FAMILIES A PARENT’S GUIDE TO Summer Camps

The rite of passage known as summer camp has taken a beating from social change. But there are still plenty of places to sing "Kum Ba Yah"-and make the first baby steps toward the right sorority and a head start on career networking.

EACH SUMMER. ABOUT 15.000 youth descend on the cypress-shaded banks of the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country for summer camp. Since the 1920s, many Dallas-area families have been sending their offspring to these camps-Waldemar. Long-horn, Stewart and others-for fresh air, land and water sports, and to raise wholesome hell with their affluent peers for the summer, Parents know how good these camps are-many went themselves. And many parents who didn’t paddle canoes down the Guadalupe were instead shipped east to roam the timber pines and waterski on the lakes of East Texas. Others were packed up and sent north to Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin or Maine. Mom and dad had to send $1,000 to $2,500 along as well, but sending little ones to camp used to be a simple way to give parents a chance to sneak away for a nice European bash, or even stay home, free from kids and car pooling.

So why would the parents of a Piano child with a backyard pool and plenty of grass want thai child to spend part of his or her vacation time at camp, anyway?

For one thing, protection from the vices of late 20th-century life: no radio, television. R-rated movies, Internet pornography, 900 numbers, shopping malls, coke (both kinds), cigarettes, booze, CDs, heavy metal or Adam Sandler. In the protected environment of camp, says camp broker Priscilla Moss Sebel, children can learn skills they have no access to the rest of the year.

And few preconceived notions of the child’s identity follow him or her to camp. This gives children a sense of belonging to a family much larger than their own, where the rules are clear, simple and fair. Positive reinforcement abounds, and kids can beef up their confidence in nonacademic activities, whether it’s a sport. something artsy or just being nice to a homesick kid. Another reason to send a child to camp: counselors who’ll serve as sorely needed role models.



WHAT IS THE PERFECT AGE for camp? When both family and child feel it’s right and when the child is comfortable in an intense. 24-hour-a-day social environment, says Richard C. Kennedy, author of Choosing the Right Camp.

In many families, it has become a tradition to attend the same camp mom or dad did and even whoop il up in the same tribe, team or ranch. Other families shop around. Every camp brochure claims its camp will develop a child’s self-worth and self-esteem, administer positive reinforcement and instill responsibility and maturity. But how can you find out which camp will really fit your child and send him or her back to you with more interests, security and maturity?

A good camp has educational values embedded in the program, says Kennedy. To find these, start at the top: interview the people running the camp, especially the person hiring counselors.

Next, evaluate the counselors themselves and the camper/counselor ratio, which should be low, such as l-to-3 or l-to-4. How mature are the counselors’? How much free time do they have and what do they do with it? Look carefully at the camp program, what campers do and why. Do they get to those programs alone or is a counselor with them? Will the camp give your child a never-ending thrill-a-minute or teach your child to think on his or her own?

A parent’s next decision is to select an all-girl, all-boy or co-ed camp, and that choice will depend upon the child’s personality and what social skills a parent expects camp to promote. For sure, coed camps strictly segregate the boys and girls; no co-ed tents,

Health and safety are serious issues in camp choice. Quality of food service is important and one of the hardest services for the camp to provide. Check for accreditation by the American Camping Association (ACA) or membership in the Camping Association for Mutual Progress (CAMP).

Finally, consider the equipment and facilities. You want a clean, safe environment, but the people are more important than the things. If the buildings are a little old but well-maintained, that’s fine as long as the counselors are top-notch.

Another tip: Many camps boast of abundant resources-a fleet of sailboats, 15 horses. 20 go-carts-but is it all available for the campers’ use? Ask.



CAMP IN TEXAS OR OUT?

SEVERAL THINGS SET TEXAS CAMPS APART. For one thing, like Texas itself, some camps here are bigger-Camp Walde-mar has 2,000 acres, Stewart’s got six baseball diamonds and a regulation-size football field and Longhorn’s driveway alone is a mile or two long.

Besides activities galore, some Texas camps have facilities with all the trimmings; newcomer Camp Balcones Springs even has flowerpots on cabin windowsills. Texas camps ooze with friendliness, fun and casualness for the most part; uniforms are polo shirts and shorts or just T-shirts that often get ripped up on trees or rocks. Waldemar may be the most stuffy, but even these young ladies get their hair wet and break a fingernail occasionally.

