The Benefits of a Uniform Camp

One of the thing that sets Bryn Mawr apart from a lot of other summer camps is our uniform policy. We’re all-uniform, all the time, with the exception of some optional nights, socials and special events. At first blush, it might seem a little bit old fashioned, but after more than 90 summers, we’re convinced that a camp uniform is as good for campers today as it was in 1920, for many reasons:

A uniform lets kids be kids.

From a very young age, our daughters experience all kinds of pressure to look and dress in certain ways. Girls have always felt pressure to be “pretty,” “girly” or “ladylike,” but now even very young girls are beginning to respond to a sense that they should be “sexy.” National retailers have attracted controversy by marketing thong underwear, string bikinis and other risqué clothing in little girls’ sizes. We love that camp is a place where girls can escape from messages that tell them they need to look and act like miniature versions of Megan Fox or Miley Cyrus. Simple shorts and T-shirts are not only the most comfortable apparel for playing outdoors, they’re the official uniform of childhood, and they let girls relax and just be themselves.

A uniform keeps the focus on camp.

Camp is a great getaway for kids. They get a break from school, from technology, and from the unhealthy competition that can unfortunately be a part of growing up. Our campers don’t have to worry whether they’re coming to camp with the trendiest clothes or the right handbag, because they know they’re coming with the same clothes as every other camper. When they get dressed in the morning, they don’t have to think about whether their outfit will be cool or mature enough, because they’re choosing from the same selection of shorts, T-shirts and sweats that every other camper has in her wardrobe. Instead, they can focus on the activities they’re planning to participate in, the skills they’ll learn, and the special events they have to look forward to.

A uniform creates a sense of community.

At Bryn Mawr, we live every day by the values of Loyalty, Beauty, Merit and Comradeship. Those values are reflected in the uniform we wear. It supports a sense of camp loyalty and pride; reinforces that beauty is something that comes from within, not from a store; reminds us that each person is equally deserving of respect; and helps us create a feeling of community among our campers and staff.

We love that our camp uniform helps create a positive atmosphere at Bryn Mawr… and we love that it’s easy to wear! In fact, campers and counselors tell us every year that it’s hard to adjust to life after camp, when they have to start thinking more about what to wear and how they should look. That’s just one reason they say they look forward to getting back to camp in June!

From the Outside Looking In – A Parent Perspective

Dear Jane and Dan,

I just wanted to personally thank you for all that you do to give these girls the summer of their lives. My daughter Erica, and my niece Ayla, came home with rave reviews. As impressed as I am with your program, the girls experienced it first hand. And, they are still talking about everything from the first day of camp, to the final night banquet. Even more, they have discussed their desire to come back as Bunk One Angels.

I never dreamed that my daughter, in particular, would find it such a positive experience. I feel that you definitely kept each of the girl’s personality profiles in mind, when choosing their mini groups. Erica was with a wonderful group of girls, in her “mini” group. Basically, she liked everyone in the manor house, and beyond. The Bryn Mawr Camp program allows for individuality, acceptance, and definitely helps the girls to build their self-confidence/self-esteem, just as stated in your video and during the home visit! Erica was encouraged to participate in activities, in which she otherwise expressed little to no interest. And, she loved everything. Even if she “wasn’t the best at it…”. I could not have asked for anything more!!!

In addition, I can see that all of the staff, yourselves included, truly enjoy camp. You get involved in all aspects of camp life. I appreciate that you cannot be everywhere at one time, but your presence is definitely felt by the girls! Which is, to me, exceptional. Ownership brings with it many challenges, however, you seem to have made the girls feel as though they are the top priority. I was thrilled to learn of the same!

Finally, I appreciate you for getting back to me when I had concerns. As the parents of three girls, I am sure you both understand the tricks ones mind can play, when looking at camp pictures. You helped to put my mind at ease, when I was missing my daughter, and my niece. I tried not to be “that parent”, but when I was close, you responded promptly. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

As you know, I was a camper there, and it seems that it is even better than I experienced!!! That is a true testament to your efforts throughout the summer, and the year. Hope you get to rest for a couple of weeks before it is back to work! The girls are starting the countdown to SUMMER 2013…

Best Regards,
An Appreciative Parent of a Manor House Camper and Aunt to a Lodge Camper

Traditions and Time Capsule

One of the most endearing and sacred things about Lake Bryn Mawr Camp are the traditions: significant to each camper, each one demanding its own reverence, helping us unite as ‘summer sisters’.  These traditions are what transform Lake Bryn Mawr in the thoughts of the campers from ‘a camp’ to ‘my camp’.

