Archive for April, 2011

Famous Faces of Summer Camps

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Famous Faces of Summer Camps

Have you ever thought about what your bunkmates might be doing ten or twenty years down the road? Maybe you have said to one another that you want to come back some day and be counselors, division leaders, and maybe you even dream of being a head counselor. But did you ever consider that the camper in the bunk next to you may end up on the big screen, in the final seconds of the Super Bowl, or even behind a big wooden desk in the White House? Well it may seem crazy to consider now, when you see them all decked out in Starlight gear and occasionally shaking their napkin, but this is the reality of many former campers around the country.  It is very surprising to find out how many of the who’s who in American society once found themselves spending their childhood summers in the magical places known as summer camps!

Here are a few famous faces that spent their summers at summer camps around the country:

Cindy Crawford, model Bob Dylan, folk singer
Tre Cool, Green Day drummer Jamie Lee Curtis, actress
Bill Clinton, US President Candice Bergen, actress
George W. Bush, US President Michael Jordan, professional athlete
Jeff Daniels, Dumb and Dumber Julia Louis-Dreyfus, actress
Robert Downey Jr., Actor Dustin Hoffman, actor
Conan O’Brien, TV Host Chris Farley, actor
Denzel Washington, actor Chevy Chase, actor
Ruth Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Supreme Court Justice

We searched the stacks of Starlight history to find our sole most famous person to walk down camp road. We found most definitely that man is Paul Simon! But what does our future hold? Maybe you will be Camp Starlight’s next claim to fame!

Camp Adventure Programs Help Campers Soar High

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Anyone would feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment after scaling a forty foot wall and then whizzing down a zip line or perhaps, while attached to a harness of course, taking a giant leap of faith off a perch with a great view.   But when the person is under the age of sixteen,  the feeling is unmatched.  This is the sense of elation that camp adventure programs bring to campers every summer.  Adventure is one of the most popular  programs at camp.   But what’s the point of all that climbing, jumping, and zipping around you ask?

For starters, high and low ropes courses have been used for some time now as team building event, probably the most commonly known reason for their usage.  In the case of a high ropes course, which is often at least thirty feet above ground and is sometimes as high as fifty, courage is one of the first words that comes to mind.  Quite simply put, it takes a lot of courage to shimmy up a ladder or patiently work your way trial and error up a climbing wall and then attempt to maneuver across  beams or rope of miniscule width with the ground looming below, even if one is safely secured to a harness and cables and spotted by trained professionals.  Trust is really what high ropes courses are all about.  A high ropes course challenges campers’ comfort levels and forces them to put trust in their fellow campers and camp staff, who also share in the inevitable sense of pride after successfully finishing a challenge.

Low ropes courses, on the other hand, encourage team building.  They feature such elements as webbed rope nets, trust falls and activities that challenge participants to get their entire team between platforms by building a bridge, or to move from wide cables to narrow ones.  More specifically, at camp, low ropes provide a great way for campers to bond with one another and encourage cabins to work together as a unit.

Nature programs  also often compliment outdoor programs by helping campers reconnect with nature and understand the importance of preserving the environment.  Fishing is another part of many outdoor adventure programs.  While fishing is a perfect relaxing social opportunity, it’s also a great way of increasing children’s patience level.

So it’s no wonder that these outdoor adventure programs are not popular merely for the lofty challenges that they provide, but  for the thrill and sense of pride campers feel for having had the courage to accept and achieve them.

Starlight Goes International with Megan Panelas

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

As we all know, last summer before camp, Megan Thompson and her former Starlighter husband, Hugh Panelas tied the knot beside Perch Pond under a beautiful sunset and great Pocono summer weather. They visited the sunny beaches and warm waters of Florida for their honeymoon, where Megan even swam with dolphins! But when I spoke to Megan about what she has been up to since leaving camp for the winter, the first thing she was sure to tell me was how much use she has been getting out of her Polar Bear Club duds.

