No Filter Needed at Camp

June 21st, 2016

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 3.25.35 PMIn a world of selfies, Instagram likes and Facebook’s new “love” feature, people are putting more emphasis on taking a picture of an experience than really enjoying and living in the experience itself. We participate in an event (concert, party, sporting event, social gathering) but spend most of the time trying to get the most artistic angle, the coolest filter and the best overall image quality to generate enough likes (and now loves) to make us feel valued, heard and appreciated online. As we view life through the camera function on our phones, we are missing the big picture, by trying to get a good one.

Since campers don’t have access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of those picture collage apps while at camp, the pictures that are taken of them are real, honest snapshots of what they’re doing at camp. They can’t sit and stare at a screen and crop and rotate and edit a picture before they post it. They can’t over analyze how they look or worry about if the camera got them at their best angle. The picture will show them sweaty, messy, busy, and real. It will show the macaroni and cheese stain on their shirt, the crazy faces they make as they fly down the zip line, and the real, genuine look of accomplishment when they face a fear for the first time.

11539072_10152902437221960_8957652597744731094_oPosing for pictures at camp is beneficial for the campers’ self image. It helps them see what parents and counselors and family member see when they look at the pictures; real kids having real fun. It helps campers become more confident about who they are without the need to fix, edit, change, crop or filter anything out. Kids get so wrapped up in social media and how they are portrayed to the world, always comparing themselves to others and forgetting to appreciate who they really are. Self confidence issues happen when teens begin to think that the perfect images displayed on their friends’ Facebook profiles are real life, and they begin to compare their life with others. They forget that for the one perfect picture that was posted, there were probably 50 others that were taken that didn’t make the cut. Letting campers see what they really look like when they are really having fun will help them realize that a picture of a t-shirt stained, muddy shoe kid having the time of their lives is so much more valuable than a perfectly timed selfie in the bathroom.

Campers will also realize that they just don’t have the time to be playing photo editor while they’re at camp. From the time they wake up until lights out at bedtime, they’re constantly going and doing and playing and exploring. The pictures captured of them doing these things don’t need a filter or any edits at all. There’s no time for that at camp.

Promoting high self esteem for campers is something counselors take very seriously, but a lot of it happens naturally. Kids learn that it is okay to just be a kid, and that every moment doesn’t have to have the wittiest, funniest hashtag. When family and friends back home see pictures of kids at camp, they get a real snap shot into a summer full of real friends, real adventures, real laughs and real, life changing experiences. #nofilter.

The Junior Boy vs. The White Starlight Shirt: A Lopsided Battle

June 13th, 2016

Written by JJ Weiner

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 4.38.53 PM“How did that shirt get so dirty?” It’s the question that has been baffling Starlight parents for generations. Allow me to pull the curtain back and give you a glimpse of what happens to your son and that shirt during a typical day at camp.

That shirt is going to make three trips to the dining hall today. The junior boys are enthusiastic about their meals, but not all of them have mastered their utensils yet. If it’s pancakes for breakfast, you can be sure that not all of the syrup will stay in a neat dipping pile on their plate. Even though there is a napkin dispenser on each table, sometimes the shirt is just closer. Who really has time for napkins when you’re surrounded by your friends engrossed in a discussion about how great Polar Bear was this morning? And that’s just breakfast. At lunch there will be tomato soup and the dessert at dinner tonight is going to be watermelon. You do the math.

Junior boys lose things. It’s not due to any character flaws or personal shortcomings and it’s not because they’re overwhelmed by all their stuff. They’re eight years old. It happens. That shirt probably was crawling on the floor under a bed during cleanup to find a pair of earbuds.

The next stop for that shirt is the baseball diamond. It’s ground ball drills at Option today. The coach gave you one to dive for and you were happy to oblige. The great thing about Junior Boys is they don’t differentiate between a drill at Option and the seventh game of the World Series. Both get maximum effort.

If you have a few minutes after you come out of the water for swim instruction, there might be time for a sand castle. Junior boys are makers. That shirt will be with you when create a home for salamander that you discovered by the edge of the water.

During rest hour you might decide to join a few boys in the circle. That shirt will lie back in the grass and you’ll use those earbuds you found during cleanup and take a few quiet minutes to stare at the clouds.

It’s candle-making day at Arts and Crafts. You want yours to be a rainbow. A little dye might splash onto that shirt, but it will be worth it when you see the finished product. The counselors were helpful, but you still feel a great sense of independence and accomplishment.

