Stockwell’s 25th Anniversary

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015

In 1990, Lake Stockwell Day Camp opened for the first time ever and now in 2015, it celebrates its 25th anniversary! Since its opening, the camp has continued to grow and over the past few summers, camper and counselor numbers have skyrocketed. Back in 2011, MaryAnn Birchler and Lynn Passarella joined as camp director and assistant camp director and over the years, Stockwell’s size has nearly doubled! In 2011, there were only about 60 staff members and 250 campers. In 2014, Melissa DiMona joined as assistant camp director and we had about 110 staff members and nearly 500 campers! Since then we have grown even more!  (Our staff back in 2003) (Only about half of our staff in 2015) I went around and interviewed a few of Stockwell’s staff members, both new and old, and here is what they said: Q. Why did you come/return to Stockwell this summer? A. Every summer at camp is so great that it just makes me want to return each summer. Each summer I also grow closer with the rest of the staff to the point where they are like family. It is my home away from home. On top of all that, I love making a difference in children’s lives! Q. What is your favorite camp memory? A. One of my favorite memories as a counselor is actually getting my staff name tag. It creates the realization that now you’re working as a counselor at camp. All those years of being a camper and watching your counselors do such a great job, now you finally get to give something back. Now campers will look up to you and you have a chance to make an impact. Really there are just too many great memories to pick a favorite. Q. What are some of the lessons you have learned at camp? A. Not everything goes as planned, but sometimes you have to improvise. Enthusiasm and good attitude will get you very far and sometimes just asking, “how are you?” can go a long way. Q. Would you recommend this place to others? A. Yes! I would and I have! If a camper recognizes me outside of camp, I always ask them if they are coming back the next summer. Q. How has camp changed since you joined? A. There are many more campers and counselors, but with more people, more bonds can be formed and greater summers can be created!   I also went around and interviewed some alumni from Stockwell who had worked as counselors for many years: Q. What lessons did you learn at camp that still apply to you years later? A. I’m a teacher so the most important lesson I learned was how to work with kids. You learn that each child comes from a different background and has their own baggage that they carry. From there, you have to listen more...

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Campers to Counselors

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015

  “The Counselor In Training program strives to impress upon participants skills that relate directly to working as a camp counselor, as well as skills that can be used in everyday life. This is accomplished in a fun and supportive environment that encourages growth as individuals and as a team” – CITs The quote above is a mission statement that was created by Lake Stockwell’s counselors in training (CIT) and it gives a brief glimpse into what the CIT program does for campers. All three of our camps have a five week long CIT program and while each program differs in various way, they strive towards the same goal. They work to create a fun, educational experience that will endow their campers with the skills that will make them the next great generation of counselors. The CIT directors work to not only instill the four core values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility within their campers, they also develop programs that teach such skills as teamwork, communication, and leadership. To help foster these skills, each program organizes various activities that allow the campers to gain invaluable insight into what is like to be a counselor. One activity is called Behind Closed Doors, wherein the CITs act out scenarios that can occur at camp. For example, in one scenario a fight has broken out between campers and they must intervene. After the scenario is over, they debrief to see what they did well and what could have been done better. Another way in which they gain leadership skills is by running their own programs. Over at Ocky, the CITs created Major League Kickball, which is like regular kickball but uses different twists such as using a different type of ball or running the bases in the opposite direction. At Matolly, the CITs created a program called, Make Your Own Superhero, where the campers create their own comic books! Another major way the CITs build skills is by shadowing different groups. It gives the CITs a chance to gain the experience of working as a counselor while observing other counselors to see what they do and how they handle situations as they arise. The further into the program the CITs go, the more they shadow. For Ocky and Matolly, they even have the opportunity of shadowing groups overnight! In addition to all this, each CIT group works to complete a service project for their camp. For Stockwell, the CITs are renovating the nature cabin. Over at Matolly, they are hanging up hammocks and making fire pits, creating an area known as Chillage Village. Lastly, at Ocky, the CITs are working to build a bench and potentially dedicate it to someone on camp. While it may seem that the CITs have a lot of work to do during their program, they still fit in time for regular camp activities. They still go...

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Director of Development

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015

Hi. My name is Darleen Blesi and I have the pleasure of serving as the Director of Development at YMCA Camp Ockanickon, Inc. I found camp when I responded to a help wanted ad in The Central Record in 2008. I was eventually hired in 2009. I have truly fallen in love with camp. My favorite moment at camp occurred at the 2014 Wine, Beer and Whiskey Tasting. A camper parent spoke to the guests about the impact that camp had on his son. The parent also shared with the audience how vital the scholarship money had been in bringing his son to camp. This speech not only impacted me but it clearly had an impact on the attendees as well because we were able to raise an additional $3500 from the guests to bring children to camp! Anytime a camper or a parent of a camper speaks about how camp has made a difference in their life, I am reminded that what I do does make a difference and creates a positive change. Camp has also changed me due to the effect it has had on my three sons, Connor, Garrett and Tiernan. In short, I love camp and seeing how what I do makes a difference is why I keep coming back. Since I joined Ockanickon, the majority of my time is spent raising money for scholarships.  In addition, I coordinate special events and work with alumni while establishing relationships with donors, board members and the community. I also write grants to fund our special needs camps. Two of the projects that I am working on throughout the year is the Annual Appeal and Project 396. The Annual Appeal is the fundraising efforts that brings scholarship funds to camp via alumni, donors, community members and special events. Our special events include Coach Bingo, the Golf Event, Wine, Beer and Whiskey Tasting and the Gobbler Run. Project 396 is a new campaign that we have embarked on. It is the number of campers that we want to send to camp in 2016, meaning we are raising scholarship funds to send 396 kids to camp. You may see banners around camp with the numbers 396 and we hope that you ask us about it. We hope you will consider donating this year and I hope to see you at one of our...

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Storm of the Summer

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015

Last Tuesday, the 23rd of June, a large storm hit New Jersey and Pennsylvania wherein thousands lost power. YMCA Camp Ockanickon, Inc. was no exception and like most of Medford, also lost power. As the storm hit, all of the overnight campers were moved into their respective dining halls. Once the backup generators started kicking in, plans were made for the evening’s activities. In both dining halls, a dance party was held, after which the campers watched a movie for the night! As these activities went on, counselors gradually made their way to cabins in order to carry back mattresses for the campers so that each camp could have a large sleepover where everyone slept in the dining halls. Once the mattresses arrived at Ockanickon, the campers went on to build mattress forts! In the morning after the sleepover party, they even had breakfast in bed. When the campers emerged the next day to see their camp, the storm had taken its toll. Trees had been knocked down, branches and leaves were everywhere and some of the tents had been damaged. Even Lake Stockwell Day Camp and the Preschool Camp had been closed for the day. With this much damage, nearly one hundred staff members and volunteers came to camp to help with the massive cleanup. We had old staff, returning staff, first year staff, and volunteers arrive all to ask, “How can I help?” We even had a few volunteers come over from Fort Dix! As people arrived to help, some brought supplies and tools. While some raked away the leaves and branches, others used their chainsaws to help cut the fallen trees into smaller pieces so that they may be moved out of the way. Any trees that the staff could not handle, Adler Contracting Services worked to remove them. By the end of the day Lake Stockwell and the Preschool Camp were ready to reopen for Thursday. Even the overnight camps were all ready to still host their big Aloha themed dance for the session! We greatly appreciate everyone that came out to clean up camp and as an additional bonus we were able to see how camp inspires others to help! It was a day were one could see the impact camp has wherein old staff, returning staff, first year staff, and volunteers all come back to help in a time of need. Thank you to everyone who came out to help with the clean...

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