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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.

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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.

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                           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 30th– October 2nd 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: https://campmason.org/alumni/reunion-information/.

 

What a Summer!

Anna Bilton Blog PhotoBy Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Director 

It feels like just yesterday that welcomed our first campers of the season and yet I can’t seem to find the counselors, I haven’t heard the hand stomp lately and no one has showed up for flag raising for weeks! It can only mean one thing: Summer Camp 2016 is over. While it’s hard to believe that another summer at Camp Mason has been and gone there is no shortage of memories to keep it alive for a whole lot longer yet! This year was my fourth summer at Camp Mason and genuinely the best one so far. Each and every summer the community at camp continues to amaze me with their compassion, care and downright silliness! To help me to overcome the post-summer camp blues I’d like to share a few of my favorite moments from this year.

Occupy Mason

As a part of our Masonstock Theme Day, the whole camp held a march on the camp office to protest all manner of major camp issues including sloppy joes, getting that bell outside the dining hall to ring and of course, more time to spend with my dog, Buseok. Some protesters had set up tents, the security team had sirens and a hose to cool down the masses, and everyone came dressed for the occasion. It doesn’t get funnier than watching our CEO, Keith, all dressed up for a day at the office try to calm down the crowd and move them on. It was a great start to the weekend!

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Anything at Day Camp

Every time I strolled down to the Day Camp area I was instantly entertained. If you are ever in need of a pick-me-up then our fabulous day campers are the people to help you out. From getting messy to playing creative games, singing songs to pulling faces – Day Camp does it with the most enthusiasm and energy they can. This year the day camp staff went all out for their theme days and every Friday morning I looked forward to seeing their costumes and characters as I strolled over to flag raising. They can slip and slide like nobody else (it’s an art form) and most importantly, they make a mean rice krispie treat and are always willing to share!

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Algonquin Iron Chef

Sunday Funday will never be the same after witnessing (and smelling) this Algonquin afternoon activity. I’ve seen iron chef activities before but this one was like no other. The rules might sound familiar; each cabin was given a set of ingredients and a time limit to make a meal. In a regular iron chef activity the teams would then present their creation to the judges who would choose the tastiest one but here’s the twist for this game: the campers had a foul array of ingredients and the challenge instead was to see which counselors could handle the taste test. The campers had a riot coming up with combinations that would freak the counselors out and watching them try their handiwork. Sure enough, in good Camp Mason style the counselors were troopers who tried them all and had a hilarious time doing so. They are much braver than me!

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It was not easy to pick just three highlights to share. There were so many I could continue listing great moments from this summer for days! Thank you to all of the campers, families and staff that made summer 2016 unforgettable. It would not have been the same without each and every one of you. I hope you all have fantastic memories to keep you going until next summer when we’ll be doing it all over again at Camp Mason. See you in 2017!

A New Kind of Energy

13438973_10101373539749365_1601697436517481269_nBy Hayley Harrington, Summer Camp Apache Cabin Counselor
Summer camp staff have one of the hardest jobs in the world: making sure that every parent’s most prized creation has an amazing time away from home. Our jobs get even harder when we have to reset every two weeks and recreate the magic for a new group of campers. The impossible task seems to be giving session four a session one; we have already spent at least seven weeks preparing for this group of campers. New staff have more confidence, and returning staff have fallen back into the rhythm that makes camp run smoothly. We work tirelessly around the clock, and exhaustion begins to set in. How do we continue to keep the energy up when all we want to do is take naps? How do we continue to create magic every single day of the summer?
We find a new kind of energy. This sort is seldom found anywhere else in the world other than summer camp. Our energy comes from nothing other than the love of campers. There is nothing more powerful than the unconditional love of children, because for two or four or more weeks, we become the biggest influences in their lives. The collateral exhaustion that comes with our jobs is nothing in comparison to the gratitude received when a child comes to you and thanks you for learning a new skill. When we reflect on our days during cabin chat, there is nothing more powerful than hearing that the best part of a camper’s day was an activity we led or a time we went out of our ways to make a child happy. When we say “the campers come first”, we are not saying it because we do not want to put ourselves first, but because we, as staff, have that new kind of energy. We love what we do because we love our campers more than anything. Regardless of when in the summer our children arrive, we want to show them the world.
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Project Crossroads is back for 2016! We’re in! Are You?