Another Texas exclusive: Some of the girls’ camps teach cheer-leading and personal grooming: perhaps, says one parent, they are learning how to cultivate big hair.

Texas camps also offer fabulous networking opportunities. Getting your child into a prestigious Texas camp encourages friendships with the “right” bunch of kids, and who knows how valuable those relationships will be a few years down the road? It can be a downright necessity for a smalltown girl with visions of the right UT sorority in her head. Networking doesn’t hurt parents, either. “No better opportunity than a closing ceremony at Mystic or Stewart to do a couple of business transactions,” says Skipper Dippel. chairman of Brenham Banc Shares. Inc., who sent a child to each camp. “Three days of nothing to do but talk business and make deals in the hills.”

For more information on Texas summer camps, contact the following camps individually, or CAMP at P.O. Box 139. Hunt, Texas 78024. For information on out-of-state camps, see page 114.

CAMP ARROWHEAD

FAMILY-RUN ARROWHEAD WAS FOUNDED IN 1934 AND HASN’T changed much since. It’s more rugged than some camps for girls and offers all the traditional camp activities plus a challenge course, ropes and BB guns. There’s no cheerleading here and no etiquette lessons; girls live in rustic cabins with separate bathhouses. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-5. Farrah Fawcett went to Arrowhead. Many former campers are now sending their daughters. “They’ re all famous to us.” says director Sandra Schmitt. Girls join one of two tribes. Kickapoos or Pawnees, for fun and competitions in activities like keeping your cabin neat, rowing the hardest and more. Arrowhead stresses individual attention and strong character; former campers say they learned self-discipline and motivation here. Camp Arrowhead, P.O. Box 140, Hunt, Texas 78024; 210-238-4630; owner, Camp Arrowhead, Inc.



CAMP BALCONES SPRINGS

THE NEWEST CAMP ON THE HILL COUNTRY scene, Balcones Springs is a huge success story for its owners, brothers Bo and Steve Baskin and their wives, Christine and Susie. Imagine making a load of money on Wall Street and retiring at about age 35 to your own umpteen acres of land on two sparkling lakes-exactly what Bo and Steve did, christening Balcones Springs in 1993 and buying Camp Champions last year. It helped that their uncle Si Ragsdale, owner of Camp Stewart in Hunt, offered tips and welcomed them into the camp-owners’ fold. What Balcones Springs lacks in tradition it more than makes up for in amenities and brand-new facilities. Huge plus: St. Mark’s teacher Marietta Scurry Johnson hires the counselors and directs the camp. Food is terrific, according to campers. It’s healthful, and plenty of snacks are offered. Balcones Springs is a Christian camp that focuses on teaching campers strong values. Campfire chats will focus on heavy issues; counselors are trained extensively. Another plus: Balcones Springs is one of the few Texas camps committed to ethnic diversity in counselors and campers. Camp Balcones Springs; HCO 4, Box 349, Marble Falls, Texas 78654; 210-693-6639 or 800-775-9785; director. Marietta Scurry Johnson.



CAMP CHAMPIONS

ANOTHER HILL COUNTRY CAMP, CHAMPIONS, WAS FOUNDED IN 1967 and bought last year by the Baskin brothers, who also own Camp Balcones Springs. The co-ed Camp Champions emphasizes the teaching of character, personal responsibility and values. Team sports rule the roost here; the usual camp activities are offered, plus gymnastics, dancing, crafts, go-carting and the Blob. Borrowing Tex Robertson’s merit system, Champions rewards good campers with chips to spend at the camp store. This store, says parents, is not loaded with Happy Meal prizes you’ll donate to the Salvation Army in six months; it’s full of sophisticated sports gear the kids love. Camp Champions, Rural Rt. 1, Box CC, Marble Falls, Texas 78654; 210-598-257I or 800-696-3334; for information, call Paul Cope, 210-598-6700 ext. 209.



