Archive for March, 2011

It’s a Small World after All!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

A wonderful, rewarding job where you get to meet people from all over the world? Yes, please!

Working at Starlight gives our staff the unique experience of interacting with people from all over the world in one place! With over 250 staff members, we have representatives from over 40 states in the U.S. and 15 other countries. Coming from all different places, we join together every summer for the same reason; to have the summer of a lifetime at camp!

 Starlight may physically be in Pennsylvania, but if you just look around and listen to the many accents and mannerisms of our counselors, you will soon realize that at camp, it really doesn’t matter from where you come. It’s our own Starlight world, and there is a lot to learn from working amongst so many different kinds of people.

 During the hiring season, we travel domestically and abroad to put together a terrific team of people based on skills, experience, and geography. Besides the traditional sports and activities our campers are taught, through their counselors, they also learn about customs and different ways of life outside of the regions they call home.

 We enjoy the excitement of the America vs. the World soccer game, Fourth of July takeovers by the Brits, stories about kangaroos and koalas from our Aussie staff, and celebrating Canada Day and Peruvian holidays at line-up. But what makes camp special for our diverse staff are the things that bring us together. Because waking up early for the Polar Bear Club, wrestling in slime, watching the burning of the lake, and an overall love for kids and camp are what make us the same, no matter from where we started our journey.

Camp friends are friends for life no matter where you live in the world. Even as the years go by and you move on from camp, you can count on a place to stay and a friendly face wherever you may travel. Ultimately a love for adventure, a yearning to make a difference, the same spirit inside us that is playful and fun with the desire to grow and change for the better is what creates a common bond, and makes a counselor’s summer an experience unlike any other.


Put on Your Swimsuits, Goggles, and Sunblock–It’s Time for a Swim!

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Almost every camper will name his or her waterfront area as one of the best parts of camp.  Many camps are built on lakes and their waterfronts play a crucial role during the summer, not only as a place for swimming but as a gathering place and the perfect backdrop for outdoor evening activities.  Learning to swim at summer camp is a rite of passage.  But learning to swim not only provides a great foundation for building camp memories of sunny days spent at the waterfront, it has lifelong benefits as well.

Of course, there are the much acclaimed physical and mental benefits that we all know.  It’s a great low impact exercise that is suitable for almost everyone, which makes it an ideal part of a regular fitness regime.  It’s also not age restrictive.  Rather, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.  The fact that muscle strength is also greatly improved as a result of pushing oneself through the water goes without saying.

Swimming also improves coordination, emotional well being, concentration, and social skills.   In fact, it’s the largely social aspect of camping that likely makes it such a positive and popular part of the camping experience.  The relaxing atmosphere of a pool or waterfront area provides the perfect setting for children to let down their guards and enjoy the type of casual conversation that builds and strengthens friendships.  When combined with the sheer fun of the activity, it’s the perfect setting for building memories.

Camp waterfront locations are extremely active and full of almost endless possibilities for campers to experience.  There are often several activities taking place at once, which is why camp Waterfront areas are typically generously staffed with well trained, fully certified lifeguards who complete an extensive and rigorous training program prior to the start of camp.

The pool area is not merely a place for swim instruction at summer camp but fun activities such as  synchronized swimming competitions in which campers have fun using creativity and teamwork to choreograph a musical number that combines dancing and swimming.  Pool parties are popular evening activities at camp, complete with music and plenty of opportunity to socialize.

Even more adventure can be found on larger lake areas that, in addition to swimming beaches, also often have water toys, such as trampolines, rock-its, and climbing rocks for campers to enjoy.   Since these areas require campers to pass a swim test prior to being able to use them, they provide fun and attainable goals for campers: first, to pass the test that allows them to swim to these special areas, then the challenge of climbing the wall or walking the plank.  Camps also incorporate their waterfront areas into special event planning.  Water games and pirate themed treasure hunts are just a couple of ways that water play is used creatively in camp programs.

Swimming at camp takes on a new level of excitement when included in camp activities–such as decathlons, apache relays, and Olympics or Color Wars–that give campers the opportunity to use their swimming skills to rise to a challenge.  Many camps also compete in swim meets through their inter camp leagues.   Whether racing against other campers or a time clock, being able to apply their swimming instruction in an engaging way and to see firsthand how they’ve improved has been a moment of pride for many a camper.

