Rockbrook Shake Revisted

If you spent any time watching YouTube in the early Spring of 2013, you probably saw several examples of groups doing the “Harlem Shake.” But, you may not know that the second session girls at Rockbrook made their own version of the video.

You can see the video embedded in this blog post, but here is a photo of the event that is great fun.

Click the photo to expand it, and check out all those amazing costumes! These camp girls know how to have a blast.

See anyone you recognize?

Rockbrook Camp Shake Dance Photo
Rockbrook Harlem Shake

Summer 2012 — Terrific!

Sometimes people ask if the summer seems to pass slowly or quickly for us at Rockbrook. Oddly, it’s both. Today, our last day of the 2012 summer season, we look back and recall all the amazing things we’ve done- the horseback riding, whitewater rafting, zip line rides, pottery, archery, swimming, etc. —and it seems like our opening day was months ago. With so much accomplished, it just had to have taken a really long time! But also, staying busy everyday, packing each day with activities, events and memorable moments, makes the weeks zip by. “It’s 12:30 already?!”

This strange speedy/slow pace is the mark of a truly rich experience. Add to that the fact that we’re all so close at Rockbrook, such good friends, so enthusiastic and genuinely happy, and you can begin to understand why we love camp this much.

Also, you can see why saying goodbye is so hard. We’ll miss all our amazing friends, the silly, terrific fun of camp, and how the whole experience makes us feel. For every session this summer, camp has proven once again to be a magical place filled with spirit and wonder.

It has been a pleasure to spend these few weeks with your delightful girls. Thank you for sharing them with us! And while we must say goodbye for now, we’ll look forward to seeing them again next summer here at Rockbrook.

Rockbrook girl summer campers

Tennis at Camp

Girls Camp plays tennis

Forehand! Backhand! Lob! Volley! Groundstroke! Cross-court! Serve! It’s all tennis.

And at camp there’s plenty of chances to play tennis. Campers can sign up for tennis as one of their scheduled activities, which gives them about an hour on the courts. They can grab a friend and hit a few balls around during their free time before lunch or dinner. They can even get in a quick game after dinner during the “Twilight” time before evening program. And finally, girls can look forward to the end-of-session tennis tournament with Camp Carolina, a long tradition at Rockbrook.

With all this tennis going on at camp, Rockbrook girls can really learn a lot. They can build their tennis skills and become much better players if they want. But at Rockbrook, no matter what we do, the most important part is to have fun doing it! That’s why tennis can be pretty silly. It can turn into some kind of relay game, a trick shot contest, or even a new dance move. No pressure. No intense competition. No worries about whose the “best.” It’s a girls tennis camp dedicated to having fun, even when that means mostly playing around. Yes it’s all tennis, and it’s all fun.

NC Camps Impact the Economy

North Carolina Camps Ice Cream eaters

There’s big news coming out about western North Carolina summer camps. Back in March, the North Carolina Youth Camp Association and the American Camp Association, commissioned researchers at North Carolina State University to study the economic impact of summer camps in this region. Using online surveys, Dr. Michelle Gacio Harrolle and Dr. Samantha Rozier-Rich led the effort to measure all of ways camps contribute to the local economy. Certainly the camps themselves purchase local goods and services and hire regional employees, but camps also bring to the area staff members and families who likewise stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and visit local attractions.

How much does all this add up to? There are approximately 50 summer camps in Buncombe, Jackson, Henderson and Transylvania counties, so how much do they collectively add to the local economy? Or put differently, if the summer camps were hurt, how much could the economy be hurt?

Back in 1998 a similar study (same counties in North Carolina) showed summer camps generating, each year, almost 100 million dollars for local communities.

Today, the results of the economic impact study show a dramatic increase. The total economic impact of summer camps on these four NC counties is 365 million dollars. This is the total of direct, indirect and induced spending by the camps, their camper families and employees over one year, and reflects just how vital the summer camps are for the people in western North Carolina.

The full results of the study will soon be reported on the North Carolina Youth Camp Association’s Web site, but here are a couple of points from the executive summary.

  • 53,238 families were surveyed for the study
  • $33 million in annual tax revenues are created by camps
  • 49,665 families visited the region specifically for camp
  • $2,096 is the average expenditure per non-resident family while in the area

The effect of summer camps on local economies is far greater and more significant than most people would likely guess. With this study, we can finally quantify the crucial role camps play in western North Carolina.

Camp Estivation

Estivation fun at camp

Word of the Day!


This is a great word that applies to camp. You’ve heard of “hibernate,” which basically means to “spend the winter in a dormant condition.” Well, estivate means the opposite— “to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity.”

Looking it up here, you find that estivate is derived from the latin word aestīvāre meaning “to reside during the summer (akin to aestīvus of or relating to summer).”

So, what’s the best way to estivate this year? At Rockbrook Camp! Are you a camp estivator? Are you ready for some seriously fun estivation?!! Oh yeah!

