By Jennifer Gladstone
Amy Bram has lived and breathed camp for more than 20 years. As the new director of Camp Milldale she is poised to take on what she sees as an incredible opportunity … to be the leader of one Baltimore’s top Jewish Day Camps. And she’s more than ready … as Amy puts it, “Camp directing is my calling.”
After all, Amy discovered that calling at a young age. She grew up in Wisconsin. Her parents went to camp and wanted the same for her. Her biggest challenge was simply deciding which one. Should it be day camp or sleep away? Art camp, sports camp or even Girl Scout camp?
Although she skipped around many different camps for years, it wasn’t until her rabbi conned her into Jewish camp that she began to make those strong camp connections she had heard about.
Since that summer, Amy has dedicated herself to Jewish camps across the country, from California to New York and Georgia, and many places in between. One of those jobs was the outdoor adventure coordinator at Camp Louise. “I have an unofficial master’s degree on camps.”
The plan now, is to take all that passion, and as she says, her ruach, her great spirit, and mold Camp Milldale into a camp that shapes children’s lives. “I am so passionate about day camp. People have to know that all of that magic, the bonding, is not limited to overnight camps.”
Amy wants her campers to experience that magic while finding their own Jewish identities.
Her first step is making music a focal point. “You cannot find one person who went to Jewish sleep away camp who can’t sing about 200 songs and get that special feeling. I’m the kind of person who sings, jumps around, gets excited- it’s contagious!”
She also is focusing on the Milldale staff. There will be training and planning well before the campers get off the bus. “I don’t want bunk time to be the same old thing every week. We want to add creativity to bunk and specialty programming to ensure that each week is unique.”
Big Changes For Milldale!
Making changes to a summer camp can be a touchy business. People love their camps. Amy gets this, but she still has some big changes planned. Most of them won’t be seen with your eyes … but campers and staff will feel them with their hearts.
First, music will be at the center of all camp activities. Amy wants every part of the day to be an event. She says meals and even transition times, when campers are moving from one activity to another, can be filled with song.
The second focus is on the staff. She knows that those who decide to work at a camp do so because they like being with the kids, but she says they don’t always get the support and training to make the experience meaningful. This year, staff will have the resources to enrich the camp experience for them and the children. Training in things like team-building and conflict resolution will be valuable tools far beyond camp.
Finally, Milldale campers will have more time to find activities they love and focus on them. Amy is dividing the day into four pillars: aquatics, athletics, arts & culture and sustainability. Each pillar will have a specialist overseeing the staff. Campers will have more opportunities to try sports … from gaga to archery, or the arts like performing and crafts. Once they find their passion, older campers will have a chance to choose their own electives.
Judaism will be used as a foundation for all of this. Amy says one day they might play kickball in Hebrew, or maybe they will talk about an athlete who had to choose between religion and the game.
Ultimately, Amy hopes that each camper will get off the bus filled with stories that make the family “ooh and aah.” Then, she believes, she has done her job.