North Star Camp for Boys

Saturday, July 31, 2010

It might be...

... it could be... it is! The Big Ten.

At North Star we honor those people who are at camp for their tenth summer. We do this by inviting their family as well as friends from camp summers past, we tell embarrassing stories (all of which are 100% real), and then we eat some cake. The Big Ten, as we call it, is meant to be a surprise and throughout the summer we have "fake" Big Tens as we try to psych out the honorees. When the Big Ten happens is supposed to be a surprise to everyone except the planners.

Last night was the Big Ten for two camp veterans, Mandy Stanek and Ben Mizel. Mandy has been on staff for the last ten years, starting out as Sue's assistant and has worked the last several years as Waterfront Director. Ben started out as a camper, rose through the ranks as a CIT, cabin counselor and now is one of our Senior Village Directors.

The planning started early in the summer as we considered dates and ultimately we'd settle on July 30th. The weekend worked our perfectly as we had a large group of alumni who wanted to come in on this weekend and we set things in motion. A small group of us worked on the details and when the day got closer, we tried figuring out how we'd get things going. Typically we have a van drive in with counselors jumping out in costume, going crazy.

Friday night is also our Campfire Service, which is a quieter, reflective program. At the end of that service, Leb calls down all those who have been at camp for ten years or longer to sing our camp song "Forest Green". Well, eight of our visitors were ten year folks, so we figured that when Leb called us down to help sing, there would be a few extras to lend their voice. As our guests filed down to the surprise of Ben and Mandy, as well as Sue and pretty much the rest of camp, the reactions were priceless. You can see the group picture with Leb explaining to Sue why there were a few unexpected individuals down to help us sing.

The Big Ten was a great time for all. Thanks to all of our visitors who traveled across the country to be at camp for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

College Days!

For our Senior Village campers, there are few things that they look forward to more than College Days.  Over the course of the last three days, these young men were split into four teams for an ongoing competition that had them doing it all - testing everything from their athletic prowess to their wit, from their skills in various camp activities to their culinary proficiencies.

This year's colleges were Air Force, Boise State, Dayton, and UC-Santa Cruz.  This random assortment of universities illuminates the fact that College Days gives our Senior Village campers the opportunity to run their own teams.  There are no captains or advisors to oversee the process, and each team's success relies on their ability to collaborate with one another.  
They have played football, basketball, softball, speedball and soccer.  They have played tennis, shot archery and riflery, climbed, sailed, swam, disc golfed and canoed.  They have played cards, chess, board games and done trivia.  And those are just the basics. They have written cheers and dressed up mascots (see pictures).  They have participated in Lincoln-Douglas style debates.  They have created plaques to honor their schools.  And I'm probably still missing a bunch.

On Monday night the teams competed in the College Days Cook-off. The object was for each team to prepare a gourmet three-course meal to gain the favor of the esteemed food critics.  Their kitchen: a campfire.    The teams successfully whipped up some flavorful creations including quesadillas, salads, and pita pizzas.  The main courses were all chicken dishes, and we had top-notch pineapple chicken, chicken parmigiana, jerk chicken and a chicken stir-fry.  For dessert, we had fried bananas and dipping bananas, and a marvelous fruit tart.
While the food was delicious, there's more to the cook-off than taste.  The teams are also judged on service.  In addition to having chefs and sous chefs, each team is required to have a waiter, and assistant waiter and a busboy.  These guys work their tails off to ensure the satisfaction of the judges.  Some teams even went above and beyond providing entertainment in the form of serenades from Andrew R.'s ukelele and Grant G.'s rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  These guys all fared very well against the judges tough questions that ranged from an in-depth knowledge of the ingredients, to an understanding of the difference between Chicken Parmesan and Chicken Parmigiana.
All in all, it was a great three days for the Senior Village, and one they won't soon forget.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wedding Bells for a NSC Alum

I just returned to camp from a three day trip to Columbus, OH. My leaving for an extended period of time in the middle of the summer isn't usual, but this weekend marked a special occasion. I had the honor of attending the wedding of NSC alum Aaron Hamer to his lovely wife Lauren. Aaron spend nine years at North Star, first as a camper and then as a counselor (his last year was 2005). Aaron and Lauren celebrated their nuptials surrounded by family and friends... more than a few of whom were tied to Aaron through North Star.

