Giving Back This Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving having just passed, many of us took the time to acknowledge what we are thankful for. For me, the holiday season is a time to not only reflect upon and recognize all that I am grateful for but also a time to give back. As an individual who is fortunate enough to be a longstanding member of the camp community, I have endless appreciation for all that I have been afforded as a result. Having the opportunity to attend camp as a child and then to continue working within the camp community as an adult are rare privileges that too few are lucky enough to experience. This realization is only a small part of what pushes me to pay it forward.

It is so important to share and return kindness and there are so many ways we can do so. Whatever way you are able to perpetuate the cycle, no matter how big or small, it will make an impact and allow for the betterment of another. Whether it’s a simple donation or giving up one’s personal time, we are all capable of pitching in and doing our part in some way.

In addition to benefiting others, these acts, however slight or great, are extremely meaningful to those on the receiving end. They also leave me feeling more fulfilled as an individual than receiving any tangible item could. When you go the extra mile to make someone else’s world a bit lighter and brighter you will see that you get back in abundance what you put out there.

Holiday Time at Shibley

As the leaves continue to fall and the great memories of last summer start to fade into the background, I always feel a little sad.  However the sadness does not remain very long as my mind shifts towards the preparation for next summer.  We already have a large amount of last year’s campers who took advantage of our super early bird rates and are already registered.  We also have many new campers joining us for the first time! One of my functions is as Transportation Director, so I am already well into plotting all of these campers on our maps.  I really like geography and maps so planning out the bus routes is a lot of fun for me as well as challenging to make the most efficient routes possible.

I am also looking forward to the Holiday Season which is a fun time to spend with family and friends.  It is also a good time to reflect upon the year past.  I always like to think back on the great time I had working at camp during the previous summer.  I always enjoy the opportunity to meet and get to know the new campers and new staff.  I also like being reunited with all the returning campers and staff as we approach each summer.

After a period of time everyone at Shibley seems like family. Once you start coming to Shibley and experience what Shibley is all about, you never want to leave.  I guess I am the best example of that since I started coming to Shibley as a four year old and am still here so many decades later. I can’t wait to get up in the morning because I am going to camp whether it is summer, fall, winter or spring.  How many people can say during a January blizzard that “I am going to camp?”  I feel very lucky to have spent so many happy years at Shibley.  It is December 2018 and exciting thoughts of summer 2019 are already in my mind.  Stay warm and have a great holiday season.

Professional Development All Year Long

The holidays are upon us!  First and foremost, I wanted to wish our Shibley Nation a healthy and happy holiday season!

Here at Shibley, we continue to plan and prepare for Summer 2019.  Heath, Stefanie, Bob and I recently spent 3 days at Lakota Oaks in Connecticut discussing great ideas and best practices with 17 other CampGroup summer programs.  It is always a privilege and a pleasure to spend time with other camping industry leaders sharing new challenges, philosophies and strategies.

If you were an avid camper in your younger years, it is very likely you would consider these past summer days some of the best days of your life.  And if asked why, many of you would probably answer “the people I encountered and the friendships I made are what made camp so special.” Many of “these people” have chosen Summer Camping as their profession, so you can just imagine what these professional development days in Connecticut have been like.  The energy and passion at these sessions are truly off the charts.  The goal of creating magical summers for your children is inherent in every individual you meet.

I spent much of my time focusing on staff development, and concentrating on how to provide our staff with the tools they need to create and cultivate a loving and nurturing environment for our campers.  We attend professional development programs during each and every month of the year, where we share and develop new programming for today’s camping community.

Our goal at Shibley is to go the distance in giving your child the best summer experience possible, because our campers deserve nothing less!

I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts on Summer 2019.  Please email me at Randi@shibleydaycamp.com.

“It’s not about what you expect from life, it’s about what life expects from you” – The Bungee Guy

Sometimes in life, one’s greatest memories may come from somewhere unexpected. Prior to the summer of 2017, I expected my job to simply be, a job. I had no real significant work experience at that point, and expected to simply do my part, put in my time, and collect my paycheck. But when I arrived at Shibley Day Camp on the first day of the summer two years ago, my expectations were immediately altered.

Before I get into that allow me to introduce myself. My name is Danny Kosofsky; though you may know me as, “The Bungee Guy.” What you may not know about me however, is the person I used to be: immensely insecure, introverted, and antisocial. I have dealt with anxiety and have at times felt like I couldn’t assign meaning or purpose to my life—all of which changed after working at camp Shibley.

Upon my arrival on the first day of camp two summers ago, I couldn’t help but smile seeing hundreds of excited and gleeful children eager to enjoy their summer. This was so satisfying for me to see because I was that same kid with the big grin on my face at camp not too long ago. It was as if I was placed in a time machine and was being transported back to elementary school and was placed back in a time where I constantly played with friends and lived my life without judgement or care. Camp for me as a camper was a blast, but as a counselor, camp also became exceedingly meaningful.

One of the most important things for me as a camper was my relationships with my counselors. To this day, I still think about the counselors that have impacted me in positive ways. I am extremely grateful to have had such wonderful counselors throughout my camp life; many of whom have helped shaped who I am today. From the start, I became infatuated with the idea that I could be that same counselor that had a positive impact on me, to the children at Shibley Day Camp.