Shared Enthusiasm for Camp

Camp Kids Fun

We wanted to pass along just a sample of the feedback we have been receiving through the end-of-camp survey recently sent out to parents. So many wonderful comments, happy campers and thrilled parents, it’s enough to make all of us at camp blush! But also, it means a lot to know that the deep feelings we have for Rockbrook are shared with so many of our camp families. We can hear the appreciation and enthusiasm in your voices! Here’s one parent’s comments.

I would sacrifice just about anything to allow Emma to attend Rockbrook every year, and RBC is not an insignificant expense for us. I love so many things about Rockbrook: the activities that are only available to my daughter at camp, the confidence that she is developing over the years as she participates in different activities that push her comfort level, and the camp friendships that she is building from year to year. I truly believe that Rockbrook Camp is helping shape my daughter into a stronger, more confident person. I am so glad that we found it!

Wow, thanks so much!

To Build a Fire and Stack Apples

Learning to build a fire at summer camp

o you know how to build a fire? Well if your camper signed up for the activity we call “WHOA,” which stands for “Wilderness Hiking Outdoor Adventure,” there’s a good chance she’ll have learned to here at camp. The counselors talk about the importance of heat, fuel and oxygen. They demonstrate the importance of dry wood (having it pass the “snap test”), and they give plenty of examples of how to stack the wood to insure the smallest twigs light first and the heat generated will rise up and ignite the larger sticks. The girls pick up on it pretty quickly, and when there’s the prospect of roasting a marshmallow, they are surprisingly motivated. 🙂

Kids Hiking Summer Camp

It has been such amazing weather these past few days! Cool in the mornings with a little fog early, and then warm but not too hot in the afternoon. We had one of those welcome afternoon thunder showers today, making everything moist and cool. With the creeks up again, Jessi decided to take a group of girls on a hike to Rockbrook Falls before lunch. This is the largest waterfall on the Rockbrook property, and is formed as Dunn’s Creek cascades down below Dunn’s Rock. You can see it on the camp map. The girls first hike the trail to the creek, but then make their way upstream by hopping from rock to rock, back and forth across the falling water. The falls are a good ways up and really beautiful to see.

Kid Win it summer camps game
Kids Summer Camper games

OK, if not fire building, what about stacking 4 apples in a column? Juggling feathers? Eating an oreo cookie without using your hands, and that happens to be placed on your forehead (!)? These are just some of the games we all played after lunch in our all-camp “Minute to Win It” game. Starting with each age group in their lodge, each cabin dressed as a team and competed in several different crazy relay races. Ordinary items like golf balls and boxes of tissues became props for physical challenges. It was wonderful to see how much fun we could have, how hard we could laugh, trying to do these tasks. Even those of us watching, get a kick, for example, out of seeing someone being wrapped up in toilet paper! It was good camp fun, being with friends and enjoying silly games you wouldn’t likely do at home.

Summer campers kids dancing

After dinner was a highlight of the session for many of the girls, for the senior girls in particular— the dance with Camp Carolina. We held two simultaneous dances with our Seniors going to Camp Carolina and their Middler and Junior boys coming to Rockbrook. Splitting like this made the dances less crowded and allowed us to tailor the music for each age group. The showers at camp got a real workout before the dance, and all 200 hair brushes got used as well. It’s quite a phenomenon! Overall, the whole affair was lighthearted and fun. Tonight the counselors dressed up like traffic crossing guards, and we saw more camp tie dye t-shirts than anything else. Group dancing is mostly the name of the game so everyone can be included.  As you might guess, the girls stick together— safety in numbers!

It was a little late for us, but what a night to wrap up another great day in the “heart of a wooded mountain.”

Summer campers girl dancing

Camp as Community

Girls Camp Community Togetherness

Spending time at Rockbrook, it becomes clear just how strong the sense of community is for the girls at camp. It’s remarkable really how quickly and easily girls from so many different home towns and different schools can grow so close and care about each other in personal and meaningful ways. After this most recent long session, and probably because these girls have spent 4 weeks together, it was even more apparent that camp is a community in the best sense of the word.

It begins with a group of well-trained, caring adult role models who exhibit the kind of personal character that fosters community. From the directors to the cabin counselors and staff members, we know the importance of compassion, generosity, contribution and patient understanding. Quite naturally, but also intentionally, we set the tone at camp so everyone can feel loved, capable and included. Through encouragement and enthusiasm, the leaders at camp nurture positive relationships.

And the results? Well, the benefits of camp are clear. Kids feel good about themselves (improved self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence), are better communicators (both expressing themselves and listening to others), and are more aware and responsible. Becoming a member of this kind of community is the secret here. It has a powerful, wonderful effect on the girls at Rockbrook. Sure, the activities, special events, the food, and the sheer fun of it all go into it, but a girl knowing wholeheartedly she is a member of the camp community, knowing Rockbrook is “my camp,” helps explain why she loves it so much.  Pretty cool.

