Author Archives: Derek Cummings

Have Cows-Will Travel

February 16, 2012 8:31 pm

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Unlikely hobby for two professionals unexpectedly helps business’ bottom line

Like many Baltimore/Washington D.C. area residents, Periwinkle and Lulu (two Jersey cows) enjoy beating the summer heat by vacationing in New England. Not that they have a choice in the matter, but their owner George Stone does. George, a neurobiologist and recent retiree from the National Institutes of Health, travels from his suburban Maryland home to Maine every summer with cows in tow to run the operations of a family camp and retreat center that he owns with his wife, Holly.

During the fall, winter and spring, Periwinkle and Lulu live nearby the Stones on a small farm owned by George’s close friend and family pediatrician, Mel Stern. Mel, whose pediatric practice is also at the farm, has kept a dairy cow or two for over 30 years. “Free milk,” explains Dr. Stern. George and Mel take turns to ease the load of the twice-daily milking, but George ends up using most of the milk. “We’ve gotten into making cheese,” says George. “We play around with hard cheeses like Cheddar and Gouda and even mold-ripened cheeses like Camembert.” Holly likes to make yogurt and cottage cheese with the milk.

But the summer months in Maine are the real reason the Stones keep Periwinkle and Lulu. A few years back, the Director of their family camp and retreat center had an idea to incorporate a couple of dairy cows into the program in order to: (1) cut food costs; (2) add something fun to the program; and (3) give them something unique to market themselves to potential customers. “It’s been a real success,” said David Brunner, Director of Medomak Camp and Retreat Center. “Along with the cows, we’ve implemented an organic production garden that allows us to grow almost all of the vegetables we use for our two commercial kitchens. Initially, I had hoped we would save money with the garden and cows, but as anyone who buys organic knows, it can be much more expensive. But because of our scale, we’ve been able to keep our food costs neutral, which when you think about it is pretty amazing. So the real payoff has been that it allows us to market ourselves as serving food using organic, fresh, ultra-local, farm-to-table vegetables and dairy. It really sets us apart from your typical retreat/conference center or vacation destination. And, everyone LOVES milking the cows.”

Periwinkle and Lulu are taking a much deserved break from milking right now. They are living at the Stern farm, eating hay, and simply enjoying the mild winter weather Maryland has been experiencing. But summer is coming, and they are both due with calves in the spring. Just in time to travel to Maine.

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If you’d like more information about Periwinkle and Lulu, their owners and Medomak Camp and Retreat Center in Maine, please call David Brunner at (301) 854-9100 or e-mail David at family@medomakcamp.com

Family Camp is a Unique American Tradition

October 8, 2010 8:32 pm

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The camp experience is a distinct American tradition. With more than 140 years of history, camp as we know it today has its roots deeply planted in American soil. While fashion, music, and hobbies have changed over the years, camp has always been a place where children could meet new friends, discover new interests and compete against their own abilities in the context of fun and games.

Over the years the camp tradition has evolved. Children’s camps now offer everything from climbing walls, to trapeze instruction and pilot lessons. Camps specialize in everything under the sun, from scuba diving to rock and roll bands and anything in between. Other camps target a specific population; autistic children, weight loss seekers, or cancer patients. However, over the past 10 years a new concept in camp has emerged, Summer Camp for Families.

Often kids camps have offered a “shoulder season” to their camper’s families so they could spend a few days at camp together. The YMCA and religious organizations have also offered a week at camp for the family to spend together. However, over the past 12 years a new segment of summer camps has begun to attract a new group of campers. American Camp Associated accredited summer camps that dedicate their entire season to traditional, and some not so traditional, summer camp activities for family members are becoming more and more popular.

