Sunday, July 7, 2013

Liberty News- Weeks 1 & 2- The FULL Stories!

Welcome to Camp
By Ellie W.

Welcome to camp!  2013 is going to be another great summer.  For new kids, make sure to check out Gaga, the #1 sport here at LLDC.  It's a game where campers hit a ball with their hands and try to make sure it doesn't touch their feet.  Also, take a zip on the zipline and new reverse zipline  that is twice the fun.  The reverse zipline zips you back across the lake, so you don't have to take the long walk after the regular zipline.

It is hot, buggy, and usually sunny here, so don't forget to wear lots of sunscreen and bug spray.  Make sure to drink lots of water and go in the pool or lake when you get the chance.  The pool and lake may not be just for swimming, you can go on the water trampoline, jumping board, and dock at the lake.  At the pool, you can have fun on the awesome red and blue water slides!  If you are feeling nervous about making friends, don't be.  Here at LLDC, the old campers make all the new campers feel welcome and never left out.  Enjoy your time at LLDC and remember our motto:  The Best Summer, Every Summer!

Dive into a Conversation with LLDC Aquatics Director: 
Samm Meddaugh
By Halle B.

There are a lot of things we need to learn to survive in the world, and one of them is swimming.  Sam, the head lifeguard, has been working here for 12 years.  She was always a swimmer and now she is a head lifeguard.  Sam is a very smart swimmer and a great swim instructor; I learned most of my skills from here.

Being a lifeguard is a hard job even in its name.  They risk their own lives for the lives of others.  Sam has lots of responsibilities being the head lifeguard like making sure the other lifeguards are doing their jobs and to make sure the pools are working properly.    Sam saves lives when campers take the deep end test.  She and the other life guards had an orientation to help the lifeguards become a team; they're always together and sharing each other's skills. 

Same has another job:  she works in the office at camp preparing the pools, getting out bags ready, and making sure every elective has enough equipment to go around.  She does everything she can do for this camp.  It is no surprise that in the off-season Sam is still taking care of kids.  She takes care of a boy and a girl who have been very well-behaved for the past two years.  One time, Sam babysat for eight hours.  She loves her job as a nanny because it is something different every day.  Sam babysits Monday through Friday in the off-season.  I bet there are many kids who would want her to be their nanny!

Sam is very active and amazing when we think of it.  She is the head lifeguard and a very supportive individual.

By Liam A.

Thursday at the pool, what is many campers favorite activity, Yacht or Not went down. Yacht or Not is a fast paced immersive activity in which groups build a boat and race across the pool. However staying afloat is half the battle. Groups only get 1 roll of duck tape a crayon and a cardboard box; in addition, they even have limited time.

Andy started this activity when he heard about another camp that enjoyed it. He thought it was so interesting he started it at his own camp. Ever since then, it has been exponentially increasing in favor. I talked with Spirit Sara about this activity. After all she has been doing it for 6 years. Sara said that Yacht or Not was one of the easier activities to organize. Yet, the hardest part is making sure everyone follows the rules. In the past, people have tried ropes handles and paddles and other such things that have since been banned.

For a different point of view, I talked to Steven, a group leader, who has been doing this activity for 3 years. The hardest part for him is finding jobs for all of the campers. Something that Steven and his campers enthusiastically repeated numerous times because it was in the water it made everything more interesting. Himanshu, a freshman, particularly seemed to love it. “… some kids like lacrosse, some like basketball, but everyone loves the pool!”, as Steven said himself.

Now let’s talk strategy! Everyone knows the basics:  wax and duck tape the bottom of your boat with some duck tape on the sides; there is a lot more to it. In previous years, the best strategy seemed to be a raft or surf board which has been banned. Another frequent strategy is ignoring hydro dynamics and just trying to stay afloat.  Unfortunately, more and more groups are crossing the pool making those vessels obsolete. This year, the specialists introduced a new idea, a shallow bottomed boat completely covered in duck tape. This seemed to work well…until its second run when James practically swam across. In recent years, a new model has been spotted. Instead of just folding the front flaps. Groups cut further along the seams allowing the entire front half of the boat to be angled than angling the bottom up on the sides a little bit forming a canoe shape. Which seems to work well. Next year, who knows what new boats will be seen!

