We have fabulous facilities. So do lots of other camps. We have incredible counselors. So do lots of other camps. Kids who come to SLC have experiences and make friends that last a lifetime. So do kids at hundreds of camps across the country. Our program is an absolute WOW, with tremendous fun and adventure packed into every day. Many other camps will tell you the same. Here are some things, however, that set Surprise Lake Camp apart as you try to figure out which outstanding camp is truly the best.
1. Professional Staff: Our Executive Director has been in his position for 25 seasons. He is a leader in the camping field—Chair of the Governor’s State Camp Safety Council, Past President of the New York State Camp Director’s Association, and a teacher in one of the only master’s degree programs in camp administration in the country. He started at SLC as a camper. He is one of six professionals in the office who have a combined total of over 100 years experience as year round, full time camp professionals. And that doesn’t include our summer Administrative Director, Harry Vogel, who is an icon in the world of camping with over 55 summers as a member of the SLC staff. In the world of camping, experience counts!
2. Accessibility: Ninety percent of the time, whether it is in the summer or the off season, when you call Surprise Lake Camp you get a human being, not a machine. We believe in the personal touch! Once you choose a camp, you will want to be able to talk to someone about things before, during, and after the camp stay. Do you really want to spend the next several years navigating complex answering systems and then leaving a message?
3. Food: It isn’t just camp food. Head Chef Dave Bardari makes dining at SLC a cut above the rest. When he is not finding new ways to make dining at SLC amazing, he caters high end parties! He is one of SLC’s greatest assets. (Are you a vegetarian?—we have a real veggie menu with serious veggie entrees!)
4. History and Reputation: Our camp is legendary. Any study or paper on the history of Jewish camping features SLC. Our alumni include Neil Diamond, Larry King, Jerry Stiller, Walter Matthau, Eddie Cantor, Gene Simmons, and Joseph Heller. When you come to SLC you don’t just sign up for a program, you join a tradition and a community that is unmatched in the camping world.
5. Alumni: We have a very active Alumni Association, which provides value added after you finish your camp career. SLC alumni have parties and get togethers throughout the year and throughout their lives. Alumni Day at camp in the summer attracts 500 people! Other camps simply can’t provide this kind of camaraderie and continuing camp experience when you are in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond!
6. Natural Setting: We own 460 acres and we are surrounded by thousands of acres of incredibly beautiful state parkland. We can literally step onto miles of the finest hiking trails in the state right off our property without ever getting on or crossing a road. Our camp layout makes great use of our natural beauty, with all but the very youngest kids living in small cabins in the woods, not in a row of buildings surrounded by suburban style lawns. Our geography is not flat—it has personality, and features a picture postcard landscape.
7. Proximity to New York City: Travel to and from camp is easy, whether you are driving from the city or flying in from afar. It is hard to believe a natural oasis of such beauty could exist only an hour away from Manhattan. When you choose a camp, you will visit many times over the coming years. Add up those commuting miles and compare!
8. Safety: Safety comes first at SLC. Our protocols, trainings, and supervision standards are the very best in the field. We get it that nothing is as important as the well being of the children we serve, and that none of the special things that happen at camp are possible unless our children are thriving physically.
9. Jewish Program: We have designed a Jewish program that is right for the kids we serve. It is not about what Jewish educators want, or what rabbis want, it is about making the kids feel good about being Jewish. This means it is fun, it is understandable, and it doesn’t leave you out if you don’t have a strong Jewish background. We emphasize the joy of Judaism, the ideas in Judaism that are relevant to modern kids’ lives, and the wonder of Judaism. We average twenty Bar and Bat Mitzvahs a summer at camp—FREE to our campers! We also have a Rosh Hashanah program that hundreds of SLCers prefer to a temple experience.
10. Intangibles: We believe that the magic of camp is rooted in the intangibles—things like caring, spirit, friendships, community, and creativity. We enrich the hearts and souls of the human beings who come to us in a way that is profound and proven. We develop character and facilitate personal growth, and we take pride in enhancing children’s lives in the ways that count the most. We know, lots of other camps say this too, but we had to include it in the list since this is what we do best.