Camper’s who have never experienced summer camp, ages 2 to 102, have the opportunity to engage in age appropriate activities led by trained counselors. Preschools make puppets and direct their own productions to the delight of their older siblings and parents. School age children learn to build a shelter in the woods, hit a bull’s eye in archery or create paper making their own journals. Teens are trained to sail, learn the lay of the darkroom in order to develop photographs or participate in a lively game of ultimate Frisbee. Adults can join a yoga class, have a massage by a certified masseuse, taste-test locally brewed beer or just take time out to relax by themselves or with their spouse. Families’ tye-dye shirts, play kickball, explore the lake by kayak or canoe, or stargaze together. Even Grandparents get the good fortune to experience summer camp with their kids and grandkids.

As summer camp has advanced through history campers who have never had the chance to experience this slice of summer now have the opportunity to experience it with the ones they love. Welcome to the best summer of your life

Family Camp as Health Care

March 17, 2010 8:34 pm

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In this era of multi-tasking, procrastinating, lack of time, and extreme work loads, what is the ideal way to improve mental health? Ever consider a stress free family vacation? I’m not talking about a change of scenery where the computer is on the lap and the blackberry to the ear, checking in with the office every hour on the hour. Not the vacation where grocery shopping, cooking three meals a day, and clean up takes up several hours each day. Nor time off spent planning activities or day trips to keep the family happy and active. With more American workers putting in more time on the job, does letting someone else handle the details of a perfect vacation sound to good to be true?

All you need to determine is what week your family wants to get away and with one phone call or click of your mouse someone else will multi-task for you. Food? Check. Accommodations? Check. Activities for yourself, your spouse, and your children? Check, check, check! Skeptical? Then you have never heard of the concept of family camp.

The notion of attending camp as a family has grown in popularity over the past decade as adults find that the camp experience and rediscovering an enthusiasm for nature and lakeside fun is no longer just for kids. The American Camp Association (ACA), which accredits camps and represents about a quarter of the industry, notes a 24 percent increase in family camps over the past few years proving it’s not necessary to go to Yosemite to get an outdoor experience. There are plenty of options, in every part of the country.
At Family Camp, families have the time to create memories together, not just between parents and children, but with other families, too. Grown-ups spend time with the same group, eating, going on morning walks, taking yoga classes, or sharing in a happy hour tasting local beer and cheeses. Kids enjoy impromptu dive contests off the floating dock, the opportunity to milk a cow for the first time, and free time spent with new friends shooting baskets, hula-hooping, and challenging each other in foosball. Family kickball games and sunset canoe rides give families time together that they might not experience at home. All this and more allows the entire camp to become an extended family of sorts for the week.
David Brunner, director at Medomak Family Camp in Washington, Maine, explains that there is a great pull for families to “come to camp and let us plan the meals, activities and a few surprises each week.” Friendship, along with the activities and natural setting, is what gives Medomak Camp up to a 50 percent retention rate with campers, Brunner says. “The best ambassadors for family camp are our campers themselves.”
Like many other programs around the country, there is a worry free mentality that takes over the families who vacation at Medomak. Because a chef prepares three healthy, delicious meals each day and staff plans a variety of daily activities, campers have more time to relax and unwind. According to Ralph Ringer of Baltimore, MD, “My family looks forward to camp each summer. Medomak’s planning and attention to detail makes this the most stress free vacation we have ever taken.” At family camp, families love the idea that children have a consistent place to anchor their summer memories in a setting that encourages them to become more independent. They’ll have the time of their lives while allowing their parents to share in the fun.

With stress in your everyday life why not rely on someone else to plan ahead so you have an entire week to unplug, unwind, and relax. Imagine hearing your children’s laughter, roasting marshmallows around the campfire, and seeing your children accomplish something they never imagined. It’s the best healthcare you’ll ever invest in!

Family Camp–The Perfect Gift for Your Family

December 1, 2009 8:36 pm

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For the holidays buy your family the gift of time together

There is a solution to a problem many families face every holiday season. Now that the winter holidays have crept up on us we are looking into our wallets and wondering what we can give our family that will be of value emotionally as well as monetarily. This year why not invest in quality time together as a family? With the shaky economy, most families have to choose between conspicuous consumption and family vacations. Others are eliminating the giving of “stuff” altogether and instead giving the gift of a family holiday for the holidays.

