North Star Camp for Boys

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Brad Miller

Brad Miller joins us for his first summer at camp. A native of Verona, WI, Brad is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. At school he's majoring in Elementary Education and minoring in Adaptive Education with the goal of becoming a teacher.  Brad has played lacrosse for the last seven years and as a senior in high school, his team was runner up in the state championship.

Brad has been active in Boy Scouts since he was in first grade and achieved Eagle Scout last summer. At North Star Brad will be instructing pathfinders and canoeing, where he'll put those Eagle Scout skills to good use!

More about Brad

What is your dream job
- Elementary School Teacher (5th grade)

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I guess you could say that I’m a pretty good ping pong player, otherwise I love to camp in general.
Your favorite TV character
- Sokka from Avatar the Last Airbender

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- A compass, a water purifier, and a cat.

How did you learn about North Star and why did you apply?
- I was looking at summer camps to work at online and found this one, and really loved everything about it.

Favorite Sports Teams
- Packers, Badgers, Blackhawks, Duke Lacrosse

What noteworthy/random/menial jobs have you held?
- For the last three summers I have worked at a specialty foods store, and have cut up fruit and packaged vegetables all summer long.

What did you do last summer?
- Other than working, I graduated high school, finished my Eagle Scout, went backpacking for two weeks in New Mexico and got ready to go to college!

What, if any previous camp experiences have you had? 
- Not including last summer, I have gone to Ed Bryant Scout Reservation, in Mauston WI, as a camper for seven years, but have not worked at a summer camp yet.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Ian Michelson

My name is Ian Michelson and I'm from Glencoe, IL and am a junior at New Trier High School. The grind of junior year is underway, but in my spare moments of free time I enjoy playing pickup games of basketball and football, jamming on the guitar, or binge watching a show on Netflix. When I’m not studying for a test or taking a practice ACT exam you will find me on the tennis court. At New Trier I'm on the tennis team. I'm also involved in social service projects and DECA.

The summer of 2014 will be my 8th at North Star Camp. There you can find me instructing tennis archery and windsurfing.

More about Ian

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring? 
- I would most likely bring these three things: An ipod, some toilet paper, and a compass.

Favorite special program at camp: 
- Nothing comes close to the thrills of Glen’s Game at camp. A combination of capture the flag and steal the bacon that also incorporates a camper vs. counselor aspect, and has cabins competing for bragging rights.

Your favorite TV or movie character: 
- Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, he has been my favorite TV character since I was 9 years old, and still is today.

Your best memory of camp: 
- Finishing the Canadian (a ten day canoe trip the oldest age group undergoes in Quetico Provincial Park).

Favorite Sports Teams: 
- St. Louis Cardinals, Rams, and Blues.

What would you choose for your last meal? 
- A Chipotle burrito with steak, guac, lettuce, and sour cream with a strawberry-banana smoothie to wash it down.

If you could be any animal, what would you be? 
- A tiger, the most majestic and ferocious animal.

Your two favorite books: 
- The Godfather and Confederates in the Attic

A secret hobby or skill that you have? 
- I have some pretty good yoga and pilates skills.
How has camp impacted you? 
- Camp has impacted me in so many ways, and on so many levels that it is hard for me to write just a short blurb about North Star’s influence. The sense of community I have achieved at North Star (on and off camp grounds) has stuck with me since day one. North Star has become my home away from home and has helped me grow as a person. I have gained confidence, become more responsible, and learned about important life qualities such as sportsmanship, integrity, perseverance, and of course- friendship.

NSC Gear for a Great Cause!

North Star has teamed up with We Are Lions to put out some really cool new North Star gear with a twist. We Are Lions is an organization that partners with artists with disabilities and non-profits to raise awareness and money for great causes. These t-shirts were designed by Jeramy Woolsey, who has been a friend of my sister Jami for several years now through an organization called Best Buddies. Jeramy has cerebral palsy, but doesn't let that slow him down. He has worked at a restaurant in his hometown Champaign, IL for over 11 years now. Jeramy is a great self-advocate who loves to collect police patches and has made it to the state track meet in the Special Olympics several times.
Having heard Jami talk all about camp, Jeramy was excited to design these shirts (short sleeve, long sleeve, and hoodies) for North Star campers, staff and alumni. The proceeds will benefit both Best Buddies and the Camp for All Kids Foundation, which will help more kids get to experience camp.
Go to to get your gear now!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Mike Slakis

My name is Mike Slakis and this will be my first summer at North Star. I have just finished my first year at the University of Illinois Campaign-Urbana. I am studying civil engineering and I am a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. 

My hobbies include anything that will bring me into the outdoors. I love camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, shooting, biking, and water sports in general. At camp I'll be instructing fishing and climbing.

More about Mike

What is your dream job
- My dream job would be to travel the world working for an engineering company designing buildings and bridges.

Your favorite TV character
- Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother.

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I can find a way to catch fish as long as I have fishing line, including making hooks from sticks, finding my own bait and making my own rod.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- I would bring a knife, fishing line, and a pan.

How did you learn about North Star and why did you apply?
-From Jeremy and Michael Palgen.  I am in the same fraternity as them and I am also friends with their sister, Caitlin, from rock climbing at U of I.  Jeremey is an old camp counselor, and Michael and Caitlin will be a returning to North Star this year. I applied to North Star because I love spending time with kids, I enjoy the outdoors, and I love teaching people. Though, my main interest came from the fact that the Palgens are some of the most genuine people I know, and if North Star is a family that the Palgens proudly say that they are a part of, than it must be quite a special place.

