Thank You Georgia and More!

Dear Parents, Campers and Friends,

As the temperature hovers close to 60 today, I’m reminded of the last couple of winters we’ve had here at camp with lots of snow and cold temperatures. It’s been a mild winter so far this year with some daffodils blooming at the end of January!  Even though Feb. is half over, we can always be surprised by a late winter storm or two.  Good weather has provided lots of good days for camp preparations.  We’re getting ready for camp like gangbusters and are so excited about the upcoming summer.

A big thank you goes out to one of our campers, Georgia from Atlanta, who sent us a wonderful version of our Gwynn Valley Mountains framed in tiny Hemlock cones spread around the edges of the picture she drew.  We love receiving those kinds of gifts and it makes us yearn for the presence of all of our campers.

Thank You Georgia for the Great Art Work!

We have been traveling to promote camp as well as interviewing staff over the past many weeks since the new year started.  We’ve also attended some very good workshops on a local and regional level pertaining to the camping industry.  Just last week three of our staff attended a workshop by Bob Ditter, a child psychologist who is very well known in the camping industry for his work with “keeping children safe”.  His work centers around the best hiring practices for staff, training counselors, camper and staff development, and strong supervision which is key in any setting for children.  It was a full day of wisdom and practical information from Bob.  I had dinner with him and a few other directors that evening because I serve on the NCYCA Board (North Carolina Youth Camp Association).   It was a great day and reaffirmed that Gwynn Valley is doing an excellent job in our work with children and staff.   Next week five of us will head to Atlanta to the American Camp Association’s National Conference to spend 4 days soaking up information from experts in the camping field and meeting camp directors from all over the country.

Last year about this time I wrote an article for a magazine and website called 60 Second Parent entitled  “Is My Child Ready for Summer Camp”.  As a sequel to that I want to add the following thoughts based on an article by Carolyn Meyer-Wartels, Psychotherapist and Parenting Counselor,   “Five Convincing  Reasons to Send Your Child To Summer Camp”.   As many of us know, some children are born ready to attend camp and some parents plan that event from day one, maybe because of their own great camp experience or they feel that the opportunities for growth at summer camp should be part of the maturation process.  Others, (children and parents) are less enthusiastic about camp and leaving  the home nest for even a short period of time.  We’re all quite different in our parenting styles and it’s good to remember not everything works for everybody.

Here’s what Carolyn writes in her article and I feel she is right on target in her justification for a summer camp experience.

1.  Stepping outside of the comfort zone.  We are the generation of padded playgrounds and soccer trophies for everyone on the team.  Nowadays adults tend to rescue children from experiencing uncomfortable feelings.  Yet a little discomfort, in a supportive environment, can give kids the tools to push themselves when something challenging emerges, leaving them with a true self-esteem boost. Being a little uncomfortable in new situations whether it is while being social or acquiring new physical skills can help build self-reliant kids.

2. Kids get to try on a different hat. Kids may be the “shy one” at school but the loud one at camp.   They may be known as the best basketball player at school but at camp discover their creative selves.  Camp breaks through the tendency to self label and gives kids a space to try new things. For kids to figure out who they “want to be when they grow up”, they need to wear different personas, explore different activities, and connect with various people from different walks of life.

3. It fosters independence.  The first time children leave home for camp they may be worried about how they are going to make it.  Yes, there is staff everywhere to help them if they get a splinter and remind them to wear sunscreen, but the truth of the matter is that they must learn to notice when they need help and clarifying what kind of help they need. Parents love to feel needed and monitor when their child is hungry or cold, but in order for children to grow into successful adults, they must learn how to be in touch with these needs.  Camp gently fosters this experience for kids.  This self-reliance is part of the journey of knowing yourself and learning to satisfy one’s needs.

4. The importance of different groups:  Going to camp helps kids to fulfill the idea of having more than one group of friends.  That’s right.  Kids tend to be happier and more well rounded with the freedom of having three different groups of friends. The idea for this is if the going gets tough with one group, there is another group to turn to.  Ask any middle-schooler, by the end of the school year, most are grateful to escape the enmeshed web of local friends for the fresh beginning of summer friends. It’s refreshing but more importantly, it is an important option for kids to retreat to.

