Alice Banquet

Alice Banquet Title and ProgramThe end-of-session Banquet is a huge deal at Rockbrook, something that everyone, from the youngest first-time camper to the most senior staff member, looks forward to. The element of surprise drives this to some extent, since the Banquet’s theme is kept secret, but it’s also a marvelous experience to attend, one filled with colorful wall panels, table decorations, choreographed dancing by live characters, special food, and dance music.

The planning for each session’s banquet begins long before the girls arrive at Rockbrook. In fact, for girls who attend camp every summer, it can be a topic of discussion years before they even become “CA” campers, 9th graders, the age-group given the task of presenting this end-of-session party. Many of these girls have grown up attending RBC Banquets, seeing what the CAs before them have done, so when it’s their turn, they are full of ideas.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee CharactersMad Hatter Character in Alice BanquetThe CAs this session decided to make their banquet an Alice in Wonderland theme, titling it “Down the Rabbit’s Hole” and featuring decorations and characters based on the well-known novel by Lewis Carroll, and the Disney animated film adaptation of the book. The decorations were phenomenal! Every wall of the dining hall was covered with a unique poster painted with a scene of character from the story. There were over-sized and regular playing cards hung among strands of lights, curtains, and fabric. On each table, there were paper mushrooms, plenty of candy, more playing cards, top hats, small bottles of bubble solution, and souvenir red cups. Here’s a short video to get a sense of the detail of these decorations and the amount of time and energy it took these girls to paint and set up the entire dining hall.

The costumes were amazing as well. Several of the counselors dressed as main characters: Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and the Dodo Bird, while the campers became Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Caterpillar, the King and Queen of hearts, the Door Mouse, and the March Hare. The combined effect of these characters greeting the campers as they came through the red curtain into the now unrecognizable dining hall was magical. The girls, especially the youngest Juniors, had such looks of astonishment when they first realized the theme and took everything in.

Cheshire Cat costume at Alice in Wonderland BanquetAlice and Caterpillar costumes for banquetThe program included a series of skits and dances enacting scenes from Alice’s adventures alternating with courses of food. They served chocolate chip scones after Alice descended the Rabbit’s Hole and met Tweedledee and Tweedledum, cheesy bread sticks after the Cheshire Cat appeared, and fancy small sandwiches when Alice saw flowers dancing in the garden. Cupcakes decorated like mushrooms topped off the meal, followed by cards dancing with the Queen of Hearts. In between program events, the campers, all dressed in this year’s RBC t-shirt, were invited to get up and dance to some of there favorite pop songs from the summer.

“You always remember your first Banquet,” a couple of Seniors told me today. And everyone agreed after tonight’s; this was one of the best banquets that everyone here won’t soon forget. It was awesome. Thank you CAs for all your hard work!

Alice Banquet Dancers Banquet Dance of the Cards

Cast of Allice in Wonderland Banquet

Camp Teaches Resilience

Everyone experiences setbacks now and then, the occasional failed effort or unexpected misfortune. But what happens when you kids trip up or get knocked down? Do they stay down? Sink lower, and let that moment of failure defeat them? Or, do they bounce back, maybe learn from the experience, and gain a new dimension of confidence to face the next challenge? Put differently, how resilient are your kids?

Girls Resilience at Summer Camp

Dr. Michael Ungar, a Social Worker, Family Therapist, and University Research Professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada has thought about this question a lot. He is a co-director of the Resilience Research Centre, an organization coordinating experts from around the world in sociology, psychiatry, education and medicine in a broad project to understand the cross-cultural similarities and differences in how resilience is understood, and to explore ways we can help children and young people be more resilient.

Several times before we’ve discussed how summer camp helps kids grow and how becoming more resilient is one of the clear benefits of camp. Now Dr. Ungar weighs in with a nice Psychology Today article entitled, “Summer Camps Make Kids Resilient.”

I encourage you to go read the article, but I wanted to summarize his main points here as well. Perhaps most importantly, Ungar identifies summer camp as a place where kids learn to do things for themselves without the kind of careful orchestration parents ordinarily provide. It’s a place where, instead, they can try challenging activities and take manageable risks, all while being provided encouragement and positive role models to help them learn to cope with disappointments.

Speaking from his research on resilience, Ungar pinpoints 7 important components of the summer camp experience children need to develop these coping strategies. These are seven things camp provides that help kids when they experience setbacks later in their lives.

