North Star Camp for Boys

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cruiser Day

Today marks our first Cruiser Day of summer 2021! Cruiser Day is a cabin day that typically takes place every Tuesday. Cruiser Days, which are almost like our weekend at camp, begin with a late wake-up with donuts, fruit, and cereal for breakfast. All activities for the day are structured within each cabin and some are a bit wackier than usual (more on that later). This Cruiser Day was also a Junior Village Cruiser Day, meaning our J-Village staff planned an incredible day of activities for “High School Day.” The staff divided the village into four high schools: Mercer Island High School, Deerfield High School, Bexley High School, and Mascoutah High School. Our junior campers got in the spirit of things by painting their high school’s colors across their faces, slogans painted on their stomachs, or goofy faces painted by friends on their backs. Mercer Island won a flag football tournament that thrilled the whole village. Other events included gaga ball, curtain ball, beach flags, and poster drawing competitions. Ultimately, Deerfield High School came away with the win on a day that ended for them with ice cream.

Our other villages were not without their share of wacky fun. Multiple cabins went tubing and others slid down the hill by the athletic fields on a slip-and-slide. Our fantastic staff took a pontoon boat out in the lake and we had cabins canoe out to get snacks and candy, others made mini pizzas on Tom’s Terrace, and S-2 had the privilege of participating in a spaghetti scavenger hunt. What is a spaghetti scavenger hunt? A plate of cold spaghetti with mini m&ms, dried cranberries, gummy bears, Charleston Chews, and more. If your camper has ever wanted to live out the spaghetti scene from Elf, North Star Camp is the place for them.

For dinners on Cruiser Day, every cabin cooks out their dinner over a campfire. We ended our first Cruiser Day with Tin Foil Surprise at our cabin cookouts. Each cabin gets potatoes, vegetables, hamburgers, cheese to wrap up in tinfoil and cook over the fire. Campers enjoy making funky shapes out of their tinfoil bundles and having the responsibility of making their own meal. The result is a delicious stew that is a classic favorite meal.

We return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow with our next set of 3-day activities!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Cabin Campfires and Unorganized Free

Camp alumni have long said that later in life, though they hadn’t noticed while they were enjoying their summers, they had come to realize that they had learned and grown more at camp than they had anywhere else. And while that is a great realization, we don’t believe that we have to keep this a secret from our campers. We want them to be party to this development that happens at camp. Sunday nights at North Star put an emphasis on that.

We begin our Sunday evening program with what we call Unorganized Free. Unstructured free play has tremendous benefits for kids of all ages, and those times have been disappearing for kids with perilous effects (read here, here or here). Unorganized free is meant to combat that. The rules are simple: Go Outside and Play. This is not something kids are used to hearing these days. In a world where their schedules are getting tighter and the stress levels are getting higher, this child-directed free play was an exciting, out of the box experience. There were two rules - 1) Everybody had to be outside, and 2) The counselors are to supervise for safety, not to play or organize. At announcements, one of the Junior Village campers asked, “Does that mean we could play a huge game of hide and seek?” The kids went crazy when we told them that that is exactly what they should be doing.

The second part of our Sunday evening was Cabin Campfires, which are designed to help our boys process their experience, build self awareness, and teach so much more. Much like our opening night candlelight ceremonies, these "cabin meetings" are an opportunity for open, honest communication and sharing. So every cabin took to their campsite, built a campfire, and began this fireside chat. The format was as follows:

1) Accomplishments - everyone should take a moment to recognize the things they have accomplished in this past week.
2) Compliments - a chance for cabinmates to praise the positive things they have seen in each other.
3) Personal Growth - a time for each person to consider a way in which they have grown or a lesson that they have learned in the past week
4) Discussion - an opportunity for the group to discuss issues, problems or challenges and work together to find solutions.
5) Reflection - a few dedicated minutes of time to one's self to think about how to better friend, cabinmate and camper in the coming week.
6) Goal Setting - to conclude with a tangible plan for the week ahead with both individual and group goals.
7) S'mores - how else could you end a campfire?

