Friday, June 11, 2021

Tips from a Seasoned Camp Family

Our whole family has been excitedly awaiting the return of summer camp. The anticipation has been a bright spot in an otherwise dim year. Now, seemingly all of the sudden, opening day is almost upon us. June 27th will be here before you know it!

 

The realization has, honestly, snuck up on us as we work to finish out the school year and spring sports strong. The hot weather reminds us that it is time to shift gears and start thinking about gathering up our supplies, pulling out our trunks and duffels and strategically packing for camp. As a seasoned camp family (this will be our 8th summer sending a child off to camp), we’ve got our systems, and we thought we’d share a few pointers with the WLC community and invite any additional ideas, too.

 

THE PACKING LIST:

The packing list provided by camp is definitely comprehensive but we have a few suggestions:       

  • Our TOP recommendation: Include a foam egg crate mattress topper with the bedding; a comfy bed is a happy bed.
  • Pack additional socks and underwear factoring in multiple changes on any given day.
  • Sneakers will get beaten up so send old sneakers if you have them and hold off on buying new ones for school in the Fall.
  • A toiletry tote makes getting to and from the wayside easier.
  • Siesta is a great time to get summer reading (or pleasure reading) done; consider sending an old school (not back lit) Kindle fully loaded and fully charged so your son doesn’t have to lug heavy books in his luggage or write home for you to send him more. Just make sure it can’t connect to internet and has no games on it!
    • Also consider dropping off some books for the camp library that are appropriate for campers and counselors to give the shelves some fresh inventory.
  • A small clip-on battery powered reading light makes for hands-free reading.
  • Swim goggles that your son is comfortable wearing.
  • To keep cool on those hot days on the Knoll, a small, battery-powered fan that can clip on to the bunk or hang from a nail on the wall or a water bottle with misting fan like an O2Cool.

 

PACKING TIPS:

Whether your son brings a trunk or large duffel to camp, starting out organized will help him find what he needs every day. A few suggestions:

  • Pack items that will be unpacked upon arrival (bedding, laundry bag, towels, shoes) in a separate bag that can be folded up and stored away.
  • For trunk packing, pack most used items (socks, underwear, shorts and t-shirts) on the top for easy access. If your trunk has a tray, pack those items in the tray so it can be lifted out to access other items used less regularly.
  • For duffel bag or trunk packing, look into using packing cubes and pack each cube with one type of clothing for easy access. 

 

ITEMS TO MAKE HIS CABIN MORE HOMEY:

The first few days at camp might be met with some homesickness. Know that his counselors and the senior staff are ready to help him settle in, but a few thoughtful items from home may help too. A few pictures of your family, pets, or friends that he can look at may make him feel better, and a steady stream of upbeat, enthusiastic letters from home are always exciting to receive. Think about packing a few encouraging notes in his bag that he may be surprised to find or label them for “night 1”, “night 2” opening. Also, share his address with friends and family so they can send him letters, too.

 

Now that we’ve dusted off our packing pointers, it is time to pull it all together. Please post any suggestions you may have, and see you on the Knoll soon!

 

The Crellin Family

 

PS – Send additional suggestions for posting on the WLC Blog to knoll@wlcamp.org.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Life-Changing Benefits of Being a Camp Counselor

 


At William Lawrence Camp, the bedrock of every summer is our staff. Every summer, were thankful that a large percentage of our staff and LITs return. We rely on these returning staff members to help carry the tradition of camp forward and bring their familiar faces to the Knoll each summer. Its this continuity of community that we cherish here at WLC.  


While we often focus on the benefits of being a camper, we think that the continued staff experience can be extremely beneficial for many young adults. As we discussed last month, the LIT program is a great way to start the transition from camper to staff member. But the benefits of being a staff member dont end at the LIT year. Some of the most important takeaways come from many years on staff. 

We talked with several former staff members, of varying ages, to see how their experience has shaped and benefited them over the years. Here are a few themes that have popped up. 


Part of a Team

 

At WLC, we rely on our staff members to work as a strong team all summer long. Learning to be part of a team is a crucial skill to develop. Camp is a great place to acquire this skill, whether its being the leader of a team or finding a way to contribute. 

