Parent: My first question is about the camp’s leadership. Who are the camp’s directors and how experienced are they?
Jon: Dave Schiff and I are the camp’s owners and directors. We’ve been around here since we were campers - in fact, we met each other at the camp’s bus stop when we were coming to Manitou for the first time. After camping together through our youth, we returned as counselors during college and then in 1998 we bought the camp.
Parent: What can you tell me about your staff?
Jon: Our staff is friendly, well-trained, and passionate about our campers. This past summer our staff included 20 teachers and 12 high school and college coaches. There were 22 staff members who had been at Manitou for more than 10 years, 8 more than 20 years, and 5 more than 30 years.
Parent: Who does the hiring and what do they look for?
Jon: Dave does nearly all the staff recruiting and hiring. Your son’s camp experience depends on the staff we hire, so our expectations are very high.
Our counselors are role models for the boys. I screen each staff candidate, interviewing them, contacting references and running background checks.
Each staff member goes through an intensive eight-day training program before the campers arrive. Areas covered include preparing for and reacting to emergencies, first-aid, and general camper health and well-being.
Parent: What is the ratio of campers to counselors?
Jon: The ratio of campers to counselors is 2.5:1. Cabins for boys ages 10 and under have at least 3 male counselors and 1 female counselor assigned to each cabin with 10 campers.
Parent: Female counselors?
Jon: The female counselor serves as a motherly figure to support the cabin staff and help with the adjustment of being away from home - especially for first-time campers. She spends time with the cabin during the day and at night before bedtime but does not live in the cabin.
Parent: As I investigate summer camps, one of the questions I have is whether it will benefit my son to go to a boys-only camp.
Jon: That’s an excellent question to consider. We believe there is a real benefit to campers.
We live in a co-ed world. Manitou provides boys with a supportive and encouraging atmosphere without some of the pressure they may feel in a co-ed environment.
When a boy comes to Manitou he interacts with men who are strong and assertive, but they are also attentive, compassionate, and supportive. He experiences something unique: he can be himself, his whole self.
At the end of the summer he reenters the co-ed world with renewed confidence.
Parent: Please tell me about the camp program. Will my son choose his own activities?
Jon: We have a LOT of fun at camp and really help kids develop skills. We have over 40 activities that campers can choose from in addition to exciting group activities, games, special events and trips - it really is hard to go home at the end of the summer. We try to strike a balance between choice and non-choice activities. The number of choices you get to make depends on your age. Older boys are given more freedom and responsibility while we give our younger campers more guidance.
There are three activity periods in the morning and one in the afternoon as well as an activity down on the waterfront. After dinner campers have a choice activity and then an all-camp evening activity. For younger campers the day ends with milk and cookies at 9pm but older boys have one more special activity after dark. Many parents have specific goals for their son each summer so we will work with you to make sure that his activity choices match up with your goals.
Parent: My son has special dietary needs. Can you accommodate him?
Jon: Not a problem. We’re a peanut-free camp and our chef is well trained in dealing with all types of food allergies. We assign both campers and staff to tables so we can monitor camper diets. There are always alternatives to our main entrees so even picky eaters will have something to choose from in addition to the salad and fruit bar, which is always available.
Parent: Wow - a chef.
Jon: And that’s not all - we have a baker too. There are so many things that we do behind-the-scenes. Dave and I are passionate about the camp experience and spend the off-season making sure we leave no stone left unturned.
Parent: What are the cabins like?
Jon: Each cabin has single beds and bunk beds, bathroom and shower facilities, ample closet space for clothing and equipment, and a screened-in porch. We make sure there is at least one counselor on duty in the cabin at all times so the campers are never left alone.
Parent: Would you tell me about your medical facilities?
Jon: We have a doctor on call 24/7 who visits camp daily, and a health center staffed by five full-time nurses. Many of our staff members are certified in First Aid and CPR. There are two hospitals ten minutes away from camp. You never want to have an accident, but if you do, it’s best to be prepared.
Dave and I are passionate about the camp experience.
Parent: Do you make frequent improvements to the camp’s facilities?
Jon: We do. While the camp experience is not about the facilities, campers get a safer, more exciting, and effective learning experience with better equipment and buildings. Since Dave and I took ownership, we’ve upgraded just about every aspect of the camp and we’ve got a lot planned for the future.
Parent: Is Manitou a uniform camp?
Jon: No it’s not, but we do require that campers purchase several camp shirts for trips and other out of camp events.
Team uniforms are provided to boys who participate on specific camp teams. College League team shirts are given to all campers. A complete list of recommended clothing and equipment can be found at the CampSpot.
Parent: Will I be able to stay in touch with my son while he’s at camp? Can I send him with a cell phone?
Jon: You’ll have several ways of staying in touch. Letters and email are the most common.
We have a secure web site where you will be able to send emails, view daily photos, read up on camp news, and even complete necessary camp forms.
Your son won’t be able to bring a cell phone but he will have a scheduled call time for each session he is at camp.
I should also mention, we don’t allow portable video games. Music players are O.K. as long as they don’t do anything other than play music. The camp staff will hold on to them for safe keeping when not in use.
Parent: Hmm… that makes sense. Is there anything else I should know?
Jon: Well, let’s see.
You might be interested to know that Camp Manitou is accredited by the American Camp Association. The ACA is helpful because they not only set national standards but also inspect the camp. Manitou consistently meets and exceeds the ACA’s standards. I served on the board of directors for the local ACA section.
Parent: Oh, I forgot to ask - how will my son get to camp?
Jon: Not to worry - we provide escorted transportation by both bus and plane.
At the beginning and end of every session our buses travel to New Rochelle, NY, Fairfield, CT, Hartford, CT, and Newton, MA.
We also have recommended group and escorted flights from Ft. Lauderdale, FL; West Palm, FL; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Newark, NJ; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Paris, France; and Madrid, Spain.
Upon enrollment, you will be given information on each of the flights and can book a seat through our camp travel agent.
For the campers who travel independently, we send camp vans and buses to the Portland, ME and Boston, MA (Logan) airports.
No matter how your son gets here, we’ll give you a call so you know he arrived safely!
Parent: Manitou sounds amazing. The people, the program, the facilities – everything. I’m sure my son will have a great time. Since this will be his first year at camp, is there anything I can do to help get him ready?
Jon: I would encourage you to attend one of our off-season meet-ups or schedule a home visit. We host new camper gatherings in several areas around the United States throughout the year. This will give him an opportunity to meet other first time campers in your area. We can also schedule a video-chat if you’re not able to attend any of the gatherings.
Parent: So, where do we sign up?
Jon: You can apply online – it only takes a few minutes. After that we’ll contact you and walk you through the other forms that you need to complete before the summer.
Our winter office is in Westport, CT and we keep normal business hours. Give us a call at 800-326-1916 anytime with questions.