That shirt will be drawn to Gaga during free play. The adrenaline rush is addictive. You’ll dive again. Your knuckles will get a little bit bloody, but there’s no way you’re getting out. You’ll wipe them on your shirt and keep playing. It’s that maximum effort thing again.

At night, that shirt will be part of a skit advertising a time machine. Your friends and counselors will erupt in laughter. A little bit of the face paint you used to turn yourself into an alien will migrate onto that shirt. It’s a small price to pay for the applause of an adoring audience.

This explains what happened to that shirt, but it doesn’t explain why your son loves that shirt. That shirt gives a sense of belonging and community. When you wear your Starlight shirt, you feel proud. Maybe you wore it to your first Wayne County game or maybe you wore it when you got a high five from a senior boy just for being you. That shirt represents an ideal society of freedom, friendship and fun. As a junior boy, once you get that feeling, you want to hang onto it. That shirt is now your favorite and even though it was supposed to go into the laundry, you’re probably going to wear it again tomorrow.



Waiting for Camp!

June 6th, 2016

IMG_2983 2Something changes in our schools once we get back from spring break. Our brains switch from “I need this break” to “summer is right around the corner!” In most states, the temperatures are rising, and all of us (and probably our teachers!) are counting down the days until freedom.

But to be honest, kids who are going to Camp Starlight have it the worst. Our anticipation, our anxiousness to hurry up and start the best summer of our lives has GOT to be 100 times worse than kids who are having an ordinary summer. They have sleeping in and video games to look forward to, but we have kayaking, rock climbing, campfires, mountain biking and waterskiing to do! We have old friends to catch up with and new friends to make. We have weeks and weeks of adventure and fun to look forward to, and the days until summer seem to just creep by!

Kids who are returning to Camp Starlight for a second, third or seventh time already have their bags packed with the necessities (and have learned that you really don’t need any more or any less than what they list of the suggested packing list.) Camp returnees have already reached out to friends from last year to rave about what is to come, and make plans to meet as soon as they step foot on campus. They know how much fun awaits them, and waiting to get back can seem like torture!

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 4.38.53 PMKids who are coming to camp for the first time have a different kind of excitement. They check and re check the website to get them fired up for what is to come. They are anxious about leaving home for the first time, but can’t help but smile at the idea of spending weeks away from home, trying new things and meeting new people. When people ask them what they are doing over the summer, they do their best to explain every single program and activity that is available, and have photos of camp in their bag to pull out at any moment and show anyone who is willing to listen.

The difference between the two groups is that the kids who are returning have a small part of them that is a bit more patient. We know the first day at camp will come, and once it does, the rest of the summer will be a total whirlwind. Days fly by in the blink of an eye, and before we know it, we’ve put on plays, played sports, faced fears, overcome challenges, laughed until we cried, learned to sail or wakeboard or swim, went camping, and then the day of tearful goodbyes will be upon us. They say “time flies when you’re having fun,” and nothing is more true than when you’re spending the summer at camp. Time seems to be on overdrive and goes by in a flash. But it’s worth it and it is what keeps us coming back year after year.

First timers think they know what they’re looking forward to, they think they know what awaits them, but a summer camp experience like this is something you can’t really understand until you experience it.

Something feels different in our hallways around this time of year. While we’re still focused on ending the year on a high note, half of our brains are already swimming, singing campfire songs, scoring homeruns, playing laser tag after the sun goes down and conquering the ropes course. Summer is right around the corner, and for kids who get to spend it at Camp Starlight, it can’t get here soon enough.


Why I Keep Coming Back

May 30th, 2016

unnamed-1Written by Scott

May signifies that summer is just around the corner, and with it, May brings events that we all look forward to.  May is National Barbecue and Hamburger Month, and it is also National Blood Pressure Month, which makes sense after eating Barbecue and Hamburgers all month.  May also includes many special days such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and everyone’s favorite No Dirty Dishes Day.  But, for me, I know it’s May because everyone starts asking one simple question, “What are you doing over the summer.”  This is a simple question with an even simpler answer, it is an answer I have now given for 27 straight Mays, “camp.”  It is the inevitable follow up to this question, “why?” which is not so easy to answer.

As a child it was easier for to people to understand why you would go to camp for the summer.  When I started at the age of 7, most people would just say “that’s nice” and secretly judge my parents for sending me away for eight weeks.  As I got older, people still understood for the most part, and just figured camp was something you grew out of when you went off to college.  When college rolled around there were more blank stares when I told my friends about my summer plans, with the occasional “oh, okay”.  Now as an adult I just hear “why?” as they look at me waiting for a response that will make them understand.

