Camp Philosophy Isn’t Just for the Summer!

Our Social Media Director, Lauren Eckstein Forman shares her recent experiences at the CT Book Club and how the lessons learned in “Homesick & Happy” came in very handy on a recent family vacation! 

I recently attended my second annual Camp Towanda Book Club, where new and seasoned parents discussed the book “Homesick & Happy” by Michael Thompson.  When I first sent my 8 year old son to camp, I used the wisdom in this book and the guidance from our very experienced Camp Directors Mitch and Stephanie Reiter to help me navigate sending my child off to camp! I learned what I should say, what I shouldn’t say, how to handle my child’s questions and how to manage homesickness -the anticipation of homesickness and receiving word of homesickness from afar.

IMG_2875Being a first time parent, I had a ton of nervous and excited energy about getting my child on the bus and sending him off to camp.  I loved camp so much and wanted him to love it too.  Which would lead me to want to talk about going to camp.  The more I talked, the more anxious my child became.  Mitch and Stephanie Reiter advised me to stop talking.  From February to June was a long time and they promised me he would be ready!!! Boy were they right.  Between this time last year and June, there were plenty of things that got my child ready for camp.  The camp shopping (the cool uniforms, the spray water bottles, the college team bedding, the stationery, the gimmicks, the STUFF!), talking with and meeting his new camp big brother, pretending to say goodbye to him every morning when I dropped him at school, watching videos of camp, and ultimately talking about the possibility of homesickness when camp got much closer- all helped get him ready!  But I needed to be ready as a parent too!

There were a few of pieces of advice that resonated with me regarding homesickness that helped prepare me for camp.  They would eventually serve me well in other areas of parenting.

1. Let children know homesickness is totally normal. It means they have a home worth missing. Give them examples of times when you experienced and overcame homesickness.

2. Don’t make a deal. At our book club, Mitch and Stephanie shared a story that in their 26 years of being Camp Directors, they have of course experienced extreme cases of homesickness.  In these more severe circumstances, the child was able to speak with their parent. Once their parent said, “we’re not coming to get you”, it was like a light switch. The child immediately stopped thinking about the possibility of going home, and just had fun! If you make a deal that you will take your child home if they are unhappy, you are dramatically decreasing your chances of both of you having a successful summer.

3. Take a vacation from parenting and don’t feel guilty.  Let’s face it, parenting is tough stuff. It is challenging, rewarding and exhausting. Letting go and enjoying the idea that your child can thrive and stumble and thrive under the nurturing care of someone else can be liberating. You need to recharge your battery too, get perspective and have grown-up time.  As a result, you can be a better parent when they return.

c65e200e-8a92-4e36-b07b-925356e804bcMy son had an incredible summer! We both grew in ways I could never have imagined. He became more confident, independent, resilient and flexible.  I became more confident, patient, respectful and proud. The whole experience brought us closer. When I asked him if he was going to be homesick this summer, he said “not at all. It’s only 7 weeks. I’ll be fine.”

Fast forward to our recent February ski vacation.  Both of my children, my 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter, were headed to ski school! This was their fourth winter vacation in ski school.  No issues ever.  A little complaining, but nothing like I was about to experience.  My son was placed in a different group from his best friend. In years prior, they were ALWAYS together and the expectation was that they would be together again. However, this year was different.  When we picked up our son from ski school, we were surprised he was not with his friend.  He was TOTALLY fine with it.  In fact he made 3 new friends, wanted to have a playdate with one and really got to know these kids (one went to sleepaway camp in Maine, they all loved video games and they looked forward to being in ski school together the next day). I said to myself “Thank you Camp Towanda.”

