Category Archives: first time campers

We're preparing for the best summer ever!

May 05, 2017

  1. Check out this beauty! (can you see the ice still on Plum!?)

    I don’t know what I’m most excited about: a new pier and diving towers in Senior Row, new dugouts on the ball field or two new cabins. There’s a LOT to get psyched for in 2017!
    Have you filled out your forms?
    If you have enrolled, you’ve got forms to complete. Here’s a quick to-do list for you:

    1. Schedule your child’s physical if necessary.
    2. If your child takes medication, you must fill out the Personal Rx (formerly Camp Rx) forms. You’ll need copies of your child’s prescriptions for that.
    3. Make your travel reservations. If your son is traveling by air, please forward us a copy of his itinerary.

    Will you be staying at Camp during drop-off or pick-up?
    Did you know you can make a reservation to stay in the CH Lodge? We’d love to have you!
    Friends + Family Camp Registration is open!
    “Man, I wish I could go to camp,” said every parent ever. YOU CAN! Arrange an alumni reunion with your camp buddies and their families, bring a future camper to CH to catch the vibe or just come by yourself to sit on the dock, paddle a kayak down Star Creek or jump off of Tower Three. Now’s a great time to reserve your favorite cabin!
    Feel free to give us a call
    We’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions at all, please give us a ring. Do you have a nervous first-timer or you have a question about shipping a trunk? Sometimes a quick call can make all the difference. We’re counting down…Let’s do this thing!

  2. Adventure is Worthwhile in itself

    adventureWho wouldn’t want their child to have a real-life adventure?
    Your boys have arrived and the fun, challenges, self-discovery and friendships begin exactly…NOW.
    The adventure starts the minute boys get off the bus and counselors and campers alike swoop in, grab trunks and bags and things are delivered to cabins in about 6 minutes flat. Boys who ride the bus will make their beds and head to the infirmary to check in with our two outstanding nursing team members Madi K. and Nathanial B. The bugle will blow (yes, we still use a real, live bugle at Highlands) for supper at 5:50 and then we’ll settle down to the traditional first night’s supper of spaghetti and meatballs. It’s a crowd pleaser!
    Tonight the guys will play division games and get to know each other a little bit. Andy has a rule that boys can’t “throw balls at each other” until they know each other’s names. So the games tonight are all about FUN and team building. After games, they’ll get a lay-of-the-land and hear the basic rules of camp. We sweeten the deal with campfires and s’mores. At 9 o’clock, taps will play and the guys will head to bed.
    I have to admit, the weather is a little glum (I’m from Florida, so I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to the temp!). But tomorrow we’re expecting 87° weather, so we’ll bundle up tonight and wake up to the best kind of camp weather. Warm and sunny!
    You can find all the passwords you’ll need for the gallery and instructions for how to use the email system in the Highlands Handbook (or in one of the many emails you’ve probably gotten from me). You might also want to take a look at our Instagram account to take a peek at the hidden corners of Highlands. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email us!
    Andy and I are so thrilled to have your boys with us. They are each unique, creative, energetic, brilliant creatures – 130 of them – that will make second term amazing. Thank you for sharing them with the Highlands family!
    I ♥ CH!
    tracy b.

  3. Riding the Winds

    IMG_5635“If you surrender to the wind you can ride it.” – Toni Morrison

    The 28-mile an hour winds have blown in a camp full of boys today. We are incredibly thankful for the energy and spirit they bring with them.
    All the bus campers arrived before 5 p.m., beating Jim DiDomeninco’s predicted arrival time of 5:07 p.m. (Winning!) As tradition dictates, we’ll be eating spaghetti tonight – 20 lbs. of spaghetti, that is! Lois and Greg do an great job in the kitchen. Did you know Lois has been our head chef for more than 20 years? And Greg our awesome sous chef is joining us for his second season. We are psyched!
    I wish you could see the scene when the busses arrive. In a matter of just a few moments all boys, duffels, trunks, lacrosse sticks, backpacks and tennis racquets are unloaded quickly and delivered to their cabins. As a mom, I watch the scene and think, “isn’t there some sort of system here?” Apparently you don’t need much of a system when you have 113 years of Highlands magic (and experience) in your pocket. In fact, nearly 100% of our staff has been here before, and of those returning, most of them have been campers here their whole life. They know how it goes! Check this time lapse from this afternoon out (note the end when a pick up soccer game starts!)

