See answers to our most frequently asked questions.
What is your approach working with children and families?
Being a camp counselor is exciting, rewarding and enriching – and it’s demanding work when it comes to dealing with infinite varieties of youthful concerns and behaviors. Our counseling staff comes to camp with good natural instincts for working with children; but just as natural athletes need coaching and training to achieve consistent excellence, naturally capable camp counselors need education and practice to do their best advising and mentoring. To that end, The Aloha Foundation has devoted more than 25 years to developing and refining an extensive program of staff training and camper guidance that we call Success Counseling. Based on a thoughtful understanding of human psychology, Success Counseling helps staff and campers alike to address opportunities and challenges reflectively, and to respond creatively in ways that best serve their own interests, those of their peers and the camp community at large.
The central concept of Success Counseling holds that we have more control than we realize over our behavior, our thinking, and consequently, our emotions – an empowering concept in difficult situations. The goal of Success Counseling is to help people make positive decisions and take constructive actions that help them achieve their goals, work positively through issues, and create successful relationships with others. Success Counseling focuses on self evaluation and creative problem-solving rather than ineffective reactions to personal problems, such as blaming, shaming, excuse-making or inappropriate anger. Campers and counselors tell us they use the lessons of Success Counseling often throughout their lives: “In difficult moments I ask myself the questions I was always asked at camp, then I know what to do…”
What’s the role of competition at camp?
The Aloha camps encourage children to experiment with new activities and challenges in a primarily non-competitive atmosphere free of performance pressure. Campers can choose to pursue activity “ranks” or special honors by acquiring or refining skills they choose to develop, or by designing a personal program of learning and fun for the summer. Healthy competition does have a place at camp – in games, tournaments, and sporting events that also put a high value on team play and good sportsmanship. There are occasional sporting competitions with other area camps in activities like archery, swimming, tennis, basketball, etc., but for the most part, our programs emphasize the challenge and satisfaction that come from working toward and achieving personal goals.
Are the camps religiously affiliated?
No. At least once a week – often on a Sunday morning or evening – campers and counselors participate in a non-denominational gathering or assembly which highlights special moments of the week past, features musical performances by campers and counselors, and incorporates readings and topical reflections from community members. Sundays tend to be a day for everyone to reflect upon their camp experiences and come together in a thoughtful, intentional way.
Where can I learn more about inclusion at the Aloha Foundation Camps?
We strive to ensure each person is valued for who they are and what they bring to the community. We value the diversity that enriches the Alohas and invite people not simply to “fit in” but to feel a deep sense of belonging. Read our full equity and community statement and learn more about inclusion at the Aloha Camps on our Equity and Inclusion page.
Adjusting to Life at Camp
How do I know if my camper is ready for overnight camp?
Deciding to send your child to a residential sleepaway camp is a very big decision. We take our role and responsibility as caregivers incredibly seriously, as we work to provide the care, love, and support that we hope leads to a transformational experience of growth. We are happy to talk with you before or after you submit an application, and anytime throughout the year! In addition, please take a look at our blog post, “Is your child ready for overnight camp?”
Can my child be in a tent/cabin/shack with a relative or friend from home?
Our leadership teams at each of the camps, in consultation with the directors, work to place campers in tents/cabins/shacks based on personalities, interests, and individual needs. We do not place good friends from home or school in an intimate living situation together because we want them to explore new friendships and step out of their comfort zones while also knowing that their friend is nearby. We find that this prevents cliques, provides larger groups of friends for all campers, and promotes a community based on inclusivity.
What is it like for new campers? Is it easy to make friends?
It may seem silly to say, but there really aren’t ‘new’ campers at the Aloha Foundation. We adhere to a philosophy predicated on community, inclusivity, and friendship, which allows new campers to instantly feel like they are a part of something. While we acknowledge that every child is different and may take time to warm up, our camper/counselor ratio, our culture of kindness, and our retention rate of campers and counselors provide the framework for a camper to feel comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone to meet new people, try new activities, and begin the process of having the summer of their life!
At the Aloha camps, our culture of safety and acceptance allows us to be vulnerable and to take both physical and emotional risks. Our core philosophies provide campers with the ability to experiment with sides of themselves, often hidden, that they might not reveal elsewhere. In a camper’s willingness to perform in front of friends, in the way that counselors ask each other for honest and critical feedback, and in the way that both counselors and campers are willing to show emotion to one another, genuine openness is lived and learned. Being vulnerable is the foundation of transformative trust.
