All parents have questions about sending their child to camp. Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions.
What are the safety practices at camp?
Camper welfare and safety comes before everything else. Our camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. All of our activities operate under strict policies and procedures. Staff members live in the cabins with the campers and are trained in emergency and security procedures prior to the start of camp. All visitors must check–in at the camp office. Parents and/or guardians must show a photo ID before they take their child from camp. Directors are in constant communication with the nurse, supervisors, lakefront staff and other activity areas. Fire/severe storm drills occur the first day of each session.
A health officer lives on site and is available 24 hours a day. The camp maintains a well-equipped health station with restrooms and separate living quarters. Campers must have a health history, physical examination, and consent to treat form on file with the health officer. If there is an illness (other than a minor symptom) or an emergency, parents will be notified by the health officer or a full-time director. The health care staff works closely with local physicians and area clinics and hospitals.
What happens if my child needs medication?
The Health Center is stocked with over the counter medications for minor instances. All medications are kept in the camp’s Health Center and are dispensed by the camp Health Officer. Indicate on the Health History Form if your camper takes any prescription medications or vitamins. Indicate the purpose, dosage and frequency. If your child has occasional allergies or asthma, be sure to send the medication even if they are not currently taking it. Please do not take your child off any current medications for ADHD or any related conditions.
All medications must be in their original bottle, labeled with camper name and correct dosage. Please put all medication bottles, vitamins and directions in a zip lock bag and label with the camper’s name. Turn in your medications at the bus stop or check-in table – DO NOT pack medication in your child’s luggage.
If your child requires an inhaler or epi-pen to be with them at all times it will be carried by their counselor throughout the day. As-needed inhalers are kept in the Health Center. If your child’s asthma is very sensitive to the outdoors, in woodsy conditions, contact the director to discuss options.
What happens if my child becomes homesick?
Homesickness is a normal, common experience for children, especially for those away from home for the first time. Homesickness usually subsides when campers become more comfortable with their surroundings. On average, most kids at camp will overcome any anxiety or homesickness on their own within 24-36 hours. There are many ways we work to minimize homesickness. First, campers are kept very busy. The program is highly structured and full of activity from sun up until sun down. Campers are encouraged to find a buddy when going to activities. We keep a 1:5 staff to camper ratio. This allows campers to have quality time with their counselors. Counselors provide homesick campers tender loving care, along with a supportive atmosphere.
Our belief is that camp is a great place for kids to learn how to deal with homesickness. Experience shows that having a child call home usually makes the situation worse. Because many kids will experience homesickness at camp, we only notify parents if it becomes unmanageable. One way to try to limit the severity of homesickness is for parents to remind kids how much fun they will have at camp and how many new friends they will make. Remind your child not to worry about family back at home, tell them to go out and have a good time! Avoid making promises such as calling home or even coming home if your child is homesick as this will lead to a lack of confidence in your child to overcome homesickness. Let them know you are looking forward to hearing all about the great adventures they had at camp when they come home at the end of the session.
How are behavior problems handled?
We strive to make camp a positive atmosphere for children and teens. Each cabin group works with their counselors to establish rules for the entire session. These rules are very similar to what kids might encounter at home and school (example: no bullying others, no fighting/hazing, listen to counselors, respect other people and their property, no foul language or swearing, etc.) The counselors meet one on one with campers that act against these rules. In some cases the situation might require the involvement of the counselor's supervisor or camp director(s).
We work hard not to dismiss campers from camp. However, some cases require us to send a camper home if they begin to endanger other campers, or if the camper requires an undue amount of attention from one or more staff members. While we keep parents informed of behavior issues, some situations may require immediate dismissal without prior communication with the parents. Parents are required to arrange for the pick-up of their child if they are sent home for behavior.
YMCA Camp Pinewood does not tolerate campers who harm other campers; whether it is physical or verbal fighting, including: degrading, demeaning, threatening other campers, or making fun of others. Any camper involved in fighting is subject to discipline and may be sent home.
May my child contact me during camp?
Camp is designed as a place for children and teens to learn independence. For this reason and due to the structure of the program and the number of youth in attendance, telephones are not available to campers. Exceptions may be made for emergencies. Do not give your child a cell phone, pager, calling card or promise them that they can call home. Cell phones will be collected and returned to the campers when they leave camp. Cell phones do not allow the child to acclimate to the camp experience.
Campers are encouraged to write letters home. You may also want to send self-addressed, stamped envelopes with your child to promote letter writing and make it easier for young campers who may not remember your address.
Campers enjoy receiving mail. A lot! Please write your camper. Keep in mind that the tone of the letter makes a difference. Keep letters light-hearted, friendly and focused on what's happening at camp rather than at home. Sharing memories of your own camp days or youth is a great idea too. Anxious letters from parents make it hard for kids to overcome homesickness. It is okay to send packages but keep in mind that campers are not allowed to have food or drinks in their cabin and these items will be held by staff if brought or sent to camp.
What are my child’s transportation to camp options?
Parents may use our chartered bus service from Chicago area YMCAs or drop their child off at camp. When you register you may choose the transportation option you prefer. Any changes to this option must happen prior to your child's session at camp. We reserve the right to alter pick-up and drop-off locations prior to any session.