Yacht or Not is an engrossing activity which gets hearts racing in campers from all divisions. Sara just wants kids to take away sportsmanship, teamwork, and creativity. Every new camper brings new ideas, concepts, and designs; who knows what you’ll spot next year.

App Day
By Sarah B.

Angry Birds, Draw Something, Temple Run, and Fruit Ninja are just some of the most popular apps that kids play on their iPods, iPads, etc.  Everyone loves to play these games wherever they go.  The problem:  campers shouldn't bring electronics to camp  People love their games, but camp isn't really a place for electronics.  This is why App Day was created.

App Day was when everyone's favorite apps came to life at LLDC.  Everyone was able to participate at this exciting event.  Some of the most exciting apps were used for App Day.  One of these apps was Temple Run.  Campers had to dodge obstacles while being chased by one of the L.I.T.s.  If they got tagged, they're out. 

Next, Fruit Ninja was a fun way to cool off and get rid of fruit.  Each camper got a turn to hit the fruit (sponges and water balloons) with a bat.  Bombs were spiky balls.  If a camper hit a bomb or missed three fruits, then they're out. 

Finally, campers tried the always popular Angry Birds.  There were 6 levels where you could try to pop the “pigs” (balloons) to win.  Each level had a device you had to use to strike down the pigs.  A slingshot, a lacrosse stick, and more were used.

App Day made campers excited about playing outside while trying to win their favorite apps in real life.  App Day was a lot of fun to campers and counselors:  a great success!

By Celeste Y.

WOW!  Look at those gowns and suits.  People are all dressed up for Homecoming.  I don’t recognize most of them looking so good.  Everyone from Turtles to Specialists to Lifeguards are looking great.  We interviewed some people and we asked them questions such as what would it feel like for you win.  Also, we asked were you in homecoming court in high school.  Chloe from Sophomore Division said no.  We asked Ray from Specialists what would it feel like to win.  He said it would be like jumping into a pool of slushies.  Everyone was looking forward to the big day. 

 By Matt O.

On Tuesday, July 2nd, Liberty Lake celebrated International Day!  We learned about many different countries.  The Turtles learned about Brazil,  Freshman studied China, Sophomores got to know France, Juniors learned about Chile and Seniors studied Germany.  We even got to taste some of the different foods from these countries.  We enjoyed rice from China, fish and chips from England and Greek salad.  We also had a Scavenger Hunt based on the different countries!  Some of the questions were:  What is Germany known for?  Germany is known for its food like sauerbraten.  Another question was: What is the largest country in South America?  The answer is Brazil.  It was an International celebration and everyone had a great International time!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Andy Pritikin Interview, from U.S. 1 Magazine

Where were you born and raised?
Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Caldwell, NJ. Hence, my affinity for the Mets, Giants and Nets- Sorry Philly Phans!

What did your parents do professionally?
Mom is a nurse and eccentric world traveler (currently in the Australian outback), father is a CPA in NYC.

How did you end up going to camp?
One day my Dad came home from work and told me and my brothers that he had a new client- a Camp Owner, who owned a beautiful sleepaway camp up in the Bershires. My Dad was born and raised in Brooklyn, went to camp for ONE SUMMER, for ONE WEEK- and it was the greatest week of his childhood. He always promised himself that if there was any way he could send my brothers and me to Camp, he would. We were given a deal at one of the most high-end camps in the country, and it was the two greatest summers of my childhood- Waterskiing, playing tennis (two things I’d never done) and living in a bunk with a group of new friends- amazing experiences.  Plus the spirit and community of Camp- something I had never imagined.  I’m a strong believer that it helped me out in my transition at college, and helped make me the person I am today.