CAMP LA JUNTA

LA JUNTA IS A CAMP FOR TOUGH BOYS; A LAID-BACK, FAMILY-RUN, 200-acre retreat on the Guadalupe, plus a 500-acre exotic game ranch for camp-outs. The camp offers horseback riding, riflery, scuba, canoeing, go-carting, plus all the usual camp activities with focus on the individual. Established in 1928 by a physician, the camp overflows with tradition and ceremony. There’s less emphasis on competitive sports and more on self-growth. But there’s spirited, fun competition between the Maltese Cross and Running W ranches (teams). Lloyd Bentsen’s sons went here, as well as the sons of Farrah Fawcett and H.B. Zachary. Chow is down-home, maybe a bit too chicken-fried. Campers select their own activities; each cabin (eight to 12 boys) has two to three adult counselors and a counselor-in-training. Camp La Junta, P.O. Box 136, Hunt, Texas 78024; 210-238-4621; owners, David Domingue, Larry Graham, Blake and Cheryl Smith.



CAMP LONGHORN

LONGHORN EMBODIES THE BEST OF TEXAS IN SIZE, SPIRIT AND PHIlosophy. Almost 90 percent of Longhorn’s campers return year after year to this sprawling co-ed camp started by Olympic swimming champ Tex Robertson. Twenty-eight activities are offered with an emphasis on water sports and individual development; competitive sports are also big at Longhorn. Some say that Longhorn lacks the facilities found at other Texas camps; there are no overnight camp-outs and Longhorn has 40 horses compared with Stewart’s 100. But you cannot beat the up-with-people spirit. Tex, now in his 80s, invented the activity that has come to be known as “blobbing”-where children jump on and leap off a huge rubber inflatable on the lake. He espouses the chip-merit system, whereby kids exhibiting good behavior are rewarded with “merits” to spend at the camp store {where real money isn’t accepted). Longhorn often has a waiting list. Robertson or a camp representative interviews each new camper; a good candidate is friendly, outgoing and peppy, and agrees to pitch in. Counselors are former campers. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was a Longhorn counselor.

“Our camp is the family,” says Robertson. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-3. Camp Longhorn Indian Springs, Rt. 2, Box 38S, Burnet, Texas 78611, 512-756-4650. Camp Longhorn on Inks Lake, P. O. Box 60, Burnet, Texas 78611; 512-793-2811; owner, Tex Robertson.



CAMP MYSTIC FOR GIRLS

STARTED IN 1926, CAMP MYSTIC IS A PRIVATE, Christian girls camp of 750 acres on the south fork of the Guadalupe River. Cabins are built of native stone with concrete floors and indoor bathrooms. Though nondenominational. Mystic holds devotionals three times a week after breakfast, on Sundays and every night in the cabins. Activities include cheerleading and tumbling, but all Mystic campers are wellrewarded at closing ceremonies no matter in what discipline they have shown promise. Since 1926. part of the tribe training rules have been not to snack on Coca-Cola or candy, not to run around with bare feet and not to talk during rest periods. The camp is a huge hit with Texas political families-LBJ’s daughters and the Bass girls went to Mystic.

The Mystic focus, says Jeanne Stacy-the camp’s assistant director and granddaughter-in-law of founders Agnes and Pop Stacy-is internal improvement through many activities that are not necessarily athletic. Mystic is also a vital social chit for young women on the fast track to UT sororities. Camp Mystic for Girls, R1. 2, Box 257, Hunt, Texas 78024; 210-238-4660; owners, Dick and Tweety Eastland {grandson of Ag Stacy) and Jeanne Stacy.



CAMP STEWART FOR BOYS

STEWART IS A CAMPER’S DREAM IF YOUR CHILD LIKES SPORTS, including horseback riding, riflery, soccer and golf. Here are 522 acres of perfect terrain on a mile-long stretch of the Guadalupe that features a small golf course, a putting green and a cool gymnasium. Music lovers can choose chorus and band. Many of the l(X)-plus horses are registered with the American Quarter Horse Association: Jeeper Ragsdale, the owner’s son and an Olympic Festival gold medalist in jumping, runs the equestrian program. The rifle range is NRA-approved. Older campers choose from outdoor adventure, sports, ranching (branding and castrating), horsemanship or traditional camp. Famous speakers teach special clinics and chat with campers about sports, politics and business. All of this is part of a focus on building self-confidence-the camp’s motto is “Don’t wait to be a man to be great, be a great boy!” Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-4. Stewart has been picked by Family Life magazine and other camp connoisseurs as one of the nation’s best; it’s also one of the few Texas camps bearing ACA accreditation. Camp Stewart for Boys, Rt. 1, Box HOC, Hunt, Texas 78024-9714; 210-238-4670; owners. Si and Kathy Ragsdale.



