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Laser tag

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So just when you thought camp couldn’t get any cooler…Laser tag happened!  Timberlake paintball instructor, James Monahan and I spent a good part of the afternoon doing some product testing (for the benefit of the kids of course) running around the Big House shooting each other with our new Tippman Barracuda Laser tag guns.  These look just like the Custom 98 that we use for paintball.  We probably ought to incorporate these things into most of our evening activities because they are super fun!

Seven Suggestions for a Great Brochure











  1. Hire the best designer you can find.  EVERYONE can tell if you do not.  Seriously, it’s more obvious than you know.  Just because someone has children doesn’t mean they can run a camp and just because you have a camp doesn’t mean you can tell your story.  Get a professional.  Give them a per-unit price you want them to design to.  They should also help with efficient print sizes.
  2. Pay for the right photography.  The pictures you put on the internet for your parents will not work.  Look carefully at the background. Your parents will.
  3. The difference between the right copy and the almost right copy is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning (apologies to M.T.). This is the best time to tell them why you do what you do.  That’s your story.
  4. Smiles.  We all want those close in – instruction photos.  They capture beautiful camper / staff moments.   But there is something powerful about a smile.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, a smile is worth a thousand pictures.
  5. Be picky about paper.  You can spend a lot of money here, but this is the only promotional piece they hold in their hands.  Camp is different than everything else; it needs to feel that way as soon as they pick up your brochure.  Papers samples are not enough.  You want to see samples of print and photos on that paper.
  6. Consider if you really need a full booklet.  We all want something to put on the coffee table, but it does not have to be big.
  7. A quality brochure is consistent with our philosophy of camping.  We are in a visceral business.  Camp cannot be reproduced on line, so we need something physical to hold.  Put another way, we’re not Gnostics, we’re outdoor educators, so let’s put something in their hands that is as physical as the mountains we want them to climb.

Adam Boyd

Camp Director

Deep freeze on lake Doris!







Anyone of you who were hoping to knock out a bar requirement in the off-season on lake Doris better think again!  This morning there was a solid inch and a half of ice covering her.   It was -4 degrees last night (wind chill of -22) and I bet those cabins were as cold as they have been in 20 years.  Keep warm out there and just know that Doris will not look like this when you get here this summer!


Worried about sending your child to college? Summer camp can help!








So the moment has come!  You are pulling up to the freshman dorm of the university that will be the home of your child for the next four years.  Classes have been selected, a roommate has been randomly drawn and this is the moment of truth.  So many questions pour through your mind:  Will they make friends?  Will they buckle down and work hard?  Where will they end up heading after this?  As a parent it is really easy to fret, isn’t it?

This is where (believe it or not) a great summer camp can help you.  Here are five reasons why camp prepares kids for college:

1.  Kids learn who they are at camp.  Between school, sports teams, piano practice, math tutoring, church events, bag-piping lessons, homework and the general craziness that is our lives it can become easy for a child to get into a zone where they just move from one activity to the next without testing whether the non-essential things are valuable to them.  Kids can end up just going through the motions.  A good camp allows them to try new activities in a non-threatening environment.  Everyone is learning at camp and this culture is very conducive for a child’s growth.  Camp can give a child the ability to be more comfortable in their own skin and this is absolutely necessary in college.

2.  Kids learn how to be away from home and succeed.  This is a tough one, but ultimately we want our kids to be able to meet the new randomly selected college roommate and have enough experience meeting new people (and living with them) not to get overwhelmed.  At camp you meet people from all over the world.  And at good camps you learn how to accomplish exciting goals together with those people.  There is no doubt that a boy or girl who has been coming to camp since they were eight will have little to no trouble in the randomly selected roommate situation.  They know how to work with people because they have done it before at camp.

3.  Kids learn how to care for themselves.  I think the most funny parent comments I get after our summers are, “Who is this child that now takes care of his things?” or “How did you get my child to begin making their own bed?”  The answer is that they were a part of a little community that wanted to win a pizza party for the cleanest cabin!  But along the way they learned to take care of themselves and they had a ton of fun doing it.  Certainly, this is something that will serve them well in college.

4.  Kids see what good leadership looks like.  Campers learn this from college aged counselors who are carefully shepherding the cabin.   Their care and actions almost always reinforce and validate the good “suggestions” that mom and dad have made back home but for some reason when a cool rock climbing counselor tells you about making wise decisions it all suddenly becomes clear.  We learn best when things are modeled for us.  Watching a thoughtful, college-aged person interact with people gives campers a model for the leadership that they will use in college.

