My Southwoods Story by Emilia Bohac

   In the evenings at line up, to recognize someone’s outstanding effort, a call and response cheer goes up. Someone begins by proclaiming “that’s the way...” and everyone loudly responds, “THE SOUTHWOODS WAY!” I’ll admit that during the nine months each year that I’m away from Southwoods, it’s disappointing to hear the phrase “that’s the way” without the spirited reply!

My Southwoods story begins before Southwoods began. What?! Scott and I had crossed paths while working for another organization many years ago. When he and Andrea were preparing to open Southwoods, Scott invited me to train and certify the lifeguard team (and also the TREK staff in first aid/CPR). Little did I know the effect of answering, “yes” to lifeguard training week in 1998. I’ve been part of every training week since, and this year makes eighteen! Additionally, after my first eleven years of training lifeguards, I also began residing at Southwoods through the summers as the Waterfront Director.

During my Southwoods tenure, many adventures have unfolded, and many people have grown! My daughter has attended Southwoods as a camper, and now she has been on staff for several years. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing campers become Leaders in Training (LITs), LITs become staff members, and staff members become parents, now sending their children to Southwoods as campers. It seems to me the experience of giving and receiving at camp is something incredibly special. It has had a profound effect on my family. Camp life interweaves into the basic fabric of each thought and personal encounter.

What do I do while at Southwoods? My day begins with an early morning gathering of head staff - a group of talented individuals committed to Southwoods, and dedicated to making each day special. After breakfast I descend the hill to the beautiful and pristine Southwoods waterfront at Paradox Lake. For me it’s the perfect place to spend each summer day. While there I engage with campers and staff. We play, provide professional instruction, practice safety procedures, and encourage each other. I cannot fully explain the joy of working with the waterfront team – these people are creative, helpful, and adore helping campers at the lake.

I am in good company stating “I LOVE being at Southwoods”! My perspective on L-O-V-E at Southwoods:

L - Learning. Line-Up. Living to the fullest. As an educator, I’m passionate about learning and leading others to a place of experiential evolution – and it’s plentiful at Southwoods. I relish watching comprehension grow as “The Southwoods Way” unfolds for each member of our community. “The Way” is an active form of engaging with each other by reinforcing positive human values. Living in a way that challenges limits, expands skills, and includes thoughtfulness towards others results in marvelous experiences.

O - Opportunity. Optimism. Southwoods is abundant in opportunities, for me, and for everyone. I enjoy daily challenges, and chances to support campers and staff as we move from “wake up” to “lights out”. The waterfront is a special place, and assisting campers to increase skills in swimming, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, skiing and boarding leaves a smile on my face each day. The waterfront staff is incredible, and the team works tirelessly to assist campers in accomplishing their goals. I’m proud to be a part of this crew.

V - Voice. Vivaciousness. Vitality. Every camper has a voice in the community. Each staff member makes a difference. I have lost count of the number of times a camper has encouraged another friend to accomplish something wonderful. Staff members returning each year grow to new levels of leadership and exuberance. Things move organically to the next level, and good vibrations flourish throughout the summer. At summer’s close, we ride the wave of Southwoods memories until next season.

E - Energy. Extraordinary. Enthusiasm. Campers and staff bring an enthusiasm for life. “E” might be my favorite, and not just because it starts my name! It’s because synergy at Southwoods leads us to greater heights, deeper friendships, and larger fun.

Southwoods is a place where daily excellence is encouraged, supported and lived. I return to Southwoods year after year because the mission statement is alive and well. It states, “Southwoods is committed to empowering people. Our goal is to build confidence and self-esteem by reinforcing positive human values. We achieve this goal through cutting-edge programming implemented by a carefully selected and fully trained staff whose investment in children, like our own, is unparalleled."

In my opinion, empowering people results in time well spent. At Southwoods, programming is truly cutting edge – never stale – and always fun. Being “invested in children” ….. a perfect way to learn and grow. Southwoods has changed countless lives. Campers and staff leave each season stronger and more confident. “Unparalleled” is the word that jumps out to me, each time I read the mission statement, because it’s true. Scott and Andrea invest in children’s lives with full heart, wisdom and a lot of experience.

