By: Lauren Kasnett Nearpass & Abbie Sussman
On Father’s Day, we celebrate our fathers, right? Well what about the men in our lives who take on the father role for a few weeks out of each year: our male camp directors. The Summer 365 team would like to take this Father’s Day to appreciate these men who “adopt” hundreds of surrogate children each summer at sleep away camp. We know that there is a lot of anxiety associated with sending your most prized possession away for the summer, but rest assured that your children are in good hands with these dads. Little do your campers know that camp directors seize every opportunity to teach their camp kids life lessons that will stick with them for life. From daily activities to roasting s’mores around the campfire, each second at camp is a teachable moment. We interviewed a few all star camp directors who shared their thoughts and feelings about the fatherhood they experience during their summers.
1. How is it being a “father” to hundreds of campers?
“I would have to say that the best part of having so many surrogate children is that I actually get to KNOW them all well, and I feel like they become a true extension of my own family. I love being a dad to my own kids – the fun parts and the challenging parts – and they teach me how to be a better camp director, believe it or not.
There’s nothing better than feeling like we are really shaping kids’ lives and helping them solve problems, make friends, test their boundaries, step out of their comfort zones. And, I really love taking care of kids when their moms and dads aren’t here to solve their problems for them. I think many kids don’t know how capable they are until their parents aren’t there to step in. Seeing that kind of personal growth in kids makes every minute of my 20-hour summer days worthwhile.” – Andy Siegel, Tyler Hill Camp
2. What’s your proudest moment as a camp director?
“This is a great question, and I do truly consider all of the girls here part of my family. It is hard to consider all of the girls collectively, when each of my “children” has their different interests and styles. I think that is perhaps the best part of this extraordinary responsibility: being able to see the range of personalities come together and achieving goal of having the best summer of their life.” – Kyle, Vega
3. Share a time when camp has changed one of your “kids”?
“A camper who was homesick for days as a young child, became a leader and confident as a young man. He told me on the last day of his final season as a camper, that he loved me and considered me as a father figure. I cried tears of joy as we hugged good-bye. He is now a staff member and a major contributor to the camp life.” – Dov, Chateaugay
4. Any special lessons or stories you share with your “kids” during the summer?
“We hope to model to both our campers and staff the importance of enjoying the small moments, to laugh every day, to be kind to one another and that we all have a responsibility to take care of our community. You are at camp for only 15% of your year, embrace it. Go through the emotions, not just the motions.” – Joel, Indian Head Camp
p.s. Of course at camp … it takes a village! We have so much gratitude, admiration, and respect for not only all the men but all the fabulous female directors as well as head staff, specialists, and counselors who love and care for campers each summer.
Artwork by: Corey Bloomberg