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Summer camp brings to mind thoughts of campfire songs, sleeping under a canopy of stars, meeting new friends, and enjoying exciting adventures in the great outdoors. As the camp staff at Frost Valley YMCA likes to say, it’s also an opportunity to “reconnect by disconnecting.”

“Unplugging is a good thing,” notes Director of Camping Services Dan Weir. This means switching off cell phones, video games, and other outside influences in order to get in touch with important values such as caring, community, diversity, honesty, inclusiveness, respect, responsibility, and stewardship. “We fuse these core values into every program we do,” Weir says. “They’re ingrained into Frost Valley’s culture. Everyone — campers and staff — has bought into them.”

Here are five ways in which any of Frost Valley’s nine overnight camps can help elementary-age children and teens “reconnect by disconnecting”:

1. ENJOY UNFORGETTABLE ADVENTURES. Located just a couple of hours outside New York City in the “forever wild” Catskill Mountains, Frost Valley offers everything from Teen Adventure Trips to a girls-only equestrian program where campers have their own horse for two weeks. There’s also a Farm Camp that, in addition to delivering traditional camp experiences, gets children involved in caring for animals and gardening.

2. GO TO EXTREMES. Campers can step outside their comfort zone by participating in such programs as the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, which puts teens’ outdoor survival skills to the test in a host of thrilling (but safe!) scenarios. “A lot of kids just want to see if they can do it,” Weir says. “It can be a real character builder.”

If your camper is new to the outdoors, Frost Valley’s Adventure Village has activities such as rock climbing, canoeing, and mountain boarding.

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3. LEARN WHILE HAVING FUN. Frost Valley calls its summer camps a “transformational learning environment.” Campers develop independence and confidence over the course of a program and can also focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles that will endure even after the camp experience has concluded. In addition, Frost Valley provides opportunities for service-oriented projects and is very accommodating of campers with disabilities.

4. MAKE REAL CONNECTIONS THAT LAST A LIFETIME. Technology seems to change daily, but the connections made at camp often last a lifetime. The experience far exceeds anything a power cord could ever supply. And Frost Valley prides itself on the fact that its campers represent a great diversity of race, religion, and socioeconomic status. Children from all backgrounds come together to enjoy exciting and new experiences in a safe and caring environment.

Furthermore, campers feel they’re part of a long-standing community at Frost Valley; many even participate in Counselor-In-Training programs. “Over 70 percent of our staff returns year after year,” Weir says, “and many of them enjoyed a Frost Valley camp experience themselves when they were kids. Now, they want to give back that experience.”

5. KEEP PARENTS IN THE LOOP. Weir realizes, “For a lot of families, summer camp is the first time a child will be away from home for any amount of time; we want the parents to be comfortable with their decision and also make them feel they are part of the camp experience.” One way Frost Valley achieves this while the camp is happening is by uploading photos to a secure smugmug.com account that only camper parents can access, and by posting updates to camp blogs at frostvalley.org/blog. (Okay, some technological connections can be a good thing!)

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Frost Valley is guided by its mission to build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all campers — and, as a nonprofit organization, it can do so in the most affordable manner for families. But to make sure that Frost Valley is definitely the right choice for prospective campers, Weir encourages parents and children to attend a free Open House on either February 22, March 15, April 12, and May 17. There will be a slideshow, Q&A, lunch, and walking tour. Call 845-985-2291 ext. 203 or email campregistration@frostvalley.org for information and reservations.

Summer Day Camp Open Houses are also being planned, and will include a presentation, Q&A, lunch, and camp crafts. Call 845-985-2291 ext. 306 or email daycamp@frostvalley.org for information and reservations.

If you can’t make it to an Open House, contact Frost Valley to schedule a private tour.

Frost Valley provides people of all ages and abilities with enriching, even life-altering, outdoor experiences all year long. Located on more than 5,000 acres in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, just two hours north of New York City, Frost Valley offers year-round access to nature, adventure, environmental education, and fun.

Frost Valley YMCA
2000 Frost Valley Rd.
Claryville, NY 12725

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Hudson Valley Magazine editorial staff.