March Kingswood News

By AllyCKW March 12, 2024

Dear families and friends,

Is it possible that winter is behind us? That a whole season passed and Woods Pond never froze over?! Impossible! But here we are in March, and from the looks of it, we could practically water ski tomorrow! That’s good news for us, because we’ve got lots to do to prepare for June.

This week, our facilities crew at camp is splitting G17 and B10 in half! That’s right, Olim is growing, and they’re getting new bunk beds and mattresses! Those massive, 1000 sq. ft. cabins will now house two bunks separately, with each maintaining the intimacy Kingswood is known for – 10-12 campers and 4 staff. The crew at camp is also hard at work painting, building cubbies, and working on the drainage around the baseball diamond, so camp will be in top form when campers arrive.

If you have a camper who’s joining us this summer for the first time, around now, you might be hearing some hesitation from your future camp-lover, or you may be feeling some butterflies yourself. It’s OK, and totally normal! Maybe you’re new to being a camp parent and don’t know anyone at Kingswood? We have lots of camp parents eager to share their tips with new families, so please be in touch and we’ll set you up with another parent to chat. Prior to the start of camp, you’ll be invited to join a Session I or II Parent Facebook Group, and that’s been a good space for parents to hear from other parents and connect.

Most importantly, families of new campers should plan on attending a New Family Night, in-person in Boston and Florida, and Virtual as a third option. We’ll be recording the meeting to share out after, but a portion of the program is interactive for campers and is not recorded, so attending the Virtual Meeting live is better than watching the recorded version.

With nearly 90 percent of last summer’s campers already registered for 2024, we’re practically full, but we do have a few spaces left in some grades and sessions. Please spread the word to friends with camp-age kids so you can take advantage of our Camper Referral Program! Know a future camper who may not be ready for a full session this year? Tell them about Mini-Camp, Aug. 14-16, for rising 1st-5th graders.

As I write, our year-round team is heading to Atlantic City for the American Camp Association’s annual camp conference. The largest gathering of its kind, 3,000+ camp professionals come together for a week of learning and sharing. I’m not gonna lie, it’s really fun too. 🙂  I’d guess conferences in the camp industry are more fun than, let’s say, an accounting conference, (no offense to you accountants!), and a Vendor’s Hall full of giant inflatable water toys, snack samples, and swag isn’t a bad way to spend a Tuesday! But in all seriousness, this conference kicks off our season of training, and it illustrates how we live our Kingswood values and walk the walk. By prioritizing education and growth for ourselves and our year-round team, we’re modeling the importance of being life-long learners to our staff. From here, we’ll travel to the UK and Israel to work with our international staff, showing them the importance of their roles in camp by being there with them in person to prepare and learn.

Each year we leave this conference full of new ideas, challenging our way of doing things, and usually with some fun items for camp. Last year it was our Paddle board Yoga equipment – this year we’re in the market for a new AquaJump. Check in later this week online to see what we pick up for summer!

Until next month,

Calling parents of all NEW CAMPERS! Please join us for an upcoming New Family Night with your future camper. Designed to help ease the transition to overnight camp, the program starts with campers and parents together walking through the first 24-hours of camp. Then campers will have a chance to get to know each other and have their own Q&A while parents stay with our directors to talk about topics like communication, safety and security, packing, and the Health Center. We are offering three options – Boston, Florida, or Virtual. You can RSVP to any of our New Family Nights here.

The 2024 Family Handbook and Camper Forms are now LIVE!

The 2024 Family Handbook is here and is required reading for all Kingswood families. The handbook is available as a PDF to print and on our website. From transportation details to how to send emails to your camper, it’s all there! View the handbook here.

All forms are due by April 15 either by upload to your CampInTouch Account, mail, or email. You can view the Forms Checklist in the Handbook, and access the forms here.

Visiting Day 2024!

Parents of Full Summer campers, this one’s for you! Visiting Day will be July 16th, from 1030 am – 5 pm. Join us for a fun-filled day of camp activities, meeting our amazing staff, and spending the day at camp or in Bridgton with your camper. Looking for some Bridgton or Portland recommendations? Be in touch and we’ll help you talk through your plans to get the most out of your visit to Maine.

