CampMinder Camp 9


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.


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”.

Randi’s New Year’s Thoughts & Resolutions

It’s a New Year Shibley Nation and it’s time to reflect upon this past year and more importantly, think about all our wishes and resolutions for the upcoming year.

For me, 2018 was a very special year.  I welcomed my very first grandchild and witnessed the marriage of my second son David to his beautiful bride Rachel.

I started thinking about my New Year’s resolutions, and for me, spending time with my family and friends is always on the top of the list.

Here are a few more thoughts that I would like to share with all of you in making 2019 the best year ever:

FAMILY DINNERS-Sit down with your loved ones and talk about your day.

BEDTIME READING-There’s nothing like cozying up with your children right before bedtime and reading together a special story that is meaningful and positive.

TIME-Find a few moments every day to have a quiet conversation with your child/children and keep connected with their everyday lives.  You would be surprised as to how much you can learn from your child while conversing with them during a drive in the car to and from an activity.

We all know how busy our lives can be, and how these 3 simple suggestions can be very challenging, but I guarantee that making the effort to be FAMILY STRONG is the key to a successful year.

I wish you all a very healthy and happy New Year.  And as the Winter fades into Spring and the promise of Summer is within our grasp, we can all start counting the days until our 2019 summertime begins at Shibley!!

Heath’s Favorite Holiday Movies

I love movies and Holiday time is a great time to watch movies with your family and friends. Here are some of my favorites:

Home Alone – This is a classic and maybe one of my all time favorites. The commercial that is out now (CLICK TO WATCH) reminds us all how great this movie was. It also reminds those of us that are Macaulay Culkin’s age that we aren’t kids anymore.

Scrooged- Bill Murray is one of the funniest people alive in my opinion. I love when stories are rewritten in modern times and turn out to be just as relevant and wonderful.

Love Actually- Everyone knows I love music which is one reason I really enjoy this movie. Beside the story of legendary rocker Billy Mack and his manager, I love each individual story and of course how they intertwine throughout the film.

A Rugrats Chanukah- This is a great one for the young children to watch.

Elf- Will Ferrell. In an elf suit. Being Will Ferrell. Also Zooey Deschanel is a great actress.

Christmas Vacation- Obvious but hilarious. Did you know Leonard from Big Bang Theory was Rusty in this movie? Mind. Blown.

The Nightmare Before Christmas- Is this a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Eight Crazy Nights- Adam Sandler has always been one of my favorites as well and it is great how he always tries to keep Hanukkah in the mix at holiday time. We need more great Hanukkah movies!

How the Grinch stole Christmas – Original! – The Jim Carey version is ok but the original animated version is the one to watch.

Home Alone 2- Kevin’s alone again. This time in New York City! Get the popcorn, fast!

Okay, which ones did I forget…

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.