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  • Writer's pictureStephen Bean

Why We're Here

There are thousands of camps across the United States and each one has a reason for why they exist. Running a summer camp is an incredibly labor intensive venture, so the reason for existing better be a good one. So why does Camp New Heights exist?

The idea for Camp New Heights was born out of previous experiences having attended and worked at several summer camps. After working at a camp that had a mission of helping kids lose weight, I was shocked at how poorly this mission was executed. The camp focused solely on limiting calories and exercising the kids until they passed out from exhaustion. Taking a kid who has never exercised a day in their life and then asking them to exercise eight hours a day without proper nutrition and recovery is a recipe for disaster. The program offered an extensive amount of unstructured free time, which lead to way too many idle hands. The program also based its success off of short-term weight loss and essentially waited for kids to regain the weight after returning home and then expecting them to return to camp to re-lose the weight. A vicious cycle that never sought a solution, despite concerns from parents. The staff at the organization was not equipped with the tools to provide an experience worthy of the hard earned dollars parents were spending for their kids to attend.

Firstly, I really hate the idea that eating healthy and nutritious food is somehow limited to kids who are deemed overweight. Secondly, putting restricted calorie meals in front of kids and telling them to eat it without any nutritional information is bound to create a negative relationship with food. Lastly, a camp is only successful if a camper feels comfortable at all times. A camp could perform their mission to the fullest extent and give kids the world, but if the camper is not comfortable while they are there then the program is a failure. Sending kids to bed starving and uncomfortable is horrible. So how can this antiquated outdated childhood weight loss ideology be changed to impact all kids positively? Well, that's where Camp New Heights comes in to the rescue.

When we sat down to discuss what our camp would look like when executed, a few items became our backbone:

-A camp that kids of any athletic ability could attend and benefit

-For those seeking a health and wellness journey that includes weight loss, it has to be done with information and providing skills and tools to be successful after camp concludes.

-Life skills (Grocery shopping, cooking, living with someone you don't know, laundry, working as a team, uplifting those around you)

-A mission to give kids of all ability levels life skills and tools that they could take home with them

-Every camper needs to be comfortable in all aspects of camp.

-It has to be fun

So let's jump into a few of these items.

We didn't want a camp that just focuses on kids who are "struggling" with their weight, because kids who are listed at "healthy weights" still struggle with nutrition, proper physical fitness, self-esteem, etc... So why would we limit it our scope when all levels can benefit from a program that focuses on lifelong health and wellness?

Our second item is critically important to me. I want to change what this looks like and stop kids from developing a negative association with food and equating health to merely a number on a scale. So at Camp New Heights we're not starving kids or putting food in front of their faces and saying, "Eat this, it's good for you." We want to put our campers in real world situations where they have control and autonomy of the decisions that they are able to make. We set out to give the campers the information and understanding of the nutritional choices they are making, so that ultimately they can make those decisions outside the walls of camp. So the reason we have a nutritionist on staff is to work with each camper individually to make sure their needs and questions are being answered. We work day in and day out to provide campers with skills to assemble healthy nutritious meals, performing and designing exercises that maximize results while reducing injury, and building up campers to understand that they are so much more than the number on a scale. We don't judge success based on what a scale says, but we are trying to connect the dots of how we feel. Through our use of meal breakdowns and food journals, we're getting campers to reflect on how the consumption of certain foods made them feel and how their subsequent performance was impacted. By leading campers to make these connections, they are able to see the impact that these nutritional and fitness decisions impact their overall health and wellness.

Life skills are something every camp should give attention to but most do not. Taking a dedicated approach to teaching and mentoring life skills is something we build into our schedule. These skills are not just overlooked by other camps, but most schools neglect or provide an inadequate amount of time to work on these things. The grocery store challenge we run weekly gives campers not only the independence to grocery shop and pick out healthy recipes, it provides campers with the ability to decipher nutrition labels and comb through marketing rhetoric to make smart and informed decisions. The grocery store challenge backs right up to the cooking challenge, which teaches kids skills to prep, cook, and enjoy delicious homemade meals. Other skills like laundry and sharing a room with someone are critically important to becoming an independent individual, especially those seeking to attend a university.

I am a firm believer that we could provide our campers with an abundant amount of information about health, nutrition, cooking, fitness, and physiology, but if the camper is uncomfortable then the camp was not a success for them. This is not to say uncomfortable in terms of trying something new for the first time or pushing themselves to achieve new things. I mean uncomfortable in terms of they don't feel as though they belong and have a place in our camp community. This is why we dedicate a tremendous amount of time team building our staff and building our camp community with campers. We dedicate countless hours to nighttime activities, meal conversations, and free time to building and fostering these relationships to ensure that every camper feels welcome and part of our camp community. We provide the materials, but campers write the story and we want to ensure everyone has a voice.

It has to be fun! This seems like the most obvious, but one would be surprised at how much this notion is overlooked at camps. The idea of making camp fun is why we stress about schedule, weekend activities, staff, etc... Campers want to have a fun and exciting summer. Monotony rarely if ever equates to fun. We have built our schedule to have enough variety to keep campers engaged and not feeling bored. There's a reason we have a different excursion every weekend off campus to not only share the beauty of Santa Barbara, but to give kids the opportunity to try something different than what they would do during the week. It's why we provide structured free-time at night to allow campers to choose their journey and connect with their peers in the method that they prefer. The ability to engage and foster fun is why we have an extremely competitive and extensive interview process for prospective employees of Camp New Heights. It has to be fun or else why would anyone ever want to go?

Merriam Webster's Dictionary defines "Campy" as in the style of camp: absurdly exaggerated, artificial, or affected in a usually humorous way. We have set out to change the notion of what camp and campy means to families across the world. We want to provide an incredible experience that is informative, educational, caring, and last but not least fun.

So we didn't see this kind of camp currently in existence, so we decided we had to fill that void. So why do we exist? We're here because we believe that we can provide a growth experience for campers of all skills and abilities. We believe that our approach and candor to health and wellness is unique and we want to share it with the world. So we're here and we're ready for our best summer yet in 2021. We believe in a growth mindset and we're excited to grow with you.

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