In 1992 a new tradition was started at Bryn Mawr.  A time capsule was built to capture the timeless spirit of camp with each bunk and camper putting in something significant to them—there is not a list of what went into the time capsule, which is part of what makes it so exciting to open now, 20 years later.  Who knows what will come out–what favorite camp memento, treasured letter, funny memory?  The Bryn Mawr time capsule will be opened on Alumni Day, Saturday August 4th.  We have invited the alumni who took part in the time capsule as well as those who came before and after to be with us for this special event.  Back in 1992 we did not use emails—we sent out a letter in the mail to all the camp families letting them know about our time capsule.  This year, in 2013, we sent out emails to our camp families as well as putting a post and video on our Facebook page.  The time capsule has become a way to bridge 20 years of camp and we are going to use it to connect us to the future generations of Bryn Mawr campers as well.  We have invited every bunk to bring something special with them on the opening day so that we can then start a new time capsule to be opened in summer 2033.

The face of Bryn Mawr might change on the surface but the feeling it gives you never does.  Bryn Mawr is home to all of us and part of what makes it that way is that the campers know they are enjoying the same activities, in the exact same ways, as generations of campers did before them.  We might not be here in 20 years to watch the next time capsule open and to carry on the traditions we love so much–but we are confident our successors and our campers will.

Jessie Buresh, Camp Blogger

What Questions Should I Ask My Child’s Camp Director?

When you’re sending your child to sleepaway camp for the first time, even if you’re a seasoned camper yourself, the process of choosing a camp can be a little bit overwhelming – and you might not remember to ask all the right questions. Any good camp director will tell you about their camp philosophy, programs and traditions, but there are some questions you can ask to ensure you and your daughter are making the right choice for her. Here’s a handy clip-and-carry guide to bring along to those camp tours so you can be sure to get the information you need about the prospective summer homes you’re considering for your daughter.

What steps do you take to help welcome my daughter to camp?

Camp life is wonderful, and it’s also a big adjustment — new friends, new bed, new food, new schedule. It’s a lot to take in! How does this camp help your daughter make the transition? Are there pre-camp programs, like pen pals or meetups, to help her make connections before she gets off the bus? Will she have a “buddy” or “big sister” at camp to answer her questions and serve as a role model?

Who will supervise my daughter at night?

Some camps have a counselor on duty in each and every cabin every night, while other camps have one “OD” (on duty) counselor supervising several cabins while other staff members have time off. Make sure your daughter’s camp has an OD policy that provides for a level of coverage that you’re comfortable with.

When will I talk to my daughter?

Part of the camp experience is becoming more independent, and that usually means daughters don’t get to talk to their parents every single day. Find out what your camp’s communication policy is, and make sure if you have any questions about it you ask them before camp starts. Will your daughter call home during the summer? Can you send her e-mails? Will she be required to write letters? And are you willing to abide by the camp’s communication policy?

What do you do to look out for campers emotional wellbeing?

Activities and skill building are important parts of any camp program, but your daughter isn’t just an athlete, artist and adventurer — she’s also a sensitive, growing girl. What does this camp do to make sure your daughter’s emotional needs are being met and to prevent and address bullying and other destructive behaviors? What is the camp’s discipline philosophy?

How can you accommodate my daughters special needs?

Whether it’s a special diet, a special friend or a special interest, if there is some additional attention your daughter will need during the summer, make sure to ask the camp director about it before you commit to the session. If a camp is not able to work with you to accommodate your daughter’s kosher diet or need for extra tennis lessons, that’s something you need to know before you put down your deposit.

What makes your camp special?

There are lots of good camps out there, but not every camp is the right fit for every camper. Make sure you pick a camp for your daughter that reflects her values, needs and interests. That’s the best way to ensure you’re sending her to a camp that will be more than an experience — it will feel like a second home.

How do I know my daughter is ready for sleepaway camp?