So the next time your child regales you with tales of the waterfront at his or her summer camp, remember that it’s not just summer memories that they’re gaining from their swimming experiences, but lifelong skills.

Are You Ready for the 10th Anniversary of the SWF?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Starlighters, in 2011 we will be embarking on a very important milestone in history.  This summer will be the 10th anniversary of the Starlight Wrestling Federation, an event unrivaled and looked forward to every year! We know the 10th annual SWF match will entertain with laughs and new champions from a fresh line-up of contenders, but looking back, what have been the best moments? Was it the shock of seeing our favorite bus driver, Kathy, step into the ring and body slam Tracy? We all remember the days of Team Canada being led in by Megan and backed up by the daunting strength of Hugh, a veritable legend in SWF history. Perhaps your favorite moment was when the Tambourine Trashers of Lower Camp put out the flames of the Upper Camp Fire Department. For me, it was when the entire Starlight branch of the Boczkowski family strutted their way to the ring to lead Kyle to victory! Whatever the moment, the Starlight Wrestling Federation match has wrangled its way into our hearts.  We can all look back and laugh and smile as we remember our counselors and key staff braving the pit of apple sauce, watermelon, creamed corn, Jello, or whatever else we had cooked up for the event. Who can guess what sort of shenanigans and characters we may see under the bright lights before us as we gather together this summer for the 10th time to cheer on the winner of the highly sought after gold belt?

Radio Reminiscing

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The other day as I was listening to the radio while driving down the road, in the blink of an eye, I was back in the Dining Room surrounded by the voices, noises, and even the smells of Camp Starlight. I love it when those moments happen. Something as simple as one song can transform your mood, surroundings, and energy. Not only do we come across unexpected moments that return us to our summer home away from home, but it creates an excitement, buzz, and energy that I know I can’t shake. When times like that happen, I’ll find myself on the phone or computer reconnected to a long lost camp friend.

More importantly, those quick, unexpected instances make me want to return to camp as soon as I possibly can. I am reminded each time those moments happen why I fell in love with Camp Starlight, its campers, and staff twelve years ago.  I feel I am one of the fortunate; I have had the opportunity to experience Camp Starlight, and I look forward to the next time I hear a song on the radio that sends me back to camp.

What brings you back?

Sparking Creativity Through Campfire

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

One of the most endearing and sacred parts of summer camp is the campfire.  More than just wood lit with a match, it’s an intimate part of the camping experience that goes far beyond simply sitting around a fire.  Each camp has a set of traditions uniquely connected to the campfire experience and, to campers, each tradition is significant, demanding reverence.  The campfire is the very place where many children recall the moment when their camp transformed from “a camp” to “their camp”, where fellow campers and counselors become family while singing songs, roasting s’mores, and engaging in campfire activities.   So intricate is the campfire to the summer camp experience that even former Disney CEO Michael Eisner has reflected on its importance in making him who he is:

“Simply consider the lessons I was taught by the campfire…every time the rich reward was the same as we simply sat and enjoyed our consuming creation. And, there was one aspect in particular that never failed to intrigue me, and that was the process of seeing the single small flame of the match spread to the kindling and then the twigs and then the smaller branches and finally the larger logs. It didn’t dawn on me until years later, but this was the perfect metaphor for the creative process…Years later, I found myself running a network television division and then a movie studio and now an entire entertainment company. But, much of the success I’ve achieved can be traced to the direct and metaphorical
lessons I learned in building those campfires.”

To some, to assign such significance to fire may seem a bit of a stretch.  But to anyone who has attended camp, it’s not only believable but apt.  Beyond Eisner’s metaphor, the campfire is symbolic of camp, and represents the bonding between campers and nature.  Campfires instantly evoke feelings of togetherness and promote an atmosphere of being together in an intimate setting that is unique to the people who are present.  Many camps hold opening and closing campfires to welcome campers and immerse them in the camping experience and to help them say goodbye at the end of the summer.  At the beginning of the summer, the flames represent the birth of a new summer.  Opening campfires often include some sort of ritual that introduces an idea or process that can be re-visited throughout the summer, such as setting goals for the summer or some sort of introduction and bonding activity with camp “siblings”.  The meaning of the flames, however, transforms at the end of the summer. The burning of a closing campfire represents the end of the season.  It’s a way to give the summer a proper and respectful send off.  Campfires held throughout the summer supplement overnight camping trips and special events.