Working with children, brought out a side of me I didn’t even knew existed. I tried to think about the children’s perspectives, dreams, and interests. I tried to gain insight in what was going through their minds, and how I could learn and grow as a person through them. I simply wanted to treat every kid with the same amount of respect and kindness and was always genuinely interested to listen to the children talk about themselves and see how they interacted with others.

Above all else, I was blown away by the exceptionally large quantity of children who were kind and treated me with benevolence. As a result, I was compelled and driven to do the best that I could and have as much of a positive impact on the children and community around me as possible. I wanted to make bungee a memorable experience for everyone that came and put in my all every single day to do just that.

Throughout the course of the past two summers, I have become increasingly social, confident, and empathetic. While I attribute much of the aforementioned traits to the children, I would be remiss to not mention the outstanding faculty at this camp. For the first time in my life, I finally felt a sense of purpose and appreciation, which as a result, made me eager and excited to work every day. The staff has always been extremely positive and good-natured, and I felt as though I was being welcomed to a family the very first time I stepped through the doors at Shibley Day Camp. I have made so many new friends and have met so many great people throughout my tenure at Shibley. I am incredibly grateful and honored to work with and for such virtuous people and have also learned a lot about myself through them as well.

My experience at Shibley was more impactful and meaningful to me than I could have ever expected. To be honest I didn’t really even know what to expect, but from my time as an employee I came to a very important realization: It’s not about what you expect from life, it’s about what life expects from you.

I had the greatest job I could ever ask for, and hope I was able to have as much of a positive impact on the children, as they had on me. I am forever grateful to have worked for such a great camp with such terrific staff members and campers. Shibley Day Camp will always hold a special place in my heart.

Sincerely,

Danny “The Bungee Guy”

The Best Thing I Saw On Halloween

The best thing I saw this Halloween…

It wasn’t quite dark yet but the sun was beginning to set. I sat on the steps with my friend at his house. His daughters are friends with mine and he really enjoys this holiday. The girls were trick or treating with the moms and we stayed behind.

To our left was a 10 foot creature screaming and holding a baby doll upside down while shaking it back and forth. To the right was a spider that approaches you and a dog that barks at you and jumps out at you as you pass. On the driveway a zombie baby was crawling all around. There were at least three smoke machines. These were all cool props but what interested me the most about sitting in that spot was watching how each parent of a small child approached the house or in some cases… ran the other way.

Some crossed the street and never let their child even look in the direction of the house. Some walked briskly by, arms wrapped around their child as if to protect them from real danger. Some didn’t say a word and let the child decide how to handle it, which usually meant they made it up near the scary witch with the bowl of candy, took too much of it and were very happy to be on their way.

And then there was my favorite. The little shark. He was about 3 years old and timid enough to mostly avoid the other scary props, while not showing any real fear but also not approaching them head on. I watched mom watch him almost touch the scary doll on the first step up to the house but he changed his mind and quickly moved on to the bowl of candy. The bowl was a few steps past me and held onto by a scary looking (but still and quiet) witch.

He inched his way up and I smiled at him and asked where the rest of his shark family was. His mother came up the steps behind him. And then she did it and made my day. She stepped right on the pad attached to the witch that said STEP HERE, with full knowledge that she was about to scare the you know what out of her child. He jumped, showed signs of tearing up and looked right at me.

“Are you a real shark,” I asked him?

“No,” he replied and looked back at the witch.

“Well that’s not a real witch!” I exclaimed, hoping he would see my point.

His mom smiled at me and the little shark seemed to get it. I was so happy that the mother used this opportunity to teach her son that it’s ok to be scared. He got through it. He also will start to learn that a lot of scary things he sees are not real at all. It was a great and unplanned teachable moment and I was so happy to see this parent and many others let their children make their way through the scary lawn at their own pace.

Memories of Jr. Pool 2

We are currently replacing the Junior 2 Pool at Shibley with a brand new pool and this brought back some fond memories for me as both a camper and as a lifeguard and swim teacher.  I swam in that pool as a 6 and 7 year old back in my camper days.  The pool was purposely designed to be just the right depth for the height of those age campers. That was the Shibley secret so that campers will feel comfortable and are more likely to learn to swim.  I learned a lot of my swimming skills in that pool under the instruction of some very fine swim teachers.  I became a great swimmer during my camper years at Shibley and later worked as a certified lifeguard and swim instructor at that very same pool.

Swim instruction at Shibley has always been priority one for our campers.  It is a lifelong skill that is not only fun and great exercise, but it allows you to always feel confident and fearless around pools and oceans. Teaching children to swim can also be a great summer job while you are going to school.  Helping others learn to swim and to feel comfortable in the water can be a very satisfying endeavor.  My favorite campers to work with were the ones who in the beginning would not even get in the water.  I mean they would not even come close to the pool or even look at the pool.  Using a gentle approach, I was able to get them in the water so they could learn to swim with the other campers.

These campers would start out holding on to the side of the pool and refuse to put their faces in the water.  Later that summer these same campers were  swimming in water over their head.  I remember getting thank you letters from the parents of these campers who started out with such a fear of the water and who now were swimming like pros. Their parents were amazed.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to give so many campers a skill that they will have for life and that has always given me a great feeling inside.  It also taught me the life lesson that helping others was something very worthwhile and that is why I love dedicating my life to creating excellent camp experiences for children. We are looking forward to creating new memories in the brand new Jr. Pool 2.