Brighten Your Day: Stories from the Island Lake Camp Community Pt. 1

Late this Spring we made the tough decision to cancel summer 2020. While we know for us this was the right call to make to protect our campers, staff, and families we were still heartbroken. But then came the messages! We received dozens of emails, phone calls, comments, and more from our camp community that just warmed our hearts. 

These are the stories that put a smile on our faces and remind us every day just how impactful summers at ILC can be.

“Oh, gosh… ILC is absolutely where I felt I fit in, where I felt most connected to my friends. It’s where I learned not to be afraid to be silly on a stage, to allow myself to feel really, really excited, and where I felt the safest. I still wear my ILC t-shirts, and can still sing the Color War songs. Most importantly, I’m still in touch with so many of my bunkmates and friends. Even though we’re grown up now and far apart, and even though we may not talk every day, I know that if I ever needed something, my camp friends would be there, and I’m sure they know that if they ever needed anything, I would be right there, too.” – Sarah M., alumni (attended 7 years)

“As a former camper and staff member, I feel like I’ve experienced the best of both worlds. It’s been 18 years since I’ve been back but the memories are still as vivid as ever. ILC truly broadens the vision for young minds and exposes you to things that will remain with you for life. I’m excited for our son to share in the experiences I experienced as a child and then a young adult during his first summer at camp. Here’s to 2021!” – Michael S., alumni (attended 2 years as camper, 2 years as staff)/camp parent

“I have done activities like wakeboarding that I don’t have the opportunity to do outside of camp and have met friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. When you have to live with all of these people your age, it is the perfect environment to form strong relationships.– Alex J, alumni (attended 8 years)




“Island Lake has changed my life drastically. The first year I got off the bus I already saw that it would be my home away from home. I have met friends that have turned into family. Camp has so many fun activities that no other place has. I have met my 12 best friends here and Island Lake will always be very important to me. – Sami K., current camper (2 years)

“Where do I begin…I made friends for life and on returning for the second summer I realized it was my family. Camp is such a brilliant experience. Life has its ups and downs but honestly, it was such a beautiful time with both my fellow staff and my campers. My only regret – I didn’t find it sooner. My home away from home will always be 18462.– Joseph R., staff (2 years)

“I looked forward to those summers! It was the place where I learned to explore my passions. At ILC, I developed a sense of freedom and independence and the meaningful memories carry me into adulthood. 20 years later, I still remember camp in the most vivid way!” – Abby, alumni (attended 4 years)

A Camper’s College Essay

I’d like to share with all of you a beautiful college essay written by a camper who grew up with us at Island Lake.  Enjoy reading her essay.  You will feel as if you are taking part in her experience through her words and imagery.


Back, forward, up and out, forward, back, set… hup! ​I feel weightless, yet full. Full of what? Adrenaline. Bliss. Life. Ascending higher and higher up the ladder, you’d think my heart would start racing, but it doesn’t. I feel secure. When I’m in the air, I forget about reality. All my fears beneath me… even if it’s only for a few seconds. All I have to worry about is what is happening at that moment; contradictory to how I’ve led my life. I was always taught to think about my future and stay one step ahead. ​If you want a good job you have to do well in school. Don’t post that because future employers might not hire you. Always go above and beyond. While all these things are true, I sometimes forget to just live. I’m always thinking, never doing; except when I’m flying.

​I’ve made some of my favorite memories at camp. Since I was 9 years old, I’ve spent my summers away. My camp is called Island Lake, in Starrucca PA. It’s a sports and arts camp and I chose to spend my time where sports and arts collide: circus. Being a former competitive gymnast, circus screamed home to me. While I’ve rotated through all of the different events, flying trapeze became my anchor; holding me down and protecting me from the unrelenting grasp of my own imagination. Isn’t it ironic how being in the air is what grounds me? Digging my heels into each rung of the ladder on my ascent to the p-board, I repeat in my head ​left right, left right, almost there! I​ ’m at the top. A cool breeze moves a few strands of hair out of my face. I reach for the bar, hips out chest up. A slight bend of the knees and ​hup! ​I am suddenly fully aware of myself. I rhythmically command myself, ​back hard, forward, up and out through to extension! Forward, back, set over the bar! ​In this moment, nothing else matters. The next thing I know, I feel the tang of the net embracing me, holding me, keeping me safe.

