By Danny Bernstein
Once again, I had the good fortune of spending a portion of my summer with dozens of campers from the Edward Williams School and the New Flex Foundation in Mt. Vernon. While camp holds many nostalgic moments in my heart, new and profound experiences were created over the three days in which my friends and I spend upstate with this special group of young people.
Through the kindness of the Gersten and Meltzer families of Brant Lake Camp, Backyard Sports celebrated its 3rd summer camp experience with close to 40 teenagers and chaperones. We were joined by Mike Moser, the Board President of Backyard Sports Cares, his son Cameron, and Josh Klein, both rising seniors at Scarsdale High School, as well as Eric Stitzer, a Backyard Sports coach, and his wife Selena, who joined our staff. Additionally, Doug Barshop, a new friend of Backyard Sports and former Brant Laker, helped out with his young children Sam, Jack, and Lilly participating in all of the activities with the group.
Needless to say, everyone immersed themselves in the trappings of camp life in the Adirondacks. The weekend included an abundance of sporting activities, including tennis, basketball, hockey, Frisbee, gaga, and visits to the Waterfront. Check out the complete photo album of our camp experience here.
The group enjoyed community meals in the dining room with a Saturday night cookout as a final dinner. Other highlights included a talent show, a bowling trip to Lake George, a farewell campfire, and an excursion to a ropes/elements course in Bolton Landing.
What’s seems to have become a tradition after three summers, Michael and I had a chance to reflect on the camp and the impact it’s had on both the campers and the staff that participated. Since this was the third summer, almost half of the campers were “veterans,” bringing with them expectations and a desire to create new memories. These returnees were instrumental in taking leadership roles and guiding the “newbies”.
The program is a summer highlight for the staff as we enjoy engaging with the campers and seeing their growth and progress over the past year. As with any camp setting, it is remarkable to watch the growth of a living community. All individuals learn to respect the rules of play as camp games are competitive, but the results are fleeting. No win or loss is significant as the score is always reset to zero. Gaga was a huge hit as the kids played for hours without any adult intervention or interruption.
Our visits to the lake were remarkable because nearly all the campers went in the water regardless of their ability to swim. The lakefront was enjoyed not only for a refreshing dip, but also for the stark beauty of the landscape. It was quite apparent that the campers paused to appreciate the natural splendor of their surroundings.
Evidently, the trip to the ropes course had an overwhelming impact on the kids. Most comments reflected on the fun and the fear experienced by everyone as they navigated the elements, rope ladders, zip lines — all while suspended 25 feet off of the ground.
Ultimately, what was most impressive about the camp experience was how simple activities can have such a dramatic impact on a community of people regardless of their resources or backgrounds. Most of us are well aware of the transformative powers of camp experiences. These few days reminded us that this power can still endure.
We hope to continue the summer experience for many years. Please keep this in mind if you would like to get involved with the program in the years ahead.