Being a staff member at WLC often puts you in a leadership position well before many jobs. Unlike an internship, youre not just grabbing coffee - youre leading classes, wilderness trips, and even other staff members. Getting that leadership experience early on has proven valuable to many former counselors. 

John Swanson, a staff member from 2003-08, spoke to the leadership experience. Many of the more difficult challenges involved those leadership roles at Camp which prepared me for a career where I am again in a leadership position.” 

 

While not all roles at Camp involve direct leadership, they all allow you to contribute in meaningful ways early on. At Camp, there isnt any "busy work” to be done - every task brings tangible value and offers a chance to gain experience. 

Ben Marston, a staff member from 2005-16, commented, You get used to jumping into jobs and tasks that you're likely unfamiliar with and so you develop a humility with starting each task. And you learn in those situations to be a team player. You may not always know what you're doing, but you can be an extra hand to hold up a boat mast or help problem-solve a way to fix a broken fence. And after a few summers, you're then the experienced member of the team helping others start their own journeys.” 



The WLC staff is an exceptional team every summer. We rely on our staff to step into leadership roles, find new ways to contribute, and chip in on all levels. Even our most senior staff help clean the waysides. Its clear in talking with former staff that their experiences engendered an all-hands-on-deck mentality that they have used throughout the years. 

Find Your Path

 

While many of our staff members dont go on to be archery or sailing instructors for their careers, being a camp counselor exposes people to new paths they may not have considered. 

Ross Fidler, staff member 2009-14, discovered a love for teaching at camp. He said, As a staff member I discovered that I had a passion for working with kids. That passion has led to a career as a teacher that I love very much.” 

Looking through our staff alumni, youll find many former teachers and coaches. Our former staff often credit Camp as the place where they got their first exposure to working with kids and teaching. 

Develop Essential Soft Skills

 

The lessons that come from being a staff member at Camp extend beyond their applications in a job or career. Some former staff members spoke to how working at Camp helped them develop crucial personal skills. 

 

Tom Cleary, staff member 2011-17, said, The most useful skills were around working with children, getting along with peers, and managing people. Everyday parts of the job like fostering relationships in the cabin or resolving conflicts between campers forced me to grow as a person and especially expanded my social skills.”

 

One of the frequent skills that popped up over and over again was problem-solving. As weve alluded to, being a camp counselor involves wearing a lot of hats. Its a challenging role that requires our staff to think on their feet and build those crucial problem-solving skills. 

 

John Swanson noted, Every new challenge overcome was an experience in dealing with a new situation. At Camp, in general, you learn how to approach learning a new skill or solving a new problem and how to handle yourself when faced with something youve never experienced before, but as staff you have a daily opportunity to teach, which forces you to learn and problem-solve twice as much. I still draw on those lessons daily.

 

Personal growth is one of our main goals for every camper, and so its no surprise that growth doesnt stop when one graduates to a staff member. Some of the strongest periods of growth come from stepping into the leadership role of being a camp counselor. At WLC, we love to see that our staff continues to grow with us year after year.

Disconnect and Have Fun

 

However, its not all about developing skills and personal growth. For many, Camp provides a space away from everyday life. 

Ben Marston spoke to the benefits of spending a summer at Camp. It's hard in our society to get to spend long periods in nature. Camp provides a space to explore nature, escape the constant barrage of notifications and social media, and embrace a community-focused way of life.”

 

As we often stress with campers, we think Camp is a great space to be your authentic self, away from the pressures of society.  And while being a camp counselor is hard work, were happy to report that its fun, as well.

 

John Swanson said, You think being a camper is fun? Try being staff. Theres some work involved for sure, but my best memories of camp come from my years as staff, and the longer youre staff, the more fun it gets.” 

Surprisingly, a common theme among many staff members is that the staff experience often exceeded their experience as a camper. 

 

For many former staff members, Camp was a formative part of their lives. The friendships, experiences, and personal growth all stood out as important parts of the opportunity. Those experiences are still having an impact today - whether its stepping up into a leadership position at work or just knowing how to fix an old Sunfish sailboat. 

 

Alex Camerino, staff 2010-19, summed it up this way: I have learned how to be a hard worker with multiple skill sets, and, above all else, I have learned how to take responsibility for both the actions I am proud of and those that I am not. Camp is essential and can be life-changing for counselors.”

