“I don’t know what I would do without camp, it has changed my life in such a positive way.”
Camp Bernie Camper
“[My daughter] had a wonderful first time experience and still keeps in touch with her camp friends. This is something that she will cherish for the rest of her life.”
Camp Bernie Camper Parent
YMCA CAMP BERNIEPhone: (908) 832-5315
Fax: (908) 832-9078
Email: Click Here
YMCA Camp Bernie’s Overnight Camp is a traditional, co-ed program for kids entering grades 2-10. Campers are grouped into Units by gender and age, with each Unit divided into cabins composed of 8-10 campers and 2-3 counselors. Our traditions and camp spirit unite our overall camp community as campers are engaged in instructional activities, structured free play and memorable all-camp events each session.
First time camper parent? Please see "First Time Camper Parents" section below.
Our overnight camp program is intentionally designed for campers to have fun while realizing their individual and collective potential. An overnight camp experience is a unique opportunity for children to gain a sense of independence with the freedom to be themselves. YMCA Camp Bernie provides an exciting, safe community for campers to enjoy the outdoors and build lifelong memories and friendships. Our incredible variety of activities allows campers to build confidence, try new things and have fun. A combination of personal choice activities and scheduled programming means that campers have the freedom to customize their experience.
Our staff are positive role models who are extensively pre-screened and trained to ensure that all counselors are mature, patient, skilled and responsible.
Activities including swimming, arts and crafts, basketball, archery, climbing tower, volleyball, canoeing, mountain biking and much, much more.
Today’s children face more stressful situations than we can imagine. Kids often react by indulging in unhealthy behaviors. As parents and childcare providers, we feel the need to protect them, but we must remember that our goal is to prepare them to be happy and productive adults. YMCA Camp Bernie focuses on helping campers to build the 7 C’s: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control in order to better deal with stressful situations. Together we can raise successful children who will make their unique and substantial contributions to the world.
Changes for 2017
This year we're offering 4 "Try it Out!" one-week options: 7A, 7B, 7C, 7D. These run Sunday to Sunday
This year, instead of Ranch Camp, we are offering a Ranch Program as part of our regular camp session. Campers will be able to choose this as a "Free Choice" and participate for 4 or 8 days out of the session at no additional charge. This program is designed to teach your camper all about horses including how to ride and care for them. Campers are assigned two horses to care for over the course of the week and are guided through every step of the process.
Dates And Rates
*Please note: Registration closes at 5pm the Thursday prior to the start of the session. Spaces may not be available for campers who have balances due after June 1st.
|Sessions||Theme||Dates (2 Weeks)||
(valid until 1/1/17
|Session 13A||TBA||June 25-July 7||$1550||TBA|
|Session 13B||TBA||July 9-July 21||$1550||TBA|
|Session 13C||TBA||July 23-August 4||$1550||TBA|
|Session 13D||TBA||August 6-August 18||$1550||TBA|
(valid until 1/1/17)
|Session 7A||TBA||June 25-July 2||$850||TBA|
|Session 7B||TBA||July 9-July 16||$850||TBA|
|Session 7C||TBA||July 23-July 30||$850||TBA|
|Session 7D||TBA||August 6-August 13||$850||TBA|
Campers can stay even longer! If you're signed up for multiple sessions, you can stay through the weekend and have the camp all to yourself! Specialized activities, meals, and even off-camp trips are included.
