5/19/23 Email: The Preparing for Camp Series (Email 5)

Dear Friends:

We’re pleased to share the latest email in our Preparing for Camp series, including bus pickup locations for 2023! You can see this summer’s bus pickup locations here and make your bus selection on CampInTouch. Camp starts on the bus so please plan for all campers to take the bus. Please note a few other forms that are available on CampInTouch:

  • Medical forms are now due for first session and full season campers. Forms are due by June 1st for second session campers.
  • All medications must go through JDrugs. The form is on CampInTouch.
  • Optional Teen Leadership sign-up form is now available on CampInTouch.
  • Optional Horseback Riding sign-up form is now available on CampInTouch.

Please review the Parent Handbook for all details about preparing for camp. To read all the prior emails in the Preparing for Camp series, you can visit this link.

Six Insider Tips to Prepare Your Child for Overnight Camp
By Jamie Lake (appeared in Kveller)

My camp duffel bags are 30 years old.* This is the first time since 1986 that they will not make the trek with me from Chicago to Wisconsin for a summer filled with outdoor adventure and friendship. As a life-long camper and now retired camp director, I have enough experience to write a doctoral dissertation on how to prepare your child for the essential Jewish-American tradition: going to overnight camp. Instead of boring you with endless suggestions, I’ll share some tried and true advice.

1. Shop, label, and pack with your child. Gathering items and labeling them with your child’s name, especially for the first timer, can be a lot of work. Doing this together sets the stage for the camp experience where your child will be responsible for her belongings. Kids should know what they are bringing with them, and parents can keep an eye on making sure that unnecessary or banned items don’t end up in your child’s luggage. [As a reminder, see our Parent Handbook at the link above for Camp Zeke’s packing list.]

2. Be smarter than the packing list. Camp directors spend years creating and reworking the camp’s packing list, but this list is designed for a generic camper, not your camper. You’ll want to follow the packing list recommendations, but you also don’t want to send unnecessary things. For example, if your daughter hates wearing sandals, don’t send her to camp with sandals even if they’re on the packing list. (This logic should not be applied to toothbrushes, soap, or shampoo no matter how much your child may dislike using them!) Also, resist the Jewish parent urge to go way beyond what is recommended on the packing list. Your child will have limited space to keep all of her belongings. I promise that once she gets to camp, she won’t need every gimmicky camp accessory or 10 extra t-shirts.

3. Talk about camp, but avoid the scary-funny stuff. Keep in mind that the funny memories you have about mishaps from your days as a camper may only be funny because of the time that has passed since the experiences. You want to avoid mentioning that one time a bat flew into your cabin… Instead, focus on neutral memories, talk about what they are looking forward to, check out the photos on the camp’s website, or watch the camp’s promotional video together. [Read our guidance in prior emails (link above) about how to get past the pre-camp jitters. It’s totally normal for kids to be nervous before camp!]

4. Practice, practice, practice. I hope that one of the reasons you are sending your child to camp is to help them gain independence and a sense of personal responsibility. Begin now by having your soon-to-be camper manage their own hygiene routines (teeth brushing, showering, hair brushing), keeping track of their things, and making their bed with minimal reminders. These are skills that kids will use at camp, and you won’t be there to keep on them. Your child’s counselors will provide gentle reminders, but they will really appreciate a camper who is ready to do these things without much prodding. [Also, critically, please make sure that your campers are prepared to apply sunscreen every day and check themselves for ticks every day. We will have signs and reminders around camp, but campers need to be taught the importance of this from home.] 

5. Manage expectations. This can take on many forms in the weeks leading up to camp. Camp is an unbelievable experience, but similar to home, it is not always perfect. It’s OK to be honest about this with your child. The same idea applies to homesickness. Missing home is a normal part of being away from home, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun at camp. In both scenarios, what’s most important is that you discuss with your child who they can talk to at camp if they are having a bad day or are really missing your dog. Kids should know that the adults at camp [Camp Zeke’s counselors, unit heads, nurses, camper care specialists, and directors] are there to help them problem solve.

