Finding an Overnight Camp…

You may have read the blog “The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Leiber that appeared in the NYTimes in 2014, entitled “Finding an Overnight Camp that’s Truly Worth It.” If not, it’s worth the read!

Leiber raises five “essential” questions that parents should ask when choosing a summer camp that is truly worth it. Here are the questions from the article and our answers. We think that they truly set us apart, above and beyond others. Read on!

1) “Where are other children going?” 
As Leiber says, this is a trick question. There is a natural instinct to send your child to the same camp as his or her friends in the neighborhood. The answer should be that a worthwhile overnight  camp has a diversity of geographic areas represented. Overnight camp friends should not be the same as friends at home. That’s the biggest difference from day camp. Every child has friends from home and school, but let camp introduce them to a whole new group of friends, some that span great distances, with different interests, styles and stories. Let your child reinvent him or herself!  An investment in camp should broaden a child’s circle of friends.

Here’s our demographic split: our campers are equally represented in NY, NJ, and PA. Close behind is MD and FL. There is not one city or town (not even one state!) where we draw from, and we love that about our camp families! Camp friends are sacred!

2) “What are the retention figures?”  
This is one of our favorites. Once a child starts at camp there is a 90% return the next year. This continues until “graduating” as 11th graders. Our retention rates are truly amazing. The author asks if we do follow up on those few who don’t return, and of course we do. Every camper is an integral part of our camp family. Honestly, the few children who depart before their final year do so for reasons unrelated to camp, a family trip is planned, a team requires practice at home, etc.

The blog also asks the retention rate of counselors and the percentage of counselors who are former campers. Here’s an answer that you might not expect: first as to counselor retention, our standards are high. Counselors are not automatically asked to return, in fact we are very selective about who meets our standards. Also, the truth is that not every former camper makes a great counselor. The transition is not easy. Not every young adult can make the change from being the one who is looked after to the person who does the looking after. New counselors bring new ideas, new energy and a gung-ho spirit, that not every former camper possesses.  Our experience and firm belief is that the best counselor team is a mix, new and old. We want the most enthusiastic, positive  role models for campers, whomever they are!

3) “What can they do here that they can’t do at home?”  
Here’s the beginning of a truly endless list that starts with wake-up and goes till lights-out. Rock-climbing, mountain biking, creek stomping, sailing, canoeing the rapids of the Delaware River. Travel to to play another camp in individual and team sports without having to try out for the team. Play Capture the Assagi, be on a dance team, use a potter’s wheel, join a rock band, hike the Appalachian Trail, go on an overnight, sing in the camp play, cook wood-burning pizza, participate in a bunk skit,  link arms with a whole camp, sing songs around a campfire!

And by the way, we try not to do things that you do at home. We avoid amusement parks, bowling, movie theaters. It’s on purpose! You can do that at home with your parents!

4) “What makes your camp unique?”
To us, that really is the most important question. Our camp organization is 89 years old and has been in one family for 5 generations. There are thousands of camps in the USA, hundreds that are old but very few,  if any,  can say that. Our longevity and track record is truly unmatched. Our facilities are modern but campy. The range of activity choices, amazing. Our camp is staff second to none, filled with coaches and teachers and camp folk. The ratios of staff to campers, almost 2:1. We have a rare range of campers from all over. But it’s our 5 generations and 89-year story of success that is truly extraordinary.

5) “Can you tell me about the ties that bind.”
Here the author was really asking about the soul of a camp.  He mentions his daughter, at lineup, watching two staff members honored who fell in love and became engaged at camp. He’s speaking to a sense of self, a sense of identity that links a person to his or her camp community for all of time. All you have to do is look around camp to see ties that bind: from names on courts and fields to names of current and former camp folk on plaques in the dining hall. The ties that bind are Polar Bears Club, songs, cheers, traditions of rope burn, camp fires, Old Timer’s Club, and culminating camp moments. We say it at campfires, and it’s true. Camp isn’t just a place on a map, it remains a place in each camper’s heart. It’s these lasting shared memories that link each generation to the next, and we’re lucky enough to have many camp folk span generations.