    Tonight after supper, the boys will play games by division, get the lay of the land, hear some baseline rules and cap the evening off with s’mores. Yep. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.
    Because the camp gods are smiling down on us today, it’s WARM. But our guys will have to wait until tomorrow’s swim tests before they dip. By lunch tomorrow, every boy will be tested and given the low-down on how our buddy system works. We take our waterfront activities very seriously. As Andy always says, “You never walk alone when you walk with safety.” 
    There’s a vibe in the atmosphere, and I think it’s more than these gale-force winds. It’s something bigger. 113 years of magic, excitement, heritage, tradition and love is in the air.
    113 years. We’re ready for you.
    And on that note…
    I ♥ CH,
    Tracy B.

  4. The Stage is Set…

    We were anticipating rain and not a drop has fallen. The bus has arrived and campers have been settled. I once again feel the excitement in the air; but now the voices that echo out, “Ga-Ga-Ball!” are different than the ones I heard just two days ago. Second Term has officially begun, and I am already so excited for this new batch of campers to be here.
    One quick glance through the cabin list this year and you might think we were in the 1980’s or 1990’s. It has been so fun seeing all these alumni drifting through camp—guys of my generation—dropping off their sons for their first (or fifth) Highlands summer. And we have a great crop of newbies, too! (I’m listening to an “old” camper explain the mailboxes to a new camper as we speak…and it’s kind of hilarious.)
    The next 17 hours will have us memorizing names, listening to rules, learning about water safety, gun safety and archery safety; as well as learn how to be waiter and request an activity. Then swim tests, and BOOM! Right into the flow of camp.
    Exciting times are in store for us this summer. Our staff is outstanding – one of the best I can remember (and no, I don’t say that every year…) and they are all pumped for Second Term.
    So the stage is set- the players have arrived, and it’s time to raise the curtain on Act 2 of our 112th season. If it’s anything like Act 1 we are all in for a treat.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.


    Boys race off the bus, everyone grabs gear and the field is cleared in 8:23 flat!

  5. Tales from Tower Three

    Anyone who has been to camp knows of our famous towers. Our lake neighbors love to come down and gawk as the boys perform feats of courage and craziness as they leap into the air, 18 feet above the water.
    From down on the dock, the towers are really not that daunting. But once you climb them, and stand on that third platform in particular, it can seem like you’re 500 feet off the surface. And it can be intimidating. I still get nervous when I stand up there.
    So the other day when I saw a camper from way down in Cabin 25 take his first step off Tower Three I knew I got to witness one of the greatest moments of the summer.
    There are lots of “firsts” at Camp. First time you paddle a kayak, first time you get up on water skis – heck! – first time you are away from your parents home for more that a night! And we love to celebrate those “firsts.” We celebrate them because we know how special they are. We know how important they are in helping to shape these young men lives into our Worthwhile Man line that says, “Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.”

    Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.

    “Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.” The little guy who *jumped* pictured above.

    That little guy from Cabin 25 stood on Tower Three for 45 minutes. Then the bugle blew, calling the waiters to come get supper ready. But the lifeguards didn’t budge. And neither did his cousins (all 4 of them). Everybody stood by, eyes to the sky, waiting.
    He’d walk to the edge, then skitter back. He’d try to take a running start, only to stop short. He stood there for an eternity. Finally his cousins climbed up, and jumped off, to show him how easy it can be. One of our lifeguards went up and jumped off, showing him how he could do it. But still, he waited…
    Finally, first call blew, calling all of us to supper. And suddenly he did it – he took off of that tower and even before he hit the water the roar of the crowd erupted. It was awesome. He emerged from the water triumphant – beaming with pride and accomplishment.
    All of our sons are experiencing plenty of soul-stretching, discomforting moments of first-ness all the time. And when they do something new the smiles that shine forth from their faces are those of young men who know that they are living into a new reality; a world where they are beginning to get the sense that if they set their mind to something, then chances are good that they can accomplish it. Whether it’s jumping off Tower Three for the first time, or simply being away from mom and dad for four weeks. It is a special thing to witness those breakthrough moments. And it is a moment that I don’t think any of us will soon forget.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.

  6. It's here! Second term kicks off today


    Beyond these gates lies a magical place called Camp Highlands for Boys. If you’ve been here, you know.

