The Dirt on Dirt

By Sara Davis, Outdoor Center Program Director

At the Camp Mason Outdoor Center, we have several opportunities to get up close and personal with dirt. Why would you want to? Dirt is beneficial to people, in many different ways. Not as just a substance used to educate, but as a substance that can be therapeutic, and bring joy to the hearts of young and old.  

Our Wetlands class involves hands on, down and dirty activities in order to learn about the characteristics of a wetland.  One special characteristic of a wetland is the soil. The students get to dig in the soil to get a sample, and then use their senses to gather information. They learn how to use color palettes and read flow charts to learn more about wetland soil.  

Now Archaeology is a class anyone could dig. Participants get to learn about the history of this area and unearthen hidden artifacts by digging in the sand pit.

Compost isn’t just for the worms! In our dining hall we encourage students to create as little food waste as possible and to separate their food waste from things that can be composted. Such things include apple cores, banana peels, brown napkins, and any fruit or vegetable matter that will be used in our compost bins to break down into healthy, fertile soil. In our Sustainability class, students learn about the compost itself and the insects, microbes, and plants that benefit from it.

Which brings me to our garden. Whether it is planting, weeding, or harvesting, there is always fun to be had done in the garden. Working in this dirt proves to leave one with tangible, and edible results.

Dirt matters

The benefits to people are great indeed. Education about our natural world through hands on experiences will help to ensure future generations caring about the health of our soil and our planet. Exposure to various bacteria in the soil has much needed immune boosting benefits in an ever increasingly sterile world. There are also mental health benefits. Certain bacteria in the soil can increase serotonin levels in people. This is the chemical in the brain that elevates mood.  

So whether it is exploring the wetlands, the archaeology dig site, the compost or the garden at Camp Mason or getting dirty in your yard or local park, take opportunities to get dirty and you will see and feel the benefits. The joy of playing in the dirt isn’t just for kids!

Find out more about our programs for schools here.


Cabin activities teach kids how to compromise

Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Director

Cabin activities teach kids how to compromise. In addition, they allow kids to share their own interests as well as to try new things at summer camp. Our schedule at camp is intentional and each activity type serves a purpose. So, let’s have a look at what a cabin activity is at Camp Mason is and then dig a little deeper.

What is a cabin activity?

A cabin activity (or group activity in day camp) is the first activity of the day, it happens right after breakfast and cabin clean up. It’s when the whole cabin takes part in an activity together with their counselors.


Cabin activities are an opportunity to do something fun and special as a group that facilitates bonding, teamwork and togetherness. We also use this time to inspire, surprise and encourage campers to do things they don’t usually get to do. The cabin activity slot in our schedule is a time set aside for cabins to do anything, and we mean ANYTHING they can possibly think of. The idea is to create an activity that is unique and memorable to the group and place rather than repeating an activity over and over again. 

Who decides what activities the cabin group does?

The cabin group does. Counselors and village leaders get as much input from their campers as possible. We ask campers, ‘if you could do anything at camp, what would you do?’ Together each cabin group comes up with a list of activities they would like to do and shares them with their Village Leader who makes the schedule. The Village Leader works with the Program Director to book in specialist-led activities as well as creative counselor-led ideas too. 


What activities do cabin groups try?

Sometimes a cabin will sign up for a program activity area, such as pool games, boating or archery. Other times, cabin groups might play a game of kickball against another cabin or go on a nature hike. And then, there are plenty of mornings when cabin groups play completely original and unique games like Roaming Gnomes or Woodland Ninjas for example. These are creative and fun games that bring the group together. After the on-site overnight camping adventures, cabins might use the time to debrief and talk about their experiences.

How do cabin activities help campers learn to compromise?

Well, there are 8-10 campers in each cabin group and everyone has different ideas of what they like to do. This means that on some days campers get their first pick of activity and on others they try something that another cabin mate chooses. On other days, the whole cabin could try a new activity together that a counselor has designed.