Maureen Skelly of Clarksville, Maryland did just that last December. Maureen knew that her children, Sean 14, Kaitlin 11 and Clare 8 had enjoyed their vacation to Medomak Family Camp in Maine the summer before and wanted them to experience reconnecting with each other once again. The kids loved swimming, arts & crafts, land sports, basketball and archery. Maureen enjoyed book club, yoga, massage and long afternoons lounging by the lake. Her husband, Pat, fished, enjoyed Maine beer and cheese and sculling on a pristine lake. Everyone had the opportunity to relive simpler times while participating in activities together. Last Christmas Maureen and Pat offered their children the choice of returning to Medomak or presents under the tree. Without hesitation the kids chose the family vacation. According to Skelly, “It’s about spending quality time together and less about accumulating stuff. It feels more real. For our family reconnecting with each other, making our time spent together count and smart spending are the new golden rules. ”

The Perfect Inter-generational vacation

October 8, 2009 8:34 pm

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Grandparent Searches for a Gift with Meaning

Jan Okey is a grandparent of 7. Until recently she faced a dilemma with gift-giving. Her predicament had been finding gifts that truly nurture, enrich and entertain in addition to making her grandchildren squeal with delight. She found time and time again that the hottest toy was fun for a few hours: any real lasting value, however, was unpredictable at best. Even more, it disappointed Jan that she could never seem to enjoy the gifts with her grandchildren. Seeking a solution, Jan took a couple of cues from some of her contemporaries who had helped make family vacations a reality.

With this in mind, she set out to find a gift for the entire family that would make everyone smile, including her. SHE FOUND FAMILY CAMP. Family camp (think traditional summer camp grown-up-friendly with comfortable beds and good food) turned out to be the best vacation the entire family has taken together. Jan worked the web for family camps and landed on Medomak Camp (www.medomakcamp.com), located on a pristine lake in the mid-coast region of Maine. Different from a typical summer camp family camp cater to the entire family not just kids and are very good at offering a variety of multi-generational activities. Medomak offers eight, one-week sessions with only family fun in mind. The kids love swimming, arts and crafts, land sports, basketball, and archery, while mom enjoys book club, yoga, massage, and long afternoons lounging by the lake. Dad can fish, enjoy a Maine beer and cheese tasting, and row or canoe in the early morning calm. But what Jan raves about most is the opportunity to relive simpler times while participating in activities with her grandkids: No video games, computers, or continuous TV, just fun catching fire-flies, tie-dying t-shirts, paddling a canoe together while watching the sunset and enjoying uncomplicated pleasures and reconnecting as family.

Small Business Making it Through Rough Economic Times

December 16, 2008 8:36 pm

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For Businesses in Hard Times, Community Makes the Difference

Like most businesses in America, times are tough for Medomak Camp, a popular summer family vacation tradition (http://www.medomakcamp.com ). With consumer confidence low, household debt high and 401k accounts halved, discretionary spending is grinding to a halt and Medomak too is feeling the pain.

The timing of the economic mess and its halting effect on spending couldn’t have come at a worse time for a small business like Medomak Family Camp of Washington, Maine. Medomak, a summer camp for the entire family (see: Playtime for All Ages, Yankee Magazine, May/June 2007) began taking reservations for the 2009 summer months on October 1st. In a typical year, 20% of the camp’s capacity is reserved by Thanksgiving. Seven weeks into this year’s registration the fact that only 5% of the cabins are spoken for has Director, David Brunner, worried. According to Brunner, “If the camp continues to register families at this same anemic rate, Medomak may not be able to open its doors this coming summer”.

The reality of a shuttered camp means the loss of twenty five seasonal and four full-time jobs. It also means local farmers, restaurant, market, and hardware store owners will lose one of their largest and most steady customers. For these small town merchants this loss of summer revenue will have an unmistakable impact on their bottom line. Less consequential, but still meaningful, is the loss to many families of their favorite vacation spot, a cherished place of personal growth and family bonding., that won’t be easily matched in quality and affordability. It is with these sad eventualities in mind that Brunner, together with the owners of Medomak, looked for a creative way to make camp as affordable as possible. What they came around to quickly is that like many small businesses, Medomak has a niche: community.