We Swim, Dress Up and Slide

It’s hard to say which flavor of muffin is most popular at camp. With Liz, our baker, creating so many new varieties from scratch— not to mention the traditional kinds— there are too many to choose from. There’s blueberry, but also key lime muffins, cranberry walnut, but also chocolate chip, and sprinkles, and white chocolate almond! Liz arrives at 6:30am each morning and gets to work right away to have the muffins baked and cooled by the mid-morning muffin break. Since there are more than 300 people (campers and staff members), that’s a lot of muffin trays, papers and individual dollops of batter to prepare! The muffins are always so good the girls literally run to the dining hall when they hear the bell announcing “Muffin Break.” For everyone at camp, Liz is a hero!

In fact, the entire kitchen crew are heroes at camp. Rick and his crew are really working hard to create great balanced meals for us, and this isn’t “camp food,” pre-processed, frozen, nuggets of whatnot fried and served with ketchup. Nope. All the main dishes are homemade, from the pizza dough, to the pancakes, to the chicken and dumplings. Rick puts together every meal’s menu, so for dinner yesterday we had baked tilapia, wild rice and a spinach salad. Each tilapia fillet was spiced individually, and the salad included a homemade sesame salad dressing. It’s also amazing how Rick takes time to make special vegetarian options. So for example, he made vegetarian dumplings combining green tomatoes, goat cheese and a light sauce with the dumpling dough. It was a pleasantly surprising combination, and with a big green salad, made a great meal. Sorry to talk so much about the food at camp, but after being away for a couple of nights camping, it’s hard not to!

Junior camp girls play dress up game
Middler camps go to sliding rock trip
camps senior girls go on swimming trip

Wednesday we took cabin photos before lunch and during rest hour. Gathering everyone in each cabin, dressed in their camp uniforms, and taking their photograph is a long tradition at Rockbrook. Part of the fun is that each cabin gets to select where it would like the photo taken and how to arrange each person. There are so many different places at camp to pose— on one of the many huge rocks, down by the lake, standing in a creek, or on a porch or set of steps. It’s fun for campers to keep their copy of their cabin photo and to collect them over the years in a scrapbook or camp photo album.

For Wednesday afternoon’s cabin day activities, the three lines split up. A few junior cabins went on short hikes to Castle Rock and Rockbrook Falls, but one stayed to put on a dress up fashion show in the Junior Lodge. Silly, silly stuff. Meanwhile, several cabins of seniors took a quick trip into the Pisgah Forest to take a dip in a swimming hole. The water was pretty chilly (like all the creeks and streams in these mountains), so it took a while for most of the girls to get wet. After dinner, all of the mini session Middlers took a trip up to Sliding Rock. Many of the girls had never been to Sliding Rock before, so it was particularly fun to see them zip down the rock and funny to hear them scream when they plunged into the cold water below. There are lots of photos of this in the RBC gallery. Naturally, on the way home, we had to stop at Dolly’s for a cone, a yummy sweet treat of some kind. Being all things chocolate, the Rockbrook camp flavor is still one of the most popular. It was a little bit of a late night for these Middlers by the time we got back to camp settled down, but we all enjoyed ourselves in true RBC fashion.

More Benefits of Youth Camp

Camp Benefits Girls

I spotted an article discussing how parents can understand why residential summer camps are worth their cost. It’s true; sleepaway camps are usually expensive and can cost between $1000 and $2000 per week. And while it’s also true every summer activity (e.g., other educational opportunities, extracurricular activities, family vacations, trips, and entertainment) costs something significant, what are the unique benefits of an overnight camp experience that can justify its price?

First of all, the American Camp Association has a lot to say about the benefits for youth of attending summer camp. We have written about it before here and here (and especially here!), but you should visit the ACA Web site to see what they say.

One clear, obvious benefit to camp is the fun and concrete skills kids gain from the wide range of camp activities available.  By trying everything at camp, girls learn how to be an archer, a swimmer, a knitter, a tennis player, an actor, and a horseback rider, to name just a few.  They learn to do things, exciting new things that can easily turn into life-long pursuits.

Perhaps more importantly, a quality camp experience provides kids intangible benefits as well. Here’s how one camp director in the article put it.

“Besides all the exciting activities and friendships made, the immense value in camp comes in the development of key lifetime skills and attributes such as confidence, cooperation, communication, new skills and decision-making, to name a few. Camp goes beyond a summer session. It’s unique in that it really is about each camper developing their best self for life… In that regard it is priceless.”

More than other summer activities, a sleep away summer camp experience endows children with valuable life skills, provides positive adult role models, supports them with consistent encouragement, and all within the kind of well-rounded wholesome environment all too rarely found these days. These are lasting benefits that can really make a difference in a child’s life as she becomes an adult.  It’s pretty clear; with that kind of benefit, camp is definitely worth it.