To say that the campfire breeds creativity is not only accurate, but understated.  The various representations and meanings that the actual fire itself takes on helps campers learn to look at the same thing from different angles, a crucial aspect of honing creative thought and learning to think “outside the box”, which is essential to developing good problem solving skills.  When considered from this perspective, it’s not at all difficult to imagine a CEO of one of the world’s largest companies crediting much of his success to his camp experiences, specifically to the campfire.  In fact, it provides insight about the significance of camp and how the lessons learned there can be carried throughout life.

1,3,5,6 We Want Olympics!

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Over several decades, across many miles, and in the heart of campers of all ages lies the excitement of arguably the most anticipated event of the summer. When will it happen? Who will be our leadership? What team will I be on? These questions echo in the minds of campers and counselors alike throughout the school year, and they only grow more intense as the summer progresses. So what is this hallowed event that has everyone’s attention? And what is it about this event that has everyone so excited?

Well, at Camp Starlight we call this thrilling week of spirit and competition Olympics! Our campers and staff pass many a spare moment over the year thinking about what the team names will be, who will be the officers and captains, and what the theme for Sing will be. Once the summer kicks off, and the weeks begin to pass, whispers about when it will break can be heard around camp.

But as anyone who has spent a summer at Starlight will tell you, Olympics is an exhilarating week of athletic, strategic, and academic competition. Whether your strength is playing on the soccer field, catching cheese balls on your shaving cream laden head, or having the fastest buzzer pressing thumb in Wayne County, your team will be depending on your contribution! From the second Olympics breaks to the moment your feet hit the lake after the final scores are announced, the electrifying spirit of the Blue and the White can be felt in the air. At Starlight, there is no doubt that we truly do justice to the time honored tradition shared by summer camps around the country and passed down over many years.

So the next time you catch yourself daydreaming of smearing on your face paint or spraying your hair in your team’s shade, know that there is another Starlighter somewhere sharing in your excitement and anticipation. So until we’re back together facing off on the fields, dodging gigs in our seats, and handing off the baton, make sure to keep “B-L-U-E, we got the spirit!” and “We are the white team! Couldn’t be prouder!” fresh in your thoughts!

Childhood Obesity Part II: Balancing Nutrition and a Healthy Lifestyle

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

In the first part of this blog series, we discussed the benefits of physical activity at camp.  There are underlying advantages to this that directly relate to nutritional habits.  Research shows that that the more time children spend doing passive activities such as watching television, sitting at a computer, or playing video games, the more likely they are to overeat.  The reason for this is simple.  A sedentary lifestyle leads to boredom.  Nutritionists assert that lack of activity mars a child’s ability to determine the difference between boredom and hunger.  Unfortunately, according to dietician Jennifer Thomas, the increased amount of free time and lack of structure that often comes with summer break makes children particularly vulnerable to tedium and excessive food consumption.  Says Thomas, “A child can pick up 5 to 10 pounds over the course of a summer, so it’s important to recognize the difference between boredom and hunger.”

Concern about the obesity crisis has sprung to the forefront of the camping industry.  Cedric Bryant, Ph.D. and Chief Scientist for The American Council on Excercise, was a keynote speaker at the 2011 American Camp Association’s (ACA) National Conference, attended by thousands of camp professionals.  In his address, Dr. Bryant discussed the growing issue of obesity and praised the ability of summer camp  to transform poor habits through exercise.  Most traditional summer camps offer children a healthy mix of hobbies and athletics.   Camp staff members encourage campers to participate in everything that’s offered to them, even that which they might not necessarily do or try at home.

There is also something to be said for the fact that many summer camp activities, including dining, are scheduled into a child’s day and carried out in a group setting.  Access to food is limited throughout campus, and eating is typically not permitted in bunks. Quite simply, obtaining food at camp is not as easy as walking into the pantry or opening the refrigerator on a whim for lack of something better to do.  New research has established many benefits to family meals.  One potentially underrated advantage is that dining as a unit may keep consumption in check by limiting what nutritionists call the “eating area”, the combination of time and space in which eating occurs.  “This strategy can help determine if they [children] are really hungry or just bored,” says Thomas.  Meals at summer camp are held at specific times in a designated place—usually a dining or mess hall—and campers dine together, often with their bunkmates.  Counselors supervise, insuring that everyone receives food and reporting any changes in a camper’s eating patterns.