There’s no litmus test for determining when a child is ready for camp. It really boils down to the individual. In our decades in camping, the Bryn Mawr leadership has known girls who were champing at the bit to hop the bus to a Manor House bunk before they could even spell “camp,” girls who weren’t ready until they were Senior Camp age, and even some who ultimately decided sleepaway camp wasn’t really for them at all.

Camp readiness can sometimes be hard for parents to gauge, especially parents who are basing their child’s preparedness on their own experiences. Some kids are just ready younger than others. If you’re starting to think about summer camp for your daughter, we suggest you begin by asking yourself four questions:

  1. Has your daughter expressed interest in camp? If she’s asking about it, that’s a great sign that she’s ready for the experience.
  2. Does your daughter have the social skills necessary to succeed at camp? She will need to know how to interact appropriately with her peers and be part of a group.
  3. Is your daughter able to take care of herself? Of course camp staff members will ensure the health and welfare of every child, but it’s important that she is able to dress herself, brush her teeth, and take care of other basic daily needs.
  4. Are you ready? Camp is an adventure for children, and it can also be an adjustment for parents. Your support is important to your daughter’s success at camp.

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, here are some other important steps you can take to ensure your daughter is ready for a successful first summer at camp:

• Involve her in the camp selection process. Camp will be your daughter’s home for seven weeks and, hopefully, for many summers. It’s so important that she be a part of making the decision about which camp she attends. That’s why family tours and home visits are part of the registration process at Bryn Mawr. We want to make sure parents and daughters have the chance to get their camp questions answered.

• Help your daughter find the camp that’s the best fit for her. At Bryn Mawr, we’re proud to have some campers who are second- and third-generation Angels, and we know mothers and daughters enjoy sharing that bond of having attended the same camp. But we also have many campers whose mothers attended other summer camps as girls, or whose sisters attend different camps, because those families have recognized that while another camp may have been the best fit for a mother or sister, it’s not the best place for every member of the family. And that’s OK! Any camper is infinitely more likely to succeed at a camp that’s a great match for her interests and personality.

• Give camp a trial run. One of our favorite times of year is Explorers Weekend, when prospective LBMC Angels come to try camp on for size over the course of three fun-filled days and two nights. Explorers gives your daughter a taste of camp so she can really start to understand what it’s all about and how she might feel about a whole summer of special events, scheduled activities and nightly slumber parties.

• Be patient and understanding. The first few nights of camp can be a tough adjustment for the most seasoned camper. In fact, it’s not at all unusual for even some of our oldest girls to come down with a case of “pre-camp jitters” right before the summer starts. Be prepared for the possibility that your daughter may need time to adjust to camp. Make sure she knows you believe in her and you’re confident that she will have a happy, successful summer.

• Most importantly, talk to your daughter about camp, and listen to what she has to say. If you’re not sure where to start, there are a lot of great books about camp and some of the feelings that come along with sleeping away from home. (An oldie but a goodie is “Ira Sleeps Over,” a picture book about how a little boy conquers his fear of spending the night at a friend’s house.) Let your daughter be honest about her feelings, and if she’s nervous, confront that nervousness together. When you help your daughter prepare for camp by talking through some of the scenarios and emotions she may encounter, she’ll be well prepared to jump into camp with confidence.

Celebrations at Camp During the Non Summer Months!

One of the things we love about camp is having the chance to watch our campers grow up. Every year at our end-of-summer Banquet, we are amazed as we look at the group of Bunk One girls leaving camp as mature, self-possessed young women — and think back to when they were Manor House campers who couldn’t tie their own shoes or pour their own milk!

As camp directors, we have enjoyed sharing in campers’ rites of passage outside of camp, too. We’ve celebrated with many of our campers as they have made their Bat Mitzvahs — and in fact, we’ve worked with more than a few campers to host their Bat Mitzvah celebrations at camp.

For many years, the Bryn Mawr facilities have enjoyed year-round use as the Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center. Once the summer season is over, we begin welcoming school groups, corporate functions and weddings to campus. Our event spaces can accommodate large groups all through the year. But our very favorite Conference Center events are the Bat Mitzvahs our LBMC families have held on camp!