|Session A to B||TBA||July 8-10, 2016||$175||TBA|
|Session B to C||TBA||July 22-24, 2016||$175||TBA|
|Session C to D||TBA||August 5-7, 2016||$175||TBA|
Forms & Downloads
- Overnight Camp Brochure
- Overnight Camp Registration Form
- Overnight Camp Information
- Camper Profile Form
- Camper Health History Form
- Horseback Questionnaire
- Dirtbikes Questionnaire
- Packing List
- Overnight Disclaimer and Acknowledgement Form
- Scholarship Letter
- Scholarship Application
"The whole process from camp tours to pick-up on the last day of the session is organized. We were always kept informed which helped me as a camper parent. I especially liked the first 48 hrs update call from camp, it made me feel at ease that my child is settled in and having a blast." — Overnight Camp Parent
"When I pick him up he is usually crying. Not because he is happy he is going home, he is sad that he is leaving all his friends he has made at camp." — Overnight Camp Parent
"My daughter always experiences personal growth at Camp and makes nice connections with other campers. This is a tribute to the Camp Directors and Staff." — Overnight Camp Parent
First Time Camper Parents
Welcome to the Camp Bernie Family!
You made the decision to send your child away to camp. Maybe it was a difficult choice. But your decision will afford your child one of the greatest opportunities.
We know sending your child to sleepaway camp for the first time can cause some anxiety for parents. We created this section of our website to help alleviate some of your biggest fears [See below sections on Supervision at Camp, Homesickness, Medical Issues and Emergencies, and Communication].
But first, let’s set some things straight:
1. We really do care about your child.
Camp Bernie has a culture of inclusion that helps campers feel that they belong. We establish a community in which campers connect with others (relationship), have control over their own experiences (belonging), and work on developing their existing skills in areas of their own interest (achievement).
We teach character-building in the areas of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility throughout our activities and programs. We recognize and reward campers when they show these values in their everyday interactions. If your camper comes home with a Character Award or a Spirit Award, you should know that it’s a big deal!
We also encourage campers to try new things at camp. There are so many new and different activities here! But everything we do is “Challenge by Choice”, which means campers choose their own goals and we will encourage them and help them to achieve those goals. We don’t force campers to do things they are uncomfortable with. And regardless of their personal goal level, campers are applauded for their individual achievements, and not held to the standards of others.
At the end of each day, your camper gathers with their cabin-mates and counselors for “Rumination”. Each camper has a chance to share what they learned about themselves that day and how they grew as an individual. This is when campers take their experiences and develop them into something more. They discover things about themselves: skills they’ve learned, connections they’ve formed, even things they like that they never realized.
Through ruminations, gathering at meals, and other daily interactions, your camper’s counselors take time to get to know your camper. They become a sounding board, a guide, a mentor, a confidant, and a friend. During staff training, we cover every situation that has come up in our decades of experience in summer camp, and what to do should they encounter a new situation. They are supported by a Leadership Team comprised of seasoned returning camp staff as well as year-round camp professionals that are so passionate about camp, that we’ve made this our career. We’re all dedicated to making your camper’s experience the best that it possibly can be.
2. We care about you, too!
All first-time camper parents will receive a call from us around 48 hours from their camper’s arrival at camp. Don’t be alarmed! We’re just calling to let you know how they’re doing. We’ll mostly tell you how well they’re adjusting to life at camp, how well they’re making friends, and what activities they’re getting into. Don’t worry if the first day or so is a little rough (see the homesickness section below). It takes a little time for some kids to get into the swing of things. You’re also welcome to give us a call back if you want to check in (see communication section below).
Each day, we take camper photographs and post them to our Facebook page “BernieBearBoard” for you to see how your child is doing. We try to get pictures of every camper, every day, but sometimes we miss a few. We take mostly candid shots which display all kinds of silly facial expressions.
3. We believe in what we do.
Camp connects kids with their natural and social world, unplugging them from their electronic umbilical cords and tuning them in to the people and experiences around them. At camp, we focus on teambuilding, which develops skills like communication, leadership, listening, patience, consideration, and understanding. Over the past few years, we have begun to infuse resilience building into our programs to help kids develop skills to help them cope with and overcome challenges (grit).
It is not unusual for campers that are away from home to experience homesickness. A child’s family is their emotional support. This support system is taken for granted until the child finds themself removed from it. For many children, camp is their first experience of separation, and this can cause an inner feeling of panic. Though especially common for younger campers, older campers also experience this “ I wanna go home” feeling. Thankfully, their first time experiencing these feelings is at camp where there are staff who are trained to help them learn how to cope with and overcome these feelings.
