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Annual Mason Olympics 2017!

By Mike Taylor, Summer Camp Program Director

The Mason Olympics is our Session 2 theme day. It is a two-day event filled with culture sharing, team work, and activities challenging the mind, body, and spirit. The entirety of camp is divided into ten teams, or countries, led by two coaches and an ambassador.

Day one of the Mason Olympics focuses on the togetherness and creativity of your country. At this time your country will create cheers, design banners, learn about their country and prepare an act for opening ceremony held that night. Also, each participant receives a Mason Olympic t-shirt designed with their country’s custom marking.

Day two kicks off with games and events and carries on into the afternoon. Countries battle it out in events such as the tug of war, the triathlon, culture trivia plus a whole lot of original games. In the evening we have closing ceremony which consists of a final act from each country followed by the awards.

The goal of this theme day is to win one of the coveted awards, the Hercules Award or the Spirit award. To obtain the Hercules Award a country must win as many events as possible with keeping in mind good sportsmanship and teamwork. To obtain the Spirit Award a country should demonstrate positive, enthusiastic energy, inclusiveness, and originality.

Join us for The Mason Olympics for an incredibly energetic and fun-filled two-day event! Session 2 runs from July 9th – July 22nd. You can register for this Session 2 at Camp Mason here.

Summer Camp off to Hollywood!

By Mike Taylor, Summer Camp Program Director

Our first session Theme Day pays homage to American life by exploring a unique culture, tradition, history or major event of America every year. In the past we have celebrated our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July, gone to the State Fair, and held our own camp election.

This year we are experiencing Hollywood in all of its glamour and glory. We’ll start off our day visiting the popular attractions local attractions. We’ll visit the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theater, the Wax Museum and more, all led by your own celebrity tour guide. The afternoon may consist of catching a Lakers game, auditioning for a part in a movie, or taking part in a game show. But watch out! There could be obstacles to slow down your tours. Be on the lookout for those infamous L.A. traffic jams or the pesky paparazzi.

Our last stop is the Academy Awards! We’ll catch some live performances right right here at camp. Wearing our designer outfits we’ll stroll the red carpet for photos and interviews followed by a “fancy” dinner and then head right into the awards ceremony. We’ll even stop by the after party after the ceremony complete with music, dancing and food!

Join us for ‘This American Life: Hollywood edition’ for a full day of silly fun, lots of laughter and creative activities for all ages at YMCA Camp Mason this summer during Session 1. Session 1 runs from June 25 – July 8, 2017. You can find out more about saving your spot here.

Spring Training: It’s a Knockout!

By Nikki Reiff, Outdoor Center Program Director

Though this is my second spring working at Camp Mason, it will be my first spring training, and my first spring as a Program Director. After a week and a half of leading and participating in it, I can tell you that—much along the lines of spring training as it pertains to baseball—it allows new and returning team members to enhance their skills and serves as practice before the season begins.

This season, our naturalist and per diem team is made up completely by returning staff with the exception of two new faces. However, this didn’t stop us from re-training in all the different activities that we offer here at Camp Mason year round. Thus far, we have covered a majority of our science education, high rope elements, and team building initiatives. So what does training look like for our outdoor center staff?

We have hiked a few miles through a foot of snow to study native wildlife and their adaptations.

We have climbed the firecracker, vertical playpen, climbing wall, and zipline. And we have belayed… and belayed… and belayed.

We played laser tag because a group that belays together, plays together! And a team that plays together, stays together! (Or rather we did this to help unite us as a team outside of a work setting)

We have been through team building ourselves to share new ways to challenge groups and debrief participant interactions.

We have refreshed our CPR and First Aid certifications, as well as run through emergency procedures.

We hit targets through riflery and archery, and then set targets for what we as a group aim to achieve together.

…All this, and we are just getting started!

Looking at our full time seasonal line up—We have three new senior naturalists; Sara, Rebecca, and Michael all looking to expand their skills from seasons prior. We have got Mark and Chris, who are taking on new coordinator roles of high ropes and the ranges, respectively. We’ve got Christian a seasoned day-camp counselor who is working his second OE season, Carly who was previously a per diem but has chosen to take on more responsibility full time, Leighann who is working on developing new ecology curriculum for our school groups, and Erik who is tackling our garden and sustainability here at Mason. Combine this team with Co-Program Director Sally, Senior Camp Director Anna, and myself, and I can confidently say this spring we’ve hit a homerun.

Weekends at Camp Mason!

