Why I Keep Coming Back

May 30th, 2016

unnamed-1Written by Scott

May signifies that summer is just around the corner, and with it, May brings events that we all look forward to.  May is National Barbecue and Hamburger Month, and it is also National Blood Pressure Month, which makes sense after eating Barbecue and Hamburgers all month.  May also includes many special days such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and everyone’s favorite No Dirty Dishes Day.  But, for me, I know it’s May because everyone starts asking one simple question, “What are you doing over the summer.”  This is a simple question with an even simpler answer, it is an answer I have now given for 27 straight Mays, “camp.”  It is the inevitable follow up to this question, “why?” which is not so easy to answer.

As a child it was easier for to people to understand why you would go to camp for the summer.  When I started at the age of 7, most people would just say “that’s nice” and secretly judge my parents for sending me away for eight weeks.  As I got older, people still understood for the most part, and just figured camp was something you grew out of when you went off to college.  When college rolled around there were more blank stares when I told my friends about my summer plans, with the occasional “oh, okay”.  Now as an adult I just hear “why?” as they look at me waiting for a response that will make them understand.

For a long time I would just say things like “it’s what I have always done” or “you just have to be there to understand”, but the real answer would take too long to explain.  “Why do I go back?” simple, each morning about 100 polar bears wake up 20 minutes early to jump into a freezing cold lake and then quickly get out.  I see five Broadway caliber shows each summer, maybe they’re closer to off Broadway, but there is a stage and costumes so it’s close enough. I get to watch people interact with each other all summer long without the use of phones or computers, eye contact and everything. Have you ever seen a group of teenage boys playing the world’s most intense game of European Handball with Rick Astley’s 1987 classic “Never Gonna Give You Up” blasting in the background, it’s glorious.  Do you know who Ed Stubbs is? No? That’s too bad. Becoming a three time Square Dance champion with Lou and Sue, while Roxy sleeps under the table.  Trying to eat dinner but can’t because pots are being banged, and napkins are being shaken.  Spending your summer on top of a mountain watching the most beautiful sunsets over the lake.  Seeing your campers grow up and return as staff, and be able to work alongside them.  Watching traditions as a camper, like candlelight interfaith services and then participating in them as a counselor.  But, the main reason that I keep going back is that after 27 summers I still get that excitement I felt when I was seven.  Each summer is filled with new people, new experiences, and new memories, but most importantly the sense of family, which has only gotten stronger each and every summer.

I guess this would probably be confusing for someone who has not had the “Starlight Experience” to understand.  So, for the time being, I will probably continue to give my stock answers to their question of “why?”.  But, I think there is a more important question that needs to be asked to these “why” people, “Why aren’t you going to camp this summer?”

Fitness at Camp Starlight

May 23rd, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 1.24.27 PMThere are quite a few things that have seen rapid growth over the last several years, including Justin Bieber’s popularity, SnapChat and Disney’s Frozen. However, there is something that is taking over America’s youth at a frightening speed, and it’s not as light and fluffy as Elsa or The Biebs; it’s childhood obesity. Childhood obesity has seen a dramatic increase over the last 30 years, and more and more children are struggling with health issues because of their weight. Excessive weight gain in kids and teenagers can be blamed on hormones or genetics, but a major reason kids are overweight is because they are sitting in front of TV screens and laptops instead of getting outside to play. At Camp Starlight, kids spend all day on the go, and many have seen a dramatic change in their weight and overall health because of it.

Many campers spend their days out on the water. Swimming, water skiing and water aerobics are just a few of the ways that campers stay busy and moving throughout the summer. A lot of the favorite waterfront activities require using muscles that kids aren’t used to using, and helps them tone muscles and lose weight, without even knowing they’re working on it. These activities are great for kids who don’t naturally gravitate towards traditional sports and fitness activities, and for those who have a natural attraction to the water.

For those who do love sports, Camp Starlight has plenty of options. Natural born runners will love participating in running and triathlon sports, kids who like being part of a team will feel right at home playing flag football, soccer, lacrosse and softball. Regardless of which sport they try, they will be surrounded by counselors who have a heart for the sport, who are focused on fitness, and can motivate and inspire campers to make healthy choices.