In total, there were sixteen of us at the wedding who were either current or former campers and/or staff. Aaron's younger brother, Zach, as well as three of his cousins spent time at North Star. In his wedding toast, Zach recalled his first year as a camper at North Star, when Aaron (who was already a counselor) took Zach under his wing and helped him adjust to life at camp.

One of the things that the wedding weekend represented to me was the impact that camp has on each of us. Obviously, without North Star, the dozen or so of us never would have been there to celebrate Aaron's wedding. I imagine that when each of our parents first decided to send us to North Star one of their goals was that we make friends. Whether they realized that years later we'd be celebrating each other's weddings is a another story.

Whether its at North Star or another camp, when you talk to someone who has spent a good portion of their summers at camp they more than likely will tell you that they consider their camp friendships to be amongst their strongest. When you are a part of a community like a camp, when you live together in a bunk, go on canoe trips together, spend days together while on staff, you share experiences that aren't found in many other walks of life. We regularly hear from staff who only spent one year at NSC and they tell us about the friends that they are still keeping in touch with, long after their time at camp.

Camp isn't just a summer thing. We know that throughout the year campers get together with the friends they made during the summer. Counselors often travel to see their long time friends. And camp certainly goes beyond the summers you spend in the Northwoods.

Friday, July 23, 2010

2011 Registration is Online

Register now for the Summer of 2011!

You can SAVE OVER 10% ON TUITION by taking advantage of our Early Enrollment Incentives.

Click here: or click "Registration" in the upper right hand corner to get started.

Friday Night Services

Tonight was our first Friday Night Service of second session, and it was a huge success.  Friday Night Services are at the core of our philosophy at North Star.  All week long, the campers play hard at their chosen activities all over camp, then on Friday Night we take time to reflect. 
It all begins with a special dinner.  Every Friday night we have dinner of roast beef, potato pancakes, apple sauce, rolls and vegetables.  Dinner is a quieter affair with the kids dressed up - by camp standards.  All our boys get extra time to shower and put on some clean clothes.
After dinner concludes, we gather around the flagpole for a formal retreat.  A representative of each cabin announces that his cabin is, "All present and accounted for," before we sing a patriotic song, state the Pledge of Allegiance, and lower and fold the flag.
From there everyone heads up to the Council Ring.  The evening consists of a values-based campfire program with a rotating theme.  Tonight's theme was Teamwork.  Other themes include friendship, independence, character, global citizenship and more.  Each service includes stories, responsive readings, musical selections and a sermonette. Tonight Mark Y. lead the service as our reader and Joe G gave a great sermonette on how a team comes together.  Our music directors led great songs for the Camper and Counselor Chorus, helping to perform great renditions of "The Weight" by The Band and "The General" by Dispatch.  Mitchell L. and Alex B. did a great reading about community living as well.

Towards the end of every service is the Keylog Ceremony, which presents each camper and staff member with an opportunity to give thanks to other members of our community that have done something special for them.  They do so by throwing a stick into the fire, which is a symbolic representation that goes back to the regions logging days.  It is very common to hear our boys thanking their new friends for being so nice to them, and to hear them thanking their counselors for making it "the best summer ever."
And as the fire burns down every Friday, the sun sets between an opening in the trees over Clear Lake and creates the most perfect scene for all of us to enjoy.  We stand and together sing the camp song, "Forest Green," taps, and recite the Camper Benediction.  
We believe that if camp was just fun, we would be missing out on a valuable opportunities to teach our campers valuable life lessons and for character development.  Friday Night Services are an important part of that mission. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crank Up the Volume

We are off to a great start with second session!  By now our second session campers have settled in, made new friends and reunited with old. They have played at least two games of dodgeball, been in the lake for swim tests, and spent several activity periods at their favorite projects.  And until lunch today, we thought that they had already rounded into form when it comes to cheering in the Dining Hall.
Then the girls showed up.
Now our guys can cheer, but when the CITs from Chippewa Ranch Camp joined us in the Lodge for lunch, you would have thought you were at a ballgame.  You could hardly hear yourself think! The Senior Village began the festivities with their ritual Conga Line into the Outer Lodge.  Jumping up and down, they began chanting their traditional cheer, "V-I-L-L-A, Villa, Villa, All the Way!"
Not to be outdone, the Juniors and Intermediates (Ridge) got into the action quickly and noisily.  "J-U-N, I-O-R, Juniors, Juniors, Best by Far!" And, "R-I-D-G-E, On the Ridge is Unity!" All in all, there were fewer than 20 ladies from Chippewa, but when they took to the singing and dancing, they held their own.  Our boys unloaded the whole songbook and even unveiled some new moves for the occasion.

