The Importance of Sleeping Under the Stars

By Anna Bilton, Summer Camp Program DirectorAnna Bilton Blog Photo

For one night every two weeks, each cabin group adventures out into the woods with their sleeping bags and food in hand to spend a night in the great outdoors. As a camp counselor, I loved nothing more than putting my backpack on and leading my campers along the trail knowing that soon we would be cooking over an open fire, telling stories, and finally falling asleep under the stars. Today as a Summer Camp Program Director, my most cherished moments are welcoming cabins back to camp after an overnight. I delight in hearing campers’ stories of their experiences, the challenges they overcame and most of all, their excitement and pride about the adventure they had. The power of this traditional summer camp activity should not be underestimated. Perhaps spending a night outdoors is something we should all do more often.

Reconnect:  Getting away from the grips of technology and getting outside, even for one night, can make all the difference. Campers and staff share stories of becoming closer over the course of an overnight. Taking the time to talk, share and listen to one another without the usual distractions helps groups connect and bond tightly together. That these meaningful interactions take place in beautiful, natural surroundings serves to make them even more powerful.

Marvel:  Campers often tell me about the deer they saw or the sound of a babbling creek that they fell asleep listening to. Think back to the first time you saw a frog, bird or other critter. Try to remember the excitement and intrigue you felt. If the kind of feeling I’m talking about could be bottled up, it would be labeled wonder. Spending more time outside in nature creates opportunities for us to rediscover our sense of wonder. We are lucky to live in a world with such beauty.

Accomplish:  For an overnight to be a success groups need to work together to carry supplies, collect firewood, clear out a sleeping area, build a fire and cook meals. Teamwork is paramount and achieving your group goal is a fantastic feeling. For many campers and staff spending the night in the woods without electricity and other comforts is an enormous achievement. I cannot begin to count the number of campers whose overnight experience has given them the courage to try other new things.

Where will you go on your next outdoor adventure? What will you discover?

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This post was originally written for the Y’s “This Week in Young Leaders” blog. You can see it by clicking on the link below.

Staff Spotlight: Kyle Van Laar

Kyle is a Day Camp Shannon institution.  Both campers and staff alike look forward to seeing his welcoming smile and find out what fun he has in store every morning at drop off. Not only is Kyle passionate about Day Camp and the work he does here, but he is training to be a teacher because he loves working with young people and their families in the community too. He is known for giving 100% to Day Camp theme days so watch out for his amazing costumes around camp!

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Hobo Meal Recipe

How to make your very own hobo meals at home

Every summer camp cabin group goes on an overnight camping trip on our property during their stay with us. Groups hike out, make a fire to cook over and sleep under the stars. The dinner menu is a traditional Mason offering of hobo meals followed by s’mores. There are already some of you out there who are making the Camp Mason overnight favorite, hobo meals, at home but for those of you that want to, but aren’t sure how and want to give them a try, this post is for you.

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Staff Spotlight: Tulah Fuchs

Tulah is a long time Camp Mason attendee who kindly agreed to a Staff Spotlight Interview with us to share a little about her experiences with summer camp.  It was awesome to interview Tulah because her love for Mason really comes through when you talk with her. Her passion reminds us of why camp is so important and special to so many.

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Camper Spotlight: Tyler Kerr

Tyler has been coming to summer camp at Camp Mason for six years and not only that, he and his family are regular contributors at our biannual Volunteer Work Weekend. He agreed to be interviewed by Program Director, Anna Bilton in between splitting and stacking firewood for camp at the Fall Work Weekend.


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Staff Spotlight: Alex Loop

Alex Loop is a Camp Mason summer camp legend – just ask any of our summer staff. She is a long time Diamond M Ranch camper and counselor, and her passion for the program is contagious. Talking about camp with Alex was so much fun that for a brief moment it almost could’ve been mid-July when the summer is in full swing! She is a true advocate for the benefits of riding horses and working as a team to care for them at summer camp. For anyone who is even thinking about signing up for Ranch next summer, this interview is a must-read.

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How Camp Taught Me to Be a Teacher

From Camp Counselor to First Grade Teacher                                             

By Erin Thatcher

Recently Anna Bilton approached me about writing this post for Camp Mason.  She asked me to describe how working at camp helped to prepare me to be a teacher.  I had spent the 2011 and 2012 summers at Camp Mason working as a counselor as well as serving as the Apache Village Leader during the summer 2013 summer.  This past summer was the first summer in three years I spent away from Mason. Although it was heartbreaking to do so, leaving Mason allowed me to move on to another exciting phase in my life: teaching first grade!


As I reflected on how working at camp prepared me to become a teacher I immediately thought of several things:

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YMCA Camp Mason Welcomes Keith VanDerzee

YMCA Camp Mason’s New Executive Director

Hardwick, NJ – (November 21) – YMCA Camp Mason announced today that its board of trustees has unanimously chosen Keith VanDerzee as the organization’s next chief executive officer. VanDerzee will succeed Dave DeLuca, on January 5, 2015.

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Staff Spotlight: Bobby Berdon

Bobby has been a part of the Camp Mason community for a long time and often speaks of his love of camp. He generously agreed to be interviewed by Program Director, Anna Bilton about his time at camp. Talking with Bobby was a pleasure since talking about camp seemed to come naturally to him and his love for Mason was so very apparent.

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Giving Tuesday


On December 2 YMCA Camp Mason will once again be participating in Giving Tuesday. Created in response to the massive consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday offers people an opportunity to give back. Thousands of organizations and individuals have joined the cause to volunteer in their communities, spread awareness about a cause, or give to their favorite charity.


When YMCA Camp Mason joined Giving Tuesday last year we weren’t sure what to expect. Through the caring and compassion of our community members and their loved ones we raised over $8,000 in a single day. As a non-profit, Camp Mason does everything we can to provide enriching experiences for all of our visitors throughout the year. We care about the development of the students that visit our Outdoor Center. We view our time with our summer campers as being a partnership in their learning and growth. At camp children explore and inquire, they step outside their comfort zones, they challenge each other and themselves to be the best they can be. Our campers and students find it within themselves to do things they didn’t know they were capable of. We don’t make them braver or more independent. We don’t make them into anything they aren’t already. Camp provides an opportunity for children to discover and be who they are. That’s what we do. It’s a simple concept with profound impact but we can’t do it alone.


Please join our community of passionate donors on December 2. Make a gift, share a message, volunteer in your community. Give back. Together we can provide those opportunities to see what each and every one of us is made of. We hope to see you on Giving Tuesday.


Want to learn more about Giving Tuesday:


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