5.  It’s a stress free zone:  There is no homework, travel soccer meets, citywide tests, dentist appointments, piano lessons or birthday parties.  While these activities might all sound like fun and games, these commitments carry a lot of pressure. They are scheduled activities that have many rules with physical, mental and emotional demands.   Camp gives kids a chance to clear their head from a very hectic year.  It is true that some camps are very scheduled while others are a little looser, but the mere fact that camp is in new geographic location, a separate hideaway, with different rules and expectations then at home, can for many let some wind out of a too tight sail.

At Gwynn Valley we witness these points each and every summer.  We see children grow in their own confidence, trying new things, making new friends and reaching for goals they might not have the opportunity to reach for at home or in a school environment.  Camp is that getaway that every child needs at some point and we think Gwynn Valley is that nurturing place where a camper can live out those “simple joys of childhood”.  We can’t wait to see you at Gwynn Valley this summer!


Happy New Year!

Countdown to Camp!

We are so excited because there are only 160 days until camp begins!  The new year brings a renewed sense of pushing that camp train toward its destination set for June 8, 2012.  We hope you’re on board. We will be out on the road in the weeks ahead to bring you our message about Gwynn Valley, the best camp ever for boys and girls ages 5-14.  Anne, Andy and I will be hitting the promotional trail so we hope to see you at a local camp gathering.  Check our travel schedule on the News Page and see when we might be in your area.

Many projects have been going on this fall and we’ll be able to reveal some of those in the near future.  We hope to bring some of that news to you via video in the weeks ahead.  You’ll see first hand what’s going on here at camp as we get ready for another fantastic season.  We’re also in the midst of hiring staff and at this point have over 90 people who have signed on for 2012.  Gwynn Valley has a large staff and we usually hire between 150 and 180 people for the summer.  Not all of them are here at the same time because of other work and school commitments.  Usually our team numbers about 110 including support staff.  This number includes our kitchen crew which is also large because it takes quite a few people to prepare such great, fresh meals and to bring our food from the farm to table.  If you know of an exceptional young man or woman who is keen on working with children, please have them contact us at or to receive information about staff positions.

While we’re getting ready for camp we hope you are as well.  I want to call your attention to a book coming out soon that talks about the value of a camp experience and being away from mom and dad.  I first learned about Michael G. Thompson after he published a book called Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.   It’s a great read about what boys need, what they are not getting, and is an excellent resource for parents.  Michael has written several other books about children.  He’s a nationally known speaker and his latest book is called Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow.  It doesn’t hit the shelves until later this spring but is available for pre-order.  Here’s just a clip from the book, “If the single most important thing about camp is that a child’s parents are not there, that is still only part of the story.  Camp is also not school.  That simple fact can produce an extraordinary change in the climate of a child’s day, and therefore his or her emotional life .  Good things, certainly different things, happen for children when they are relieved  of the pressure of judgment, comparison, evaluation and striving that are an inevitable part of the school day.”

Mountainside Bikers at Dupont's Bridal Veil Falls

I’m excited to read about Michael’s observations and his take on how camps can benefit children. We at Gwynn Valley see children grow in so many ways while at camp.  We have children who experience some homesickness and get over it and we have children who may struggle a little more but overcome these feelings after a few days.  We do know that 99.9% of those who experience homesickness come out on the other side much stronger for their experience and can use that experience in so many other aspects of life and growing up.  So… we hope you are reading this and getting ready for another camp experience or reading this and thinking about sending your child to camp for their first camp experience.  Either way, we know that your child will benefit from a summer camp experience at Gwynn Valley.  Hope to see you this summer!  Stay Tuned!