I’ve gone through life weighing my outcomes. Thinking of almost every possibility and convincing myself out of almost every activity. ​I’m not friends with them so I’m not going to go. I could fall and get hurt. I’m too antisocial and awkward. ​But where has that gotten me? I’ve become an observer in my own life.

I yearn to feel weightless everyday. To live in the moment and really absorb everything that is going on. I love flying. Not just because of the adrenaline, but because it has allowed me to see life through a different lens.

I’ve learned so much from the circus. Not only about being an aerialist, but about myself. I have learned what it feels like to live life with zest and self fulfillment. To feel weightless. Secure. Life is like a circus; there is so much going on, all the time. That can be overwhelming. Circus, however, has taught me how to take advantage of everything the world has to offer while focusing on my own act and living in the moment; even if that means taking a risk and leaving my comfort zone. I’ve learned that it’s okay to not know what happens next. But what I do know, is that I will be able to handle it.

June Parent News

Hey ILC parents!  This is not my typical June blog that I always post with excitement each summer.  This is usually the time when I tell you that we are so excited because we just arrived at ILC and we are working hard to prepare camp for your children’s arrival in a few short weeks.  This is when I usually tell you about waking up to smell of the country air, the sounds of the birds chirping, and the cool crisp June temps (which are all a nice reprieve from my South Florida humidity and heat).  This is also when I usually remind you to send in all of your forms, set up your CampMinder accounts, set up your Waldo accounts for photos, and start labeling items and packing your children up for camp.

But sadly, in the world we are currently living, we have to put sleep away camp on hold for a year.  It’s heartbreaking,…truly devastating and heartbreaking.  We share in your children’s sadness as this is just as difficult for us, if not more.  As I’ve previously mentioned, my parents started working at sleep away camp in 1973 when they were school teachers.  I turned 2 years old that summer and between 1973 and 2020 my family missed only one other summer when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  Other than that, I have been attending sleep away camp just about every single summer of my life.  Camp is in my blood, it is my bones, and most of all, ILC is in my heart and soul.  I am still mourning the loss of summer 2020 and feel that I’m still going through the grieving process.  I know I will be ok, as will all of you.  We will get through this and hopefully we will come out stronger on the other side.

So what will we do all summer to keep our Island Lakers in contact with one another?  Well, we will Zoom but of course!  We have some Zoom sessions set up for the first week of June and we’ll have plenty throughout the summer months.  We’ll send emails out to our camp parents to let you all know about these sessions.  We’re going to plan some activities with our department heads and some hang outs with our counselors.  We hope all of our summer 2020 campers will join us so we can see all of their smiling faces.

Below are some Opening Day photos from last summer.  These pictures aren’t meant to bring sadness for what we will be missing this summer, rather they will hopefully put a smile on all of your faces as we count down to next summer.

Stay healthy, stay well, and before we know it, ILCUTHERE in 391 days!!!

Summer 2020

Dear Island Lake Parents,

In our 35 years of owning and running Island Lake we never thought we would have to send this letter.  Due to restrictions placed on our operations, Island Lake will be unable to open this summer.  We are heartbroken by this.

