- About Us
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This is the first post by Kelsey Van Vleck, this year’s assistant program director. She’s a former athletics and canoeing counselor and is really excited to be back at Riverlea this year. Look for more posts from Kelsey throughout the summer!
All year, I have been anticipating the start of camp, and when Julia called me to say we needed to start preparing, I was super excited! One of the first things we worked on together was preparing for the Orc orientation day (or “Orcientation” as we like to call it). At Riverlea, the counselors-in-training are called Orcs, and they are assigned to a group of campers for a whole session to safely bring campers to activities and to assist counselors. After student teaching high school, I felt I had some necessary qualifications to help lead this day. Julia and I were a bit nervous about doing things right, but also eager to get to know all of the Orcs. On the day of Orcientation, I stood at the door anxiously but happily awaiting the arrival of our Orcs. I remember seeing the first one pull up, and being shocked at how much she had grown. The same reaction seemed to happen repeatedly, and it was so exciting to see how these previous campers had grown and matured.
One of my favorite activities was getting the Orcs to perform skits on “right” and “wrong” ways to handle situations with campers. Their reenactments were clever, funny, and very energetic. I loved how the Orcs were so in tune with typical camper behaviors and responses, and it has given me a lot of comfort seeing how they seemed to be really excited about camp starting. It was also a great opportunity when the Orcs were split into four groups and were each assigned a specific camper age group. As I walked by, I could hear them really brainstorming and doing a wonderful job pinpointing characteristics of campers at different ages. They seemed to remember a lot about being campers themselves, and were able to correlate that with how other campers may act, feel, or think.
The Orcs were also alert and patient during the parts that were less fun, but necessary. Reading over the packets with basic rules is really important, and they did a great job of actively listening and responding to questions we asked them. The bullying part of the packet probably was the most interesting and successful part of the reading. I was surprised at how much the Orcs had to say about their views on bullying and ways to prevent it from happening. Knowing how aware they were of these issues put my mind at ease that our camp will be a fun and friendly place for all of the campers this summer!
All in all, I feel that Orcientation went very well. I am super excited for camp to start, and I have confidence that our Orcs will be open to learning even more throughout their session. I would like to thank all of the Orcs for being so great at their orientation, and I can’t wait to work with all of them this summer!
Camp Riverlea rents some of its 100 acres to local farmers, who have planted corn, wheat, soybeans, and sorghum in recent years. You may remember seeing lovely rows of corn filling the fields as you head up the driveway towards the Shire. This year, in addition to the corn, you’ll see some different crops growing in two acres near the tennis court. Two sustainable small-scale farms, Little Sprout Farm and Dig It Farm, are leasing land from camp to grow produce for local markets.
Becca Wait started Little Sprout Farm in 2010 and is committed to using earth-friendly practices to grow a variety of delicious produce. She was a nature counselor at Riverlea in 2005 and 2006! You can find Little Sprout Farm at the Chapel Hill Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
After spending several years working on farms and learning about sustainable agriculture in California and in the Durham area, David Barrett decided last year to start Dig It Farm. Dave loves providing tasty, fresh produce to his customers and contributing to a healthy local food system. Dig It Farm sells at the South Durham Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
We’re happy that Riverlea is able to provide land for these farmers and that campers will get to see rows of colorful vegetables all summer long. Campers will get to pick and eat fresh food from our camp garden, which is right next to the farm fields. We can’t wait for summer to start!
We gave out surveys last summer and got some great feedback from campers and parents. We’re taking their suggestions into account as we plan for this summer, and we strive to make each summer better than the one before. Thanks to everyone who turned in a survey! If you’d still like to offer feedback, it’s never too late, just email Julia the program director.
And of course, we also like to hear what people love about Camp Riverlea, so here are some of the nice things camp families said about last summer:
“It is fantastic that kids have good balance between fun games and instruction.”
“Thanks for creating a well-rounded camp experience. My children had the opportunity to do things they do not normally get to do.”
“Counselors were great! My kids loved them.”
“Love the traditions–the sense of history, belonging to something bigger. The kids most love the idea that they are part of something ongoing.”
“It’s been another incredible summer for my son. This camp is A+!”
“Our children were very happy, well entertained and want to return next year.”
“I’m so impressed with the focus on safety for the 5-6 year-old group and maintaining their interest. My son really enjoyed the camp and wants to return next summer. Riverlea was a great experience!”
“This was my daughter’s first time at Riverlea. She really seemed to enjoy it. She was enthusiastic about the counselors and camp activities. I was worried about the hot weather, but it was a non-issue. She stayed cool and hydrated and never complained about the heat.”
“Great love for Riverlea, very good counselors.”
“Riverlea is simply wonderful.”
When I tell people that I work at a summer camp, the next question they usually ask is, “so, what do you do the rest of the year?” While it’s certainly lonelier and less busy than summertime, we spend the fall, winter, and spring preparing for the next summer. Because my Riverlea work is only part-time during the school year, I also do some work on a farm (last year a goat dairy, this year a vegetable farm) while counting down the weeks until camp starts again. As you can see, one thing we’ve been up to this school year is creating a new website! To make a unique and useful website, we worked with a small company to create this colorful customized design, while I contributed photographs and text. We’ll write more blog entries, post plenty of photos in the summer, and probably add to the site over the next few months. We’re happy to have an informative website that reflects the spirit of Camp Riverlea!
This fall, Fran (Riverlea’s Business Director) and I have been customizing and learning to use our new online management system, called CampInTouch. CampMinder, the company behind it all, has been in the business of online camp management for over 11 years, and they spent hours patiently training us and setting up our system. Now, all of Camp Riverlea’s camper, Orc, and staff applications, as well as health forms, will be online in one secure system. We’ll also be using CampInTouch for email communication, which means it will be easier for us to reach camp families and easier for everyone to get in touch with us. We’re excited to start using the new system, and we hope that you are, too! Feel free to contact me or Fran with questions.
-Julia Fiore, Program Director