Friday, July 12, 2024

YMCA Camp Mason, in Hardwick – A Place Where Camp Counts for Kids and Staff

  • Open House planned for April 30, May 13 and May 21, 2023

Returning staffer, Anna Bilton, seen here with her husband, Todd, and their young kids. “I am thrilled to be returning to Camp Mason after a few summers away. I have missed everything about summer camp. I am putting together a great staff to create a positive camp experience for every camper,” she said.

Happy to announce the return of Anna Bilton, Camp Mason’s summer camp director from a few summers ago, Executive Director Keith VanDerzee said she knows how to create a fun environment for campers and staff alike.

“At Camp Mason we like to say camp counts. This means we never lose sight of the importance of each of our campers. We provide those positive outlets and impactful experiences so they can be their best selves,” said VanDerzee who’s worked as executive director for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) for 19 years including his current position at Camps Mason for the past nine.

Camp Mason’s executive director, Keith VanDerzee, still at the helm of Camp Mason after 19 years.

YMCA Camp Mason is a breath of fresh air bringing people back year after year. It’s a place where memories are made. Located in Hardwick, at 23 Birch Ridge Road, Camp Mason comprises about 650 acres of pristine forested land.

Campers experience a wide range of outdoor activities and develop their own sense of self. Activities include zip lining, pond ecology, ax throwing, aerial silks, archery, arts and crafts, movie making, band, dance, outdoor sports and much more.

Another devoted fan of Camp Mason is Carly Piwowarczyk who lives up the street. When her mom got a job there when she was seven, she immediately became a camp kid. She graduated from North Warren Regional High School and is now a counselor and for several summers the Day Camp program director.

“Camp is my home away from home across the street,” Piwowarczyk said jokingly.

According to Wikipedia, Camp Mason’s facilities include a boat house on the lake, a swimming pool, an area known as ‘The Courts’, which includes basketball and street hockey courts, a skate park and a gaga pit, an athletic field, two ropes courses, a dining hall and six cabins for each of the four villages.

Campers can sign up for off-site trips to explore the natural surroundings of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Worthington State Forest nearby. This close proximity to these protected natural areas allows Camp Mason to offer unique experiences like tubing on the Delaware River and hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Camp Mason has comfortable cabins with a low counselor to camper ratio.

“Camp Mason focuses on the four core values: caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. They are character building values. We infuse the values into all our programs so when campers learn the core values, it sets them up nicely to be productive adults” VanDersee said.

“Kids come back year after year, they love camp and some become staff members and dedicated alumni, volunteering their time helping to maintain this camp. That’s because this camp creates fond memories and lifelong friendships.” VanDerzee said.

Camp flags tell a story. Photo by MB Journe, 4/2023

Camp Masson’s overnight program is a diverse and inclusive community, last summer campers and staff came from 21 different states and 14 countries. This unique experience gives campers the opportunity to foster relationships with the global community.

Campers learn empathy, independence and self-worth. This YMCA camp experience shapes youths’ perspectives, hopefully they will grow up with empathy and appreciate diversity. Campers may carry this view with them through life and create a caring society.

Originally called YMCA Camp Washington in 1900, then YMCA Camp Wilson and Central New Jersey YMCA Camps. When estetablishing in Hardwick in the late 1970’s, it’s name changed yet again. It was named Ralph S. Mason to honor the man who was instrumental in rebuilding after a major flood in 1955.

Now simply called YMCA Camp Mason, it is recognized as the third oldest YMCA in America and for a total 124 years has welcomed generations of campers and families from all walks of life to spend their summers recreating in Hardwick. This longevity has helped make YMCA Camp Mason successful.

Staff will be on hand at the following Open House events:

* May 21st, 1 to 4 p.m. – Day Camp Open House
* May 13th and April 30th, 1 to 4 p.m. – Overnight Camp Open House

For more information check out the YMCA Camp Mason web site at https://campmason.org/#3 OR call 908 362-8217. RSVP is suggested.  Either call or email shani@campmason.org to let them know you’ll be attending.

Yelens Choban
MB Journe, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

MB has been a resident of Frelinghuysen for the past 22 years. She lives in an old farmhouse on the side of the road. She enjoys the simple life, puttering in her flower garden, practicing Qi Gong under her redbud tree, or creating art on the deck.
MB's experience as a journalist began when her son was quite young, she began writing for The Paulinskill Valley Chronicle, often bringing him to work with her. Her responsibilities were writing articles with photos, selling ads, and billing. This suited her, as a single mother not wanting to be separated from her small child.

She considers herself a lover of nature, often seen photographing its beauty. She has worked as a seasonal employee of YMCA Camp Mason for the past 17 years. She is a teacher and mentor of children, always emphasizing the YMCA’s core values - caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. She tries to listen carefully to each individual she interviews, getting their viewpoint. That is why she likes to write about the interesting people and places that make Warren County such a nice place to live.