The guidelines that have come out from the American Camp Association and their consultants say that social distancing is a recommended guideline for 2020.  Island Lake cannot be Island Lake with these restrictions so we have made this difficult decision.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in a phased reopening; Red, Yellow, & Green.  Wayne County is currently in red which means stay at home.  When it goes to yellow there are restrictions in place that will not allow us to open.  The Green Phase has yet to be defined; the rules currently say follow current CDC guidelines.  We are sure those will include distancing and mask requirements through the end of the summer.  In fact, the criteria that will be used to move a region from the Yellow Phase to the Green Phase are still not determined.  A region could be moved back to yellow or red if there is a resurgence of the virus meaning that even if we don’t have an outbreak at camp the Commonwealth could shut us down.

To give you an idea of how important camp is to us, for Matt this will be his first summer not at camp since 1985 and second since 1972.  Wendy has also only missed one summer since 1972 and she was very young at the time.  The worst decision that we could make would be to open and then have to close because of an outbreak at our facility or in our region.

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in some way. As adults, we have all had different emotions and difficulties dealing with this pandemic. It is impossible for us to understand the emotions our children are going through as a result of this decision.  We were so hopeful to be able to have our campers come to camp and erase some of their fears, anxieties and day to day worries with good old fashioned fun. We are heartbroken that summer will not be a reprieve for them, and for you.

As stated in an earlier email, all registrations for 2020 will be honored for 2021. Campers who would have been entering their last year as campers will still be allowed to be together, as campers, for 2021. If anyone would like to be a CIT, they may choose that option.  Please hold off on letting us know your decision until we ask for it.  We are still absorbing this in our minds.

It seems surreal to be writing this to you and I’m sure it seems the same to be receiving it. I press the send button with great sadness. We wish you and your families health and happiness in the coming months. And of course, ILCUTHERE 2021!

Wendy, Ricki, Matt, and Bev

P.S.  Please click the link below and watch this video with your campers.  It is with heavy hearts that we put this together, along with making the decision, to not open Island Lake this summer.  We wish you all good health and happiness this summer.

May Parent News

Hey Island Lake Families!  Wow, how did May sneak up on us so quickly?  With spring in the air, excitement is building and summer 2020 is right around the corner!  Yay!  Our hope is that we will be moving up to camp by early to mid-June.  If we are cleared to do so then at that time all correspondence should go directly to our summer address.  We will keep you apprised via email with all of these specific dates.  

We are happy to report that we had the opportunity to pay it forward and donate to The Cooperage Project in Honesdale, PA.  By doing so we provided over 250 snack bags for families who need some extra assistance during these challenging times.  We got involved with the Cooperage Project by participating in the #CAMPSDOGOOD Challenge as you can see in the photo to your right.

Although there is still so much up in the air with regards to the Coronavirus and the starting date of camp, we are moving forward and we are still preparing as if we are to start camp on time on June 27th.  Therefore, if your child is enrolled for summer 2020, please be sure to fill out his/her Profile and Transportation Forms right here on our website.  All forms were due on May 1st.  If you haven’t yet taken care of these forms (whoopsie!), please do so right now.  Just click the “CampMinder Login” on our homepage ( and enter your email address and password.  If you have not yet created a CampMinder account, click “First Time Users- Create Account” and follow the directions. 

It is imperative that we have a Medical Form on file for every child attending Island Lake this summer.  We understand that many of you have not been able to take your children to see your pediatrician for their annual visit just yet.  Please do not worry about the May 1st deadline for this form.  Just be sure to fill it out in its entirety and then send it to us prior to your children’s arrival at camp.  The Medical Form cannot be filled out online so please use the form that we mailed to your home a couple of months ago.  If misplaced, click the following link for a copy:

The form is located on our website under “Island Lake Families” then “Forms & Mailings.”  As a reminder, you can mail the completed Medical Form to our NY winter office until late May/early June.  After then, please mail the form to our summer address at camp.

Attention all new and returning Island Lake families!  By now you should have received an email regarding all of our “Spring Mailing” information.  Included are your Parent Handbook, Camper Handbook, Activities Handbook, Medication Policy letter, as well as an Open House flyer.  These handbooks and flyers are available for you on our website under “Island Lake Families” and “Forms & Mailings.”  Whether you are returning or are new to the Island Lake family, please make sure you and your children take a few minutes to sit down and read these forms and handbooks thoroughly as we always add new information.  

