Camp Kupugani Frequently Asked Questions – Parents
If you want to know our camp philosophies, as reflected in our day-to-day discussions by the campfire, in the cabins, or in counselor-led discussions, take a look at our blog, or our YouTube channel. We are also more than happy to answer your questions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us at 815-713-4110.
Click on a question below to see its answer.
Let’s Get Started
Our registration process is simple and fast. You can apply by doing one of the following:
- Online Application
- Call our office at 1-815-713-4110 and we’ll take care of your enrollment over the phone. Telephone enrollment requires a credit card to secure the space.
Enrollment is ongoing. Because space is limited, it is best to enroll as early as you can to ensure a space for your child.
When there is more than one child in a family, you should also consider whether it’s better for them to attend camp together, or to be able to have their own individual camp experience (more on that, at this link).
Whether they attend the same or different sessions, there is a 10% cumulative discount per additional sibling (i.e. sib 1 = 10% off; sib 2 = 20% off, etc.)
A good progression for determining “readiness” is to start first with sleepovers at relative’s houses, then sleepovers at non-relatives (i.e. school or neighborhood friends). When the child (and parents) are comfortable with that, then it’s time for camp!
There can and should still be some nervousness since that’s a normal part of growth. Also, the more the child can be involved in the decision-making process and reviewing information, the better. Checking out camp videos and pictures, or visiting the camp and seeing what the facilities are like, are all beneficial to a would-be campers’ readiness and confidence.
Your child, as a first-time camper, need not come with a friend; it can often be more beneficial to their growth to come “alone.” We help new campers feel comfortable in a variety of ways including intentionality regarding camper groups, fostering a welcoming culture, exposing children to difference, embracing flexibility, and just plain having fun!
Many aspects of our camp help our first-year campers acclimate quickly. We are highly intentional when creating our different groups (cabins, teams, and tables), distributing new and returning campers throughout. As a growing camp, we have critical masses of both returners and first-timers to maintain roughly even ratios. Having regular connections with three different groups maximizes each camper’s potential of connecting with a variety of friends. The intentional groupings help our new campers feel connected very quickly.
Our camp culture generally helps new campers feel welcome. We emphasize a “cool to be kind” vibe (as opposed to what can sometimes happen in schools or other youth-serving environments, where it is sometimes cool to be cruel). Upon arrival, campers are greeted vociferously whether they have attended camp not at all, or for multiple years. No camper feels left out. Returning campers proudly play a part in the process; returners are responsible to help new campers. Returners have appreciated our culture of kindness and like to make new campers as comfortable as they did their first summer. Children love the positive, supportive attention of peers. New campers also get immediately acclimated to camp during an opening day tour. Nothing better than to know where everything is right away!
Our high camper return rate (of around 60%, which is high for a non-summer-long program) helps our traditions continue year after year. Having a critical mass of returners helps our new campers feel welcome because they have peers helping them. And, because we keep growing, our 60% returner rate actually gives us about a 50/50 new to returner ratio. Returning campers are quick to bring new campers into the positive camp culture.
We embrace the flexibility of new campers by allowing them to do all activities, regardless of prior camp experience. If a new camper wants to lead a song before a meal, we welcome, assist and support them.
Overall, we empower each camper to find their voice and overcome challenges. Helping children find their voice helps them feel like they belong. Each camper is challenged to try new things; when children find something they are good at at camp, it helps them to expand that feeling of competence to other aspects of life.
Children have only one chance to be young; we enjoy giving them the opportunity to make the most of it. Being a part of our community gives campers a feeling of belonging that helps them look forward to returning to camp each year, rekindling previous friendships and making new ones. We love when first-year campers leave camp feeling like they have become part of our Kupugani family.
Check out this useful quiz: Is Your Child Ready for Sleepaway Camp?
It can sometimes feel daunting sending your “baby” away for the first time. But just like when you first sent them off to school or on a bike for the first time by themselves, summer camp can be a critical character development. For more help about considering a first-time camp experience, check out:
- Eight Reasons Why Your 7-10 Year-Old is Probably Ready for Camp…Even If You Aren’t!