My 5 year old daughter on the other hand gave me a run for my money.  I was at the top of the mountain on our third run of the day.  My husband and I were with two other couples, enjoying grown-up time and the freedom of skiing, when I got the call from an UNKNOWN number. My heart sank.  It was ski school. My daughter was only there for 90 minutes when she came inside crying, refusing to go back out.  The ski school said “are you coming?” I took a deep breath and thought…what would Mitch and Stephanie tell me to do.  And then my camp parent skills kicked in.  I said “I am at the top of the mountain. I am not coming to get her.  She only thinks she is stopping because she thinks I am getting her. Please put her on the phone and don’t tell her I am coming.” I calmly told my daughter that I missed her too and cannot wait to hear about her day when we get home.  I reminded her of all the fun times she had in ski school before.  But most importantly I said, “I am at the top of the mountain. I cannot get you. Please try and have fun and I will see you later.”

For the next 4 hours, I checked my phone, but no calls. I figured she had to have gotten back on the mountain, right? Sure enough at 3:15pm she greeted me with the BIGGEST smile.  She gave “two thumbs up to the skiing” and “two thumbs down to the crying”.  Because I stayed strong and because she didn’t think I was getting her, the light switch turned and she focused on having a good time.  Every day from there got a little bit easier.  I got zero calls and my daughter and I picked a new song that we would both sing on the mountain if we missed each other.  It was our way of sending a camp letter and it worked. I said to myself “Thank you Camp Towanda.”

Because for 7 weeks or for just a few hours, every parent needs a guilt-free vacation. And every kid deserves to feel independent, proud and a sense of accomplishment.  Homesickness can be rough. But getting over homesickness will last a lifetime!

Now the real question is…when am I sending my daughter off to camp?

Do you have any examples when you used your super camp-parent skills to deal with situations at home? Please share with us!

Why Parents Are Thankful For Camp!

Mitch and Stephanie Reiter are bloggers for HuffPost Parents. This blog was also featured in the Huffington Post 

Many parents ask us about the benefits of sleep away camp, how much they can expect their child to grow and mature in a summer, and whether the changes will last beyond August.

Any veteran camp parent will tell you that camp is not just good for the child, but it’s good for the family! If you are a new parent considering camp for the first time, or nervous about whether your child is really ready, we wanted to share some of the changes you can expect after just one summer away from home! It’s amazing what seven weeks will do. We of course notice the change in our campers, but we love getting dozens of letters from first-time families who want to know “What’s in the bug juice, because we can’t believe this is our kid!?”

Here’s some of what you can expect even after just one summer at camp.

1. A willingness to try new things

They say the magic happens when you are pushed outside your comfort zone. And that is why they say camp is a magical place. There are activities kids LOVE and activities that may not be “their thing.” There is food that they can’t wait to eat (pizza day!) and meals that they can’t stand to see on the table. Because campers live and operate as a group, they learn to accept their differences, try new tastes and experiences, and learn they may actually like them! One mom shared that her picky-eater used to only eat plain bagels, plain penne pasta, pizza from a particular shop, salad and Hershey Bars. Seven weeks later, she can give him waffles for breakfast (hey — they have protein), any shape of pasta, any kind of pizza, and whole apples — not peeled and cut up in slices. She was also amused by his expanded choices at 7-11 (which is like the canteen at home), including Milky Way, Twix and Mug Root Beer. Now while that may sound like a sugary mess… you have to realize that this child seriously expanded his taste palette, made independent choices and may just be ready for Sloppy Joes next summer!

When children experience the reward of trying new things, it makes them want to try more. So many campers look at our climbing wall, and shiver at the thought of reaching the top. After a few weeks of watching their friends and being cheered on by their counselors, most of them will give it a go! The rush and excitement of making it half way, or climbing to the top, or even better, getting to ride down the zip line, is so exhilarating… it makes them more open to trying new things in the future.

What parents are thankful for: Less time spent as short order cook; more time planning new and exciting activities for your child.

2. Pride in taking care of themselves

For seven weeks our campers actually brush their teeth (at least before Visiting Day!), comb their hair, shower and dress themselves. All of these things involve surprisingly very few reminders, negotiating and reluctance. Why? Because they know it’s on them to get it done and “everybody is doing it.” They also live in close quarters and recognize that good hygiene is important and socially necessary. What a realization! Without mom or dad there to nag them into these responsibilities, it’s on them to stay clean and look presentable. Of course there is a learning curve for our younger campers to successfully care for themselves. But once they get it, they feel good to know they can do it themselves! When they come home from camp, they actually find it FUN and empowering!