For a long time I would just say things like “it’s what I have always done” or “you just have to be there to understand”, but the real answer would take too long to explain.  “Why do I go back?” simple, each morning about 100 polar bears wake up 20 minutes early to jump into a freezing cold lake and then quickly get out.  I see five Broadway caliber shows each summer, maybe they’re closer to off Broadway, but there is a stage and costumes so it’s close enough. I get to watch people interact with each other all summer long without the use of phones or computers, eye contact and everything. Have you ever seen a group of teenage boys playing the world’s most intense game of European Handball with Rick Astley’s 1987 classic “Never Gonna Give You Up” blasting in the background, it’s glorious.  Do you know who Ed Stubbs is? No? That’s too bad. Becoming a three time Square Dance champion with Lou and Sue, while Roxy sleeps under the table.  Trying to eat dinner but can’t because pots are being banged, and napkins are being shaken.  Spending your summer on top of a mountain watching the most beautiful sunsets over the lake.  Seeing your campers grow up and return as staff, and be able to work alongside them.  Watching traditions as a camper, like candlelight interfaith services and then participating in them as a counselor.  But, the main reason that I keep going back is that after 27 summers I still get that excitement I felt when I was seven.  Each summer is filled with new people, new experiences, and new memories, but most importantly the sense of family, which has only gotten stronger each and every summer.

I guess this would probably be confusing for someone who has not had the “Starlight Experience” to understand.  So, for the time being, I will probably continue to give my stock answers to their question of “why?”.  But, I think there is a more important question that needs to be asked to these “why” people, “Why aren’t you going to camp this summer?”

Fitness at Camp Starlight

May 23rd, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 1.24.27 PMThere are quite a few things that have seen rapid growth over the last several years, including Justin Bieber’s popularity, SnapChat and Disney’s Frozen. However, there is something that is taking over America’s youth at a frightening speed, and it’s not as light and fluffy as Elsa or The Biebs; it’s childhood obesity. Childhood obesity has seen a dramatic increase over the last 30 years, and more and more children are struggling with health issues because of their weight. Excessive weight gain in kids and teenagers can be blamed on hormones or genetics, but a major reason kids are overweight is because they are sitting in front of TV screens and laptops instead of getting outside to play. At Camp Starlight, kids spend all day on the go, and many have seen a dramatic change in their weight and overall health because of it.

Many campers spend their days out on the water. Swimming, water skiing and water aerobics are just a few of the ways that campers stay busy and moving throughout the summer. A lot of the favorite waterfront activities require using muscles that kids aren’t used to using, and helps them tone muscles and lose weight, without even knowing they’re working on it. These activities are great for kids who don’t naturally gravitate towards traditional sports and fitness activities, and for those who have a natural attraction to the water.

For those who do love sports, Camp Starlight has plenty of options. Natural born runners will love participating in running and triathlon sports, kids who like being part of a team will feel right at home playing flag football, soccer, lacrosse and softball. Regardless of which sport they try, they will be surrounded by counselors who have a heart for the sport, who are focused on fitness, and can motivate and inspire campers to make healthy choices.

Tennis is another camp favorite, and burns more calories than cycling, skating or aerobics! It is a sport that requires speed, flexibility and agility, and is a fun and easy way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

And when campers aren’t participating in organized sports or activities, counselors put together games that combine team building, socialization and physical activity. Campers are always on the move, working up a sweat and burning calories, and it’s all disguised as good ol’ fashioned fun.

The food served at camp is both delicious and nutritious, and is carefully planned to fit in with the camper’s high activity levels. Salad bars, soups, healthy sandwiches, fresh veggies, and vegetarian options give kids the opportunity to eat foods that taste great, and help them achieve their fitness goals.

Kids who spend a summer at camp come home with a few more things than they left with. They come home with more friends, a deeper appreciation for their own health and wellness, and the confidence to make healthy choice and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Camp Starlight: My Summer Home

May 5th, 2016

UntitledWritten by Madison Dratch

“Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.” -Margaret Peters

In June 2006, I arrived at Camp Starlight for the first time with teddy bear in hand and a nervous smile on my face. As other campers ran off the buses and embraced one another with love and the utmost excitement, I stood anxiously, unaware of the impact that these three hundred eighty five acres of land would have on my life.

