We have finally transitioned and hit a turning point from Summer 2015 to Summer 2016. I have to be honest that with the high of our 50th summer celebration, I wasn’t that anxious to leave our fiftieth year, and I hung onto it for a long time! But, here we are; it’s March, and we are doing everything that we normally do to walk into another great summer!
We just returned from both the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s (FJC) Leaders Assembly and the American Camp Association’s (ACA) TriStates Conference, and we had the opportunity to spend time with other leaders in the field of Camping, talk about trends in the industry and spend some serious time visioning for this summer ahead.
At the two conferences, there were many important topics covered. We talked a lot about affordability of Jewish camps now and in the future. Teens are a hot topic for everyone; it seems that Jewish camps are retaining their teen participants a lot longer than we have in years past, and we want to make sure that we are providing the best possible experiences for them that we can so that they are learning 21st Century Skills while staying connected to Jewish life. Gender is another topic that we are talking a lot about at camping conferences as we are providing residential experiences for our campers, and we want everybody to be comfortable. There are always great sessions about Staff Retention, Training, Programming, Standards, Israel Education and Jewish Life at Camp. We always walk away with our heads spinning as we think differently about communication, programs, training, policies, and hiring. This year both the FJC and ACA hosted exceptional conferences with valuable content and meaningful takeaways.
Walking through the large exhibit hall at the American Camping Association conference, we stopped and talked to all of our vendors from the companies that fill our canteen with branded merchandise, sell us sunbutter, distribute the large bottles of sunscreen that we have at the pool and lakefront, pre-package our campers’ medications, help us hire amazing nurses, recruit qualified international staff for Camp, built and maintain our website, bring entertainment to Camp (like The Brain Show), supply our walkie talkies and our pool vacuum, and so many more. It is great to put faces to names and connect with the vendors who are such an integral part of us having a successful summer at Camp.
As of today, we are ninety-nine percent staffed for the summer, and we’ve reached ninety-five percent of our camper recruitment goal. We are still meeting with families and potential campers in both Milwaukee and beyond to talk about the summer of 2016. We are even booking meetings and conversations for the fall for campers who are interested in the summer of 2017! We still have some openings for Family Camp, and we are excited to spend the week with some alumni who are bringing back their families as well as families who are new to Camp Interlaken! In our office, we are spending a lot of time working on Staff Orientation for our Leadership week, our Specialty Staff training, and our staff week. We are also spending time thinking about purchasing for the summer: everything from art and sports equipment to new small crafts for Lake Finley.
To say the least, I am excited! I am excited for our Fifty-first Best Summer Ever! I am excited to experience my 11th summer at Interlaken through the lenses of our 100 first time campers. I am excited for an amazing staff led by a strong leadership team. I am excited to continue to inspire the Jewish Journeys of our campers and staff. I am excited to train the Ozrim, many of whom have been campers since my second summer of Camp. On those beautiful beginning-of-Spring Milwaukee days, I can smell summer, and I just cannot wait!