Are you a returning ILC parent who has not yet signed up your child for this upcoming summer?  We understand your apprehension to enroll for camp at this time.  However, some of our bunks are now completely full.  We truly do not want to turn away any of our devoted campers.  Feel free to give us a call to discuss enrollment.  If you don’t have a registration form handy, click “Island Lake Families” at the top of the page and then click “Forms & Mailings” and print the “2020 Enrollment Form.”  You can mail, email, or even fax it (yes, fax machines do indeed still exist!) directly to our NY office until the end of May, upon which you can then send it to our summer address at camp.  For faster enrollment, you can simply scan/email the registration form to us at

To all current Island Lake families, we are still hopeful that we will be able to open camp and provide your children with a wonderful summer experience.  If your children are enrolled with us then you are receiving our emails in which we are keeping you up to date on the status of camp based on all of the information we are receiving from the CDC, ACA (American Camp Association), and the state of Pennsylvania.  If you are not yet enrolled, please send us your children’s registration form so we can add you to our mailing list.

To all prospective families, feel free to contact us if you have any questions after browsing our website:  914-769-6060.  As of approximately June 1st or shortly there after, you can contact us at 570-798-2550.  In the meantime, let’s keep the countdown to Summer 2020 going, keep your fingers crossed, keep the wishful thinking alive, and keep on shouting at the top of your lungs, “ILC U SOON!” so it can all come true!!!

Island Lake Camp Coloring Page

Are you looking for a way to bring camp home during this time? Corey Paige Designs has made a custom ILC coloring page just for you! Pages can be purchased for $1.50 and downloaded through their website

Through April, Corey Paige Designs will be donating 50% of the proceeds to No Kid Hungry. No Kid Hungry is a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the US, with childhood hunger being their primary focus.

Click on the image below to get to the PDF version and color however you please.  Send us photos of finished pages or tag us in your social media posts @islandlakecampofficial and #ILCuSoon. We can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

ILC coloring sheet

A Camper’s Poem about Island Lake

Hi Island Lake Families!  We know these are difficult times for everyone and we hope you and your families are staying healthy and well. One of our campers wrote a beautiful poem about camp that I would like to share with you to brighten your day.  There is definitely a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow so we just have to ride out the storm in order to reach the beauty on the other end.

Thank you to Riley O. for writing this heart felt poem about Island Lake:

When it turns warm, camp is where we go
We wait on the bus, hardly containing our glee
When we see her, we practically jump for joy
She gives us this warm feeling,
A feeling as comforting as being held in your mother’s arms.
We see all our friends and stay in her cabins
She provides us a home for the summer
A home where we can be ourselves and have fun
Camp is where we are most happy,
Really living the dream.
She makes us as happy as a dog is when it sees a bone
Or as happy as a toddler when they get to eat ice cream
We feel safe when we are with her
She is our second mother, our second home
When it’s time to leave, we all say goodbye
Thanking her for all the good she has done for us
We love everything about her without a doubt
We all cry when we have to say goodbye
That feeling of warmth we had when we got there slowly starts to fade
Once we are home all we can think is how long until we get to see her again
To be held in her arms.
Reunited with her again.

April Parent News

Hey ILC families!  We hope you are all feeling healthy and well while adapting to these new temporary changes in our everyday lives.  This international Coronavirus pandemic feels completely surreal as everyone struggles to remain at home and maintain social distancing when they must leave the home for essentials.  A bright side to all of this,…Island Lake Summer 2020!  We are still forging ahead and preparing for camp this summer.  We are hopeful that this virus will have cleared up by June, making sleep away camp a sure thing for this upcoming summer.