Tennis is another camp favorite, and burns more calories than cycling, skating or aerobics! It is a sport that requires speed, flexibility and agility, and is a fun and easy way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

And when campers aren’t participating in organized sports or activities, counselors put together games that combine team building, socialization and physical activity. Campers are always on the move, working up a sweat and burning calories, and it’s all disguised as good ol’ fashioned fun.

The food served at camp is both delicious and nutritious, and is carefully planned to fit in with the camper’s high activity levels. Salad bars, soups, healthy sandwiches, fresh veggies, and vegetarian options give kids the opportunity to eat foods that taste great, and help them achieve their fitness goals.

Kids who spend a summer at camp come home with a few more things than they left with. They come home with more friends, a deeper appreciation for their own health and wellness, and the confidence to make healthy choice and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Camp Starlight: My Summer Home

May 5th, 2016

UntitledWritten by Madison Dratch

“Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.” -Margaret Peters

In June 2006, I arrived at Camp Starlight for the first time with teddy bear in hand and a nervous smile on my face. As other campers ran off the buses and embraced one another with love and the utmost excitement, I stood anxiously, unaware of the impact that these three hundred eighty five acres of land would have on my life.

Through my six summers as a camper, I discovered more about myself than I thought possible. I slowly grew out of my shell as I tried playing new sports, auditioned for plays at the rec hall, and established new friendships. I learned how to work with teams and handle conflict as my bunk strategically choreographed what we believed to be the best MTV night dance in Starlight history. Although my love for camp continued to grow with each summer that passed, so did the dread of thinking about the day that marked my last moments as a camper. In August 2011, I cried for the last twenty-four hours that made up my Upper Senior Summer. As my bunk said our final goodbyes, we knew that we no longer would all be able to sleep in the same cabin again, spend every meal together, or coordinate our sugar lips and soffe shorts to all match perfectly. Gone were the days of relying on our counselors to get us to wake up at reveille, clean our bunks in time for inspection, and make sure we follow our schedules perfectly. The book of being a camper officially closed and it was time for me to start a new adventure as a staff member.

Wearing a staff shirt for the first time provided me with the same nervous feeling I had getting off the bus on the first day of camp so many years ago. As a camper, I idolized the many counselors that had mentored me through the years. Now, I was on the other side of the fence and had to be the role model that my campers needed me to be. All feelings of anxiousness diminished the moment I stepped into my new bunk and saw eleven young hopeful faces staring back at me. I don’t know how it is possible, but working as a staff member provided me with an even more rewarding experience than all of my summers as a camper combined. The immense pride I felt and continue to feel when my campers achieve milestones in their lives speaks volumes of the impact being a counselor has on my life. I remember the joy I felt when my campers won their first Wayne County Softball game. I remember the intense process of memorizing lines when my camper starred as Peter Pan followed by the overwhelming feeling of fulfillment when she perfected every line and song on Opening Night. Fast forward four summers filled with four unique bunks and irreplaceable memories, the once young and hopeful bunk of eleven ten year old girls are now entering their Lower Senior Summer. The girls that once needed me to tie their shoes and brush their hair have now grown into young ladies capable of extraordinary things. Being able to witness this growth is one of the greatest privileges of all.

A decade has passed since that nerve-wracking day and although the teddy bear still remains, my perspective of camp has changed tenfold. Free from the world of small digital screens and ongoing pressures, Starlight allowed me to be the person that was fighting to break free. At Starlight, I am an athlete, a performer, a leader, and a friend. No feat is too small or too challenging to overcome when you know that you have a support network of hundreds of people behind you. Through the vast changes and turns that have happened in my life, Starlight has remained a powerful constant.

As I sit in my accounting class and recognize how fast summer number eleven approaches, I am filled with an anxious feeling again. Except, this time, it is not a nervous anxiety at all. It’s that overwhelming feeling of excitement where you know that this summer will be even better then the last. That familiar feeling that Starlight has given me since the first time I saw the place that I am privileged to call my home.














How to survive digital detox at camp

April 18th, 2016

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.25.44 AMAh, another summer out at camp. The twinkle of stars on a clear night. The whistle of the wind in the trees. The splashing of campers jumping in the lake.

One thing you won’t be hearing, though: the gentle “plink” of Facebook notifications. Summer camp means digital detox!

