by Maxine Fischbein
(AJNews) – Excitement is mounting as veteran and first-time campers count down to the first full opening of Camp BB-Riback since 2019.
First session goes July 10 – 31 and second session August 3 – 21. Wonder Week and Wonder Weekend options for younger campers are set for August.
Last summer’s partial opening of Camp BB-Riback – for a Leadership Training Conference for teen campers – provided an ideal opportunity to beta test new programming, says Camp Director Stacy Shaikin.
One exciting new initiative was a film program. There was a role for each camper, from screenwriting to directing, acting, film editing and technical support.
The program will be rolled out for campers of all ages during summer 2022.
“Things like the film program help bring camp into the 21st Century and update our programming to reflect the interests and talents of our campers,” says Camp Assistant Director (AD) Jordyn Wright. “These Gen Z campers have diverse interests. We want to give all of them the opportunity to express their talents and interests.”
Camp leaders including Shaikin, Wright and AD Micah Allen – who heads programming and oversees the camp coordinators and camper units – are tweaking sports programming with some units to culminate in weekly competitions.
Everything old will be new again as staff throw open the gates to the camp, welcoming kids who already know the ropes and a larger-than-usual group of novice campers who will put on their blue and white sweaters for the first time.
“We are really looking at every aspect of land, aquatic and fine arts activities and our general programming and working on how we can elevate it and help kids develop their skills and their interests with friends who will be at camp for years to come,” Wright told AJNews.
Some 140 campers were already registered when AJNews spoke with Shaikin in early April.
“We will see a steady uptick in camper registrations throughout May, June and even July,” Shaikin predicted, adding that registration is closing in on pre-pandemic numbers.
Safety is always job one at camp, with protocols currently under review including those related to COVID-19.
“We’ve put together a health and safety policy committee made up of a diverse group of individuals from both Edmonton and Calgary,” Shaikin said.
There is a mix of old and new on the staff roster. Like ADs Allen and Wright, the camp cook is returning and a number of veteran counsellors are stepping into coordinator and specialist roles. The return of well-seasoned local staff ensures the continuity of camp traditions 66 years in the making.
Mads Fox, who piloted the highly-anticipated film program, is one of a growing cadre of overseas staff. Fox will be returning from the UK to serve as the AD responsible for all arts-related programming. She is also a skilled lifeguard.
Shaikin, Allen and Wright marvel at the depth, diversity and dedication brought to the camp by international staff serving in a variety of specialty areas. “International staff this year hail from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Cyprus, Mexico, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand,” says Wright.
“We partner with Camp Canada, a program run by Nyquest, who extensively screen and organize applicants based on their skills.”
International staff are recruited based on current camp needs and complement the skills and talents of local staff.
International camp staffers for 2022 include qualified lifeguards and operators for high ropes, the rock climbing wall and zipline, Wright said.
They come with a great work ethic,” Shaikin told AJNews. “For many, camp is not their first job. It’s great to get to know them and see how seamlessly they fit into the camp experience.”
“They are really such assets in the tone that they set day to day. They provide great role modeling and mentoring for our local staff,” said Shaikin. “It makes them more comfortable knowing that the weight of caring for campers is not only on them.”
“We pride ourselves on being a safe Jewish space for the campers and counsellors in our home community of Alberta, but bringing in staff from other countries and cultures facilitates an exchange I don’t think we could get anywhere else,” says Wright.
“There is something so special about showing people from around the world what the Jewish community of Alberta has to offer and imparting positive, meaningful experiences within the Jewish community to people who will go home and share that experience with their friends and family, especially in a time where antisemitism is so pervasive in the world,” adds Wright.
“International staff also bring a fresh set of eyes and tremendous creativity to our camp community. They are so grateful to be here with us and it shows in how well-run activities are and how well they engage with our campers. Our Israeli Shlichim also bring fresh Judaic programming and a strong connection to Israel in many aspects of camp life.”
Back to BB-Riback
“We are getting back in the groove and will be maximizing the fun factor in 2022,” promises Stacy Shaikin.
According to Jordyn Wright, the question guiding staff efforts is, “How can we bring an extra something to every aspect of camp life that makes it more meaningful for the kids?”
“We are in the midst of working closely with every activity specialist and program planner to elevate each experience,” adds Wright. “No activity will look quite the same. We have a brand-new generation of campers who deserve programming that incorporates their interests and challenges them to grow in a safe, healthy way.”
Campers can look forward to a change in the dance rotation, says Micah Allen, including a new focus on mindfulness and yoga.
“It will be meaningful for the kids to learn meditation, mindfulness and gratitude, and just slow things down in a really fast-paced environment. These skills can really help them in the future too, not just in an isolated camp environment,” Allen says.
In addition to camp highlights like the ropes course, horseback riding, sports and other classic camp rotations, there are facility improvements that 2022 campers can look forward to, says Shaikin.
There is a new dock and deck at the waterfront and the camp swimming pool is getting a new liner. Other projects currently underway are the completion of a new camp office and the highly-anticipated refurbishment of cabins. Beginning in May, the west side cabins will receive new flooring.
Over the past few years, Micah Allen and Jordyn Wright have been the driving forces behind inclusion training for Camp BB-Riback staff.
“Creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe to express themselves, make friends, and try new things is so important…. By implementing longer, more involved staff training, we can give our counsellors more tools to create and maintain a safe environment,” Wright told AJNews.
“The LEAD [Let’s Educate, Advocate and Do] program emphasizes mental health advocacy and training,” Allen said, describing an all day, intensive workshop that arms staff with a variety of examples, activities and skills.
“I saw a huge change in staff attitudes toward situations that can occur and their responses to them, which is very encouraging to see.” Allen said.
Between Friends also provides training so that camp staff are better able to support campers with disabilities, Allen said.
Staff training sessions also focus on awareness and information about ADHD and learning disabilities.
You’ll have the time of your life
“We’ve missed our campers over the past two years. Many are returning and we are excited to see them and all the new campers including younger siblings. It is always nice to see that familial chain,” says Micah Allen.
“We are excited to welcome the kids back, have some true normalcy, and just celebrate that we’ve managed two years of this virus,” adds Allen. “We are going to have an awesome summer like we did a few years ago.”
“This summer is going to be incredible and full of some truly special moments for each camper,” echoes Wright, who has an important message for parents:
“If you want your kids and teens to develop their Jewish identity, reconnect with themselves and the outdoors, and spend some face-to-face time with their friends, Camp BB is the place to send them!”
Wright knows this from years of experience as a camper and a camp professional.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am without having gone to camp and given myself to the community. Especially in such an isolated and tech-heavy time in the world, camp is a place where kids and teens can try new things, spend real quality time with their peers, and connect to nature and their community without the pressures and surveillances of the modern world,” Wright says.
If that leaves adult readers craving a do-over – or the opportunity to experience Camp BB-Riback for the first time – make sure to sign up for the 66 anniversary camp reunion taking place June 24-26 (see sidebar for details).
For more information about Camp BB-Riback, or to register your kids, go to https://campbb.com/.
Maxine Fischbein is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.