Dear Campers, Parents & Friends,

Even though it’s a fairly warm day here at camp, true winter has been with us for a while.  Leaves have been gathered, hydrangea’s have been trimmed and many projects have been started in preparation for the coming summer.  We here at camp hope that you and your family are doing well during this festive and special time of year.  We’ve been fortunate to connect with many of our campers and families on our camp promotion trips up until Thanksgiving.  Those will resume again as the new year begins so look for us in a city or area near you.  We’ll be showing our new video,  which premiered in the fall.  Just this past week we went live with the video on the camp website.  If you haven’t had time to check it out, do so.  You might see someone you know.  There are also other videos from the summer if you click on the “You Rock” video at the bottom right side of the page.  Once it plays you find a few more scenes from our super 2011 summer.

Staffing is going very well and at this point we have over 85 of our outstanding staff from last summer who have committed for the summer of 2012.  We’ve been interviewing some new folks who will round out the excellent staff ranks for the summer.  If you know of a wonderful  young man or woman who is keen on working with children please send them our way.  You can never have too many good staff.

As many of you know one of Gwynn Valley’s values is simplicity.  With all the hustle and bustle of this time of year, don’t forget to stop and give thanks for all that we have, for family, for friends, for faith, for good health and for places like Gwynn Valley.  Anne and recently placed a metal sign above our doorway in the kitchen leading into our family room that is just the word “Believe”.  There are all kinds of magnetic additions you can add to it depending on the season.  It’s inspirational for our family in so many ways.  Just remember to start that “Believing” process by believing in yourself.  I think that Gwynn Valley provides children the simple act of believing in themselves and going forward to gain other life building skills that camp teaches.

At every camp closing our staff sings the song “The Irish Blessing”.  It’s a great way to end our sessions and I think the words speak for themselves.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again.
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May the peace of the season touch your lives in simple ways!


A home show presentation near you..

Gwynn Valley Camp is on the road!  Our camp shows are hosted by camper families and are for returning campers, alumni, and anyone interested in learning about camp.  These gatherings are a great way to speak to others who have attended camp and an opportunity to meet one of our Directors.  Come find out more about camp at a home show near you and watch our new DVD from the 2011 summer!  Check out our travel schedule for the next several months.  Check back often as we continue to update and add to the schedule for November, January, and February.


Friendship at Camp!

Making new friends at camp is one of those bonus aspects found under “the benefits of camp”.  Some friendships that last a lifetime start right here during the summer.  The other benefits are numerous to just mention a few.  Traditional organized camping is in its 150th year and has become a part of the fabric of America.  There’s a camp out there for everyone and each and every child should be able to have this opportunity if they want it.  It’s been a success for that long because it’s an extension of the teaching classroom and offers the child another way to learn and build relationships.  Those two things right there are great but there’s more.  Camp is a safe and nurturing environment where children can fail, pick themselves up, try again and gain the confidence to succeed in any number of ways.  There’s always a mentor to help them along the way and to encourage them in their decisions.  Camp provides experiences that promote self confidence and growth.  Research has shown that parents, camp staff and campers report significant growth in areas including leadership, independence, social comfort, developing strong values and learning decision making skills from the camp experience.  Camp encourages a respect and love of our natural world.  Just look how many children have been touched by the farm and our attention to nature here at Gwynn Valley.  It’s hard to unplug in this world but GV plugs them into a world without screens that is real, imaginative, scientific, and creates a direct relationship to their world.  Camp also keeps us physically active.  Where can you play all day, eat healthy food, feel good about yourself and go to bed tired, fulfilled and happy as a clam….,then wake up and do it all over again.  What gave me these thoughts today was a picture sent to me by a parent who was hosting a weekend gathering of girls who lived together in Indian Paintbrush Riverside II, 2010.  They all got together in Chapel Hill for some friendship and reliving great memories of camp.  You go girls! Thank you for continuing to burn the flame of friendship created here at Gwynn Valley. 

When is my child ready for summer camp?