6. Do not make The Promise. With the best of intentions, many parents tell their campers that they will come get them if they are not happy. This is the worst thing you can tell a camper. First, the statement sends the message to your child that you don’t believe in her ability to succeed at camp. Second, it sets up unrealistic and low expectations about camp. These feelings often leave campers to take the easy way out if they are ever sad at camp instead of working through the issues and gaining independence.

The camp experience begins long before your camper arrives at camp. These suggestions will help set them up for success and, hopefully, lay the foundation for them to be become life-long campers, too.

*Footnote: Do not expect your duffel bags to last as long as mine. I think this is a case of, “they don’t make things like they used to.”

* * *
As always, the Camp Zeke Team is here and happy to help you get ready for the amazing adventure. Don’t hesitate to be in touch!

Warm regards,
Amy, Andrew, Barbara, Elliot, Katie, Laurie, Lisa, Janet, Matt, Isaac, Rachel, and Riva (see our bios here)

 

5/15/23 Email: The Preparing for Camp Series (Email 4)

Dear Friends:

We’re pleased to share the latest email in our Preparing for Camp series. To read all the prior emails in the series, please visit this link. We’ll update that link every time we send an email like this one.

Medical Forms Due
Please note that the medical forms and all other camper forms were due on May 1st for first session and full season campers. If you have not submitted them yet, please do so as soon as possible. All forms are due by June 1st for second session campers. Please see the forms on CampInTouch for details.

Medications
Please note that all medications must go through J-Drugs. If you are ordering prescription or OTC medication from J-Drugs, please be sure to send the form directly to them, and not to Camp Zeke. Please find the form on CampInTouch.

Totally Optional: Teen Leadership Form
Our Teen Leadership program is an optional program for teens who are excited about taking on a leadership role in camp, mentoring campers, and planning/executing programs. Teen Leaders will be able to earn community service hours for successful completion of the program.

The Teen Leadership program is open to rising 10th to 12th graders who are not in the CIT Program or Junior Counselor Program (see more about our teen programs here). If your camper would like to participate in the Teen Leadership program, please complete the Teen Leadership form now available on CampInTouch.

Totally Optional: Horseback Riding Form
We have a totally optional horseback riding program. The form is now live on CampInTouch. A number of years ago, we partnered with one of our neighbors — a professional, family-owned riding school in beautiful Waymart, PA called Happy Trails Riding Center.

Campers take four lessons per session. Because this program is run through an outside school, it is the only camp program with a separate cost. As noted on the form, the cost of the program is $750 per session.

How Do We Prepare for Camp?
The starting point is reading the Parent Handbook, which has all the essential details about getting ready for the experience. Of course, once you review the handbook, if you have any questions at all about preparing for camp we’re glad to help every step of the way!

Camper Drop Off and Pick Up
Please note that camp starts on the bus and we expect that all campers will take the bus to camp. See the transportation form on CampInTouch for details.

Who Do We Contact with Questions?
The Parent Handbook has answers to many common questions. If you still have questions once you review the handbook, we’re always here to help!

For questions about medical forms, transportation, and the packing list, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. For questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Please Make Camp a Philanthropic Priority
As we continue to count down the days to the start of camp, we’re excited to announce that in late 2023, we will begin construction on a brand-new amphitheater that will become the Camp Zeke gathering place for our many all-camp events. Make a gift today and help contribute to our new amphitheater project.

This year, we have been fortunate to receive a matching grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that requires us to raise $128,300. We quite literally cannot access the foundation funds without raising our part of the match. If we don’t raise our part of the match, the foundation funding disappears.

Your donation, given now, will go to work right away, helping us to build our new amphitheater, fund scholarships for low-income campers, hire our amazing staff, and create another unforgettable summer at Camp Zeke. Your investment will immediately be matched. Give here now.

Our Camp Zeke community has always helped us achieve these goals. Your support will not only help us provide an unforgettable summer experience for our campers, but also help us continue our mission of promoting health, wellness, and Jewish culture.

