating the voltage, and the DNA sequence, and the natural log of the equilibrium concentrations. I love my high school students but they are not like the campers that run around camp. I am especially excited to have all three of my children at Woodmont this summer enjoying the one of a kind family feeling that only Woodmont can create!

I need camp to start now!

I long for the days of summer when I can reconnect with my whimsical creative side. As the Creative Arts Director I am able to work with a team of amazing camp professionals who all share my excitement in making each summer more fun than last summer. Each area of the Creative Arts department gives campers and staff the ability to explore and learn new things about themselves.  Some campers will try a new food or recipe in cooking that they never had before and run home to share asking their parents to make the same recipe with them. At Innovation they will explore new experiments and wacky ways to look at the world.  Arts & Crafts along with Ceramics allows campers to use their hands to bring their imaginations to life! So excited that wheels are being added to the Ceramics choice program. Music is always a great place to learn and practice our favorite camp songs!

I need camp to start now! 

I need to to run and be free and laugh. I visualize cool, refreshing watermelon placed into laughing mouths. I need to dance with Dani and Lisa (Lower Village Leaders) as the morning music pumps ‘em up. I need to play basketball and euro-handball and smell the hot dogs coming off the grill. I need to smell the fresh cut grass as lawnmowers prep the fields.

So here’s to summer at Woodmont…Let’s try new foods and games. Let’s make new friends and lifelong memories. Let’s stick our heads into sprinklers to cool off. Let’s jump into puddles and get dirty. And then we will crawl into bed exhausted and wake up and do it all over again tomorrow!!!

I look forward to seeing all of our parents who participate in morning drop off and afternoon pick-up. As always, I will be at the bottom of the hill waving as you pass by.akiva

Getting Ready for March Madness

When I first took the job of camp counselorbasketball-green-and-yellow-hi of a group of 3rd graders 11 years ago, I never would have dreamed of one day becoming the Athletic Director for the entire camp.  Here I am, over a decade later truly looking forward to those 8 weeks of summer every year.

The athletic programs at Woodmont are designed to promote good sportsmanship, skill development, teamwork and fun!  The athletic specialists work hard to create a positive environment where athletes of all levels feel comfortable to give every activity a try and hopefully improve skills and confidence levels. My goal is to let children know that regardless of athletic prowess, sports are a great way to try new things, learn new skills and have some fun.

So as the momentum of March Madness continues to grow, make sure your brackets are filled out, and get out there and shoot some hoops, swing that bat, kick that ball or throw that pass.  I cannot wait for summer to come and get another successful athletic season at Woodmont Day camp Under way.

See you all soon,

Joe Hroncich

Athletic Director; Woodmont Day Camp

Woodmont’s Welcoming Waterfall

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When I was 18 years old my parents informed me that they would be moving from our home in Northwestern PA to Rockland County. I was a college Freshman and not thrilled about a move. I traveled to Rockland that winter with the hopes of securing a summer job for the upcoming season. Since my future included becoming a teacher, I decided that a camp counselor job would be a great opportunity. As I turned onto the hill which was then the entrance to Candy Mountain Day Camp, I saw the beautiful waterfall, covered in snow and ice, and I knew I had found my place. It gave me a sense of calm, of peace, and of home. It was there that my love for camp began.

That waterfall found a long-term place in my heart, just as the camp did. I spent many years climbing that waterfall each summer with my groups of 5- and 6-year-old girls. It was always a source of fun, adventure and countless happy memories. I loved hearing the children scream and laugh with excitement, and I loved how they talked about it after with a sense of accomplishment. When I became the pool director a few summers ago, I would wait for the excited, mud-covered campers to walk up the hill from their climb, when I would drag out the pool hose to wash down their dirty feet and flip flops. I couldn’t wait to hear their stories and adventures.

