We Can't Wait

It’s never easy to be a single parent. As a divorced mom, I don't like being away from my kids. So when it comes to summer vacation, we all prefer to be together, rather than the boys going off to sleep-away camp. That is what I love about Camp Max! The three of us can do it together. Besides, why should camp be just for kids? And I can’t think of anyone who embodies the camp spirit more than Mary-jane, Max’s mom.

Knowing Mary-jane for over 25 years, there is no one better at creating organized fun and making sure everyone is included.

We can’t wait!

Tiffany T.

(Mom of two very excited boys 11 & 9)

Mary-jane April
Dads At Camp
dads & sons.jpg

I have joint custody of my daughter, so it’s important for me to have fun things to do when she’s on my watch. When Mary-jane invited us to her special family camp weekend, my daughter, her best friend and I, headed out for a great time. We did some activities together (I remember a hilarious kickball game) and we also split up for a lot of the weekend. The girls went off and did their own thing with the other kids and I had a great time meeting and hanging with other adults. I will never forget the excitement on my daughter’s face when she ran up to me to tell me that she had just zip lined for the first time. It was priceless.

At night we all came together for group activities like bonfires, volleyball games, night hikes and we even square danced! The added bonus was getting some extended adult time after the kids went to sleep.

We really had a great time and I loved meeting other single dads and moms in the same situation as me. I highly recommend this camp!

Ken M.

Mary-jane April
Single Mom

I am a widow living in NYC with my three boys.  I grew up, as a first generation American, so I did not experience summer camp in my youth. My friend, Mary-jane, introduced me and my boys to sleep-a-way camp, and it has become a big part of our lives in so many ways.

A few years ago, I took my boys to one of Mary-jane’s camps. It was a great way for me to experience camp life with my boys, while also mingling with other single parents. We all let loose and had an amazing time both together and apart. We met up for meals and talked about the new friends we had made that day and the activities we tried. Everyone there was so friendly and full of joy. I can’t say enough how great it was for me to experience this with my boys while having some adult time as well. I would highly recommend it to all.

Maryann G.

Mary-jane April
Sam's Story from Camp

Two things happened to me the summer I was 13. I discovered the magic of sleep away camp and I got really sick. Camp was magical. I loved the traditions and routines, the assemblies and theme days, learning that I could rock a bow and arrow, and swim a mile in a lake. I was not a confident person, but at camp I felt empowered and, for the first time, popular. Something in the way the people at camp treated me helped me believe that I was worthy. In the short time I was at camp that first summer, I experienced more happiness then I had ever known.

So, when three weeks into that first summer I had to leave camp because of a serious illness, I was devastated. Not because of the illness, but because I just couldn’t bear to say goodbye to my new found camp family. Thankfully, I was able to return the following summer and for nine more years.

The 10 years I had at summer camp carried me through a pretty eventful decade - Cancer, the loss of one parent, the re-marriage of the other. I’m not sure how I would have made it through without the love and support of my camp family.



Jarrett Zellea

One of my favorite events at summer camp was Christmas in August. It was our favorite holiday and a tradition loved by everyone. “Christmas” was sweet and sentimental, the one time of year that many of us who were Jewish got to celebrate a holiday loved by so many in the winter time.

For an entire week at the end of every summer, the counselors would band together to decorate for the big event. We would collect truckloads of Pine tree branches and staple them to the walls inside the old barn.  We would cover the floor with wood chips, put out bales of hay, hang Christmas lights and prepare for the annual Counselor Show.  We would spend hours writing Christmas cards for each other, many of which I still have to this day.

I will never forget my first Christmas as a kid, when I walked into that incredible room. That smell. Pine trees everywhere. It was like walking into a forest; it was magical.  Seated on hay bales, everyone watched the show and sang Christmas Carols. Then Santa made his grand entrance and called each camper to the stage, so they could sit on his lap, give him a hug, and receive their gift. The evening would end with the whole camp eating “milk lunch” (our camp word for ice cream) and singing Silent Night (in multiple languages depending on the International staff present).

Our beautiful summer camp closed after the summer of 1993, but our hearts remained open; we knew we were connected forever as Camp Family.  My love for camp continued to burn inside of me.  Years later, my sister and I bought a piece of our camp.  We were the proud owners of a two-acre parcel of land which was right in the middle of what used to be Boy’s camp.  Months later we built a house on that spot.  Our front door faces the old volleyball, basketball and hockey courts.  It’s just a two-minute walk down to the lake.

As soon as my house was completed, I knew exactly what I had to do.  I sent an email to fifty of my closest camp friends and invited them to the 1st Annual Christmas in August Party the following summer.  The instructions were simple.  Play at the lake all day, Christmas at night.  Please prepare a family “lip sync” to perform in the Christmas show and make sure you bring a gift for Santa to give to your child.

On “Christmas Eve,” my crew of former camp counselors climb ladders so they can cover all of the trees in colored Christmas lights. Santa’s “elves” wrap last minute gifts. The bales of hay arrive Christmas morning and there are last minute lip sync rehearsal all around.

I am the Master of Ceremonies and I always open the show by asking everyone to sing our traditional “Camp Welcome Song" for any newcomers that might be with us. After that, each family performs their lip-sync to thunderous applause from the audience. In between skits I ask, “Does anyone have a joke?” and a dozen little hands shoot in the air with urgency. We hear tons of jokes both good and bad throughout the evening, and the audience just laughs and laughs. It’s the best self-esteem builder that you will ever find.

After the last skit, we bust out our song sheets and the Christmas carols begin. Cue Santa. You can always hear him “jingle jingle” before you actually see him. He may roll up in the back of a tractor, a dump truck, a jeep, a red convertible, or whatever we can find.

Santa calls each child to the stage and gives out gifts. One by one, they sit on his lap and give him a hug. A few joyous adults receive gifts from Santa as well. Everyone is beaming. Once the yard is littered with wrapping paper, we put our arms around each other and sing Silent Night and both verses of our beloved “camp song”, followed by some healthy servings of Milk Lunch. Finally, I say, "Merry Christmas everyone" and we light the campfire.

This summer will be our 17th Annual Christmas in August celebration. My family has already started talking about what song we should do for lip sync with my two-year-old son, Max.  People ask why is it so important to me to put on a show for Christmas?  The answer is so simple for me. When I watch these families perform their skits together, I am guaranteed one thing: I know, with certainty, that one night when they were at home, they had to work together to agree on a song, rehearse it, find costumes & props, and then perform it in front of an audience. They are making a memory together, and I think that’s pretty cool.  That’s what camp is all about.


Jarrett Zellea