The four day 2011 ACA conference also featured  seminars that addressed issues such as how to  work together to improve the overall health and nutrition of campers, understanding the relationship between nutrition and wellness and using that knowledge to help campers be high achievers through healthy bodies and minds, and adding healthy options to dining room menus, particularly for those campers who require special diets.

Indeed, though many camps are constantly striving to improve in these areas, the notions  introduced in these seminars are not new.  Meals served by most summer camps are carefully planned and balanced in accordance with USDA recommendations.  Many camps also encourage their campers to make healthy choices at mealtimes by providing several fruit options in the morning and salad bars at lunch and dinner.  Vegetarian alternatives are typically available and, increasingly, more attention is being given to rising nutritional challenges such as diabetic or gluten free diets.

All of this is enough to make summer camp worth considering as a combatant to the type of lackadaisical lifestyle that leads to poor eating habits and, possibly, obesity.

Shout Out from Schumer

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Camp Starlight Boy’s Athletic Director, Adam Schumer, recently checked in to let us know what he has been up to and gave us a couple of exercises to help us train for the 2011 Slope for Lope.

After Camp; Adam returned to his job as an elementary physical education teacher at Forest Hill Elementary School in Palm Beach County, Florida. Adam is extremely busy as the coach of the John I. Leonard High School Wrestling team. His team recently won the Palm Beach Gardens duals, and they have seen remarkable improvement across all weight classes. Adam and his team look forward to the regional, district, and state tournaments.

To keep active during the off-camp season, Adam participates in a number of athletic events. He ran in the Palm Beaches Marathon Festival, where he finished near the top of his age group this past December. Adam also participates in various Adventure Races across Florida.  These races include canoeing, biking, and running. Participants are given a map and are required to check in at various points as they make their way through the course. Adam plans to bring this Adventure Race concept to Starlight this summer.

Adam says the winter season is the perfect time to move your exercise routine indoors, and he suggested a couple of fun winter activities for campers. Younger campers should start practicing some of your favorite circus tricks, such as hula hooping, juggling, or jumping rope (if you have high ceilings). Just make sure you’ve got enough space and don’t damage any of your parents’ favorite furniture! Older campers, keep up the yoga and pilates. They are great for strengthening muscles, improving flexibility,and lowering stress from homework and exams. They’re also easy and inexpensive activities that you can do just about anywhere in your house.

Hopefully these drills help out, and he can’t wait to see you at Camp in June!

Summer Camp: Curbing Childhood Obesity

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that nearly 1 in 5 children between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese, it has become imperative that we, as parents, make as much effort to set our children up for success in establishing proper food habits, just as we would in other areas of their lives.  Three primary causes consistently cited for childhood obesity are lack of physical activity, an unbalanced diet and overeating.  An often overlooked benefit to summer camp is the significant impact it has in curbing childhood obesity by promoting an active lifestyle and healthy eating practices.  In this multi-part series, we will examine the efforts being made by summer camps to battle poor diet and exercise.

Part I.  Physical Activity
Beyond traditional summer camp sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball, roller hockey and gymnastics, many camps are increasingly focusing on the development of extensive programs for such popular fitness activities as spin, running, weights, zumba, yoga and the martial arts.  The instant popularity of these programs suggests that children have a natural interest in exercise and will engage in it of their own accord in the absence of many of the daily distractions that promote a more lethargic lifestyle but are not readily available at summer camp, such as computers, video game systems and television.  The ability to participate in fitness programs as a form of fun also encourages campers to approach such activities with an open mind rather than as something forced on them and that is only done out of necessity.  

Some camps are also experimenting with nutrition programs that marry cooking activities with fitness. Such programs teach campers how to plan healthy meals and snacks and then prepare them.  Cooking programs are among the most popular at summer camp.  To merge them with nutrition is a clever way to demonstrate the importance of using discretion in choosing what we eat and consuming it in moderation.  In the past, the idea of “diet,” as in depriving oneself of necessary nutrients, has been cited as a contributing factor in the growth of eating disorders and yo-yo dieting.

For those who question the lasting effects of fitness and nutritional habits adapted at summer camp, statistics indicate that they won’t be going away anytime soon.  According to the American Camp Association, more than half of children who pursue a new interest at camp will continue pursuing that interest once they return home.

Up next, part II.  An Unbalanced Diet