Something 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!
Kids 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.
Written 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.
Written by Jason Silberman
Let 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.
Typically, 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.
Written by Megan Panelas
This summer will be my 15th year working at Camp Starlight and every year people ask why I return summer after summer. I usually give the short answer of “it’s my second home,” but thought I would share the long version this time around.
Camp Starlight is a very Special place. Camp is a place where time slows down. It lets everyone take time out of their busy lives to really just be themselves. Both staff and campers can be who they truly are. It is amazing to watch campers in the camp atmosphere gain confidence in a nurturing environment. Each summer as they come back they truly gain a better sense of themselves. They belong at camp and they are part of the community that we, the staff, strive for. Through the program that has been developed at camp, each age group has their own set of traditions that they contribute to the Starlight community. It is amazing to watch their progression. From the junior enthusiasts who live and breathe camp and have so much fun, to the inters, who embrace the fun they are having and make lifelong friends. Then to the upper camp debs, who really learn more about themselves and bond to create more of a community atmosphere, and the seniors who have become a family. The Upper Seniors take on the role of helping the juniors have fun through a few special events. This cycle continues and is so strong at Starlight that many return as Counselor Assistants (CA’s) and then as counselors.
This is the part that I am now enjoying the most. Campers that I met when they were 7 and 8 are now counselors in the lower deb division with me. This truly is a full circle community. These campers turned counselors are the essence of camp and often make campers summers even more spectacular. I have had the joy to watch so many campers grow on a summerly basis, becoming exemplary staff and mentors over time.
Every camper is unique and may enjoy a variety of different things and camp has the opportunities to flourish in a million different ways. From being center stage, to being on a Wayne county team, from winning a race for the swim team to finally mustering up the courage to do the zip line, from launching rockets to scoring a goal in a league game and from dance parties to divisional campfires, there is something for everyone. It is finding that passion in each camper and helping them excel to have the best summer, every summer, as they grow and are true citizens of the Starlight community.
Being a part of this Community, and watching it grow is astounding and I just can’t stay away. I have become a part of it. Wabam.
As told through the eyes of someone who is glad to know…
By Dena Weiner Junior Girls Division Leader
As you prepare to send your son or daughter off to camp for his or her first summer, you must have so many things rolling around in your head. What will camp be like? How will they thrive without me? Will they make new friends? So many of the things you may be concerned about, turn into the triumphs of a new camper. What you will learn after a few phone calls, vague letters and tight “No, I won’t let go” hugs on Visiting Day, is that the independence they gain will be the most important thing they bring home.
So what are nine things they will learn at Camp Starlight this summer? Let’s start with the first day they get off the bus.
I bet you didn’t know that….
…as soon as their feet touch the grass, they are immediately welcomed by hugs, cheers and circles of new friends. This teaches children that camp is fun and friends are all around us. They also learn that the adults at camp are always their biggest cheerleaders away from home.
…camp is not only a place for kids, but there are others that live on the beautiful hills and lake of camp and they are happy to share their habitat with a zip code worth of people. Camp’s canopy is nothing short of amazing. Every child will take at least one nature hike. On this hike they learn about the flora and fauna of this incredible scenery. They will learn to appreciate what they see and they might even learn to hug a tree, save a spider or listen to the sounds that surround us.
…teeth will get brushed. It might seem like an impossible task to get 10 eight year olds to brush their teeth twice each day, but somehow this mission of importance commences each morning and night. Somehow counselors find time to brush hair, wash faces and hands. Eventually these “chores” become badges of personal growth.
…everyone finds something to eat at camp. Even the pickiest of eaters finds something to enjoy. Sitting down to a meal with a family of friends is a valuable experience that creates something magical. Children learn that talking about your day, setting table routines and having a place to just come together creates an environment that is hard to replicate. It is this feeling of give and take that helps children calmly break bread.
…they will make a new friend at camp. It will probably not be the person you expected. As parents we spend so much time planning their social calendars that we structure their friendships. At camp they get to choose who makes them smile and laugh. It is such a valuable component to being a new camper in a safe and supported place. It teaches them how to seek out the qualities in another person that are important to them. It is these friendships that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
…new interests will be developed. You might hear your son or daughter tell you that they like playing guitar, doing magic, hurling a lacrosse ball or sewing. They spend 10 months dabbling in extra-curricular activities and 2 months choosing other ones. Where else are you going to learn how to water ski? Every day’s excursions are priceless events. Trying new things teaches children to expect the unexpected and thrive outside out of their comfort zones.