By Sally Wright, Outdoor Center Program Director – Retreats

Have you ever wondered what goes on at Camp Mason on the weekends? Saturdays and Sundays can be two of the busiest days of the week here at Camp. We often have Girl Scout troops and school groups here on the weekends, but Camp Mason also runs some specialty programs that anyone can come to. We offer programs such as Family Camp Weekend, Women’s Wellness Weekend and Volunteer Work Weekend. You can find more information or sign up for any of these weekends on our website.

Bring your family and prepare for a weekend packed with fun family oriented activities, during our family camp weekends. Depending on the season, you can race down the zip line, learn how to cross country ski, enjoy one of our off- site hikes, or just relax on the porch of your cabin. We have also made some improvements to our high ropes course that you may get to try out. Family Camp weekends run four times a year, and are one of our most popular weekend programs. In fact, our Memorial Day Weekend Family Camp (May 26th – 29th 2017) is already sold out. You can register for our Fall Foliage Family Camp (October 6th – 9th 2017) on our website at any time. Registration for our Labor Day Family Camp (September 1st – 4th 2017) will open on May 3rd 2017.

Yoga for Women’s Wellness Weekend

Another great weekend program is our Women’s Wellness Weekend for all of the ladies. This is a relaxing weekend with the opportunity to get in some exercise if you wish. Activities for the weekend may include mountain biking, yoga, aerial silks, and meditation just to name a few. You can bring a friend or come alone and make new friends while you’re here. We run two Women’s Wellness Weekends each year. You can register for a two night stay May 5th – 7th 2017 or a three night stay October 6th – 9th 2017.

We also hold an event here at Camp called Volunteer Work Weekend, where you can come to camp for free, and help us prepare camp for either the winter or summer depending on the season. This is a great opportunity for students who are looking for community service hours or people who just want to volunteer some time. There are projects for all ability levels from raking leaves and painting to construction of docks and benches. Registration is open for both the spring weekend May 12th – 14th 2017 and the fall weekend November 3rd – 5th 2017.

Please feel free to contact Sally with any questions by email at sally@campmason.org or by phone at 908-362-8217.

Meet the Team: Mike

By Mike Taylor, Summer Camp Program Director

Hello, everyone! I’m Mike, your new Summer Camp Program Director here at Camp Mason.

My YMCA summer camp career began in 2006 as a cabin counselor which, after my first summer, I realized it was no ordinary summer job, but an experience and environment I wanted to be continuously surrounded in. The values, the energy, the fresh air and the diversity of people kept me coming back to camp for the following ten seasons.

This is the start of my third season at Camp Mason and I am very excited to step into this new role as the program director. I hope to bring new ideas and activities to camp while maintaining our traditions and culture. Currently our theme days are starting to be planned out so get ready for an exciting and magical summer! If you pack your smile, open heart and imagination you’ll have a fantastic time at Camp Mason this summer.

You can reach Mike at mike@campmason.org if you have any questions about the activities and programs this summer!

THIS Summer!

By Anna Bilton, Senior Camp Director

Last week I was speaking to one of our Summer Camp families and I realized I was saying “this summer this…” and, “this summer that…” and the once far-away notion of ‘next summer’ was no more! Camp is happening this year and it is only 4 months away! As a Camp Director I am often asked what I do after the summer and the honest answer is that I start getting ready for next year. Now that it is officially ‘this summer’ I am officially allowed to talk camp 24/7 (without driving my family mad)! Here are the 5 things I am most excited about doing at Summer Camp 2017.

1. Putting on my favorite tie dye shirt 

Yes I know I could wear it any other time of year but it just doesn’t feel the same as when I put it on during Summer Camp. That old, ratty tie dye shirt I made my first year as a camp counselor says “summer” to me!

 

2. Doing the very first hand stomp of each session in the Dining Hall

I love the excitement that each new session brings and the very first hand stomp after dinner we all do together is just like crossing the start line to me. It is an amazing feeling to see and hear the whole camp together on Opening Day!

3. Meeting new international staff and campers from all over the world

Camp Mason will welcome staff and campers from the UK, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Belarus, Spain, Australia, Colombia, Ghana and Mexico this year. It’s always a blast to get to know new people and learn about their cultures and experiences. I can’t stop wondering about who might win the Mason Olympics this year!

4. Watching Color Guard at the flagpole

Camp Mason’s Ranch program has a neckerchief program where campers learn about horses and work to improve their riding. Every two weeks we celebrate their efforts in front of the whole camp. It’s incredible to see our campers receive their awards after all that hard work and of course, having horses in the middle of camp for everyone to see is something special too!