May I visit my child at camp?
For security and homesick management, we do not have visiting days during camper sessions. If you want to meet the counselors and see camp during the summer we recommend that parents come to camp on the final day of each session. If you pick-up your child early from a session please check-in at the main office upon your arrival. You will need to present a photo ID.
If you want to tour our facility prior to the beginning of summer camp you may attend one of our open houses or call the office to set up a tour.
What happens if my child wets the bed?
We encourage campers to use the washhouse throughout the day. If a camper needs to go to the washroom in the middle of the night, they must notify a staff member and take a buddy. However, from time to time bedwetting occurs. Staff members are trained to deal with bedwetting. First, measures are taken not to embarrass the camper. The sleeping bag and/or sheets/blankets will be cleaned and returned to the bed as quickly as possible. Preventative measures such as frequent bathroom breaks and limiting heavy fluid intake after supper work well. All campers have a bathroom break before bedtime.
What should my child bring to camp?
We will provide you a list of what your child should bring to camp based upon their length of stay. We encourage campers to bring clothes that can get dirty. Soft-sided luggage works well. Parents are encouraged to mark their child's belongings with their name. During camp, lost items are gathered and throughout the week we take time to return items. Any items left behind at camp will be returned if identified.
Campers are responsible for their own belongings. We will hold all items left at camp for one month. We do our best to locate and return lost items, however we will not reimburse families for lost clothing or other items brought to camp.
Campers need to bring enough clothing to last the entire session. If campers stay multiple sessions, laundry services will be provided only during stayover weekends and the cost will be charged to the camper's store account. The camp only provides laundry service during a session for emergencies.
Does my child need to know how to swim?
All campers will take a lake swim test on the first day of camp. Beginning and intermediate swimmers will take swim lessons in order to improve their swimming ability. Various watercraft such as rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and sailboarts may be used depending on the camper's swim ability. The purpose of the swim test is to evaluate camper’s skill and endurance in water so that they can be safe in the activities provided.
All campers and staff wear life jackets when boating, canoeing, sailing, or kayaking. Aquatic activities are supervised by certified lifeguards.
Advanced swim test: equal to three pool lengths, multiple strokes required, water depth 10 feet, tread water for 60 seconds.
Intermediate swim test: equal to two pool lengths, water depth 4 feet.
How are children assigned to cabins?
Campers are assigned to cabin groups prior to the start of the session. Assignments are based on age, gender and program. We assign cabins so that no one is made to feel left out.
Going to camp with a friend is great. If the friend is the same gender and age or one age/grade apart they can be placed together in the same cabin. There is space on the registration form to list a friend. We cannot honor the request if campers are two or more years apart in age. Also, we will accomodate one mutual friend request. This means that each camper must request the other in order to be placed into a cabin together.
Campers who do not come to camp with a friend don't need to worry. Camp is a great place to meet new people and make new friends.
While we try to honor camper requests for particular counselors we cannot guarantee such assignment. We also cannot honor requests for particular cabins. Cabins are generally grouped by the following ages (Any exceptions to these groupings are determined by the camp director):
- 2nd through 4th graders
- 5th graders
- 6th graders
- 7th graders
- 8th through 9th graders
- 10th-11th graders
What will my child eat at camp?
Meals are a very important part of camp. Our food service manager takes great pride in serving well-balanced, nutritious, and filling meals. Campers will find plenty to choose from at each meal. Meals are served family style. Each cabin group sits together, with their counselor(s). Meals last 45 minutes so campers have time to relax. During hot days, campers are encouraged to drink more fluids. Campers take turns setting/cleaning their dining table and sweeping the floor for their cabin group.We are able to make reasonable accommodations for campers with food allergies and dietary restrictions, such as peanut and nut allergies, lactose or wheat intolerance. It is a good idea to provide familiar foods for your camper as supplement to meals. Please indicate on the Health History Form if your camper has any special non-medical needs that the staff needs to know. Please contact the Camp Director prior to your camper’s session to discuss either situation to assure a positive situation for your camper.
Is YMCA Camp Pinewood affiliated with a religion?
We have campers and staff from every major religious faith. Our purpose is not to change or instill upon campers any particular faith or belief. Our goal is to make every child feel comfortable while still including the traditions of the Y. These traditions help foster character development. Grace is sung before each meal, a thought for the day is held before the breakfast meal and a non-denominational chapel service is held on Sundays when camp is in session.
Does camp celebrate birthdays?
Birthdays at camp are fun! Campers celebrating their birthday while at camp will receive a camp-baked birthday cake to be shared with their cabin mates. Campers with birthdays at camp my choose to be sung "Happy Birthday" to them by the entire camp. A reminder phone call to us 3-4 days in advance is helpful if the birthday is on the first or second day of the camp session. Camp counselors celebrate their birthdays at Camp Pinewood with the long standing tradition of being tossed into Lake Echo!
What items are available at the camp store?
Camp provides campers the opportunity to purchase camp souvenirs at least once during their stay. Parents are asked to provide the camp office with a credit card prior to their child's session. We will keep track of what your child orders and charge your credit card after your child's stay. Campers will not be allowed to spend more than the amount you indicate during their stay. Store items include:
- Insect Repellent
- Toilet Articles such as toothpaste / shampoo