Staff Announcements

Let’s give it up for these awesome returning staff members…

Katie Briggs is back for her 13th summer at Kingswood as the Assistant Bogrim Unit Head! Katie can’t wait to spend the summer with last year’s campers, and all the new campers coming for 2024. Katie is a sophomore at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she studies Marine Science and Mathematics. Katie just spent the last few weeks studying in Cuba where she was living with a host family, scuba diving, and learning about the environment and culture of Cuba. Living abroad with a host family got Katie thinking about camp, and her friends on staff from around the world. She said she loves how Kingswood gives her the opportunity to be a part of such an international team, and can’t wait until summer. “The anticipation in the weeks leading up to camp is so exciting! I dream about the feeling of driving up Swamp Road and pulling into the gate of camp,” said Katie. We’re so pumped to have Katie back at camp this summer!

A&C legend Dylan McDougall is back for his fourth summer in the Art Shack. He’s so stoked to be back as the A&C Area Head and he has so many new and exciting projects for this summer. Dylan started teaching high school art this year and loves it, sharing that working at Kingswood has been such great prep for the role. “Everything I’m proud of about myself comes out when I’m at camp,” said Dylan. “Not only art, but being a teacher, creating relationships, learning about different cultures, and doing it all while being a part of the amazing camp community.” Dylan is looking forward to more group art projects, camp beautification projects outside of the Art Shack, and continuing to strengthen BFF bonds between A&C and Upper Fields, with Upper Fields Heads Bar and Nir this summer!

We highlight just returners here in The Kingswood News, but you can read introductions for all our amazing 2024 summer staff on Instagram and Facebook.

Know someone who’d make a great Kingswood staff member?! From our counselors to specialists, from chefs to nurses, our staff members are all problem-solvers, team players, and hard workers who love playing with kids! Share this link with great camp people so they can apply today.

Alumni Spotlight: Mitchell Stern

“How come mom sent you to camp and not me?” Mitchell Stern asked his older sister when he was only 8 years old. They were looking through her camp yearbooks together, and he knew he wanted to try camp too. He wanted so desperately to go, he became the youngest kid he knew to have a paper route, so he could help pay for the cost of camp. In the Summer of 1966 it was the best money ever spent, because that paper route led to 21 summers on Woods Pond.

“I think I was the first person to go from camper, to staff, to unit head, to director,” said Stern, reflecting on his years at Kingswood from Florida, where he now lives for part of each year. “Now they say ‘10 for 2’ – I’ve been saying that since I was 9 – that’s the way Kingswood was for me from the first year I went.”

Stern may also have been one of the first Full Summer campers ever. He said back then you weren’t really allowed to stay for the whole summer, but he felt so at home there he never wanted to leave. He attended every summer until he was 13, because that was the oldest year of campers at the time. He says once you turned 13 you had to stay home and get a job. “If you wanted to come back as a staff member at Kingswood,” Stern recalls, “You had to complete your freshman year of college.” So when freshman year ended, Mitchell headed back to Bridgton to join his friends on staff. His staff experience was more than he could have thought possible. He spent three years being a counselor and three years as a Unit Head before becoming the Program/Assistant Director in 1982. In that role, Stern led Kingswood through some changes that are still the way we do things today. “I wanted specialists at camp so the quality of instruction would be higher, and I wanted to rewrite the daily schedule to include electives.” Prior to that time, Kingswood’s schedule was bunk-based, and he knew that kids would benefit from more choice and specialization. Now in 2024, we still believe in the importance of specialists to elevate programming, and we love that our schedule is elective-based with one or two bunk activities each day, giving campers the best of both worlds, with the emphasis on their own learning and growth. Thanks Mitchell!

After a few years as Assistant Director, Mitchell wanted to see what else was out there. After eight whole days employed by a different camp, Mitchell was called by a Board member of Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), and was asked to return to Kingswood as the camp director. In December of 1988, he accepted the job and served as camp director from 1989-91. He remembers these three summers fondly, especially working in partnership with Assistant Director Bob Neudel for two of those summers.

In 1992, CJP handed the operations of Camp Kingswood to the JCC of Greater Boston, and it was time for the J to hire a full-time camp director, and it wasn’t his time. Leaving his dream job at Kingswood was heartbreaking, but he knew it was time. “After my 21 years at Kingswood,” says Mitchell, “it was time to pack my bags and go.”