Written by Alumni, Ben Marston

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The "Secret Sauce" of the WLC Experience

If I asked my boys what they love about Camp, they would mention many things: the food, making new friends, overnight hikes and canoe trips, the food, Olympic Day, Goldrush, the food, riflery, archery, and the FOOD! However, most certainly, the first answer they would give is the counselors and staff.  These relationships are what keep the boys coming back and what makes each year’s camp experience so very special, memorable, and unique.  What is it like to be a Leader in Training (LIT) or staff member at William Lawrence Camp?  We asked some two seasoned counselors to let us in on what it’s like to be the “secret sauce” of the WLC experience.

 

One is eligible to become an LIT as long as he is in 10th grade or, if International, is age 17.  The LIT Internship is often a natural progression for campers who have come up through the ranks and have completed their Senior camper years. Adam Muhith, who was a camper for five years before becoming an LIT and remains a valued staff member to this day, says the choice to become a counselor was easy. “My last year as a camper I knew that I wanted to keep coming back, and that I wanted both to see what it was like as a counselor and to ensure that future generations of campers had just as good an experience as I did.” LITs and staff hail from not only the U.S., but also all over the world. Says Kyle Schophaus about his decision to become a WLC counselor, “I have worked in the camping industry in South Africa and always wanted to know what it would be like to work at a proper summer camp.” 


In addition to receiving a world of experience in managing and molding the lives of younger campers, there are many practical benefits to the Internship, including trip leader, belay and American Red Cross lifeguard certifications, and even writing opportunities in the form of drafting your college essay and publishing a blog post on the WLC website. LITs gain all of this training while continuing to enjoy the traditions of camp and sharing them and making memories with experienced and new campers alike. To this point, Schophaus adds, “You are free to be your own person and you are encouraged to be that person all the time.” In fact, Muhith explains, some of the greatest lessons are less tangible. “Being an LIT taught me that it’s okay to say that I don’t know how to do something and how to ask for help on a project. Knowing when to stop and acknowledge that you don’t know, or when to ask for help, or when to bring in a second set of eyes for a project is a simple skill that really goes a long way. It was something that I had to do almost daily as an LIT. The entire program is a learning experience like no other, and its value can’t be overstated.”


Being a WLC staff member not only trains young men to be leaders in the camp environment, but it teaches them skills that can be applied much later on and throughout their lives. Says Muhith, “Most of all though, working at WLC has helped me further my love for the outdoors – in the off-season, I work as both a camping trip guide and at a climbing wall. I never would’ve learned the necessary skills to do these, the two things I love best, had it not been for the bounty of knowledge passed on to me from so many different leaders and co-counselors.”  Schophaus adds, “It has helped me to be more confident and think way more out of the box then I normally do.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Weathering the COVID-19 Storm


We wondered what our campers have been doing during the pandemic, so we asked a few of them for an update.  Included below are comments from four campers:  Nick Rimalovski; Brady Johnson; Gabe and Russell Aitken.

Nicolas “Nick” Rimalovski will be 16 in May, and he is a sophomore at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York City.  His school is in Queens, but he is a life-long resident of Brooklyn.  His first year at WLC was 2017, and he will be back for his 4th year in the summer of 2021.  He recently completed his LIT essay.

Nick has been attending classes remotely since March of 2020, and he is okay with online learning.  He is pleased to report that the New York Regents Exams will be canceled in January due to COVID, and the decision on the spring and summer exams is TBD.  He played on a travel baseball team last fall, and he plans to play baseball this spring.  He has been bicycling all over New York City with friends.  Family activities include a two-week vacation on the Maine coast last summer. 

Nick’s favorite activities at WLC are the hiking and canoe trips.  He also likes baseball and tennis.  The things that he missed when Camp was closed are daily ping pong, the apples at Free Swim, spending time away from home with people his own age, and the view from the Knoll.  He is excited about returning to Camp in 2021.  His brother Xandy will be returning, too!

 

Brady Johnson is 12, and he is a 7th grader at the Hingham Middle School in Hingham, MA.  His first year at WLC was 2019, and he will be back for his second year in the summer of 2021.  Brady has been attending classes on a hybrid basis.  On Monday and Tuesday, he is in the actual classroom, and Wednesday through Friday he participates via Zoom.  He does almost all of his homework assignments using Google Classroom.  Last fall, Brady played football on a “7 on 7” basis with no contact, and he is playing hockey this winter.  Despite COVID, he has made a lot of new friends on his sports teams.

