Choosing Summer Camp – Guest Blog by Alicia DeHart

As a former camper and summer camp counselor I immediately knew that my children would attend summer camp.  As a director at a girls’ summer camp I thought choosing a summer camp for my daughter would be a breeze.  With more than ten years working at a Maine summer camp I had more information about summer camp options than other parents researching summer camps.  I thought this would help me filter through the options to find a final choice rather quickly.  I soon realized that choosing summer camp wasn’t any easier for me than other moms and dads searching for their child’s summer camp.

While I had more information about camps and connections with various people in the camp industry, I was just a mom trying to make the best choice for her daughter.  Choosing summer camp for my daughter was filled with many of the same considerations that families across the country are working through as well.  Our decision process was guided by my purpose of choosing summer camp.  Then the things my daughter and I valued in summer camp.  And finally, our family schedule and other family dynamics.

Why Choose Summer Camp?

As someone who has spent three-fourths of her life at summer camp attending camp is an obvious choice.  However, many of my friends didn’t grow up attending summer camp.  So, their first question was, why choose summer camp?  While I was answering their questions, I quickly realized why my daughter wouldn’t attend the girls camp where I am a director.  This decision was easy, but it didn’t make the decision-making process any easier.

To me summer camp is an opportunity for campers to gain independence and a greater sense of self.  It’s a time away from parents to learn and explore under the guidance of summer camp counselors.  Summer camp is one of the greatest opportunities we as parents can give our children.  I wanted my daughter to have the true camp experience where she could be just another camper.  I felt she deserved the opportunity to have her own adventures just like I had when I was a young camper.

The Value of Summer Camp

The value of summer camp doesn’t come in its price tag.  The value of summer camp comes in the little details found in its values and philosophy.  I knew that I wanted my daughter to experience a camp similar to the camp where I work.  A camp where simple living, independent choice, and a sense of community guides daily life at camp.  I was surprised when my daughter wanted similar things.  She felt strongly about an all-girls camp.  I am sure this was partially because it’s the primary summer camp experience she’s had.  There’s likely an equal part for her choice of a girls’ camp because it guaranteed her younger brother wouldn’t attend camp with her in the future.  She’s an independent spirit so I fully understand her choice in not wanting to share her camp experience with anyone from home.  Especially not her brother.

When discussing camp with my daughter it was very apparent that she wanted an opportunity for a “trial” experience.  She was excited about the opportunity to have “her own camp.”  But she wasn’t quite ready to fully jump in with both feet.  Runoia’s Harmony Land Camp program was the perfect fit.  This shortened summer camp experience provided her an age-appropriate residential camp experience.  It also solidified her desires for an all-girls program with a strong focus on the outdoors.  And there were enough arts options to ensure her creative spirit was never bored.  After Harmony Land she was all in.  Five summers later and she hasn’t looked back.

Choosing Summer Camp for Your Family

The variety of programs and options can make choosing summer camp a complicated process.  However, choosing summer camp for your family schedule and dynamics can make everything more complicated.  One major consideration for us was camp dates because of the school calendar in the southeast United States.  There are summers that school begins before Maine camps are finished.  Due to this a half-summer session was a must.

An unexpected aspect of being a camp mom is the level of communication and individual attention Runoia families receive. The owner/director, Pam, took the time to speak with me about the Runoia experience and answered all of my questions throughout the enrollment process.  The level of attention we’ve continued to receive as a Runoia family has been amazing.  My daughter’s face lit up when she first received a letter from her camp pen pal and welcome post card from Alex.  Now she has the opportunity to do the same for new younger campers.  And my daughter now anticipates her birthday postcard in October!  The connection to summer camp truly continues year-round.

Choosing Summer Camp as A Camp Director

Sometimes being a summer camp director gets in the way of being a camp mom.  The summer season is crazy for all camp directors- our attention is on the amazing campers who create our camp community.  Due to this I knew I had to fully trust the leadership team for my daughter’s summer camp.  As a camp director who speaks with parents on a regular basis, I think this is the most important aspect of choosing a camp for your child.  As parents we are sending our most prized possession away for an amazing experience.  We must fully trust the people who are going to be responsible for them.

Here is where I have an advantage.  I met Runoia Director and Owner Pam very early in my years as a camp director.  As a young director I admired her for her integrity and commitment to summer camp.  As a mom I knew I could trust everyone at Runoia because I knew Pam was leading them.  2020 will be my daughter’s fifth summer as a Runoia girl. Directors Pam and Alex and the rest of the Runoia team haven’t ever let me down.  And more importantly, they’ve gotten to know and supported my daughter like she’s one of their own.  They’ve given her all I could have ever asked for in a summer camp experience and so much more!


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