NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The North Salem Recreation Department’s day camp at Mountain Lakes wound to a two-day close, first on Wednesday with a barbecue, then on Thursday with a campers’ talent show featuring dance, song and karate chops. Parents filled the audience, then moseyed around the campgrounds as the campers concluded the activities of their final week.
“We had 350 kids this year,” said program director Pat Sallstrom. “That’s full capacity. The kids come from the North Salem school district, as well as South Salem, Mahopac, Carmel, Brewster and Somers. We’ve been doing this about 20 years.”
The camp runs weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. from late June until late July, about five weeks altogether. Every day’s schedule is different and can include activities such as canoeing, swimming, archery, fishing, outdoor skills, nature study and science.
“I strive to make it fun, with an academic overview,” Sallstrom said. “Ninety percent of our staff are professional teachers, even the karate instructor. It takes us four or five hours a week to compose the schedule.”
The campers spend a lot of time in the recently renovated pool. “They don’t swim in the lake,” Sallstrom explained. “I’m a stickler for safety. The lake is good for fishing, and they go in to learn how to tip a canoe, but we have a beautiful pool for swimming. All the instructors are certified, and we give lessons.”
Susan Sollenberger has been the camp nurse at Mountain Lakes for 17 years. “I went here when it was a Girl Scout camp,” she recalled. “The best thing about this is watching the kids have fun and watching them be sad when it ends. And then watching them come back the next year. I’ve watched a lot of them grow up.”
Camper Isabella Amus affirmed Sollenberger’s statement. “I’ve been coming here for years,” said the 11-year-old. “In two more years I’ll be a CIT (counselor in training), and in four years I’ll be a counselor!”