Campers learn to accept that they can’t do what they individually want every time and begin to compromise on doing something else. The impact of this system is that campers expand their horizons and try things they might never have chosen for themselves. Cabin activities are a place where all voices are heard, whether they are the loudest one in the group or not. It’s a win-win for everyone.


When we compromise with one another, we can maintain healthy happy relationships and maintain fairness. Counselors help campers to get their heads around all of this and process their feelings. Being able to compromise and support the ideas of others are important life skills that campers can take back home. And of course, like all things at camp, cabin activities are super fun!

If you’d like to find out more about our schedule have a look at our Summer Camp Guide.


Summer camper competing in the Mason Olympic summer camp theme day

Mason Olympics are back for 2023

The Mason Olympics are back for 2023! They are a staple of Session 2 of Summer Camp. They take place on the first Friday and Saturday of the session. It’s an event that divides camp into ten different countries, led by coaches and an ambassador. Campers experience culture sharing, team work and activities that challenge the mind, body and spirit.

On the first day, teams (countries) create cheers, design banners, learn about their country and create a skit or song to perform at the Opening Ceremony. Each team member gets a custom country t-shirt to wear during Day 2. Day 2 of the Mason Olympics involves battling other countries in events like tug of war, country trivia among other action-packed games around camp.

The day wraps up with a closing ceremony, where we find out which country wins the coveted Hercules and Spirit awards. To earn the Hercules award, a country must win as many events are possible, while keeping good sportsmanship and teamwork in mind. The Spirit Award goes to the country that demonstrates positivity, originality, and keeps up an enthusiastic energy throughout the day.


Summer camper competing in the Mason Olympic summer camp theme day

Join us this summer for the Mason Olympics filled with energy, spirit, and fun! Session 2 runs from July 9 – 22, 2023. You can register for this Session 2 at Camp Mason here.

Meet Jack, the Summer Camp Program Director

Hello Everyone!


My name is Jack LaGoy, and I have started as the Summer Camp Program Director this January. I am coming from being Assistant Summer Camp Director at a YMCA camp in Michigan where I was also a camper for five years. This spring, I graduated from University of South Florida (Go Bulls!) majoring in Pure Mathematics. Despite the difference in temperature between South Florida and New Jersey, I am loving it here already and cannot wait for the summer to start.


Camp has such an incredible impact on campers. It’s hard to believe that 14 years ago, I started my camp journey as a camper, quiet and scared to be myself until my counselor helped me feel at home and comfortable voicing my opinion. At camp, this is a common story, ask a staff member who their favorite counselor was when they were a camper, and I am sure you will get an immediate response along with a story of them being encouraged and growing from it.


Camp Mason is still new to me, but what has struck me immediately is the passion its staff members, campers, and alumni have for it, so as we get closer to summer, I am super excited to get to know you all and be a part of this energetic and passionate group of people.


The Summer Camp Program Director works closely with the Summer Camp Director to prepare for and run summer camp. We are busy putting together a stellar team and making plans to make this summer a ton of fun!

Contact me here with ideas for summer camp activities, events and anything else!

Meet Shani, Our Camp Registrar

Each time you call Camp Mason you are most likely greeted by our friendly, hard working Camp Registrar, Shani. We realized that while you may talk or email with Shani many times as your family prepares for camp you may not know much about her!

Shani has been working at Camp Mason for almost 14 years. Before that she worked in an Emergency Room making sure things ran smoothly. Shani lives locally to camp and has three daughters who all attended and worked at camp over the years. She likes animals, spending time with her family and cosy wood fires! Shani loves her work and genuinely enjoys getting to know all our of summer camp families. 

Shani is always happy to help you with registration, making payments and preparing for camp. You can reach by her on 908-362-8217 or by emailing Shani will also be ready at the front desk for our Open Houses and check in days if you’d like to stop by and say hi!



Where Friends Turn Into Family

By Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Director

Every summer at Camp Mason is an incredible journey. From the very first day of staff training all the way through to waving off our last campers of the season, we witness personal development, friendship and endless joy. We meet daily as a whole camp to give announcements, share meals and play in our free time. However, there is no better place to see relationship building and connections being made than at an ’All Camp’ activity where everyone gets involved. These usually happen once or twice a week in the evenings and over the weekend.