We strive to be people that go out of their way to provide time, energy, love, and support in every moment of the camp day. Generosity is infectious, affecting how everyone in the community sees themselves. Whether it takes the form of a camper asking a cabin/shack mate, “How can I help?”, a counselor skipping their free time to help a struggling camper with a difficult swimming stroke, or a hiking group walking more slowly to make it easier for one of their friends to keep up, true generosity allows us to become fuller and finer people while also helping others. Happiness is a by-product of love and service, and both involve giving people more than they expect, over and over again.
How do I communicate with my child? How will you communicate with me?
We encourage you to write to your child as frequently as possible. Letter writing, as you know, is a disappearing art, and camp is likely to be one of the only times in a child’s life when letters are the primary means of communication. More than anything – now and into the future – your children will cherish the letters you wrote them, and appreciate the thought, time, and effort you took in sending mail their way.
You will receive postcards or letters from your child’s counselors several times during the summer sessions, as well as correspondence from the Director. In these communications, you will get an update on how they are doing and the activities in which they’ve participated. If you have questions about any of the content of these letters, you can reach out to the directors for more information.
My child needs down time each day. How do you allow for this?
Based on a schedule focused on choice, there are ample opportunities for a camper to find down time during the day. There is lots of “free time” built into daily programming. On any given day, you will see campers reading under a tree, playing cards in their tents, or running along the hillside. Our counselors are quite good about having conversations with campers about their needs and desires, and work to ensure that they are properly supported. Self-care is an important tenet of our program, and we know that all of us benefit from introspection and intentional self-reflection. Each camp has a Rest Hour in the afternoon, allowing campers and counselors an opportunity to read, rest, or nap.
Will my child be homesick?
Leaving home for an extended period of time can be challenging for campers, especially at a young age. Our camps have developed programming to provide support for children who may experience inklings of homesickness. From the moment campers arrive on campus, they are involved in activities that promote autonomy, choice, community, and fun. Counselors are trained to look for signs of homesickness, working with campers to guide them towards an understanding that they can miss home while also having fun.
Why do you share pronouns at camp?
It is important that all members of our community are known and seen in a way that allows them to feel supported and inspired to be their best selves at camp. Normalizing the sharing of pronouns gives everyone the opportunity to self-identify and creates a more welcoming space for everyone in our community. Visit our Equity & Inclusion page for more about welcoming and belonging at camp.
Can I set up private tutoring for my child during the summer?
We do not allow private lessons of any kind (musical, academic, etc.) that take campers out of our daily program. We find that immersing them in the routine and community of camp sets them up best for success and avoids the stress and distraction of outside work during the summer camp experience. Our counselors are happy to encourage campers in certain academic, athletic, or musical areas, checking in and connecting them with other counselors who can provide mentorship and guidance. No formal tutoring or co-curricular support is offered during the camp season. There are occasionally extenuating circumstances. If you believe your child to be in a situation that warrants special consideration, one of our directors would be happy to discuss this with you.
Packing and Uniforms
Why do campers wear uniforms?
“See who I am, not what I’m wearing.” That’s the philosophy behind the camps’ simple uniforms. We find that by taking away the focus on materialistic things that are sometimes prevalent in the hallways of schools, campers have more opportunity to focus on their surroundings, friendships, and fun.
Can my child bring electronic devices to camp?
Cell phones, computer games or toys, iPods, e-readers, and the like detract from the natural environment and outdoor activities children come to camp to enjoy. Away from electronics, campers get in tune with the world around them and become more connected to the community they share. We ask that campers leave their electronics at home. If campers are traveling solo by plane or bus, they can bring a cell phone and we will store it in a safe location for the duration of their time on campus.
Do children bring lovies (like blankets or special stuffed animals) to camp?
Some campers will feel nervous about bringing a special blanket or stuffed animal to camp, and may even go as far as demanding that they be left at home. We always encourage parents to pack those items in the car, plane, or bus because once children arrive, they see that many beds have some form of stuffed animal or special blanket. We are the type of community that embraces children for who they are, believing strongly in the idea of acceptance, community, and individuality. Small treasured items from a child’s home are easily accommodated at camp.
Counselors and Staff
How many counselors are there to support my camper?
Lots! Most campers live in tents with one primary counselor. This “tent family” of three campers and one counselor gets to know each other very well and develops close bonds throughout the summer. (Some campers live in cabins instead of tents, typically with two counselors.) Campers are also supported by staff members in their living units and in activity departments. On the whole, the Aloha camps maintain a ratio of about one counselor for every two to three campers. Some of our staff like Directors, Assistant Directors, nurses, and office managers live in housing on our campuses.
How do you screen your counselors to prioritize my child’s safety?