 She proudly announced that she has been braving the SEVEN MONTH brutal winter of Saskatchewan by donning her Polar Bear Club beanie and scarf. She has also been spreading the Camp Starlight spirit by introducing her Kindergarten class to the infamous Hippo, which is now on a worldwide tour of visits to other Starlighters!

Another way Megan is bringing camp home with her during the camp season is to have her students participate in a Starfit exercise in the morning. Obviously, Megan misses camp during the winter.  She can’t wait to get back for her 10th summer at Starlight! She assured me that after a long journey in the pursuit of perfection, the mascot for this summer has been selected, and it will be epic! She can’t wait to introduce the mascot and her new Debs to all of the old and new traditions that will take place this year during another memory making summer. GO DEBS!

“Sunwise” at Camp

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

One of the biggest challenges of summer camp is also one of its greatest aspects, spending lots of time in the sunny outdoors.  Indeed, time in the sun is an important aspect of maintaining good health.  The sun is a source of vitamin D, which has been linked to happiness.  However, over-exposure to the sun’s rays can be harmful, as nearly everyone knows.  So taking appropriate measures to reduce risks is essential.

Summer camp professionals are extremely aware that proper sun care goes beyond the frequent application of sunscreen.  Many of them are parents themselves whose first priority is the safety of their campers, and they work very hard to incorporate sun-care tips, such as those offered by Sunwise, an organization established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000 to help those who work with children, into their daily routines.

Staff and campers are instructed to apply sunscreen frequently.  Almost all camps either supply sunscreen or require campers to bring it with them and encourage re-application between activities throughout the day.  Many camps place large containers of sunscreen throughout campus, so that it can be easily accessed and reapplied throughout the day.  The staff is required to insure that both themselves and their campers regularly use sunscreen.

Camps take measure to insure that children wear proper clothing.  Campers receive proper dress instructions daily.  Counselors supervise to make sure each child dresses appropriately for the day’s weather and activities.  Daily weather-appropriate instructions such as reminders about sunscreen application and instructions to drink plenty of water are also typically given during a camp’s morning announcements.

Camp programs naturally incorporate a mix of outdoor and indoor activities in order to balance the amount of time one spends in the sun with time in the shade.  While summer camp is about reconnecting with nature and a natural environment, campers also spend ample amount of time indoors so as not to be overexposed or at risk.

Extra precautionary measures are also taken when necessary.  With an increasing emphasis on helping campers develop lifelong healthy habits, camps are increasingly choosing to train their staffs in proper suncare.

Vitamin D intake is optimized through diet.  Camp menus are carefully planned to optimize nutritional value for campers.  Health and fitness have risen to the forefront of the camping industry in recent years.  Naturally rich in vitamin D foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal daily are typically available daily at breakfast.  Other foods high in Vitamin D, such as tuna and mushrooms, are also offered on lunch and dinner salad bars.

Teaching children and the people who take care of them proper measures for protecting oneself against overexposure to the sun is a critical element in the promotion of good health that many camps now embrace.  It not only helps protect children at camp but could help them for life.  A study by the American Camp Association established that habits formed at summer camp are continued by more than 60% of campers once they return home.

For more information about proper suncare, you can visit the Sunwise website at

Checking in with J.J. and Dena

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

We’ve have had a fantastic off-season at work.  I’ve  been busy teaching 4th Grade in Great Neck, while J.J. has been teaching 5th Grade in Valley Stream.  

While being in the classroom is always fun and challenging, we can’t wait to be out on the fields and down at the lake.   There’s really nothing as rewarding as seeing a child beam with confidence when he scores a goal or learns how to kayak for the first time. 

We’ve also been having a blast at home.   We’re officially a skiing family!  Both kids did a great job this winter with trips to the Poconos and the Catskills.   Perhaps next year J.J. will finally get to return to Colorado.  A major highlight for us this year was our first family trip to Disney World!  We soaked up all the fun and excitement the parks had to offer and truly had a blast!

