Family Events All Year Long at Shibley

At Shibley we pride ourselves on creating a nurturing, down to earth environment that is welcoming to new campers of all ages. However, the process of making our youngest campers feel at home (and not miss their mommies and daddies) begins when we first meet the child and continues throughout the year and right up to the first day of camp.

A tour at Shibley has two purposes. One is of course to show a new family our beautiful grounds while discussing our top-notch program. The more important purpose of the tour is for us to get to know the new family and to make connections with the children. We encourage the camper to ask questions and to “make the tour guide work hard!” We know that we have to get both the parent and child to feel great about joining the Shibley family before they will make the decision to do so.

As a prospective family continues to consider Shibley, and especially after they have enrolled, we expect to see them 3-5 times before camp begins. We want a child to simply smile, give their parents a kiss goodbye and say, “Let’s go!” when the bus arrives on the first day of camp. They are able to do this because they already have been to Shibley multiple times and they know exactly where they are going and what it’s going to look like when they get there.

Our off-season events include:

  • Fall Festival around Halloween
  • Family Fun Days on weekends in January, February & March
  • Popup Winter Holiday camps in NYC
  • Spring Break Open House/Open Play
  • Pre-camp outing to Citi Field for a Mets game
  • Spring Festival in May
  • Special nights at camp for Super Seniors and CITs
  • Junior Camp Swim Party & Bus Rides in JUNE
  • Camper/Staff Meet & Greet in June

We also offer our families the opportunity to come and play on our grounds any weekend during the spring while we are on site…which is most of the time. Just call and let us know when you want to come!

After attending some or all of these events the child now knows multiple Shibley staff members that he/she will see when they get off the bus on the first day. This makes for a great conversation that parents can have with children who still seem nervous.

“When you get off the bus, Stefanie will be waiting for you.”

“Remember we were playing in the playground last weekend? That is where the bus is going to let you out at camp today.”

This really eases the child’s nerves and allows for a smooth transition into camp from the comfortable school atmosphere they have been in for 10 months. The parents are usually still the nervous ones and are welcome to check in with the camp office to see how their child is doing on their first day. Hundreds of pictures are posted each night so that parents can see the happiness oozing out of the smiles on their children’s faces and realize that the children are SAFE and having the time of their life!

Tri-State, Nature & Springtime Thoughts

Hello Shibley Nation! Springtime is approaching, the temperature outside is rising, Opening Day baseball is 2 weeks away, March Madness begins this week, and the excitement of another Summer camp season at Shibley is bubbling inside all of us!

The Shibley Team recently spent 4 days in Atlantic City where the largest national camping conference is held.  Vendors from all over the country set up shop in the convention center and show off the latest and greatest in the camping industry.  At the same time, industry leaders are chosen to lead valuable seminars on camp life today!

What I really enjoy is getting together with my community of camp professionals, and sharing our knowledge and experience to ensure the high quality of summer camp and its value.  We are competitors, no doubt.  But we all agree that the powerful lessons our children learn in our camping community can be found no where else.

Here at Shibley, our grounds are blessed with beautiful natural surroundings.  The last seminar I attended talked about the connection children have with nature. Research shows that first-hand experiences with nature, like those at Shibley, reduce stress in children and help them better handle stress in the future. In addition to teaching children how to be good stewards of the environment, we are teaching children how to enjoy the world around them and take a minute to breathe deep and feel nature, which ultimately teaches them how to de-stress the natural way.

Right now, as I look out my office window and see the beautiful Shibley grounds, I see the very beginnings of Spring…….I take a deep breath…….and realize how lucky I am!

Things That Matter

What are the things that really matter when reflecting back upon your life?  For me one of the answers is my family and the memories I have growing up with them.  I just spent a week in Florida visiting my Mom and Dad who are both over 80 years old and super active. In fact, they actually have more energy than me and I am over 20 years younger.

Bob, his brother Mike and father Harvey at Shibley in Summer 1962

My dad retired as Director of Shibley at age 79 and one of his hobbies became family photography.  On the garage walls and in the house he has so many family photos dating back to the generation before him and right up to the present day with captions that he writes.  He has this priceless photo of his parents with the dog he grew up with named Pinky.  Next to it he has a picture of my sister’s dog Sammy, with the caption “Pinky’s nephew”. There are so many photos of my brother, sister and me at different stages of childhood and into adulthood.