For me, the waterfall is just a symbol of everything I love about Woodmont. I look forward to the excitement and fun each day brings me. From my early beginnings as a counselor to Village Leader and now the Head of Swim, camp has played an integral part in my life. I love the challenge of new tasks and the many children who are learning to swim and striving to pass a deep water test. I cherish my Woodmont family who greet me every day, rushing with energy, laughter, ideas and fun and supporting each other when we might be low.

After 34 years, I still love turning into camp and seeing the beauty of that waterfall. It is a symbol of “my happy place,” a place where children experience a setting free of stress and a feeling of peacefulness and, of course, the love of the Woodmont Family.

 

By: Wendy Cowen-Smith – Swim Director

Where Camp is Family

imageMy camping experience started at the age of 5 when I attended a local day camp for one summer with my older brother and sister.  It’s incredible how much I can still remember from those weeks oh so long ago.  I suppose the camp spirit got into my blood and never left.  I returned to camp the summer before my junior year in high school, but this time I was on my own at sleep away and the theme was basketball. Aside from sharpened skills and new confidence in my game, the camp songs, skits, food and laughter were the memories I took away. I went on to work at a variety of camps with my “basketball family” in the Northeast and California but landed my best camp gig in New City, NY.

When my oldest son Kyle was 5 years old, I realized we needed to change our summer routine and get outside from sunup to sundown.  We dropped younger brother Dustin at the sitter and off we went to Candy Mountain. Kyle became a happy, true blue camper but only with the patience and expertise of his Division Leader, Wendy Cowen (Smith)—our Woodmont Pool director.  My job was to run the basketball program and keep campers happy—what a dream! Eventually, Dustin joined us at camp, and I moved into the Kindergarten bunk while I was pregnant with son #3, Wes, who has spent each and every one of his 13 summers at 420 Phillips Hill Road.  Camp took on a new look for me; it was always about fun—but now it was focused on family as well.

When Sam and Ilisha Borek became the new owners and Woodmont became the name of our summer home, I made one last camp move—and that was to stay.  Of the multitude of decisions I have made over past 10 years, this one was, and continues to be, one of the best. Each and every day of the summer I am rejuvenated as I work with Kinder Village campers. We learn together, laugh with one another, figure out how to share, make new friends, try new things, overcome challenges, work through disappointments, celebrate accomplishments, sing a few songs and eat ice cream. Sounds like all the things that happen in a family-right?

I have been an extremely lucky teacher, mother and individual at Woodmont.   I’ve grown professionally and personally working side by side with my “young creative brain” co-village leader Melissa. Apart we may appear so different, but together we are one! I am surrounded daily by an administrative staff that is creative, flexible, energetic, hysterically funny and always looking to make every moment at camp better for children. Sam and Ilisha are inspirational leaders who have exuded drive, passion and most of all compassion. I’ve learned from their parenting styles as well as business philosophy and choices.  As life’s events have rolled around for my husband Michael and I, including diagnosis, prognosis and celebratory moments, their hugs and support have always been the same–heartfelt and sincere.

For eight weeks of every summer, I start and end my day with 3 precious sons.  We commute together; listen to the same songs and then park and part ways. For years they have headed off to experience Woodmont on their own, making it their own.  They too, live for those amazing two months up on the hill. Kyle, now 20, works as an athletic specialist.  His experiences here have solidified a desire to become a teacher and coach.  Dustin, 16 works in the kitchen & dining hall.  He has gained confidence and colleagues and a desire for a culinary career. Wesley is a 13 year old teen traveler who is still “growing up Woodmont.” The 2015 itinerary and Woodmont calendar are hanging on his wall, filling his dreams with next summer’s adventures.  As we drive up the hill each day, we see the welcoming sign stating that Woodmont is where camp is family. For me, Woodmont is where family has happened!

See you next summer!