Depending on how technology-dependant a camper or counselor is, that’s either great news or cause for concern. Well, don’t worry: even if you miss checking Instagram every five seconds, you’re bound to benefit from a little analog me-time. After all, countless studies have shown that constant social media and internet exposure can have negative effects on things like concentration, memory, and even basic happiness.

So here are a few tips for keeping sane without your phone in your pocket.

Keep a journal

Journaling is your number-one weapon in the fight against digital withdrawal, and people have been using journaling as a way of reflecting on their day long before Facebook’s “what’s on your mind” prompt or Twitter’s “What’s happening?”

Think of it as a Facebook update for your future self.

Write letters or postcards

We often seem to forget that email isn’t the only way to keep in touch. Finding a real-life piece of snail mail in the mailbox brings a smile to anyone’s day, and it doesn’t have to take long to do: just scrawl a quick doodle and a “miss you!” on a postcard and drop it in the camp mail. Done!

Tip: bring a stack of postcards pre-stamped and preaddressed with you to camp and you’re one step ahead of the game. All you have to do is write what’s on your mind and let it go; just like email!

Stay in the moment

Staying in the moment is easier said than done. Being able to “just check up on emails” anytime you don’t have something to do quickly turns phones into social crutches for a lot of people.

11539072_10152902437221960_8957652597744731094_oCamp offers you a chance to let that bad habit go — and when you can’t look at your phone during down time, you will find yourself making real connections with the people around you. Next time you want to share “what’s on your mind,” try sharing your thoughts with a person instead of your Facebook.

There’s a time and place for social media, but trust me; you’ll be surprised at what you find when you connect with the people around you first. All you have to do is say “hi!”

Growing up is fun: transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor

April 12th, 2016

54ef49ff-9ab5-41b4-978a-b437ed3421e3Most people will tell you that growing up means having less time to play. Summer vacations for kids? Nothing but fun! Summer vacations for grown ups? “Booooring!”

…Well, here’s a secret: summer doesn’t have to be totally boring when you get too old for summer camp. All you have to do is become a camp counselor — problem solved! (Not to mention your Mom will be happy, since you’re “technically” getting a job!”

If you love camp and you’re worried about getting too old to go, don’t worry. Taking on the responsibility of a summer camp counselor is both rewarding and super fun!

Building experience

Transitioning from summer camper to summer camp counselor is probably easier than you think.

Building dependability and good leadership skills are already a huge part of the activities and games that campers participate in every year. For former summer campers, all the leadership skills that make a good counselor are already there — it’s just a question of stepping up to the plate and trying on a different hat this summer!

Leadership is “hard-wired” into the activities at Camp Starlight; oftentimes, campers don’t even realize they’re building leadership skills. Camping, team sports, and problem-solving games all feels like “fun in the sun.” programs are usually adventure based and allow you to explore your budding leadership style through hands-on activities.

If you’ve ever wondered why the ropes course and team sports get just a little more challenging every year at camp, that’s why. Just like life, camp gets a little more complex every year. Luckily, with harder work comes bigger rewards. Few jobs are quite as fun and satisfying as that of a summer camp counselor!

Responsibility and freedom

For college students, there’s no way around it; summer jobs and internships can be a drag. Camp is different from a regular job; perhaps the only summer job in the world that requires so much time playing games!

While counselors have plenty of responsibilities when it comes to their campers, counselors who have been campers themselves have a special place in their heart for the relaxation that camp offers. Digital detox is worth its weight in gold — I mean, can you imagine if you were in summer classes right now?!

Counselor training

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 2.52.13 PMWhether they’re a veteran camper or excited newcomer, every single counselor at Camp Starlight goes through intensive training and team-building activities before the first group of campers arrives.

Counselor training is where former campers really shine — because they already know what a magical experience they’re in for, and have all the traditional camp songs down by heart!

Most of all, former campers excel as counselors because they remember what it was like to be a camper themselves, helping them understand the value they offer to their own campers as role models. Veteran campers know that fun and games is serious business, and that all the planning and training is worth it to make sure the summer goes off without a hitch!

Campers forever!

Summer camp is an incredible chance to spend time among your peers, gain independence, and learn about yourself.

Whether you decide to become a bunk specialist, or work in a specialty programing at your camp, you will surely develop important life skills that will help you become a responsible adult — not to mention a super fun role model for generations of Camp Starlight campers!