Creating friendships with many of the 50% or so families that return to Medomak annually translates into a strong community. For the upcoming summer, Medomak has restructured its tuition model to provide an incentive for families in that vibrant community to go out and recruit more campers. Says Brunner, “We basically said to our campers that we can’t do this without you, so if you help us, if you get us closer to full capacity, we will make it much cheaper to come to camp.” The concept is really rather simple, based on economy of scale. Medomak has shared with prospective new and returning campers its breakeven point as part of its tuition schedule. If our campers are willing to help us get above our breakeven point of 75% occupancy, we will rebate the extra money back to them.

For families the savings can amount to about $800 in the total cost of tuition. Whereas last summer a family of four spent $4000 for the all-inclusive week at Medomak, at full occupancy under the new pricing tuition should be closer to $3200. Initial reactions from former campers are very positive. Bob and Loy Miller, returning campers form Downington, PA summed it up well, “Good idea. We already talked up Medomak to friends but will make an extra effort for 2009, for Medomak and for us.” As the camp community rallies, it will result in a welcome savings for families struggling with the decision to go on vacation next summer.

Affordable and Local Family Vacations Makes Sense in This Economy

April 21, 2008 8:37 pm

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Summer 2008- Affordable Local Family Vacations are Key

With the weak US dollar and an uncertain economy many families are re-examining their summer vacation plans. Daily news stories on the weakened economy, the high cost of gasoline and goods, and the headaches of air travel are making many Americans nervous. Some families are choosing to forgo a summer vacation all together. Others have chosen to rent beach homes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day to take advantage of off-season rates or are shortening their week vacation to a few days.

The vast majority of summer travelers will be driving to their destinations and AAA expects gas prices to keep rising. $4 a gallon gas prices are predicted by summer’s end. Many speculate that a large number of families are going back to the basics, visiting relatives or local attractions. Families are staying local, trying to keep it simple, back to basics, wholesome and old-fashioned. Finding a one day drive family vacation spot is becoming essential for many.

A recent trend in family travel that has always appealed to the budget-minded family now seems to be making a lot more sense in these uncertain economic times. Summer Camp for the entire family has been gaining in popularity over the last 10 years. Medomak Camp, in Washington, Maine, is one such camp. Easily drivable from Boston, New York, Philadelphia or the Baltimore/D.C. area Medomak is an alternative vacation many families are talking about. Tuition includes accommodations, great food and counselor- led planned activities. Rates for a family of four begin at $2700. With no hidden costs or rental fees parents can budget for vacation and know exactly what they will spend. No need to make dinner reservations or cook for the week, spend extra money on putt-putt golf or movies for the kids or worry about refilling the gas tank. Family camp offers families a chance to unwind, relax and reconnect without the worry of constantly pulling out their credit card. With the economic climate of late many families find this close-by, affordable, all-inclusive deal more than appealing.

Medomak Becomes the FIRST Full-Season, Secular Family Camp to be Accredited by the American Camp Association

March 1, 2007 8:38 pm

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Silver Spring, Maryland native, Holly Stone, was just a young girl of twelve when she first headed north to spend her summer at Medomak Camp in Washington, Maine. For ten summers, between 1966 and 1976, Holly morphed from camper to counselor to head counselor at the traditional summer camp she called home each summer.

In 1992, Clarksville, MD residents, Holly and, George Stone learned that Holly’s beloved camp was to be sold. Although the camp was in a state of disrepair Holly could not bear the thought of the camp traditions that had become a part of her, dying. So in October 1994 Holly & George took a leap of faith and bought the 250 acre property.

The summer of 1995 Medomak Camp reopened as one of the first secular, all season family camp in America. Yes, that first season only lasted three weeks and consisted of Holly & George, their four children, friends from the Baltimore/Washington area as well as alumni who came to camp to help the Stone’s clean and repair the facility. However, working around camp in the mornings gave way to play time in the afternoon by the lake with the children. Once the camp was spiffed up the consensus was, “No boy’s camp, no girl’s camp, FAMILY CAMP! And the idea was firmly planted.