Whether it’s at an opening campfire, the talent show, a game of Ragnarock (a unique camp game) 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 round too. Not long ago, I watched the smallest Hilltop camper teaching a Ridgeline 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.

One camp

On the last full day of the summer we hold a Color Run event, not only do we have all of our overnight camp participate, but we invite our fabulous day camp program too. Every single camper and staff member on site runs and plays together. The Camp Mason Color Run is an event that everyone can enjoy, regardless of age, physical ability or interests.

Moments like this teach us that age really is just a number. It also shows us how camp builds strong relationships and develops life skills in our campers and staff. We can learn a lot from one another, sometimes it’s a skill like how to dribble a basketball and other times it’s a value such as how to show empathy.

Camp builds community

When we spend time together at camp, there is always laughter, learning and growth. It’s something special to see children of all ages come together as one, look out for one another and enjoy each other’s company. We plan it this way, there is plenty of time in cabin and village units to bond and try activities together, and All-Camp events are the icing on the cake!

The Camp Mason community truly is where friends turn into family. And each one of us, campers and staff alike, take the things we learn and develop back into our communities, families and schools. Summer camp gives so much. Oh, and it’s a lot of fun too!

Find out more about how overnight camp works here.

Meet the Summer Camp Director

By Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Director

Hi everyone! I’m Anna, the Summer Camp Director. This will be my 7th summer at Camp Mason. I’m no stranger to camp, but I did leave to focus on my family in the UK for a little while before my return. It’s a delight to be back on the team and I am counting down the weeks until the first campers arrive in June.

I never went to a traditional summer camp as a child, and not a day goes by when I wish I had. It wasn’t an option my family or I knew about when I was growing up in the UK. When I first started working at summer camp in 2008 I had no idea what to expect. I quickly realized there is no place like summer camp and I couldn’t stay away. The connections I made at camp were steadfast and the sense of adventure and community spoke to me. I also learned a lot! Now, 15 years later I am still just as enthused about planning for summer camp 2023. It never gets old to me.

Getting ready for summer

My goal at summer camp is for campers and staff to feel welcome and valued. I plan carefully for months ahead of each summer to hire and train a team that shares this vision. I also spend lots of time organizing the fun stuff, the activities and events that make Camp Mason so memorable. I love coming up with new activity ideas and then making them a reality with campers in the summer. And if there’s a costume involved, then all the better! Everything is put together with care to set kids up for success when they are at camp. We all want campers to have loads of fun and make friends at camp. And all this planning has camper safety at its center, both physically and emotionally.

About me

I have three soon-to-be campers at home too. Ellis is 6, Giles is 3 and Sylvie is still a baby. Between the children and our sweet border collie Buseok, my husband and I are busy outside of work too. We love to play and explore outside whenever we can. On a free weekend, you will usually find us running around in the woods, making sandcastles on the beach, camping in tents, or all the above!

Let’s talk

Since becoming a parent myself, I understand more than ever how important it is to feel comfortable and confident about the choices you make for your child. It’s a big deal to sign your kids up for summer camp, so please get in touch and ask any questions you have. You can reach me by email here [email link needed –]. Don’t be shy, I love to talk about camp!

Find out more about Summer Camp at Camp Mason.

Why I come to Alumni Weekends

Colleen on the far right

Colleen on the right

By Colleen Murray-Seig, Alumni Committee Chair

It’s no secret that camp is one of my favorite places to be. There’s a magic there, a feeling of coming home that envelopes me as soon as I turn in the driveway that’s more than nostalgia. It keeps me coming back whenever I can, especially to work and Alumni weekends.


Alumni Friends Reunited

I realize some people think “you can never go home again” and that things always change. This of course is true, but at camp the changes are purely cosmetic, and I get even more out of these weekends then when I was a kid. Now that I’m older, I appreciate more the gift of just being. Feeling time slow down to a pace where I can enjoy it, instead of racing so fast that I’m constantly playing catch up. Taking time out for a hike or doing something creative gets lost in my day to day world. Whether it’s going for a walk in the woods, painting or singing I realize I need to do this for me and that I’m a better wife, mother and person because of it.