Warm regards,
Amy, Andrew, Barbara, Elliot, Katie, Laurie, Lisa, Matt, Isaac, Rachel, and Riva (see our bios here)

5/5/23 Email: The Preparing for Camp Series (Email 3)

Dear Friends:

We’re pleased to share the third email in our Preparing for Camp series. To read all the prior emails in our series of pre-camp advice and guidance, please visit this link. We’ll update that link every time we send an email like this one.

Medical Forms Due
Please note that the medical forms and all other camper forms were due on May 1st for first session and full season campers. If you have not submitted them yet, please do so as soon as possible. All forms are due by June 1st for second session campers. Please see the forms on CampInTouch for details.

Medications
Please note that all medications must go through J-Drugs. If you are ordering prescription or OTC medication from J-Drugs, please be sure to send the form directly to them, and not to Camp Zeke. Please find the form on CampInTouch.

How Do We Prepare for Camp?
The starting point is reading the Parent Handbook, which has all the essential details about getting ready for the experience. Of course, once you review the handbook, if you have any questions at all about preparing for camp we’re glad to help every step of the way!

Camper Drop Off and Pick Up
Please note that camp starts on the bus and we expect that all campers will take the bus to camp. See the transportation form on CampInTouch for details.

Who Do We Contact with Questions?
The Parent Handbook has answers to many common questions. If you still have questions once you review the handbook, we’re always here to help! For questions about medical forms, transportation, and the packing list, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. For questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

And now for this week’s topic…

TALKING ABOUT CAMP
by Bob Ditter

Sending your child away to camp is a major milestone for most families, one that is often marked by excitement, anticipation and perhaps even some anxiety. Though camp is certainly about making friends and having fun, it is also about being on your own and being a part of a community.

One of the most important things you as a parent can do to help prepare your child for both these aspects of camp is to talk with your child about it before they go. In fact, it may be better to have several occasional, shorter talks rather than one long conversation…. Children usually do better with this sort of conversation if it is part of a more general discussion, either at the dinner table or, for example, while riding in the car doing errands.

The following are some sample topics for discussion that will help prepare your child emotionally for their big adventure at camp:

Friends. Camp is not anything if it is not about making new friends. If you are shy about meeting new kids, then learn to get to know others by being a good listener. Ask questions. Share what you have. Join in. Remember also that not everyone in your bunk has to be your friend, and you don’t have to be everyone else’s friend. As long as you treat others with respect and they do the same with you, then having one or two friends at camp is fine. Of course, if you have more, that’s great!

Respect. No matter how you feel about anyone else — your counselors or other kids in your group — I expect you to treat people with respect. If you are angry, upset or disagree, there is a respectful way to express it.

Activities. There are many exciting things to do at camp, many of which you may never have tried before. (If your child is tending to be a bit homesick or worried about being homesick, remind them what it was they were excited about doing at camp when they first thought about going there.) You may not like all the activities or you may be better at some than others. That’s normal. I, however, expect you to try. The more you put into camp, the more you will get out of it!

Cooperating. You, like every other camper there, will be part of a bunk. As your parent I expect you to cooperate with others and help out. That’s part of what makes camp so special — kids helping each other out. Most kids will help you if you are friendly and help them.

Give yourself time. One thing about camp is that almost everything is new — the kids; the activities; the routines; the bed you sleep in; the bathrooms; the food and more. It takes a few days to get adjusted, so be patient with yourself. Most of the time you will be having so much fun you won’t mind all the changes, but if you do, remember that you will get so used to things that by the time you come home you will miss them all!

Getting help. Everyone has good days and bad days. If you are having a problem, your counselor is there to help you! You don’t have to wait to tell us if you are upset about something. After all, if your counselor doesn’t know what might be troubling you, they can’t help you. Be honest and ask for what you need… [And remember, if a counselor can’t help with something, campers can always come to any adult in camp, including of course, Lisa and Isaac!]