Remember, growing up doesn’t have to mean letting go of that summer camp spirit!

Options Program at Camp Starlight

April 4th, 2016

Written by Jason Silberman

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 10.17.16 PMLet me take you back to when I was a little Junior boy and I started my first week at camp. I was not the most enthusiastic when it came to sports but I gave it my all and, of course, had fun with it. One of my favorite times of the day was Option. This is usually the first period of the day for lower camp and third period for upper camp in their morning activities. Each week, campers can choose out of a dozen program options what they want to have for three days that week.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 8.28.52 PMTypically, the schedule varies day to day but the option period will remain the same for those three days. Program choices range from Archery, Basketball, Eco Science, Improv, Lacrosse and more. Think of it as a three-day, intensive workshop that allows campers to learn additional skills that they might not have the time to learn in regular periods with their division. Going back to little me for a second, this chance to focus on something that I wanted to do was such an incredible experience. For example, one year I chose to go to Magic as an option and in later years, I became the magic specialist! There are so many options to choose from and that’s why it has become a favorite amongst campers every year. I believe that this program is a crucial part of the campers’ day because it allows them to enjoy 55 minutes of an activity that they specifically wanted to have that day. Option is one of the main contributors to the creativity and ability to thrive in camp.

Going on a Hike… More than Just Good Exercise!

March 30th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.49.18 PMWhen you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.

Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Starlight is one of the most popular activities each summer!

There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.

The healing power of nature

Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.

For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?

This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.

Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!

Connecting with the natural world

But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.

New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.

With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Starlight may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!

The journey is the destination

Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.

Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.

Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!

How Camp Teaches You To Always Plan Ahead

March 21st, 2016

Going to summer camp is more than just an unforgettable week away from home with your friends — it’s also an investment in your skills, character, and future. Summer camp teaches every camper a slew of critical life skills including organization, leadership, and time management.

Here are just a few of the ways campers learn to plan ahead while enjoying the fun and games at Camp Starlight!

Navigating camp activities

11411756_10152924528446960_8550865432487014513_oPracticing how to plan time for cleanup, getting around camp between activities, and bringing the things you need to complete each activity doesn’t just prepare campers for sports, crafts, and sailing — it prepares them for the hectic pace of life outside camp, from school all the way to college!

Days at summer camp tend to be packed with activities, from waking up at dawn to falling asleep at dusk, and being on time for each of your activities ensures that you will have enough time to have the maximum fun possible. Learning to balance so many activities in a busy day is certainly one of camp’s biggest challenges, but with a little bit of practice everyone gets the hang of it.

After a full camp schedule, your school schedule will probably feel easy. After all, getting from one class to the next isn’t nearly as difficult as making it all the way from the archery range to the arts and crafts center!

Planning Skits and Talent Shows

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.30.52 AMMost campers choose to participate in either a skit or a talent show at some point during their session. Usually, skits and talents are created and practiced during free time and rest periods. Campers have to find a time in their daily schedule to plan their skit, create props, and practice with other campers.

The incremental process of preparing performances helps campers build experience planning group projects and break down large, complex homework assignments into more manageable pieces, so they can complete a little each day.

Counselors love helping campers plan for skits, because it’s a chance to teach important life lessons about approaching a challenge. The secret to camp performances is taking one small step at a time.

Completing a Cookout

Cooking out over a campfire involves quite a bit of planning. Not only do you have to decide on a meal and order your ingredients from the kitchen ahead of time, but you have to divide cooking tasks such as food prep and fire tending between your group and make sure you start early enough for your meal to be served on schedule. Being a cook is hard! (But super rewarding, especially over a traditional open fire.)

Your cookout experience will teach you to value the importance of planning your projects in detail before you start them. While most of your school projects will not end with a tasty, fire-cooked meal, the feeling of accomplishment after detailed planning will no doubt remind you of your camp experiences.

Looking to the future

Camp is filled with experiences that teach campers to plan ahead. From keeping your bunk clean (for the sake of your roomies!) to completing challenges in a ropes course, you will have plenty of opportunities to create plans and see the results of your effort.

While not everything may work out the first time — it’s not a big deal to be late to an activity or burn your dinner once in a while — you will eventually learn what type of planning works for you, and be able to apply your experiences to the rest of your life. Campers love to live in the moment, but they always have one eye on the future. With a little bit of planning, every second of camp is a blast!