Favorite Sports Teams
- I am from Chicago, so my favorite sports teams are the Chicago Bears and Blackhawks.

What did you do last summer?
- I worked at a local Mobil Gas Station and took classes at a community college.

What, if any previous camp experiences have you had?
- I was a camper at the Grove.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Caitlin Palgen

Hi everyone!  My name is Caitlin Palgen and this will be my second summer back at camp.  I am finishing up my junior year of nursing school at the University of Illinois.  I plan on becoming a pediatric nurse once I graduate.  In my free time, I love to play sports!  My favorites are volleyball, rock climbing, and softball but I love playing basically every other sport as well.  When I am not in the health center at camp, I can usually be found instructing at the climbing wall or at the sand volleyball court.

More about Caitlin

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
-A hammock, a solar powered ipod, and a volleyball

Favorite special program at camp
-Glen’s game

Your favorite TV or movie character
-Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory

Your best memory of camp.
-UN Day

Favorite Sports Teams
-Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks, & Chicago Bulls

What would you choose for your last meal?
- It’s a tie between my mom’s chicken parmesan or Chicago-style deep-dish pizza

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
-A cheetah

Your two favorite books
-The Last Lecture & The Five People You Meet In Heaven

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
-I am doublejointed in 7 of my fingers

How has camp impacted you?
-Working at North Star has been such a great experience for me!  I gained a lot of leadership skills and responsibility.  I also learned to be completely, 100% myself.  I gained a ton of lifelong friendships, too!  Also, I want to become a pediatric nurse, so working as a health counselor at NSC this past summer gave me a tremendous amount of experience.  It helped give me a perspective of what my career will be like working with kids for the rest of my life- and I loved every second of it!

Staff Spotlight - Holden Greenberg

Camp Prep Tips #2 - Shop Like a Pro

Check our our previous Camp Prep Tips:
#1 - Some Basics

Now it's time to turn our attention to filling the duffle bags! It's possible that you've been shopping for camp gear since the holidays, taking advantage of sales after going over the camp equipment list like a hawk. On the other hand, you may be avoiding camp shopping like the plague, worried that you'll buy the wrong thing anyway. Shopping for camp gear doesn't take a Masters of Arts in Shopping but there are some things you should know. We're hoping that what follows will provide lots of tips to help your shopping process easy and also help you not have to re-purchase in future years.

There's no need to overspend!
We're going to be honest with you. Things get dirty at camp. Your child is going to outgrow stuff before next summer. Your child is going to lose stuff. The third one we can work to avoid but the rule when packing is that if you absolutely, positively have to have the item back in one piece at the end of the summer, don't pack it! This may apply to an expensive tennis racket or your son's favorite t-shirt that he was given by his late great grandfather.

Most of the stuff that you pack for this summer will not fit by next summer. As high quality as a Mountain Hardware fleece may be and popular as a North Face hoodie is, there are other alternatives that are less expensive. We don't have recommended stores or clothing brands, but REI, and Sports Authority all have gear that will be great for camp. Brands like REI's in house line, Colombia and other well knowns are great quality and perfect for camp. Often you can head to your local independent camping store and find those high end brands at a solid discount. Stores are trying to clear out leftover winter gear or last year's line. Shop around and take advantage of sales!

Most of what your son is going to wear at North Star is basic clothing. T shirts and shorts are  our dress code. For camping trips there is other necessary gear, all of which we talk about on our main equipment list as well as our Canadian equipment list (for current 9th graders). A few times each summer kids will wear something a bit nicer (i.e. a polo type shirt and nicer shorts). The majority of what you pack is going to be from your son's everyday clothes. 

Where possible, use what you have instead of buying new! There are a few items that we don't recommend skimping on, which we'll address below.

Now for Some Specifics
So here is where we really hope to help. Over the years, we've been able to see which specific products withstand the summer better than others, which are more effective, and which really pass the camp test. Below we give you the North Star seal of approval on what specifically to buy and what to avoid.

- Cook Kits
This one is easy... a lexan or other hard plastic plate, cup, and utensil set, all stored in a small mesh bag.

The above set was found at a chain sporting goods store for about $12. Here is a similar set for sale at This is a set that should last a few long as the utensils end up back in the bag.

What to avoid? Those silver metal cook kit sets that seemed to have 4 plates, 2 bowls, a small pot, and six other random pieces all held together by a nut and screw which inevitably gets lost the first time you open the set.

- Canteens/Water Bottles
We're minimalists when it comes to this one... go for the standard waterbottle. We like the Nalgene type 32oz water bottle. It's durable, easy to clean and doesn't have parts that are easy to lose. Add a splash-guard and you're ready to go. There are plenty of other brands, so don't feel like you have to buy a Nalgene (however they are virtually indestructible) A Gatorade style water bottle is great for camp as well. If your son is going on the Canadian (just finished 9th grade & is attending first session), we recommend buying two waterbottles. 

What to avoid? Lots of people like this style of bottle with the spill proof bite valve

So whats the concern? 

Lots of little pieces that come apart to clean the bottle. By the end of the summer, we find several of these style bottles without straws or the bite pieces, rendering the water bottle useless. The bottles also aren't as easy to clean as water bottles without all the pieces. Clean-up is also a concern for the Camelbak hydration backbacks. These are great for biking but not necessary for camp.

