Notwithstanding the wide array of local and sleep-away camps to choose from, Rye Recreation Day Camp has maintained a strong local presence and has been a great summer destination for Rye youth for over 60 years.
By Lauren Dempsey
Notwithstanding the wide array of local and sleep-away camps to choose from, Rye Recreation Day Camp has maintained a strong local presence and has been a great summer destination for Rye youth for over 60 years. The camp, which is in full swing through mid-August, continues to grow. It has outgrown the Rye Rec facilities and has expanded to Rye High, Middle, Midland, and Milton schools. Currently, the program has 728 campers and 200 staff members.
The camp is now divided into four sections with Jen Giusti, Recreation Attendant, overseeing all four. Kiddie Camp serves pre-kindergarteners ages 3-5. Under the direction of Lauren Geertgens, campers participate in story time, art, sports, and free play. Weekly special events and entertainment are also offered. This is often the first time young children meet their soon-to-be classmates and many longtime friendships sprout at the camp. When students graduate from high school, they often look back at their Kiddie Camp days and marvel at the friendships that grew out of that first camp experience.
Lower Camp, the largest of the groups, is for grades K-2. It’s affectionately known as “Camp No Left Turn” due to the turn restrictions and traffic patterns along Midland Avenue during drop-off and pick-up periods. The special theme days — Hawaiian, Pajama, and Crazy Hair days, for example — are big hits with both counselors and campers. Campers also get to go swimming at Rye Golf Club to improve their strokes and to beat the heat.
Riley Doran, soon to be a second grader, extolled the experience, saying, “I love camp because I make new friends, meet new counselors, and have fun adventures!” Her mother, Kristen Doran, added, “I love Rye Rec Camp because my girls come home each afternoon tired and happy with tons of stories about all the fun things they did that day.”
This year, Dana Paolino replaced Dennis Hurlie, who’d served in the position for several years, as Lower Camp Director. Chris Mantz is the new Assistant Director. Paolino started as a counselor at the camp and went on to become the Sports Director, working with Hurlie.
“Camp No Left Turn is the place to be!” says Paolino. “Between the counselors and all the support staff, everyone works hard to ensure a safe and unforgettable summer.”
Upper Camp, for children going into grades 3-6, is held at Rye Middle School. Campers participate in a variety of trips and programs, including sports and games, as well as arts & crafts. The special events get bigger and themed days get even more creative. The director is Chris Taylor, who is ably assisted by Josh Kirsch and Greg Bean.
Camp 78, for students entering 7th and 8th grades, is a more recent and very popular addition. Lauren Adessa is the Director, and Lisa Mancuso the Assistant Director. The camp combines sports with various activities. The highlights for many are the trips, among them: riding The Beast, a speedboat around Manhattan; Yankee Stadium and Great Adventure; and zip lining and rock climbing.
One of the other major benefits of Rye Recreation Camps is summer employment for many Rye teens. The schedule gives counselors the ability to still make the practices for their high school or summer sport teams as well as giving them weekends off. The camp provides an opportunity for junior counselors entering 9th and 10th grades to gain experience working with young children. Although they are not paid, the junior counselors earn community service hours needed for high school graduation.
“Being a counselor at Lower Camp is one of the best ways to spend the summer,” says junior counselor Ryan Anderson. “You feel like a kid again, and it’s wonderful helping younger kids have the best possible camp experience.”
To make extra money, many of the counselors become babysitters for the campers in their group the rest of the year. The junior counselors often become regular counselors when they are old enough.
As the summer progresses, new long-lasting friendships are formed and the cycle continues.
The author, a junior counselor at Rye Recreation Camp, will be a sophomore at Rye High this fall.