Camp Mason

Camp Mason

Camp is for Adults Too!

imageBy Sally Wright, Senior Naturalist for the Outdoor Center and Assistant Program Director for Summer Camp

When people hear the words summer camp they often think about young children and teenagers who spend a week or two in the woods each summer. People know that these kids participate in activities such as arts & crafts and swimming, and are aware of the positive impact that camp can has on children’s lives. But what most people don’t think about is the impact that camp can have on adults.

Every summer hundreds of young adults apply to be counselors at summer camp. Some of these counselors know exactly what they are getting into, as they are coming back to camp for their third or fourth summer, while others have never been to a camp and have no idea what to expect. In some ways the adults that work at camp every summer are not much different than the campers. Of course the counselors are more responsible than the campers and are ready to give campers the best summer they’ve ever had, but often counselors feel both anxious and excited before their first day at camp just like the campers.IMG_2559

On the first day of training, staff arrive at camp, move into cabins, and participate in name games and ice breakers to get to know one another. Just like the campers, the counselors have to navigate through the stages of getting to know one another, and at the end of the summer many of the staff leave camp with new life long friends. Also during the summer the counselors encourage their campers to step out of their comfort zones and try new activities, because as outdoor professionals we believe that children grow when they are outside their comfort zones. For a lot of campers this means participating in a high ropes element like the zip line. Stepping off the zip line platform takes a lot of courage, but also builds confidence and self-esteem. The impact of accomplishing something you weren’t sure you could do is just as powerful for adults as it is for children.

At the end of summer many parents pick up their children and discover that their son or daughter has grown into a better person. Many times parents comment that their child has become more independent or is more willing to help clear the table after a meal.  Camp Counselors (who are often college students) experience similar growth throughout the summer. These young adults become more independent, but in different ways. Counselors may step out of their comfort zones and conquer their fear of heights, but they also learn skills that will help them throughout life. Counselors leave camp knowing how to work both independently and as a team to accomplish a common goal. They put in long hours and are wildly creative when coming up with new fun and engaging activities for campers to participate in, much like entrepreneurs who invent new products. But most importantly, camp counselors leave knowing that they have the ability to make a positive and profound impact on someone else’s life.


Giving Tuesday


FB bannerby Jackson Patterson, Summer Camp Director

Each year as the winter slowly approaches it seems to me that the summer is farther off than ever. It is during this time that I hear from former staff members, campers, and parents about the previous summer. Through my conversations with them I delve into nostalgic thoughts of my own summer. I recall one time I was covered head to toe in paint, I see the bright dyes and powders from our color run, the oldest teenagers crying as they leave camp for the last time, the look of pride on the CIT Coordinators’ faces as their campers, their pride and joy, were rehired.

So here we are in the midst of autumn. There are many things to do this time of year including our efforts to raise money for the campers. For the past two years we have participated in the Giving Tuesday movement. Giving Tuesday is a day that honors non-profits by raising awareness and money for hundreds of charities. In our case that means raising funds to help families afford the cost of camp. Over the next few weeks you’ll see various things from us showcasing Giving Tuesday.

This year Giving Tuesday falls on December 1st. Our goal is to raise $10,000 towards Giving Tuesday. Your donations are tax deductible, stay within Camp Mason, and go directly to helping campers come to camp. So how can you help? You can donate money on December 1, you can have a fundraiser in your community like a bake sale or car wash, you can share your stories about camp online (remember to tag us!). It is just as much about spreading the word as it is anything else. Help us give camp to more children, however you can.

Check our what Giving Tuesday is all about here.

If you’ve come to appreciate Camp Mason and want to help others to afford the same amazing experience you had I hope to see you on Giving Tuesday.



Behind the Scenes of Camp Mason

erin_sby Erin Carbone, Business Manager

My view of Camp Mason is quite different from everyone else …. I have an office window view of Day Camp Shannon and get to listen to all the cheerful sounds of children at play and our intense Day Camp Staff keeping them all on target for their activities … there’s a lot of screaming and laughter – it certainly keeps me entertained!

11850492_2531013117521_7225831664123719198_oRecently our office staff and naturalists went to Frost Valley YMCA for a two day retreat, this was the first time our office staff “got out of the office” and took part in a team building experience. The Frost Valley staff chose the low ropes course where we had teams to support us in achieving the activity – it was challenging and I had to depend on others to make it through. It was amazing to see each team member receive encouragement, support and be pushed every step of the way. Both teams accomplished the task with a lot of focus and laughter. The second challenge was a high ropes course, I refrained from participating as I truly don’t like heights but as in all things I do here at Camp Mason, I watched the team use the YMCA core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility to get through the course. They had to strategize their next steps and work together as a group to move between each element.