Helping out. Camp is about fun, but it also requires that you help out. Clean-up is part of camp. You do it every day! As your parent I expect you to cooperate.

Being positive. A great thing to remind your first time camper about is what his or her strong points are. I would focus not just on what they do well, but their positive qualities, such as what makes them a good friend or the type of person other kids would want to know. Helping children identify their strengths can help them when they are having a set back — one of those inevitable growing pains all children have from time to time.

Gratitude. A lot of people have worked hard to make sure you have a good time at camp. Your counselors, the people in the dining hall, the maintenance staff, the health staff — they all work hard so you can have fun. Be grateful for what others do for you.

Talking with your child about these kinds of issues is a great way to support them as they get ready take this important step on the road to being more resilient and self-reliant. For you as a parent it can give you more peace of mind as you allow your child to participate safely in a broader world — a world introduced to them in part by camp!

* * *
We hope you find our pre-camp preparation emails helpful Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions!

Warm regards,
Andrew, Elliot, Isaac, Katie, Laurie, Lisa, Matt, Rachel, and Riva (see our bios here)

4/23/23 Email: The Preparing for Camp Series (Email 2)

Dear Friends:

In the lead-up to camp, we like to pass along resources to help your camper prepare for a successful summer full of happiness, deep friendships, and personal growth. Right around this time of year, as the weather gets a little warmer and families start really thinking about camp, both new and returning campers can feel some pre-camp jitters.

That’s totally normal! We wanted to share some advice from the Child Mind Institute about preparing your campers for the experience. Please read on for the Institute’s insight. Before getting there, a few quick reminders:

Medical Forms Due Soon
Please note that the medical forms and all other camper forms are due by May 1st for first session and full season campers and by June 1st for second session campers.

How Do We Prepare for Camp?
The starting point is reading the Parent Handbook, which has all the essential details about getting ready for the experience. Of course, once you review the handbook, if you have any questions at all about preparing for camp we’re glad to help every step of the way!

Camper Drop Off and Pick Up
Please note that camp starts on the bus and we expect that all campers will take the bus to camp. See the transportation form on CampInTouch for details.

Who Do We Contact with Questions?
The Parent Handbook has answers to many common questions. If you still have questions once you review the handbook, we’re always here to help! For questions about medical forms, transportation, and the packing list, please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. For questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Prior Advice/Guidance Emails
To read all the prior emails in our series of pre-camp advice and guidance (just one email so far), please see this link. We’ll update that link every time we send an email like this one.

Clearing the Fear to Make Way for a Formative Experience
Adapted from Child Mind Institute

Portraits of summer camp showcase sun-splashed kids playing sports, swimming, and getting freckles. Not pictured is any sign of anxiety, a totally natural reaction to a new adventure and a several-week separation. All kids experience a mixture of excitement and nervousness when summer camp approaches.

Of course, getting past these initial jitters is part of the value of the camp experience. Indeed, summer camps hone many skills that are useful for future success. These include resilience, self-reliance, social adaptability, and of course, the ability to overcome jitters before an important and valuable life event. The camp experience — being away from home among peers — also helps kids develop social skills, separate in a healthy way from parents, cultivate independence, and build confidence.

The key to helping your camper get over the pre-camp jitters is to acknowledge their feelings and give them tools to tame those feelings, thus making room for the life-changing, skill-building experience they’re about to have:

1) Let your child feel a sense of ownership over the experience. Familiarize them with the camp environment by looking at pictures and reviewing the online map of camp, and teach them about the camp’s activities so they can formulate expectations.

2) Help your child get excited about camp: Take them shopping for new gear and focus them on fun things about camp that they can look forward to.

3) Avoid focusing on what makes kids anxious. Instead of asking leading questions like, “Are you nervous about making friends?” ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling about making friends?”

4) Don’t trivialize their concerns or offer glib reassurances. “There’s nothing to worry about!” or “Everyone loves camp!” may discourage your child. Instead, show that you have empathy and acknowledge their concerns.

