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Planning for Camp 2018

In the circus of life, parents are the extreme jugglers: constantly juggling fireballs, curveballs, meatballs and more. As a local business that works one-on-one with parents and their children, we know that you put a great deal of effort into not dropping the ball.

While many of you are still recovering from a jaded January and a far-from-festive February, we want to help you avoid a manic March by offering the following advice when it comes to your child’s spring and summer breaks – start planning now! As the year marches on these holidays loom ever closer, and it’s time to consider the options available to you.

It is our opinion that the time kids spend away from school shouldn’t be filled with meaningless activities. We see this time as an opportunity for children to continue learning, to have meaningful interactions, and to gain new experiences that will continue developing them into the best possible version of themselves. We know that as parents you want the best for your kids, which is why we highly recommend the summer camp experience. While it is your job as a parent to make a decision, it is our job as youth development professionals to make that decision as easy as possible.

Why Camp?

There’s a common saying amongst those who have been hooked by the summer camp experience: they’re living 10 for 2. Once you’ve been bitten by the summer camp bug, the remaining 10 months of the year become inconsequential – it’s all about getting back to camp!

The summer camp experience is also described as a ‘bubble’ that children and staff members enter into and never look back. This bubble effect is created in a serene, natural setting surrounded by role models who genuinely care. It’s the type of environment that welcomes you as you are and helps you to be your best self in the most natural, fun-focused way. Campers gain independence by being away from their parents, they learn respect by sharing a living space with others, they learn to challenge themselves by trying new things, and they learn to connect with others by meeting people from all over the world.

Which Camp?

To assist with the endless planning that comes with being a parent, summer camps gather at Summer Camp Fairs throughout the early months of the year. These fairs are typically held at large shopping malls and schools, where parents can browse the various programs on offer and have their questions answered by knowledgeable staff. If you can’t make it to one of your local fairs, search for accredited summer camps on the American Camping Association’s website for parents.

Try It Out!

A number of camps will offer Spring Break Camps for first-timers to get a taste of what camp is all about. To see whether Camp Friendship’s Spring Break Camps align with your child’s school dates, visit

The summer camp experience is unlike any other youth development activity on offer. Some call it magic, some call it a bubble, but we call it home.

Camp Friendship sets the benchmark for an exceptional summer experience. Founded in 1966, we are a family-owned summer camp that offers year-round tours of our facilities. Give us a call on 1-800-873-3223 or visit to learn more.

Sleepaway Camp: Is Your Child Ready?

At this time of year, families all over the country are asking a similar question with regards to their summer plans – is it time to try sleepaway camp? Although summer may seem like light-years away, Camp Friendship encourages parents to consider these important questions before making any decisions.

Summer camp in VirginiaReady?
First of all, it’s important to note that it’s not only your child that needs to be ready for sleepaway camp – as parents, you need to feel ready too! Your family’s readiness for sleepaway camp depends heavily on your parenting style, your child’s age and temperament as well as their comfort level at sleeping away from home with friends or relatives. If your child has already mentioned the idea of sleepaway camp or has friends that attend sleepaway camps, this is a good sign that they might be ready.

From a young age, children seek ways to develop their autonomy, and overnight camp is an environment that supports this natural development in a completely organic way.

Co-ed summer camp for kids in VASet (the scene…)
With over 7000 overnight camps to choose from, it’s important to pick the camp that fits your child’s hopes and expectations for their first overnight camp experience. Top tip: Involve your child in the decision making process! Studies on homesickness have found that children handle separation best when they feel in control. Giving your child the opportunity to help pick out a camp will boost confidence, ease anxiety and reduce homesickness. As a family, decide whether you are looking for a one week experience or for something longer. Find out from your camper whether they are hoping to try a wide variety of new activities, or specialize in an activity such as gymnastics or horseback riding. To find the camp that’s right for you, ask fellow parents or check out – a resource provided by the American Camp Association.

