North Star Camp for Boys

Friday, July 19, 2013

Words of Encouragement

I had to share this note. It was sent from a North Star alumni and former camp parent to friends of his who sent their son to North Star for the first time this summer.
Dear Jen;

I bumped into Mark the other day and he told me that you had just put Elliot on the bus headed to the north woods utopia otherwise known as North Star Camp for Boys.  Knowing full well how it feels as a parent watching those buses pull away and as a youngster taking his first big step getting on that bus, I thought I’d share some words of encouragement---for what they’re worth. 

My first bus ride to North Star left from the Cross Roads shopping center in 1972.  The bus was a Keeshin bus and it smelled.  They all do.  Back then, North Star was an 8 week camp and when that bus pulled away, I was scared, I missed my Mom and Dad, and the enthusiasm that had built leading up to that first trip to Hayward seemed to evaporate and a sense of anxiety and a tinge of nausea took its place.  Every single kid---to differing degrees---feels this.  Having said that, the only tears that were shed that summer in 1972 was 8 weeks later, the night before I and the rest of my campmates were to get on that Keeshin bus again, but this time for the ride home. 

I repeated that trip for 10 successive summers; 6 as a camper and 4 as a counselor.  Both of my younger brothers were North Star men.  My son Max, who is now nearly 20, started at the age of 9 and Andy Shlensky was his counselor in J-1.  I remember putting Max on that bus and wanted desperately to go with him.  I have 3 nephews who go to North Star and one of them, Sam  is in Elliot’s cabin.  Sam is a good and caring boy and I hope Elliot and he will become good friends.

North Star, as you may know, started in 1945 and the traditions and philosophy that were given birth by the founders—Lou and Renee Rosenblum---live on today.  The friends I made back then are still friends of mine and I would do (and have done) anything for them and they feel the same way towards me.  The friendships that were forged in my north woods utopia share unique characteristics that differ from friendships developed elsewhere.  At North Star, Elliot will learn to appreciate teamwork rather than just “winning”.  Screaming cheers of “WE ATE FIRST” will be louder than those of “WE WON”.   He will learn to become self-sufficient.  He will learn to work with others.  He will come to appreciate that while competing in sports is fun, the underlying value of competition is not whether you win but HOW you win---in the spirit of good sportsmanship and fair play; lessons that seem to be lost in the daily competition that young people contend with today.  Elliot will learn the crafts of camping and will come to appreciate the natural beauty that exists outside of the metropolis of his home surroundings.  He will learn to love the sun setting over Clear Lake at the Council Ring and late at night in his cabin in the Junior Village on the other side of camp the echoing calls of loons as they land on Little Spider Lake will confirm the existence of a Deity because nothing so simple, yet so perfect and peaceful could ever simply appear in nature without one. 

So when both you and Mark have moments of worry during these next four weeks, I hope you will be encouraged and comforted in knowing that the traditions of North Star---Pow Wow day; U.N. day; the Green and White marathon; Cruiser day; Request night; Camper-Counselor day; and all camp Sing Alongs will contribute to a formative and special experience for Elliot this summer and hopefully in future summers. I hope you will reach out to me if you have any worries, questions or concerns.  In the meantime, I leave you with the words of our camp song, Forest Green;  a song that Elliot will sing at every campfire and pretty much sums up what that North Star is all about.

Forest Green by rushing stream;
Helps to fill each campers dream;
Helps to soothe me while I roam;
‘Bout my North Star home.

Moonlight glistening ‘cross the lake;
Sunset colors that will make;
Sweet words in a lovely poem;
‘Bout my North Star home.

Play by day;
And then at night;
Stories told;
By campfire light.

Campers, counselors we have met;
Faithful friends we won’t forget;
We’ll remember all we’ve known;
‘Bout our North Star home.

Much love, Chuck.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Heating Up!

