By Sarah Braslow, Summer Marketing Intern
I have spent the last six summers here at Jacobs Camp. I spent three summers as a camper; one summer in the Camp’s staff-in-training program (now called Gesher), and two wonderful summers as a counselor. Now, as my seventh summer gets rolling, I have taken on a new role – something I have never done before.
I am the Marketing and Communications Intern for HSJ. I am a part of the amazing 2013 Marketing Team consisting of Ellen Alexander, our fearless leader and the Camp’s year-round Development Director; Romi Russek, our camp photographer for the second summer in a row all the way from Australia; and, a newcomer to the Camp, Alex McKeen – an award-winning videographer from New Jersey who is about to go off to college.
This morning was opening day for Session One and Olim A. I am accustomed to anxiously waiting in my cabin for my campers to run in – eyes wide with excitement, ready to get the summer started. But today was a brand new experience: I had the opportunity to be outside the Front Gate to observe the long line of cars already lined up outside of the camp hours before it opened.
I was accompanied by our videographer, armed with a video camera – ready to capture moments of reunion between friends who had not seen each other in a year, excited campers of all ages waving towards the camera as we walked down the road, and the ear-to-ear smiles that graced the faces of campers and parents alike.
I hadn’t experienced this scene since I was a camper four years ago. I had forgotten how much fun it was! (And how stinkin’ hot it was, too). [Editor’s Note: It could have been hotter.] Campers were running up and down the road while their parents took shelter in the comfort of their air-conditioned cars. Some parents even put up tents for shade and brought lawn chairs to sit in while they watched their children immerse themselves in the camp community before the gate even opened.
When my team and I were putting together our marketing plan for the summer a few weeks ago, this scene of utter happiness and complete excitement continually crossed my mind. Opening day is a very important piece of the marketing puzzle. First impressions are everything in today’s society, so it was imperative that we made a good one.
This year, we decided to try something a little different as we walked the road – aside from simply snapping photos and recording short video clips of the never-ending line of cars and jubilant camper faces. We decided to ask the campers and their parents questions about what Jacobs Camp meant to them. Questions for the kids ranged from “What’s your favorite camp meal?” to “What are you most looking forward to this summer?” I even concluded some of my interviews with the ever-important question “Are you single?” asked mainly to the younger kids just to see the reaction I got. (Selfish, I know, but I promise they were funny.) For parents, I asked questions like “Why did you send your child to HSJ?” and my personal favorite, “If you could be a camper for one day, what would you want to do?”
“These video clips have the potential to be amazing for camp promotion!” said the professional, marketing-oriented side of my brain. But while I was asking questions, my reasoning for asking these questions turned from hoping they would turn out to be great promotionally for the camp to genuinely wanting to know the answers to them. I was suddenly roped in, reliving my summers through the joy of this year’s campers, and hoping that my parents would have answered these questions as eloquently as parents did today.
When I asked Leigh Mansberg, parent of a Talmidim camper (Emma) and a second-year counselor (Ramie) – and a camper and staff alum herself – why Jacobs Camp is such a special place, she melded the laughs, smiles, and swelling hearts of the many people gathered on Morrison Road this morning into two simple words: “It’s home.”
I am constantly asked why I continue to come back to this place to work every summer. I’ve answered this question in many different ways: I just love it. I get to see all of my friends! I get to meet all kinds of new people. The Blob and the Wet Willie are really fun! I get to see my brother grow up and be a counselor.
No matter how many times I’ve answered why on earth I want to work at a summer camp for the entirety of my summer instead of hanging out with my college peers (and believe me, it’s quite often), I never feel like I’ve done this amazing sanctuary any justice. How can I make my friends understand how special this place really is?
Leigh Mansberg is right . . . Jacobs Camp is my home, too. I now have a new way to answer the question I’m asked before I embark on my journey to camp every summer: Henry S. Jacobs Camp is home to every person, big or small, old or young, who passes through its gate. And, even if my friends still don’t understand why I love this place so much, I know I will always have a community of past, present, and future Jacobs campers who will feel the same way as I do: that Jacobs is home.