overnight camp VAGo!
Contact the camp to take a tour, or take a virtual tour online. With the season of camp fairs upon us, many parents will visit local malls and schools to meet camp directors and find out more about their summer options. Camp Friendship offers shorter Spring Break or weekend camp experiences to give first-time campers a taste of the overnight camp experience. Family Camp is another sure-fire way to get the whole family on board, and day camps are always a popular first step.

sleepaway camp in VirginiaEven if you decide that 2018 is not the summer for your family, rest assured that parents all over the country are unified in their opinions on the benefits of summer camp. Many parents comment specifically on their children’s increased independence and confidence when speaking with teachers and other adults, as well as improvements in their cooperation with siblings and classmates. One parent shared that instead of investing in private school they opt to send their children to Camp Friendship. They haven’t regretted a single summer!

Unfortunately, sometimes as a parent you will only get a definitive answer on readiness when you arrive to pick your camper up from camp. If you find them crying to stay for longer, chances are your family made the right choice!

Six Steps To Choosing A Summer Camp

choosing a summer camp

When it comes to summer camps, there’s a lot more involved than just campfires, s’mores and sing-along songs. As a parent, you might already have come to the realization that picking the right summer camp for your child isn’t easy… it’s an important and time-consuming decision.

As leaders in the camp industry, Camp Friendship in Virginia simplified the process for busy parents by creating a 6 step process to choosing a summer camp:

1. Day or Sleepaway?

When choosing a summer camp, first things first: Simplify your options. While there are hundreds of camps out there, you need to decide first and foremost whether you’ll be picking a day camp, an overnight camp or a combination of both for the summer. The most important part of this step is involving your child in the decision-making process. Some 7 year olds are ready for overnight camp, others are not; and parents need to be ready too. Session length is also a consideration when thinking of overnight camps as some offer 1 week sessions and others offer 2,3,4 and full-summer options.

2. Specialized Programming or General Fun?

Consider your child’s interests: what do they enjoy doing and what new activities would they like to try? Are you hoping for them to enjoy a wide range of experiences or do you want to opt for a specialty camp that focuses on a particular activity or set of skills? Nowadays camps offer all sorts of specialized options including horseback riding, circus and performing arts, sports, science and computer-based activities and more.

3. Philosophy and Mission: Does It Match Yours?

Now that you’ve narrowed it down some, it’s time to get to know the camp itself. What are you looking for in a camp? What should you be looking for? A sure-fire way to check whether a camp is the right fit is to consider your own parenting philosophy and whether the camp’s philosophy matches this: what is their view on competition, conflict resolution, flexibility and free-choice, are they affiliated with a religion etc. Another aspect to consider is the children that make up the camp’s community – would they all be from the same area or does the camp welcome children from out-of-state or other countries?

4. Consider the Costs

While choosing a summer camp, the general rule of thumb is that the earlier you sign up for camp, the cheaper it is. Some camps may offer financial aid or payment plans as well as sibling discounts or multiple week discounts. Check whether tuition is all-inclusive or if there are additional costs for transportation, specialized activities, out-of-camp trips etc.

5. Ask Questions

All camps should have a helpful FAQ section on their website which will most likely provide answers to questions you hadn’t even thought to ask. The American Camp Association suggests parents ask questions relating to:

  • Management and Staffing: What is the Camp Director’s background? How are staff members selected, screened and trained? What supervision ratio does the camp enforce?
  • Accreditation and References: Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association? Are they willing to provide previous camper families as references? What is their return rate for campers and staff?
  • Facilities and Food: How are campers bunked and what are the bathroom facilities like? How does the camp accommodate fussy eaters or food allergies?
  • Health & Wellness: How does the camp handle medical issues and manage camper medications? What about special needs? Are there health care professionals on-site and where is the closest medical facility? How is homesickness handled? What is the camp’s stance on behavior management?
  • Activities and Program Goals: How does the camp assign campers their activities – is it free-choice or do they receive a structured schedule as a group or individuals? Which is better for your child? How does the camp structure free time into a typical day?
  • Communication: How can you stay in touch with your child during camp? Does the camp allow electronics or is it technology-free?