Since we started hosting Bat Mitzvahs at camp over a decade ago, we’ve been privileged to share this important rite of passage with quite a few camp families, and we’ve seen and done it all. A summer camp-style Bat Mitzvah can be a low-key, casual affair for a few friends, but we’ve also played host to beautiful formal events (you should see the dining hall transformed for a magical evening) and weekend family camp celebrations, complete with a day of Color War competition personalized with the Bat Mitzvah’s favorite themes and colors. We do our own catering on camp and work with local vendors for lots of events, so we can help set you up with a DJ, florist, hairstylist… you name it. (We can even find some Bunk One alumni to help you write Color War songs and cheers about the girl of honor!) Depending on the season, we can accommodate groups of many sizes, and we’ve had a lot of fun creating mini-sleepaway-camp experiences for our Bat Mitzvahs and their friends and families. Guests at spring and fall events can take advantage of our outdoor facilities, from the tennis courts and playing fields to the ropes course and zipline – and, if the weather’s warm, the lake and pool. How about a Bat Mitzvah bucket brigade, tennis tournament or canoe race?

Campers who have celebrated their Bat Mitzvahs at camp have shared with us how special it was to be able to mark this important event in their lives at a place where they feel they’ve grown up… and it feels especially satisfying to enjoy their big night in the same dining hall where they spent so many summer afternoons working hard at their Hebrew tutoring. Our Conference Center staff are also popular members of our summer leadership team, so the counselors and leaders for our Bat Mitzvahs’ special weekends are adults who know and love them. Sometimes we’ve even been able to arrange for favorite counselors, group leaders or program heads to attend as chaperones for the weekend!

(Brothers and others don’t need to feel left out… we also host Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and celebrations of all kinds, even if you don’t have a daughter who attends Bryn Mawr.)

If you’re looking for a unique venue for your celebration, you can learn more about Bryn Mawr Bat Mitzvahs by visiting our conference center website at, or just give Dan a call at (888) 526-2267. They’ll be happy to talk to you about what a camp Bat Mitzvah is like and to put you in touch with our Conference Center team.

Bunk One Weekend and Traditions

We recently got back from a fantastic weekend at camp.

You might be wondering: Camp? In March?

Absolutely! One weekend every March, we mark an incredibly important event at camp: The Bunk One March Meeting. Jane, Dan, Britton, Drew, Pilar and Ty gather at camp for a special weekend with the ninth grade girls who will be our oldest campers — our Bunk One campers. The March Meeting is the very first official event of their Bunk One summer, and the girls have looked forward to it for years — some of them since they were tiny Manor House campers, or even before they started at camp, if they came to see older sisters and cousins on Visiting Day!

The March Meeting is an important milestone for our “Super Seniors.” Not only do the girls take care of some major business like picking special Bunk One uniform and selecting the top-secret themes for their Color War teams, but we take that time to help them start thinking about what it means to be the leaders at camp.

Bunk One is a special experience not just because it’s the final summer as a camper, but because our Bunk One campers serve as peer leaders for the rest of camp. They captain the teams in our annual Color War, lead cheers in the dining hall and the nightly singing of the Alma Mater, and help out with younger girls’ cabins during weekly leadership evenings and during special events. During the March Meeting, we talk to the girls about their leadership role in camp and what will be expected of them as leaders, but the truth is that they’ve been preparing to take the leadership mantle for years.

While Bunk One campers are the most visible leaders among our campers, those leadership skills don’t just magically materialize when campers finish the ninth grade. They’ve been learning leadership skills throughout their summers at camp, both by seeing them modeled by counselors and older campers and by learning how to be good leaders on the playing field and in program areas. We teach campers that being a leader means being kind to one another, and it means knowing how to “do the right thing” even when it doesn’t seem like the easy thing.

By the time they get to Bunk One, campers have been developing leadership skills for many summers, and one of the reasons campers look forward to their Bunk One summer — in fact, maybe the biggest reason — is that Bunk One plays an important leadership role in many of the girls’ favorite camp traditions. From secrecy-shrouded Chocolate Banana Night and the excitement of the weeklong Color War that caps off the summer to routine events like mealtime cheers and Friday night talent shows, Bunk One campers take the lead, getting camp spirit high and helping younger girls learn how camp traditions work. By watching them and following their example, younger girls learn that being a leader is something that’s fun and something to look forward to — and an important part of growing up at camp.

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