The Job of Choosing a Camp

meetingmitchThis summer, we will meet a whole new batch of prospective families at our upcoming weekend tours and S’more Tour Rookie Days.  We are excited to introduce them to life at Camp Towanda, our philosophy and what makes us different. We are gearing up, we are opening our gates, we are getting ready to give them a glimpse of what we do and how we do it.  As you make your tour arrangements and call us with any follow up questions, we wanted to share some advice that we have collected after meeting many families like yours over the years.

IMG_5912Today’s generation of parents has a daunting task of how they make decisions for their family.  They are armed with endless information at their fingertips. Websites, videos, reviews, social influence and blogs (like this one). Everyone has an opinion to influence and weigh in.  There is fear that you could make the wrong choice or fail your child. You want to protect your child and do everything in your power to lay the groundwork for “success”. And if your choice isn’t perfect, you fear your child’s unhappiness and the guilt that goes along with it. Now that sounds like a lot of pressure! The best part about camp is the pressure gets lifted. Your child leaves the nest, in a safe and loving environment to experience things they never could under the management of “Mom, Dad and Associates”.

But how can you be sure that this is the right camp? That they will love it? That they are ready?

IMG_2533First, you should trust the one thing that guides you the most as a parent. Your gut, your intuition and your values. When looking at a camp, you should learn what the camp is offering. Is it an authentic experience that has the morals, structure and beliefs that you have? Is it simply catering to the wavering whims of children, or does it have a confident leadership team that sets the tone, expectations and agenda? Are the directors your parenting partners who are invested in helping nurture and develop your child through adolescence, the teen years and into adulthood? Does the program offer the activities that would interest your child? How do they help your child grow into an independent and healthy person? And does it feel like a good fit for your kid (the people, the environment, the stuff you can only sense from actually being there)?

Second, remember who this decision is for and why you are sending your child to camp.  Activities are important. Quality of facilities, instruction, all part of the decision. But those are merely vehicles to teach the life skills that will influence your child’s development and success for years to come.


We have seen so many wonderful children come through our program, and have heard parents insist their child swim extra hours, or receive additional baseball or soccer. But when given the CHOICE, children often opt for the activities that they can’t do at home, that peak their curiosity and challenge their senses.  When away from mom and dad for 7 weeks, they want to create an experience that is their own.  This is what fuels growth, development and healthy independence. Remember THAT is why you send your child to camp. One parent recently said, “I want my child to play tennis because I think they have real potential, but I can’t wait to see what they love to do at camp. What drives them when I’m not around. What makes THEM happy.” (now that’s the spirit)

We like to quote author Dr. Michael Thompson a lot around here, but what he says is so true…”You cannot make your child happy.” Once you realize that until a child truly can experience something on his or her own, they will always rely on a parent to help navigate their emotions. Whether it be homesickness, struggling with trying unfamiliar foods, friendship issues in a bunk, losing a match or winning a game, camp is the place where children can work through these challenges and feelings.  Camp helps children learn to cope with real life situations because it doesn’t shelter them, it gives them the tools to succeed.


Third, camp readiness is a tricky one. So many parents are looking for their child to say “I am ready”, “sign me up”, “I love it here already.” While we get this a lot, this isn’t necessarily realistic.  Especially if you are sending your eldest child to camp, they haven’t seen a sibling go through the experience and the unknown can be overwhelming. This is where you come in. They look to you as their leaders for guidance and to set the agenda (much like we do at camp). A year is a long time to get them involved in their pre-camp experience. If you think they are ready, if you are looking for them to grow and mature and have incredible life-changing experiences, help them understand the power of camp and your decision.

Remember how old your child is.  6, 7, 8, 9 and even 10 year olds cannot fully appreciate the reasons why or how you choose a camp. They see the facilities, the spirit and the activities. The sun, the rain, the smells of the day. They don’t necessarily see the values, how the campers return year after year and the lasting influence camp has on these campers and staff.  Get your child involved in choosing a camp, but we believe that YOU should ultimately make the choice, or make the choice together.

IMG_6715There have always been ups and downs, everywhere in life. At camp, some days we have banana splits, some days we don’t! We have had rainy summers and very hot summers; some of have said not all Olympic Breakouts were the best ever and many have loved those awesome psych-outs! Sometimes your team wins the World Series, sometimes they don’t. Learning to live through the ups and downs throughout the day, the summer and the years together, with the help of your camp family, helps build  self esteem, resilience and confidence to face the many challenges your child will face in a lifetime.

stephhugGive yourself a break. Hand over the reigns. Help your child grow without you. We promise they will love you for it! And if you haven’t already, seriously read Homesick & Happy. It will rewire you for thinking about the camp experience and the role you play in your child’s life. You cannot make your child happy, but you can give them the gift of camp. An experience that will transform their life and stay with them forever.

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 (who are celebrating 25 years as owners and directors).  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, 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.



Rookie Day Rewind

RYANWritten by Guest Blogger: Lauren Eckstein Forman, Social Media Director at Camp Towanda and Dorm ’92.