…sunscreen gets applied, nails get clipped, knots get untangled scrapes get cleaned up. Even the Tooth Fairy comes to camp. Children learn that other people besides their moms and dads care for them too. Camp Starlight has lots of “mom & dads.” They are the people who make sure that no stone is left unturned and every need is met.
… sleep happens. Reluctant sleepers who crawl into your beds at night learn how to be self-soothers. Call it exhaustion from a long fun day or excitement for tomorrow’s surprises, but when the head OD checks in to make sure that bunks are quiet and asleep, they really are. Not a peep is heard except the sweet snores of mouth breathers. Children learn that they can put themselves to bed and this precious lesson is worth more than gold.
…talking face-to-face instead of through snaps, texts and instas is possible and fun. Face time will have a whole new meaning. Jacks and knock hockey will be played, songs will be sung and your child will learn to exist without an electronic device. They will even learn to remember fun times without a selfie.
What do these 9 lessons add up to? The self-sufficiency they learn becomes their self-esteem. How long can we cut their steak for them, scrub the shampoo out of their hair or buckle their seatbelts? They have to learn how to do these things by themselves. Remember how much we clapped and cheered when they took their first steps? Remember how much they clapped for themselves? We celebrated their independence. Camp parallels this experience. So as you unpack a summer’s worth of dirty socks in August, think about the steps those socks took. After the laundry is washed, the towels put away and the woodworking projects displayed on the mantel, the one thing that you won’t see in their trunks is their personal growth. You will notice it over time. Your eight year old will ask you for stuffed shells for dinner, they might call a friend in another state, they will brush their teeth without being nagged, and they might even clear their own plates. Consider these priceless gifts as you get them ready for the best summer of their lives!
Summer camp isn’t just about campfires and sports and jumping in the lake: we’re happy to report that the arts are alive and well at Camp Starlight!
From fine art to ceramics to theater, there are activities and specialty resources available for practically anything a creative spirit could dream of.
Camp is a hands-on place, so it makes sense that the hands-on approach applies even outside the core activities like sports and archery. Not everybody wants to be on their feet all day, so painting, ceramics, and other studio arts give campers a chance to slow down, zone in, and get their hands dirty in a creative environment.
Not a huge fan of ultimate frisbee? How about ceramics then! Not a pottery buff? Maybe some theater will float your boat? Camp is full of creative outlets, and everybody gets a chance to try out as many different mediums as they want until they find the one that speaks to them.
One of the best things about doing arts activities at camp is how they build on themselves from year to year, all while connecting with students’ activities and interests during the school year.
Campers who dream of going to art school can find plenty of time and resources for honing the skills they already have, while newcomers to a craft can start fresh and continue to grow the next summer if they desire.
At camp, the level a camper wants to reach within the arts is completely within their own control. The sky’s the limit!
What’s a campfire without some good-natured inside jokes? Theater is a great way for campers to play and practice team organization outside the sports environment. The end product is usually a little on the goofy side (this is summer camp after all, not Shakespeare in the round), but what’s really valuable about the activity is applying those teambuilding skills to something more like “real life” than a team sport.
You could say that the team that plays together, stays together.
Ultimately, the goal of creative activities at camp is to build confidence through self-expression.
The arts have always been a safe place for campers to express the things they have on their minds. Making art in a community ensures that everybody gets plenty of attention, and skilled instructors are always on hand to pair campers with the tools appropriate to their skill level. No matter the discipline, every camper gets a chance to show their own unique creative spark.
Camp isn’t just a fun place — it’s a creative place too! So get creative in the arts. There’s no better time than summer to make something spectacular!
Have you been keeping up on Parks & Rec lately? Yeah, so have we. (You have to do something when summer ends, right?)
Here at camp pretty much everything reminds us of camp activities, but apparently we’re not the only ones: and Nick Offermans’ goofy woodworking-obsessed character has gotten us particularly excited to dive into some traditional American crafting in the shop at Camp Starlight!