Camp Counselor to Camp Parent

Summer 2015 will be an extra special summer for two of our returning Village Leaders, Melissa Leventhal (Kinder Village) and Lisa Ponte (Lower Village).  Both women have been an integral part to the success of hundreds of campers at Woodmont for the past 8 summers, and for the summer of 2015 both will take on the role of being a parent of a camper for the first time.  Elle (Melissa’s daughter) and Jonathan (Lisa’s son), were first introduced to our Woodmont Families in January 2013, right after they were born only a few weeks apart.

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As Melissa and Lisa are thinking about and preparing for the upcoming summer they both shared their thoughts about their experiences at Woodmont for the past 8 summers and what they are looking forward to for their children to experience!

Lisa Ponte – Lower Village – Village Leader 

IMG_4304I always catch myself saying, “Woodmont is my happy place.”  I call it my happy place for so many amazing reasons — I love building relationships with the campers and their families, I love playing Ga-Ga and singing silly songs all eight weeks, I love wearing 10 different “camp” bracelets on my wrists and I LOVE my family I have here at Woodmont.

I became part of the Woodmont family in 2007 as a group counselor and eventually became a “Village Leader” in the years that followed.  (Shout out to Lower Village!!) When I think back to my first summer as a group counselor, I had no idea how much Woodmont would shape me in becoming the person and leader that I am today.  I owe so much of my success to my close friend and mentor, Wendy Cowen-Smith. I have learned and grown so much over the past 8 years from her advice and experience in not only camping but motherhood as well.

Growing up, I was always involved in my town’s camp. I remember waking up everyday during the summer so excited to go to camp. From a young age, I knew that I would always want my own children to experience the same things that I was able to experience.  When I told Sam and Ilisha that I was pregnant, they both could not have been more happy for my husband and I.  In fact, the first thing I remember Sam saying was, “He is already part of the Woodmont family.” Hearing him say that meant so much to me and I couldn’t wait until Jonathan was old enough to start his own Woodmont journey.

For the past two summers, Jonathan has had his best friend, Elle, by his side at camp with their nanny.  They both have had a small taste of the Woodmont experience – swimming with the lifeguards at the pool, playing in Sandworld and running across the softball fields to get their ice pops. This year however, is going to be life changing since Jonathan will be considered a true Woodmont “camper” in Kinder Village.  I am so excited for him to experience all the amazing activities that Woodmont has to offer and to get to know the terrific staff that will be working with him this summer. Nothing will make me happier than seeing him around camp with his group participating in activities, singing songs, and interacting with the other campers.   Plus I get to teach him all my favorite camp songs! Most of all, I feel very lucky that I get to enjoy a job that I absolutely love while having my son right there with me.

Melissa Leventhal – Kinder Village – Village Leader

10805837_10104476431632009_5384167940759721870_nAs I prepare for my daughter’s first summer at Woodmont Day Camp I reflect back on my past 8 summers at Woodmont.  I was lucky enough to become part of the Woodmont Family in 2007.  Looking back, I never expected how much of a positive impact my campers, counselors, and fellow “administrators” would have on my everyday life, let alone my parenting skills. I have spent the last 8 summers working with the most amazing mentor and co-Village Leader in Kinder Village, Helene Collins.  With her support, friendship and ability to laugh, I have grown as a person, a teacher and more recently, a mom.  I should also mention that the lovable and energetic 3, 4, and 5 year olds who I get to spend my summers with have also taught me a thing or two about the importance of camp in a child’s life.

During the Spring of 2012 I met with Sam and Ilisha to tell them that I was pregnant – before I could get all of the words out, Sam hugged me and looked at my growing belly to say, “We can’t wait to have him or her join the Woodmont family.”  Cheesy as it may sound, from that moment on my husband Adam and I always looked forward to our child attending Woodmont.  We couldn’t wait for her to experience all the programs and activities that Woodmont has to offer.