- 10 Questions to Determine Whether Your Child is Ready for Sleepaway Camp;
- 10 Questions to Help Determine Whether You’re Ready to Send Your Child to Camp;
- How I Cured My Anxiety About Sending My Child to Camp (from a real parent!);
- Encouraging Independence So Children Can Thrive;
- Why It Can Seem Irrational for a Parent Without Camp Experience to Send a Child to Camp…and Why That Parent Should Anyway;
- When You Should NOT Send Your Child to Camp.
- Check out our quizzes!
If you need some reinforcement via camper parent references, please feel free to email us at email@example.com and we’re happy to send you a list of parents all happy to discuss their child’s Camp Kupugani experience.
The camp decision should be driven by the child; the best age is when the child is “ready,” which is typically between age 7 and 13. Camp Kupugani’s program is tailored towards children from ages seven to fifteen, and we have new campers within all of those ranges who are eager to have a great camp experience.
I should consider a single-gender camp for my child if….
- Do I want my child to be in an environment free of inter-gender social pressures?
- Is my child significantly more comfortable with friends of the same gender?
- Is modeling to my child that there is no one way to be a boy or a girl important?
- Is it important to empower my child to explore gender-specific issues?
- Does my child need a place outside of the home to talk about gender-specific issues?
- Does my child need help with empowerment against gender-based stereotypes?
- Does my girl need a girl-power rich environment?
I should consider blended camp for my child if…
- Do I want my child to work on positive intergender relationships?
- Is debunking stereotypical gender roles important?
- Is it important to have a family feeling (within a mixed-gender community)?
- Is normalizing play with different genders important?
- Is it important to model for my child that intergender relationships do not have to be sexualized?
- Do I want my child to learn important perspectives from a different gender?
- Is emphasizing person first and gender second an important concept?
The choice of camp can depend on a few factors. Our single-gender camps allow us to focus more on certain gender-specific needs and development. Our blended camps empower children to be the best version of themselves while working with a different gender. You can also consider whether your camper has mainly friends of one gender; and if so, do you want to safely encourage more interaction with whomever they don’t interact a lot?
Benefits of the single-gender camps include:
- More intentionality on empowering that specific gender
- More intensity of relationships
- More emphasis on no one way to be a member of that gender
- Addressing and combating gender-based stereotypes
- Relief of intergender social pressures
- Freedom to express themselves without the social or relational pressure of the presence of the other gender
- Potential to discuss topics more freely than they might be given in the presence of the other gender
- Specifically for the girls-only camp, there is more of a “girl power” vibe
Having a girls-only program allows us to address issues specific to girls and women. We follow a philosophy grounded in experiential education literature on girls’ programs. One study from the Journal of Adventure Recreation and Education (2011) shows that girls have more opportunities to “be themselves” without having to impress campers of the opposite sex. In co-ed settings, girls (and women) tend to act differently when boys are around—reducing the girls’ skill-building opportunities. Without distractions, girls can be more comfortable, focused and establish more meaningful relationships. They feel supported and safe, without experiencing the pressure and competition that might exist in a co-ed camp. Girls are willing to try new things and develop positive relationships. The key is to create an intentional environment that focuses on girls’ strengths (Whittington, Mack, Budbill, McKenney). In keeping with these types of intentional practices, we provide space where girls can be girls—free from the self-consciousness that might happen say at school, other social settings, or at a co-ed camp. Our girls are willing to try new things like dam jumping and rock climbing and develop positive relationships with other girls in their cabin groups and teams. Our girls get to concentrate on skill-building, personal growth, and having fun changing their world!
Combining structured programming and purposeful free time in a supportive and comfortable community, we intentionally create an environment that focuses on girls’ strengths. We provide young women with a place to question cultural standards and increase opportunities for them to gain leadership skills. We include intentional relationship-building activities, teach communication and conflict resolution skills, and provide strong adult leadership from counselors selected from hundreds of applicants. Our talented counselor-facilitators are always attuned to the ever-evolving dynamics of our campers. In our all-girls camp, we’re able to challenge the girls both physically and emotionally, yet enhance their safety. If you are an intentional parent, you will appreciate that we continue the socially progressive lessons you seek for your daughter to empower herself and thrive! To watch our webinar with 10 tips to empower girls, click here!