Laundry Bags
This one isn't too complex, but we see two common errors. Not enough laundry bags and laundry bags that are too small. Campers need two laundry bags. When laundry is sent out, they need a second bag to start their next laundry load. If your son goes through lots of clothes, you may want to pack an extra laundry bag. As for laundry bag size, go for one that is at least 28"X38".

Laundry bags look alike, and when laundry is returned to camp, there are over 170 bags of clean laundry. For kids to find their clean laundry it's important that you can label the bag in some way. We recommend, at a minimum, a solid bag (nylon or other material) where you can clearly and easily write your son's name. Mesh bags are hard to label and rip easily.

Rain Coats/Ponchos
There are lots of options here and lots of opportunities to overspend. Our main recommendation is to avoid the clunky ponchos. Especially on camping trips, ponchos are cumbersome and not at all wind resistant. What we really like is a rain coat shell with a zip out fleece liner. These are multipurpose. The fleece liner will cover your son's need for a light coat. The shell with hood serves as a rain coat. Zipped together it's great for cold days. Unfortunately by the time next winter rolls around, this is unlikely to fit, but if you've got a shell/liner from this past winter, you're set.

Duffle Bags
Long gone are the days of packing your trunk or foot locker. They're expensive and not at all durable. They're bulky and have no give whereas duffles store easily when not in use and can take a beating. If you're buying new baggage, buy duffles. There are lots of duffle options out there and some of them are really expensive. 

Some guidelines. First, you'll likely need two duffles. As for size, something in the vicinity of 30" X 15" or bigger is a good starting point. Some kids bring lots of stuff, others not as much. One problem we do see is busted zippers on duffles. When people try to overpack a duffle and struggle to zip it shut, zippers will break. Make sure you get duffles with good zippers. The duffle should also pass your eye/feel test. If it looks or feels like the fabric will easily rip, go for something else.

Hiking Boots
If you ask ten people their recomendations for hiking boots, you'll get ten different answers. At North Star only kids who just completed 8th and 9th grades truly need hiking boots. The 8th graders go on a hiking trip to the Porcupine Mountains and the 9th graders go on the 9-day paddling and portaging trip to Quetico Provinical Park in Ontario. Again, it's unlikely that the boots you buy for the 8th grader will fit by their 9th grade summer, so don't break the bank!

These trips often see some inclement weather and hiking on slick surfaces. Because of this, having a good gripping sole is very important. Lots of boots have Vibram soles, which are great. When choosing boots, we also tend to err on the side of good ankle support. Some people do need boots that provide more ankle support, so going with boots that rise above the ankle would be important if this is a concern. 

Waterproof boots are a bit of a misconception. To keep boots waterproof you have to spray them regularly with waterproof treatment. Waterproof boots don't breathe as well. If you step in a high puddle, feet get wet. Breathable boots will drain easier and dry quicker. To keep feet dry and in good shape, good socks are important (see below).
  • Bonus Tip: Break in your boots! More likely than not, your son is going to have a fairly new pair of boots for his trip this summer. If the first time he wears them is on day one of his trip than he's likely to get some blisters and have some discomfort. Boots need to be broken in, so we recommend that campers wear their hiking boots on and off for a few weeks before they come to camp.
Younger campers will need some type of shoes for rainy weather. This can be a hiking shoe or boot or a spare pair of shoes that can get wet. For younger campers, there is no need to spend a lot of money on hiking boots.

This is one area where we'd spend a few extra dollars. Here we're speaking about our campers who just completed 8th and 9th grade. On the hiking trip and Canadian good socks are a must. Boots are going to get wet and feet take a lot of wear during the trip. Having hood socks is very important.

Synthetic or wool socks are what you want. They dry quickly and really protect feet! On cold days, even when these socks are wet they keep feet warm. Campers in these ages will need socks beyond cotton socks! Cotton clothing takes a long time to dry and is uncomfortable when wet. Good socks are something that will last and are great for winter use. 

We recommend buying 2-3 pair for these trips. You don't need to go to high end camping stores to buy these socks but you also won't want to go to Target or Walmart, either. At a minimum, head to a sporting goods store for these.

Sleeping Bags
This is another item that you don't want to skimp on. There are lots of things to consider with sleeping bags, and our #1 recommendation is to stay away from sleeping bags with cotton/fleece lining. Starter sleeping bags used for sleep overs aren't appropriate for camp. When they get wet they take days to dry out. If you have a sleeping bag with a nylon lining, you're set. 

If you are going to buy a new sleeping bag, this is actually one item that is worth the investment. A good sleeping bag will last your son's camp career and beyond. If you're buying your 10-year old camper a new bag, plan ahead and buy a bag that they can grow into! Our recommendations when buying a new bag:
- A temperature rating of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Our Canadian trip can have some cooler nights and if your son ever does camping outside of camp, this is a pretty standard temp rating
- Easily compressible. Sleeping bags should compress into a 12" X 18" stuff sack. This makes trip packing much easier. You can also purchase a compression sack which really help.
- Go for a mummy-style bag versus one that unzips totally flat