I have been organizing some group games via Zoom for all of our Island Lakers to participate in, both campers and staff.  I have sent out emails to parents to share with their kids and last week I hosted our very first “Virtual Music Lunch.”  I broke it up into groups and we had well over 100 people participate, which was a fantastic turnout.  I’m excited to report that this upcoming Thursday and Friday I will be hosting an all camp game of PANIC!  Yup, that’s right, your children will have the opportunity to participate right there in your homes.  My email will explain in more detail but for those of you who aren’t familiar with Panic, think of it as a big scavenger hunt.  I’ll have your children running around your homes to find specific items (an Island Lake t-shirt) and they’ll have to get creative while being the first to put on their ILC shirt and sing the camp alma mater to me.  That’s just one example of the fun we’ll have later this week.

Now, back to business as usual with my monthly blog.  Wowza, how did April sneak up on us so quickly?  With spring in the air, excitement is building and summer 2020 is right around the corner.  As of April 1st,  we have only 87 days until camp begins!  Woohoo!!!  We will be moving our offices up to camp the first weekend in June, so mark your calendars as all correspondence should go directly to our summer address in Starrucca, PA at that time. 

If your child is already enrolled for summer 2020, please be sure to fill out your Profile and Transportation Forms here on our website.  Just click the “CampMinder Login” link on our homepage and you will be prompted to enter your email address and password.  First time users can click “First Time Users – Create Account” below the login link.  If your child is a returning camper, we suggest you use the same password that you used last summer to access our daily photos and send emails.  You will then have access to the Profile and Transportation Forms.  The Medical Form is not in CampMinder so please be sure to fill out and complete the form that was previously mailed to your home.  You can also download our Medical Form here by clicking “Island Lake Families” at the top of our website and then “Forms & Mailings” on the left side of the page.  We have many important forms there for you to print out and use as a guide for packing and what not.  We understand that many Medical Forms will be delayed since you’re unable to go in and see your doctor, so just give us a shout if that’s the case for your child and we’ll make note of it in our records.  We can be reached at or 914-769-6060.

As a reminder to all of our summer 2020 families, please be sure to read our monthly newsletters.  The newsletters provide lots of information important to your child’s upcoming summer.  Our newsletter link is located right here on our website (“Island Lake Families” and then “ILC News”).  We also send an email reminder to all of our camp parents on the 1st of every month.  Please share our newsletter link with your children because we hear they absolutely LOVE to read it and look for themselves and their friends in all of our photos.

In early May we will be posting a great deal of additional info on our website.  This will include a camper handbook, parent handbook, activities handbook, medication policy, information about emailing your child, viewing photos and videos on the web, and lots of other important camp information.  Be sure to read through all of these handbooks/letters/policies, as there will be tons of important info to prepare your child for a fantastic summer experience.

Have you registered your child for this upcoming summer?  If not and you still plan to do so, please, please, please do not put it off any longer. We truly do not want to turn away any of our devoted campers. It only takes a few minutes to fill out the registration form and send it in to our Chappaqua, NY office. If you don’t have an enrollment form handy, click “Island Lake Families” and then “Forms & Mailings” to the left of the page and print the “2020 Enrollment Form”.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Enjoy your navigation through our site checking out all of our fun-filled activities and smiling faces.  Island Lake Camp offers a program that furthers your child’s growth, independence, and sense of decision-making while simultaneously giving them the responsibility to create their own exciting summer.  

We are optimistic that camp will open on time this summer.  Please continue to read all emails that we send out to you, our current Island Lake Camp parents.  Enclosed in those emails is important up to date info regarding summer.  We will also be sending out info regarding camp forms and literature.  To all current Island Lake families, we look forward to an amazing summer 2020 with your children.  To all prospective families, feel free to contact us if you have any questions after browsing our website:  914-769-6060.  And last but not least, to all,…ILC U THERE!