My father was the director of Shibley for over 50 years so he has old photos from camp picture days going back to 1960.  I can remember that on each camp picture day Dad would get us from our groups and have a picture taken of me, my brother, my sister and him. Also on the walls are photos of all the grandchildren as they were born and grew up as well as pictures of the nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Those early childhood years are so precious to me and are definitely etched into my mind. When I look at the old family photos, it stirs up so many happy memories. A picture has the ability to bring you back in time to relive those wonderful experiences. It may only be for a few minutes, but very special none the less. I personally like to go back to my old neighborhood where I lived from age 2 through 13.  I sit in my car in front of my old house for a little while and I feel like I am back in that time period. It always puts a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart.

I can visualize playing baseball with my friends as well as the many other activities we did.  In those days there was no such thing as play dates or computer games. You just played outside all day until your parents told you it was time to come in. If it is not feasible for you to go back to your old neighborhood, you always have the power of the old photograph to bring you there.  Looking ahead, it’s almost spring… so warm weather and summer camp cannot be far behind.

Shibley Reflections…So Far

In the short time that I’ve been at Shibley, I’ve already had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful individuals. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to spend my days working with people who are positive and pleasant and foster a warm, supportive atmosphere. I couldn’t ask for a better environment to spend time in while “working”.

In addition to the people I spend time with daily, I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting some of the seasonal Shibley staff members who create the atmosphere and experience that our campers benefit from summer after summer. Every person I’ve come across has been thoughtful, friendly and upbeat. The moment I meet them it’s easy and clear to see that each one of them is genuinely excited about being part of the Shibley community and playing an important role in creating magical experiences for our campers.

Finally, I can’t say enough about the Shibley campers and families I have connected with. After spending time with the children and their parents at our Fall Festival, our first Fun Day for the 2019 season and a few school functions and events, I cannot say enough about everyone I’ve come in contact with. Every person has been warm and welcoming and so enthusiastic about being part of the Shibley family. The children have told me a number of wonderful camp stories and shared their memories with me and I am so looking forward to making new ones with them during the 2019 summer. Shibley is really such a special place and it shows when the staff, campers and their parents all get together and start talking. I’m looking forward to the next Fun Day this weekend where I’ll be able to meet and get to know more of the Shibley families!

CampMinder Camp 9

#CMC9

This week I had the pleasure to attend CampMinder Camp 9 in Boulder, Colorado. CampMinder is the company that we partner with to host our database, run our online registration system, share camp photos with parents, complete and store online forms and a whole lot more. Every other year they host a conference which brings together the best minds in the industry. We have the opportunity to learn about all aspects of running successful camps and also to participate in creating the future vision of CampMinder.

CampMinder staff began the opening keynote by sharing the transformation that has taken place within their business, why it has taken place and how it is going to benefit our camps. The restructuring of the company will lead to quicker upgrades that are more aligned with the core needs of CampMinder’s clients. Everyone was thrilled to hear about the exciting mobile upgrades coming which is something we know our camp parents are going to love. This was followed by an inspiring presentation by Seiku Andews, the leading poetic voice in our country who has performed for President Obama and Oprah Winfrey among others. Camp directors aspire to tell stories to describe the power of camp in the way that Seiku uses language to entertain and inspire people across the globe.

There were over 50 sessions to choose from spanning the categories of Marketing & Recruitment; CampMinder System; Culture & Leadership; and Product Development. We heard from veteran camp directors and other professional speakers including Gerry Valentine, Public Speaker, Founder & Executive Coach; Audrey Monke of Sunshine Parenting; Peter Ross, Jason Bornfriend & Kaitlyn Merola of 829 Studios, a marketing firm that focuses on camp and travel; and a powerful closing keynote and exercise delivered by Priya Parker, founder of Thrive Labs and author of The Art of Gathering.

