These newsletters contain a lot of important and exciting information about this coming summer, including:
What’s New At Akeela This Summmer: new ropes course elements, an amazing inflatable in the lake and pickleball!
Where Campers Come From: a cool look at how many states (and countries) are represented by our 2023 campers.
Head Counselors: what is their role and camp and who are the 2023 head counselors?
Camp Nurses: Meet Pam and Chuck, our wonderful health care team
Camper To Do List: A few things campers can do between now and arrival to get ready for the best summer of their lives!
What To Expect On The First Day: A detailed breakdown of what that camp arrival day will be like
The parent newsletter also begins with the following thoughts from Debbie:
Both of our daughters (ages 14 and 9) will be away at their camp this summer for 7 weeks. I’m a camp director and we’re very friendly with the camp directors who run their camp. I “shouldn’t” be nervous, right? But I am! I am a worrier and I worry most about my family – so when I allow myself to get caught up in thinking about the “what-ifs”, it can get pretty messy and then my anxiety is obvious to my kids.
I know that my most important task right now is to help instill a sense of confidence in my children before they are at camp on their own. In order to do that I also need to prepare myself, and that takes time and energy – a positive energy. Pushing through our own fears and worries needs to be a priority so we can meet our children with a “clean slate”. They need to feel our optimism and confidence that going to camp will be a life-changing experience – one that will enable them to become more independent and confident, and will hopefully open them up to meaningful friendships that will last a long time. Our children are intuitive and if they sense that we’re afraid about this very big transition, they will take on that worry themselves.
Some things that I’ve found helpful, and some advice for those of you who are worried and anxious about camp this summer:
Write it down! Take some time during the day (not right before bed or you’ll never be able to fall asleep!) to jot down anything that’s making you feel anxious. Writing your worries down will allow you to acknowledge them and either use your notes to address the concern, or let it go.
This includes making lists – what do you need to do? Have you completed your forms? Sent in the RX from the pediatrician? Looked at the packing list to assess what you might need? And have you gone through last year’s “camp stuff” to see what still fits?
Call us! If you’re concerned about something, maybe we can help. Sometimes, more information is helpful in minimizing our fears.
Breathe! Go for a walk or take 10 minutes with a cup of tea to just relax. How often do you allow yourself to take time for just yourself? It’s important and it’s helpful.
Read “Homesick and Happy” by Michael Thompson. This is a great book, especially for first-time camp parents. It’s filled with helpful information, plus – reading will help you take your mind off of your own worries.
By the way, this is great advice for your anxious camper, too! Once you are feeling confident about having your camper with us at camp, take some time to sit down with them to make a list of their “things to do” before camp. Maybe there’s one task you can do together each week to prepare, for example: address envelopes for letters to family/friends, email Debbie/Eric/Erin a few questions, make a list of books/card games/crafts you want to bring to camp, etc.
You may also want to help your camper make a list or start a journal with things they’re looking forward to doing at camp. Do they have a goal in mind? Something new they want to try or something they want to accomplish? It’s also a great time to start pushing your camper to be more independent in anticipation of being on their own this summer. Are younger campers getting ready for bed and school independently? (Showering, brushing their teeth, putting away their clothes …) Are older campers thinking about non-electronic tasks they can do during down times this summer? Having your camper think about these things NOW will help them feel more prepared as summer approaches.
Finally, as I’ve written about this year on a few different occasions, it’s important to use language that acknowledges a child’s worries but also expresses confidence. Statements like, “I know you’re worried about going to camp AND I’m really certain that you can do this.” These types of statements are the loving push our campers need to feel more secure in this transition.
We’re very excited to see your child up at camp in a very short time – sooner if you’ll be joining us for our Open House in June! Your camper’s head counselor will be emailing you in mid-June to introduce themselves to you and they’ll want to know if there’s anything on your mind. Feel free to start a list now that you can email or call once our team is all up in Vermont. Enjoy your Spring and we’ll see you soon!
It’s spring and that means that the camp season is just around the corner. We’ll be moving up to Akeela the first week of June so that we can get ready for our staff to arrive on June 12th. We can’t wait to get there, but most of all, we are counting down the days until we get to welcome all of our campers back to Akeela this summer!
This has been an unusual year, to say the least, and we really believe that camp is exactly what we all need right now. It will be a chance to re-connect with friends, face to face, while taking a little break from our technology and screens. Instead of playing games online, you can look forward to making new friends and talking about those games with other campers!
With cold weather and more snow than we’ve had in a number of years here in Philly, we are even MORE excited that camp is on the horizon! We cannot wait for June! Eric and Ben have been spending a great deal of time interviewing staff who have impressed us with their talents and passion. We’ve also rehired a number of former staff members who can’t wait to get back to Miller Pond. And, of course, we’ve loved catching up with all of you by phone, emails and on our virtual programs. Debbie has been busier than ever meeting and enrolling new campers who are so excited to join the Akeela community this summer.