    A flight from somewhere far away, an epic bus ride, a never-ending car trip – by whatever means, your boys will all be in camp this evening and we can’t wait to have them with us. Can you imagine how these boys feel? So excited – the promise of new friends, fields to run, boats to sail, balls to throw, songs to sing. There is an unmistakable buzz in the air on this day. We. Are. Excited.
    The buses will pull into camp around 5:15 this afternoon, through those magical white gates that say “Camp Highlands,” and the boys will instantly be transformed. The sweet sound of the bugle calls and the entire staff and all boys that arrived by car will spill out onto the ball field to cheer for the guys arriving. It’s one of my favorite moments at camp, when boys that haven’t seen each other all year are reunited with bear hugs and high-fives. And the new kids? As a mom, I always worry about these guys! But they are intercepted quickly and their gear is enthusiastically hauled off, and the adventure begins.
    There will be jitters at supper, but it’s spaghetti, something that almost everyone likes. Afterwards, the evening is filled with tours of camp, some baseline rules and a campfire, the first of many they’ll have at Highlands.
    We know you moms, dads and caregivers will miss these guys. Our priority is your child. Our staff is ready to give them the guidance and support they need to try new things, to step out of their comfort zone and to experience a feeling of self-reliance and confidence that is difficult to duplicate anywhere else. Our motto this summer is, “Camp Changes Lives.” It is so true.
    And on that note…
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.
    Nuts and Bolts
    Remember that most questions you’ll have can be answered with the new and improved Highlands Handbook. The Bunk Notes code is FYXKNRWU. Everyone needs to set up a new account this year. And remember that if you’d like your son to write you back using a Bunk Reply, you must attach one when you send him one. The Highlands gallery password was provided in an email, but if you still need it, please email or call us (it’s also in the Handbook).
    The best time to reach us is between 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. If we don’t answer the phone, leave a message and we will get back with you!


    Perhaps you’ve heard of “gagaball?” It was new to me—but for the last couple of years the fellow who trains our lifeguards every summer has been STRONGLY encouraging me to get one. So this year, I did. And it’s a blast.
    Players enter the “pit.” A hexagon frame about two feet tall, 17’ across. Then they take this little ball, bounce it, then start to bat it around trying to hit the other players on the leg, from the knee down. You get hit below the knee, you’re out. Pretty simple. But the campers go crazy for it.
    One great thing about gaga is it is a self-policing game. Players know when they’re out, and they go out. Games rarely last more than 3 minutes. And they’re FUN!
    A few days ago, a bunch of Cubs and Colts were playing, and the chants started. “Cubbies! Cubbies!” vs. “Colts! Colts! Colts!” I don’t even remember who won; but someone did. Then, during the NEXT game, when there were only two players in the pit, they started chanting again. But this time it was, “ANYONE! ANYONE!”
    Today we celebrated the Fourth of July (on the 28th of June- I know! I know! But YOU try to get 21 trips in and out of camp in 21 days. The first Saturday of the term we have everyone in camp, so we do our All-Camp games) and it was a testament to the art of friendly competition.
    As you know, we divide all of camp in to two teams: the Army and the Navy. Once you’re on a team you’re on a team for LIFE. And so are all of your offspring. I’m a third generation Navy man myself. There really is no rhyme or reason for it- it’s just how we can divide into two teams for our all-camp competitions.
    So this morning we had our Army-Navy Track Meet. And it was a great one- it came down to a 25-point difference at the end—and with over 700 points at stake, that is a slim margin! We run, jump, put and throw- and here’s the thing. MOST of these guys have never competed in track events before. Many don’t even really know about them. So the amazing thing is when we see kids who have never run a 50-yard dash in their lives before run one and then WIN. And suddenly they have a whole perspective on what they can and can’t do. And maybe- just maybe this one win in this one event will change the shape of their lives forever. I know of more than a few Highlands men who learned to love the track and field thanks to their participation in our track meets here at camp. It’s a great event. It can make a hero out of anyone.
    And here is another thing I love about the track meet- at the end of the day we all just love to watch a good race. The Senior Relay is the big event at the end. When our fastest, oldest 4 guys from each team run about a 400-meter lap each. It is SO exciting- with everyone cheering for their team and shouting for their guy, and hoping for your team to pull through in the end. And sometimes they do! But sometimes they don’t. And today, what I loved seeing was that at the end of the big race, with all of camp gathered around hooting and hollering and shouting their teams, when the winner crossed that finish line -he stopped. And waited. And the first hand he grabbed was the guy he just beat. Then all of the relay guys gathered around, from both teams, and shared a smile and a hug for a race well run- and suddenly we weren’t Army or Navy anymore. We were Highlands. They did this with no prompting from a counselor. They did it because that’s how we do it at Highlands. This is the art of friendly competition. And it was on proud display today. It was a great day at camp.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.