Now, twelve years later, Medomak Camp has an eight week season offering one week sessions of family camp. Recently the camp voluntarily passed over 300 health and safety standards achieving accreditation by the American Camp Association. ACA accreditation assures families that the camp has made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for children as well as adults.

According to ACA, over the past 4 years, the number of accredited camps reporting family camping has increased 24 percent. Family Camps help parents introduce the camp experience to younger children who have not yet experienced parental separation and feel this “going to camp together” prepares them for going to camp on their own. Ultimately, Family Camp helps parents, as well as grandparents looking for a healthy, positive experience to have with their children an environment that allows them to bond, grow closer and build relationships as a family.

Family Camp as Training Wheels for Sleep Away Camp

December 5, 2006 8:38 pm

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Training wheels for sleep away camp

Just as parents attach training wheels to a two wheeler in order to provide a safe and easy transition from a tricycle to a bicycle they can now do the same to prepare their children for summer camp. American Camp Association accredited Family Camps offer children the opportunity to attend a week long camp away from home for the first time with their parents and siblings.

Pam Ehrenreich’s two children, ages 7 & 9, specifically asked their mom to find a sleep away camp that they could all attend together. After doing extensive research on the web Pam, from Ellicott City MD, settled on Medomak Camp, located in the mid-coast area of Maine. After attending a week of camp together this past summer Pam now feels her children are ready to try their wings and attend a camp solo next summer.

Family camp is a perfect opportunity for children to gain a sense of what camp is. They learn what to expect and what is expected of them. At Medomak kids attend morning activities with other campers their own age, such as archery, tennis and sailing. After lunch the entire family spends time together at the sandy cove lakeside. Fathers and daughters fish together, siblings’ tye-dye shirts, and parents read that neglected novel while their children swim under the watchful eye of the lifeguards.

While the kids get to try on camp, the parents also get the opportunity to see what safety measures and procedures are in place as well as the level of professionalism in the staff that camps strive for. Camp training wheels is a safety net that is a win-win situation for families. Parents and kids get to rid any insecurity they might have about sleep away camp while having a memorable fun family vacation together.

That wind in your face feeling when riding a bike independently at full speed is the same freedom children feel at camp when paddling their own kayak, hitting the bulls eye or receiving thunderous applause for a campfire skit. It is at this moment parents realize that the training wheels are ready to come off.

Brits are Discovering a New Kind of Family Vacation in the States

April 3, 2006 8:39 pm

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Brits are Discovering Travel in the US is Affordable, Fun and Family Friendly

Several British families have discovered a perfect vacation spot in the Northeastern United States. According to the “Discover New England” website, the northeastern U.S. attracts a little less than 10% of all British visitors to the United States. Families from London, Cambridge and Essex have vacationed at Medomak Camp in Washington, Maine. With the value of the dollar strong and camp tuition being all inclusive, more and more Brits are finding it an affordable way to not only visit but experience the United States.

Medomak Camp, founded in 1904, is a traditional American summer camp that today has a unique twist; we welcome the entire family! We offer eight, one week sessions of camp fun for ages 2 to 102! Families sleep on comfortable beds in spacious pine cabins, eat delicious hearty meals prepared by our chef (using fresh herbs and vegetables from our organic gardens) and enjoy activities such as archery, arts and crafts, tennis and naturalist activities. For our adult campers we also offer yoga, gallery walks, Maine beer and cheese tasting as well as offering massages by a certified massage therapist on staff. Our camp boasts a sandy cove on a pristine lake where campers can sail, swim, fish, kayak, scull, canoe or participate in a daily lakeside arts project. Campers enjoy nightly campfires as well as dark starry skies (including star walks!). Of course, the essential campfire treat of s’mores, a toasted marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker “sandwich”, is a staple at Medomak!