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What It’s Like to Be a Camp Director

Rachel Bachrach

She’s got ruach! She’s got spunk! She’s the one who decides your bunk! And trips. And activities. And basically everything else about your summer. The camp director may make it look easy, but, as these three women can attest, it takes a lot more than a clipboard and a whistle to run a camp

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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“The day could have been a disaster, but with counselors who know how create a good time even when things don’t go as planned, the girls had a blast!”

SWhen I was a camper, my favorite activity was…

The cheering — we’d cheer nonstop the entire day. Now I don’t particularly love it, I can’t see what thrill I had in singing all those wacky songs, but I love seeing my campers and supervisors having a good time, and occasionally I’ll join in. And my partner — my sister-in-law Osnas Bajnon — runs the camp with me, and she loves cheering, so it balances things out. 

When I was in camp things were simpler — we made our own fun. The standards are much higher now — it seems like a lot of kids don’t know how to create a good time, and we have to provide it for them. It’s nonstop action, and sometimes I wonder if we’re handicapping them by providing all the fun. I try to stick activities into my program that make the girls use their own creativity and spirit, and they thrive on it.

The three things I look for in a counselor are…

Most important is that she’s someone who’s a good role model for pre-teens. She needs to be geshmak and have the ruach to run the camp — counselors in a teen camp really run it, they work directly with me and my sister-in-law, because we don’t have head counselors. Thirdly, I’d like her to connect to the campers. I try to have some counselors who are artistic, talented in acting, creative with breakouts, and so on, but those aren’t a must, they’re a plus. 

A few years ago, we booked a boating trip well in advance, but when we got to the place with the whole camp, it was still boarded up and closed because of Hurricane Sandy. There’d clearly been a misunderstanding. The buses had already left, but my staff kept the girls busy while we found a great jet skiing place down the road. It took time to arrange the backup trip, and the day could have been a disaster, but with counselors who know how to take charge and create a good time even when things don’t go as planned, the girls had a blast!

Photo: Shutterstock

If parents want a not-so-social child to have an amazing summer, they should…

Be in touch. Parents call to ask me to place their daughters with certain girls, or to not place their daughters with someone who will impede their experience. A mother might tell me about a specific need so we can look out for her daughter and give her a social standing. 

Some mothers don’t call — they think we’ll think their daughter is a neb — but that’s silly. We love working with parents to give their daughters a memorable and successful summer. And who are they kidding? I can see who’s popular, confident, or quieter as they walk through the door on the first day! 

We structure camp with different outlets for everyone. There’s sports, crafts, trips, and workshop options: voice recording, fondant cookies, jewelry making. Also, we don’t have bunks, it’s one big group. The girls keep getting divided in different ways for different activities, and they get to know more girls this way.

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