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2018 Reunion: Best Reunion Ever!

Yesterday was AWESOME!  Dare we say it was the … BEST REUNION EVER?  A big thank you to everyone who came out to party with us on Sunday.  Campers, counselors, head staff, & more!  Busses were flooded with campers from the New York area, North Jersey, and even Maryland — we were so thrilled with the turnout.  Doesn’t it feel great to be back together again?  Yesterday was so great, we can’t even IMAGINE how great Summer 2019 will be.  We only have 229 more days to wait and see and no, it’s never to early to start counting down.  We can’t wait!

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Keeping the Summer Alive Year-Round!

Keep the summer alive, all year long!

  1. Keep in touch with camp friends! Call, text, email!
  2. Login to Mom & Dad’s parent portal and look at pictures from this past summer and the summers before!
  3. Come to the 2018 reunion: Sunday, November 4th from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM @ The Funplex in Mt. Laurel, NJ!
  4. Keep up with our Upcoming Events page for events in your area!
  5. Wear your Camp Timber Tops shirts from this and past summers!
  6. Watch our Summer 2018 Video Yearbook!
  7. And don’t forget to follow us: @camptimbertops!

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Best Wishes from Camp Timber Tops!

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Save the Date: 2018 Camper Reunion!

2018 Camper Reunion

Sunday, November 4th

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

@ The Funplex

Mt. Laurel, NJ

Transportation will be provided from Westchester, Livingston, and the Maryland area.  Stay tuned for more information regarding transportation!

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The Sun Sets on Summer 2018

Thanks for reading our blog, fans of Timber Talk. We’ve loved giving you a window into all things Camp Timber Tops and having you along with us on this journey of Summer 2018. Today we pack and watch the camp video, tonight we do wishing boats, and tomorrow morning we’re off. Just like that, summer 2018 will be a distant memory.

Of all the gifts you can give your children, we truly believe that camp is the greatest gift of all. You can’t give your kids independence, resilience, grit, lifelong friendships, a sense of belonging, adventure, but you can give them camp. Thank you for entrusting us with *your* most precious gift. We have loved having your daughter down the winding road with us this summer for what we think was our best season yet.

Your camper has heard us say it before, but it’s worth repeating now: Camp isn’t just a place on a map, it’s a place in your heart. We hope that memories of Camp Timber Tops give your daughter happiness and confidence in every season, through every stage of her life.

As our alma mater goes:

As time goes by like a river, a people alter their ways, we will always remember the joys of Timber Tops days. The friends we’ve made through the summer will be our lasting delight, and the joys and the tears that we’ve known here are the joys of the red and the white.

With thanks,

Missy, Andy, Anna and 5 Generations of the Black Family

 

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Banquet 2018! Thanking Alder and Introducing…

Tonight’s top-secret Banquet theme, brought to us by the 9th graders was…Alder Travels Through Time! Our 9th graders have spent the past number of weeks planning, organizing, and putting together tonight’s banquet which honors the CAs for their leadership this summer. It’s a Timber Tops tradition that we look forward to all summer and take very seriously- from Oaklings to CAs! The entire camp ate breakfast and lunch in the grove to give our 9th graders ample time to prepare in private, and they surpassed all expectations! You would not believe the way our 9th graders transform the dining hall each year, and it’s hard to put into words just how awesome it really is.

This year, “Alder Travels Through Time,” was the most spectacular banquet in memory. There’s a river that runs throughout the dining hall, on every wall of the building, that links one scene, one moment in time, to the rest. The river starts as dinosaurs drinking from a body of water, then pyramids line the Nile, and travels throughout the world continue– from the Statue of Liberty, to the Suffrage movement, to The World’s Fair, to Mitchell’s Creek here at CTT. One part of the dining hall is 1963, the founding of camp and its founders, and then the scene becomes present day Timber Tops. The bathroom is even a time capsule! It’s AMAZING! As campers walk in through a tunnel “time machine,” they sense the theme and it’s made clearer with every table, every wall, every decoration, every center piece. It’s truly unbelievable. This blogger has chills just describing it!