5. Roasting my first marshmallow of the season

Fun fact, I am a huge marshmallow fan! I could eat marshmallows for days and days on end! A s’more now and then is nice but I could happily skip the chocolate and the crackers and still enjoy my favorite campfire treat. Taking a bite of my first gooey, golden sugary delight of the summer is a taste I look forward to each year.

There are so many great things about summer at Camp Mason – my list could go on and on! What are you most looking forward to?

Still need to save your spot for Summer Camp 2017? Click here to register today.

Winter Fun at Camp Mason

By Sally Wright, Outdoor Center Program Director – Retreats

Many people visit Camp Mason throughout the year. In the spring and fall we welcome over 100 different schools and groups, and in the summer we have around 300 campers on property every day. But fewer people get to see Camp Mason blanketed by a beautiful layer of snow. We have a number of groups that come to camp to enjoy the beauty of winter and participate in all of the fun activities winter can offer.

Winter at Camp Mason is just as fun as any other season. We do close down some of our program areas in the winter such as high ropes and boating; however, when the snow falls camp becomes a wonderland of exciting cold-weather activities. When the weather is right you are able to sled ride down Sioux hill, ice skate on the lake, and cross country ski along our hiking trails. You should be sure to bring your own ice skates, but all equipment for cross country skiing is provided, even a brief lesson at the beginning of the activity. We also provide sleds, but a lot of participants like to bring their own as well.

If skis and ice skates aren’t for you that’s ok! We still offer many of our classic activities like archery, riflery, and the climbing wall. Other camp activities get a little bit of a winter twist. During Winter Eco-Art you are able to use colorful dies to bring your creations to life. Animal tracks can be followed much more easily in the snow than on a hot summer’s day if you choose to participate in Tracking.

We do have a few bitterly cold days each winter, but don’t worry because we have lots of indoor activities too. Participants can work on their aim at our indoor BB gun range, or make a pretzel while enjoying some hot chocolate in the dining hall. A visit to our Algonquin Rec Lodge will allow you to make a baked apple to snack on, or a craft to take home.

We have a lot of fun sledding, shooting archery, and drinking hot chocolate and we hope you will join in our fun this winter. You can bring you family for our Winter Family Camp Weekend on February 17-20, 2017 or come with a group of your friends. Register for Family Camp here or call the office on 908-362-8217 for more information or to book a retreat.

We wish everyone a happy holiday and hope to see you all in the new year!

Meet Our Team: Sally

allyBy Sally Wright, Outdoor Center Program Director

My dream of working at camp began at a young age as I watched my camp counselors sing silly songs, play crazy games, and create camp magic. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to spend my entire summer in the woods creating unforgettable experiences for my campers. When I was finally old enough I applied to work at the summer camp I grew up at and was hired! I spent the next 9 summers working at the camp in a variety of roles such as Counselor, Adventure Specialist, and Assistant Camp Director. In between my summers at camp I attended Shenandoah University and earned a Bachelors in Biology and a Secondary Teaching License, with the plan of becoming a high school science teacher. At that time I didn’t know that I could make a career of working at camp; and I figured becoming a science teacher would combine my love of science with my passion to have a positive impact on people’s lives. However, leaving camp just didn’t seem like the right decision for me and that’s when I found Camp Mason.

I came to Camp Mason thinking I would spend a season or two here before starting my teaching career, but instead I found a home. My co-workers became family and teaching science using experiential education techniques aligned perfectly with my passions for teaching and the outdoors.  I’ve had a couple of different roles here at Camp Mason working seasonally for both Summer Camp and the Outdoor Center, and now I’m excited to settle into my new role as one of Camp Mason’s Outdoor Center Program Directors.

In true camp fashion we are going to play two truths and a lie so you all can get to know me better. Below I will list 3 facts about myself. Two of the facts are true and one is false. You will have to decide which fact is false and then check YMCA Camp Mason’s Facebook page on Monday December 12 to find out if you were correct!

  1. I am a girl scout
  2. My favorite color is blue
  3. I don’t have any siblings

Teamwork and Communication

nikkiBy Nikki Reiff, Outdoor Center Program Director

Greetings from me, Nikki, Camp Mason’s new Outdoor Center Program Director!

One year ago I drove up to Camp Mason for the first time. I was fresh out of Rutgers and couldn’t have predicted that I would find my passion here—that I would fall in love with everything that Camp Mason has to offer, that this place would become home.

Neither a degree in ecology and natural resources, nor New York City ‘street smarts’ could prepare me for what I would learn in the following year at Camp Mason.