As for the sleeping bag fill, the two main options are synthetic and down. Some people really love down. Down sleeping bags are warmer and they weigh less. Synthetic, on the other, hand dries much quicker and compresses easier. For our purposes, we would recommend a synthetic filled bag but there are also great down-filled sleeping bags.
  • Bonus Tip: Unstuff your sleeping bag! Stuff sacks are meant to be used while on trip and when transporting a sleeping bag. While at home, however, a sleeping bag should be taken out of the stuff sack. If a sleeping bag remains in its stuff sack constantly it loses its loft and ability to keep the user warm. Store a sleeping bag over a hanger in a closet when it's not in use!
 Now about losing things... we'll follow up with another Preparing for Camp entry about the wonders of labeling. For now, good luck shopping and if you have any specific questions, email us at and we'll be sure to help you shop like a pro!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Jacob Guggenheim

Jacob Guggenheim was born in New York City. He moved to California in 1998 at age 6 but still remains a Yankees, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fan. He took up tennis in late elementary school and played on his high school’s team. He has also done fairly extensive hiking with his brother Aaron both around the United States and abroad.
Jacob is currently a senior at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and will graduate this coming May. From there he hopes to attend graduate school in mechanical engineering at either MIT or Georgia Tech. This will be Jacob's first summer at North Star and he'll be instructing tennis and swimming.

More About Jacob
What is your dream job
- Working in research and development in BioRobotics at either a national lab or a progressive company.
A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I can solve a Rubik’s cube reasonably fast. A friend got really into it in high school and I begged him to teach me. 

Your favorite TV character
- I loved Tom and Jerry so I would have to say my favorite TV character was Jerry Mouse. 
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- I would bring a hacky sack (something I would like to get better at), a book (something nice and long like 100 Years of Solitude), and a nice knife (got to practical with the third item).
How did you learn about North Star and why did you apply?
- Learned about it through a previous camp counselor Michael Palgen. I applied because truly feel that sports and the outdoors have helped me immensely in life and in academics. And, more simply, they are extremely fun. North Star offers me the opportunity to combine my love of teaching with my passion for sports and the outdoors.

Favorite Sports Teams
- Easy. New York Yankees, New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, and Everton.
What noteworthy/random/menial jobs have you held?
- I worked at the equivalent of a Chipotle (called Mad Mex) while studying abroad in Australia. I can roll some fast burritos.
What did you do last summer?
- I was an undergraduate researcher at the Harvard Biorobotics Lab with Professor Rob Howe. I worked to make a six-axis force torque sensor from MEMS actuators that was both rugged and cheap.
What, if any previous camp experiences have you had?
- I attended a tennis camp (CVTC) for a couple years during middle school. I also grew up going to YMCA or SkyHawks sports camps and a local state park camp.

Staff Spotlight - Ethan Handler

Hi everybody, my name is Ethan Handler! I will be returning to North Star for my 7th summer. I live in Northbrook, Illinois, and am a current junior at Glenbrook North High School. I am on GBN’s varsity tennis team, playing doubles. I’m also on the state-bound math team, am a founder of a community service organization, and take a yoga class once a week.

I love the outdoors, and try to get outside whenever possible. At camp I will be instructing climbing and tennis, two of my favorite activities to do.

More About Ethan

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring:
- Dash (my dog), rope, and a compass.

Favorite special program at camp:
- Glenn’s Game

Your favorite TV or movie character:
- Dash Parr, from The Incredibles

Your best memory of camp:
-My 2012 Canadian trip to Quetico National Park. It was one of the best experiences. It taught me how to work as a cohesive team and push yourself more than ever.

Favorite Sports Teams:
- The St. Louis Cardinals. Definitely not the Chicago Cubs.

What would you choose for your last meal:
- Wildfire chopped salad and BBQ brisket.
If you could be any animal, what would you be:
- I would be a giant panda. Pandas are really fun, but their massive size and teeth make them a deadly predator. Who wouldn’t want to be a panda?

Your two favorite books:
- And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie, and Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown.

A secret hobby or skill that you have:
- I can wiggle both of my ears.

How has camp impacted you:
- Camp has taught me a variety of things, including teamwork, how to live with fourteen other messy guys, how to survive in the outdoors, and hard work. At North Star, I can simply be myself. Above all, though, camp has fostered friendships and allowed me to make memories that would otherwise not exist for me. I truly treasure all of the time that I spend at camp.

Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 New Camper Open House Pizza Party

New Camper Open House Pizza Party
Saturday, May 17, 2014
12:00pm - 1:30pm
Barnaby's Pizza
960 Skokie Boulevard, Northbrook, IL

Join us on Saturday, May 17 at Barnaby's Pizza in Northbrook for an opportunity to meet some of our junior staff, ask your burning questions and introduce your son to some of the other first time campers. Dan, Vickie and Andy will be at Barnaby's with some fine North Star staff members who will look to get your son psyched for his first summer at North Star

Our goal is to help each of our first-time campers to feel comfortable and get even more excited for camp. It is our hope that this allows each of our first-time campers to meet some staff and other first-time campers so that they can see some familiar faces when they arrive at the bus.

Please RSVP to or at 847-943-9559, and feel free to contact me if you have any other questions as well. We hope you'll stop in and have some pizza!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Richelle Poisson

Richelle was born and raised in the mountains of Upstate New York. A place where her summers consisted of hiking and biking the local trails and tubing down the Hudson River, while the winters were full of cross country skiing, snowshoeing and late night bonfires. Her imagination and creativity was born with the help of her older brother as the two of them spent their days outside inventing new ways to occupy their time in the backyard.