What parents are thankful for: Shower hour for them is now rest hour for you!

3. Respect for their home and family

We talk a lot about the magic of camp, but we also know there is the magic of home. It’s a different kind of magic. The kind where kids drop their dirty clothes on the floor and they magically disappear. The kind where dirty dishes are left on the kitchen table and poof they get cleaned. Does this sound like your home? At camp, nothing magically disappears. Campers are responsible for clearing and stacking their plates, recycling, cleaning their bunk, organizing their belongings, folding their clothes and making their beds. They are held to standards during inspection and feel pressure from their camp family (aka their bunkmates) to uphold their responsibilities. If not, there are consequences. No one wants to let down his or her bunk.

There is also a deeper love between siblings at camp. If your kids are together at camp, they feel more connected in taking care of each other while mom and dad aren’t there. Even a couple minutes of sibling time a day at camp increases their love and respect for each other. New campers also enjoy feeling looked after by their camp big brother or sister, and they are more likely to pay those actions forward to their siblings at home. They have a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a big brother or sister.

What parents are thankful for: A child who contributes to the overall tidiness and order of your home. They also may walk their sibling to class, check on them during the day or read them a book at night. And it costs you nothing…unless you want to reward them with allowance!

4. Appreciation for rest time

One of the reasons so many parents say they can’t wait for camp is that their child will be unplugged for seven weeks. At camp we are 100 percent disconnected from technology and 100 percent connected to each other. Rest time doesn’t equal playing on the iPad, DS or watching television. When your camper comes home, you will be amazed at the activities they gravitate towards during down time. New hobbies like reading, playing cards, making bracelets, writing in a journal, playing ball are a refreshing change for you and them.

What parents are thankful for: Good old-fashioned fun like the old days, such as family game night, bringing a deck of cards to dinner (instead of the iPad) and maybe even a love for books. Imagine a world where you don’t have to nag your child to read? Also, your child may enjoy more quiet time in their room… an escape from the hustle of daily life.

IMG_5727 (1)5. Awareness and connection to life around them

A few months ago there was a powerful viral video called “Look Up”. It was a harsh reminder that many of us (and our children) spend our time looking down at our devices, texting, watching videos, hiding behind technology and living disconnected with our world. At camp we always look up. We look into each other’s eyes. Our hands are free for holding, playing and creating. At camp we connect. We are plugged into life. We live in the moment.

Kids learn to really listen to each other at camp. They understand what moves them, what scares them and what it means to be a true friend. They learn the implications of their actions on others, how to resolve differences, how to lead and how to be a part of a group. Because they are forced to live in a bunk with the same people for seven weeks, they understand it’s not all about them anymore.

What parents are thankful for: A better child. A better son or daughter. A better sister or brother. A better friend. A better student. A better community member. A better teammate.

And all of that growing can come from just one summer at camp! Imagine what your camper will be like after two summers, five summers, ten summers!? Talk about potential!

About Camp Towanda:

Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter.  For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, culinary cooking classes, and special events.  We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year.  Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.

Welcome to Summer 2014!

It was a “Top 10” day all around as we started off the 2014 summer!

Here are the Top 5 Things To When you Get to Camp Towanda. 

IMG_81601. A great afternoon of Big Brother/Big Sister Tours.











2. General Swim for All! Beach volleyball, pool basketball or hanging by the lake!











3. Free Play with the chickens!











4. Entertaining staff Welcome Show (where everybody knows your name).











5. Blazing bonfire, milk & Jonesy’s Cookies and ETB (that’s early to bed) for everyone.











Day 2 is off to a beautiful start! Make sure you come back to our blog and visit often. We will be sharing the latest updates from camp, advice for camp parents, and inside scoop–LIVE from camp!

We welcome you to Camp Towanda, we’re mighty glad you’re here!There’s so much more in 20-1-4. Let’s go!

Mitch & Stephanie


Why Sleepaway Camp is Good for Kids…and Parents!

So can you believe your kids are coming home THIS WEEK?! Where did this summer go?! Thank you so much for entrusting us with them this summer.

We have watched them grow leaps and bounds, thrive in ways you could never imagine, make their own choices and try new things.  We also watched them navigate challenging waters, advocate for themselves, tumble but not fall and SOAR.  The power of Camp Towanda is truly magical!

marnieI’m sure as you reflect on the summer that was, you also feel as parents that you learned some things about yourselves…especially to our first time parents.  How far you have come in the past 7 weeks?  From tear-filled sunglasses on June 22nd to now, as you anxiously await the return of your changed child.  They are older, braver and more independent.  They return home more confident, compassionate and respectful.  What is it about camp that makes that all so possible?  Part of it is because they are in the “No Fly Zone”.

It’s no secret that this generation of parents has been dubbed “The Helicopter Generation”.  With all the information and access we get to our kids’ lives for 10 months of the year, we are able to influence so much in their lives (of course from a place of love).  How liberating (and a little scary) did it feel this summer to lose that control?  Three of my favorite books, “Homesick and Happy“, “Free Range Kids” and “Blessings of a B Minus” helped me manage ‘helicoptering’ my own children…but I have to say….I think sending your kids to sleepaway camp is absolutely the best cure for helicoptering!

runningBack in June, do you remember worrying that your child should not be in a bunk with “Jane” and you were so concerned that you called and emailed camp a dozen times? And now Jane and your daughter are arm in arm in nearly every photo? Or that you wanted your son to have extra time at lacrosse because that’s the only sport he likes…and now he wants to play tennis and take an art class in the fall? Or you were so worried that your daughter was sending home letters that she was so homesick and last you saw, she was on stage singing her heart out and wrote that camp is amazing.  Or you wanted to send up special food because your son only eats bagels at home…and now he is insisting you make chicken patties as his homecoming meal!?

dadThis is the magic of camp…kids discovering new things about themselves.  Making mature observations and choices about friendships without their parents’ influence.  You can only imagine how far they have come!  But I applaud you for how far you have come too! While they were coping with feelings of homesickness, you were coping with feelings of ‘childsickness’.  When you get your Child 2.0 back home with you, will you let them tumble, but not fall? Will you be the safety net but not the harness? Will you let them be okay in their own hands?  In the past 2 months, you have done these things by sending them to camp.  You should be proud of them.  And proud of yourself.

with girlsThank you again for the incredible honor it is to be your child’s Camp Director with my husband Mitch.  We take being Camp Parents and your parenting partners very seriously.  Please keep us posted in the off-season about their successes, accomplishments and achievements no matter how big or small.  We share your joy in their growth and look forward to cheering them on from the sidelines, until June 2014 when we get a front row seat!

Enjoy the week!


Advice for First Time Parents @ Camp Towanda

topenboysWhat an amazing first week at Camp Towanda!  It was action-packed and full of new beginnings and memories for our first-time campers.  You can really feel the energy here at camp by watching our first episode of Friday Nite Flix  For those of you who don’t know, Friday Nite Flix is a camper AND parent favorite here at Camp Towanda!  At the end of each week, our Media Team presents a very spirited recap of the week that was. Our camp watches this together on the big-screen each Friday.  Our fans at home get their viewing on Saturday (after it uploads to our Vimeo channel ALL NIGHT).  It’s a great way to really feel the energy and excitement we get to experience every day.

We also wanted to share some insight, experience and wisdom from some of our “seasoned” parents to first-time parents with kids at Camp Towanda.  Here are some great letters we received and a video:

Dear first year parent,
Our daughter’s first year at camp was in 2006, when she started as a Deb. The first two weeks of camp it never stopped raining. It rained so much there was a picture of Mitch in a kayak on the soccer field! Mitch also had to email the parents asking us to send up “dry” sneakers!   (That will NOT happen this year!!!!!-Mitch)ALL the letters we received the first 2 WEEKS from our daughter said she “misses us so much she cannot stop crying”.  When we heard from the camp after her first week, they said she was “appropriately” homesick.  Throughout that first summer there were always letters saying “camp is fun, but I miss you so much I am crying”.

We believed in the camp, and felt if she could just get past missing us, this camp was the right place for her and she would love it.

As the summers went on, the letters became as short as “too busy to write, camp is GREAT, ttyl” !

Our daughter is now in the Dorm and her 8th summer. To say she “lives 10 months for 2” is an understatment.

Camp Towanda is a very special place. You chose well.

Try really hard to relax and enjoy your summer rather than sitting at the computer waiting for new pictures (as I did her first year), your kids are in great hands!!


Dear Mitch,
While reading your morning email today (which I look forward to every morning during the summer) I felt the need to respond to you regarding the first 3 letters.

This is my children’s second year at camp and I want to share my experience when it was their first year and even this year.

Every morning I look forward to seeing the pictures posted from the night before. I look through all the pictures, save the ones of my kids to the favorites and go back and analyze their faces.All week long i wait for the first letters to arrive,This summer this is the progression of her letters :

1st letter: I am going to give camp a chance, all my friends are here, regular schedule tomorrow GTG bye.

2nd letter: I miss you so much I wish I was home, but most of the time I don’t.

3rd letter: camp is great,!( then a laundry list of colored loom bands needed & where is her camera).

I can go back to the letters from the previous summer and it is much if the same.

Towanda is an amazing place that my kids look forward to all year, but it takes a few days to get adjusted.

I remember when they got off the plane after camp last year and hugged us so much after saying how much they missed us, the exact words out of their mouths before we walked two feet in the airport is ” can I go back next year,”

Homesickness is part of the adjustment, I,know my kids are having an amazing time and they are in unbelievable hands.

Whether you are a first timer or seasoned parent you don’t sleep well with your kids away, but to paraphrase the constant message my kids wrote last summer, “thank you for sending me here” and ” I am having the time of my life”.

Stay dry and see you on visiting day!

Letter #3:

More than 40 years ago I spent my first summer at Camp Towanda, and to this day I can remember being homesick my first week at camp.  I also clearly remember being watched over with great care by my counselors, by the head counselor, and even by the then directors of the camp, just as I know that new campers are still watched over today.   And I know without hesitation that what was true back then remains true now:  it is crucial to allow time for the new camper to find their own way, to choose their own path of independence, and to come to terms with what may surprise them:  that they can not only go it on their own in an entirely new environment, but that they can (and will!) come to thrive in that environment.

Having two children in camp now, I know that the first few days (and even weeks, and perhaps even the first summer) can be a time of challenging emotions for the new parent.  But the lesson we’ve learned in our family is to have confidence in our children, in our choice to send our children to Towanda for all the reasons we made that choice, and in the recognition that generations of children at Towanda have dealt with and beautifully conquered the pangs of homesickness which are being experienced by many new campers during this first week of camp.

And one other suggestion:  please resist, resist, resist the temptation to gauge what is happening with your child at camp by what you see in the daily photos.  As I’ve come to learn, and also seen first hand during my visits to camp over the last many years, the photos capture at most a split second of time in what is an always fulfilling and activity filled day at camp, and they simply can’t consistently provide the basis for judging what is really going on with your child at camp.  In fact, I have often suggested to Mitch that he experiment with a summer of “old school” at Camp Towanda, where there are no photos broadcast to the parents.  I have always sensed that this would be a relief for the kids – some of whom love to run to the camera and some of whom have zero desire to run to the camera – and a bigger relief to the parents, many of whom plainly spend too much time glued to the computer refreshing their screen as they wait for new photos to be posted.  Yes, I acknowledge that the photos can be fun.  But please consider accepting from someone who has lived, and still lives, with this issue: the photos are not worth the anxiety they can sometimes create.

 lakeboundjuniorsWe hope this helps; please also remember WHY you chose Towanda; WE are parents, too. We empathize with what you are feeling, BUT WE ARE HERE, really taking care of YOUR CHILD. THIS IS an incredible privilege and OPPORTUNITY; when you look back, years from now; you will be proud that you provided this foundation, confidence, nurturing, safe BUILDING experience.

We speak confidently because of the results EVERY YEAR; we look at the BIG picture and we deliver…with love, pride and passion.

And just for some added humor, we thought we’d share this animated perspective on what parents do when they miss their kids and just really wish they were up at camp too! Enjoy (and refresh, refresh, refresh): .

The Scoop on Group Scoop!

Welcome back to “The Blog: 2013”! We have a lot of exciting events coming up in the next few months and we will be sharing all the ‘scoop’ with you here.  This past Sunday we had our annual Group Scoop Orientation Session for new campers and their parents at the Double Tree Hotel in Fort Lee, NJ. We always say “you’re only new until the next person shows up”. And it proved to be true again; as many of this summer’s new campers showed up.

It did not take long for our new families to fell comfortable, welcomed and part of the Camp Towanda Family after being with us for just two hours! Each camper was inaugurated with an imitation unofficial Chef Jonesy chocolate chip cookie (of course, also available in Gluten-Free) and assigned a buddy from the older group campers of the Club or Dorm. The room was transformed into Camp Towanda-land. Buddies gave their campers a kind of virtual tour on our life-sized camp map and you could already feel the connections everyone was making. After meeting some new faces (and even new groupmates), we all enjoyed a fun, informative and interactive orientation by Mitch! Then Matt Miller led us in a Camp Towanda icebreaker favorite “Bear- Fish- Mosquito”. Cheering, smiles and silliness were everywhere. Before you knew it, we had declared a winner (go Maxwell) as he was carried on the shoulders of the Club boys. As always, our Dorm girls led Girls’ camp in the cheer “We had fun. We had fun!” Towanda spirit at its best.

Overall it was a very special day. We are so excited about the new members of our family (campers and parents). We also received so much positive feedback about our Dorm girls and Club boys and were so impressed by their care, concern, attention, interaction and love of Camp Towanda. They really helped welcome the new campers and reassure the parents. They are already making a big difference and impact on camp as our eldest campers!

Group Scoop was yet another big kick off to the Summer of 2013. We cannot wait to get to camp and begin to see our new campers start their journey. We also cannot wait to watch the Dorm and Club continue to lead the camp with their spirit, respect, camaraderie, maturity and love of camp and each other. A great sisterhood and brotherhood…which is what Camp Towanda is all about.

Check out the official Group Scoop photo album here! Enjoy.

Fall Foliage BBQ Recap

What a great weekend to be back at camp we just had! Stephanie, Jared, Casper and I were thrilled to see 275 smiling faces pull up to camp for our annual Fall Foliage New Camper BBQ.  Z was on the grill making burgers and hot dogs, Slick was on the mound ref’ing a kickball game and Jared, Silvs and Lee were out on the golf carts giving tours.  Erica Media was snapping pictures and O&A Lynn Dula was working the toboggan slide.  It almost felt like we never left! Many of  Dorm Girls of 2013 were on hand as greeters and helped make it a very successful, fun day for all.  They had a sleepover on Friday that included lasagna, pizza and salad  from Two Guys, birthday cake celebrations and a lot of fun.  As many of you know, I send out a nightly email during camp season to our parents, filling them in on the day’s events and reassuring them that all is great at camp.  Well this weekend was no exception…thought you may all enjoy this email below that I sent out to the parents of the Dorm Girls ’13 after lights out.
Thanks again to all the staff, alumni, parents, campers and future campers for coming; it was  B-E-A-YOU-T-FULL!!! ! Next up, our seasoned camper reunion at Lucky Strike in November!
Hi Dorm Girl 2013 Parents,

32  degrees at the white rock; and the dorm girls are now toasty and cozy in the heated infirmary.
after the screams at arrival, a run to their bunks, mansion dinner (salad, pizza, lasagna, birthday cakes(s) and other snacks; activities included: a review of tomorrow’s agenda by the mansion fireplace, PA announcements by the girls, a tour of the dorm and great conversations; jared then brought out the telescope (it is very crisp and clear)….

we get ready to welcome the new campers (the girls were telling stephanie and I how they remember their 1st year bbq and how they have loved everything in between).