Benefits of the blended camp include:
- Addressing and combating stereotypical inter-gender dynamics
- i.e. Day of the Queen Bees, where “traditional” roles are flipped
- Ensuring every camper has an equal voice regardless of gender
- Increased “family” dynamics due to a higher percentage of “real-life” siblings
- Modeling from staff and fellow campers on positive intergender relationships
- Normalizing interactions with the other gender
- Fostering learning from the other gender
- Because boys and girls often deal with disagreements differently (with boys generally more likely to focus on rules, and girls generally more interested in talking through a conflict), campers maximize being well-rounded
For campers and families who prefer to have girls and boys at camp at the same time, we offer separate blended camp sessions. As noted above, much research shows the benefits of single-sex environments on a child’s confidence, self-esteem, social, and personal development. However, psychologist Marjan Madison contends that while these types of environments offer many benefits, they can put certain children at a disadvantage when learning to apply these skills to real-life situations. Kupugani’s blended session offers the best of both worlds. We provide the same safe and supportive environment that fosters growth and development while giving campers an opportunity to utilize their newfound confidence in a safe place that more closely mirrors the experiences they may have in everyday life.
Maybe the question should be: How can I not? There is immeasurable value to a dollar spent on a good camp experience-it develops the whole person via a comprehensive social and experiential education. The campers’ empowerment as they realize that they can become powerful, independent young people is priceless. The value of making a variety of lifelong friends from different countries, backgrounds, cultures, and religions is incomparable.
The camper (and parent) comfort level given a supportive environment with the campers guided by professionally trained counselors of astounding character, within beautiful natural facilities, is without parallel. Camp provides learning that can’t be experienced elsewhere, like schools, where there is a narrow academic focus. One can appreciate the value associated with good schools; however, the growth experienced there often doesn’t compare to the growth occurring in just days or weeks at camp.
An intentional camp experience provides wholesome, guided and nurtured opportunities to make sincere friends and to respect others; we emphasize caring, respectful, guided socialization. Our camp professionals facilitate interpersonal dealings. Counselor-camper guidance is consistent and practiced daily; the counselors are specifically trained around social issues, and have both the time and supportive atmosphere to do it well. We give children new perspectives on what daily life and an empowering community can be like for them. They can see that–unlike the pressures that can surround the school environment–all of life is not relentless competition; there can be multiple forms of achievement and popularity among peers.
Caregivers must be mindful around expenses like a camp experience, as with anything that you choose to have your child participate in. So we are sure to provide good value. What price can you put on your child developing a lifelong friend? How much is it worth to for your child to dam jump, rock climb, river walk, or sleep under the stars–to challenge themselves physically and mentally to do things that they haven’t done before? What price is sufficient for your child to be mentored by someone dedicated to supporting and empowering them? (That said, we do have financial aid available for families unable to afford the full tuition).
Here’s more on the return on investment discussing the value of a Camp Kupugani experience.
- We have family friends who may be interested in having their child come to Camp Kupugani with our child. Can you send them a packet? Should my child come to camp without a friend?
We’re absolutely happy to welcome friends to our Kupugani community! Click here to send us an email with your name, their name, their address, their phone number and the names and ages of their children. We’ll send out a packet, which includes all of our current information. If your friend enrolls their child in camp, you’ll receive a 5% tuition credit per enrolled camper. If there’s not a friend available though, it can often be a more empowering experience; check out our blog entry for 5 Ways to Emphasize Why Your Child Can Go to Camp For the First Time on Their Own, and another camp director perspective describing the benefits of To Camp Alone.
Location & Housing
Transportation to camp is easy and convenient. If you would like to drop your child off at camp, we can provide you with directions or you can access them here. We can also arrange for pick-ups at our local airports or bus station. When flying to camp, we suggest using the Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, which allows for the most flexibility of flight options.