What was your career path and how did you become a professional camp operator?
I was a professional musician, won on Star Search, was on the radio/TV- and was working as an instrumental music teacher (band director) in Wall Township and South Orange/Maplewood- while gigging until 2am with my band in NYC.  It was quite an exciting (and exhausting) life.  When my band broke up in around 1995, I cut my dreadlocks off (seriously) and considered getting my administrative degree, and becoming a principal. At the same time, I was working during the summers at a Camp in North Jersey that was part of a group of eight of the most successful, high-end camps in the NY/NJ Tri-State area. These people convinced me to leave my tenured teaching job, and at 27 years old, work alongside some legendary-to-be Camp operators and leaders of the American Camp Association. I had just bought a house in North Jersey, and my wife was pregnant with my daughter- but I took the plunge, and never looked back.  I was the director of North Shore Day Camp in Glen Cove, NY for 4 summers, and started Liberty Lake Day Camp in 2002, which is just down the road in Mansfield Township, NJ. At the same time, I ascended up the ladder of the American Camp Association, as a Board Member for the past 15 years, and the Professional Development Chair- overseeing the many conferences we have throughout the off-season, including the largest gathering of camp professionals in the world- The Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City, every March. Starting in 2014, I will be the President of the NY/NJ Affiliate.

Would you elaborate on your work as a musician, how that developed, and if that work supports you off season?  And is the camp a year-round occupation?
Besides performing with Absolut Drama on Star Search on 1991, local radio and TV, and playing most every medium sized venue in the late 80s and early 90s in and around NYC, my Jazz group, Brilliant Coroners, had been together since the early 90s, and played throughout NYC, including the Blue Note (which I personally rank higher than my Star Search appearance.)  I was also in an amazing Pink Floyd cover band called Interstellar Overdrive, which performed 3 hour epic Pink Floyd shows, with lasers, floating pigs, etc. I officially retired from performing about 6 years ago- as my Camp career, and my family took over my life- including starting a second Camp up in the Boston area two years ago. I have a piano and a studio at home, but my big musical thing is what goes on at Liberty Lake- We are truly the “Camp of Rock”, as we employ a stable of great musicians, teach all the rock instruments, singing and even Rap. We have rock band classes, and the kids get to perform every Friday at our Lakeside Amphitheater in front of 600+ campers and 200 staff. There’s nothing like watching a band of 12 kids get up in front of everyone and perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or such- with many of the kids learning how to play just that summer!  Every Friday assembly ends with a rousing rendition of “The Liberty Lake Song”, which you can find on YouTube- which brings the house down. 20 years as a performing musician- and that song is probably the best song I ever wrote!

While you run a day camp, you mentioned the importance of overnight camps. Are you considering expanding your operations to overnight?
Yes, I am- I feel that there is a great market right now for SHORT SEASON (1-3 weeks) Resident Camps.  While I went away for the entire summer as a child- there are only a handful of camps left that do that, as this generation of “cool parents” actually WANT to spend time with their kids- plus 50% of parents are divorced/separated and want to be with their kids during their allotted weeks/weekends.

How many staff members do you employ during the year? High season and off season?
During the summer we have 200 employees. In the off-season, we have 5 full timers, and 4 part-timers. Remember that we have to register 1000 campers, hire 200 staff, book 100 picnics/special events, take care of 60 acres of property, run the NJ Renaissance Faire- This is no small operation. One thing about staff and camping- Summer Camps are a HUGE employer of youths and teachers during the summer months. And as we are currently experiencing the worst percentage of “youth unemployment” (ages 16-24) since they started keeping records 60 years ago. While the recession has made operating a Camp more challenging- Hiring quality staff has been better than ever, with a huge pool of applicants- enabling us to truly raise the bar of expectations.

What is the toughest part of running a camp?