At Southwoods, the investment is in children – and it is unparalleled. Summer number eighteen – here I come!

-Written by Emilia Bohac, Southwoods Waterfront Director

My Southwoods Story by Tess Shacknow

 My Southwoods story is one in which there is so much to say I believe I could write a novel and still not fully capture it. I remember watching endless camp videos as a 10 year old trying to decide where I wanted to go to sleep away camp. I was making the leap from day camp to sleep away camp, which seemed like the most important decision of my life. Who knew that, as a 4th grader, choosing which camp I wanted to go to would make such a major impact on my life 13 years later.

Southwoods was instantly a top contender. Once the pool of options had been narrowed down to just a few we set up a house call from Scott. I have a very distinct memory of him coming into my kitchen and using words like dandy and delicious in only the way he can. He explained everything we needed to know about Southwoods and even brought me a fuzzy. I was hooked. Summer couldn’t come fast enough.

The next five summers were some of the most amazing summers I had ever had. I was able to make new friends, learn new things, conquer new challenges, and learn how to be a leader. Being able to give and receive fuzzies, complete team trek activities, and participate in tribal showed me how to be a good friend and teammate. Having the opportunity to be a chieftain taught me a lot about myself and I still use those skills today.

I always knew that Southwoods was a very special place to me and would always be considered my home away from home. Leaving camp as an Upper Senior and seeing that Southwoods sign fade out the back window of our car was a very sad day. However I think I always knew I’d be back as a staff when I was old enough. One of the greatest things about transitioning from a camper to a staff member is being able to help give the new campers some of the same wonderful camp memories that I myself will never forget. Participating in making their summers unforgettable is such a fun and rewarding experience.

Working at Southwoods has turned me into a better person and I am so grateful for that. The environment that Scott and Andrea have created is one in which you can truly be your best self. I believe that getting to spend a summer in an environment such as this teaches you a lot about yourself. It’s one reason I can’t wait to go back each and every summer. Being a staff member I get the opportunity to facilitate these campers in being themselves and learning who they are and who they want to become.

As I'm about to start my fifth summer as a staff member at Southwoods, I am ready to accept the new challenges and adventures of the super senior trip. I have worn many hats at Southwoods in the shape of cabin specialist, gymnastics specialist, group leader, as well as friend, and role model. I'm excited to return to camp for my tenth summer! Southwoods holds a very special place in my heart as I have made lifelong friends there. Southwoods will always be a part of my life and I am thankful to be part of the Southwoods family.

-Written by Tess Shacknow, Former Southwoods Camper and Current Staff Member

Reunion Wall of Fuzzies

 

I GOT A WARM INNER GLOW AT SOUTHWOODS

Neal Gurland deserves a Fuzzy...He is a good brother and I look forward to seeing him for the summer of 2015, when I come back as a counselor...from his big bro Josh Gurland

Carly Gelles deserves a Fuzzy...She is an awesome friend... from Maxine Carly is really nice to me and she has always been able to make me smile...from Lily L. Carly is one of my best friends at camp and is really nice to me...from Sasha Beinhacker

Jordan Schwartz deserves a Fuzzy...He is a great brother and I love him so much...from Maya Schwartz

Sophia Marciano deserves a Fuzzy...She is awesome and a great friend...from Sarah Warshofsky and Maya Schwartz

Lily Lottman desrves a Fuzzy...she is a great friend...from Carly

Charlotte, Nina , Erica, Sydney, and Sophia deserve Fuzzies...They are the best friends ever! Love you guys!!!...from Ella Crandall

Mason Levitsky deserves a Fuzzy...He is an amazing cousin...from Sarah W.

Sydney Ralls deserves a Fuzzy...She is really funny and she always makes me laugh...from Angelica

Maxine Moses deserves a Fuzzy...She can always make me laugh and she is the best friend ever...from Lily L.

Sasha Beinhacker deserves a Fuzzy...She is so funny and sweet. I hope that we're friends forever...from Maia Sasha always makes me laugh, we have so much fun, you are such a good friend...from Maxine

Ethan Ruoff deserves a Fuzzy...He is a great amazingly awesome brother, and he is going to be an LIT when it is my first 4 weeks at Southwoods as an Upper Junior Girl!...from Talia Ruoff

Scott deserves a Fuzzy...He is awesome...from Zoe

Angelica deserves a Fuzzy...She is a great frind and I love her...from Sydney

Becca Roenberg deserves a Fuzzy...She has an awesome name and an awesome personality...from Becca Brand

THAT'S THE WAY...THE SOUTHWOODS WAY!

 

 

Our Southwoods Story by Mathy Wasserman

   In October of 2000, we made a decision which became the single most significant choice and investment in our three boys' lives. Here in California, we did not know families who were sending their kids to sleep away camp in 3rd grade, let alone for a month, let alone across the country.

People we knew sent kids to camps for a couple of weeks and usually, not very far from home. Both my husband, who is from the midwest and I, from the east, went to sleep away camps growing up. While we were not interested in a full summer program, we wanted somewhere for our sons where there was a formal start and stop date (all the kids arrive at the same time and leave similarly). While that was a starting point for exploration, what we got at Southwoods was so much more.

We have never met another camp owner who is like Scott or Andrea Ralls and who cares so much about the camper and experience. (It's actually difficult for me to decide where to start.) The camp offers one of the most fun, diverse, safe, adventurous, respectful, and healthy growing programs. Each area excels, whether it's the waterfront, sports, arts, adventures, camp activities or tribal war. Our boys went there from the time they brought walkmans to the risk of electronics infringing on the summer. Kids learn to disconnect and participate with each other, embrace challenges and celebrate successes. From the youngest campers to the LIT (Leaders in Training), Scott and Andrea have their eyes, ears and staffs' attention to each child having an amazing summer. If they ran a private school, my kids would have been there!

Over the years, Scott, Andrea and the staff helped our kids with a variety of issues from fear of the lake, concerns with sleeping in a tent outside to having the confidence to become a leader. Some of their most memorable achievements came at camp from learning new skills, becoming a tribal chieftain to training as a video intern.

While our oldest went to sleep away before FB, to this day, he relishes bumping into someone from Southwoods. As a 22 year old with an internship this summer in NY, he was walking down the street when he ran into a kid from camp. They stopped in a bar and had drinks to laugh about those days. A friend of his from college was roommates with a kid from Southwoods and these are great kids with great friends. Our youngest (17 and applying to colleges), also went for 6 years through the LIT program and keeps in touch with kids on FB and visits with them when traveling. They are all in touch around the world from LA to Paris with friends across the continent. A group of them we there to support a friend whose family went through a very rough time and I think for him, having these camp friends helped him to feel like there was a cocoon of safety around him.

As a parent, you want to know your kids are having fun and that they are safe at camp. The "what ifs..." need to be covered. We have had respiratory viruses become an asthma attack and we have had bug bites become infected. Regardless, the health staff have gotten the kids back on track and back in the action as soon as it was safe. It takes a lot of trust to send a kid to sleep away camp across the country and so imagine the trust we had in Scott and Andrea when in the summer after 9/11, we sent our two boys to camp in New York. Another year was the summer that the flu was wiping out camp attendance and experiences for kids across the country. Scott and Andrea had protocols in place that prevented an outbreak from happening at Southwoods while our friends' kids were at camps where quarantines were more active than canteens! Not the case at Southwoods. Not on Scott's watch!

Southwoods does not make communicating with parents a profit center like many camps. Pictures and videos populate the website daily, and parents have coded access to download and share images. Plus, there's no charge to send daily emails to you kid (which they print out) if you want to augment the cards you send. Communicating directly with Scott, Andrea and camp leadership is easy and they are responsive to concerns (but don't be a drone parent, you can trust them!).

Scott never rests on his laurels and continues to invest, improve and update Southwood's facilities and infrastructure. The food is amazing, healthy and bountiful in choices that have met the pickiest of eaters' preferences. The rules and structure that the Ralls have in place for campers and staff reflect their lifelong commitment to summer camp and creating awesome experiences.

Each of our three boys attended for 6 summers and tried things they never would have tried, grew in ways that showed sportsmanship, respect and trust and had the best summers of their lives at Southwoods.

I guess we would recommend it!

-Mathy Wasserman

on behalf of the Wasserman family.

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