It’s our tradition for CAs to get dressed up for banquet while the rest of camp dons their officials. Alder is officially presented one by one,  thanked, presented with awards, and made to feel like the stars of the show. Thank you, Alder, for a summer filled with love for camp and each other. We have another tradition at Banquet where our counselors who grew up as campers at CTT serenade the whole camp with a special song to the tune of “Uncle John’s Band.” The lyrics include “When you leave Timber Tops, friends will still remain. People grow, each year will pass, but the memories never change…”

At the end of the banquet, the 9th graders thanked Alder and then, after much anticipation, introduced their CA name and sang their CA song for next summer. And the CA Village next summer is…

Zelkova 2019!
Song: “Home” by Tyler Brown Williams

In addition to a big CTT/9th grade (now known as “Zelkova”)/Alder love fest, the night was filled with especially delicious appetizers, dinner and desserts. It was like being at a wedding! It’s called Banquet for a reason. Really, ask your camper all about it!

An extraordinary night for extraordinary people in this extraordinary place. There’s a little extra magic in the air tonight at Camp Timber Tops, even though chants of “we’re not leaving” echo through the trees. It’s a bittersweet but awesome moment in the life of every summer and this summer is no different.

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Home From Camp, A Warning ( & Tips)!

Today was our last “regular” day at camp. We sent out final canoe trips, we held the Camper Scamper 5k, we played on the lake, on the fields, on the courts and in the dance studio. We also had our end-of-summer lice screening from the experts at Lice Be Gone (if you weren’t notified, consider that good news)! Tonight, we start what will be a final few days of winding down, an all-camp, final social with the boys at Lake Owego, tomorrow’s banquet, award ceremonies, gymnastics and dance shows, bus rehearsals, and teary goodbyes. In that spirit, we give you our annual:

HOME FROM CAMP, A WARNING (& TIPS) from CTT!

We know you want to swallow her whole. Here are some tips to help you help yourself (and in doing so, help your camper re-enter the world).

1. Don’t take it personally.

Yes, she’ll be SO happy to see you. She’s also very, very sad.

She’s sad to leave camp! She’s sad to leave her friends! She’s sad to leave her counselors! She’s sad to leave her independence and camp persona! It’s okay (great actually)! It means you gave her the best gift ever!

2. Remember she’s exhausted.

In the past week alone she’s experienced Pioneer Days, the play, a dance show, a gymnastics show, banquet, wishing boats, packing and more. Over the past seven weeks she’s been living with ten other people, hanging out with friends day and night, participating in activities from sun up to sun down. Enough said.

3. Be patient.

It might take a few hours or a few days to be entirely “on.” She might even seem a little numb. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you or didn’t miss you. It doesn’t mean that she won’t open up and start gushing in a few days. Nothing is wrong. She just needs time! Things that are normal: wanting to talk to her camp friends immediately, all-day, every day for a few days (yes, she’s just spent seven weeks with them- we know). Wanting to keep on that disgusting arm of camp friendship bracelets (don’t tell her they’re ridiculous unless you want to get hurt). Wanting to spend some time alone before jumping into the deep end of home life (think family gatherings, the mall, play dates). Wanting to sleep sleep sleep. Any combination of the above. Normal. Normal. Normal.

4. Focus on small moments and questions.

Think about your two best friends who live far away.

Friend one: you pick up the phone no matter what, even if you only have a minute. Though it’s been months, you know she’ll cut right to the chase and start where things left off. Maybe you just answer a quick question, maybe you talk about who got the final rose- you can hang up when you need to. One word answers, longer answers, anything goes. No pressure.

Friend two: You love her. Really. You LOVE her as much as friend one. But you only pick up when you have time to sit, totally focused, for an hour-long catch-up. So, no. You don’t always pick up. Because you’re at work, or you’re making dinner, or you’re about to get the kids ready for bed, or you just don’t feel like telling your life story. That. Sounds. Exhausting.

The moral? Be friend one. You’ll learn more! She’ll start talking!