Brady reports that family activities have been limited due to the pandemic, but they like to watch family movies and play Mexican Train Dominoes together.  He and his dad have been hooked on multiple seasons of particular shows such as The Mandalorian.  Brady also plays video games with his friends.  One of his favorite games is Oculus Quest, a virtual reality product.  The new member of the Johnson family is an Australian Labradoodle named Murphy, and she takes family members on walks frequently.

Brady has several favorite activities at WLC, including riflery, archery, and woodworking.  He is very enthusiastic about tubing, even though Meg the snapping turtle is a bit of a hazard!  When Camp was closed last summer, Brady missed being outside and learning new things about nature.  He appreciates the fact that Camp gets people away from technology and their phones.  Brady also missed his buddies on the Knoll.  He is looking forward to the summer of 2021, and he thinks that his brother will be attending WLC, too!

 

The Aitken brothers provided an update on their activities during the pandemic.  Gabe recently turned 12, and he is in the 6th grade; Russell is 9, and he is in the 4th grade.  They live in Mountain Lakes, NJ.  The first year at WLC for both of them was 2019. 

Gabe’s school schedule is a hybrid arrangement.  During the mornings, he is either in the actual classroom or he is on Zoom, depending on the day and week.  In the afternoons, he is on Zoom.  He plays baseball and lacrosse, and he likes to snowboard, especially at the Mountain Creek Resort in NJ.  His hobbies include bicycling, video games, trampolining, and listening to music.  He has an app on his phone on which he can record music.  His favorite activities at WLC are fishing, sailing, riflery, ping pong, carnival night, and BROG.  

Russell is in school in-person every day until 12:45 PM, and he uses Google Meet to participate remotely in the afternoons.  He enjoys basketball, golf, and baseball, and he likes to ski at Mountain Creek.  Other hobbies include bicycling, skateboarding, and video games.  Family pets include a dog, a cat, 6 fish, and 3 snails.  At WLC, Russell likes riflery, archery, kayaking, canoeing, carnival night, and BROG.  

Aitken family vacations last year included trips to North Carolina and Vermont.  When asked what they missed most about Camp last summer, Gabe said that he missed the food, and Russell said that he missed the people!  Both boys are looking forward to attending Camp in the summer of 2021!

 

We sincerely hope that you and your families have succeeded in weathering the COVID-19 storm, and we wish you good health, good cheer, and good luck in 2021!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

As the 2020 Holiday Season approaches, consider giving an experiential gift to your children this year. The pandemic has turned our whole world upside down and brought challenges too numerous to count. Every day is spent in a virtual world on Zoom, digital work, digital school, even digital birthday parties. Although we have become amazingly efficient and comfortable in our digital universe, we have also learned to appreciate our natural surroundings even more. Our outdoor environment has given us the ability to practice social distancing while spending time with friends and family. The constant stress of being plugged-in seems to evaporate in the serenity of a babbling brook or a mountaintop view.

So when it comes to presents beneath the tree this holiday, think about a William Lawrence Camp summer for the young men in your family. Just like adults, our children will need a "break" from their virtual world. A few weeks without computers, mobile phones, and video screens combined with spectacular Lake Winnipesaukee sunsets and starlit night skies will do unmeasurable good. Scrambling up mountain ledges with their best buddy, paddling through wind-driven swells on Squam Lake, or building a campfire for the first time at Perch Point on Lower Beech Pond will provide a lifetime of memories. Your children will return home refreshed, more confident, and independent. A William Lawrence Camp summer may be the most significant and timely gift a parent could give a son in 2020. Remind your camper to light their William Lawrence candle this holiday; his wish of another summer on the "Knoll" may just come true.


Written by a Former WLC Parent and Board Member

Monday, November 30, 2020

A Lesson in Charitable Giving


Hello Campers and Parents!
  All of you can help us reach the FLWS campaign goal of $250,000.  Note that two of our campers are learning about charitable giving with the help of their parents.  Alejandro and Erik Rojas Pratt contribute a portion of their allowances to worthy organizations.  They are aware of FLWS, and each of them is donating to the campaign.  Their parents, Maija and Pepe, are matching each boy’s contribution, and then Maija, who works at State Street, will request a corporate matching gift for the entire amount.  What a great idea!