6. Pay Them a Visit

For a nervous camper (or parent!) there is nothing better than actually visiting the camp to ease any anxieties. Many camps have Open House Days where first-time camper families are welcomed onto camp to meet staff, as well as see the facilities and ask questions. Some camps also offer private tours just for you and your family. If you live too far away to visit, some camps may have camp videos or virtual camp tours on their websites which may be helpful.

Choosing a summer camp takes time to research. There’s a camp out there to suit every child. When you consider the fact that over 14 million people attend camps annually in the United States alone, it becomes easy to recognize that there must be something special and beneficial about the experience. Join Camp Friendship in Virginia.

Sign up today! 1 (800) 873-3223 or (434) 589-8950

Camp Friendship is a residential camp. If you have any questions pertaining to summer camp, sleepaway camp, coed summer camp, , horseback riding camp, tennis summer camp, overnight camp, or residential camp in Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania, contact Camp Friendship at: 1 (800) 873-3223 or (434) 589-8950.


The Importance of the J1 Visa: To Camps, To America & To The World

Earlier this week Camp Friendship staff, along with summer camp staff everywhere, received an email which struck very close to us all. The email was in regards to the J1 work visa, specifically the Summer Work Travel (SWT) Program and the recent discussions to potentially cancel this program as a result of the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order signed by the President in April of this year.

For those of you who know Camp Friendship, you will know that we welcome staff from all over the world to enhance our program. In fact, Camp Friendship was founded on the notion of bringing children together from all over the world and providing them a safe space to gather in peace. Our international staff only strengthen this mission with the experiences they bring to share with our campers. Everyday we learn from one another and that is what makes us great. We proudly thrive on diversity of all kinds.

For those of you who don’t know Camp Friendship but know the camping industry, you will know the profound effect of international staff members.

Welcoming staff from around the world doesn’t take away opportunities from American staff, but rather helps with a shortage of seasonal staff and in the process opens up opportunities to all involved. To borrow from the language of the American Camp Association’s letter in support of the SWT program, “there is a shortage of available qualified seasonal workers in America, especially in rural areas like where most camps are located. Camps everywhere must compete with local businesses, internships, and summer educational programs in order to find staff willing to work during the short camp season.” Two thirds of overnight camps hire international staff, making up 10.9% of their staff, a percentage that increases to 19.7% for non-profit independent camps.

Beyond being essential to the operation of Camp Friendship and many other camps like ours, international staff give young people the chance to learn hands-on about different cultures. Research shows that youth camps improve developmental and academic outcomes, promote wellness and provide valuable employment experiences. The greatest economic impact of youth camps (besides almost $3.2 billion of which $1.1 billion is paid in local, state and federal income tax) may be their contribution to the development of human capital… development that is improved by international staff.

For me, the idea of losing the J1 program is hard to come to terms with on a personal level as I am a young person who has greatly benefited from the program. The first question I asked myself when I heard the news was, where would I be today without the J1 visa? The second… Who would I be today without the J1 visa? I can honestly say, without a doubt, I would not be the same person. I am who I am because of the experiences the J1 visa gave me, the people it allowed me to meet and the fears it helped me to overcome.

I am now fortunate enough to be working full-time at Camp Friendship on an extended J1 visa. This summer was the first time I was involved in the hiring of our brilliant staff members and I’ve been able to see first-hand the impact that working at a summer camp has on all our staff. I saw the transition from their first interview until their final day at camp, not just with our international staff but also our American staff. I saw friendships formed. I overheard conversations (and debates) on every topic under the sun: food, sport teams, school systems, the differences in how they would spend their free time and everything in between. I heard travel plans being made and watched international communities grow. To think of these opportunities being taken away from campers and staff alike is heartbreaking.

This summer, I also saw first-hand the impact of this particular international exchange program on our campers. Each and every year I see thousands of young people experience the magic of summer camp and grow, but this year I definitely noticed how much of an impact our international presence had, on our American and international children.