  1. New friendly relationships
  2. Regular moments of pride and self-confidence
  3. Experiences of competency and self-efficacy
  4. Relief from unfair social treatment
  5. Healthy physical activity and nutrition habits
  6. Belonging to a meaningful community
  7. Opportunities to reflect on cultural values

There’s so much more to each of these, and I suspect interesting mechanisms that make them effective. What’s important to realize is that all of them are core ingredients of the camp experience here at Rockbrook. The program activities, staff training, and overall camp philosophy here work together to insure that our campers enjoy these beneficial experiences. Of course, we’re having a really great time together as well, just as we strengthen our powers of resilience.

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!

estivate.

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!

The Youth Camps of North Carolina

Visitors to western North Carolina often remark that there are a lot of summer camps located in the area. There sure are! The awesome natural features of this part of NC— the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River, millions of acres of State and National forests, whitewater rivers, rock climbing crags, and beautiful lakes —make it ideal for adventure activities, cooler summer temperatures, and the outdoor setting for summer camps. It’s not too surprising western North Carolina has a long history of summer camping.

Looking at the entire state, there’s a clear pattern to where summer camps are located. Take a look at this map.

Summer Camps in North Carolina

It shows the youth summer camps in western North Carolina. In the entire state, there are approximately 186 camps, with more than half (about 90) located in the western mountains. The others are concentrated near 3 major population centers (Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh). Many of these are smaller day camps that serve the local communities.

The red pins are accredited by American Camp Association accredited camps, like Rockbrook. Here too, more than half of the State’s ACA accredited camps are located in the western region.

For more information about the precise location of Rockbrook, visit our NC Location page.

youth campers in NC

Is Camp a Threatened Tradition?

For quite a while, we’ve been writing on this blog about the benefits of summer camp for children. For more than 100 years now in the United States, sleepaway camps have been organized and generations of children have grown stronger, more confident, become leaders, forged close friendships, and acquired all kinds of physical, personal and social skills as a result. There really is little doubt that the sleep away camp experience of “getting away” for a few weeks is valuable for children in long-lasting and profound ways.

Even while recognizing all of this, however, there is a growing awareness that certain modern forces are threatening this great American tradition. Today, much more than a generation ago, there is competition making claims on our kid’s summer time. A recent article by Mary Beth McCauley in the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Sunset for Summer Camp?” claims as much. Quite correctly, the author observes that demand for shorter camp sessions is increasing, as opposed to longer “all summer” camps. A number of factors are contributing to this trend. School systems are shortening summer vacations. Competitive school sports teams and their coaches driven to win are requiring summer workouts (e.g., soccer “camp”) and scheduled practice days before school opens. Parents are reserving parts of the summer for family travel and vacations. Students are taking summer classes “to get ahead” (SAT prep, for example), and local, short-term day camps abound. With so many options, each claiming to be most important, it’s easy to understand why some parents find it difficult to place longer camp sessions at the top of the heap.

cabin mates girls friendships at summer camp

Fortunately, understanding the camp experience, seeing the dramatic positive effects it provides all year round, there are those, and so many Rockbrook parents are among them, who know camp is one of the most important things you can do for your child.  For these parents, camp isn’t just a summertime diversion, some kind of extended amusement park; it’s a core part of their child’s personal development.  It’s a place for kids to grow and discover who they are.  Sure it’s fun, but it’s the kind of fun that means something long afterwords.

We hear it all the time from our parents; camp means the world to their daughters, and they are committed to providing a camp experience for them.  This helps explain why, despite economic pressures and competing summer demands, Rockbrook enjoys strong enrollment, with sessions filling and waiting lists forming each summer.  Camp is important to our families, and to the girls who attend and make Rockbrook their own.  Around here, camp is stronger than all of the forces that may be threatening the traditions we’ve all come to appreciate.

Shared Enthusiasm for Camp

Summer Camp kids having fun outsideWe 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!

Big (Horse) Hug!

Horse Riding Girl Summer CampHug your horse!

Why would you do that? Well, it’s because you love your horse. He or she becomes a really good friend of yours at camp. Like all good friends, you’ll grow closer with good communication, trust, and consistency. Horse riding requires all of these, and over time riders and their horses become more and more responsive to each other. A real emotional bond begins to form, a real feeling of care.

That’s what we mean when we say at camp you can “befriend a special horse.” Riding, you’ll develop a special relationship with someone wonderful. It won’t take long; soon you’ll be hugging your horse too!