Absolutely! During the summer, we are happy to offer camp tours to prospective camp families. It provides a perfect opportunity for you and your child to get a first-hand look at the camp in operation. You can schedule a tour by contacting our office at 1-815-713-4110.
We are located in the Midwest, less than a two-hour drive from Chicago, Illinois, and nestled within 120 acres of lush forests, Camp White Eagle is in Leaf River, Illinois. It is alongside the Leaf River in the northwestern part of the state near Wisconsin and Iowa. The Leaf River is a tributary of the Rock River; via the Rock, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed. Click here for a map! The camp’s Midwest location has a few protective features. The topography of camp (i.e. bluffs, cliffs, water, rural location bounded by large farms and forest) minimizes any outside access. Thick brush and trees prevent outsiders from looking in. The camp is accessible by a single, rural gravel road, which is accessed generally only by those who live there or those who service those homes. Rural Midwest cultural norms and courtesies create an additional awareness of vehicles and people who don’t live on the rural road. Our camp staff members are also trained to recognize, interact with, and assess any unrecognized visitors to camp. Here’s more on why your kids are safe with us: https://campkupugani.com/5-reasons-why-your-children-are-safe-us/
Throughout the summer, northwest Illinois enjoys moderate temperatures with average highs ranging from the mid-70s to the low 80s. Occasional rain showers ensure lush green forests and fields, while the regular warm sun-filled skies provide the perfect setting for playing in the waterfall or dipping in the pool. There are plenty of bright sunny days for activities of all sorts to take place around camp. Aside from the air conditioning in our health center–in case of any medical-related reason (like a camper with asthma)–we leave air conditioning to city folk because sudden changes in temperature and humidity negatively affect the respiratory system. Throughout the summer, given usually moderate temperatures, the cabins–with their ceiling fans and good-sized windows–are quite comfortable. The cabins are located in the woods, which helps minimize any direct sunlight. We also can put in box fans to help circulate air if necessary. The camp community tends to adapt to the environmental temperature; should it get unusually hot, that provides great opportunities for more water activities!
Campers live in wood-framed cabins within the woods of Camp White Eagle. Each cabin has been recently renovated, with insulation, interior wood siding, and solid, built-in wood bunks and drawers. Usually seven to ten campers live in a cabin with two to three staff members who provide the care and attention for each cabin group. Campers wash up in nearby washhouses. The campers’ relatively narrow age group in cabins facilitates age-specific interaction. Each camper is also part of two other groups, with whom they regularly interact. Besides their cabin group–which is a relatively narrow age grouping (usually no more than a year between the youngest and oldest in a cabin, although sometimes cabins have broader age ranges, if that may better facilitate the camp mission), they have their team–which has an intentionally broader age range (about 3 years between the youngest and oldest on a team), and their table group in the dining hall–which can run the full range from 7 to 15. We are proponents of the “Free to Learn” philosophy of child development, part of which is encouraging and facilitating our campers’ engagement with a broad-based age group of children. This is important for a number of reasons:
- Children learn best from those with whom they have caring, trusting relationships.
- The continuous presence of older children, who know the younger ones well and care for them helps to ensure that young children feel safe and secure.
- Older children learn valuable lessons by interacting with younger children including learning to nurture and lead; learning through teaching; and via the creativity-enhancing effects of younger children.
By way of our carefully designed program, campers increase their personal accountability, decision-making, social skills, and appreciation of natural surroundings. Your camper will make new friends, get to know campers who are different from them, feel good about themselves, do things they were at first afraid to do, gain self-confidence, and gain lifelong tools and skills. Although they are part of a cabin group, a team/sharing group, and a table group, each camper retains a sense of self-identity, with the campers’ own goals for what will be accomplished during camp. Independence and self-reliance develop as campers care for their own gear, help with cabin tasks and projects, share their feelings in teams/sharing groups, make individual activity choices, and participate in both fun and meaningful evening activities.