Most of my non-camp director friends tell me “I wish I could have your job”- Outside playing with the kids, giving inspirational speeches to the staff, etc. But once they hear about the responsibilities and stress that I have to manage, they quickly change their mind. The wide range of behavioral issues of campers (and their parents), managing modern days teens and 20-somethings, school buses, pools, lakes, regulatory agencies, township zoning/planning boards, rain storms, heat waves- I could tell you stories that would make your head spin. Our former security guard was a high ranking military officer in the South Pacific during the Korean War, and he used to shake his head at me during the summer and say, “I wouldn't do your job for all the tea in China!”  For me, the positives outweigh the stress and challenges. I get to see little kids grow up into contributing members of society, I meet hundreds of great new people every year, and I am seen by my camp families in a way that people often view their pastor or their rabbi- as a youth development professional, and a partner in their children’s upbringing. It’s a tremendous opportunity to contribute to so many lives, each and every year- which I take it extremely seriously, and my Camp families know and appreciate that.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CAMP: A Transformative Summer Experience!

Remember when Summer was so simple?  

We’d wake up, Dad would already be at work, Mom would be home, and we would spend our days outside- in the streets, backyards, parks, and pools. In today’s world, our kids have so much more to distract them- Hundreds of TV channels, limitless internet, iPods/Touches/Pads/Phones/etc, xBox Live, and of course, central air! Yet these wonderful technological advances create a void of life skills that come from the old time basics. Instead of learning life by exploring outside, kids are learning life through their multiple SCREENS. Instead of scraping their knees and learning life lessons, technology indirectly shelters them from reality. And we know what they are watching on their screens: sex, violence, and commercialized exaggerations of real life.  How can we give our kids the childhood experiences and life skills that we learned?  One word: CAMP!

So put on your shorts, pack your bathing suit, lather on the sunscreen, and leave the electronics home! Camp is a step back in time, to a simpler time when if it rained, we got a little wet. Choices we made had repercussions, because our parents weren’t lurking over our shoulders. And we learned how to socialize and make friends, because our relationships weren’t based on texting, “liking” photos, and accumulating Facebook “friends” (acquaintances). At Camp, young people learn how to actually talk to one another, relate to older and younger people, and learn the life skills that top colleges and employers are looking for in the 21st century.

What are 21st Century Skills, you may ask?  They are NOT computer programming and technology skills, nor the “3 R’s,” which most schools’ standardized tests are based on. They are the skills and competencies required to work with people, so that issues can be resolved quickly, and tasks can be tackled and conquered efficiently. Check out and see how the top corporations and education organizations have come together to identify the essential skills relevant in today’s world. By the way, there is a wonderful place where millions of kids continue to gain these skills every summer… CAMP!

So while most schools still focus on reading, writing and arithmetic- Camp is experiential education in what the p21 organization calls “the 4Cs” - Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity.  These are social and behavioral skills such as Work Ethic, Communications, Teamwork, Collaboration, and the #1 DEFICIENCY amongst young people: LEADERSHIP! Most young people (who don't attend Camp) would rather follow than lead.

Camp is more relevant and important than ever before. According to the CDC, 17% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are considered obese, and of course they are, spending their lives indoors, in front of screens. The Kaiser Foundation found that our teenagers are in front of screens (TV, computers, tablets & smartphones) for 52 hours per week!  Tweens and Teens are sending an average of 60 text messages per day, and spending an inordinate amount of time updating Instagram, Facebook, etc. Young people may feel that they are super-connected, but they are actually less connected than ever. Less close friendships, less “face to face” social skills, and less capable of coping with the challenges of life.

The American Camp Association conducted a study with over 7600 campers from over 80 camps to gauge the outcomes by their summer camp experiences. Parents, staff, and children all reported significant growth in: Self-esteem, peer relationships, independence, adventure and exploration, leadership, environmental awareness, friendship skills, values, decision-making, social comfort, and spirituality. These are life skills, which transform children into successful adults, and contributors to society who are inspired to one day change the world.

Summer Camp is a transformative experience, where children find their passions for life, make lasting friendships, and feel that their potential is limitless. So get your kids outside, away from the computers, TVs and Smartphones- Let them get all kinds of hot, dirty and sweaty at Camp this Summer- They will thank you for it now and later!

Andy Pritikin, January 2013

Published this Winter in the Asbury Park Press, The Courier Post, South Jersey Magazine, U.S. 1, Princeton Packet Publications, South Jersey Mom, and various online sources.  

For more articles by Andy Pritikin, check out: