Our daughter is growing so much through her camp experience!
– SLC Parent
As Your Camper Grows
As young people grow, Surprise Lake Camp grows with them. Our program—and our physical campus, with its two sides: Mainside (ages 7–12) and Teenside (ages 13–15)—are designed to help young people take the lead in their own growth. We cultivate children’s skills and confidence so that they can gain increasing independence, safely.
Our whole staff is dedicated to excellent camper care, supporting campers’ physical and mental well-being. Our leadership team, our well-trained counselors, and our on-site Health Center social workers and staff partner with families to ensure that each camper has a successful summer, making a positive transition at each stage of growth.
Here are some of the kinds of transitions we see every summer, and how we approach them:
From Sibling to Camper
Younger siblings may already feel that camp is a familiar place, but they make the transition to camper even more easily when they get an introduction to camp like every new camper. Consider registering this child for one of our two Rookie Days, where future campers can try camp for a day. The five-day Get Your Feet Wet program is another easy introduction to get comfortable for the following summer.
From Get Your Feet Wet to a Mini-Camp Session
Get Your Feet Wet campers have Surprise Lake Camp to themselves after the regular season campers have gone home. In a subsequent summer, these campers can register for a short Mini-Camp session or for a 4-week session, both of which happen during our regular summer season. Either one can, at first, feel like a leap, with so many more options and people around. Because our Mini-Campers unit contains all first-timers, though, SLC makes it easier for these new campers to experience SLC together.
From a First-Timer Program to a Regular 4-Week Session
The transition from one of our introductory programs—Get Your Feet Wet or Mini-Camp—into the regular pace of Mainside is one that we carefully manage. Having a session of nearly four weeks allows a camper enough time to get fully past any initial homesickness. If you receive a letter from your camper about homesickness, please don’t panic! Often, by the time that letter reaches your home, your child feels entirely differently.
From Mainside to Teenside
Mainside (ages 7-12) starts off with more structure, some choice, and lots of close supervision. Teenside (ages 13-15) has a vibe all its own. Our aim is for the campers to experience a greater sense of independence and responsibility. The teenagers have more choice and more free time, with supervision that encourages autonomy and leadership. To bridge the transition, Mainside campers gain more choice and independence as they grow into being the “Seniors” on their side of camp. They also get to know the Lower Teens by sharing some special activities, like an amusement park trip.
Into Work Program, SLC’s Leadership Development Experience
Our oldest teens have an opportunity to apply for Work Program, SLC’s leadership development experience, during their 15 year old summer at Camp. Work Program combines the best parts of being a camper with some of the team-building, responsibilities, and benefits of being staff. Campers have weekly planning and daily coaching sessions, and work for part of each day with younger campers and on community service projects. For the rest, they enjoy all the fun of camp, with a special bonding focus.
Applicants must turn 15 before the start of camp next summer. Admission is selective, requiring an interview in person or by video chat.
Zoe5 Years as Camper
"Shabbat is so fun: you sing the prayers, and you stand up and clap and dance with your friends. I really love it here."More
5 Years as Camper
The friends that you make here turn into family. It’s a very loving community, and everyone here is so nice to each other. I really like going in the lake and all the activities, but the people are why I keep coming back. I think camp has made me a better person, because it’s given me more independence, learning how to live on my own, while having support from others along the way.
Before coming to camp, I never really knew what it meant to be Jewish. I would just light the candles on a menorah at Hannukah. But now I get to do Shabbat. It’s so fun: you sing the prayers, and you stand up and clap and dance with your friends. I really love it here.
Dylan5 Years as Camper
"What’s most special here is the people. Everyone's really nice. I think camp helps you grow and makes you a better person."More
5 Years as Camper
My favorite activity at camp is probably the waterfront. I really like swimming, boating, everything that the waterfront has to offer, and the pool. I’ve been working on sailing and this year, finally, I passed the sailboat test! Every day is really fun but my favorite days are Olympics and All Camp Show. At Olympics you’re cheering, you’re shouting, and competing. The All Camp Show has the 5-year sweatshirts, ice cream, lots of cool traditions.
What’s most special here is the people. Everyone’s really nice, and people listen to what other people have to say. I think camp helps you grow and makes you a better person.
Ben3 Years as Camper
"Surprise Lake Camp is a nonstop sleepover. My favorite activities are all the sports, getting into the woods, and playing with my friends all the time."More
3 Years as Camper
Surprise Lake Camp is a nonstop sleepover. My favorite activities are all the sports activities, like gaga and 9-square. I also really like the climbing wall. This year I’ve probably gotten better at soccer, better at dribbling the ball, and aiming my shots. I like all the Jewish stuff here. Shabbat feels like a vacation day, a day to sit down and think. And I really like getting into the woods, and playing with my friends all the time.
There are a lot of people here who know more than me, and I learn from them every day. Something that might stick with me is how good it feels to take a break from screens. When I get home, I’m going to try to put my phone down more!
"Come to camp! It's a lot of fun. It can be scary at first, of course, because being away from your family is hard—but it goes by so fast and is super fun."More
I think camp is really fun! I love spending time with my bunk mates and getting to know everyone. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my family, but I feel like it’s all going by super fast. I feel like it’s also making me more independent. One thing I think is especially cool here is how we get to learn a lot about Israeli culture. People come here from Israel, which is pretty cool.
To future campers, I’d say: Come to camp! It’s a lot of fun. It can be scary at first, of course, because being away from your family is hard—but it goes by so fast and is super fun.