  8. The makings for the perfect start to camp? Check.

    PicFrameSun? Check. White puffy clouds? Check. A gentle breeze on the lake? Check. All travel plans go off without a hitch? Check. What a way to start the summer. I am happy to report that the buses have arrived and the 2014 season is underway.
    What happens when two motor coaches filled with excited boys unload on Highlands property? It’s a miracle, actually. Bugles blow to welcome the buses in and campers pile off the buses to be greeted by the boys who arrived by car and our staff. Trunks, duffel bags, tennis racquets and lacrosse sticks are distributed and toted off to their cabins. Beds are quickly made, and at 5:50 the bugle calls for supper.
    Lois has had the water on to boil since lunchtime, at just the right moment she’ll drop 20 pounds of pasta (!!) in and spaghetti dinner will be served, hot and delicious. After supper, the boys will play games, get a tour of camp and learn some baseline rules while they sit around the first of many campfires for the summer.
    We are so excited to have your sons with us. After all the forms you’ve filled out and socks you’ve labeled (you DID label their socks, right?), I might guess that you are feeling all sorts of things right now. Will he like his bunkmates? Will he eat the food? Will he drink too much bug juice? After 111 summers, there’s a little miracle that happens at Highlands. Things just sort themselves out after a few days. Both for you and for your boys! We have put together a fantastic staff who are trained to nurture, teach and guide your sons. We have a dedicated kitchen staff that’s making delicious food from scratch. And you have Andy, Tracy, Mike and Sharon Bachmann whose primary concern in life is making this experience the absolute best possible for your child.
    Thank you for sending them to us. It’s our honor to have them for this amazing 111th summer!
    And on that note,
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.

  9. New Travel Policies – Make your plans now!

    thiswaytoCHHi moms and dads! It’s about that time that you start making travel arrangements to camp.

    Most things are staying the same.
    If you are in the Chicagoland area and your son rides the bus, nothing has changed. If you are flying into O’Hare from the East coast or somewhere in the Midwest, nothing has changed. If you are flying from: the West Coast, Florida, or Mexico or from outside of the US – things are changing!
    We prefer that if you are at all able, your son should ride the regular bus that departs at 10:00 AM on Sunday morning. (Sunday June 22 for first term or July 13 second term). This way he arrives at camp before it gets dark and can eat supper and participate in all the first night activities. That means if your son flies to Chicago, please have his flight arrive no later than 9:00 AM.
    However, it’s become increasingly difficult for people to obtain flights to O’Hare that arrive before our normal 9:00 AM cut off time. We can no longer host boys overnight in Chicago on Saturday night – BUT – we’ve hopefully come up with a solution that is even better than that!
    All camp travel will now be on Sunday June 22 for first term or July 13 for second term.
    To and From Mexico: Flights from Mexico must arrive by 11:30 AM on Sunday morning. We will have a staff member meet them at the gate as usual and then take them to the chaperoned charter bus that will depart at about 1:45 PM, once everyone has cleared customs. There is a United flight 474 that departs MEX at 6:30 AM and arrives at O’Hare at 11:33 AM. It is ideal to have them on this flight. We can no longer pick campers up on Saturday night and have them spend the night in Chicago.
    West Coast of US, Florida, or from outside of the US: All flights MUST arrive by 11:30 AM. Boys will ride on the 1:45 bus with our international campers.
    Please advise us of your travel plans by filling out the travel module on your child’s forms online no later than June 1, 2014.
    Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!

  10. Camp Highlands Meet & Greet

    Make new friends, but keep the old… It’s a favorite song at Sunday night sing – which you can learn more about at this year’s Chicagoland meet and greet! Here are the details:
    Saturday, March 8, 201410 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
    The Rench home
    150 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn
    Parking on Fairview just south of their lovely home
    Please RSVP to Tracy.
    Whether this is your 39th season, you’re enrolled this summer for the first time, or you are just looking for more information about CH, we’d love to see you there!
    We will:
    • Watch videos from last summer
    • Staff will be on hand to answer all of your questions
    • Catch up on all the latest CH news
    • Enjoy some punch and cookies, see old friends or make some new friends before camp this summer
    This is a fun and easy way for you to introduce some of your friends to the world of Camp Highlands, so bring a guest with you. You can link to the Facebook event page and share it with your friends. 
    We hope to see you there!