Meals at camp not only taste great, but are nutritious too! From local Midwest farms, we obtain meat (Sumner View Angus Farm) that is free of artificial hormones, and stock sodas free of high fructose corn syrup in our camp store. All meals are served family-style in the dining hall where campers sit with their table group, enabling them to meet other members of the camp community by mixing it up with campers who are different from those in their cabin and team groups. Along with lots of food variety, we offer salad for lunch and dinner, and a vegetarian option for our non-carnivores if requested. Camper comments:
- “[The food] was soooooo good! Thank you Cook Natasha!!!! 🙂 – N.C.
- “It was Delish! Yum! :)” – A.P.
- “[The food] was so so so so good.” – T.T.
- “[The food] was AMAZING! Oh my gosh, I will miss the food so much.” – J.L.
- “Amazing.” – A.E.
- “I love it and I want all of the recipes!” – A.M.
- “It was AMAZING!” – K.L.
Regarding specialized diets, campers with allergies are offered alternatives. A parent or guardian will put this information on the camper’s health form before camp so that we’ll be prepared beforehand. For folks with more individualized needs, our food service manager can provide our camp menu in advance, in case any supplemental food might need to be sent with the child.
Electronics & Activities
Our daily schedule combines scheduled group activities and choice periods. Campers choose at least two individual activities daily, and we re-evaluate our group schedules continually to ensure that all of our campers are focusing on the activities they enjoy most. The camp as a community does an evening activity together. For more information on our philosophy regarding “challenge by choice”, please check out our blog entry here: Kupugani’s Version of Challenge by Choice
We don’t have a school-type curriculum. That said, we are intentional about camper development and growth. For a particular camp session, our 3-year curriculum encompasses different modules over the course of several years. Each session encompasses four modules–two of which are conflict resolution and diversity, with the other two rotating among: leadership skills; social awareness/activism; environmental awareness; empowerment–self-Image and relationships; financial literacy; and self-expression/creativity/gender identity.
Because the whole point of our camp is to enjoy nature, facilitate communication, and empower children by developing those skills, we don’t allow cell phones or Ipods, which diminish interpersonal interaction. A recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that children today are plugged into some kind of electronic medium almost eight hours a day–“more than many full-time jobs, and more time than they spend doing anything else besides sleeping.” As little as regular two hours a day usage of social media leads to increased feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, and depression. Recent research suggests that exposure to nature can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression. Creativity is also stimulated by childhood experiences in nature. Here’s more research at this link on how campers feel about the positive impact of not having their phones.
We have a full packing list in our welcome packet to use as a guideline. Camp is about fun, so leave those fancy clothes at home and come prepared to get a little messy. River walks, mud volleyball, and rock climbing can get clothes dirty!
Physical & Mental Health
Camp Kupugani has a complete health center, with a nurse who handles the day-to-day services and needs. Our nurse keeps all medication and distributes it as prescribed by your doctor. You will be notified if your child has to stay overnight in the health center. If for some reason emergency services are required (beyond what can be treated at camp), 911 personnel’s response time is about ten minutes, and the nearest hospital is just 20 minutes away.
If you’re a parent who might contract a case of childsickness, don’t fret…you’re not the first! We do have several measures in place to help:
- We’re available before camp to answer as many questions as you have so that you feel comfortable in trusting us to care for your child. We recognize that caring for someone else’s child is an even greater responsibility than caring for one’s own.
- If you need some reinforcement via camper parent references, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’re happy to send you a list of parents all happy to discuss their child’s Camp Kupugani experience.
- We post pictures daily…a smiling face of your child is a surefire cure for parental childsickness!
Also, please check out these resources:
- Are You Ready to Send Your Child to Camp? – Fun Quiz
- Eight Reasons Why Your 7-10 Year-Old is Probably Ready for Camp…Even If You Aren’t!
