Camp W of Melville is known as “the place where friendships are made” in part because we make sure that every one of our kids feels immediately at home. This is especially important when it comes to new campers, which is why we try so hard to make them feel comfortable on their first day.
To begin with, every parent fills out a Parent Survey form before camp so that our staff – including both counselors and specialists – will be familiar with each child’s likes and dislikes and gain insights into the new camper’s personality and how well he or she adjusts and makes friends. We take this very seriously, with staff members taking note of any concerns you might have and reaching out when necessary.
We also send out an inquiry packet that contains a lunch menu, maps, a camp calendar, and information about choice periods, early/late care, and Spirit Day and other special events and activities. There are plenty of details to be found on our website as well, and we’re happy to field calls from parents throughout the year.
The day before camp starts, we have our Camper Orientation day, where new campers can meet their counselors and get accustomed to Camp W’s lay-out. Everyone they meet that day, you can be certain, will greet them with a warm smile and an exuberant welcome. We answer not just all of your questions, but all of your child’s questions too. We also ask many questions ourselves – to both you and to them – so that we can learn more about each new camper and what they’re looking to get out of camp – what activities they want to do, what skills they want to work on, and what they’re most excited about. Don’t be surprised if you see our staff members giving high-fives or telling jokes to make kids laugh – we tend to hire and keep only the friendliest, most outgoing people, and we encourage them to establish a good rapport from the get-go.
Once camp starts, each new camper is paired up with a returning camper who can keep them informed and show them all of the routines they might need to know. This works great, we’ve found, because it not only helps our first-timers get used to things, but also gives them an opportunity to make a new friend right away. It also gives them someone to sit with at lunch. We’ve often found, in fact, that by midway through the lunch period, they’re already comfortable enough to be seen talking about their favorite superhero or movie while they eat.
Throughout that first day, our counselors know to pay special attention to the newcomers and check in with them to see that they’re doing well. Kids are told to inform counselors if they need anything at all, and counselors will speak with parents during the week to see how things are going from their perspective. We put a premium on communication because we understand that it can make an enormous difference in a kid’s summer. We want to be aware of any worries you have so that we can address them without delay.
Our specialists, meanwhile, will be told which kids are new so that they work with them and start determining what skills they may need assistance with. Sometimes a child will be pulled aside to see how they swing a bat, kick a soccer ball, or walk on a balance beam. Our object is to get to know as much as possible about each child as quickly as possible, so that we can provide the appropriate instruction, geared toward their individual level and abilities.
It’s an inordinate amount of effort overall, no doubt, but it’s worth it, because getting a good start sets kids up for a great summer. One of the reasons we’ve grown over the years to become such a beloved day camp on Long Island is that we genuinely care about all of the kids and parents we interact with and want to see all of the children excel. We won’t let a single day go by without a kid returning home happy and eager to do it all again the next day.
By Evan Wofsy