Steph and I just said good nite to them and are so proud of how lovely, polite, respectful. sweet and in love with each other they have become; a treat to have watched and helped them grow over the years.

by the way, i think it will be hard for them to leave tomorrow afternoon….just saying!

-Autumnal Mitch & Pumpkin Stephanie

Letters from Parents

Throughout the 2012 summer, we have received hundreds of wonderful emails from parents, capturing the Camp Towanda experience through their eyes (and their children’s).  We wanted to share a few of these letters with you:


Dear Mitch & Stephanie,
How do you do it?  Are you sure there is nothing in the water or bug juice up there?  As a first year parent at Towanda, we received a letter from our child today proclaiming, “Camp is now my 2nd home.”  While I can’t wait to have my baby back on Friday, I am now certain that whatever has been going on at camp this summer has had a remarkable and lasting impact .

Thank you!

Letter # 2:

Hi Mitch and Stephanie,

I have wanted to write this since the first week of camp, but every time I went to start, something new happened at camp, or I got an even better letter from my daughter than the week before, so I thought, I should just wait to write this until she gets home, because every week seems to bring her  camp experience, and ours as parents, to an even higher level.  But now with only days left until when I planned to send this, I can’t hold it in anymore…  THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE CAMP TOWANDA.  OK, that said…

I will tell you that from the first day we signed her up for camp, you have made our family feel like family.  She has always been very attached to us, doesn’t really love to have sleepovers out of our house, prefers playdates at our house, and in the past has had some transition issues with new things.  You made the transition to camp absolutely seamless.  Of course she was nervous when she got on the bus, but she was so prepared with all of the information and hand holding that you provided, she got on the bus with a big hug, wave and a smile.

Of course we were nervous those first few days.  And then we got the first letter…  “I am having SUCH a good time.  My bed is so pretty!  I’m friends with everyone in my bunk.  ”  Next (our favorite) was a fill in the blank…  Biggest surprise so far – “I don’t miss anyone and I do not want to go home”.  What I like most about camp – “Everything”.  What I like least about camp – “Nothing”!!!

They only got better and better from there.  And then we saw her on Visiting Day, and she exuded confidence and happiness that I had never seen in her before, as well as a new level of independence that she could not have achieved at home.  Plus, the campers and counselors in her bunk were all AMAZING.  What an incredible group of down-to-earth girls and counselors and CITs who were absolutely wonderful with them.

What is so amazing about Towanda, is that it truly balances it all.  The need for kids to develop friendships on their own, develop independence, learn new skills in sports, arts, and more, to feel comfortable enough to just be kids and be themselves, and just have FUN – and that balance is SO hard to find.  There is a depth and richness in your program that I don’t think exists anywhere else.  Because it works for the athlete, the non-athlete, the outgoing child, the more reserved child, it is a remarkable formula.

When I look at her smile beaming in all the pictures, it’s more than just happiness, she looks so RELAXED.  So comfortable, and with the pressures of school, and activities, and social things, and all the other “stuff” kids have to deal with throughout the year, I can see on her face that she truly got a needed break from it all.  I can see on her face that Towanda will be for her what it was for me – a special home away from home that she will always treasure.

I spent 9 wonderful summers at Towanda and all I can say is that you have honored the traditions and history of Camp Towanda and then made it even better.  I am so happy for my daughter (and soon my son in 2014) that they will have this experience.

And I am so happy for us, as parents, that we can give our children the gift of Camp Towanda.  Twenty three years since my CIT summer, my favorite childhood memories are from Camp Towanda and my camp friends are still my closest of friends.  We really do share something that no one else can understand.  And nothing makes me happier than knowing that my children will have their friends and these amazing memories that will last a lifetime.