Helpful tips to set your child up for success:
- Give them all of the information in advance. Tell them exactly how long they will be gone. Ensure that your child understands that they will not see or speak with you in that time. Knowing what to expect can help a child to better cope with feelings when they come.
- When you drop off your camper, we suggest you not say, “I’m only a phone call away”. Giving the child this “escape route” will keep them from fully allow themself to try this challenge. A camper has to make the decision for themself to fight homesickness. Saying something like this lets them give in to it and will cause it to be more severe.
- When you write letters, be encouraging. Perhaps you’ve experienced homesickness and know how debilitating it can be. Campers know you miss them and that home life isn’t the same without them but they’re having a new experience that you’re proud of.
The feeling of homesickness itself is quite real. It starts at the pit of the stomach and takes over the whole being. However, it is primarily a mental/emotional problem and not physical. The real solution lies in solving the real problem. The solution is growth toward establishing a new emotional support. This starts when the camper first arrives at camp.
Our Counselors are trained to make the campers feel welcome from the moment they arrive. They get to know them, accept them, and introduce them to other campers and cabin mates. The whole first day is filled with new people, new places, new activities, and a new living situation. This can be overwhelming, so Counselors explain as much as possible to help campers feel comfortable with all of these changes.
Usually, signs of homesickness will begin to appear as the campers return to their cabins on the first night when the camper begins to think of their usual night routine at home. Instead of allowing the fear and panic to set in, this is when Counselors step in and begin the Rumination activity. When the campers each share their experiences about the day, connections are formed and campers begin to realize that they’re not alone in adjusting to these new things. Counselors then dispel any fears by telling the group exactly what will happen next. They keep campers moving and thinking about camp, and reassure the campers that they are there and will be nearby all night in case they want to talk.
Often, redirecting a camper’s attention in moments of homesickness is all a camper needs to refocus on the positive. Counselors have a heart-to heart talk with the camper, asking them about themself, their interests, hobbies, what they want to do at camp, etc.
Counselors tell the camper about camp activities in which they will be participating during the week. They find interests and activities that appeal most to the camper and keep them engaged. We set goals with homesick campers at this early stage, encouraging them to get through today and see how they feel.
Here are some other tactics we may try in the first full day:
- Counselors and other campers will motivate the camper with positive suggestions, cooperation and commendation.
- Counselors may give campers special responsibilities to help them feel like an important contributor to camp and to the cabin group.
- Counselors may give campers responsibilities in helping other campers, which can help them see their own value.
- Counselors set small goals with the camper (i.e. “if you put all your effort into enjoying the morning activities, let’s talk again at lunch and see how you are doing.”)
- We won’t call home on the first day of homesickness.
During the second full day of camp, new camper parents will receive a “48 hour call”. This is when your camper’s Unit Leader will tell you about how they are doing and let you know about any issues or concerns the counselors have had about your child. If there have been some minor signs of homesickness, we’ll let you know and tell you what we’ve been doing and how well they are responding. You’re going to want to talk to your camper, but we’re going to recommend that you don’t. We know you’re not going to want to hear that. The truth is that when a camper hears that familiar voice, it connects them to that base emotion that they’ve been trying to manage and unravels any progress they’ve made. We know this is really hard. We understand that you miss your camper too.
Please just remember a few things:
- Your child is safe. See sections below on Supervision at Camp & Medical Issues and Emergencies.
- Your child is happy (mostly). While there may be occasions of sadness, the overall experience is positive. If it wasn’t, be the first to tell you.
- This is temporary. The session is not that much longer.
- You’re doing the right thing. Your child is learning a very important life skill.
- We’re on your side. This is not a skill you can teach your child yourself.