Good questions:
What was this morning like?
Which choice activity was the best?
Who was the goofiest counselor in your bunk?

Less good questions/statements:
Tell me EVERYTHING about camp.
Can you explain your weekly schedule?
What were all of your counselors like?

Ask a few, manageable, lighthearted questions every hour on that first day. You’ll open up that can of worms without having to pry, without overwhelming your fresh-off-the-bus camper.

5. Give her wings.

At camp she was the most independent version of herself, and she’s still basking in the glow of those camp freedoms. Advocating for herself, making independent choices— it’s why you sent her to camp! Remember how you felt the first time you came home from college. It was a little weird! Think about small liberties you can introduce to reinforce your camper’s summer growth. If you have an eight-year-old who didn’t make her bed before camp, encourage her to make her bed at home (even if it isn’t as beautiful as you’d like). Though seemingly a “chore,” having your camper do things for herself at home will continue the summer’s momentum and make her feel happy and confident. And isn’t that what this whole camp thing was about from the start?

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Funfetti Pancakes, The Horse Show, The Play and More!

Hello, Family and Friends!

We hope you enjoyed the minute-by-minute Pioneer Days itinerary over the past few days, but we’re happy to be back to regularly scheduled programming over here. Don’t get us wrong, Pioneer Days was AMAZING! From the breakout to banner to flagpole activities, quartet, individual activities, tall tale, song, the whole shabang – it was three days we’ll cherish! But waking up this morning (late sleep!), dancing at lineup as a camp, eating funfetti pancakes for breakfast in our PJs, we breathed a sign of relief and familiarity to be back as one, doing our thing and making each final moment count.

This morning was the horse show for those who ride here at camp, and we commend all those who participated! It was fantastic! Tonight it’s the play, High School Musical 2! Practice was in full swing today for those participating, and sheet cakes were decorated in cooking for the cast party! Otherwise around camp we swam, we biked, we GaGa’d, we jogged, we danced, and we stayed hydrated while we soaked up the sun!

Tomorrow it’s health screenings (including lice checks from our friends at Lice Be Gone) and the camper scamper (a 5k at Pine Forest Camp for anyone interested) among other things, but tomorrow we’ll make sure to post our advice for helping your camper re-acclimate to life after camp…Really! It’s a thing!

Until then, folks! Love from Down the Winding Road on this final Timber Tops Tuesday of the summer. Say it ain’t so!

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Pioneer Days, Day 3!

Day 3 – Monday, August 6, 2018
7:45 CAs wake up campers
8:10 Junior breakfast; Senior clean up
8:40 Line-up
8:50 Junior clean up; Senior breakfast
9:10 Captains meeting in the dining hall
9:25 Team meetings: Select participants for flagpole and individual activities
9:45 Line-up at the flagpole for flagpole activities which include: pie eating, rope burning, watermelon eating, licorice eating, butter churning, lemon sucking, seed spitting
12:30 Junior lunch; Senior recall
1:00 Junior canteen and rest; Senior lunch and canteen
1:30 Teams begin meal preparation 2.5 hours before judging time
2:00 Team meetings: Finish selecting participants for individual activities
2:30 Report to various activity areas for individual activities which include water relay, cheesewall relay, cargo net climb, gymnastics challenge, archery, adventure, tick tac toe, chopped challenge, fitness challenge
3:45 General Swim: Everyone to the pool
4:00 Judging- Meal and Camp Site (each team creates an elaborate campsite in the woods and cooks a full, gourmet meal over the campfire for the judges)
4:30 Showers
5:30 Junior dinner (SILENT)
6:00 Line-up
6:10 Junior recall; Senior dinner (SILENT)
Committees continue working on projects
6:30 Final preparation
Outdoor theater practice time
6:30-6:40 Yellow
6:45-6:55 Blue
7:00-7:10 Green
7:15-7:25 Red
7:30 Line-up at flagpole for the finale – Outdoor Theater
Song (the whole team sings their team song)
Banner (each team has created a banner, presented tonight)
Tall Tale (each team does a stand-up style retelling of the summer)

Winner announced!

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