We all knew that second session would get off to a hot start, but we didn't know it would be so literal! The sun has been shining bright and the temperatures have cracked 90 as we have rolled through a very exciting start to the session. Before the boys went to bed on their first full day at camp, here's what they had accomplished:
- Unpacking and Tours
- Challenge Games
- Cabin Candlelight Ceremony
- Swim Tests
- Health Checks
- Village Activities/Continuous Dodgeball
- The 1st Organized Free of the Summer
- The Opening Banquet
- All-Capture the Flag
And that was just Day 1!

While there are many things that we have to take care of at the beginning of a session, we make sure that we get right into the program. Starting today, we we're off with our regular program. On the opening night, the boys picked their activities for the week, and today each camper started his own set of three activities. Each of the projects that he selected he will participate in for one hour and fifteen minutes each day for three days. After that, he will switch to his second set of activities for the following three days. Here's a Sample Schedule for one camper.
But those are just the first three periods of a Typical Day. Fourth period was challenge games today, which gave each cabin the opportunity to challenge another group to a sport or game. After an explanation on North Star's philosophy on competition, we had games of softball, kickball, football, basketball, and of course dodgeball going on all around camp. 
Our final daytime period was our Organized Free Period, a structured free period when most of our program areas are open to the campers. During this time our entire waterfront is open and there are additional
"pickup" athletic games for campers to participate in. On a hot day like today, most guys chose to go swimming, jump on the water trampoline, go fun-bugging or sailing, or even run through the sprinklers on the athletic fields. Our always creative staff came up with games that they could play while running through the sprinklers too!
And lastly, our evening program tonight was our staff show. Our guys utilized several creative skits and games to introduce the whole staff to all of our campers. Not only is this an opportunity to show off the energy and talents of our staff, it is vital that our campers know that they have a wonderful group of counselors that are there for them to help any camper through any issues he may have. That is a message that the campers have heard a lot of over the past few days, and it was reiterated tonight.
In addition to the regular program getting started at camp, our tripping program is now underway as well. Cabins S-1 and S-2 left today on their 5-day hiking trip through the Porcupine Mountains. Cabin S-3 got started on the Brule River and S-4 will head out tomorrow. Camp is in full swing now and we are so thrilled to have this great group of campers and staff here with us!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2nd Session has begun!

The second session of the Summer of 2013 has begun! Just from the bus ride, it was easy to tell what a great group of boys that were making their way to camp. The boys, both new and returning, were willing to shake the hand of a new a acquaintance, introduce themselves and become fast friends. We really do have the nicest boys in the world. And when the buses arrived at camp, they were greeted by 90 giddy staff members with the same the same demeanor. After the enthusiastic welcome, the staff all began to shake the hands of the campers to learn about all these great kids, find out who they are and where they come from, and what their interests are.  As we announced cabin assignments around the flagpole, the counselors' enthusiasm was again on display. This mix of compassion and enthusiasm helped make for a fantastic first session, and I know your sons will love these guys.

The campers are now unpacking and all of the new campers are getting tours of camp. The staff are running games so that they can all of the campers can learn each others names.  At 6:15pm we will have a delicious dinner of hamburgers and fries. The food this summer has been fantastic, and we're looking forward to a great dinner and many more great meals.  After dinner, each camper will sign up for his first week of activities. He will get a list of about 100 activities, and, with the guidance of his counselors, he'll narrow it down to six.

Tonight each cabin is playing in challenge games with another cabin, which will be followed by our traditional opening candlelight ceremony. As is tradition, the counselors will lead a cabin meeting that includes further introductions, goal-setting and sharing everyone's expectations for the summer.  The candlelight ceremony is part of the team-building process at camp, which the counselors continue to develop all summer long.

Tomorrow we get right to it.  The kids will get checked out by our medical staff, take their swim test, and play several games of continuous dodgeball. The 8-weekers will he headed out on some great day trips. Evening program will be our first game of All-Camp Capture the Flag. And on Tuesday, we'll be right into regular activities. The boys will have their first three instructional periods that they chose tonight.