The last two summers I have been fortunate enough to have my daughter, Elle, at camp with a nanny.  Although she has been able to run across the fields, hangout at Sand World and visit the animals at the Petting Zoo, summer 2015 will be different…she will be a camper.  I am most looking forward to watching her smile as she gets to enjoy each and every activity with her fellow campers and loving counselors.  Adam and I know that Woodmont is a place that will allow Elle to grow as she learns silly camp songs, makes progress at the pool, tries new foods, and most importantly allows her to be a kid!

I couldn’t think of a better place than Woodmont to send my child.  The warm “family” environment inspires campers to be active and try new things, all while allowing them to experience success and gain confidence in a safe and encouraging environment.

As Elle begins her first real camp experience, my wish is that she enjoys camp as much as I do.  Camp has been, and continues to be my happy place; I wish nothing short of that for Elle and all of the other campers at Woodmont during the summer 2015.

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I live 10 for 2

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I live 10 for 2. I spend 10 months of my life thinking, planning and dreaming about those 2 magical months of camp. Lucky for me, not only does my job at Woodmont allow me to do this, but I’m surrounded on a daily basis by people who actually encourage this behavior! The truth is, this isn’t a new love.

 

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As a kid, I was the ultimate camper… As soon as the bus dropped me off at home on the last day of camp, I would start counting the days until the next summer. I would pack and re-pack my camp bag starting the day the special events calendar arrived in my mailbox sometime in April.  I cried for months when my mom tried to explain to me that I had aged out of my camp. Because in my mind, that was the end of my camp life.  I would never be part of another color war or camp sing ever again. It never occurred to me that there was a career out there that would let me live my dream. It wasn’t until 2 graduate degrees (social research and education) and 6 months into my “real world” marketing job, when by chance, the director from my childhood camp called me to see what I was up to and if I would be interested in helping run a new summer program they were initiating. I answered very politely that I would love to, but I needed a “real” job. I still cringe to think about that response, since 10 years later I find myself defending my work as I’m constantly asked “what do you do the rest of the year?” by even my closest friends and family.  (Spoiler alert: I ended up taking that job. And it was the best decision I ever made.)

SONY DSCFast forward to the present, as some of you may know, I was recently brought into the very special Woodmont year-round family. So your next question is…. “what do you do the rest of the year”? This essentially means that I get to spend every day working on making the next Woodmont summer even better than the last.  Just like the camp season, no one day is ever the same! Some are filled with special event brainstorming, meeting and interviewing potential staff who will look after your children, testing out new ice pop flavors or learning about the latest leadership techniques that we’ll integrate into our dynamic program. But the very best part of my job is that I’m surrounded by an incredible team of people who share my love for summer camp and are just as committed to creating the best summer experience possible! So here’s to living the next 230 days while thinking about the 38 that follow. But I mean, who’s counting….

For The Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone

IMG_3968At Woodmont we strongly believe in the power of being disconnected for the summer, both for our campers and staff members.  Camp is a place that encourages connections with one another and with the outdoors.  We appreciate that our staff members are used to being “connected” to their smart-phones and give them an opportunity to check-in during their break time. However, when they are present in camp, we really want them to be PRESENT. We teach them that one second on a phone is one second that they are neglecting the campers in their charge.  The bonds that are formed at camp are much deeper when everyone is really focused on what’s happening in front of them and not what’s happening on their screens.
We hope you appreciate this article and look forward to being with our campers soon!

For The Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone

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By Patti Neighmond

It’s not just kids who are overdoing screen time. Parents are often just as guilty of spending too much time checking smartphones and e-mail — and the consequences for their children can be troubling.

Dr. Jenny Radesky is a pediatrician specializing in child development. When she worked at a clinic in a high-tech savvy Seattle neighborhood, Radesky started noticing how often parents ignored their kids in favor of a mobile device. She remembers a mother placing her phone in the stroller between herself and the baby. “The baby was making faces and smiling at the mom,” Radesky says, “and the mom wasn’t picking up any of it; she was just watching a YouTube video.”