She continued her art interests through high school taking every class offered. Now as a freshman at American University studying International Relations, she has continued her creativity by continuously decorating the walls of her dorm and helping to make crafts with the girls that she nannies in the afternoon. With her ability to make anything out of household materials and her creative mind, Richelle will be the Director of Arts and Crafts this summer.  She will focus on helping the campers to bring out their inner Picasso.

More about Richelle

What is your dream job?
- If I were to work anywhere in the world, I would choose to work in Chile teaching at a bilingual school.  I would help the young children with both their Spanish and English skills.

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- A skill that I acquired during a volunteer trip to Honduras, is the ability to make cement with only sand, water, a bag of dry cement, and a shovel – no power equipment is necessary to build a school.

Your favorite TV character?
- Being a resident of Washington DC, Scandal’s Olivia Pope has become a favorite.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- With the unfortunate luck of being stranded on a deserted island I would first bring with me a guide book on how to survive on a stranded island, a piece of flint because fire is the key to survival, and finally my copy of Pride and Prejudice, as it is one of my favorite reads and being on an island can begin to get lonesome. 

How did you learn about North Star and why did you apply?
- I learned of North Star camp from college floor mate and friend Michael Berger who will be returning to camp this summer as a counselor.  Because of the stupendous stories that he regaled me in about his past summers at camp and the opportunity for a new crafty adventure I found myself applying to spend the summer at North Star.

Favorite Sports Teams?
- With my father growing on the coast of Maine, I was taught from a young age that New England ran in my blood and it was only right to become an avid fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox and the Bruins.

What noteworthy/random/menial jobs have you held?
- I spent a summer working at the local pizzeria. I spent my time working in front of a hot oven on those July days answering the phones and taking orders. I am now a wearer of multiple burn scars that accumulated from being five feet tall and taking pizzas out of an oven that was twice my size.

What did you do last summer?
- The summer before college I spent my days as a nanny and enjoying family and friend time before I had to head down to the nation’s capitol for school.

What, if any previous camp experiences have you had?
- I have not had the opportunity to attend or work at a summer camp before, but I am more than exited to gain lots this upcoming summer. I do however have extensive experience working with children through volunteer work at the local children’s theatre, playground summer program, and an afterschool tutoring program that I founded during my junior year of high school.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Ari Weil

Hi, my name is Ari Weil, and I'm a senior in high school at the Denver School of Science and Technology. I'll be attending Pomona College next year and studying international relations. Here in Denver, I'm a co-captain of my school's Frisbee team and Vice President of our National Honors Society chapter. I also write and do graphic design for my school's comedic newsletter. 

At camp you can find me down on the lake teaching canoeing, out on the trail teaching biking, or on the athletic field playing some Frisbee.This will be my ninth summer at camp and I'm so excited to see all the returners and meet all the new campers and staff!

More about Ari

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?: 
- If I were stranded on a desert island, I would bring a hammock to relax in, a net/something to catch fish with, and a book and pen to journal with.

Favorite special program at camp
-  UN Day and Friday Night Services

Your favorite TV or movie character
- Han Solo
Your best memory of camp.
- Definitely my Canadian trip during my last year as a camper. Canoeing around Canada with McCabin 2011 was tough, but also a ton of fun. We all grew closer together over the ten days we spent up north.

Favorite Sports Teams: 
- Colorado Rockies. Go Rox

What would you choose for your last meal?
- A nice grilled chicken sandwich and some sweet potato fries. And some Norske Nook pie for dessert.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?: 
- I'd have to choose a lion. You can't turn down being king of the jungle and having great hair

Your two favorite books
- The Generals by Thomas Ricks and The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I love researching military history and I actually just finished writing my thesis on how to improve the Army's officer education system. I'm also a volunteer housebuilder during spring break, and I've learned that I can hammer and wire electricity pretty decently.

How has camp impacted you?
- This is a difficult question to answer because camp has impacted me in so many ways, but the most prominent is that it's taught me to go out of my comfort zone. Whether it was learning to canoe down rapids or be an active participant in a cabin community, I'm now more confident in my ability to jump into new, uncertain situations.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Mandy Sullivan

Hi, my name is Mandy Sullivan and my wonderful husband is sending me to camp for my 13th summer at North Star Camp. During the winter I love to cross country ski and visit Hayward often to ski on the Birkie trail. I have completed 13 American Birkebeiner 50K races...all because I saw a race bib in Leb's office when I first started working at NSC. 

During summer I love to be on the water doing most anything but especially swimming and water skiing. I also like to run and bike.  I will be the waterfront director. My favorite days at camp are the first day of each session. I get to meet ever single camper! I have ordered warm water for the swim test (not sure if Andy will pay the heat bill for that??) In the off season I am pre-k thru 12th grade speech therapist for a small school in southeastern Wisconsin.

More about Mandy

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring? 
- a life link bracelet (the para-cord things), a machete, and Melo (my dog).

Favorite special program at camp: 
- swim test day!

Your favorite TV or movie character: 
- I love to watch Dancing with the Stars

Your best memory of camp. 
- I have a ton of best memories at camp and don't know where to begin. I learn something every year from the kids and staff.

Favorite Sports Teams 
- Green Bay Packers of course!

What would you choose for your last meal? 
- watermelon

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
- A cat- they are independent and get to sleep in the sun whenever they want.

Your two favorite books: 
- Fall to Grace by Casey Kerry about 2 best friends from northern MN and the Pokey Little Puppy.