5) Focus on concrete details in conversations leading up to camp. Avoid abstract issues like what it’s like to be away from home, and focus instead on cabin details (like the air-conditioning and private bathrooms!), song-filled meals in the dining room, lifelong friendships people make at camp, and warm nighttime campfires.

6) Reflect on your own formative experiences away from home and share positive aspects of them with your camper. Show that you are willing to talk about the new things they’ll be doing, whether it’s eating new food, sleeping in a bunk bed, getting along with cabin-mates, or even cleaning their own area and folding their clothes!

7) Go through “rehearsals.” A shorter-term sleepover or a night at Grandma’s will make it easier for your child to be away from home.

8) Don’t linger at the bus stop. Keep the goodbyes short and sweet. And take the bus! Camp starts on the bus. Some parents choose to drive to camp, but taking the bus is often a better option because that’s where friendships first begin to form.

9) Make communication easy and accessible: Pack envelopes and stamps, and make sure your child understands how easy it will be to write to you.

10) Have goals for each letter, so your child will come away focused on how she is adjusting, rather than on how much she wants to come home. For example, in the first letter from your camper, the goal might be to make one friend within the first two or three days of camp. When you write initial letters to camp, you can stress that it’s normal for the first couple days to feel hard (and for that reason, don’t be too upset if you get a sad letter in the first few days of camp, which is an adjustment period).

11) Try not to communicate your own anxiety; your child can pick up on your feelings even if you don’t verbalize them. What you want to share is your confidence in your child and the summer experience.

12) Help your child formulate realistic, goal-oriented plans for making friends or toasting the perfect marshmallow or passing a swimming test. The thrill of completing these plans can give your child a feeling of success and take their mind off of the jitters.

13) Make sure the staff and counselors know anything they need to know about your camper to head off problems and maximize the experience. Does your camper wet the bed? Are they anxious about water? And let your child know that counselors and the rest of the staff are there to support them, whether they have a simple question or a larger need.

And remember that the cost of a good camp covers more than the arts and crafts: It includes a team of professionals and counselors committed to fostering social learning in your child. [At Camp Zeke, we call this group our Camper Care Team. It includes a team of teachers, parents, and other caring adults. They monitor the campers throughout the summer to make sure everyone is adjusting well and thriving in the camp community.]

Summer camp is a unique situation where your child engages with a large community of peers and learns how to interact socially in a less-structured environment than school. This is a time for kids to actively make decisions for themselves and develop a sense of self-reliance. Though you may be concerned and wish to intervene, your supportiveness will give your child room to take ownership over the experience themselves. And that’s what leads to the tremendous growth that kids experience at camp.

* * *
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Warm regards,
Andrew, Elliot, Isaac, Katie, Laurie, Lisa, Matt, Rachel, and Riva (see our bios here)

4/10/23 Email: Parent Handbook 2023

Dear friends:

We hope you’re having a happy Passover! Around this time of year, we begin sending advice emails and reminders about preparing for camp. To kick things off, we’re pleased to share our 2023 Parent Handbook.

Camper Forms
Please review the Parent Handbook on our website at this link. This has all the information you need to prepare for an amazing camp experience. Please note that the medical forms and all other camper forms are due by May 1 for first session and full season campers and by June 1 for second session campers. Most forms are for parents to complete. Additionally, every camper will need an annual physical (done within 12 months of camp’s start date) and updated vaccination information prior to camp. If you need to schedule an appointment with your physician, please give yourself enough time.

Camper Drop Off and Pick Up
We are happy to announce that bus transportation is back for this summer! Please note that camp starts on the bus and we expect that all campers will take the bus. Please see the transportation form on CampInTouch for details.

Who Should I Contact with Questions?
If you have questions about preparing for camp (including questions about medical forms, the packing list, etc.), please contact Rachel at rachel@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783. Please note: We do encourage each family to read the Parent Handbook first. It has many answers.

If you have questions about billing, deposits and financials, please contact our registrar, Barbara Lichter, at barbara@campzeke.org or 212-913-9783.

Warmest regards,
The Camp Zeke Team