Fairview Lake YMCA Executive Director Marc Koch is proud of the sleepaway camp experience he offers. In the age of screens, social media and handheld devices, he’s happy to give campers a chance to connect with the great outdoors.
“We’re a 109-year-old sleepaway camp that’s steeped in tradition,” Koch says. Initially founded in 1915 as an all-boys camp, today Fairview Lake offers an array of some two dozen week-long specialty camps that include backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, horseback riding, windsurfing and sailing camps and farm camps.
100+ YEARS OF HISTORY AND TRADITION
“Each of the camps has its own tradition and spirit that have been enjoyed by generations of families,” says Koch, who has been at Fairview Lake since 1998. “We’re proud to represent so many years of history and tradition that comes to life in our campers and stays with them their entire lives.”
Fairview Lake also offers a two-week, weekday sleepaway camp known as Lake in the Woods. Held on the campus of Blair Academy in Blairstown, the program is in its second year and aims to blend a traditional sleepaway camp with a boarding school dormitory—but with weekends off. “It’s a beautiful campus with everything you could want for the summer—from a golf course, indoor pool and athletic facilities to robotics and ceramics studios—for those who may want to experience summer camp outside of a cabin in the woods,” Koch says.
TRADITIONAL CAMP ENVIRONMENT WITH AN ARRAY OF OPTIONS
While Fairview Lake provides a diverse mix of options, there’s no shortage of traditional activities as well. “We’re located in the midst of 660 acres of forests, fields and hiking trails that surround our 110-acre namesake lake, and so we offer the perfect camp environment,” he says, noting that the breathtaking 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Park is right in the camp’s backyard. “However, our campers are given the opportunity to experience all of those traditional camp offerings, or they can choose to hone in on a special area of interest and focus on something they truly love to do.”
Fairview Lake strives to uphold the mission of a YMCA camp: to strengthen community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. “As far as youth development goes, we teach lifelong skills from how to ride a horse to how to swim. In fact, more people have learned how to swim through the YMCA than any other organization,” he says.
For the traditional camps, children and teenagers in grades two through 10 live in cabins with electricity, showers and bathrooms. Specialty camps feature camping and more rustic cabins that serve as a base between backpacking up the Appalachian Trail or canoeing down the Delaware River.
At Fairview Lake, it’s all about life outdoors—and that includes the camp’s animal farm with donkeys, goats, chickens and sheep. “There are some summer camps that are held in air-conditioned dorm rooms. That’s just not who we are,” he says.
GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES AT FAIRVIEW LAKE
Today, many of Fairview’s former campers are parents who are sending their own children to camp. The camp offers a counselor-in-training program for students at age 16, followed by a junior counselor program that leads to the opportunity to hold a senior staff position. The camp is also committed to hiring international staff members. “We strongly believe in exposing children to role models from many different walks of life; it teaches them empathy, respect and understanding while giving them the opportunity to learn about other countries and their cultures,” he says.
Given its long history, the camp is also well-equipped to handle feelings of homesickness among campers. The staff partners with parents to help support their campers through the transition to camp, and will often pair new campers with an older veteran camper (dubbed a “big brother” or “big sister”) to help them adjust to life at camp.
A point of pride for Koch is that so many of its campers and staff return each and every year. A first-year camper might do one horseback trail ride and sign up for a week of horseback riding the next year. Or a camper might sleep overnight in a tent for the first time in their first year and then sign up for a weeklong backpacking trip.
“The majority of our campers are here for the social experience and the lifelong memories,” Koch says. “Camps teach leadership and problem-solving skills, and parents just want kids to be kids again—so we provide an environment where they learn how to socialize and build those skills that will last a lifetime.”
1035 Fairview Lake Rd., Newton