Summer Camp in NH in the NewsNovember 22, 2013
Summer Camp in NH in the News
We are always honored when our summer camp in NH is in the written about in the news. This past February Camps Kenwood & Evergreen was pleased to be named one of the Boston Area’s “Best Sleep Away Summer Camps For Kids” by CBS television. In case you didn’t see it, this is what they had to say about our summer camp in New Hampshire.
Just under two hours north of Boston, Camp Kenwood for boys and Camp Evergreen for girls is both a single-sex and co-ed community sitting on 180 acres. With high standards, boys and girls are kept separate for weekday activities such as gymnastics, rock climbing, baseball, soccer, golf, ceramics, theater, wood work, painting, drawing, photography, diving, tubing, fishing and water skiing and are brought together to form lasting friendships during some evening and weekend activities such as a carnival, camper and counselor hunt, hobby night and music festival. The Kenwood and Evergreen camp community strives for physical and emotional safety while building trust, respect, independence and strong relationships. Facilities include boy and girl bunks with two counselors per seven to eight children, athletic fields and courts, lake, theater and dining hall.
We are proud to have been noted in so many publications over the years. Boston Magazine also wrote a wonderful cover article about us called “Endless Summers”. We’d love to share an excerpt it with you here.
It’s just before 10 a.m., and four teenagers are jamming out their second Led Zeppelin tune of the day. On drums, Needham’s own Alex Freedman is doing his best John Bonham imitation, beating drums with sticks as thick as his arms. Corey Francer of Sharon provides the backbone on bass, while guitarist Ben Peskoe of Briarcliff, New York, slams power chords, his amplifier turned up as far as it goes. Matt Pollack of Sudbury screeches lyrics into the microphone, his voice rattling the windowpanes of the wooden shack we’re standing in.
“A whole lotta lovvve!!!”
At Camps Kenwood-Evergreen in rural Potter Place, New Hampshire-sleep-away camps for boys and girls, respectively-it’s a typical morning. The band is practicing for “Hollowpallooza,” a rock show, put on by kids, that will take place in a week in the Hollow, a grassy nook with a hill that creates a natural amphitheater. The show is one of the highlights of the summer. The band finishes the song, and I move in, reporter’s pad in hand. “What’s the name of the band?” I ask Pollack, the singer.
“I said, what’s the name of the band!”
“We’re called Three Jews and a Pollack. We’re the rockers of camp. This is the best part of the summer. It’s the greatest idea ever! It’s so great. . . . ” He searches the ether for a superlative that could finish the sentence, then says, “What was the question?”
Tuck, a cartoonish 28-year-old music teacher with a shaved head, chimes in: “One more time. Let’s give it a little more. . . . “
One! Two! Three! The band kicks in, the windowpanes rattle, my eardrums threaten to burst. One thing is for sure: These kids couldn’t get away with this kind of fun at this time of day in their suburban hometowns. Not a chance.
Times have changed since I went to Camps Kenwood and Evergreen for seven summers starting in 1981 at age nine. We didn’t have electric guitars and synthesizers. There was no rock concert with digital video cameras to capture the event. Essentially, we had flashlights with batteries. Our guitars were in fact tennis rackets and lacrosse sticks.
We were also thrilled to be profiled by Living Without magazine. Their article Postcards from Allergy-friendly Camp highlighted how our summer camp in NH is one of the few mainstream summer camps in the United States that provides safe meals for campers and staff with food allergies.
Mainstream camps give kids with food allergies fun, life-enriching experiences, says Jason Sebell, director of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen in Wilmot, New Hampshire. Nine years ago, the two overnight camps realized they needed to embrace special diets when more and more food-allergic children in the community wanted to attend camp.
It started when Sebell noticed that the youngest child in a visiting family was visibly upset. “He said to me that he realized he couldn’t come to our camp because of his severe nut allergy,” Sebell says. “This family was so beloved in our community, we realized that we needed to make a change.”
The Kenwood and Evergreen staff sat down and talked about new procedures. The first challenge: Many kids exist on peanut butter during the summer. The staff researched brands of soy butter and sunflower butter and held a blind taste test to pick the best one.
When the camp announced it would be peanut-free and tree nut-free, only two parents complained, saying their kids couldn’t survive without peanut butter. Sebell sent them each a jar of soy butter and asked them to try a test at home: substitute the soy butter in sandwiches and see if their kids noticed a difference. They didn’t.
Now the New Hampshire camps attract kids with food allergies from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and California. “This is part of our mission, to provide as safe and as nurturing an environment as possible,” Sebell says. “At this point, so many families have allergies. It’s a different world and I mean that in a positive way.”
A few years ago, a personal incident further reinforced Sebell’s inclusiveness.
“My sister was diagnosed with celiac disease. She didn’t learn about it until she was 21 and was a counselor at camp,” Sebell says. “I certainly wasn’t going to say to my sister, ‘No you can’t come here. Our kitchen can’t accommodate you.’”
So now the camps “happily accommodate” other special diets, including gluten free and dairy free, Sebell says. They aren’t just peanut free and tree nut free, they’re “peanut and tree nut aware,” meaning that they have heightened awareness of food allergies around the clock. If counselors eat at a Chinese restaurant on their day off, for example, they think about whether they’ve been exposed to nuts and scrub their hands, wash their face and brush their teeth before returning to camp.
“I want all our kids, counselors and staff to keep this question in the back of their minds: Are we walking the walk on this? We can’t slip up,” Sebell says. “The boys’ head counselor has life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies. I tell future campers that the head counselor doesn’t just understand your allergy, he lives it.”
At Camps Kenwood and Evergreen, food is served family style but kids with special dietary needs go to a window in the dining hall where the chef has individually cooked and wrapped meals for them. Parents bring some of their children’s favorite gluten-free food to start the summer, since tastes vary widely. Once the kitchen knows the kids’ favorite brands, the camp buys more throughout the 7-week session.
When the camp takes trips, counselors are equipped with EpiPens, liquid Benadryl, cell phones and emergency plans.
“Our children, regardless of their allergies, go on all sorts of trips that make up the summer experience—to the beach, state parks, caving, canoeing, water parks—just like every other child in our community, and they never have to think about it. They can go water skiing, rock climbing, hiking and not feel like they’re living in a bubble,” Sebell says. “Our mandate is to help kids with allergies and food intolerances live as normal an experience as possible in a mainstream camp.”
We love what has been written about us, and we’d love the opportunity to tell you more about the experiences and outcomes that we generate every summer at our summer camp in NH.