Today was our first day of our regular program during second session.  Each week, the boys choose their activities for the instructional periods. They choose from a wide range of programming in adventure, athletics, creative arts and waterfront activities to make up their schedules.  Every successive week, they will again choose a new set of activities and each camper can choose to build on the ones they enjoyed as well.  Read More About Our Program.

Very quickly, chess has taken North Star by storm.  Bruce W., who is here creating a new Promotional Video for us, also happens to be a chess master. The fascination started when Bruce challenged all the campers and counselors to take him on.  The catch was that he was going to play 10 games at once!  After Bruce set up three picnic tables side-by-side, he prepared the boards and lined up his challengers, whom ranged from 5-year-old Lake to not-5-year-old Leb. On Monday, Bruce went 9 and 1, losing only to counselor Charles E.
But that was not good enough. He wanted to go undefeated, and he took on a new crop today and succeeded, defeating all 10 opponents.  Bruce does have a chink in his armor though as he lost to our very own camper chess master Asher B. 

Tonight we had a modified challenge games that included several intriguing challenges.  We had an Ohio State versus Michigan football game, fueled by our Wolverine alumnus I-Village Director Jon K. and our Buckeye alumnus Senior Village Director Adam H.  Nano had the Fun-Bug area rocking. We had a soccer match led by Brant and Ben M., a blobbing contest spearheaded by Blumy and Blumy with nickname rights at stake, tennis courts filled with doubles matches, floor hockey, dodgeball, basketball and more; and all this while the sun was on its way down for the evening.  Tomorrow our first cabin trips of the session will head out, and we'll keep rolling with the projects.

But that's all in a day's work at North Star. Second session is off to a great start!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Second Session is Underway!


The campers have arrived and camp is in session! The buses arrived ahead of schedule to beautiful weather and some very enthusiastic staff.  As we announced the cabin assignments around the flagpole our counseling teams were having dance parties, building human periods, and having mock tea parties.  Anything can turn in to a production around here.

The campers have unpacked 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 6:00pm we will have a delicious dinner, as the food has been fantastic all summer long.

After dinner each cabin will play in challenge games with another cabin, which will be followed by our traditional opening candlelight ceremony.  The counselors lead a cabin meeting that includes each camper sharing his goals and 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 busy right away.  The kids will get checked out by our medical staff, take their swim test, choose their schedules for the first week and play several games of dodgeball and capture the flag, and that's all before dinner.  Evening program will be staff introductions.

The staff has been everything we could ask for thus far and they continue to impress us with their energy and creativity, and, more importantly, the level of care they have for each camper.  It is these guys that allow us to have the special community we have here.  We had a 9-year-old here who said, "I've only been here a little over an hour, and I can tell that for everyone here it feels like home." We can guarantee that your kids are going to have a fantastic summer.

Leb's Ramblings, Pictures and Camp Updates
Aside from the letters you receive from camp, you can also stay informed about what is going on at camp through a few other means.  From here on, all of the communication will be on Leb's Ramblings ( You can access Leb's Ramblings by going to in "The Lodge" under the Media Room. The pictures can be found in the same area under Summer Pictures. On a regular basis we will be posting pictures online.  Pictures will be available as soon as possible. We will post the cabins with the pictures tonight

You can also stay informed on Facebook and Twitter.  You can read a little bit more about what is going on at camp on North Star Camp's Facebook Fan Page (, North Star's Facebook Profile (, or our Twitter Page (

To us our official word of the summer, camp is going to be "Awesome!"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another "North Star Moment"

