As much of our community already knows, I recently I made the announcement that I will be ending my time here at Camp Mason to pursue a new challenge of working with the Student Conservation Association. While closing out my week at camp I wanted to share my appreciation for this community and the individuals that have been a part of it.
Each summer we speak about the importance of trying new things, of feeling part of a community, and of impacting those around us. These notions are often intangible and hard to quantify and perhaps all the more impactful for those reasons. One day you wake up and you just realize that you’ve grown and that’s the beauty of camp. It changes you subtly and greatly all at once.
As I get ready for the next chapter in my life I wanted to say thank you for welcoming me into your community and giving me the opportunity to learn and grow. I will miss much about Mason. I will miss the “magic,” the impact, the community, and fun that only the staff and especially campers can create. Camp will be in good hands this summer and there’s already a great team in place to carry the torch. I wish you all the very best in the summer and seasons to come. Be well and maybe I’ll see you at the Alumni Reunion!
Twenty-six Summer Camp staff members made their way to camp last weekend for our annual Winter Meeting. We talked about what went well last summer, what we could do better next time and shared new ideas for this summer. We are fortunate to have staff that care wholeheartedly about camp and the work that they do. So much so, that they gave up their own time to help us make the summer program even better.
When we weren’t deep in conversation about all things camp there were games, a Winter tour and a whole lot of laughter. It was wonderful to spend time together and build even stronger relationships with one another. Thanks to everyone who joined us for this valuable weekend. Not long until summer now and we can do it all again!
If you know any of us personally or have ever read any of our blog or social media posts the chances are you’ve probably heard the staff here at Camp Mason talk about the benefits of camp. We really do believe that a camp experience can have a powerful, positive impact for children and young people (and we can’t stop going on about it)! We can say this because we see the impact every day around camp and we even feel it’s effect on ourselves. But what is it that we see? What is it that makes us so sure of the value of camp?
I can’t speak for all of us but I can share a recent moment when I felt a big, old dose of camp magic that screamed volumes to me about the positive impacts children experience at Camp Mason. This past summer was a blast and that makes it a pleasure to travel back in time all the way to the second Wednesday in Session 2A.
As I made my usual afternoon round of camp I quite literally stumbled on the Making the Movie activity group. They were crouched down in the undergrowth, speaking only in excited whispers and focusing so hard on their project that they hardly noticed me arrive. It turns out I had showed up at just the right time and was quickly told to get down and quiet down. The campers and activity leaders were in the middle of filming a nature documentary about the wildest of all beasts; Camp Mason counselors. If we made too much noise we would disturb the staff in their natural habitat and draw attention to ourselves. I was told this would not only ruin the documentary but that it could be dangerous. From a safe distance we watched the archery counselor run the range until the last arrows were fired and then we made our move. He spotted us and we had no choice but to retreat, and retreat fast.
After we’d reached safety I went on my way continued to walk through the woods visiting archery, riflery and high ropes. I couldn’t stop thinking about the five minutes I’d spent with our camper film makers. The Making the Movie is an elective for campers and while this group only got together on Monday, by Wednesday they were already as thick as thieves. Each camper was an important part of that group and was equally involved in the acting, filming and directing process. Their idea showed a ton of creativity and everyone was perfectly in character. This group was full of confidence and appeared to be enjoying working together to complete their project. This group was having fun together!
The few moments that I was a part of that group I felt included, important and happy, not to mention entirely convinced that watching the staff was akin to being on a safari. That’s what camp does. That’s when I know for sure that camp positively impacts children and young people. That’s why I harp on and on about how great camp is. And this was just one moment with one group during one afternoon in one summer. There are so many more wonderful moments like this at camp. Children develop invaluable life skills all while enjoying what they’re doing. Camp does this. Just ask any of us! We’d be happy to tell you, and then tell you again and then again and again…
I’d like to thank our tireless media team for their hard work and dedication in running, leading and editing the Making the Movie activity. In case you wanted to see the finished documentary (and you do, it’s hilarious) check out the video below. It’s the best 3 minutes you’ll spend all day!
Hello, a lot’s been happening around the camp this fall, a lot of groups have come and gone and will come again no doubt. We’ve begun construction of the Dining Hall bathroom addition and it’s progressing nicely despite the late time of year…we’ve been very fortunate with the weather so far and it seems to be holding steady. Good thing too since the squirrels seem to still be gathering their winter stores. There’s is a picture above of an albino gray squirrel that lives close to the Maintenance Shop.
I’d like to thank everyone who came out for the Fall Volunteer weekend. It was structured a bit differently this time, being combined with the Alumni Reunion. I feel it went very smoothly, everyone took the changes in stride. We got some good projects finished and folks seemed satisfied with their contributions. Here’s a quick recap of the finished projects:
the shiny new pile of firewood at the maintenance shop
the frosting of cabin bathroom windows to improve camper privacy
winterizing the Dining Hall and Algonquin village windows to conserve fuel
a new set of big triangle benches across the lake from the Dining Hall
a nice paintjob on Lake Mason’s boathouse.
New triangle benches
Everything our volunteers do for Camp really matters; to the campers, the staff and even to the people just driving down Birch Ridge Rd.
I’d like to introduce a project that my department has been working on this past summer and fall. We’ve re-purposed an old, unused water tank into a clubhouse/overnight site for our campers and guests. It still has a ways to go, I’m expecting to see it finished this coming spring. It will be one of a series of remodels to add some unique destinations/hangout spots around camp. I have the next project picked out and some initial ideas planned. Here is a photo of the Tank at present and a photo of the Silo that will have to go thru a safety check and then a remodel for 2016.
Re-purposed water tank
The next project!
I’ve received a lot of great feedback already on the Tank and I hope to keep that enthusiasm up for the Silo next year.
As Food Service Director I have the privilege of feeding everyone that comes through the doors to the dining hall. Whether it’s the Summer Camp or the Outdoor Center, all campers, students, teachers, chaperones, and alumni meet three times a day to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I love watching the summer campers come back every year. Watching them go from the junior tables to the senior ones, growing into wonderful young adults. I love when summer camp does theme days and the dining hall is transformed and the staff and the campers are in costume.
The Outdoor Center brings all kinds of groups, from schools to family camps, reunions, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts, which we gently remind to “please walk” as they eagerly get their food.
I’m happy knowing everyone has a variety of foods to choose from and that there is always something even for the pickiest of eaters. It’s very easy to work with everyone here because of the wonderful Camp Mason kitchen staff. Just as in other departments of the camp, the kitchen staff have gone from co-workers and friends to family! Always working together to get the job done. Knowing we’re a team and helping each other makes it easy to get the food cooked and out on the line.
My favorite line to hear from returning campers is “I was here last year and couldn’t wait to come back!” So, as this year winds down, everyone is looking forward to hearing those words again next year.
Campers ready for dinner in the Camp Mason Dining Hall.
By 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.
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.
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.
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!
Recently 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.
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!
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.