Our instructor, “Bro”, asked me why I didn’t participate and at first I thought it was because fear of heights but after listening to each person speak at the debrief conversation afterwards I knew why I didn’t try the high ropes challenge. My role at Camp Mason is to oversee the operations and to make sure everything is run smoothly and efficiently. I watched each person perform their tasks and I made sure they were properly clipping in and following the procedures they were given. By the end of this event I knew each step that was taken to make it safe and was given the tools to complete the course in my mind. Given another opportunity I would love to try a high ropes course especially if I had a team that was there to support me. Special shout out to our maintenance director, Bernie Sulzer, who through his caring spirit refrained from doing the high ropes activity so I wasn’t alone on the side lines!

We are very fortunate here at Camp Mason to have such a wonderful group of people that genuinely care for each person that works here. Every day we share our core mission values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility to every person that comes through our programs.


Photo credits to Alison Ewoldt.

Back Together Again

Anna Bilton Blog PhotoBy Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Program Director

The annual Alumni Reunion Weekend is my favorite Fall weekend at Camp Mason. It is wonderful to witness groups of friends reuniting, sharing stories and spending time together in this special place. For me, it only gets better when former campers and staff bring their own children to camp for the first time and I see those families out and about enjoying time here together. I love hearing stories of camp from the past and ideas for the future from our extended camp family and feel a loss when they all head out of the driveway on Sunday afternoon.

Whether you met someone that morning, last year or forty years ago, all those who attend the weekend have something in common with one another, a love and care for Camp Mason. It’s good to be back together again!


I Notice…

By Maddi Green, Naturalist at the Camp Mason Outdoor Center

In my first month as a Camp Mason Naturalist, I’ve asked question “What do you notice?” of my students often. Sometimes, they notice the painted turtles sunning themselves on a fallen tree in Lake Mason. Sometimes they notice that looking up at zip line from the ground is a very different perspective than looking down at the ground from the top. And sometimes they notice that their teammates need to pause and really hear each other if they are ever going to complete their team building challenge.

From hiking with families across the cable bridges of the Yellow Trail to the abandoned Christmas tree farm, to guiding middle school students through righting a flipped canoe, to encouraging high school peer leaders to engage with their fear of heights, being a naturalist gives me many chances to make some observations of my own. Fifth graders will stop to discuss, at length, a slug sunning itself on a rock on the trail that we adults already walked right past. Kids on the rock wall who are willing to try, even if they are unsure of themselves, usually can reach the top, with a little encouragement.

The most effective leaders are the ones who are willing to seek out ideas from the people around them. Best of all, I’ve noticed that Camp Mason gives everyone (naturalists included!) who comes through a chance to really stop and notice the world and the people around them. And once we’ve started noticing all of the turtles and slugs and great ideas from our teammates, we start to notice what our place is in it all.

The Camp Experience For All!

1404940_10151984874926418_786166735_oBy Kelli Varon, Outdoor Center Director

Sixteen summers ago I stepped off an old, small, retired, yellow school bus into a sea of cheering camp counselors. My first year as a camper at sleep away camp was smack dab in that “awkward stage” of life. I was insecure, shy, and unsure of what this whole “camp” thing was about. Little did I know, that first step off that small yellow bus was a leap into a world of opportunities for personal growth with life lasting positive impacts.DSC_0163

Summer Camp provides amazing opportunities for personal and social growth, though unfortunately not everyone has access to a Summer Camp experience. Yet, when Summer Camp is not in session, YMCA Camp Mason is still in full swing creating these same opportunities for participants of all ages and backgrounds.

Through our 9 month Outdoor Education Center program we are able to provide these developing experiences in a more condensed version. Participants learn new abilities, build self-confidence and develop community all throughout their stay at Camp Mason.

Whether it’s the quiet visiting student who steps up and discovers the solution during his team building obstacle, the father who watches his daughter gain courage as she flies down the zipline, the family that takes time to spend a weekend to reconnect with each other and the environment, or the teacher who learns more about and from their students in a few days at camp then an entire semester of school- camp is an experience for all.

UNIS spring 2014 (45)

Where Friends Turn Into Family

Anna Bilton Blog Photo

By Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Program Director

This summer at Camp Mason was an incredible journey. From the very first day of staff training all the way through to waving off our last campers of the season on Saturday we witnessed growth, friendship and endless joy. There is no better place to see relationship building and connections being made than at an All Camp Programs. Whether it’s at opening campfire, talent show, a game of ragnarock or a theme day, there is something very special about having everyone play, learn, support and even compete together. It is heartwarming to watch our oldest campers include, care for and play with our youngest. It works the other way too. This summer I watched the smallest Apache camper teaching an Iroquois teen how to stay on her skateboard as she tried using a ramp for the first time. We all have something to learn from one another.

DSC04785This year, we held a brand new event on the last full day of the summer and not only did we have all of our overnight camp participate, but we also invited our fabulous day camp program too. Every single camper and staff member at camp showed up that morning to run and play together. The first Camp Mason Color Run was an event that everyone could enjoy, regardless of age, physical ability or interests.