There was Magic in the Northwoods tonight. Where else can you find 15 years old playing soccer, football, tennis and softball at the same time… with 9 years olds who were also playing all 4 sports at the same time… on the same field? I venture to say that this game was only played in one place on the planet this evening. Right here at North Star! I would also venture to say that creative, fun and exciting games were being played all over the world at summer camps, they just happened to be different games. But, I have the pleasure of writing about our game at North Star this evening.
But, I choose to look at a bigger picture and I’d like to give you a little in site into what makes North Star… well, North Star. The origin of the game took place last Wednesday evening at our weekly staff meeting. Our administrative team knew we had Monday evening open and we thought it would be a good opportunity to give our counselors an opportunity to prepare a special event for the camp to enjoy. We brainstormed for 7 ½ minutes, that’s all the time any creative team needs, isn’t it? In that time we came up with all sorts of ideas, another version of Brave Heart, a dodgeball extravaganza, Minute To Win It game show night, and then out of the corner of the room came, “How about Mob Ball?” The room went quiet, “Mob Ball” Sounds perfect for a boys camp. Well, Tim Edwards, from Manchester, England described this game with basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, tennis balls, and softballs all used in the same game. There would be different colored balls that could only be used by certain age groups. And of course, we would use the entire camp as the playing field.
I knew we had something good going when I saw 5 counselors carrying the huge soccer goals to the middle of the junior village before dinner. I knew we had something really good when there wasn’t a sound while Tim explained the rules and I knew we had a huge hit when I saw kids running everywhere with all sorts of balls all over camp. It is actually quite humorous to see a 9-year-old dribbling a basketball down the road with his buddies scrambling behind.
I think the real story is the creativity that camp gives to young people. After all, Tim, at 23 years old is a young person. Tim solicited help from 15 other staff members to put this program together and it was a huge success. I’ve always felt that giving opportunities for leadership is a central part of our success and allows everyone here to feel a part of something bigger than himself.
Speaking of creativity, wait till you read about our Espionage Game that will be taking place Wednesday evening. Espionage is a game of mystery, intrigue and suspense and takes place after dark. Every cabin will have some challenge to complete and something about crawling around camp in the dark is captivating to the kids. More to come after Wednesday...
As I write this we have campers participating in sign-up trips out of camp. There are 9 kids on a horseback riding overnight. Tomorrow we have 27 boys going to a local disc golf course where they will play on a championship course. We have other canoe and hiking trips planned and any camper has the option to participate in a sign up overnight camping trip.
The play, an adaption of The Producers, is in its final stages of rehearsals and we are looking forward to watching the world premiere on Thursday evening.
And of course, the biggest weekend of the year begins on Friday as we have many visitors coming into camp in the evening, our 1st session campers leaving on Saturday and a new group arriving on Sunday.
The craziness continues and I can assure you that the creativity and fun never stops at camp. We’re having a blast and I am confident your son will have wonderful stories to tell you when you see him this weekend.
Chairs Up,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

United Nations Day 2010

As we prepared for North Star's 2010 United Nations Day there was some question as to whether or not the day would even happen. Last night the odds of rain consuming the day looked like a decent possibility as thunderstorms were foretasted for much of the day. We arose half an hour early to some overcast skies but that didn't dampen anyone's spirits as campers and counselors alike got painted up and we began our opening ceremonies.

In Olympics style we have a torch run with all 12 captains that ends with one of the senior captains lighting the NSC cauldron. Counselor and Senior Village Director Adam Heldman read aloud the same UN Day proclamation that was written decades ago by Jack Weiner. 1st and 2nd series flew by. Throughout the morning the sound of vuvuzelas were heard throughout camp and excitement was definitely in the air. The usual keystone events like softball, basketball and speedball created a lot of energy, but they definitely don't overshadow junior curtainball, or four square, where campers have a way of emphatically making their cases to referees.

Post lunch we had some great staff games of speedball followed by running relays and camper and counselor tugs. Then, as we went into 3rd series, Leb "aka Tom Skillings"didn't like the look of some incoming clouds and combined with his view of local radars he called for the rainy day bell to be rung. He predicted a quick storm and within 40 minutes rain, thunder and lighting had moved through and everyone was back at their third series events. This left us with the dilemma of what to do with 4th series.

3rd and 4th series (our last two series) typically happen before our dinner feast and we then go into our evening program where scores are announced. Instead we'd have to do our swim point events after dinner. To make this even more interesting 3rd series ended with the scores just about as close as possible... a tie for 1st place and a tie for 3rd place. The margin between first and third place was a slim, single point.

4th series at swim point was all the more exciting with everyone knowing how close things were. Along with swimming we had chess and checkers and after a great time at swim point we found that Mark Yellon and Mitch Laski were still in the midst of a great chess battle.

As the sun was setting on North Star it was time for Leb to read the scores and he had to restrain himself and not draw out his typical stall. Some of our staff were able to get in a quick Big Ten psyche before Leb read the scores and all four teams had their final cheers.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Update from the Northwoods

We've had a busy few days at camp since the 4th of the July.  There's been so much going on at camp, it's been hard to find time for a Rambling!