5. Kids learn a healthy level of competition.  Let’s face it, in this world, competition is unavoidable.  At camp children learn both to succeed and fail together (it is nice doing things with friends), and this is part of the growth process.  Learning how to get up after a loss is invaluable for us to learn.  College is a time where a lot is on the line really for the first time.  A fear of competition or unhealthy love of it can be harmful.  A good camp can help children learn a good balance.

Do yourself a favor if you are tempted to worry about your child going off to college, find a great summer camp to help them develop the necessary shock-absorbers for the bumps of life.  There is no need to worry that your child will be unprepared for this new experience.


Videos: What Camps Don’t Mean To Say

Watching a promotional video is fascinating if you pay attention to the details; it can tell you things about a program that no one else will.

We just produced a new video for our boy’s camp, Timberlake, and used a new videographer.  His style was so different than the person who did our Merri-Mac video that we were forced to think about the values underlying each of our choices.   We were thrilled with both results, but their differences are hard to miss.  So here are four decisions that camp directors make, or don’t make, that you should pay attention to.

  1. Who is the audience? 
    Parents, campers, staff?  Who do they expect to make the decision about camp?   Of course the best videos have something for everyone, but determining the camp’s primary audience tells something about their priorities.  The music they choose is sometimes a clue here.
  2. How much are they willing to invest to get it right?
    A well-produced video is not cheap, but it is not the most expensive thing we do either.  With a little bit of investment, and an awful lot of time, you can tell your camp’s story very well.   The question is how much is the camp willing to invest to get it right?  Every decision about a camp program or camper safety requires careful attention to detail and a well-produced video is a clue to whether a director is able to do this.
  3. Who tells the story? 
    More specifically, who’s being interviewed?  Directors say what they want to happen, counselors say what really happens, parents give credibility and camper interviews are an invitation to join the group.
  4. How well do they do it? 
    When you turn on a camera most people turn into flat-faced groupers.  The only way that anyone can be semi-articulate is if they feel so strongly about what they are saying that they stop thinking about the camera and start thinking about their message.  Great camps have lots of these people, but finding them sometimes takes time.

No video does everything perfectly, at least none of ours do…but we still love making them.  Where else do you get the chance to make thousands of families smile and laugh as you invite great kids to be fantastic campers.

Adam Boyd
Camp Director

10 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Former Camp Counselor

When I speak with friends who work in other industries, I always tell them that if you have an applicant who has been a camp counselor and has a positive reference from that camp, they should move to the top of that pile of applications that are overflowing on their desk.  A camp counselor is one of the hardest jobs out there. It is not all fun and games. Here is my list of the top 10 qualities you get when you hire someone who has been a camp counselor:

  1. A good communicator: Camp counselors have to be able to communicate well with children, parents, co-workers, and superiors.  This is different from any other job because parents leave the most valuable thing in their lives with us, their child. At our camp they have about 10 minutes to speak to the counselors and feel confident in them before they leave their perfect child with them for two weeks. That 10-minute conversation is one that will have a lasting impact on that parent.  THEY WILL CLING TO EVERY WORD! If a child is sick or homesick that same counselor is the one to call the parent to update them on the situation and ensure them that their baby is safe and being well cared for.

  2. A life-long learner: When someone works in a camp setting they learn that to be successful in camp and in life, they have to realize they have a lot to learn not only about camp and their campers but also about themselves. Once they make that transition they are able to approach every situation in life with an “I want to learn more” attitude.

  3. A self-starter: Most camps have between 25-150 cabin counselors. While they are given very good supervision, no one is holding their hand every step of the way. They very quickly learn that as far as their campers are concerned, THEY are the “go-to” person. If one of their children forgets a toothbrush it is their responsibility to get them one from the infirmary.

  4. A resilient individual: Camp counselors can handle anything. Just ask the counselor who has been helping a camper overcome homesickness while teaching their activity in the rain for 4 days straight, only to learn that there is a child in their cabin with lice.  When they hear this, instead of curling up in a ball and hiding (the way any normal person would), they grab their gloves, strip all the beds in the cabin, get all of the laundry to the cleaners, get all the campers lined up outside to check each one for nits. I repeat, camp counselors can, and do, handle anything!

  5. A problem solver: At camp we try to keep things very scheduled and organized but at the drop of a hat plans can change. Imagine walking out of the dining hall with 250 campers and staff to play sock war (Like capture the flag but you get to throw socks at each other!) when you hear a loud burst of thunder and have to come up with a new plan in an instant.

  6. A creative thinker:  When you need a new plan immediately, leave it to a camp counselor to come up with the most brilliant and fun game that anyone has ever heard of.  If you think a boardroom of 10 lawyers is intimidating try standing in front of 200 children who are expecting to have the most fun they have ever had and your plan that you have been working on all week just got rained out.