“It’s difficult to name a favorite wood. They are all so noble, each with its own special characteristics.”
– Nick Offerman, Parks & Rec
Okay, maybe you don’t have to be as serious about woodworking as they are on Parks & Rec, but getting crafty in the shop is definitely a ton of fun.
Woodworking is one of those traditional skills that is slowly being lost in much of the country. Trying it out at camp is as much about getting in touch with the history of craftsmanship as it is about learning practical skills that will serve you well next time you need to use a little elbow grease on a home-improvement project.
The best part about woodworking at Camp Starlight is that it isn’t “just any” woodworking class. If you think building a chair in the shop at school sounds boring, how about building a rustic necklace, or something you can use in your room — like a laptop tray? Campers have built some pretty crazy stuff in summers past, including:
…and the list goes on.
If you can imagine it, you can build it. Staff specialists work with you to help you learn the tools, and then your creativity gets to run wild making something cool along with the group… or going rogue and making something else entirely.
If you’re racking your brains trying to think of a good Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Holiday gift, keep it in mind when you hit the shop next summer. Everyone loves homemade gifts, so a handmade gift from the camp woodworking shop is sure to fit the bill. It’s certainly less boring than socks!
Whatever you bring home from the camp woodworking shop, it’s guaranteed to surprise your folks. Camp isn’t just fun — it can also be practical.
We can’t wait to build more awesome stuff next summer! See you in the shop!
Lights out doesn’t have to mean the fun is over; after all, Camp Starlight is the perfect place for stargazing! All you need is a clear sky, a few tips and pointers, and of course a helpful counselor.
Once you figure out how to find the north star, it’s a slippery slope to becoming an astronomy expert. Who wouldn’t want to be knowledgeable about this beautiful universe of ours?
Here are four of the easiest constellations to locate during the summer months at Camp Starlight, and how to find them.
For many aspiring astronomers, the big dipper is the first constellation they ever discover. The Big Dipper is visible all year round, making it a dependable friend even if you aren’t an astronomy master.
The distinctive dipper or ladle shape is hard to miss, since it’s composed of a few of the brightest stars in the sky. Take a look at the shape in the picture below; this is what you’re looking for.
Found it? Awesome!
Beyond being dependable, the Big Dipper is your secret key to the celestial world. Once you can find the Big Dipper, you can use it to pinpoint many other constellations.
Now let’s use the Big Dipper to find our next constellation: the Great Bear.
The Big Dipper is actually part of the Great Bear, so if you’ve already located that elusive ladle then you’re literally halfway there. Hint: the handle of the dipper is the tail of the bear.
Look for the brightest stars directly forward from the dipper part of the Big Dipper to find the bear’s head, and extend downwards from the dipper’s bottom to find the bear’s legs. Can you spy the Big Dipper in this picture?
The Big Dipper isn’t done helping us; we’re also going to use it to help us find its smaller but no less important sibling, the Little Dipper!
Find the two stars that make the “front” of the Big Dipper and draw a line with your imagination upwards. The brightest star in that line is the end of the Little Dipper’s handle.
The Little Dipper is much fainter than the big dipper, and if any wispy clouds are hanging around it might be quite tricky to find. But there is a reward! That bright star forming the end of the Little Dipper’s handle is none other than Polaris, the north star.
If you can get this far, you have everything you need to find your way in the wilderness. North is always the direction of the North Star, which is why sailors used to be so concerned with astronomy in the old days. Pat yourself on the back!
Everyone loves dragons, so let’s finish by finding the dragon constellation, Draco. We can use the Little Dipper as a reference point, just like we did before.
The snakey part of Draco wraps around the spoon part of the Little Dipper in a giant “s” shape, leading up to the “head” of the dragon — a suspiciously ladle-like four-point star formation, as you can see in the shape here:
Astronomy is like everything else at camp: challenging, but rewarding. And most importantly, tons of fun.
The best part about these four constellations is that they’re visible all year around. Be sure to show your friends at camp, or if you’re a counselor, be sure to teach your campers. That way they can take their newfound astronomy skills away with them and show their friends at home!
When they ask where you learned something so cool, you can just say, “at Camp Starlight.”