Campers chose to sign up for either a 5km run or a shorter fun run around camp. The 5km runners did wonderfully and supported one another each step of the way. Each fun run group was made up of campers of all ages and each group had their own silly method for working their way around the course. There was a group of blindfolded runners, a three-legged crew and even a dancing group. Everyone worked together to make it to the finish line where we held a huge color party to celebrate.

Camp events like this show us that age really is just a number and camp builds strong relationships and develops life skills in our campers and staff. The Camp Mason community truly is where friends turn into family. Oh, and it was a lot of fun too!



The Value of Sports at Camp

LatrelBy Latrel Citizen, Summer Camp Sports and Games Coordinator

Sports are usually perceived as physically exerting activities used as a means of entertainment, competition and even rivalry, both good and bad. Sports to me, however, are so much more than that, especially for children. It’s where they first learn not only how to communicate, but how to work as part of a team as well as learning more about themselves as individuals. All-in-all sports are a cultural phenomenon that everyone can essentially be part of.

Communication is one of the first things that children learn when they join a team. This is an integral part of a child’s development because they are now in a new environment where they are pushed into interacting with both children and adults from different backgrounds. In other words, children who join sports teams will be more accepting of others when they are older because they have already been exposed to people of other cultures. But, communication is only one of the few skills learned when part of a sports team.


Many would also focus on the fact that participating in sports is physically beneficial for children which is true however, it is also emotionally and mentally helpful as well. Participating in sports can help children become more aware of who they are and who they want to be. For lack of better terms children learn to be comfortable with who they are (with proper guidance and positive coaching). Along with that children are given the support they need and therefore learn how to persevere through adversity from a young age. They can transfer every skill they learn from participating in sports and utilize them in real life experiences.
Sports in general are not just about entertaining fans and competing, it’s about learning how to work with others to achieve a common goal and accepting people for what they can do. It’s a culture where children can come and learn not only about skills needed for a specific sport, but skills transferable to everyday life.


The Magicians of Camp Mason


By Shannon Burton, Summer Camp Teen Director

There are many reasons why camp is magical, but for this post I’d like to focus on just one. Today, I am reminded that camp is magical because it is a place where 16-year-olds not only recognize that camp provides amazing experiences, but then turn around to help provide that experience to younger campers by becoming Counselors In Training, or CITs.

What could be more heartwarming? And with all the work the CITs this summer have put in so far, it’s no surprise that I’ve been getting compliments about them all session. They’ve bonded over an intense 3-day, 2-night canoeing and backpacking trip on the Delaware River and Appalachian Trail. They’ve planned and run a Talent Show. They’ve earned Red Cross certifications in CPR, First Aid, and AED use. Just yesterday, they completed the same week of staff training that Camp Mason staff complete every summer before campers arrive.

They’ve been busy, and their hard work shows as I walk around camp. Here, the CITs huddled together with day campers, sharing tips on how to run a Talent Show. There, two CITs are proud to show me their gloved hands and a camper with a freshly applied band-aid to a scraped knee. They shine with confidence and excitement to be in the leadership roles they have just stepped into, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

This Friday, they will begin the final phase of the CIT Program; they will move into their assigned junior cabins to experience what it is like to be a counselor. They’ll have a huge support system comprised of their co-counselors, their Village Leaders, the CIT Coordinators, and myself to guide them along the way. They’ll gain experience that they can refer to later when searching for jobs. We’re hoping, of course, that they will be searching for jobs at Camp Mason, where they can keep the magic going.

CIT Group 1 2015


Summer Reflections

Jackson Patterson

By Jackson Patterson, Summer Camp Director

As I enter my third summer at Camp Mason I find myself reflecting about the people that led me here. At some point that remains a mystery to me someone saw a potential within me. More than likely a few different people saw it at different points along the way. A train of people come to mind, teachers, coaches, my own camp counselors. Each of them helped me to recognize a part of my capabilities that I didn’t even think to look for.

When I was 18 I worked at summer camp for the first time. I watched my Village Chief work hard to lead our group of boys towards an amazing summer experience. I had a great time playing and working with kids and at the end of the summer I told myself that I’d never be the Village Chief; being a counselor was just too good of a job. Over the next two summers I was often “volun-told” for various responsibilities. I was a returner and knew the ropes. After six summers of working at camp I found myself the Assistant Director. I went from never wanting the responsibilities of leadership to now craving it. I had become something entirely different.

I have had the absolute privilege of seeing many staff step up this summer. Former campers are now running camp. Last year’s CITs are now putting their experience to the test by leading cabins and campers of their very own. Today I witnessed a camper move up to the senior villages after years of being in the junior villages. I’ve never seen a wider smile.

It is small moments like this that change us without us even realizing it. I believe that this world could fundamentally change for the best if more people had these opportunities. Opportunities to learn. Opportunities to travel. Opportunities to expand their horizons. A single moment can make a difference and put a child on a life changing path.

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YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason
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