It was so great to see everyone at the reunion in January.  It brought back so many fond memories we shared with the Juniors of 2010.  We miss the little moments like fishing with a milk crate at the swim docks.  When J.J. heard that the circus arts will be coming to Starlight this summer, the juggling clubs came out of the attic. After brushing off a little dust and polishing them up a bit, he has been practicing in overtime so he can show off his skills at camp this summer! Be on the look out for the one, the only AMAZING JUGGLING DIVISION LEADER…coming to Starlight June 2011!

Kids, Clothes, and Chaos

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

We came across this blog and got a really good chuckle out of it.  Since we’ve rounded that corner into April and the “waiting to pack” countdown has officially begun, we can’t resist sharing it with you.  We would like to thank Lisa, the original author, for her permission to reprint it…

I am fortunate enough to be able to send my two older children to sleepaway camp.  It is a fantastic learning, growing and maturing experience – for me and them!  My kids learn that the world still turns if they wear clothes that don’t match or the same shirt 4 days in a row, or what it’s like to meet new people, watch themselves become independent beings and experience things they never could at home (we don’t have a lake in our backyard or a kiln in the kitchen).

That said, there’s a lot of waiting involved with camp.  It all starts with the waiting-to-pack time period.  It’s incredible how much stuff needs to be stuffed inside of the trunks that are taken to camp.  Ok, first off, let’s not date ourselves to when they were actual black with gold rivet trunks – they’re really just duffle bags.  Granted, huge, enormous, can hold at least 4 grown men duffles, but duffle bags nevertheless.  And these duffles sit in my bedroom for weeks until they are actually picked up and taken away (given that we don’t have an extra bedroom and my husband and I’s room has the most space).  So I wait as long as possible to unearth them from where they are stashed all winter to reduce the number of nights I can possibly slip, roll and kill myself on an errant battery or sunscreen stick that has escaped the double layered ziploc bag in which it was stored.  Aside from my general safety, I have to wait to pack because nothing pisses me off more than putting items inside the bags and crossing them off my checklist, only to be asked the next morning by one of my chidlren if they can wear that shirt, jersey, soccer cleat, you name it, one last time.  So, although I have a few friends that are happy to feel organized starting this process in February for a June pick-up, I’ll stick with the wait-until-the-last-minute crunch time way that seems to work best for us.

But the waiting doesn’t end with the pick-up of the bags.  No siree.  Then there’s the parking lot send-off where the parents stand in the middle of an open parking lot in midday.  Blinking, shielding their eyes in the glaring heat (even behind the giant black Jackie-O glasses bought for the occasion) at a tinted window to try to catch a last glimpse of their child while trying to choke back emotion to “put on a good front”.  Inevitably, there’s a late-comer who was stuck in traffic so us parents are left standing like beauty pageant idiots waving and waiting, waving and waiting.

Once the bus pulls away then the wait for the first online picture begins.  Can you say refresh button?  You never know when new pics will be posted… And of course, the first letter (hopefully with no circled tear droplets or talk of homesickness and hitching a ride home) and the first phone call.  Visiting Day can never arrive quickly enough and as soon as you pull away from camp, the countdown to their homecoming begins.  And then there’s the the daily wait for the mailman in the hopes he brings some small tidbit of a literary connection.

Key thing to note (and I learned this the hard way the first summer my kids were away), is that my summer life is what happens in between all this waiting.  So although I miss them terribly each summer and usually have several countdowns going at once, I also recognize that the countdown to the hectic long days of the school year with homework, carpooling, sports practices and coordination of schedules is also going on during these precious and fleeting summer weeks.

So I’m trying to appreciate the waiting.  And dare I say, enjoy it.  Because before you know it, we’ll all have to endure the longest wait of all… when summer ends and we wait until next summer to do it all over again.