Camp Woodland Blog

So, What Do We Do The Rest of the Year?

This is a loaded question camp directors often get asked once summer has ended, especially now that it is the middle of winter. It brings laughter for some (and tears for others) as most people can’t imagine what we could possibly be doing in the “off-season” since it appears that the majority of our “work” happens in June, July and August. I will be the first to tell you that there is nothing “off” about the off-season. Sure, the leadership team takes some much needed and well deserved time to get our lives back together. We all move back to our respective homes in varying locations across the country AC (after camp) and pick up where we left off in the spring BC (before camp) with family, friends, routines, etc. But, after that, it’s GAME ON planning for the next summer!

How do we plan for a new summer? What a question! How much time do you have?! (JK) It’s exciting and something we love doing (as it means that campers and staff will be coming back to camp soon!). Planning for the summer takes all year. We get especially excited once the calendar turns a new page as the CWTP camp season is no longer NEXT year, but it is now THIS year!

This past summer, camp officially closed out the season on August 6, and before the 2023 summer was over, the CWTP Leadership Team was already meeting about our 2024 summer (can you believe it?!). By late August when you were just starting back to school, our year-round team quickly returned to our routine of regular meetings as we started to brainstorm about the upcoming summer. It is truly amazing how quickly we transition from one summer to the next, as it takes an entire 9 months to prepare for your arrival!

So how do we actually plan for a new summer? Read on to find out how all the pieces come together to make the BEST SUMMER EVER for our camp community:

Read all the surveys:

We start by reading the surveys. We have surveys from campers, parents, and staff. We read them all. And then…we read them again. All the suggestions are divided into categories that we then sort through, finding similar suggestions (we often have repeat ideas!). After sorting everything, we combine the suggestions with the notes we (as a Leadership Team) took throughout the summer to decide what we want to think about, and possibly change, for the upcoming summer.

Meet new families:

We are always grateful for the referrals you send our way, and we also enjoy meeting new families who find out about us through a Google search, social media, or some other means. We kickoff our reunion/camp show season with the CWTP Gathering for the Chicago area right before Thanksgiving and travel to various cities to visit campers and staff in January-April. Want to bring camp to your town? Let us know HERE!

Decide on facility projects:

Every year we are improving the Woodland and Towering Pines properties, and part of planning for a new summer is deciding on which improvements to tackle. For some projects, we decide years in advance (for bigger rennovations) while other projects are based on necessity or a last-minute opportunity (like adding a tent for outdoor covered eating, replacing the roof on a cabin when a tree falls during a spring storm, or repairing the fence at the riding arena). Our upcoming program plans also contribute to this list; we want to be ready for activities each summer!

Start hiring the staff:

The summer couldn’t happen without our staff, so kicking off the hiring process is always a big part of our planning for the year. We open our staff applications for new staff and returning staff a few weeks after the summer ends as we want to find the very BEST counselors for the upcoming summer. Jackie focuses on the first year staff who are former campers, Calla meets with veteran staff wanting to come back to camp, and Kim interviews any staff who are brand new to Woodland. Calla and Lee are teaming up to make sure our international staff are set with visas and travel, and JoAnne handles the contracts for all staff in addition to hiring the kitchen, medical, and facility staff. For the 2024 season, we already have applications coming in and will continue to hire throughout the year until we’ve assembled the most amazing summer team ever!

Take advantage of Professional Development Opportunities:

JoAnne attended the Camp Owners and Directors (CODA) Wisconsin Fall Tour of Camps in September and the Midwest Association of Independent Camps (MAIC) Fall Conference in October. Both events offered great opportunities for networking with other camp professionals who also own/direct camps regionally and some nationally. Several of the Woodland team attended ACA’s Virtual Staffing Summit for all things staff recruiting, hiring and retention. I actually am the Co-Chair of this event and am fortunate to have conversations with so many thought leaders in this arena (I actually met Richard Coraine, Union Square Hospitality Group’s Senior Advisor, as he was the opening keynote speaker for the 2023 Staffing Summit). Lee attended and presented at the Women in Camp Summit in December in the Chicago area. Several of us have plans to attend the ACA National Conference in New Orleans next month and/or Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City come March.

Start thinking creatively:

One of the best parts of attending a 50+ year camp is that we have traditions that date back to the 1970s! How cool that we get to participate in some of the same activities as campers from so many years ago. But along with that, we always want each summer to be new and different. We really put our heads together during the year to come up with fun and exciting surprises!

Work through all the yearly projects:

Some of our preparation projects happen year after year. For example, we redesign our theme t-shirt every year (Open New Doors in ’24), order program supplies, brainstorm fun early enrollment giveaways, make arrangements with the bus to meet camper arrivals on Opening Day at O’Hare Airport, plan pre-camp staff training, and much more!

Make sure you know everything you need to know:

With all the updates and changes each year, we need to make sure you know everything you need to know to attend camp! The Parent Handbook is our main way of sharing this information with our families, and we work to get that ready so everything needed for a summer at Woodland is at your fingertips. We also to help our brand-new families know what to expect and schedule several Zoom meetings as we get closer to the summer.

Start building the excitement:

Part of the planning for a new summer is also building the excitement. We love mail at Woodland, so we put a lot of time and energy into fun things we can send to you each year. We also update our social media accounts (Instagram and Facebook) to keep our older campers, parents, and Towering Pines/Woodland Alumni engaged with camp. We also write 1-2 blogs (like this one) every month with thoughts that share insight into the value of the Camp Woodland experience and create fun videos.

Countdown until you arrive:

A big part of summer planning is anticipating your arrival! After the holidays, we really start feeling like camp is just around the corner. While there will be snow at camp and ice on the lake through April or May, when calls from camp families start coming in, the excitement really starts building! This is one of our favorite parts of preparing for a new year – feeling your excitement (even when you’re far away) gets us even more ready to start another summer.

All in all, it’s a fun and busy year as we prepare for you! Now is a great time to save your camper’s spot for summer 2024 or to invite a friend to come along. REGISTER HERE!