Alumni weekend also allows me to make new friends of all ages. When I was a camper, I hung out with a lot of the same kids who were mostly my age. Now when we hang out at night around the village fire ring I meet people from different generations and can hear from their tales how much has and has not changed. I’ve made friends with several people who weren’t even here when I went to camp which I wouldn’t have been able to do were it not for these weekends. We all have one thing in common, a special place in our heart for camp.

So if you’re not doing anything the weekend of September 28- 30 why not come and join us? You can take a canoe out on the lake, sing old camp songs around the council fire or reconnect with your inner camper. Come on I’ll race you down Sioux hill and meet you at the flagpole! Find out more about the weekend here:


Camp Mason Family Camps


By Sally Wright, Outdoor Center Program Director 

Family Camps are one of Camp Mason’s most popular weekend programs. They are wonderful weekends full of family bonding, meeting new people, exciting activities, and so much more! There is something for every member of the family.

All of our family camp weekends begin on Friday night with a snack and board games in the Dining Hall. Families arrive, settle into their cabins, and prepare for the weekend ahead.

Saturday and Sunday mornings start with breakfast and then activities begin. One family may choose to start the day by exploring a local trail through an off-site hike to Van Campen’s Glen or the Catfish Fire Tower, while another family might decide to get creative with our arts & crafts or candle making activities. We also offer more traditional camp activities such as riflery, archery, canoeing, and survival skills. Everyone will gather in the Dining Hall for lunch, and then it’s back to activities for the rest of the afternoon. Sometimes families break into groups to enjoy a few of their personal favorite activities like tie dye, outdoor cooking, or the zip line. Families are also able to cool off in the swimming pool or spend some time relaxing beside the lake.

The afternoon activities end and everyone heads to the Dining Hall for dinner, but the fun continues with our evening activity. The evening activities vary from year to year, but past activities have included water balloon volley ball, night hikes, pumpkin carving, a pool party, life size board games, and much more. We also have a traditional campfire complete with songs, skits, and s’mores.

The weekend officially ends on Monday morning with a continental breakfast, and an opportunity to visit the Trading Post. Families are welcome to hang out on camp and enjoy the property before heading home after a fantastic weekend.

Our Family Camps are offered on the following holiday weekends: Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and President’

s Day. To find out more about our Family Camps visit the “year round” tab on our website here.

Teacher In-Service Day Training Programs

By Sally Wright, Outdoor Center Program Director – Groups and Retreats

Gather the faculty and staff at your school and come to Camp Mason for a teacher in-service day. Spend the day outdoors participating in a variety of activities that promote group collaboration and hands on learning. The group will leave at the end of the day with new teaching techniques and activities, as well as a better understanding of one another.

If you choose a teambuilding session your group will be lead through a number of teambuilding exercises by our professional staff. The exercises are designed to highlight the various aspects of teambuilding such as communication, leadership, and trust. After each exercise the group will have a chance to reflect on how they worked as a team, and discuss how they might improve upon any weaknesses. The group can also relate the discussion to how they work with one another throughout the school year. The teambuilding experience can continue by choosing to add a session of high ropes to the schedule.

To build upon the teambuilding experience, groups can participate in a session where they learn how to run teambuilding exercises with their students. The exercises require few to no props, and can be done within the space of a classroom. The group will also learn how to facilitate a debrief session to promote teamwork among the students.

We also offer academic focused sessions, in which our professional staff share interactive techniques to teach information in the content areas. Sessions may include questioning techniques, development of student’s observations skills, games that get students thinking about specific topics, and much more. The information in these sessions is best suited for teachers who teach 4th – 7th grade.

Scheduling is flexible and can be created based on the interest of the group. We are able to offer both full and half day sessions. If you have any questions or would like to book a teacher in-service day please call us on 908-362-8217.


YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason
23 Birch Ridge Road
Hardwick, NJ 07825
Phone: 908-362-8217
Fax: 908-362-5767
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