Last weekend was not my typical work weekend at Camp Towanda.  It was extra special.  Because not only was I “Lauren Eckstein-Forman: Social Media Director”, but I was “Lauren Forman: Mom of a Rookie”.  Wearing two name tags, I looked as if I was having an identity crisis.  Because last Saturday, I wasn’t working…I was just a CAMP PARENT…and my son was a ROOKIE!



After he raced up the hill to meet me at the white rock, he got his FIRST TOWANDA TEE! I’m not sure there is anything better than seeing your own child in a Towanda tee!  Close behind him were many new “Rookies” and families who were soon familiar faces.  But possibly the second coolest experience (next to the Towanda Tee) was that my son was going to be a ROOKIE with three of my camp friends’ kids! My three friends ran up that hill just like they were getting off the bus at camp over 25 years ago! With the same excitement, anticipation and sisterly love!

amymillerAnd now our kids were experiencing camp together.  Bobby and Amy would be their head counselors!  Mitch and Stephanie would be their summer parents!  And Casper would be their summer dog!  AMAZING.

swingingrookieAfter playing with Casper, checking out the new SUPER-COOL Lego Room (a Rookie favorite) and eating a delicious Towanda bagel, my son was whisked away to hang with the Jets! Each ROOKIE was given an LIT “Big Brother or Sister” to spend the day with.  They helped carry their backpack, give a piggy back ride, answer any questions, help them at the salad bar, and make them feel at home.  My son was off and now it was my turn to be just a parent.

fieldMitch, Stephanie, Bobby, Amy and Jared gave an amazing walking tour of camp!  Even though it was a cool, cloudy day, you could still feel the warm spirit and energy that is Camp Towanda! I loved hearing new parents walking and talking about how they could feel this is such a special place (and the alumni and staff supporting them with reassurance that this really IS Camp Towanda…it feels like this EVERY DAY).  All the campers and staff could not have been more welcoming and wonderful.

ghodyIt was also fun introducing Camp Towanda to the spouses of the returning Alumni.  It didn’t take long until they understood why their wives were so obsessed with Camp Towanda!  From the cheering in the dining hall to the participation and excellent instruction on the ball fields and courts, you could sense all the smoresparents wanting to jump in! The Camp Towanda spirit is just contagious.

aandcOur kids had an action-packed day with the campers of their age group.  O&A (outdoor and adventure), Gaga, Gymnastics, Arts & Crafts, Ghost, Waterfront, beach volleyball AND S’MORES around the campfire! It introduced them to camp in a very fun and safe way, and showed them what they can look forward to next year (i.e. swimming in the lake!).

The kids and parents were reunited at 3pm.  The parents may have been more tired than the kids! The kids could have stayed all day!!! Overall it was the perfect introduction to camp. Everyone got quality time with Mitch, Stephanie, Amy and Bobby, which was a real treat (for the parents, this may have been even better than a Jonesy Cookie!).  So many families have already made the decision that Towanda is their new summer home! I think these girls really said it best:  How cute are they?!

MEANDRYAN2Now I can go back to the job I love and just one name tag…but I cannot wait to be known as “Ryan’s mom at Camp Towanda”! And I know he feels the same way too!  He was made for this camp! CLUB 2021!!!

For more Rookie Day highlights, check out last week’s edition of Friday Nite Flix:


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

S’more Tour and Fun in the Sun!

Excitement; that is what is going on here at camp! So much so I haven’t had a chance to even blog!  Actually,  it has been sooooo hot and by the time I came into the office, I actually had to lie down!  I never thought I would say this, but we wouldn’t mind a day of rain! Can you imagine?

The Water Carnival was a blast; Smorgasbord Dinner was fun; comedy improv night was very entertaining;  late Yogurt Nite was yummy;  Friday Nite Flix was awesome as always! And our Inters made us proud, doing our Shabbos service at the Honesdale Temple.

Saturday was our Rookie Day S’More Tour with lots of new campers checking us out for next summer.  We loved seeing second and third generation kids as well as meeting lots of new faces and their families! Thank you for all of the amazing responses…it really was a terrific day!

Saturday night we had a Square Dancing hoedown; Sunday The Inters went bowling while the rest of camp had an extended indoor rainy day BBQ when we were teased with a thunderstorm that ended up missing us. Regardless, we all danced to the Woodstock  rain dance and Santana’s Oye Como Va in the mess hall!  We probably had only about 20 minutes of rain, but ended up having an all-camp ETB (early to bed) to catch up on some rest; as the humidity level has been hovering at 97% for a few days.  The Seniors-Dorm-Club and LITs ordered in Chinese Food !

Yesterday our activities and intercamp games continued while we ended the day with an all camp Dutch Auction and then surprised everyone with McDonald’s as a special treat on the main soccer field.

So that’s a little of what has been going on here in addition to regular activities, inter camp games and general swims!

Today  is Picture Day, Banana Splits, Haircuts and GIRLS SING; a very powerful day!  We hope to be giving some exclusive reporting from Girls’ Sing on Twitter @camptowanda…so stay tuned!  You never know with our internet connection, but we hope to pull it off.

As you can see, even I’m getting in on the water fun in this heat!


P.S. Okay, I take it back. I do not want rain. Especially on Visiting Day!!!!!