It's the fun that causes the summer to fly by so fast, but it's the great people we have at North Star that makes it such a special place. I look forward to seeing friendships form and strengthen throughout the next four weeks. I look forward to the boys learning new skills, and from those skills learning self-confidence, hard work and teamwork. And as we discussed at our visiting weekend Friday Night Service, I look forward to seeing this great group of campers and staff continue to teach one another about the meaning of positive character and values.


From here on out, you can follow along with the summer of 2013 on our website at We will also be posting updates on Facebook at and on Twitter at

We post pictures online on a regular basis, and you can access those directly from your CampInTouch page. To access your CampInTouch page, go to and click "login" in the upper right hand corner. From there you can click on "Photos" to see those smiling faces. If you'd like to set up guest accounts for friends or family you can do that from your landing page by clicking on "Guest Accounts."

Thank you for trusting us with your boys. We are psyched for a great second session of the Summer of 2013!



Friday, July 12, 2013

Those Fires Keep Burning

There's still plenty of camping left, but as we get ready to wrap up the 1st session, I wanted to share this letter I just received from one our alumni, Ross Temkin. It is just another great example of how the North Star experience lives on far beyond the summer!
I just returned from a 12 day trip abroad to Israel through Taglit-Birthright. It was an amazing experience, full of hiking mountains, swimming in waterfalls, exploring new (and very very old) cities, trying amazing middle eastern foods, and best of all, getting to know 10 Israelis that spent the entire 12 days with my group of 46 Americans.

My group consisted of 46 recent graduates and young professionals, between the ages of 22-26, all living in the Chicagoland area. One of those 46 people just happened to be an NSC brother of mine, Adam (or better known at North Star as AJ) Bayard. AJ wasn't just someone I went to camp with. AJ was my "big brother" at North Star, talking to me before camp started, and answering any questions I had from then on. That was in 2001. In 2004 AJ also became my counselor. The trio of counselors that Summer led to possibly the most memorable Summer of my childhood.

The bonds I made at North Star still hold strong and true to this day. The instant reconnection and friendship between AJ and I on Birthright made the trip all that much more amazing and, just like my summers at North Star, something I will never forget. Hope this Summer is full of as much fun as could possibly be,

Keep those fires burning,

Ross Temkin

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fourth of July, North Star Style

Happy Fourth of July! For most of you, by the time you read this, it will probably the fifth or sixth of July, and we hope that you had a great Independence Day, enjoyed the day with family and friends, and saw some great fireworks. At camp, the Fourth of July is a pretty big deal from start to finish and we make sure that our campers have a memorable day!

In traditional North Star fashion, we started out with a very red, white and blue breakfast. The lodge was decked out in patriotic decorations and we have our traditional breakfast of waffles garnished with whipped cream and strawberries (we may need to add some blueberries next year!). Once breakfast is over, we go straight into our Green-White Marathon.

Shortly after our campers arrive at camp, they are put on either the green or white team for their session at North Star. They play different games over the course of the summer, representing their team. For the marathon, however, we have one massive camp wide race comprised of 40 or so events. Each camper is in at least one event, racing against the other team. Events range from running relays and canoe races to tent building and bed making. While the marathon is going on, two campers for each team are collecting wood and birch for the ending event, the boil water boil. All told, the marathon goes for about 90 minutes and at the final event, the two campers for each team have one goal, get a #10 tin can full of water to boil over by building the best fire they can. The two pairs started their fires within a few seconds of each other (in the marathon, you cannot start your event until the event before yours has been completed). Everything was neck and neck, and both teams build tremendous fires. Green, however, edged out the White team, with their water boiling about fifteen seconds ahead. It was one of the closest marathons in recent memory.

The marathon would be enough for one day, but we didn't have time to rest with our friends from Camp Birch Trail coming over in the afternoon. Everyone had time to take a shower and put on their finest attire for the social. The ladies from BT arrived in time for some great opening skits. Once that was done, we had some different ice breakers for each village with their female counterparts. Just before dinner we opened lots of different program areas and then our kitchen did great work feeding not just our campers and staff, but the over 300 visitors from Birch Trail.