I learned how to belay…
I learned how to tie a double figure eight knot on a bite…
I learned how to use the learning cycle to engage children in their surroundings…
I learned how to teach an hour long astronomy hike, indoors in the rain…
I learned how to use field initiatives to evaluate a groups’ dynamics…
I learned that a simple word of encouragement can go a long way…
I learned that the sounds of cicadas were far more comforting than those of a busy road…
I learned how to push past my comfort zone…
I learned never to wear nice clothes at a campfire…
I learned to ask questions even if I was self-conscious…
I learned that the smell of the woods never gets old…
I learned that the smell of bear cans gets old really, really fast…
I learned how to work with people that I am not friends with…
I learned how to work with people that I love…
I learned how to love the people that I work with…
I learned the difference between rules and guidelines…
I learned to appreciate the diversity and background that every single person; staff, student, camper, chaperone, visitor that’s passed through here…
I learned that life is all about the interactions we have—with each other and our environment…

I still have not learned the summer camp hand stomp.

One year later, all this experience and camp wisdom has taught me what I think to be the key to being a successful outdoor center program director here at Mason; teamwork and communication.

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Basically, Camp Is Cooler Than School

sam-4By Sam Loop, Summer Camp Iroquois Counselor and Reluctant Student

I have a confession to make.

I totally lied on my college application.

My apologies to the Georgia Institute of Technology, may you find it in your hearts to forgive me.

The year was 2014, and it was actually the Common App essay, and the prompt was “Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family” (I still have the essay saved on my computer), and having just finished working at camp for the first time that summer and being able to think of nothing but camp, camp people, camp songs, etc. it seemed only natural that I would write about camp.

sam-3So, I conjured up a draft, tweaked and re-tweaked it about seventy times, had Dad, friends, and various high school faculty read it, and submitted it to five schools. Done and done!

The essay was good; I don’t think lying changed that. It detailed misgivings about myself as a counselor and whether I would be able to give back to kids what my counselors gave to me from 2007 on. I spoke of paranoia of being too strict and the simultaneous fear of being too easygoing and thus easily manipulated. I talked about how it was my first “real” job, and I was subsequently afraid of “messing up,” and the essay travels over the realization of how I was letting go of my true self, only to realize that my true self was the Sam hired in the first place, culminating in the conclusion that “I don’t think I was ever truly an adult until I embraced the child within me.”

(Actual sentence from my college essay. Kind of yuck, but they love stuff like that.)

This won’t sound humble, but I am going to say it: I never doubted myself as a counselor. I love working with people. I came from a great counselor-in-training program and most importantly, I had awesome staff members to look up to and learn from. This combination allowed me to jump into the job with energy, enthusiasm, and constant euphoria. The most doubt I ever encountered was probably around the same time I got whipped cream in my hair during Closing Campfire that turned sour. But overall, I knew I was working at the Coolest Place On Earth, and I think so long as you can remember that and channel it into your performance, you can be a child’s Favorite Counselor Ever.

I have another confession to make.sam-2

My essay was not all that dishonest as I may have chalked it up to be. There is a beautiful truth that I tried to convey in my essay, and that I will try to convey to you now.

While camp has changed in a plethora of ways over the 10 years I have been there, one thing remains constant: self-discovery. This is self-discovery in ways that cannot be translated directly onto paper;
that cannot be calculated as quantities and graphed; that cannot be given a scientific explanation and a research paper to boot. People have told me that I changed while at camp; that I’ve come back more carefree, more pensive, more considerate – I definitely have, but these aren’t necessarily due to changes within me. It’s because you go to camp, and you learn. You learn the tangible – how to start a fire, how to play gaga, how to wear the same shirt for three days without washing it so no one notices. And then you learn the intangible.

You learn that sometimes it’s better to just sit back and listen.

You learn that no one is documenting your every flaw and mistake.

You learn that sometimes it’s best to listen to your gut and leap where you would have otherwise backed away slowly.

Most of all, you learn to trust yourself. To find comfort in yourself. To recognize that you can be virtually unstoppable because you well and truly know everything that you are capable of, which includes overcoming any obstacle.

This is true power. Forget every other definition of it.

Camp is an escape, it is a second home, it is a vacation. It has been all these things and more for me. Despite being two weeks, or four or six or eight or nine, it is a life-long journey and adventure all rolled up into one. In particular, it has been an education like none other I have ever received.

I don’t know that 17-year-old me could find words to explain the Camp Sensation. 19-year-old me is still having trouble right at this moment.

Yet honestly? I think it wise that admissions folks don’t hear that what camp taught me is going to be far more special than anything their school has to offer.

sam-1

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YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason
23 Birch Ridge Road
Hardwick, NJ 07825
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