Sample session titles included:

  • How to Build Resilience: Tools for Leadership, Empowerment and Innovation
  • Camp: The Ultimate Internship
  • 21st Century Summer Camp Communication
  • Bringing out the Genius in Yourself and Your Team
  • Supervision as Art
  • Mastering the Art of Failing
  • Discover Desire- Ignite Motivation- Experience Results

Camp conferences by rule are gatherings of fun, outgoing people and generally have a great vibe throughout. CampMinder Camp takes this to the next level. This company has been recognized by Built In Colorado & Outside Magazine as a top place of employment due to their outstanding culture and growth as a business. They have a member of the team whose title is Director of Talent and Culture…and they only hire individuals who share the company’s core values no matter how skilled an applicant may be. The culture of the company sets the tone for the conference. We are inspired, we walk away with practical knowledge that can have direct positive effects on our camps and businesses and we have a lot of fun!

In one session we were doing a group exercise and I had to complete the sentence, “I am happiest when…” Now of course in this room the easy answer is “when I’m at camp” but we were trying to think a little outside the box in order to connect with others in the group. My completion of the sentence was “when there is music playing.” And boy did that ring true when we all gathered at the Boulder Theater after day 1 to see the outstanding band Ripe. Now I was listening to live music and deep in conversation about camp marketing and programming, my favorite camp topics. Ripe played their own original funk and soul music and mixed in some great tunes including Lola by the Kinks, Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac.

I consider the people I spend time with at this conference my friends. We only see each other a few times a year and most of us know little about each other besides our shared passion for creating meaningful experiences for children (and whatever is posted on Facebook). However these conferences bring people together in a way that allows bonding among new friends and old as we sit together in sessions and meals and share our desire to improve summer camp and show the world what is best for our children.

So back to the exercise described earlier (and eliminating the obvious answers of “surrounded by family” and/or “at camp”), I am happiest when I am surrounded by smart people with great values who love to collaborate in order to support each other’s missions. And in our business, one way or the other, each of our missions is to create meaningful experiences for children that produce young adults with excellent values. And we are doing it.

Memories

Historical photo of Shibley campers and staff

Since getting to 62 years old (social security’s first eligibile age), I like to sometimes take time to reflect back on my life.  At age 24 when I met my future wife Maryellen she already had a three year old son nicknamed PJ.  Since I was a camp person, this was a perfect fit for me. Just like that I had a child and I later had the  pleasure to legally adopt him.

My favorite age is when children are 3, 4 and 5.  All they want to do at that age is play and they want you to join in.  At the time I was still in law school so I had a lot of free time still being a student.  So many days during the week we would gather up all PJ’s sports equipment and sand box tools and walk to the park which was just down the block.  My dad was a parent at barely 22 years old and a gym teacher, so I grew up playing all the sports with him. Now instantly I had my own child and at the park I would teach him how to throw, catch and hit a baseball, how to dribble, pass and shoot a basketball and other athletic skills as well.  Then we would always spend a long time in the sand box building tunnels, castles and forts.  To me it was the greatest thing because I was getting to relive my childhood through spending time with P.J.

That first December holiday season after meeting Maryellen and PJ, I was in Florida since I was off from law school at that time of the year.  Maryellen and PJ flew down to meet me. Then I had the opportunity to redo with them all the things that I did as a child in Florida each December when I was down visiting my grandparents.  We did so many fun things that trip including going to Ocean World to see the fish, going to the beach where we played in the water and sand and going to the park. It was the best Florida vacation ever!

I am also a golf person so at 3 years old I had PJ hitting golf balls at the driving range.  Years later he made the varsity golf team as an 8th grader when normally you need to be at least in 10th grade.  Today PJ is 41, is a chef and has a 13 year old daughter (my granddaughter).  My advice is to spend time with your children as much as you can when they are young because they grow up fast. It’s something you will get great pleasure from and your children will remember those times forever.

In conclusion I would just like to share something I read in the paper this morning that Joe Namath said. He was the NY Jets quarterback whose team won the super bowl in 1969 when no one gave the Jets a chance against the powerful Baltimore Colts. I think it is good advice to instill in our children as they grow up.  Joe Namath said “one of the things I learned that’s very important in life, we’re all underdogs from time to time. Think positive.  If you think you can’t, you won’t.  If you think you can, you got a chance to do it. Do keep dreaming and keep trying to fulfill your dreams.  Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it”.