With both the Unorganized Free and the Cabin Campfires, we were upfront with the boys about why we were doing what we were doing. Not only did they understand it, they appreciated it. We heard from many of our campers how nice it was to be able to have time like this, where they could just be kids in the woods. And many of our staff explained that this time has been of tremendous importance to them as campers and counselors alike.

Today’s Grace:
“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
- Nelson Mandela

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Exploring Their Own Interests

We are pleased to report that everyone has again tested negative for COVID-19! We are so appreciative of SHIELD Illinois for making it possible to complete accurate, 3-gene, saliva PCR testing with same-results. This process has been a game changer for us and many camps throughout the Midwest. While it’s still not a certainty, knowing that all of our campers have now tested negative for COVID 3-times in 7 days gives us a great deal of confidence that we did not have any cases of COVID-19 come into camp with our campers. 

With that news, we now begin our regularly scheduled program! One of the things that makes the North Star program unique is that we offer our boys a great deal of choice. Today was the first typical day at camp, with the boys choosing much of their day for themselves. On a typical day, we have five periods between breakfast and dinner. The first three periods are our instructional periods, which the boys sign up for on a weekly basis. They choose six electives for the week and take each of them for three consecutive days, for one hour and fifteen minutes each day. The fifth period most days is our Organized Free period, which is an opportunity for the boys to choose an activity that they want to do just for that day. They can also use that time to rest, read, shower, or just hang with friends. The 4th period is the one period that the boys don’t have individual choice, as that typically rotates between Challenge Games, Village Activities, and Green-White competitions. This all puts together a schedule for each child that has a great deal of structure, but also a great deal of choice within that structure.

We believe that camp is meant to be a place where the boys explore their own interests, and that is what the program is designed to do. We have some boys who will choose to be on the water all day, where others will choose the fields. Some will live at the target sports and others will gravitate towards the creative arts. And those same boys might see their interests evolve over the years as they try new things and grow as people. 

We tremendously value having all types of kids at North Star, and allowing our kids to flourish at camp regardless of their interests is an important part of creating that environment. Young male friendships are so often based on having a shared interest or activity, and while that isn’t irrelevant in adulthood, the most lasting relationships in life are built on mutual trust and respect, kindness and compassion for one another. From the outside, it may look like the boys simply spend the day climbing the wall and waterskiing, but they are participating in a program that is designed to teach not only the activity specific skills, but life skills that will stick with them far beyond.

Today’s Grace:
“If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.”
- Tallulah Bankhead

The Friendship Fire

Every year since North Star started in 1945, the first Friday night service of the summer is the Friendship Fire. On Friday nights, we take a break from the energetic, loud and often silly tone that camp tends to have and spend the evening in a more reflective and formal time. To set the tone for the evening, the campers are encouraged to “dress up,” which means a polo or a button down, or at least an unstained shirt. Friday night dinners are roast beef, vegetables, potatoes and applesauce, and after dinner, we gather around the flagpole for cabin reports, a patriotic song, the pledge of allegiance and the lowering of the flag. And then we head out to the Council Ring.

In talking about friendship, we are talking about our expectations as a community about how people treat one another here. At the end of the service, we asked the boys to explain what being a friend means to them. Campers of all ages contributed: treat people the way we want to be treated, understand that none of us are perfect, give friends the same compassion we should give ourselves when we make mistakes, value empathy, recognize other people’s feelings, and hold each other accountable for these values. All of these actions, identified by the campers, are what creates the compassionate, inclusive environment that encourages our boys to become kind, thoughtful men. 

Our keylog ceremony at the Friendship Fire asks that a representative from each city throw a stick into the fire to represent that bond of friendship between their city and North Star Camp. We acknowledged how lucky we are to gather together with friends from all over the country and the world, and we also acknowledged the members of our community who still can’t be with us because of pandemic travel restrictions. We heard poems and songs, stories and a wonderful sermonette on North Star friendships by Adam Shore. And every Friday Night concludes with singing Forest Green, Taps and reciting our Camper Benediction.