Radesky was so concerned she decided to study the behavior. After relocating to Boston Medical Center, she and two other researchers spent one summer observing 55 different groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants. Many of the caregivers pulled out a mobile device right away, she says. “They looked at it, scrolled on it and typed for most of the meal, only putting it down intermittently.”

This was not a scientific study, Radesky is quick to point out. It was more like anthropological observation, complete with detailed field notes. Forty of the 55 parents used a mobile device during the meal, and many, she says, were more absorbed in the device than in the kids.

Radesky says that’s a big mistake, because face-to-face interactions are the primary way children learn. “They learn language, they learn about their own emotions, they learn how to regulate them,” she says. “They learn by watching us how to have a conversation, how to read other people’s facial expressions. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones.”

And, perhaps not surprisingly, when Radesky looked at the patterns in what she and the other researchers observed, she found that kids with parents who were most absorbed in their devices were more likely to act out, in an effort to get their parents’ attention. She recalls one group of three boys and their father: The father was on his cellphone, and the boys were singing a song repetitively and acting silly. When the boys got too loud, the father looked up from his phone and shouted at them to stop. But that only made the boys sing louder and act sillier.

Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair wrote a book about parenting, called The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. She sees lots of parents, teens and younger kids in her clinical practice in Massachusetts. The father’s reaction to his three silly boys might be expected, she says, because “when you’re texting or answering email, the part of your brain that is engaged is the ‘to do’ part, where there’s also a sense of urgency to get the task accomplished, a sense of time pressure. So we’re much more irritable when interrupted.”

And when parents focus on their digital world first — ahead of their children — there can be deep emotional consequences for the child, Steiner-Adair says. “We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them,” she says.

In research for her book, Steiner-Adair interviewed 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 18, asking them about their parents’ use of mobile devices. The language that came up over and over and over again, she says, was “sad, mad, angry and lonely.” One 4-year-old called his dad’s smartphone a “stupid phone.” Others recalled joyfully throwing their parent’s phone into the toilet, putting it in the oven or hiding it. There was one girl who said, “I feel like I’m just boring. I’m boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, anytime — even on the ski lift!”

Steiner-Adair says we don’t know exactly how much these mini moments of disconnect between a parent and child affect the child in the long term. But based on the stories she hears, she suggests that parents think twice before picking up a mobile device when they’re with their kids.

Source: NPR

 

“One Hundred Days and Counting”

(sung to the Flinstone Vitamin theme song – ten-million strong and growing)
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I can’t believe that today marks 100 days until the start of the 2014 summer camp season at Woodmont. In the office we have been busy all winter planning and getting ready for our 8th summer at camp. Now that spring is here and the weather is slowly starting to warm up, the excitement about camp is growing each day!

Today also marks the final day of the American Camp Association’s (ACA) Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City, NJ.  Over the last three days members of our leadership team have participated in several workshops and classes to learn about the newest and best practices around the camp industry. In round table discussions with other camp professionals we shared our best practices about transportation, scheduling, camp programs and staff orientations. It was great to connect with some of the vendors we use to make camp a great place and the owners of the locations many of our older groups will be traveling to this summer! We look forward to sharing more of what we learned and have planned for the summer in the next few months.

Here are a few projects we have been working on over the winter for next summer:

week2 1043– brand new WATERPARK

– new ARTS AND CRAFTS deck

– new outdoor COOKING area

– program additions“S’Mores with Sam” and “Ice Cream with Ilisha”

* Like our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/woodmontdaycamp) to follow along with what we are working on all year long *

New Special Events for the Summer of 2014:

yaD sdrawkcaB (Backwards Day)

Pirates Day

Magic Day

* We are close to finalizing our 2014 Summer Camp Calendar *

Check out our website (www.woodmontdaycamp.com) to keep counting down with us!

Keep an eye on your mailbox the first week of May for our 50 Day Count down!