- 10 Questions to Help Determine Whether You’re Ready to Send Your Child to Camp
- Resist the Urge to Pick Up a Child Early from Camp: Why Discomfort Can Be a Positive Growth Experience
- When You Should NOT Send Your Child to Camp
Fortunately, unlike back in the day (when camp director Kevin wet his bed well into junior high), there are easy ways to manage bedwetting at camp—pull-ups! There’s a variety of ways that campers deal with them— with the majority going with full ownership. Some campers unabashedly wear them around the cabin when it’s bedtime. Some put them on more subtly with their pajamas as part of the bedtime routine. Some are shyer and put them on in the bathroom. We honor each camper’s comfort level, whatever their choice. If pull-ups leak or, occasionally, if someone who should have been wearing pull-ups doesn’t, the circumstance gets dealt with routinely and unobtrusively by the counselors. For more info and general tips on managing bedwetting at camp and at home, follow this link to our blog entries, Should I Be Worried If My Child Is a Bedwetter?
Missing home is normal. 95 percent of children who spend at least two weeks at overnight camp feel some degree of homesickness, which is typically mild. Nearly everyone misses something about home when they’re away, be it their parents, home cooking, a sibling, or the family pet. Homesickness has a silver lining; if there’s something that children miss about home, that means there’s something about home that they love–and that’s a wonderful thing. Whatever they miss, the vast majority of children have a great time at camp and are not bothered by mild homesickness.
Overcoming a bout of homesickness and enjoying time away from home nurtures children’s independence and prepares them for the future; the fact that second-year campers are usually less homesick than first-year campers shows powerful growth from camp. Our caring staff members have been trained to help campers deal with homesickness should it arise.
At Camp Kupugani, we create the most nurturing, comforting environment possible, and with all of our activities and program structure, no child stays homesick for long. To further minimize homesickness, before coming to camp, you should:
- Make camp decisions together
- Arrange lots of practice time away from home
- Share your optimism, not your anxiety
- NEVER EVER make a pick-up deal
Campers are generally not allowed to call home. Our experience with calls home is that they diminish the camper’s move towards self-sufficiency, and do not help if there are issues of homesickness. You are welcome to call us any time to check up on how your child is doing. We also post hundreds of pictures daily to a password-protected website so you can see your camper’s success for yourself! Studies have shown that NOT speaking with your child leads to better child development outcomes.
At camp, we empower our campers to resolve conflicts by using conflict resolution techniques. That said, there are times when those may be insufficient, or when a situation requires an adult’s assistance in crafting a solution.
Each camper agrees to the following Camper Code of Conduct.
try my best and give generously of myself.
be honest and respectful (of my peers, camp staff, and myself)
participate enthusiastically in all parts of the program.
make my best effort in understanding and working with others (fellow campers and staff).
respect and listen to others’ opinions.
abide by all safety policies and never endanger myself or another.
ask a counselor or adult staff member for help should I have any problems.
Should a camper (or staff) struggle with any of the above, we have a progressive check-in system to try to find solutions, as delineated below:
Step 1: Check in with Counselor to help the camper craft an appropriate behavior/response.
Step 2: Check in with Co-Counselor or Co-Facilitator
Step 3: Check in with a Camp Administrator
Step 4: Check in with Camp Director (and possibly parent/guardian) to discuss whether our camp is an appropriate place for the camper or if they need to leave.
Occasionally there may be certain behaviors that can’t be tolerated or accommodated at camp–i.e. refusal to be with an assigned group, violence. In those situations, the check in process sometimes doesn’t apply. Generally speaking, if a camper requires significant amounts of one-on-one attention, they are usually not a fit for our camp.
Overall Camp Questions
Because we’re different than any other program. We’re intentionally empowering; we’re intentionally challenging; we intentionally bring together people of different backgrounds, and we’re fun!
Camp Kupugani focuses on the individual needs of each and every child. Our goal is to provide the safest, most rewarding, fun, and memorable summer experience possible. We offer a wide array of activities, top-notch staff members, and a caring, nurturing environment. We have fun, empower our campers, and enjoy nature, so if that’s what you want, please join us! Our intentional, socially-progressive program, is based on a 3-year skills-development curriculum focusing on child empowerment, celebrating difference, and strengthening and appreciating individual identity while appreciating others.