But before the serenity of a Friday Night sunset at the Council Ring, we had a fun-filled beautiful day in the Northwoods. J-5 and J-6 were able to get in some tubing. J2- and J-4 had canoeing lessons in preparation for their camping trips. Campers participated in soccer, chess, riflery, swimming, floor hockey, arts and crafts, and of course played with the baby chicks. Today was our final day of cabin based activities and the boys are very much looking forward to starting their individual choice activities tomorrow. 

Today’s Grace:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
- Hamlet in Shakespeare


Thursday, June 24, 2021

Challenge Games, Green-White, Camping Trips and More

First, we get to report that everyone tested negative for Covid! We received yesterday’s test results late last night, which allows us to move into our second phase of our Covid-prevention plans, including individual choice activities beginning on Saturday. For our vaccinated campers, this means no more drooling from here on out. Our next round of SHIELD testing will be on Saturday.

In other news, an overnight rain gave way to a beautiful day in the Northwoods today, and it’s hard to beat the enthusiasm of an 80-degree day with puddles to play in. In the afternoon we had our first challenge games where one representative from each cabin goes in front of camp at announcements and challenges another cabin to a game or an activity. The boys love this opportunity to speak in front of the whole crowd and put their humor on display. After the roasting, the boys proceed to the fun of playing the games, but today some of the boys played those games a bit differently. Soccer involved some puddle jumping and volleyball had some mud slinging, all with very dirty and very happy boys.

This evening, we began our Green-White festivities for the year with the announcement of teams for our first year campers. Campers are placed on Green-White teams during their first summer and those teams remain for the remainder of their North Star careers. Regular competitions, Green-White Series, the Green-White Marathon, games of All-Camp Capture the Flag, the Camper-Counselor Hunt, the Dodgeball Extravaganza and many more great activities will be a part of our ongoing Green-White competition through the summer. 

Whether it’s challenge games, Green-White, or any other activities in which we compete, our philosophy on competition remains a core tenet of our life at camp. At its simplest, our expectations for how people should treat each other do not change during a sporting event or another competition. It is possible to compete hard and be kind at the same time, especially at camp. We ask the boys to remember that they are playing with their friends - they are their friends before the game, during the game, and everyone should behave in such a way that they continue to be friends after the game. In practice, that means supporting each other, teammate or opponent, both through their successes and their failures. 

Before the day was really underway, cabins S-1, S-2 and I-6 departed on their camping trips. The boys who recently completed 8th grade embarked on their hiking trips on the Superior Hiking Trail, while I-6 (recently completed 6th grade) left for their canoe trip on the Flambeau River.

Yesterday, our Pine Manor campers (recently completed 9th grade) left on their Western adventure through the Badlands, the Grand Tetons, Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore with hiking, whitewater rafting and more. The first reports from the trip were ecstatic, with plenty of bison among the beautiful sights they’ve already seen. We look forward to sharing more about this cool trip!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Second Full Day of Camp!

Our second full day of the first session was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for getting into our first day of activities and Intermediate and Junior Village swim tests! We also began the day with our first round of Covid testing at camp, so before breakfast our boys lined up and drooled into vials like they did leading up to camp. We’re looking forward to getting the results back late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Even though the day started out a bit chilly, by 10:30 the sun was out and made it the perfect weather to jump into the lake for swim tests. Our cabin groups also found time for riflery, throwing the frisbee, games of 500 and stand-up paddle boarding. Our J2 campers spent first period climbing with staff members Ari and Red at the climbing wall. Each time one of the campers reached the top, the staff would call out, “Where is the party at?” and without fail the boys would yell back, “It’s at the top of the wall!” They all had big grins on their faces as they looked back down. 

 We were so proud of all of the campers as they took their swim tests today. Swimming in a lake is always a little different than swimming in a pool but many of our campers pushed through their nerves to succeed.  

Perhaps the most thrilling moments of the day, however, happened right in front of the Lodge after lunch. A snapping turtle ambled through camp to stir up some fanfare. The turtle, affectionately named Titanium, was escorted to North Lake a few miles from camp.