Every staff member at the Aloha Foundation takes part in an extensive interview process, provides two references, and undergoes a comprehensive background check prior to arrival on camp property. All counselors take part in a weeklong staff training program that includes training in conflict resolution, child development, relationship management, emergency procedures, mandated reporting, appropriate behavior, and federal and state laws and responsibilities around working with children. Counselors who will be working in areas that may involve heightened safety risk (driving, camping, waterfront activities, etc.) receive in-depth training and certifications like Wilderness First Aid, Red Cross Lifeguard Training, etc. during Certification Week.
Can I give my camper’s counselor a tip?
The Aloha Foundation, consistent with the policies of the American Camp Association, does not permit counselors to accept gifts or gratuities. A personal note to your camper’s counselor is always appreciated. A gift to the Aloha Foundation’s Annual Fund in honor of a particular counselor is another thoughtful alternative valued by staff.
What are meals like at camp?
All of our programs embrace “family style dining,” which means that we sit down together at most meals in groups of 10-12 so that we can converse, laugh, share thoughts about the day, and get to know one another. Occasionally we have a buffet line for different events, but in general, we have assigned seats that change on a weekly basis. Because everyone has a place at a specific table, no one feels left out, and campers are not put in the position of getting to a table of friends last only to find that there are no seats available.
What do you do about picky eaters?
We usually find that campers who arrive as picky eaters tend to leave with a much larger pallet of foods they enjoy. Counselors are trained to observe the eating habits of campers at their tables and alert the nursing staff if they are concerned about a camper. Counselors will never single out a child for not eating food or for eating large quantities, but will provide some individual guidance and mentorship in an effort to help the camper navigate communal dining. Fruit is always readily available for campers to take advantage of in between meals.
Health & Safety
How are dietary restrictions handled?
Our camps serve nutritious meals that include vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free options, and our camp kitchens are nut-free. Epi-pens can be accessed in key locations at each campus for health emergencies, and we urge parents to communicate with our nursing staff about dietary restrictions. While we do provide guidance to campers when it comes to allergies, preferences, and food restrictions, they must be able to manage their snacks and meals independently. Because we are feeding 250+ people at each meal, we are not equipped to handle some dietary restrictions pertaining to ingredients. While we do offer a dairy-free option and a vegetarian option at each mail, we are not able to guarantee a vegan option.
What is camp like for campers living with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues?
Our counselors receive training in a number of different approaches to relationship management, decision-making, and conflict resolution. That said, our camps are not equipped to provide full support in mental health counseling or clinical issues. If your child has been receiving those supports at home, please reach out to your camp director to discuss your child’s needs and how we might set them up for a successful summer.
What do you do about tick checks? With Lyme Disease becoming more prevalent, what policies do you have in place to ensure that kids are not getting tick borne illnesses?
Ivy Oaks Analytics conducts three treatments of our grounds each summer, focused on controlling tick populations and mosquito populations. The entire perimeter of each campus – in addition to several areas outside the perimeter – is treated with our barrier spray. Poison ivy control is also provided by Ivy Oaks Analytics. In addition, Tick Control Boxes are located across our campuses. These devices treat rodents to prevent them from hosting ticks. These mechanisms interrupt the transmission cycle of Lyme Disease which significantly reduces the likelihood of any remaining ticks being infected with it. Camp showers have signs detailing how to check one’s body for ticks, and every day counselors check in with their campers to be sure they have done a daily tick check. Counselors work with our health staff to identify ticks properly, and our local doctors at Upper Valley Pediatrics are on call 24 hours a day to assist.
Should I sign my child up for seven weeks at camp or three and a half?
Camp is a powerful experience for any participant – camper and counselor alike. Whether children are with us for three and a half or seven weeks, we work diligently to create experiences for them that offer challenge and reward, nurture growth and self-reflection, and create human connection among participants from around the globe. Our day-to-day routine is varied enough that there is no time for boredom, and special events are peppered throughout the summer for spontaneity and fun. While we recognize the rewards and benefits of a seven-week experience in our programs, some families’ summer plans preclude this option for a variety of reasons, most often because of commitments like school and family vacations, or other interests a child wants to pursue. For those children who opt to enjoy a full summer at the Alohas, weeks five and six tend to bring deep growth and progress in areas like self-confidence, skill-building, and the navigation of relationships. We aspire to have all participants in our programs realize lifetime benefits from the experience. Please call any of our camp directors to discuss your child’s readiness for camp.
Is one session better than the other? Which session is more popular?
The camps work to provide the same level of programming, fun, connection, and engagement during every week that a child is with us. While there may be different events depending on the session, there is a consistent focus on providing similar opportunities for growth, learning, and success. Most decisions about session choice pertain to family commitments, school start dates, or sports.
Have more questions?
Connect with a camp director or learn more about the Aloha Foundation.