Camp Laurel is ideally located in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine, 17 miles west from the state capital of Augusta.
Camp Laurel is a co-ed camp with a strong emphasis on instruction and participation. Most activities are not co-ed. Athletics, for example, are all grouped by gender, and by ability within age groups, so that all sports are most appropriate to each group. We take the very best elements from a single-sex camp and combine them with the best elements of a co-ed camp. Our program for girls and boys is very strong and instructionally-based. Both programs place an emphasis on high-quality skill development.
Last year, we welcomed campers from 23 states. Certain geographic areas are represented more heavily than others, since most of our campers hear about Camp Laurel through friendships with current camp families. Our largest group comes from the East Coast: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Baltimore/Washington, South Florida and Boston are well represented. The New York area is the largest of those groups, with campers evenly divided between Manhattan, Westchester, Fairfield County, Northern New Jersey, and Long Island. Campers from the Baltimore/Washington, South Florida, Boston and Philadelphia areas form the next largest groups. We also welcome campers from many other states, including Texas, Colorado and California. Oversees campers also make up a small segment of our population.
Jeremy “Jem” Sollinger started as a camper at Laurel in 1980, went on to be a counselor, Campus Leader and now serves as Managing Partner and Director with his wife Debbie. Jem is a graduate of Union College where he was a four-year varsity soccer player and captain of the Alpine ski team. He is actively involved with the American Camp Association and is a former member of the Tri-State Camping Conference Steering Committee. Jem is a former member of the Board of Maine Summer Camps, Maine Youth Camping Association and Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, Connecticut. A native of Westport, Connecticut, Jem assumed the directorship of a soccer camp in Fairfield County when he was 19 and found his calling. He currently serves on the board of Top of the Hill Club, the alumni backbone of the Staples High School soccer program. Jem lives in Weston, Connecticut with Debbie and their daughters Anabel, Madeline and Tess.
Debbie Sollinger became a Director of Camp Laurel in 2007 and has spent every summer since 1998 (the year she met Jem) in Maine. She works closely with the head counselors, staff and campers, focusing on camper and staff relations, and oversees the camp health center. Debbie is from Baltimore, Maryland, where she attended the Park School and was a member of the varsity lacrosse and field hockey teams. A graduate of the University of Texas, Debbie is a certified social worker and a graduate of Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiller School of Social Work. She has also trained as a family therapist at the Ackerman Institute in New York City. Debbie previously served on the board of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. While consumed by camp 24/7 in the summer, in the “offseason” she balances her role as Managing Partner/Director and mother to Anabel, Madeline and Tess and golden retriever Thea.
A deep and abiding commitment to children and their happiness is shared by all Laurel staff members. Counselors are college students and experienced teachers from throughout the United States drawn to Laurel by recommendation and reputation. Most are over the age of 20. They are attracted to Laurel by a program that allows them to be creative and encourages their full participation. With a camper-to-staff ratio of better than 3:1, counselors have the opportunity to provide each camper ample personal attention.
Laurel’s program is designed to expose younger campers to a wide variety of new activities. Younger campers have certain requirements for their schedules, such as regular swim lessons, tennis lessons, team sports, etc., but are also able to participate in activities of particular interest. Careful, professional guidance by Laurel’s staff goes into the development of each camper’s program.
Each age at Laurel is treated differently. As campers grow older, they enjoy more choice in determining their schedule. All programs for older campers are individualized and each camper follows his or her personal schedule for each of the program days. Because Laurel offers a wide variety of activities, with a great deal of in-depth instruction, it is quite possible for older campers to specialize in one or two areas of interest and to receive excellent instruction in these activities.
Wake-up for Acadian, Apache, Baxter and Sequoian campers is 7:45. Wake-up for Bec and Bago campers is 8:10. Bedtime varies by age as well. Our youngest campers are in bed by 8:30. As campers get older, their time for lights out gets progressively later.
We are very experienced with transportation arrangements to camp. We have children arriving from all over the world and can work with you to arrange all details.