I noticed our campers really engaging and wanting to learn more about different cultures. I watched as staff would take the time to help campers understand why differences make us special and why they should be celebrated. I got to see (in the short space of 1 week) a camper’s ambitions change and their outlook on life develop. Campers developed a desire to travel the world to meet up with camp friends, to learn more, and to grow. This summer at Camp Friendship it didn’t at all matter where you were from, and it mattered immensely at the same time.

How YOU can help

As a part of our camp and global community, we ask you to join us in support of this cause:

Share. Share your stories of the positive impact our international staff have made, whether you were an international staff member yourself or whether you simply idolized your international counselors as a camper.

Write. Write to your representatives. The American Camp Association has pre-written a letter that is easy to sign electronically and send.

Call. Call your representatives, tell them how much you value the SWT Program and share your personal positive experiences that you wouldn’t have had if this program didn’t exist.

The legacy we leave with our campers and young people is what truly matters. Opening them up to the world and teaching them love, diversity and understanding matters. At Camp Friendship we will always strive to do what matters. We will always put your child first and do what is best for them, which is why we’re fighting this fight and we’re fighting it hard.

The Week So Far… Session 9A!

It’s our final week of the summer, and it looks like we’ve saved the best for last!

Our week began with a fun-filled campfire with performances from many of our staff members as well as some brave (and very talented!) campers.

On Monday we had some rain showers that put a few of our morning activities on hold, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun, and it was all-systems go again by the afternoon!

On Monday evening we gathered together under the stars for a camp-wide cookout. As always, cookouts are filled with fun, games, dancing, laughter… and of course, s’mores!

Tuesday was our second day of activities and a chance to try some new things with our new friends. With over 35 activities to choose from, there’s no time for boredom at camp! Whether it’s a camper learning to build a shelter in Wilderness Survival or challenging their fear of heights in High Ropes, camp is a place to learn, play and grow.

On Tuesday night our Senior Campers had a pool party, and Juniors celebrated their creativity in a game called Insanity. Each cabin is required to fill a pillowcase full of random items from their cabin and then present them in the most creative way possible according to the judges’ wishes. Needless to say there was much madness that ensued, and plenty of laughter to boot!

The sun is out in full force today and everyone is enjoying day 3 – there’s singing and dancing in the Dining Hall, splashing going on at the pool and excitement all around. Tonight we’ve got Capture the Flag for Juniors and Noodle Hockey and Dodgeball for Seniors – it’s sure to be a great night! Be sure to watch our mid-week video on our YouTube Channel and keep your eye on CampInTouch each evening for the latest pictures.

The Week So Far… Session 8A!

It’s Week 8 and things are going great!

On Sunday we kicked things off with our Opening Campfire where we saw a hilarious depiction of how animals eat their food as well as some funny counselor impersonations, a song about bananas, impressive dance offs and more.

Our week began with a bit of a wet and rainy Monday, but that didn’t dampen our spirits – we still had plenty of time for fun with dodgeball and noodle hockey tournaments in the gym, a special event of Mock Olympics and some bonding time with our cabin mates and counselors. Monday’s evening activity was a cozy movie-watching session in the Dining Hall with all our new friends.

On Tuesday the sun shone brightly and everyone had the chance to try a full day of activities including free swim in the lake or the pool. On Tuesday evening the Seniors enjoyed a very competitive game of Counselor Hunt while the Juniors had a rocking Pool Party! Whatever we do at Camp Friendship, it’s always a good time.

Wednesday was our third day of activities, and the fun just keeps going. We’re all very excited for our very special evening activities tonight – instead of dinner in the Dining Hall we’ll be having a camp-wide cookout, and then we’ll all watch the big soccer match against Triple C, our day camp friends from nearby Charlottesville.