March Parent News

Happy March to our Island Lake families!  Our summer 2020 countdown has kicked into gear and lucky for us, summer, and for that matter camp, will approach before we know it.  118 more days as of March 1st!  Wow, we’re almost at the double-digit mark!

By now, all summer 2020 families should have received a letter regarding forms along with a Medical Form.  Both a parent and a physician, as required by Pennsylvania law, must complete the Medical Form.  On our website we have TONS of information to prepare you and your children for this summer.  There are forms online that we request you fill out promptly via your CampMinder account. The Profile Form helps us guide your children when they choose their activities and put together their schedules. The Transportation Form lets us know which bus your children will be taking to camp. If we do not receive the Transportation Form in our office by May 1st, we will have to assign a bus to your children. In June, we will send you detailed information about the bus locations along with luggage tags that you will use to mark your children’s duffels.  You can access many other forms (packing lists, hotels for Visiting Day, etc.) on our website at and then click “Island Lake Families,” and “Forms & Mailings.”

A reminder to our ILC families, don’t forget to read our monthly newsletters.  You can access them here on our website or at the start of every month.  The newsletters provide important information for parents, as well as campers, including enrollment and availability updates.

Island Lake Newsletters

Speaking of enrollment, if you haven’t yet registered your child for summer 2020 but plan to do so, please, please, please do not put it off any longer.  Some bunks are already full.  We truly do not want to turn away any of our devoted campers because of this.  It’s very difficult for us when forced to do so every year.  Don’t let that happen to your child.  It only takes a few minutes to fill out the registration form, we promise!  If you don’t have one handy, click “Island Lake Families”, “Forms & Mailings” and then print the “2020 Enrollment Form”. 

To all current Island Lake families, we look forward to an amazing summer 2020 with your children.  To all prospective families, feel free to contact us if you have any questions after browsing our website:  800-869-6083 or 914-769-6060.  And last but not least, to one and all…. ILC U THERE!

February Parent News

Happy February to our Island Lake Families!  As we sit here in our winter office feeling the frigid temps outdoors, it seems as though summer 2019 was all a distant dream.  However, our summer 2020 countdown has already kicked into gear and lucky for us, camp will sneak up on us before we know it. 147 days to go as of February 1st! 

We are busy preparing for our big trip that we are offering to all of our oldest campers this summer.  We’re excited for our annual 4 day/3 night TEEN TRIP in our 2nd session to MONTREAL and QUEBEC!  This amazing trip will be offered to all campers entering 9th grade and higher.  For those families with campers eligible to go, keep an eye on your mailbox (actual mailbox, not virtual one) for more details to arrive real soon for this fun-filled experience.  There will be a trip enrollment form for you to fill out and return to us at our winter office.  We also have info regarding this trip in our monthly newsletters.  Highlights of this trip include La Ronde Amusement Park, Olympic Park, Voiles en Voiles (a huge outdoor ropes course), SOS Labyrinthe (a fun, yet difficult, indoor maze that’s sure to get our campers lost for what will feel like hours), a day trip to Quebec City, Jetboating, and more.  So,…much,…FUN!!!

A reminder to our summer ‘19 and ’20 families; don’t forget to read our monthly newsletters.  You can access them here on our website (“Island Lake Families” and then “ILC News”).  Our newsletters provide important information for parents as well as campers, including enrollment and availability updates.  

 Speaking of enrollment, if you have not yet registered your child for summer 2020 but plan to do so, please, please, please do not put it off any longer.  Some bunks are now completely full.  We truly do not want to turn away loyal campers so let’s avoid that from happening.  You can register your child with the registration form mailed to you or you can download the form here on our website under “Island Lake Families” and then “Forms & Mailings”.  It only takes a few minutes to fill out the registration form, we promise!

To all current Island Lake families, we look forward to an amazing summer 2020 with your children.  To all prospective families, feel free to contact us if you have any questions after browsing our website:  914-769-6060.  And last but not least, to one and all,…ILC U THERE!