Camp experiences offer participants the chance to develop new skills, foster relationships, and grow confidence and independence. Campers living with physical, emotional, or intellectual challenges stand to gain those same benefits from camp. And while some Maine camps are not equipped to serve campers who face such challenges, others camps are. The experience can be transformative.
Summer camps in Maine offer countless benefits. Just as tourists flock to the state each summer to take advantage of mountains, coastline, and the terrain in between, thousands of youngsters come to Maine for a camp experience. Skills and adventure, friendship and fun.
Maine offers camp opportunities that vary as widely as the children who participate in them. All of those camps operate thanks to robust summer staffs – counselors and instructors; healthcare and kitchen and facilities workers – guided by directors and senior-level employees. But operating a camp is a year-round effort; camps’ transformational work each summer relies on “off-season” preparation by camp professionals. In Maine, a cadre of young men and women has embarked on careers in camping. Some are native Mainers, others found their way here and decided to stay. A conversation with a few of such young professionals, regardless of their background or how they chose a career in camping, revealed a common theme: a commitment to kids, a...
It has been almost two weeks since Mark Lipof, founder, co-owner and director of Camp Micah, said good-bye to 296 youngsters on the last day of camp. Lipof founded Camp Micah, a co-ed Jewish camp located in Bridgton, in 2001. Since then, hundreds of campers have descended on the shores of Peabody Pond each summer. When the season is over, Lipof says, “I don’t get an after-summer lull.”
Every camper has a first-time camp experience and preparing for camp can include questions and anxieties along with excitement. At Camp Bishopswood, in Hope, Director Mike Douglass says that about 35 percent of the campers he greets each summer are there for the first time. Bishopswood sessions are as brief as a week long, and Douglass says he is committed to making that experience as positive as possible. That includes offering an “Open House Weekend,” where families can come for a night or two, and youngsters can try out camp activities. In addition, kids aged six to eight can participate in “Mini Camp,” a three-day, two-night immersion in an overnight camp experience.
Who said camp is just for kids? Across Maine, most youngsters have packed their trunks, said good-bye to their fellow campers, and returned home to family and friends and preparations for school. Counselors, too, are getting ready for their fall activities – school or college or jobs. But the pleasure and enjoyment of camp activities endure at many camps, specifically at family camp programs. These programs host children, to be sure, but they also make camp fun available to adults. Touting rustic accommodations, three meals a day, and an array of camp activities – ranging from weaving to paddle boarding to archery – Maine camps for decades have shared the fun of a camp experience with kids of all ages.
Across the state, summer camps are nearing the end of their seasons. For many directors and leadership staff that means looking ahead to closing up buildings, storing equipment, thinking about maintenance needs. But season’s end also means campers are going home, leaving the constant connection to friends, the immersion in new and favorite activities, and the hiatus from the use of technology and social media. For some campers, returning home means saying good-bye to best friends and acclimating to the relationships and realities of home and school. Kids face transitions when they come to camp, to be sure, but the transition home can be tough, too.
Half a dozen teenagers are gathered on the shore of the Kennebago River. They are buckling and adjusting the straps of their lifejackets, examining a selection of paddles spread out on the ground, and pacing a little nervously as they look out on the water. Among them is 14-year-old Noah from Maryland, a camper at Birch Rock Camp in Waterford.
Summer camp staff members assume enormous responsibility when they take on their jobs. They teach a variety of activities, oversee cabins full of youngsters, engage in conflict resolution, homesickness management, and other relationship challenges, and work with other staff members to ensure that campers stay healthy and happy. It’s a tall order – and a complicated one. And key to every camp’s success is thorough staff training. Particularly relevant are issues related to diversity, bias and acceptance. Christopher Thurber, Ph.D., and Doug Sutherland recently shared their decades of expertise with 44 Maine camp staff from five different camps. Entitled “Courageous Ignorance,” the workshop gave participants the opportunity through activities and conversation to examine how they approach diversity and differences, bias...
In the coming days, camp programs across the state will be in full swing. From robotics to music to sports – plus traditional residential camps nestled among woods and water – offerings in the state’s camping community are vast. And come July, a few dozen youngsters will have the chance to attend a camp like none other in Maine. Aurora Vaulters, a non-profit organization formed less than a decade ago, will bring together children to learn the equestrian skill of vaulting – defined as gymnastic dance in harmony with a moving horse.