This friendly soccer game is an annual tradition for our counselors, and every year our soccer team is ‘sponsored’ by a different camp celebrity. This year it’s Owner Alina Ackenbom’s turn! Our soccer shirts are tennis-ball green in honor of Alina’s passion for tennis and her successful tennis program that brings campers from all over the world to improve their game. We hope this brings our team luck in the game tonight – be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up-to-date with the score!

The Week So Far… Session 7A!

It’s Week 7 here at Camp Friendship in Virginia, and it’s been nothing but fun, friendships and WAR… SV Wars to be precise! This week our Senior Villages have declared war and are out to win in the epic battles of SV WARS. SV Wars is a brand new Village Time activity here at camp where campers and counselors compete in various activities throughout the week – there have been dance offs, ping pong tournaments, fashion shows, volleyball challenges and so much more! Be sure to follow our Camp Friendship Facebook and Instagram pages to find out whether SV1 or SV2 are victorious at the end of the week.

Taking it back a day or two to Sunday, we started Week 7 in the same way we start every week at Camp Friendship, with our Opening Campfire on Sunday night. This campfire is a time for new friends to come together beneath the stars and get to know each other a little better. It’s also a time where we watch our counselors make complete fools of themselves up on stage, and we love every minute!

After an early start on Monday, there was much excitement as everyone received their activity schedules and prepared to try their activities for the first time! Instead of regular dinner in the Dining Hall, our campers and counselors ate outdoors in a camp-wide cookout that was great fun!

After a full day of activities on Tuesday, it was time to cool off with a few camp favorites for evening activity: Slip ‘n Slide for Juniors and a highly competitive round of Pool Olympics for Seniors.

On Wednesday we received some much needed rain which gave us all some time to rest and recover from the high-energy activities we’ve been doing all week.

Rest time didn’t last long though as it was soon time to head Under the Sea for our camp-wide dance. It’s always great fun to see how our campers interpret the dance theme, and this week we had sharks, crabs, fishermen, squid and a whole crew of Spongebob Squarepants characters that made everyone giggle. Needless to say we had a whale of a time!

As we near the end of our week, we still have big plans for camp fun with our camp friends. Thursday‘s evening activities are some camp classics: Pool Party for Juniors and Powder Fairies for Seniors. Our Equestrian Campers will spend the evening preparing themselves and their horses for the big day on Friday: Horse Show Day! At the end of every 2-week Equestrian Camp session, the girls get the chance to perform the skills they’ve learned at camp to their families and friends, and of course their counselors swell with pride at seeing how far each rider has come in just 2 short weeks.

Be sure to look out for photos of your camper on CampInTouch over the weekend, and there’ll be a special Week 7 Wrap Up video to watch on our YouTube channel.

The Week So Far… Session 6!

It’s the middle of Week 6 and the good times keep rolling in!

We started off the week by showing a warm welcome to our international campers who have come from all over the world to be with us this week. We’ve got a diverse group of campers from Andorra, China, Spain, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Canada and the United Kingdom to name just a few.

On Sunday night the good times began with campers and counselors sharing their talents on the Campfire stage as well as a very messy and muddy act which continued the Junior Boys vs Junior Girls rivalry that started a few weeks ago.

On Monday we started our week of activities and had a blast trying new things! We took our cabin and village pictures (look out for those in your envelopes on Check Out day!) and spent time in the Lake and the Pool during Free Swim. Our first full camp day ended with a camp-wide Cook Out where we had the chance to bond as a village group over hamburgers, hotdogs, taco skillet and of course s’mores!

On Tuesday we continued with our 5 daily activities, learning more about the things that interest us and getting to know our new friends. The evening activities were some camp favorites – Powder Fairies for the Juniors and Slip ‘n Slide for the Seniors. Needless to say there was plenty of laughter to be heard both on Overlook Hill and the Lower Fields on Tuesday night!

On Wednesday we continued progressing within our activities and enjoyed a much needed rest during cabin/village time… having all this fun is hard work! This evening’s activities involve a great deal of splashing – we’ve lined up Chip Cup for Juniors and the oh-so-competitive Pool Olympics for Seniors. Stay tuned for more news!