Camp is happening and we’re ready for it!
Of course, we know many of you have questions about how camp will be different this summer due to COVID. This newsletter includes some answers to those questions. Hopefully, you’ve also visited our COVID web page, which is updated regularly.
You’ll also find information about a couple of very exciting upcoming webinars:
February 28, 2021: Helping My Neurodiverse Child Get Ready for Life’s Transitions (Including Going To Camp!), with Dr. Anthony Rostain and Dr. B Janet Hibbs, authors of The Stressed Years of Their Lives. Register here for this FREE webinar.
This edition includes an excerpt from our blog post about setting limits and expectations at home, along with a link to a video of the webinar Debbie co-hosted on the same topic. Also included in the newsletter is camper & staff news and a collage of photos showing our community’s Akeela spirit on National Camp T-Shirt Day!
Debbie and Eric also want to wish everyone a very happy holidays …
We’re now in the final month of 2020 – a year many of us have found difficult. As the days get shorter and shorter, we’re reminded of the many spots of light that get us through darker times. Here at our home in Philadelphia, we have created new traditions – birthdays and holidays have become exciting landmarks in an otherwise empty calendar. Birthday decorations have become more important, afternoon walks around the neighborhood are now an opportunity to talk to other people, Zoom holidays with family and friends from all over the world are now the norm, and there has been a lot of baking going on in the kitchen. All of this family time isn’t always easy – our tween often tells us she just wants to be alone! At the same time, our 1st grader hates to be alone for more than a few minutes! We have watched a lot of movies on Netflix.
Yet we are reminded every day how lucky we are. We are especially grateful for our camp community. We spend every day thinking about being back together this summer in Vermont with our campers and staff. When we’re feeling low, we try to focus on a memory from Akeela: being together with friends at the campfire site, laughing on the slide at the lake, watching the talent show as a community. We know that even if camp looks a little different this summer, the feelings that Akeela gives all of us will be the same.
Our wish for all of you is that you take some time to find a light in all of this darkness, that you’re able to wrap yourself in a warm memory from camp, and that it brings you joy and peace. Please know that we’re thinking of all of you and are looking forward to the time when we can all gather together safely.
The holiday season is a great time to be together with family and to reflect on the past year. As we do so, we are very grateful for our Akeela community. Nothing brightens a cold winter day more than thinking about all of the warmth, joy, laughter and friendship we feel and see all around us throughout the summer at camp.
We hope that these slideshows remind you of your great memories from camp. Enjoy!
After we move our family home from camp and get our daughters settled back into their school routines, I spend most of the fall talking to parents about camp and the transition home and into a new school year. It’s often a challenging time for our campers and parents too! What I hear most often is this, “I don’t get it. He was so successful at camp and he came home and was happy and texting with camp friends. He even made his own bed for a while without prompting. Now that school’s started, he’s just reverted back to his old ways.” Yes. We know!
So, here’s the question: Did the magic of camp just wear off or did something else happen? I think the answer is BOTH.
There is a lot that we can do at camp that is challenging for you as parents at home to mimic. For example, our campers live with 7 other kids their age and have 4 staff members dedicated to those campers 24/7. The positive peer pressure that comes from living in a community and wanting to be a part of that group is really powerful. When everyone is going to an activity – even one that a camper may “refuse” to do at home – she goes and even participates because that’s what everyone else is doing! When something less preferred is on the table at dinner and the coolest counselor at the table says, “Broccoli? Pass that to me. I LOVE broccoli!”, suddenly, your camper who refuses to eat any veggies at home is willing to at least take one bite. You just can’t mimic that at home and I’ll venture to guess that even the coolest parent doesn’t have the same influence that our staff can! In addition, our campers feel relaxed at Akeela. They don’t have homework or the stress of being in an environment where there are confined to small, noisy, crowded spaces. They are running around, playing on 400 acres of beautiful woods. They have very few demands placed on them (outside of the 24/7 social demands) and they feel like they can be themselves. By living in a community where they are with friends and staff who “get” them, they can enjoy friendships and a sense of pride that they can’t find at school.
And then, yes, something likely “happens” in the fall. The start of school brings with it the reminders of unkind classmates, demanding teachers, or even teachers who aren’t demanding enough. Most importantly, it brings a world of people who don’t really get it. That’s exhausting and it’s upsetting for a lot of our campers. At the end of 2nd session, a lot of our campers talk to us about how nervous they are to leave. They wish that camp was year-round so they didn’t have to deal with school. Don’t get me wrong, most of our campers are brilliant and love to learn but school can sometimes take the joy out of that.