The Green-White Marathon
We had a great Green-White Marathon on Monday, and though the White team jumped out to a big lead, it still came down to the wire at Boil Water Boil.  The Green-White Marathon is a race that involves all over camp and includes every camper participating in events anywhere from running, swimming and biking, to softball throws, bed making, and singing songs with crackers in your mouth.  In the end, it all concludes with "Boil Water Boil," where two campers from each team work to boil water so that it is running over the top of their No. 10 Tin Can, all while the whole camp stands around cheering them on.  It always makes for a great day.

All-Camp Campfire
The evening of the 5th we had our All-Camp campfire, where we all gathered at the Council Ring for an evening of stories, songs and jokes.  We shared many laughs, especially at the traditional "Talking Contest," where our campers square off to determine the best talker in camp.  The Talking Contest has two boys standing eye to eye, and on the command "Ready, Set, Talk!" both are to begin talking simultaneously until they can talk no more. The contest ends when one participant hesitates, stutters or repeats himself.  Our championship match between heavily favored senior Andrew R. and underdog Spencer M. went on so long that Leb had to postpone the conclusion for a later date.  There is no doubt that our boys can talk!
We also heard from Alex F. on behalf our Pine Manor group about their experiences on the Canadian.  Alex told the camp a little about the week and a half long camping trip to Quetico Provincial Park, and more importantly about what it meant to all of them. Alex told us about how the trip really brought them all together as a group, as they needed to work together to accomplish the daily tasks that they faced in the wilderness.  This year our group really had beautiful weather throughout the trip, and they caught a lot of fish as well.  The consensus was that the trip was a memory that they will share forever, and that it help to cement these camp friendships that will last a lifetime.

Cruiser Day
We had another great Cruiser Day yesterday with some perfect weather for a great day.  The Junior Village had their Village Cruiser Day and they went to the Hayward waterslide, played mini-golf and jumped on the giant air pillow there.  Then they were off to Hayward Beach for some frisbee and a cookout dinner, before stopping at Dairy Queen and heading back to camp.  Back at camp, we had all kinds of great things happening, including J-3 filming their own remake of Rambo!  We had the slip-and-slide set up and as you can see by the look on Jon Kohl's face above, there are few things our Intermediate Village Director would rather be doing.

Now we've got a busy week coming up as we make preparations for United Nations Day this Sunday!  The summer is just flying by...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July Social

As the rest of the nation celebrates our Independence Day with fireworks and parades North Star gets together with Camp Birch Trail for our annual social. We were serving as the host camp this summer and that sprung our staff into action. About a week and a half ago I overheard lots of commotion coming out of our staff room and decided to take a peak. About 25 counselors were wedged into the room which comfortably seats about a dozen debating various themes for the social. My favorite idea was a Spanish theme which would include the BT ladies arriving to find themselves amidst the "Running of the Bulls", being charged by NSC campers and counselors.

Our counselor committee whittled the list down to five and decided that the theme would be Avatar. Campers and staff would dress up in blue and hopefully more than a few would paint themselves. So today when the Birch Trail buses arrived at 3:30 they were escorted out to the athletic fields by three "military officers" and finally our guys came running out of the woods from every direction, many painted blue and most sporting NSC-BT 2010 social t-shirts. Needless to say the visitors were a bit taken aback. After some opening skits campers went with their respective villages to engage in some ice breakers and then we had an organized free. My favorite activity was definitely continuous dodgeball, where participants were only allowed to get out members of the opposite sex.

Our kitchen staff works hard to get dinner ready on a normal night, but tonight it meant getting dinner ready for all our campers and staff... and 350 visitors. Following dinner we all headed up to the tennis courts for music in Mike Hall and other games on the courts. We also had a rocket launch on the athletic fields. Of course, more than a few North Star campers were willing to give the BT girls the shirts off their back. The blue Social T-shirts were a big hit and our visitors took every opportunity to plead for one. There were a few extras and at the end of the night Leb decided to give them away in true North Star fashion... with a good old Horsengoggle.

As the BT visitors loaded their buses our NSC guys decided that we needed a half our later and would not let the buses depart until they had their way. We had a sit-in style barricade and singing of the infamous "all we are saying is give sleep a chance". North Star will be sleeping in tomorrow!