Campers returning each year learn a variety of skill sets including appreciation of people from varied backgrounds, communication skills, leadership, positive self and body image, economic literacy, healthy relationship building, self-expression, social awareness, and environmental awareness. The learning happens almost without knowing it. From our campers’ viewpoint, they just have a great time making fantastic new friends while reconnecting with old ones. They enjoy activities like rock climbing, canoeing, playing under waterfalls, and night hikes under the stars, plus carefully designed group activities and games so that fun and personal growth coincide.
Our camp traditions and activities help make kids better people and help them develop specific skills in multiple ways, like sustained attention (as in archery), overcoming fear (via challenging yet safe activities like rock climbing and dam jumping), and serving others (helping with camp chores). Our parent surveys reinforce that we’re doing our task well. From our past 15 years of parent surveys, 99% of respondents were satisfied with their child’s Camp Kupugani experience and would recommend our camp to friends. From 2021, an overwhelming majority of parents noted their child’s improvement in:
- Acknowledgment & Appreciation of Diversity
- Conflict Resolution Skills
- Personal Growth / Self Confidence
- Positive Self Image and Empowerment
- Leadership Skills
- Interpersonal Relationships
Our camp provides social opportunities that can’t be experienced in other venues. Social life elsewhere is not likely to provide wholesome, guided, and nurtured opportunities to make sincere friends and respect others. At camp, we’re able to emphasize caring, respect, and guided socialization. At camp, we redefine the word “supportive” and give children new perspectives on what daily life and an empowering community can be like for them. We believe that children deserve the chance to see that there is something different from the pressures that surround other environments. Life is not relentless competition, and there can be multiple forms of achievement and popularity among peers. At Camp Kupugani, they can have fun changing their world.
The Gordon family has owned and operated Camp Kupugani and Camp White Eagle since 2006. After years in the camp industry, they bought Camp White Eagle from the Devore family, who had operated Camp White Eagle since 1991. For the prior 40 years, it was operated by the 4H organization. Camp Kupugani is a privately owned, independent Midwest camp, accredited by the American Camp Association.
ACA Accreditation means that we submitted to a thorough (almost 300 standards) review of our operations by the American Camp Association (ACA) — from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. American Camp Association collaborates with experts from The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth service agencies to assure that current practices at the camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. We and the ACA form a partnership that promotes summers of growth and fun in an environment committed to safety. ACA helps all accredited camps provide:
- Healthy, developmentally-appropriate activities and learning experiences
- Discovery through experiential education
- Caring, competent role models
- Service to the community and the environment
- Opportunities for leadership and personal growth
In keeping with our multicultural focus and respect for each individual’s belief system, we have campers of many different faiths and beliefs. Here’s more on how we celebrate and appreciate identity at camp.
We have found that a one-week experience is usually too short to facilitate the growth that stems from a two-week or longer session. For example, if a transition issue (i.e. missing home) occurs in the first few days of a one-week session, the camper is just hitting stride by week’s end, when s/he unfortunately then gets torn from a great empowering experience because the week is done. What can sometimes happen in one week is that the camper arrives gung-ho and fades a little bit by the end of the week; that camper then leaves on an artificially down note, i.e. feels like s/he had a bad experience, but it really was just a camp experience that ended at an awkward time by not allowing her/him the time to work through it. Programatically, we also get to pack more fun and empowering camp adventures into a longer camp session!
For more on why one week isn’t enough, check out our blog!
Our campers come from all over the country and the world! Campers have come from as far as Japan, China, Liberia, Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, Anguilla, the Bahamas, and Mexico, with others joining them from the Virgin Islands, California, Washington State, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Utah, New York, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin, in addition to kids from right here in Illinois. Our campers’ ethnic backgrounds are a nice mix too–including Caucasian, African-American, Bi-racial, Hispanic/Latina, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Native American; our young people embrace identities from everywhere! At Camp Kupugani our campers have it all!