After dinner we headed up to our tennis courts for music and entertainment. We are lucky enough to have several very talented counselors who play different instruments and they put together a band that played several songs before we headed into Mike Hall for more music and dancing. One of the great parts of the Fourth of July is that we get to meet several of our camper's sisters. While some brothers play it cool, they all really love seeing their older or younger sisters after a few week hiatus.

The day ended with several cabin groups sitting outside, watching the different fireworks going off around the lake. This Fourth of July also has some additional significance. As usual, we have a great crew of staff from other countries that choose to spend their summers working at camp. Additionally, we're proud to have staff members who spent time serving in the military. We love having lots of fun on the day, but we also relish the opportunity to help our campers understand the significance of Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Camp Gives Kids the Chance to be Zombies?

Each night at camp gives us the opportunity to do something special. Many of these evening programs are traditional things that we do either once a week (like our Friday Night Services) or on a semi regular basis (village campfires, capture the flag, Green-White Series). Then there are nights where we have an open slot to fill and some staff members step up with something new and creative. 

Tonight, our Counselors in Training planned our evening program and transformed NSC to NSZ, with the "Z" standing for Zombie. Campers all had different spots around camp that they had to get to over the course of the night. Standing in their way, however, were counselors transformed into zombies. If campers got tagged by zombies, they got a mark on a tag they were wearing. Once campers got three marks and they themselves joined the band of zombies themselves, trying to tag out their former teammates.

There were some other complexities and rules to the game, but ultimately, this evening program was just another opportunity for campers to run around and have fun, this time while trying to evade zombies. Props to our CITs who did a great job planning the evening program, which was capped off by the zombies demanding a half hour later for tomorrow. We will sleep in an extra half hour as we prepare for our Green-White marathon before hosting the ladies of Camp Birch Trail.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Cruiser Days are some of my favorites days at camp. In many ways, it is like our weekend at North Star. Cruiser Day is a cabin day, which typically falls each Tuesday at camp. It is a break from our normal routine where each cabin plans a full day of games and activities that they will do together. Each Cruiser Day starts with breakfast in bed. We follow that up by changing our sheets and sending out our laundry, and a community pickup, where each cabin takes responsibility for cleaning an area of camp.

From there it is up to each cabin what they will do that day. Some Cruiser Day favorites include tubing, visiting one of the resorts across the lake, scavenger hunts, slip and slides and more. Kim McCormack works hard to make sure each Cruiser Day is filled with special events for the campers. This week she set up a scavenger hunts, ice cream sandwich making, and a slip and slide.

The slip and slide is one of the seminal moments of the summer for me. It is living proof of how the energy of our staff fuels our summer. With two sheets of plastic, some shampoo and a hose, our staff can create one wild and crazy day of slipping and sliding.

Each village also has a village cruiser day. The first week was the Junior Village Cruiser Day and our youngest guys spent the day at the water park, mini-golfing, and then they paid homage to the Northwoods culture by attending a Lumberjack show. The boys learned about the logging history of the region and also were entertained by yelling "Yo-Ho" to cheer on their favorite Lumberjack. Each camper was able to take a whirl with the big saw and became an official Junior Lumberjack. This week our Senior Village campers headed to Wild Mountain water park and enjoyed the nice weather.

Each Cruiser Day, every cabin cooks out their dinner over a fire. For the first cookout we made Tinfoil Surprise, a camp favorite. It's a combination of ground beef, potatoes, carrots, onions and topped with cheese. You wrap it up in Tin Foil, and the outcome is the delicious surprise! Dessert was the traditional yet scrumptious S'mores.

The best part of Cruiser Day is getting to see the relationships that have formed within the cabins. These groups really do become close because of the efforts of our staff. Each cabin has their own unique identity and the friendships born out of them are the glue that makes our community such a strong one.