  7. A detail-oriented worker: Remember, camp counselors are responsible for THE most important thing in a parent’s life.  Each and every detail is unbelievably important! Did a child have enough to eat at breakfast, drink enough water, make a new friend, skin their knee, play soccer, miss their mom, have wet shoes, lose their sweatshirt…?  Now multiply this by a whole cabin of campers!

  8. A leader: It does not matter if you consider yourself a leader or not, the moment children arrive on property their counselor is their leader and their biggest role model. They watch their counselor’s every move.  It is amazing how quickly camp counselors learn how to take on this role and own it. The way these children talk about their counselors when they leave is a testament to what great leaders they are.

  9. A team player: Camp counselors are some of the best team players you will ever meet. They have learned that they cannot do it all on their own and that the best product is produced when you have a team working on it. In a camp setting you need all different personality types and gifts to be able to meet each and every child where they are. To come up with the most fun game, camp counselors know it won’t come from one person but an army of people working toward the same goal. Most people come into this job thinking they can do it all but it does not take long for them to realize that this job is physically impossible alone.

  10. A solid work ethic: It is very difficult to explain to someone who has never been a camp counselor how hard this job really is. These college students work 24 hours a day for 3 months with very little time off and they do all the things mentioned in 1-9 with a smile on their face.

Employers who themselves have been camp counselors, understand the qualities required to successfully do this job and consequently, often seek these individuals out when filling positions. But now the secret is getting out and having “ Summer Camp Counselor” on a resume can make a potential employee much more desirable!

-Anne Archer Yetsko


Camp Is Community

The community that develops at Merri-Mac and Timberlake is not confined to our camp property or even bound by our years as campers and counselors. Our community thrives in the offseason as campers and staff members visit each other and communicate all year.

Once you become a Merri-Mac girl or a Timblerlake boy you are part of camp for life. Just in our sweet town of Black Mountain we have a plethora of previous campers and counselors. We even have a Merri-Mac grandmother who is thrilled to see her grandchildren have the same wonderful experience that she had many years ago. We constantly hear stories of campers learning that their teacher went to Merri-Mac or counselors discovering camp friends when they spot an Iroquois jersey across campus! Learning that someone is connected to camp forms an instantaneous bond and there is always one very important question that follows, “What tribe are you in?” Meeting someone in your tribe makes an even deeper bond!

I have had this experience many times over the last sixteen years. I have seen cars driving down the highway in Raleigh, Altanta, and Orlando with Merri-Mac and Timberlake stickers. I once met a woman in the airport who attended Merri-Mac in the 70’s. When I did theater as a child, I learned that my costume designer was a Seminole.

Have you met Merri-Mac-er or Timberlake-er outside of camp? Please comment this telling us your stories of meeting fellow Iroquois, Seminole, or Choctaw.

We built the new climbing tower and boulder!

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Here she is!  It took three very large trucks, a crane, and a whole lot of elbow grease but after three days we have this beautiful tower in position.  It is 30 feet tall and has probably the best view in Black Mountain once you reach the top.  We also added a really nice boulder of the same material next to it.


A Day of Timberlake

Today was an exquisite day at Camp Timberlake. As the session winds down to a close, the activities are heating up! Chapel today was given by the program director, Nick Bratcher. Many a bar were earned on this fine day. In Fencing, Jack D. and Colby F. hosted a tournament which Colby F. won. Both boys received their gold bars in fencing. In camp craft class, the boys learned how to purify water using chemical, pump, and boiling methods. This is an essential skill to have while on the trail! Climbing class was held in the Mike today, where the boys did some top rope climbing on the infamous overhang. A good time was has by all. Meanwhile at lake Doris Sid N., Scott S., and Frederico G. earned their silver bars in Swimming and John W., Alex N., and Henry S. earned their bronze bars. In the world of flight Randolph P. and Hank H. became one step closer to working for NASA by earning their bronze bars in Rocketry. The Kayakers worked on their wet exits, rolls, and braces, and flat water freestyle play boating (for the more advanced campers). The Canoeing classes worked on shallow water rescues, as well as advanced paddle strokes. In Archery the boys worked on learning to score their flights. The Guitarist worked on basic open chords and bar chords. After a delicious meal of cheese ravioli and carrots, the boys had a short tribe meeting to prepare for the epicness that is Commando! Who will win?

Well thats it for this edition of a Day of Timberlake, until next time.
Dylan S.
Proud Seminole and Greybeard Counselor