Summer Camp

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.

Winter Happenings at Camp

By Anna Bilton, Senior Camp Director

It might be cold outside, the trees are bare and summer seems like it is a long way away but the winter is not all doom and gloom here at camp. We are able to take time to reflect on the work we do and make plans to make the camp experience better than ever this spring, summer and fall. In case you were wondering what’s on the agenda for 2018 here’s a preview of what’s in store!

1. Summer Camp staff from 10 different countries!

We have been busy interviewing and selecting an all-star summer staff team to run amazing programs this summer. They are all raring to go and are going to be incredible role models this summer for our campers!

2. New and improved candle making area

We’ve offered candle making at Camp Mason for years and it is a huge hit with our weekend Outdoor Center guests but its never had a home of its own. This year we are planning to convert an old cabin into a candle making workshop to be able to offer the activity to all of our visitors including our summer campers. Prepare to get creative and make a candle of your own. 

3. Preparing our new covered space for action

You may have heard on the grapevine that there is a large, new covered space in our main entrance way as of the end of last year. We are thrilled to have a large covered space for rainy day activities, meeting spaces and evening programs. Before we can fill the space with people there are a few things we need to do first – we need to decide on lights, a screen, chairs and tables as well as anything else we can think to make the space as useful as possible. It’s an exciting project and should be fully functional and ready to go for the spring season. We know this space is going to make rainy days and evening programs much better.

4. Planning training for our Outdoor Center team

Each season we welcome over 11,000 people to camp with their schools and other groups to visit our year round Outdoor Center. The training we do with our team is crucial to prepare them to lead activities, learn skills to work with people of all ages and learn all things Mason. It takes a long time to plan the sessions and seminars we teach each season and we put a lot of thought into how we do things. It’s exciting to prepare for our new team!

5. Continuing our team’s education

Did you know that our staff attend numerous training events and conferences throughout the year continually working to improve ourselves and the work we do? We want our team to be as prepared as possible to work with children, young people and their families. This year our year round team have attend 4 different conference between us and have come back with lots of ideas to make sure 2018 at camp is better than ever!

We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions on the things we are working on at camp. Call us on 908-362-8217 or email us at information@campmason.org to share your thoughts.

Art in the Heart

By Dan Dickerson, Naturalist at the Mason Outdoor Center

When I was ten, I spent a lot of time inside of the house, avoiding the facets of the worlds around me; lost in the land of video games.

When I turned 19 after my first year of college I took a leap and applied for my first job working as a summer camp counselor at Camp Mason. I didn’t really know what it was going to be like, but I did know that I would make friends and do my best to go above and beyond. What I didn’t expect to find, was my passion. Sometimes you have to be lost to truly find yourself, and being lost in the woods of Hardwick, New Jersey has allowed me to find the true educator within.

Education is my passion and art is my medium. YMCA Camp Mason provides a place to foster your individual skills through active community support systems utilizing outdoor education. Being challenged to step out of my comfort zone allowed me to discover the power of expression and how to teach it to children.

Being able to bring the ‘Improvisational Contemporary Flow Art’ form know as gloving to camp mason has allowed me to share my belief in the power of expression through art, and has fortified my love for the therapeutic attributes that art can provide. Gloving is micro dance form where you use LED lights on your finger tips to express music like poetry. The improvisational skills acquired through flow arts can help anyone understand their strengths – change can start with art in the palm of your hand.

A camper once shared with me that they were glad that they joined my gloving class because it helped show them how to refocus their attention; as they were easily distracted. The following summer they had told me their grades we exponentially better ever since they started using gloving as the outlet for their frustrations in school. Hearing that, I realized my true passion is education using the skills of art therapy. The power to express your self is already in your hands, and with art you can teach others how to make a difference.

Whether I’m speaking to a parent, teacher, co-worker, or student I am always inspired by the strength they exhibit to push past their comfort, to step into their growth zone. Camp has granted me a sense of Identity, discovery, and ability.

There is a light in every person and the people you meet at camp are a lot like the stars, no matter the time or place we are surrounded by stars. The memories you create at camp are crystal gems crafted within to assure you you’re not alone, and to remind you to return to your greatness.

Time Machine 2017!

Start up your DeLorean, hop in your TARDIS or jump into that portal because during Summer Camp Session 3 we leave 2017 behind. Our Session 3 Theme Day is Time Machine and this year Camp Mason is going medieval fantasy. This day will have a variety of activities and games fit for all campers.

In the past we have battled in the arena of Ancient Rome, captured wanted bandits in the Wild West and connected our mind, body and spirit in 1969. What lies in store for us when we time travel this year? Valiant knights? Monstrous trolls? Jousting and duels? You’ll just have to wait and see!

Come join us for our annual Time Machine theme day. Session 3 runs from July 23-August 5. There is still time to register for Summer Camp at Camp Mason. Just click here.

 

Annual Mason Olympics 2017!

The Mason Olympics is our Session 2 theme day. It is a two-day event filled with culture sharing, team work, and activities challenging the mind, body, and spirit. The entirety of camp is divided into ten teams, or countries, led by two coaches and an ambassador.

Day one of the Mason Olympics focuses on the togetherness and creativity of your country. At this time your country will create cheers, design banners, learn about their country and prepare an act for opening ceremony held that night. Also, each participant receives a Mason Olympic t-shirt designed with their country’s custom marking.

Day two kicks off with games and events and carries on into the afternoon. Countries battle it out in events such as the tug of war, the triathlon, culture trivia plus a whole lot of original games. In the evening we have closing ceremony which consists of a final act from each country followed by the awards.

The goal of this theme day is to win one of the coveted awards, the Hercules Award or the Spirit award. To obtain the Hercules Award a country must win as many events as possible with keeping in mind good sportsmanship and teamwork. To obtain the Spirit Award a country should demonstrate positive, enthusiastic energy, inclusiveness, and originality.

Join us for The Mason Olympics for an incredibly energetic and fun-filled two-day event! Session 2 runs from July 9th – July 22nd. You can register for this Session 2 at Camp Mason here.

Summer Camp off to Hollywood!

Our first session Theme Day pays homage to American life by exploring a unique culture, tradition, history or major event of America every year. In the past we have celebrated our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July, gone to the State Fair, and held our own camp election.

This year we are experiencing Hollywood in all of its glamour and glory. We’ll start off our day visiting the popular attractions local attractions. We’ll visit the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theater, the Wax Museum and more, all led by your own celebrity tour guide. The afternoon may consist of catching a Lakers game, auditioning for a part in a movie, or taking part in a game show. But watch out! There could be obstacles to slow down your tours. Be on the lookout for those infamous L.A. traffic jams or the pesky paparazzi.

Our last stop is the Academy Awards! We’ll catch some live performances right right here at camp. Wearing our designer outfits we’ll stroll the red carpet for photos and interviews followed by a “fancy” dinner and then head right into the awards ceremony. We’ll even stop by the after party after the ceremony complete with music, dancing and food!

Join us for ‘This American Life: Hollywood edition’ for a full day of silly fun, lots of laughter and creative activities for all ages at YMCA Camp Mason this summer during Session 1. Session 1 runs from June 25 – July 8, 2017. You can find out more about saving your spot here.

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.

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.

sam-1

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