- What kind of parents send their children to Camp Kupugani (“intentional parents”)? Do you have parent references available?
A Camp Kupugani parent is, for the most part, an “intentional” parent. What exactly is an intentional parent? We see an intentional parent (just as our “intentional” counselors do) as one who is willing to do the very hard work of helping a child be the best the child can be. The intentional parent does a lot of giving: giving of time, giving of sleep, giving of money, giving of attention—generally, giving mightily of oneself. It is certainly not easy, and as far as we know, is not meant to be. Every parent or caregiver—intentional or not—gives their child many things. Some of those “gifts” are things children might not necessarily want to receive (and/or parents don’t necessarily want to bestow on children); our bad habits sometimes have a way of living on whether we want them to or not. Nonetheless, most gifts we choose to bestow on our kids. Parental “gifts” say a lot about parents. Some just want to get through the child-rearing years with as little effort as possible…to survive, they will give the child whatever is demanded, so the kid will be quiet and stop bugging them, so that the parent can carry on with whatever the parent is focused on. Some choose to give their child the “in thing” or what’s most popular, without necessarily considering whether that thing will be the most helpful. Some move through their children’s worlds deliberately and purposefully; these parents give what is useful, after carefully thinking through what would be best. That is an intentional parent. Easy? Certainly not. Going unrecognized? Probably. Helping to create a better world for their child and the world beyond them? For sure. That’s an intentional parent. For camper parent references, please feel free to email us at email@example.com and we’re happy to send you a list of parents all happy to discuss their child’s Camp Kupugani experience.
Our staff members are carefully selected from hundreds of applicants from throughout the United States and all over the world. Boasting a more selective percentage of hires to applicants than even Ivy League universities, we are extremely intentional in our hiring process, offering positions to only those truly committed to being a teacher, counselor, mentor, protector and friend to our campers. Prospective staff members undergo a rigorous screening and interview process–including in-person interviews plus reference and background checks–to make sure that we hire only the best, most qualified individuals to be a part of our camp family. Staff members are CPR and First Aid certified. They also acknowledge and abide by child abuse and internet policies and protections, and a variety of other precautions before being allowed to work at camp. Beyond background checks, our camp culture of always observing a “rule of three” provides an institutional practice that helps to prevent our camp from being one of those schools, churches, or other youth-serving organization often in the headlines for bad behavior being perpetrated by creepy adults. (For more on empowering children to minimize the potential of abuse, check out our blog here.)
As supervision is one of our top priorities, we maintain a staff ratio of better than 3 to 1. There are generally 2 counselors in a cabin of 7-10 campers. Additionally, there are program staff who live in central camp in our staff cabin. Also, owner/directors Kevin and Natasha live near camp, so there is plenty of supervised independence! During certain activities or times of the day, ratios can vary; at all times, we maintain minimum ratios better than American Camp Association standards of 6:1 for 7-8 year-olds, 8:1 for 9-14 year-olds, and 10:1 for 15 year-olds.
What Our Campers Have to Say
“The most important thing I learned at camp was to empower who you are.“
“I love Camp Kupugani because I met people who were kind and accepting.“
“This place is a palace of adventure and will cripple every form of doubt when you set foot out of the car.”
“The most important thing I learned at camp was to be kind to each other and to make a difference in the world.”
“Camp Kupugani has helped improve my communication and leadership skills, while having lots of fun at the same time!”
“Camp Kupugani was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The camp allowed me to meet new friends, learned new things, and experience independence. I’m looking forward to coming back!”
“I love Camp Kupugani because I was able to gain more confidence and be more independent.”
“I have gone to the camp for 5 years and I have always had an amazing experience going there. When you go you not only become friends with each other you become family with each other.”
“It is the most positive environment I have ever found. The people are amazing, and, even after eight years, I’m still learning.”
“There’s lots of activities and you can make new friends and everyone there is loving, caring and joyful.”
“I love Camp Kupugani because it embraces everyone like no other place in the world.”
“I love camp because it is a safe place to be myself without being criticized for it.“