We use Boston and Portland as the central meeting points for most campers, and arrange to meet campers flying into both cities. In addition, we have chaperoned group trips from several cities. Campers arriving from overseas and from non-chaperoned cities either fly or drive directly to Boston or Portland and are met by Laurel staff. We are aware of the importance of proper transportation for our campers and always meet flights as children arrive. We would be glad to discuss your specific situation in detail.
At Laurel we are not a “one-size fits all”. The whole issue of structured/non-structured and competitive/non-competitive is one that is destined for a great deal of misinformation and cross claims by varying directors.
In most ways, Laurel is a very “structured” camp. We have set schedules for the day, children know what they will be doing each day and are expected to follow through with their programs. On the other hand, we could be considered less “structured” than some camps, since our program is scheduled individually for older campers.
Labels are always difficult. We consider ourselves to be a structured camp with a semi-individual program. As a young person reaches the teenage years, they have choice in their program, but with a great deal of guidance and commitment to follow through on their programs.
Laurel is not a “hang out” camp. It is an extremely busy and dynamic program. Our campers are engaged and participate fully in our program.
Competitive or non-competitive? Another issue subject to distortion in the camping community. We have in-camp leagues and out-of-camp teams in many programs. We compete with other camps in boys’ and girls’ soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, tennis, archery, softball, swimming and sailing, and yet, we are considered by most to be a “moderately competitive” camp.
We enjoy this dichotomy as we have found that we can operate our camp in a manner that will challenge those looking for a great deal of sports competition yet also suit campers who are not “the best athletes” and want to be in an atmosphere where they can achieve success in ways not related to athletics.
We recognize each camper’s strengths and encourage the pursuit of growth in those skills.
Laurel is divided into six campuses, three for boys and three for girls. The size of each campus allows us to provide a very personal, close-knit atmosphere and a great deal of individual attention. Campuses are further broken into smaller groups, assigned by grade completed in school.
Each camp day is unique, but there is a good deal of regularity to the daily program. Campers select certain electives twice during the summer. Below is a thumbnail portrait of a typical day:
Following wake-up and breakfast, each camp group joins together for morning “Cove” or a primer for the day ahead.
After a short cabin “clean up,” campers go to three morning activities.
Following morning activity, there is a buffet lunch and “rest hour” or quiet time to relax, read and spend time with the friends with whom you live.
Following rest hour, there are two additional activity periods similar to the morning as well as an all-camp 6th period, in which older campers spontaneously choose what programs they wish for one hour. More structure is provided for our younger campers during 6th period and this time is often used for shower hour and down-time before dinner.
After 6th period, there is a wash-up, followed by dinner. After dinner and evening Cove, campers are with their group for evening program and until their cabin is in bed. Evening programs range from talent shows to sports leagues “under the lights,” to campfires and so on. Camper bedtime is from 8:30 to 11:00, based upon age.
While this represents a brief portrait, there is far too much going on to describe on paper. Weekly trips, hikes, sight-seeing excursions, intercamp competitions, theatre productions, football and volleyball leagues, etc. make up some of our special activities and events.
There is intercamp competition with other camps in our area in such activities as tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, softball, volleyball, sailing, swimming and archery. Laurel’s philosophy is to allow any camper who wants to participate, to be “on” the out-of-camp team.
No. But this does not mean that there is “clothes competition” at our camp. The dress is very casual, without emphasis on who is wearing what or how much it costs. We promote a “down-to-earth” culture without undue emphasis on clothing and “who has what”. We send a suggested clothing and equipment list to help you in your packing. There is a modest amount of required uniform for sports games, trips, special events, etc.
Yes, all cabins have electricity. In addition, a “night-light” is left on throughout the evening in most cabins.
No. Camp Laurel is a non-denominational camp. We have no services but do join together for a non-denominational Camp Fire on Friday evenings. Camp Laurel accepts and welcomes campers and staff from all backgrounds, religions and faiths.
Camp Laurel fronts on spring-fed Echo Lake which has 8 miles of shoreline. The crystal-clear lake is naturally warm and average temperatures range from 75-80 degrees during the day.
Campers, counselors and guests tell us our food is excellent. We have fruit available four times every day, daily salad and fruit bars at lunch and dinner, and a pasta bar at every evening meal. Our Chef takes special pride in his baked breads, cakes and cookies. Our head chef makes soup daily from scratch.