The Rojas Pratt Family lives in Cambridge, MA, and they learned about William Lawrence Camp from alumnus Chris Summersgill and his son Clemens.  They have assisted Chris in recruiting campers to WLC over the past few years.  Alejandro (known as Ale) is in the 8th grade.  He is 13 years old and will be a first year Senior in Summer 2021.  Erik is in the 5th grade.  He is 11 years old and will be in his last year as a Junior in Summer 2021.  Both boys attend a bilingual school in Cambridge, and they are currently taking classes remotely, due to COVID-19.  They both enjoy sports, especially soccer, baseball, basketball, and football.  Erik plays the piano, and Ale plays the trumpet and likes to create music on his computer.  In their spare time, they like to play video games, and Erik says he’s done a lot of reading when he has been quarantined.

When asked about Camp experiences, Ale said he misses his campmates, and he wonders about his Bill Larry Boy status.  Good news for Ale:  Since he was enrolled for last summer (which would have been his fifth year), he will be a Bill Larry Boy when he returns to the Knoll next summer!  Erik said he really likes Wilderness Skills, and he misses the conversations in the cabin at night after Taps.  Both boys said that they enjoy singing the national anthems in the Dining Hall.  They have roots in Mexico, England, and the USA, so they sing all three anthems, but they don’t have a favorite!

Thank you to the Rojas Pratt Family for their donation to WLC and for demonstrating how to teach philanthropy at home.  And thank you for securing a corporate matching gift!

P.S. to the recent college grads out there:  If an 8th grader and a 5th grader can donate to the FLWS campaign, you can, too!  Remember that participation is important.  Every dollar counts!

Written by Board of Trustee Member and Alumni Camper Parent, Lucy Hancock

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Overnight Summer Camp is a Win-Win Situation for Families



As parents, we all want what is best for our children. From the day they are born, we spend countless hours considering the right foods, activities, schools, books, and even friends to help them grow into confident, compassionate adults. We want to keep them close and protect them, but sometimes what is best for our children is to let them go.

Let them go to a place of new adventures, new responsibilities, new friends from all over the world and a new-found opportunity to take risks and get to know themselves better. Where could such a place exist, you ask? Why summer camp, of course.

Summer camp is more than just campfires and s’mores. Summer camps strive to provide their campers with a community where they are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and take healthy risks. For some boys, that risk might be making new friends. In the Boston Globe Magazine (2/22/2019) article entitled “At Summer Camp, Friendships Blossom Without Technology”, author Meaghan O’Neill says, “Camp is a controlled but fun environment purpose-built for making friends.” Given the communal nature of overnight camp, boys learn quickly how to live with each other, cope with different personalities, and discover what qualities they value in a friend. They hone their interpersonal skills without even realizing what an “interpersonal skill” is. O’Neill continues, “Friends from school or the neighborhood are known quantities. At summer camp, whether day or overnight, kids are freer to bond without parental intervention. And that’s good for their development.”

For other perhaps more seasoned campers, that risk might be challenging themselves to master a new skill or experiment with activities they have never tried before. William Lawrence’s Honor Society program challenges campers to master and complete 18 skills ranging from building and successfully lighting a fire in front of the whole camp (nerve-wracking) to spending a night alone in the woods after felling a tree, building a fire, and setting up camp for the night (even more nerve-wracking).

Have you ever played Australian rugby, shot an arrow through the bull’s eye, sailed a boat on your own across a pristine lake, used woodworking power tools, reached the top of the climbing tower or learned to slalom waterski? These are just a few of the activities to explore, be challenged by and eventually feel a sense of accomplishment whether the skills were mastered or not. Sometimes just trying something new gives a boost of confidence and willingness to try again.

At summer’s end, campers return home transformed into more independent, compassionate, confident and helpful young men (they have to clean their cabins and sort their own laundry!) ready to put their newly-discovered abilities to work for the rest of the year.

A strong, independent, confident, compassionate child. Now that is a win-win situation for any family.

Written by Board of Trustee Member and Camp parent, Seana Crellin