Through my six summers as a camper, I discovered more about myself than I thought possible. I slowly grew out of my shell as I tried playing new sports, auditioned for plays at the rec hall, and established new friendships. I learned how to work with teams and handle conflict as my bunk strategically choreographed what we believed to be the best MTV night dance in Starlight history. Although my love for camp continued to grow with each summer that passed, so did the dread of thinking about the day that marked my last moments as a camper. In August 2011, I cried for the last twenty-four hours that made up my Upper Senior Summer. As my bunk said our final goodbyes, we knew that we no longer would all be able to sleep in the same cabin again, spend every meal together, or coordinate our sugar lips and soffe shorts to all match perfectly. Gone were the days of relying on our counselors to get us to wake up at reveille, clean our bunks in time for inspection, and make sure we follow our schedules perfectly. The book of being a camper officially closed and it was time for me to start a new adventure as a staff member.

Wearing a staff shirt for the first time provided me with the same nervous feeling I had getting off the bus on the first day of camp so many years ago. As a camper, I idolized the many counselors that had mentored me through the years. Now, I was on the other side of the fence and had to be the role model that my campers needed me to be. All feelings of anxiousness diminished the moment I stepped into my new bunk and saw eleven young hopeful faces staring back at me. I don’t know how it is possible, but working as a staff member provided me with an even more rewarding experience than all of my summers as a camper combined. The immense pride I felt and continue to feel when my campers achieve milestones in their lives speaks volumes of the impact being a counselor has on my life. I remember the joy I felt when my campers won their first Wayne County Softball game. I remember the intense process of memorizing lines when my camper starred as Peter Pan followed by the overwhelming feeling of fulfillment when she perfected every line and song on Opening Night. Fast forward four summers filled with four unique bunks and irreplaceable memories, the once young and hopeful bunk of eleven ten year old girls are now entering their Lower Senior Summer. The girls that once needed me to tie their shoes and brush their hair have now grown into young ladies capable of extraordinary things. Being able to witness this growth is one of the greatest privileges of all.

A decade has passed since that nerve-wracking day and although the teddy bear still remains, my perspective of camp has changed tenfold. Free from the world of small digital screens and ongoing pressures, Starlight allowed me to be the person that was fighting to break free. At Starlight, I am an athlete, a performer, a leader, and a friend. No feat is too small or too challenging to overcome when you know that you have a support network of hundreds of people behind you. Through the vast changes and turns that have happened in my life, Starlight has remained a powerful constant.

As I sit in my accounting class and recognize how fast summer number eleven approaches, I am filled with an anxious feeling again. Except, this time, it is not a nervous anxiety at all. It’s that overwhelming feeling of excitement where you know that this summer will be even better then the last. That familiar feeling that Starlight has given me since the first time I saw the place that I am privileged to call my home.














How to survive digital detox at camp

April 18th, 2016

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.25.44 AMAh, another summer out at camp. The twinkle of stars on a clear night. The whistle of the wind in the trees. The splashing of campers jumping in the lake.

One thing you won’t be hearing, though: the gentle “plink” of Facebook notifications. Summer camp means digital detox!

Depending on how technology-dependant a camper or counselor is, that’s either great news or cause for concern. Well, don’t worry: even if you miss checking Instagram every five seconds, you’re bound to benefit from a little analog me-time. After all, countless studies have shown that constant social media and internet exposure can have negative effects on things like concentration, memory, and even basic happiness.

So here are a few tips for keeping sane without your phone in your pocket.

Keep a journal

Journaling is your number-one weapon in the fight against digital withdrawal, and people have been using journaling as a way of reflecting on their day long before Facebook’s “what’s on your mind” prompt or Twitter’s “What’s happening?”

Think of it as a Facebook update for your future self.

Write letters or postcards

We often seem to forget that email isn’t the only way to keep in touch. Finding a real-life piece of snail mail in the mailbox brings a smile to anyone’s day, and it doesn’t have to take long to do: just scrawl a quick doodle and a “miss you!” on a postcard and drop it in the camp mail. Done!

Tip: bring a stack of postcards pre-stamped and preaddressed with you to camp and you’re one step ahead of the game. All you have to do is write what’s on your mind and let it go; just like email!

Stay in the moment

Staying in the moment is easier said than done. Being able to “just check up on emails” anytime you don’t have something to do quickly turns phones into social crutches for a lot of people.

11539072_10152902437221960_8957652597744731094_oCamp offers you a chance to let that bad habit go — and when you can’t look at your phone during down time, you will find yourself making real connections with the people around you. Next time you want to share “what’s on your mind,” try sharing your thoughts with a person instead of your Facebook.

