It has been a summer that has surpassed expectations at JCC Rockland Camps — and that has surpassed 2019 enrollment by 35 percent.
“We definitely are having a really great summer,” Eliza Millman said. Ms. Millman is chief operating officer of JCC Rockland. A former JCC camp director herself, she brought camping to Rockland when she joined the JCC staff eight years ago and now she oversees the center’s camp director.
The center offers camps for kids ranging from 18 months to rising tenth graders. The camps include the J-Land preschool camp; Discover, for children entering kindergarten through fifth grade; a Stem camp for kids entering third through eighth grades; a J-Teens program for kids entering sixth through eighth; and a Counselor in Training program for teenagers beginning ninth and tenth grades.
The camp’s popularity this year reflects its success last year in the first covid summer.
“We were one of the only camps open all eight weeks with no covid cases,” Ms. Millman said. “We’re very proud of that.
“We had almost 200 kids here last summer. It was a miracle. We held our breath every day. We only had three weeks before camp started after Cuomo gave the okay to opening in June. The impact we had on kids last summer was life-changing. Parents were calling, crying, saying that their kids were different people after the first week of camp.”
This year, the camp is hosting 450 campers each week. (Parents could register their children for most of the JCC’s camps a week at a time.)
And as for covid this year: “So far, so good,” Ms. Millman said. “I don’t want to jinx it — we still have two weeks left.”
“The hardest part of this summer is we have the same covid restrictions as last year with a million more campers,” she added.
Back in the old days — 2019 — a lot of camp activities were held inside the JCC. This summer, most are outside. That includes archery and sports, and also arts and crafts and cooking and drama and music.
“If they’re inside for rainy days, they’re wearing masks,” Ms. Millman said. “The five percent of our staff who are unvaccinated wear masks all the time. We’re constantly sanitizing everything between activities,” she said.
The biggest covid-related program change affects the J-Teens program. “Normally, there’s one overnight trip a week,” for the teens, Ms. Millman said. This year, “they’re traveling local-ish. No place longer than an hour away.” Destinations have included amusement parks, movies, bowling, and the Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Allendale, New Jersey.
Ms. Millman’s first camp experience was as a three-year-old on Long Island. When she was 14, her family moved to Maryland. Then she started working at the Greater Washington JCC. “That’s when I started loving JCC life. Thirty years ago I started being a camp counselor. Now my own kids are camp counselors here. Camp is essential to children’s development, especially in years like this. To have this break is more essential than ever before.”
Ms. Millman said the camp’s success this summer reflects the efforts of the JCC’s camp director, Carrie Sakin.
“She also has camp in her blood. She worked tirelessly. She and her team really worked miracles for 2020 and 2021.”