How Camp Helped Me Live A Balanced Life

March 14th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 3.22.20 PM 1If you were to ask the adults in my life to describe me in one word, they would probably say “focused” or “disciplined” or “passionate.” This would be their nice way of saying I focus on one thing and one thing only, my grades. Now of course this makes my parents really happy, and they are proud of all of the A’s I bring home on my report card, and are excited about all of the opportunities I’ll have after high school. But they also realized that something was a little off balance. The time and energy and stress that I put on myself and my rising GPA left little room to enjoy other things typical teenagers should be enjoying, like art, sports and friends and a book other than a textbook. But when I leave for camp every summer and say goodbye to my calculators and textbooks I try to some balance.

The second day of camp, I found myself balanced. Balanced atop a shaking rope, a hundred feet off the ground, with sweat running down my face. I had been encouraged to try the ropes course, and one shaky foot in front of the other, and with a crowd of pretty much perfect strangers cheering for me, I faced my fear of heights and made it all the way across the challenge course. I was pretty sure this was not what most people mean by finding balance, but it did give me a rush and helped me face a fear.

As the days flew by, my hours were packed with activities and events that I never would have tried back home. Instead of passing up on social activities to study, I was racing from tennis matches to pottery class and then to the lake for a swim. People were asking ME to be on their team, to hang out with them and to try something new with them. And they were doing it because they liked hanging out with me, not because they wanted to copy my homework or get answers for a test. That was such a great feeling!

At the end of the day, during quiet time in our cabins, I would write down everything I had done that day. I began to see that my likes and interests were broadening, and that each day I was involved in many different areas. I was being creative in the morning, athletic in the mid afternoon, pensive and reflective in the late afternoon (with my quiet time by the lake) as well as social, independent and confident all day long. I began to see how much I was missing at home by focusing all of my time and energy on one thing.

Now, if you ask the adults in my life to describe me, they’ll say “always on the go” or “diverse” or “busy!” And it’s true, camp helped me realize that while grades and education are still at the top of my list, it doesn’t have to be the ONLY thing on my list. I’m thankful for my time at camp, and that it opened up windows for me to live a healthier, more balanced life.


Camp Starlight Year 15

March 4th, 2016

IMG_2983 2Written by Megan Panelas

This summer will be my 15th year working at Camp Starlight and every year people ask why I return summer after summer. I usually give the short answer of “it’s my second home,” but thought I would share the long version this time around.

Camp Starlight is a very Special place. Camp is a place where time slows down. It lets everyone take time out of their busy lives to really just be themselves. Both staff and campers can be who they truly are. It is amazing to watch campers in the camp atmosphere gain confidence in a nurturing environment. Each summer as they come back they truly gain a better sense of themselves. They belong at camp and they are part of the community that we, the staff, strive for. Through the program that has been developed at camp, each age group has their own set of traditions that they contribute to the Starlight community. It is amazing to watch their progression. From the junior enthusiasts who live and breathe camp and have so much fun, to the inters, who embrace the fun they are having and make lifelong friends. Then to the upper camp debs, who really learn more about themselves and bond to create more of a community atmosphere, and the seniors who have become a family. The Upper Seniors take on the role of helping the juniors have fun through a few special events. This cycle continues and is so strong at Starlight that many return as Counselor Assistants (CA’s) and then as counselors.

This is the part that I am now enjoying the most. Campers that I met when they were 7 and 8 are now counselors in the lower deb division with me. This truly is a full circle community. These campers turned counselors are the essence of camp and often make campers summers even more spectacular. I have had the joy to watch so many campers grow on a summerly basis, becoming exemplary staff and mentors over time.

Every camper is unique and may enjoy a variety of different things and camp has the opportunities to flourish in a million different ways. From being center stage, to being on a Wayne county team, from winning a race for the swim team to finally mustering up the courage to do the zip line, from launching rockets to scoring a goal in a league game and from dance parties to divisional campfires, there is something for everyone. It is finding that passion in each camper and helping them excel to have the best summer, every summer, as they grow and are true citizens of the Starlight community.

Being a part of this Community, and watching it grow is astounding and I just can’t stay away. I have become a part of it. Wabam.