SUPERVISION AT CAMP
At just under 300 acres, it’s a big place and there are lots of kids here! You’re probably wondering how we keep track of all these kids. Senior Counselors are assigned a group of campers to their cabin and know the whereabouts of the campers in their care at all times utilizing face counts.
We have something we call the “Rule of Three”, which is employed everywhere and at all times (with the exception of bathroom usage – see below). This rule specifies that there are always at least three people present: one camp staff and two or more children, or two camp staff and one child. Three or more unsupervised campers do NOT meet the “rule of three” criteria.
Bathroom usage – studies have reported that bathrooms are the most common areas for child abuse to take place. In response to this data, we have developed a bathroom supervision policy that provides adequate privacy and minimizes the potential for dangerous situations. Bathroom runs are called out for groups of boys or girls and anyone who needs to use the bathroom will go to the waiting room as a group. The staff member will hold or prop the main bathroom door open as children rotate into the bathroom stalls when they become available. The whole group remains together until everyone is ready to return to the activity.
Sleeping Arrangements – Our cabin layouts vary, but in Pioneer, Iroquois, and Shawnee cabins, campers sleep in a large dormitory-style room with counselors sleeping in adjoining counselor rooms, leaving their door ajar in order to be able to hear anything going on in the camper room. In Nation cabins, counselors sleep in beds located in the same room as the campers.
MEDICAL ISSUES & EMERGENCIES
Camp Bernie’s centrally-located Wellness Center is staffed by a licensed Camp Nurse or Health Officer 24 hours a day during overnight camp sessions. Health calls occur four times per day: Before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. At these times, anyone who takes medication or wants to see the nurse for any reason will gather and travel to the Wellness Center together.
During other times of the day, campers who want to see the nurse will be assessed for urgency and taken immediately if necessary. In extreme medical emergencies, the nurse, health officer, or other staff with appropriate medical training and certification may travel to an injured or sick child anywhere on camp.
We will not call you if your child went to the Wellness Center for a band-aid or a headache or a runny nose. We will call you if your child needs to leave camp to see a Doctor for any reason or if any of the following conditions exist:
- temperature of 100 degrees or higher
- rash of an unknown cause
- redness, itchiness of the eyes
- green or yellow discharge from the nose or eyes
- vomiting or diarrhea
- chicken pox
- strep throat
- deep, hacking cough
- severe or weepy poison ivy, oak or sumac
- head lice
We work with a local Urgent Care Center, Hospital, and Dentist to provide more advanced care for campers who may need it. We will transport the camper in a camp vehicle to the proper facility, notify you immediately, and remain with the camper until you arrive and we decide further procedures together.
Here are some ways we may communicate with you:
- 48 Hour Call – to first-time camper parents, usually on a Tuesday
- Cabin Postcard – to all parents, mailed
- Conversion Call – to parent of campers who want to stay longer, usually on a Thursday
- Homesickness Call – will not happen before 48 hour call
- Medical Emergency – very rare
- Behavior Issue Call – exceptionally rare
- Letters – hopefully (we’re working on this)
- Photos – posted daily on Facebook
Phone - We apologize for any delay in someone returning your call. With such a large property, communication can take time. Our core staff, including the main office, kitchen, leadership team, and activity areas have radios that immediately transmit messages. Other staff are available via cell phone (our camp has excellent cell service). The Electronic Policy of our YMCA dictates that calls to you must be made on a landline camp phone. These are located in the Kitchen, the Trading Post, the Wellness Center, and the Main Office. It can take a while for our staff to get to one of these phones, even if that staff is immediately available. So when you call your camper’s Unit Leader, they will probably not be able to take your call. They are most likely with your camper, but they will call you back when they can get to a landline phone.
Email - We also give you the opportunity to send messages to your camper via email. These are printed out and hand-delivered each day at lunch time. Campers do not have access to electronic devices, so you won’t get a reply via email. We encourage campers to write letters home, but we can’t force them to.