So – what can you do at home?
You can make sure that you’re normalizing all of these feelings for your child.
You can remind them that keeping in touch with camp friends, although time-consuming, is really energizing and healthy. These are the people who “get” you after all! They will need guidance with this – they may not know where to start when it comes to having a relationship with someone they don’t see in school. Help them compose an email, practice how to call someone to invite them over, teach them how to Skype or Facetime (and then stay close by the first few times to make sure they don’t need help to keep the conversation going).
You can set some expectations – just like at camp! You can tell your child that they are responsible for certain things around the house like: making their own bed, doing their own laundry (or at least folding it and putting it away – neatly!). Please remind your child that she was able to do all of that at camp and there’s no reason not to do it at home as well. This will give your child a sense of pride and the knowledge that you believe they are capable. For our camper who struggle with Executive Functioning, a checklist is very helpful.
Encourage your child to help prepare a meal once a week. This often helps with trying new foods. Kids are more apt to TRY things they’ve put an effort into making! (It works at camp in our cooking classes!)
Happy holidays from your friends at Camp Akeela! We’re thinking of all our camp friends during this season, and can’t wait to be back at camp with you in 2019. Below you will find slide shows from Vermont’s first and second sessions. We hope you’ll watch them and that they’ll help remind you of all the magical times we spent together last summer. Wishing everyone a safe and happy rest of the holiday season!
This jam-packed newsletter includes a lot of important information for camp parents, introductions to our amazing team of program heads, details on communication from camp, and much more. Here’s a quick look at one article, What To Expect On The First Day of Camp.
Dear Akeela Camper,
Summer is almost here and we hope you are excited about camp, even if you’re also feeling a little nervous about it. Many kids go away for part of the summer. Some visit family, some go on teen travel or community service programs, and some go to sleep-away camps. Almost everybody worries about how they will like a place that’s new to them. It’s OK to feel that way and we’re here to help make your transition to camp as easy and smooth as possible. We think that one way to do that is to help you know what to expect…
If you’re taking one of the camp buses to camp, you and your parents will meet some of our counselors at the bus pick-up location. They will be there to welcome you and to introduce you to other campers. They will help you find a seat on the bus with a new friend and will be there to answer any questions you might have. The travel time from NY is approximately 5 hours and the time from Boston is approximately 2.5 hours. You will bring lunch on the bus and there are bathrooms on both buses!
Those of you flying to Boston on Opening Day will be met at the airport by Akeela staff members. They will be there to greet you and to introduce you to other campers who have also flown in! You and your new friends will be driven by our staff in a camp van directly to camp. It will take approximately 2.5 hours to get to Akeela. If your parents are driving you to camp, you will be dropped off at 2:00. Your counselors will be there to meet you at your car and help you carry any last-minute items you have brought with you that day. You, your parents, and counselors will go to your cabin, where you’ll see all of your belongings have been unpacked and organized for you so you can easily find your bed. You’ll then say goodbye to your family and begin your camp adventure!
Regardless of how you get to camp, here’s what you can expect to happen the rest of that first day:
You will have a chance to see what camp looks like and enjoy some planned activities with your bunkmates. You might take a tour, play some games, or jump on the jumping pillow.
You’ll also meet our nurses so that they can give you a quick “health check” to make sure you’re healthy!
Our great Chef, Catarina, will give you a small preview of her culinary expertise and provide a delicious snack for you and your new friends to enjoy.
There will be some time after everyone arrives for each bunk to start spending some time together before we meet for dinner. This is a great time to get to know your bunkmates and counselors, and talk about “bunk expectations,” so you know what to expect from each other.
We will all have dinner and Evening Meeting together as a community. You’ll eat dinner with your cabin, just like you will for all your meals at camp! Evening Meeting will be at the amphitheatre and you’ll get to hear from Eric and Debbie, and have a chance to make announcements about the new friends you’ve already made!
Then it will be time for our opening campfire and evening snack. We’ll sing songs and do skits as a community by the fire. It’s one of our favorite parts of camp!
Before bedtime, you will preview the next day’s schedule and then Debbie or Eric and your Head Counselor will stop by to say good night. Before you know it, your first day will be over and we will all be getting ready for bed!
Many campers worry that they might be sad or homesick on the first night of camp. That is very normal. All of your counselors will be right in your bunk with you to help you. In addition to talking to them, you might want to look at photos from home, write a letter to your family or read a book. We know that after a short time, you will be having such a great time at Akeela, it will feel like your second home.
We can’t wait to see you at camp. Many of you will be joining us for our Open House on June 17th. (RSVP HERE) If you’re not able to attend Open House, you’ll be able to see photos of the event on the camp website. We’re so excited for an amazing summer at Camp Akeela. See you soon!