7 Reasons Why your Middle School Student Needs Camp

Woodmont Day Camp Teens

Guest Blog by Peter Goldberg

When I think about the phrase “middle school,” the top thing that comes to my mind is the phrase “The Worst Years of My Life.” (Personally, when I think back to when I was in middle school, I can easily agree with this statement) Which is why before working full time at Woodmont, my career led me to be a middle school math teacher.  I wanted to work with and teach children during these challenging and yet formative years in school. What I always found amazing was that during the summer when I would lead our teen travel program with these students (some of which I had in the classroom, just a week earlier) none of them felt or acted as they did when at school. The experience camp provides for campers, especially at this age, which many classify it as traumatizing and awkward period of life, can be invaluable. I recently found this list of “7 Reasons Why Your Middle Schooler Needs Camps”, by Anne Archer Yetsko on the American Camp Association’s (ACA’s) website. She put into words what I could not, as a math teacher, writing was not my strongest subject.  So I wanted to share with you why camp can be beneficial for your middle school child.

Camp Gives your Middle School Student:

1. An Identity: Kids need an identity. Middle schoolers are defined by their looks, material stuff (cool shoes, backpack, gaming devices, phones), parents, grades, and their athleticism. Camp allows kids to be known for being a great archer, team player, cannonball jumper, friend, kayaker, s’more maker, table setter, frog catcher, and much more. This list is endless. When a kid walks onto a camp property they get to choose their identity. WOW! Where else in life does that happen?

2. An Emotionally Safe Environment: Our middle schoolers need a supportive environment where they can mess up and it’s ok. They need somewhere they can miss the bulls-eye and no one laughs. Instead, their friends give them pointers on how to do better next time. Camp provides this.

3. A Chance to Be a Kid: We live in a world that forces children to grow up entirely too fast. Our kids need a chance to be kids. They need to make s’mores, ride horses, shoot a bow and arrow, dress silly, eat candy, paint pictures, play games, and go on adventures.

4. An Opportunity to Be Outside: Our kids live in a world where they never have to go outside, and that world scares me. Our kids need to get dirty, make forts, swim in lakes, and catch fireflies. There are hundreds of articles and books out there about “the nature deficit” in children. To grow emotionally, physically, and mentally, kids need time outside. As our addiction to phones, computers, tablets, and video games grows, it has never been more important for kids to have substantial time away from these things. I love to say that camp is where we can FaceTime and Facebook without any devices, the old fashioned way of connecting with other people.

5. True Friends: There is something about people living together, working together, playing together, and overcoming challenges together that creates friendships that are intense and long lasting. They are also different from school friendships that can often end on a whim and are just as often filled with drama. Knowing they have a safety net of “camp friends” makes the emotional rollercoaster of middle school more bearable. I will always remember my first summer leading the teen travel program, there was a group of girls who were inseparable all summer long.  On the last day when we were saying our “see you next summer good-byes” I was surprised by their sadness because they attended the same middle school.  They quickly told me that although they have been camp friends for over 10 years that they were not in the same clique at school and camp was the only time they had together.

6. Mentors: Kids need people other than their parents to invest in them. They need positive role models to look up to. Camp provides children with amazing, young adults who truly care about them and want them to be the best version of themselves. Kids need people to teach them how to make friends, how to handle conflict, and how to be a good sport. They also need to know that there are other people out there who struggled through middle school who are now thriving. When their counselor tells them that seventh grade was also a really hard year for them, it gives them hope that life will not always be as difficult as it is in seventh grade.

7. A Bigger Picture: Our preteens need to know that the world is bigger than their middle school, hometown, or even state. They need to know that when it feels like their world is crumbing around them in the halls of their school that their life is not limited to that place. They have friends and counselors close by and far away that get what they are going through.

In today’s world kids need camp more than ever.  They need an opportunity to experience things outside of their comfort zone, connect with their peers and counselors without a screen to protect them, and discover who they are in an environment that is safe and supportive.