A secret hobby or skill that you have? 
- It wouldn't be a secret if I told you.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Mark Hemmerman

Hi I'm Mark, I am 21 years old and I come from Yorkshire in England. This will be my first year at North Star I will be swim teaching/ assisting rock climbing this summer at camp! I've never been to America but I've traveled around most of the UK and Europe. 

I'm currently at The University of Hull studying Arts and Humanities and I have a few part time jobs including Life guarding and Swim Teaching. I  have taught karate since the age of 14 and have run my own club since November 2012. I also I like reading, swimming, going to the gym, hanging out with friends, hiking, films. . . all sorts really!

More About Mark

What is your dream job
- Probably some kind of travelling teacher, combines two things I love to do!

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I'm a 3rd Dan blackbelt in Karate and have my own club. I've studied karate for around 13 years, it's a big part of my life!

Your favorite TV character
- Hmmm, gotta love a bit of Sherlock! I think it's quite big in the States as well?

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- Solar powered Ipod, Guitar & Swiss army knife

How did you learn about North Star and why did you apply?
- I've always wanted to travel and visit America and some of my friends had done and recommended it so I decided to apply! The camp has lots to offer and has earned a fantastic reputation, not to mention working outside in the fresh air on a lake, so I jumped at the chance to join the staff!

Favorite Sports Teams
- Yorkshire/England Cricket team, Team GB (when the Olympic Games are on), Also follow Tennis a bit

What noteworthy/random/menial jobs have you held?
-Noteworthy would probably be my swimming and Life guarding jobs, I've been in the leisure industry for 5 years now and I now have the chance to work abroad because of it.
Random. . . not really had any random jobs! I used to have a paper round but I think most people have done that!
Menial would be when I worked at a stadium, used to come home smelling of watered down beer, fast food and strong cleaning chemicals. . . long hours and minimum wage, not good!

What did you do last summer?
- I worked most of to be honest. . . had a few day trips out around the UK and went to Spain in October to avoid the tourists but apart from that I was mostly settling into my new job and house sitting for my sister whilst she was away travelling!

What, if any previous camp experiences have you had?
- I used to be in Cub Scouts (you might know it as Boy Scouts) and we had a couple of camping trips to forests and woods, I also did a bit of orienteering, survival, hiking and climbing with school when I was younger.

Camp Prep Tips #1 - Some Basics

It's a beautiful Sunday and with the month of May less than two weeks away, getting ready for the summer may be creeping into your mind. Whether you're a first time camp parent of a seasoned veteran, we're here to help. As we lead up to the summer we're going to post a series of blog entries, with everything from tips to help you shop to advice to help your son get ready for the summer.

We're going to lead off with a series of basic tips, some of which we'll expand upon in successive blog entries. Between Andy, Vickie, Leb and Sue and myself, we have spent  a few years at camp and we've learned a few things about what works...and what doesn't. 

Below are some tips and practical advice to help you prepare for the summer. Take a few minutes to read over these pointers. We believe that they'll help you through the process of getting ready for the summer and will set your son up for success at camp!

Take things one step at a time
When you look at all the forms, packing, labeling and just the overall idea of sending your son to camp, it can get overwhelming. There is a lot to do ahead of the summer, but if you jump in and just take things one step at a time, you’ll see that pretty quickly you start knocking things off the list.

Shop smart
We’re surrounded by great camping stores that sell fantastic gear that could last your son many years. Unfortunately, by next summer the odds that your camper will be wearing the same size hiking boots or fleece jacket are pretty low. Camp can be tough on equipment and things can get lost. While high end stores are fun, there are places like REI and, along with many other traditional stores that are great for buying camp gear. One place not to skimp is on your son’s sleeping bag. A synthetic sleeping bag that DOES NOT have a cotton lining could last your son for many years.
  • Bonus tip: Avoid the metal cook kits with multiple plates and pans. Pieces tend to fall apart. A plastic plate, cup and utensil set is ideal. Campmor sells this set: You can also buy these items individually at camping or sporting goods stores. Add a mesh bag to store these in.
Homesick Happens
Every parent wants their son to have the perfect camp experience. A top worry is that their son will be homesick. The fact is that campers, regardless of their age, may get homesick. This isn’t a bad thing. What is important is to, first off, let your son that he may miss home, family and their pets. Its important to tell them what they may feel as opposed to just using the word "homesick". Let them know that this is perfectly normal and if it does happen, there are lots of staff and other campers there to help them out. All they have to do is talk to them about it. Homesickness should be seen by parents as an opportunity. Once kids plow through it, they learn to be stronger and more self-reliant.
Don’t promise to “pick him up” if things aren’t perfect
Camp is fun, and it’s much more than that. Campers make friends, learn skills and grow. There are challenges that come at camp, but what’s great is that they are in a safe setting with plenty of support! Do not promise your son that you’ll pick him up if he’s homesick, unhappy or if things aren’t working out! You’ll be left with two choices if he calls you on this. One is to pick him up and take away a great learning opportunity. The other is to go back on your promise and risk damaging the trust that he has for you. Instead, let your son know that you’re confident that when these challenges arise, that he’ll do great.
  •  Bonus Tip: Don’t burden your son with your emotions. Your son will miss you and you’ll certainly miss him. Let him know that. Please don’t overshare your worries and anxieties. This will likely lead to increased anxieties of his own that could lead to increased homesickness and challenges for him at camp.
Duffles, not trunks
Foot lockers are bulky and tough to store. Duffles withstand travel much better and can pack away easily. If you’re buying new, go for duffle bags!