CAMP WALDEMAR

KNOWN FAR AND AWAY AS THE QUINTESSENTIAL Texas girls camp, Waldemar’s posh, manicured and overdone. Maybe it’s the two and a half days of closing ceremonies, the diamond rings girls receive after four camping summers, the silver on the table, the country-gourmet dinners served by waiters, the vast landscaped grounds resembling a line vacation resort, the classes in charm and etiquette-is this a camp or a finishing school? Many parents adore Waldemar and would never dream of sending their princess any other place. Even in 1996.

True, these girls aren’t discussing Gloria Steinem around the camptire. But Waldemar makes them strong, secure and discriminating. A former camper says that at one bleak point in her life, just remembering that she was a Waldemar girl kept her together. Waldemar has incredible facilities; 35 activities cover everything but sailing. Girls often arrive in chaperoned buses; there are seven campers and one counselor to each rock-and-Spanish-tile cabin. Chores include cleaning the cabin (inspection is twice daily) and making sure there’s ice for rest period. Maids clean the commodes. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-3.

Waldemar’s code is independence, integrity, the highest standards and an honor code campers take seriously. Incentives are bolstered by three tribe teams instead of two. For all their pampering, Waldemar girls can paddle harder and scream louder than any campers when it comes to war-canoe races on the Guadalupe. Waldemar girls are fit as a fiddle; many are superb athletes, plus they know which fork to use with the salad, how to keep their mouths closed while eating, how to fold a napkin properly and even how to talk to boys.

Start early to get your daughter into Waldemar: This summer’s long sessions are full; a few spaces are open for one-week sessions for younger campers (ages 7 to 10). If you didn’t make it as a child, consider going back as an adult: Waldemar hosts a special women’s week in September. Camp Waldemar, Rt. 1, Box 120, Hunt, Texas 78024; 2 i’ 0-238-4821; owners, Marsha and Dale Elmore.



HEART 0’ THE HILLS

HEART O’ THE HILLS OFFERS ABOUT 50 ACTIVITIES FOR GIRL CAMPERS every term, stressing traditional values, manners and etiquette. Skills like leather works, textiles, sign language and journalism are also taught; so is cheerleading, The camp is centered around a rock and petrified-wood building, circa 1930. that was once a luxurious inn for families of campers. Legend is a Dallas millionaire bought it from Dr. E.J. Stewart, then owner of Camp Stewart and Camp Mystic. It was turned into a camp in 1953; now Si and Kathy Ragsdale’s daughter. Jane, owns and runs the Heart. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-3.5.

The Heart is thought to be the least stuffy, least pretentious of the major girls camps; ironically, this is the only Hill Country girls’ camp with air-conditioned cabins. The camp is newer, so it has fewer traditions. Heart O’ the Hills, General Delivery. Hunt, Texas 78024; 210-238-4650; owner Jane Ragsdale.



SKY RANCH

PARENTS CALL SKY RANCH A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN JUST 90 MILES east of Dallas. Sky Ranch is a great starter camp. Upon arrival, scrubbed, smiling counselors exuberantly greet parents: everyone at this Christian camp appears to be high on life. Located on 320 acres. Sky Ranch has its own private lake-Sky Lake-offering the usual camp activities: swimming, horseback riding, canoeing, sailing, riflery. crafts, water blobs and slides, fishing and personal watercrafts. There is a distinct sense of organization, control and love for the kids. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-5; staff to camper ratio is I -to-4. Children come as young as first grade; Sky Ranch enfolds them with its upbeat, God-loving philosophy. Sky Ranch, 24651 County Road 448, Van, Texas 75790; 903-569-3482; owner, Don Read.