There’s a time and place for social media, but trust me; you’ll be surprised at what you find when you connect with the people around you first. All you have to do is say “hi!”

Growing up is fun: transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor

April 12th, 2016

54ef49ff-9ab5-41b4-978a-b437ed3421e3Most people will tell you that growing up means having less time to play. Summer vacations for kids? Nothing but fun! Summer vacations for grown ups? “Booooring!”

…Well, here’s a secret: summer doesn’t have to be totally boring when you get too old for summer camp. All you have to do is become a camp counselor — problem solved! (Not to mention your Mom will be happy, since you’re “technically” getting a job!”

If you love camp and you’re worried about getting too old to go, don’t worry. Taking on the responsibility of a summer camp counselor is both rewarding and super fun!

Building experience

Transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor is probably easier than you think.

Building dependability and good leadership skills are already a huge part of the activities and games that campers participate in every year. For former summer campers, all the leadership skills that make a good counselor are already there — it’s just a question of stepping up to the plate and trying on a different hat this summer!

Leadership is “hard-wired” into the activities at Camp Starlight; oftentimes, campers don’t even realize they’re building leadership skills. Camping, team sports, and problem-solving games all feels like “fun in the sun.” programs are usually adventure based and allow you to explore your budding leadership style through hands-on activities.

If you’ve ever wondered why the ropes course and team sports get just a little more challenging every year at camp, that’s why. Just like life, camp gets a little more complex every year. Luckily, with harder work comes bigger rewards. Few jobs are quite as fun and satisfying as that of a summer camp counselor!

Responsibility and freedom

For college students, there’s no way around it; summer jobs and internships can be a drag. Camp is different from a regular job; perhaps the only summer job in the world that requires so much time playing games!

While counselors have plenty of responsibilities when it comes to their campers, counselors who have been campers themselves have a special place in their heart for the relaxation that camp offers. Digital detox is worth its weight in gold — I mean, can you imagine if you were in summer classes right now?!

Counselor training

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 2.52.13 PMWhether they’re a veteran camper or excited newcomer, every single counselor at Camp Starlight goes through intensive training and team-building activities before the first group of campers arrives.

Counselor training is where former campers really shine — because they already know what a magical experience they’re in for, and have all the traditional camp songs down by heart!

Most of all, former campers excel as counselors because they remember what it was like to be a camper themselves, helping them understand the value they offer to their own campers as role models. Veteran campers know that fun and games is serious business, and that all the planning and training is worth it to make sure the summer goes off without a hitch!

Campers forever!

Summer camp is an incredible chance to spend time among your peers, gain independence, and learn about yourself.

Whether you decide to become a bunk specialist, or work in a specialty programing at your camp, you will surely develop important life skills that will help you become a responsible adult — not to mention a super fun role model for generations of Camp Starlight campers!

Remember, growing up doesn’t have to mean letting go of that summer camp spirit!

Options Program at Camp Starlight

April 4th, 2016

Written by Jason Silberman

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 10.17.16 PMLet me take you back to when I was a little Junior boy and I started my first week at camp. I was not the most enthusiastic when it came to sports but I gave it my all and, of course, had fun with it. One of my favorite times of the day was Option. This is usually the first period of the day for lower camp and third period for upper camp in their morning activities. Each week, campers can choose out of a dozen program options what they want to have for three days that week.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 8.28.52 PMTypically, the schedule varies day to day but the option period will remain the same for those three days. Program choices range from Archery, Basketball, Eco Science, Improv, Lacrosse and more. Think of it as a three-day, intensive workshop that allows campers to learn additional skills that they might not have the time to learn in regular periods with their division. Going back to little me for a second, this chance to focus on something that I wanted to do was such an incredible experience. For example, one year I chose to go to Magic as an option and in later years, I became the magic specialist! There are so many options to choose from and that’s why it has become a favorite amongst campers every year. I believe that this program is a crucial part of the campers’ day because it allows them to enjoy 55 minutes of an activity that they specifically wanted to have that day. Option is one of the main contributors to the creativity and ability to thrive in camp.

Going on a Hike… More than Just Good Exercise!

March 30th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.49.18 PMWhen you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.

Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Starlight is one of the most popular activities each summer!

There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.

The healing power of nature

Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.

For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?

This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.

Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!

Connecting with the natural world

But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.

New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.

With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Starlight may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!

The journey is the destination

Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.

Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.

Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!