12390996_10153541597496749_7753774273703067288_nBy Melissa Silva, Summer Camp Cabin Life Director

Camper in a 2016 Crossroads Shirt!

Camper in a 2016 Crossroads Shirt!

For a second imagine if you or your son or daughter had never had the opportunity to experience Camp Mason, as a camper or staff member? How would their lives be different? I recently had the opportunity to talk to different staff members, many who had been campers themselves, about this question and the responses were over whelming. Some spoke of this place as a home away from home where they’ve turned to in times of need. Other spoke of the confidence in themselves that developed because of how loved and empowered they felt here. It was clear, Mason was home and without it they would not be who they are today. Now instead imagine if any family, regardless of financial status was able to provide this life altering experience to their son or daughter? This is the hope of Camp Mason’s initiative, Project Crossroads.

On average, 1 out of every 8 campers at Mason receive financial assistance to help make the summer of their lives possible. Project Crossroads is just one of the many ways that summer staff, campers and families help make that a reality. For summer 2016, our goal is to help send 117 children to camp, to mark the 117th summer of Camp Mason. Our staff have already begun raising money through our yearly staff auction. Because of their generosity we were able to raise $2758 dollars! You can help too! At the trading post, campers can buy our camper designed Crossroads t-shirt. For every shirt sold, $8 goes to Project Crossroads. A new addition to Camp Mason this year, Crossroads Cards not only help make our staff feel like celebrities but the proceeds also go entirely to Project Crossroads. With all of these things combined, it is truly amazing to see an entire community rally behind a single cause: Making Mason possible for every child.

A crossroad. We have all been there before. When we reach a point in our lives where we are faced with an important decision. In order to make this decision we reflect on the past and look to the future. Camp Mason is this special place, the crossroad for many of our young people. It is a safe environment not only where they can grow as individuals but also where they are given the tools to meet any obstacle they may face. A walk through our camp on any given day will reveal the smell of campfires, the chuckle of children’s laughter, but must importantly the countless stories, new and old, of how Mason has changed their lives. Let’s help spread this Mason legacy to every child through Project Crossroads!

Click here to make a donation to Project Crossroads.

Summer Camp is Around the Corner!

11825786_1121200707907366_2850426733543746186_nBy Salva Cossu, Assistant Camp Director for Summer Camp 2016

If you already know Camp Mason, you very probably know why everybody wants to come back, year after year, for Summer Camp. The energy, the happiness, the life that fills the Camp bubble is amazing. I came here for the first time in 2008 from France: I still don’t know where my parents actually found Camp Mason but there I was, for my first time in America. I loved it, went back to my country and thought that was it. 7 years later, last summer, I ended up applying to come back as a staff member, got hired, and spent the best summer of my life. Don’t ask me why I waited to do it until so long after my first experience, I still don’t know: Camp Mason drags you in. But what I can tell you is that I met friends for life, kids I taught things to and that taught me things in return.

Everybody here loves what they do each day, the staff members and the kids alike. That’s why everybody is so full of energy and so true. Back to nature, no cellphones, no computers, no virtual reality: your friends are here, with you, laughing, running, talking to each other, being their true selves. In a society where we all want to share every small bit of our lives, to show it, to capture it, Camp Mason is like an island where time stops.

So here I am again, like a lot of staff members and kids, ready for summer 2016 at Camp Mason, ready to have fun, to laugh, to run, to share, to care, to be honest and responsible. To live.

This will be Salva’s second summer as a staff member at Camp Mason and before that he was a camper too. He comes from France and brings passion, care and dedication to his role this summer. We’re excited to have him here busily preparing for Summer Camp! 

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