OTHER GREAT TEXAS CAMPS:

KICKAPOO KAMP. 216 Hummingbird Ln., Kerrville, Texas 78028; 210-895-5731 ; owner, Laura Findlay Hodges.

CAMP OLYMPIA. RT. 2. Box 25-B, Trinity, Texas 75862; 409-594-2541: owner. Chris Gilbert.

CAMP FERN, RT. 4, Box 584, Marshall, Texas 75670; 903-935-5420; owner, Peggy Hilliard Rotzle

DISCOVERING OUT-OF-STATE CAMPS

ON’T KID YOURSELF: FOLKS WHO SEND THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF state are also networking, just on a global level. And some Dallas families just don’t like Texas camps, saying they focus too heavily on competitive sports and prissy things like cheer-leading, primping and in-state social climbing. Other parents want camps that focus on skills such as creativearts. “Texas is too homogeneous,” says a mother and former educator. “Out-of-state you don’t get that pretense of social B.S. Or if you do, it’s understated.” Besides, if you go north, the weather is better and cooler.

Northern camps usually have longer sessions of three to eight weeks. Even 7-year-olds are shipped out for eight-week terms. Eastern parents tend to be more demanding camp consumers; the camps respond with rollerblading trails, street hockey and sparkling pools in addition to the amenities of nature. Some even unpack for the kids. Prices vary with term length, from $2,700 for three weeks to $4,500 or more for seven-week terms.

Warning: Do not send your child to an out-of-state camp with a best friend who has been going for years. Campers form special bonds no matter how far they live from each other. A newcomer will feel like he or she is on a different planet, and it may destroy the friendship.

If you want to send your child out of state, start applying in November. Great camps are as tough to get into as some private schools-Camp Laurel in Maine is booked two years in advance-Here are just a few of the thousands of camps outside Texas. For more information, read Choosing the Right Camp by Richard C. Kennedy or contact a camp broker.



PASQUANEY

THIS IS THE OLDEST BOYS CAMP IN THE COUNTRY THAT IS STILL IN ITS original location. Founded in 1895, Pasquaney, a nonprofit camp, has been run by only four directors in its 101 years-it’s a very traditional camp with high expectations and a sterling reputation. The camp is 535 acres on the shores of Newfoundland Lake; counselor to camper ratio is 1 -to-3.5. Pasquaney is a generalist’s camp, offering baseball, canoeing, camping, crewing, diving, hiking, music, a natural history program, sailing, shop, woodworking (we are talking real furniture), swimming and Iifesaving, tennis, theater, water races and mountain hikes. Campers come from all over the world; two U.S. senators have attended Pasquaney. Contact the camp now for places during the summers of ’98 and ’99. Pasquaney encourages a visit the summer before application. Pasquaney, Star Rt. 1, HC 60, Box 1130, Bristol, N.H. 03222; (summer, June 1-Sept. J) 603-744-8043, (winter, Sept. 2-May 31) 603-225-4065.



AGAWAM

THIS 100-ACRE CAMP ON MAINE’S CRESCENT Lake boasts 2,000 feet of lakefront and well-maintained rustic buildings with just the right amount of creak, Exclusively for boys, Agawam is a more relaxed environment than Pasquaney, with a bit more competition in sports.

Founded in 1919, Agawam stresses character development, growth and clarification of values through a program called Katiaki. Each week, counselors meet with campers to decide on personal goals. When goals are achieved, the camper is rewarded with Katiaki candles lit from a central fire at a special ceremony. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-3.5.

Activities include a rope challenge course, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, lacrosse, canoeing, camping, row-boating, diving, hiking, sailing, woodworking, swimming and lifesaving, theater, riflery, archery and photography, and programs in Indian lore, natural history, music, and newspaper and yearbook production.

This private, nonprofit camp is owned by its alumnae. Currently, several Dallas families are sending children here. There are very few openings left for 1997; apply early. Agawam, (summer) 54 Agawam Rd, Raymond, Maine 04071,207-627-4780; (winter) SO Fieldstone Ln., Hanover, Mass. 02339, 617-826-5913.



