Tradition keeps kids and teens returning to camp year after year

By Stephanie Bolmer
HAKOL Editor

Cousins Alex Valuntas and Jacob Sussman share a lot in common. They’re both juniors at Parkland High School. They both play basketball. And they both love summer camp.

After spending eight years as campers at Camp Saginaw, a co-ed sleepaway camp in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the boys are ready to embark on their next adventure. Both have applied to return to Saginaw this year as counselors and are eagerly waiting to hear if they get to make the trip back to their beloved summer home.

“I think the main thing for me was that I wanted to be able to give other people the same experience I had,” said Alex, explaining he hopes to “pass on traditions, leading on another generation of kids.”

Jacob agreed, “We’ve applied to work with the youngest kids at the camp, who are just learning about everything. We've been there for eight years, so we can help them learn the traditions. I thought it was cool to give back to the younger generation.”

Tradition and friendships are what have kept the boys coming back to camp year after year. That’s what they love most about camp, and what they’re most looking forward to passing on to newcomers. 

“It’s the brotherhood you make with all your friends in your bunk,” said Jacob. “The tradition builds up each year, until the final year you make everything count.”

Alex also said, “A lot of the best memories are from late at night, talking around your bunk, bonding. It’s about the people. There's no other place on earth where you can go be with your friends 24/7 and live carefree. There's nowhere else like it, so you hold on to that as long as you can.”

If the cousins get the chance to lead bunks of their own this summer, it will be to teach others the songs and annual customs they’ve cherished at their favorite camp. They have loved their time at Saginaw over the years, and they have advice for any kid considering spending their first summer away.

“Just go for it,” said Alex. “When you first get there, let go of your inhibitions and everything you’re scared of and throw yourself into it.”

If your child is anything like Jacob, it will all turn out well. “The first year, I remember I was really scared,” he recalled. “You have to let your wall down and just go with the flow. After the first day, you kind of realize how special that place is and just not worry and just enjoy it.”