We ended the day on a high note with our first Wanegan of the session and Staff Talent Show. Wanegan is the Ojibwe word for “store.” At camp, we have a Wanegan King who helps oversee the passing out of candy each week. Tonight, our new Wanegan King wore an inflatable shark costume as he defeated all of the surrounding counselors in a mock battle for the throne. After our sweet treats, all campers and staff watched some great skits and musical talent during the Staff Talent Show. It was a great way for the kids to cheer on their counselors and meet the rest of the staff as we continue to get into our groove.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Summer of 2021 Has Begun!

Let us begin with a note of gratitude for our incredible camp families. North Star has always been the camp known for having nice boys from nice families, and that has been on full display as we’ve navigated the last 15 months. I don’t think anyone ever intended for camp to unofficially begin with the boys drooling in Schaumburg, and we are so appreciative of you for dealing with the inconveniences and sacrifices required to help camp operate safely. Whether you are a longtime North Star parent or 2021 is your first summer, we are thankful that you have chosen to trust us with your boys, for your commitment to the camp family, and for working with us to provide a fun, meaningful and developmental camp experience for your sons. And, we are thrilled to report that 100% of the Covid tests came back negative by midnight last night. 

And now it’s on to the fun and excitement of camp! By 3pm, we were gathered around the flagpole to announce the cabins in full with all campers and staff in attendance. The big hugs and village cheers were a reminder of the pure joy that camp gives every one of our campers. And as the boys headed off toward their cabins, North Star’s 77th summer was officially underway. The cabin list is attached.

The boys are now unpacking and new campers are receiving a tour of camp. By the time they go to sleep tonight, they'll have played games with their cabins and met some of the other guys in their age group age as well.

Dinner this evening will be burgers, fries and jello, plus the ever present salad bar and Sun Butter and jelly. There will be vegetarian burgers available for those that prefer, and Gluten free options for those that need it. And of course brownies for dessert. Immediately following dinner, the campers will choose their first week's activities. The first three days of activities will be by cabin, and then the boys will have their full slate of elective instructional offerings from there.

Tonight’s evening activities will be followed by the candlelight ceremonies, where each cabin will have a meeting led by their counselors. They will share their goals and expectations for the summer, while continuing to get to know one another. This will be the first of many cabin discussions that are an important part of the team-building goals that we have for each cabin group, and helps develop the strong sense of community that we strive for at camp. Our expectation is that every boy goes to bed tonight knowing that they have at least one counselor that they are already comfortable enough with to wake him up if they need something in the middle of the night and that they have made one new friend that they can play with in the morning. 

The pandemic has left the boys missing opportunities for socialization. Not only will camp provide that in spades, but we are determined to work actively and intentionally with the campers to coach them up to age appropriate levels of social and emotional intelligence. During orientation we worked with Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a physician and resilience expert, to learn the ways in which campers can be taught the skills that make them resilient. We worked with specialists in Arts Integrated Education from Bubbles Academy who taught our counselors how to use art, comedy, and improv to teach social skills. When we send the boys back home to you at the end of the summer, we know that you will see a difference in their social skills and their emotional intelligence.

Tomorrow the kids will have a busy day as our amazing medical team checks in the boys. The campers will take a swim test either tomorrow or Wednesday, and we’ll find time to play several games of dodgeball. Evening program tomorrow will be our first game of All-Camp Capture the Flag, with a new twist there as well. First thing on Wednesday morning the boys will begin their first week of regular activities. Wednesday morning our oldest campers will leave for their National Park adventure, where they will spend 10 days visiting the Grand Tetons, Badlands, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Whitewater rafting and more. While our oldest boys usually do a 10-day Canadian trip where they canoe and portage through Quetico Provincial Park, the pandemic has taught us how to adapt. Some of our 8th graders (we use the grade they just completed) will leave Thursday for their trip on the Superior Hiking Trail. Wednesday evening will be the staff show, where our very talented group will be on display.

From here on out, you can follow along with the summer of 2021 on our website at We will also be posting updates on Facebook at, on Twitter at , and on Instagram @northstarcamp.
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!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Introducing our 2021 Counselors!