While the daily schedule and adding specialists were two changes to camp Stern brought that have withstood the test of time, there’s one even bigger change that happened for Stern at Kingswood during the Summer of 1976. “It was my first year on staff,” he remembers, with a smile twinkling in his eyes as he starts to share the story. “I saw a girl walk off the bus, and I turned to my friend Jerry Tisser and said ‘I could marry that girl.’” Toni (Gershon) Stern spent two summers as a camper in 1968 and ‘69, and then returned in 1976 for her first year on staff. Toni and Mitchell spent a few years going on dates around Bridgton until 1981, when he proposed to her in Maine. “We’ve been together for 47 years since our first date, and it’s such an important part of my Kingswood story,” smiles Stern.

Needless to say, Stern’s life was deeply impacted by his time at Kingswood, and camp was changed for the better by Stern. “Camaraderie, organizational skills, empathy, multi-tasking – all among the many skills gained at Kingswood that have shaped my life today,” he says. “But the people – it’s the people. I still have friends I met at camp who are in my life today.”

We can’t wait for Mitchell to come visit this summer – his first time back since 1991!

Mitchell and Toni, at their condo in Florida.

We love sharing stories from alumni whose lives were impacted by their time at Camp Kingswood. Know an awesome alum like Mitchell who has a story to share? Let us know! 

Are you registered for Alumni Weekend 2024? Come spend the weekend on Woods Pond with your camp besties. Bring your family or come solo for a weekend of fun, play, and adventure! There’s nothing the smell of a campfire or the beauty of a Maine sunset to end your summer right. Click here to register today.

Tapping into Traditions: The Camp Musical

The camp musical is a special tradition at Kingswood, and it’s arguably one of the most anticipated nights of each session. “I think people love the play because it’s a giant surprise and reveal,” says Amy Forman, theater staff from the last three summers. “Everyone is surprised because they don’t realize how hard the campers have worked. Plus, the campers are so talented!”

Campers are involved in all aspects of show production, from lighting and sound, to set design, to sewing the costumes. “In the last few years, we’ve really focused on the stage design and moving away from using just the one main stage, which brings a different element of surprise for the audience,” added Amy.

“The play is so much more than just the performance at the end of the summer,” says Rosa Stern-Pait, returning Chalutzim supervisor and long-time Kingswood alum. Rosa was and still is a self-proclaimed ‘theater kid’ who worked on theater staff for two years at camp before becoming the Head of the Old Rec (Performing Arts) in 2018. “Theater at camp is about so much more than acting,” Rosa says with pride. “Campers can build so many skills beyond acting like public speaking, improv skills, and writing scripts.” Every year campers tell us they tried theater for the first time at camp, because they feel safe and confident enough at Kingswood to do something that could be potentially embarrassing.

According to Rosa, the theater program at camp has been a fan favorite since her first year in 2008, and she absolutely loves to see campers get out of their comfort zone, and discover a passion for the arts. “So many people learn they love acting and being on stage from their time at Kingswood, and being able to take these skills and use them in your life outside of camp is so special,” said Rosa.

We’re able to look at all the musicals since 2016, but can you help us find out what was before this?!

2016 – Session I: Hair Spray, Session II: The Little Mermaid

2017 – Session I: Seussical, Session II: Annie

2018 – Session I: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Session II: Fiddler on the Roof

2019 – Session I: Willy Wonka, Session II: Frozen

2021 – Session I: Alice in Wonderland, Session II: Into the Woods

2022 – Session I: Matilda, Session II: The Lion King

2023- Session I: The Little Mermaid, Session II: 13 The Musical

2018 Session II, Fiddler on the Roof, with a cameo by Nature Rob!
2016 Session I, Hairspray.

A taste of Kingswood at Home

Since we’re way past the half-way point to Summer 2024, we’re getting in the camp mood by giving you camp themed activities to do! Last month was our Kingswood word search, and this month we’re playing Kingswood Bingo! Share your bingo cards with us on Instagram or Facebook, we can’t wait to see!

Mazel Tov

Our Mazel Tov section is the best place to celebrate big moments together when we’re not at camp to cheer you on in the Dining Hall. This month, we want to celebrate ‘23 Waterfront Director Alex Heaps, who graduated from Officer Candidate School last month for the U.S. Navy. Mazel Tov, Alex!

We also want to shout out all our campers who are ski racers, who are too many to name, but a shout out to Micah and Owen Mandell, who competed in their first race last month!

Let us know about your big news! Reach out to us so we can share with our whole Kingswood family.

That’s it for this edition of The Kingswood News. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook where it’s summertime forever! We’ll see you in April, when we’re one month closer to SUMMER!