Print and pack labels for letters
In an electronic age, campers aren’t used to sending out letters. We’ve seen lots of interesting attempts by campers to address envelopes in rather creative handwriting. Ahead of the summer, make labels for the different people that you want your son writing and then give him a short lesson on how to make sure the letter gets from point A to point B.

Be honest on camp forms
Being up front and open on medical and personality forms will ensure that we can provide the best summer possible for your son. All campers come to camp with a clean slate, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t help them to make us aware of issues that he’s been dealing with. We guarantee that this information will be shared only with those that need to know it. If you haven’t yet watched the Bob Ditter video on the importance of camp forms, we highly recommend it!


Sharpies are your friend!
Label everything. You can either write it in or order labels from Mabel’s Labels or Stuck on You. And when you label things, remember your son likely isn't the only "Andy R." and there are multiple campers with the initials "R.S.". Use your son's first AND last name when labeling.

Camp rules have a reason 
Like families, camp has rules that campers and staff need to abide by. These are detailed in the main spring info pack. From food in camp to cell phones, there are reasons we’ve put these rules into place. If you would like to better understand the reasons for these rules, don’t hesitate to contact us. We ask you to help set your son up for success at camp by ensuring that he’s following camp policies.

Call us, email us, let us know how we can help.
We know that preparing for camp can be a cumbersome process. If you have any questions about anything, do not hesitate to call or email us at any time. Whether you need advice on camp gear or have a question about a camp form, we’re here to help.  We can be reached by phone at 715-462-3254 or via email at

Staff Spotlight - Olly Cayless

We're thrilled to have Olly Cayless back for his fourth summer at North Star. Olly comes to camp all the way from the Brecon Beacons national park in Wales, UK. He's just finished his degree in exercise science at Cardiff  Metropolitan University and he's been able to utilize his camp experience in his studies, including doing some camper surveys. At university he's involved in the waterpolo team and he also acts as a student representative.

Olly is on our Leadership team, serving as one of our village directors. He also instructs sailing, climbing and windsurfing.

More about Olly

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- A knife, A hammock, A fishing line.

Favorite special program at camp
- Friday night service.

Your favorite TV or movie character
- Bear Grylls and Liam Neeson

Your best memory of camp.
- Sun set at the council ring

Favorite Sports Teams
- Welsh rugby team and Spurs

What would you choose for your last meal?
- Chicken wrapped in bacon and cheese with sweet potato fries

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
- I would be a monkey so I could climb anything.

Your two favorite books
- Into the wild and SAS survival

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I am a grade 4 level triangle player.

How has camp impacted you?
- It has given me confidence to be myself, become a leader and meet some fantastic people.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Jonah Baim

Hey guys! My name is Jonah, I'm from Highland Park Illinois, and this will be my 4th summer on staff and my 10th overall at camp. I am currently a freshman at the University of Illinois studying computer engineering. On campus I play for the club volleyball team, where we just won the national championships. 

At camp I primarily teach climbing, sailing, and waterskiing, but you can also find me on the basketball court, volleyball court, or down at swim point. I can't wait for camp to start!
More About Jonah

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- I would bring a solar powered device that could play my music library, the pillow I made my J-2 year, and a deck of cards.

Favorite special program at camp
- North Star ball

Your favorite TV or movie character
- Abed from Community

Your best memory of camp.
- The Canadian trip during my Pine/Manor summer, where I got to really bond with everyone in my cabin as we braved the wilderness for over a week.

Favorite Sports Teams
- The Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, and Cubs

What would you choose for your last meal?
- A porterhouse from Joe's Stone Crab

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
-A platypus

Your two favorite books
- This is a Book by Dimitri Martin and Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I can solve a Rubik's Cube.

How has camp impacted you?
- Camp has given me great friends I wouldn't have meet anywhere else

Friday, April 18, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Michael Palgen

Hi! My name is Michael Palgen. I'm from Manhattan, Illinois, which is about an hour south of Chicago. I'm in my sophomore year at the University of Illinois where I'm studying Actuarial Science. There I'm involved in my fraternity, Sigma Nu.

I enjoy playing pick-up games of basketball and sand volleyball in my free time.  This will be my second summer at North Star. At camp, you can find me on the basketball courts or at the rock wall.

Editor's Note: Michael will have some extra pressure this summer as he'd been our chief recruiter at the University of Illinois. He's done a great job helping us land a few great new staff members!

More about Michael

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- Bear Grylls, matches, and a knife.
Favorite special program at camp
- Espionage

Your favorite TV or movie character
- Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory

Your best memory of camp
- Hearing Simon Crane tell me he passed the swim test after saying he would never be able to do it.

Favorite Sports Teams
- Bears, Bulls, Cubs, and the Fighting Illini.

What would you choose for your last meal?
- My mom’s Shepherds Pie

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
- A bird

Your two favorite books
- To Kill A Mockingbird and The Giver

How has camp impacted you?
- I can shake my eyes.

How has camp impacted you?
- Camp has taught me the importance of putting technology away for a while and really enjoying the outdoors.  It has also helped me realize that the only person that can decide what’s “cool” is one’s self- don’t let other people shape your thoughts and opinions.  I also learned how to be a better leader and role model.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Jacob Lehr

Jacob Lehr returns to camp for his tenth summer at North Star. A native of Ohaha, NE (Go Big Red!), Jacob is wrapping up his sophomore year at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. There he's studying International Relations and Economics.