Our counselors have been in training for the past two weeks preparing for our boys' arrival! They have been working to make sure that when our campers get here everything from the waterfront to the archery range is in top shape. The past couple of weeks we have had improv shows, talent shows, covid protocol workshops, activity preparation, basketball tournaments, and lots of delicious food. While it has been a blast, we cannot wait for our campers to come by trains, planes or automobiles to the northwoods of Wisconsin.

Only three days until the start of our first session!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

 Our staff has been at camp for a full work week as of this Friday, though we define “work” a little differently over here. This first week we have been focused on getting to know each other and creating a wonderful community for our staff and campers. At each meal, Dan puts out name tags (written on keylogs) on the tables so staff have had the opportunity to sit with different people each meal. Our goal is to take our staff of 115 wonderful individuals and create a single community. 

Over the past three nights, we have facilitated discussions that have allowed our staff to open up to each other, have a better understanding of what makes us different, and, in turn, what brings us all together. Thursday night our staff headed up to the tennis courts to participate in an inclusion activity. We lined up on the line separating the two courts as Molly Montgomery, one of our Health Aides, read out statements, such as “I have a skill that I can contribute to the North Star community,” or “North Star actively fights against racism and other forms of discrimination.” Our staff would move to the side designated to agree or disagree. When Molly stated “I have a friend here,” and “I have someone here I can talk to,” even though we’re only a few days in, the entire staff agreed. 

As Molly asked us to point to the person they could confide in, people lifted both arms, turned in circles to find multiple people, and the warmth and compassion of this community was easy to see. With still 9 days left before our boys arrive, our staff continues to learn more about each other and themselves. 

Yesterday we had the pleasure of listening to Brian Corley, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Single Story Inc. Brian specializes in diversity, equity, and inclusion training in professional environments, schools, and diversity policies. He took us through a series of exercises to reflect on our own cultural differences, from how individualistic or collective our mindsets are, how we react to informality versus a hierarchy, and even how we perceive a person late to a meeting. This was part of our continuing mission to create a more diverse and inclusive community.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Building Resilience

 As we work to prepare our fantastic staff for the arrival of the boys, we wanted to pay special attention to the unique needs that come with the Summer of 2021. Under normal circumstances, our campers arrive after a year in a classroom, sprinkled with extracurriculars and other opportunities, and a year spent learning and socializing in conventional ways. This year is different. Many of our boys have not been in classrooms, cafeterias, soccer fields, after school programs or their friends' houses. We don’t pretend to know everything else your family has experienced in the past 15 months, but we are working hard to ensure that our 110 acres are the active, positive, nurturing and fun environment that will allow our campers to thrive. 

Because we know the campers' education (social, emotional and academic) has been disrupted this past year, we invited Dr. Deborah Gilboa, M.D., an expert in child development, parenting, and resilience, to speak to our staff. She joined us for breakfast by the lake and presented about stress, why it is necessary, and how campers will experience it over the summer. Our boys will experience stress this summer, whether it be nerves about getting up the climbing wall, trying a new food, learning how to portage a canoe, or simply making a new friend. 

Dr. Gilboa explained to our staff the eight skills of resilience and our staff participated in parallel activities that encouraged vulnerability, team work, communication, creative problem solving, and a little bit of roof ball. When reacting to a difficult situation, your camper might be frustrated with their tennis stroke, feel cheated in a game of Euchre, or feel upset with a person in their cabin, Dr. G stressed three things that you always have control over: behavior, attitude, and purpose. Regardless of the situation, these three things are always in your control and we’re going to work to work to teach each camper how to do these things.

Dr. Gilboa and our staff were troopers through the heat wave, but Dr. G, putting her resilience training and creative problem solving into action, surprised our sweaty staff with the last lesson in the water at Swim Point. While the camp dogs were less attentive listeners than our staff, they too participated in many of our activities and are looking forward to an active, exciting summer with our boys. 

Ultimately, we want your campers to grow as problem solvers, friends, cabinmates, and caring, confident individuals. For the next 11 days until camp, our staff are training, bonding, and practicing skills to help your children bounce back from failure, feel comfortable to make mistakes, make friends and have fun.

Today's Grace:

"If we have our own 'why' in life, we shall shall get along with almost any how."

-Fredrich Nietzsche