Every parent wants their child’s first stay away from home to be successful and a good first summer camp experience can be a springboard to so many other positive aspects in their lives.  When will my child be ready for an overnight camp, is a question often asked as families explore residential camping.    Children are ready to attend camp at different ages depending upon their emotional maturity, interest in camp, and level of personal independence. Some are ready at the age of 5 or 6 (finishing kindergarten) and others meet with more success if they wait until age 8-10. Much depends on the child and the parents.  I’ve seen many children who would like to attend camp but mom and dad are not ready.  The reverse is also true.  Take your cue from your children. In many cases they’re able to determine their readiness before a parent does. If they’re interested and excited about the possibility, it’s a good chance they’re ready.  Always involve your child in the decision making process.  Look over the camp brochure with your child and visit the web site to gauge their reaction and enthusiasm.

Has your child spent a night or two with a friend or relative? Children who are able to be away from parents are more likely to be good candidates for an overnight camp experience. If your child is interested but hesitant, sometimes it is helpful to see if any of his or her friends are also attending which will provide more security at first. If possible, a visit or tour of the camp will help familiarize your child with the site, dining room, and cabins which will provide more security on the first day.

How responsible and independent is your child? Can they keep track of their own things, tie their shoes and change their clothes.  Is your child able to seek help from other adults or authority figures?  There are always counselors and adults available at camp to help, guide, and mentor but the one on one attention will be less than when dealing with just mom or dad. Each child is different and even if you were eager to go to overnight camp at the age of nine, that doesn’t necessarily mean your child will when they turn the same age. If they are uncomfortable spending one night at a friend’s without calling you, they are not ready for overnight camp.  Don’t base your decision on their friends or their parents.

Consider sending your child for a shorter session for their first time at overnight camp. First time campers should be able to find a program that has a 5 to 10 day session.  Leave them hungry for more by not overdoing it and make that first experience a success.  While your child is at camp, your correspondence with them by letter or email should be upbeat and positive (….know you’re having a great time and hoping you’re making lots of new friends and having fun!).  Never promise your child that you will pick them up if they are homesick.  Homesickness is normal and you want to set your child up for success.  Reassure them that you will be there on closing day and can’t wait to see and hear all about camp. If you are concerned about homesickness, discuss it with the camp director and see how they handle those situations.

You know your child best and what makes them happy. It’s good for children to experience some challenge and camp is a good safe provider for that.  A positive family attitude, discussions about the camp schedule, activities and food, along with gentle encouragement that missing home is “ok” will usually provide your child the tools needed to make the camp transition a valuable growth experience.  Camp creates great memories for you and your child and with good preparation and timing that first overnight stay should be a wonderful experience.

Grant Bullard- Director

Gwynn Valley Camp –


Our road trips to promote camp are coming to an end over the next couple of weeks.  I’ve seen a lot of new faces and many old campers from those trips throughout the southeast.  Andy has also been on the road and just returned from Tennessee and Kentucky.  We greeted many prospective camper families, dispensed lots of Gwynn Valley Camp brochures, answered many questions and given out a whole bunch of Gwynn Valley raised on the farm honest to goodness popcorn.  I was down in Bluffton, SC at the home of Abby Freed,  who hosted a show at their home.  As I was setting up and getting ready for the home show, she took some of that Gwynn Valley popcorn and popped it in the microwave.  It was a great idea and a wonderful way to bring our farm program into the discussion.

After one of the road trips I was cleaning out my car and noticed a couple of ears that had tumbled out of the basket and ended up in the back of my car.  I took them inside and decided that I would have some.  Rather than using the micro wave, I thought I’d pop the corn the old fashioned way, in a pan over the stove.  I had a blue ear and yellow ear.  With a little salt and butter it tasted delicious.  As I ate it, I noticed that the blue corn was really a whiter color than the yellow corn.  I’ve taken a picture to prove it.  The yellow popcorn has a yellow tint to it and the blue is as white as snow.  You’d think that it would be kind of a bluish color but it’s white.  Just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  I’ve heard that somewhere before.  We’ll have plenty left over for the summer so check it out or try it at home if you haven’t popped your corn from one of our home shows.   Stay tuned!