ALFORD LAKE CAMP

FOUNDED IN 1907, ALFORD LAKE IS SITUATED ON 400 ACRES OF woods and blueberry fields within 10 miles of the ocean and a lakeshore. It was once a summer camp for well-to-do Boston and New York girls, and the nation’s first to be selected for a Soviet-American exchange of campers in 1987. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-3. The camp offers programs in sports, the arts and nature. Campers choose their schedules.

Part of the camp’s mission is to encourage responsible decision-making. Girls sleep in 39 sturdy canvas tents on wooden platforms, the camp’s signature. Former campers say they never forget falling asleep to the sound of rain pitter-pattering on the tent.

“Alford Lake is pure, old-fashioned stability,” says one mother, “None of that jaded stuff.” Her 15-year-old daughter claims she matured during her seven-week term. There’s a waiting list for this summer. Alford Lake Camp, {summer) Alford Lake Road, Hope, Maine 04847, 207-785-2400, (winter) 17 Pilot Point Rd., Cape Elizabeth, Maine 04107, 207-799-3005.



GREEN COVE/MONDAMIN

LISTED LAST SUMMER IN TOWN & COUNTRY as one of the nation’s best camps. Green Cove (for girls) and Mondamin (for boys) have a small percentage of campers from Texas every year’ most campers (75 percent) are from the Southeast. Mondamin was founded in 1922, Green Cove in 1945; both are considered the “grandparents” of all North Carolina camps. Both are located on Lake Summit, allowing the camp to offer swimming, canoeing, sailing and kayaking. Also offered are tennis, riding, mountaineering, a ropes course, mountain biking and crafts. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-4.

“It’s on a lake so it’s cooler in June, and there are real mountains to climb,” says Dallas teenager Sarah Bartholow. who has attended Green Cove for five summers. “My counselors became my best friends- we still write and call each other.”

One Dallas mother appreciates the lack of religious teachings and Indian “tribe” teams at Mondamin. Even though the camp does not stress competition, almost a quarter of the U.S. Olympic white-water canoe team started paddling at Mondamin. Green Cove/Mondamin, P.O. Box 8, Tuxedo, N.C. 28784; 704-692-6355.



CAMP LINCOLN/CAMP HUBERT

THIS 88-YEAR-OLD CAMP IS A TWO-HOUR drive north of Minneapolis/St. Paul on the vast shores of Lake Hubert. The lake separates the boys’ side of the camp (Lincoln) from thegirls’(Hubert).OwnerSamCote’s family has run the camp since the early 1920s.

Rich in tradition. Camp Lincoln and Camp Hubert offer more than 30 activities on more than 700 acres. The camps also feature a distinctly international flavor- campers come from 48 states and 14 foreign countries every year. Counselor to camper ratio is l-to-4.

In addition to the regular camp schedule, campers can choose programs in golf, tennis or fishing (with instruction by famous anglers such as AI Lindner). Family camps are also offered.

One Dallas mother who sent two of her sons to Camp Lincoln says her now-col-lege-age son still remembers awakening ai the crack of dawn to the melodic sound of the loons on the lake. Camp Lincoln/Camp Lake Hubert, 5201 Eden Circle, Ste. 202, Edina, Minn. 55436; 612-922-2545 or 800-242-1909.



CHELEY COLORADO CAMPS

CHELEY IS ONE OF THE MOST HIGHLY regarded Colorado camps among Dallas parents. This 77-year-old camp, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, is run by a third-generation family. One inspirational sign on a lodge reads “If you aren’t as close to God as you once were, guess who moved?” Some campers sleep in special covered wagons; cabins are offered, too. Activities include hiking, backpacking and horseback riding, riflery, archery, crafts, sports, games, woodworking, flyfishing, mountain climbing, river rafting and a challenge course. Counselor to camper ratio is I-to-4,

Cheley campers come away able to identify 100 kinds of wildflowers and able to groom a horse.

Famous former campers visit frequently-a federal judge, a concert violinist, a U.S. Senator, a mountain climber and movie and rock stars. People who have met at co-ed Cheley have been known to marry-some go back and tie the k not right there at the camp chapel, where nonde-nominational services are held each Sunday morning. Cheley Colorado Camps, Inc., P.O. Box 1170, Estes Park, Colo, 80517; (summer) 970-586-4244 or (winter) 800-226-7386.

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