So this is as long of a “thank-you” as I’m sure you wanted, but to say that the summer exceeded our expectations would be an understatement.  We are overwhelmed.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you,


Dear Mitch & Stephanie,

Please share this with parents considering camp for next year.

If you have a parent who is questioning whether or not Camp Towanda is for their child, send them my way because I would NEVER have thought my daughters  would be able to separate and love camp the way they do!   I mean never!  They are different here at Towanda!  Confident, willing and happy to try new activities and new friends; separate from home!

Truly amazing….words cannot express our gratitude.

2 Very Happy Parents (write that instead of our names)!!

!yaD sdrawkcaB

BACKWARDS DAY was a hoot!

Dinner in the morning, breakfast at night. Taps in the morning, Reveille at night.

We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny, mild, breezy day filled with great Inter-Camp games!

COUNSELOR HUNT was the evening activity (like hide and go seek….counselors hide, campers find them, each counselor is worth a certain number of points, but we don’t learn their value until the end!). Can you believe I was worth negative 100 points!?

Then at Under The Lights I challenged Lower Camp to a backwards shot from half court on the main basketball court.  I thought I was being cute and said if you give me 5 chances and I sink it, then we will have a late reveille, a breakfast on the lawn and you can come to breakfast in your PJs.  Well, I made the shot!

The Senior, Club and Dorm trips to Montreal, Niagara Falls and Boston trips have all checked in.  Inters are back from a great trip to Cooperstown; as are the National Girls from their Canoe Trip.

Today we have trip day to cool down and relax at the movies (there is lots of excitement coming in the next two weeks!).  And then Goldrush in the evening!

I had to share this wonderful letter we received from a first time parent, who actually suggested we share this with all of you!

Dear Mitch and Stephanie,

Wow! Wow! Wow!  Being a sleep away camp “First Year ” Mom, I really didn’t know what to expect this summer in general and especially on VISITING DAY!.

Well, when I saw my daughter on visiting day I broke down like a baby!  Crying and shaking I had missed her soooo much!  We had such a fabulous day and I was dreading the end of the day because so many of my friends who send their kids to other camps told me what a nightmare the departure could be.


I left feeling confident and thrilled for my child that she was having a once in a lifetime experience.  Her  “first”  (of many) years at Towanda! Did I mention she never looked better!?!   Thanks for truly caring about these kids and running a tight ship!

S’more about our S’more Tour!

Many of you have been asking to hear S’more about our S’more tour!  So here’s a taste of what it was all about from two of our favorite former camper/counselors in the Towanda Family who were on hand to help make sure it was a great day!

We welcome you to Camp Towanda, we’re mighty glad you’re here!!

by Lauren Cohen and Hannah Lyons

The S’more Tour was this past Saturday and it gave us the chance to invite up future campers to spend the day with our Towanda family– and what a day we had! Aside from filling up on sun and blue skies (don’t worry, we didn’t forget our sunscreen!) we also filled up on Jonesy’s chocolate-chip cookies with milk, s’mores, and a BBQ lunch.

After all of the families arrived, we ditched the parents for some tye-dye Towanda Tees and started activities! (Rumor has it Mitch gave a great walking tour of camp for the parents!)

We really did it all– climbed the rock wall and cruised down the zipline, dodged the ball at Ghost and Gaga and had some downtime in Arts and Crafts just before jumping right into the foam pit in the brand new Gymnastics Pavilion! At the end of the day, we got a chance to cool down at the waterfront where we slid down the big slide in Sunset Lake, chilled out on the beach and swung off the Tarzan swing. The only thing missing from our day was the rookie campers at Square Dancing that night! We hope you’ll be there next year!

We want to send out a very special thank you to the Debs, Dillies, Jets, and Cadets who were every bit as welcoming, friendly, fun, and happy as they are everyday to the rookie campers. Our youngest age groups made the newcomers feel like old friends. That is the Towanda way!

All we have to say at the end of the day is– give us S’more of Camp Towanda!!

See you soon Rookies-

Hannah and Cohen