Letters – In 2016, we have introduced a letter writing session for all campers. This is to encourage them to write home to you. This is notoriously quite difficult, so we’ll give it our best shot and see if we can get it to stick!
YMCA Camp Bernie staff are here for you. Please call or email us with any questions or concerns.
Senior Program Director
YMCA Camp Bernie
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my child be grouped with his/her friend?
We accept one request per camper and both children must request each other. With an age gap, the older child must agree to move down to the younger group. We do not allow multiple requests as this can lead to cliques and some kids feeling excluded.
What do you do to make first time campers feel comfortable?
We help the children make new friends through cabin chats and team building exercises. Additionally, we call parents/guardians within 48 hours of a first time overnight camper’s arrival.
What are the qualifications of your staff?
80% of counselors are 18 and up; mostly college students. 17 year old JCs are paired with a Senior Counselor in Overnight Camp, and lead younger groups in Day Camp. Counselors are interviewed, have a minimum of three references checked and clear a Criminal Background Screening. Specialty staff members carry certifications relevant to their program areas. On average, 1/3 of our counselors were campers at YMCA Camp Bernie helping them to relate to the children attending camp.
What is the Trading Post?
This is our camp store with snacks, drinks, clothing items and souvenirs. We carry a supply of toiletry items that campers may have forgotten. Campers visit the Trading Post on a daily basis.
What are your medical procedures?
A licensed RN, LPN or EMT is on property 24/7. There are regular call times and medication is stored and administered by the Nurse. Hackettstown Regional Medical Center is 20 minutes from Camp. Many staff members are certified in Basic First Aid and AED/CPR.
What do you do on rainy days?
If it is moderate, we run our regular program; campers will need rain gear. For heavy rain, we run special, pre-planned indoor activities. During a thunderstorm, all campers and staff will immediately be brought indoors.
How do I contact my child?
Parents can send e-mails via our website; these are delivered to the campers daily. We also encourage parents to send traditional letters. We do not allow cell phones, as in our experience, phone conversations lead to increased homesickness.
What are the bus pick-up and drop-off times/locations?
The Overnight bus from Ridgewood checks in at 12:00 p.m., with a departure of 12:30 p.m. On closing days, the bus departs Camp at 9:30 a.m., arriving at the Ridgewood YMCA at 11 a.m.
Will one week overnight campers be in separate cabins from two week campers?
No, one week campers will be placed with two week campers in the same cabins. They will be starting camp on the same day and time, receiving the same first day orientation as two week campers.
Can one week campers decide to stay for a second week?
Yes! We will be in contact with parents should a one week camper express interest in staying for the full session.
Can one week overnight campers sign up for specialty programs?
They are eligible for regular horseback riding and dirtbiking. They can only register for one of these two specialties, however. Advanced horseback riding is only available to two week campers.
Where do campers shower and use the bathroom?
Most campers will stay in cabins with full bathrooms and showers inside the cabin. Older boys, grades 7-10, stay in the rustic Nation area with a central bathhouse serving the entire unit.
Do campers pick their own activities?
Campers sign up for their morning activities, which we refer to as "free choice". These sign-ups take place during orientation on the first day of camp. Afternoon activities are pre-scheduled by our staff and campers rotate through activities with their cabin mates during these blocks.
Swim Lesson Question: If my child doesn’t want to swim how do you handle it?
It is the philosophy of the YMCA for safety purposes that all children should learn how to swim. Within the first 24 hours at camp all campers have a swim check to determine their ability to swim. Campers in grades 2-6 will be placed in an appropriate YMCA swim lesson class. For safety purposes, and in the interest of ensuring a positive teaching environment for all campers, if a camper is uncomfortable in the water or misbehaving they will sit out of the pool on the bench on the pool deck.
What happens to my unspent Trading Post money?
Trading Post money can be donated to our scholarship fund. Please contact us for any other arrangements.
What is your refund policy?
We do not give refunds after June 1st.