Jacob also leads hiking and camping trips their outdoors club and he tutors and mentors kids from the surrounding area through an organization on campus.  At camp Jacob teaches tennis, windsurfing, disc golf, golf, and waterskiing.

More about Jacob

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- Bananas, a Stihl chainsaw, and Siri.

Favorite special program at camp
- Commando Raid

Your favorite TV or movie character
- Bear Grylls

Your best memory of camp.
- Building a fort out of downed trees on a little island during our Canadian to protects us from the wind and rain, and drinking ALL of our hot chocolate.

Favorite Sports Teams
- Nebraska Huskers, Creighton Bluejays, USC Trojans, Oneida Pow Wow Day 2k6

What would you choose for your last meal?
- Chipotle

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
- Falcon

Your two favorite books
- The Old Man and the Sea and Ender’s Shadow

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I’ve got a pretty good spin serve in ping pong.

How has camp impacted you?
- Because of camp, I have learned how to work and live with others, and that it really does matter who you surround yourself with.  I learned to be flexible with any circumstances (a positive attitude helps), and that fun is often underrated. I am a more outgoing person, I gained a love of the outdoors, and figured out that it’s best not to take yourself too seriously.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Chip Kass

Chip Kass is a graduating senior from Highland Park who is coming back to camp for his Big Ten! He will be a freshman at Wesleyan University next fall. At school he is involved in theatre and other clubs, while at camp he instructs on the Sailing, Fishing, and many other programs.

Fun Fact: His dad's Pine Manor year was Lou's last year owning NSC and his CIT year was Leb's first year owning NSC. Chip's Pine Manor year was Leb's last year owning NSC and his CIT year was Andy's first year owning NSC.

More about Chip

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three things you'd bring?
- A "Eureka!" tent, a sleeping bag and lifetime supply of pizza parties

Favorite special program at camp
- Camper show!

Your favorite TV or movie character
- President Bartlet from The West Wing

Your best memory of camp.
- The Canadian

Favorite Sports Teams
- Bulls, Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks

What would you choose for your last meal?
- Pizza (preferably of the party variety)

If you could be any animal, what would you be?
- Gorilla

Your two favorite books
- Hamlet and Macbeth

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- HUGE comic "nerd"... I dare someone to know more about Marvel Comics than me.

How has camp impacted you?
- NSC truly is my home away from home. I have spent more than a full year of my life there (71 weeks to be exact) and I keep going back because it is a place where I know that I can be myself. I feel safe to have fun at North Star in a way that only an isolated all-boys camp in Northern Wisconsin can offer. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Staff Spotlight - Nathan Margrett

Hi there! My name is Nathan Margrett and I hail from Brookfield, Wisconsin. As a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse I am pursuing a double major in Archaeological Studies and Psychology with an emphasis in At-Risk Child and Youth Care. When not writing papers on extremely esoteric realms of archaeological theory I enjoy hiking the amazing bluffs located around campus in addition to mentoring/tutoring at a local grade school. 

My camping background is heavily within the Scouting program so the North Star experience will be a new and exciting one for me. Rumor has it I will be working in the climbing and pathfinder areas, as well as lending a hand down at the waterfront this summer. See you then!

More about Nathan:

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are the three things you'd bring?
1. A Journal/writing implements
2. An endless supply of Sour Patch Kids candy
3. A hammock

Who is your favorite TV character?
- Hugh Laurie, better known as Dr. Gregory House from the TV series House M.D. is one of my favorite television actors of all time. He's also slated to appear in an upcoming Disney film entitled "Tommorowland," which I'm pretty excited about.

What is your dream job?
- I am a believer in the potential positive impact of organized sports on youth development and have had amazing experiences coaching basketball, wrestling and track teams. I certainly hope that I will be able to stay involved in youth athletics regardless of my eventual occupation.

Favorite Sports Teams?
- I am a born and raised Wisconsinite, cheering on the Green Bay Packers every step of the way. I also enjoyed watching the Wisconsin Badgers deep run in the NCAA tournament this season!

What noteworthy/random/menial jobs have you held?
- I currently have a seasonal job working as a Vendor at Miller
Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the players and coaches; however we aren’t allowed to ask for autographs while on the job.

What did you do last summer?
- The most exciting experience I had last summer was a 10-day kayaking trip among the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin. I was chaperoning a Scouting trip and all of the guys had a blast!

How did you learn about North Star and why did you apply?
- I met Dan at a Summer Job Fair on the UW- La Crosse campus and was very impressed by the sense of community and the values behind North Star. I knew that I wanted to spend the summer at a camp and further interviews and discussion with North Star convinced me that it would be an awesome opportunity. I’m looking forward to it!

A secret hobby or skill that you have?
- I don’t like to brag, but I’m a pretty big deal in the competitive underground ping pong scene. Wait, that’s not a thing? Well I like to think that I have some pretty mad skills regardless…

What, if any previous camp experiences have you had?
- My involvement in the Scouting program has given me the opportunity to participate in, as well as lead, numerous activities and camps for youth from the ages 6-18. A lot of my involvement has been connected to Camp Long Lake, a Scout camp located in Saint Cloud, Wisconsin.  Between summer work, sports and scouting obligations I have never had the opportunity to experience a camp setting quite like North Star. It’ll be great!