Camp Review: Background Info and Day 1 – Camp Woodward – Action Sports Camp for My PANDA?

Well…we arrived in Woodward, PA yesterday for Camp Woodward and I’ve been dying to tell you about it! Camp Woodward is an ACA-accredited action sports camp for ages 7+. While there are several Camp Woodward locations and they offer camps for several different action sports, my PANDA is attending Scooter Camp at the location in North Central Pennsylvania.

Attending this camp was definitely Spencer’s idea. He had seen lots of YouTube videos of his favorite scooter tricksters (is that what you call them?) at Woodward and knew it was a place that he wanted to go. He’s never done sleepaway camp before and I was a little concerned that he’d back out before the date actually arrived, but, in fact, he seemed to just get more and more excited as we got closer to leaving!

We registered for Week 1 of 2019 Woodward Camp in late 2018 and were offered $100 off the registration fee as first-time campers. All in all, the camp cost us about $1350 for Week 1 (Weeks 2, 11 and 12 are also $1350 while weeks 3 through 10 are $1550…due to popularity, I suppose?) Included in the fee are 6 nights and 7 days of activities/training as well as all meals and most optional recreation activities. Most of the camp options follow that pricing model although some are a bit less. The programs available at Woodward’s PA location are: Gymnastics, Cheer, Dance, Parkour, BMX, Skateboarding, Freestyle BMX, Mountain Biking, Scooter, BMX Racing, Digital Photography, Video Production, Multi-Sport (more on that later,) and Ninja (an American Ninja Warrior-style activity!)

Woodward offers payment plans for their fees…so you can arrange to pay for camp throughout the year up to 30 days before arrival at camp. Otherwise, there is a $300 deposit and the remainder is due prior to arrival. They also offer a ~$100 camp protection plan in case your camper gets sick, hurt, etc. and can’t attend…you’ll get your money back. We rolled the dice and didn’t take advantage of the insurance. We had heard nothing but good things about Woodward and our experience with registration and form completion was a very positive one.

Camp Woodward has a ‘camper account’ for each camper and suggests that each family put at least $200 on that account for their kiddo for the week. It will cover any extra recreation activities the camper wants to participate in, any ‘extra’ food from the canteen and any merchandise they choose to buy during the week. It was super easy to add money to the account and Spencer was given a code to use to access that money when we arrived. Any funds not used and more than $10 are refunded to the form of payment at the end of the week. Anything less than $10 is donated to Woodward’s scholarship program.

Woodward asks for all of the appropriate health, medical and dietary information through their portal prior to arrival. They are staffed with a nurse (more than one nurse?) in their infirmary 24×7 and are completely prepared to administer medication with a doctor’s note on whatever schedule is necessary. As you can imagine, that’s a big deal to a PANDAS family. Also a big deal…they can accommodate dietary restrictions. The cafeteria is amazing with numerous food stations (burgers, pizza, Asian food, Mexican food, etc.) as well as plenty of gluten-free options upon request. The staff is also more than willing (I called prior to our departure) to provide ingredient labels to the kids so that they can determine whether or not something is okay for them to eat. As Spencer does not eat dairy, gluten, corn syrup or food dye, that was particularly important for us!

As I mentioned, Spence has never been away from home for an overnight camp and had some concerns before we left. He was sensitive to the idea of communal showering (apparently not uncommon in this day and age in his age group…I was assured by the Woodward staff) and having to change his clothes in a group setting. When I called to inquire about cabin setup in the weeks prior to camp, I was advised that each cabin has a private shower and that approximately 12-20 kids are housed in each cabin by age group and sport. One 18+ year old counselor is assigned to each cabin. I was amazed to hear that communal showering was not an issue. Obviously, however, the boy is going to have to get over some of his modesty as changing clothes in a group setting with 12-20 boys is simply unavoidable. He mentioned prior to heading out that his plan was to ‘make as many friends as possible as quickly as possible since it’s less embarrassing to change in front of people you know!’ 🙂 Good plan, kid!

Woodward offers some transportation to/from camp that we did not take advantage of. They offer shuttle service from several cities, for a fee: State College airport and bus station, Rockaway, New Jersey, Chicago, IL, Toledo, OH and Cleveland, OH. When we checked in yesterday, I immediately received an email stating that my camper ‘had arrived.’ While it wasn’t a useful email for me, I can imagine that it would be very reassuring for parents who send their kids to camp alone via shuttle or public transportation. I thought it was a very nice touch!

Camp arrival day starts at 9 am on a Sunday…campers can check in anytime between 9 am and 2 pm. We arrived at about noon and were greeted by a staff member who was super enthusiastic and walked us through where to park, check-in, drop off medication at the infirmary and find Spencer’s cabin. We proceeded to the check-in barn and were regularly greeted further by staff members who seemed very excited to meet us and couldn’t wait to tell Spence how exciting it would be to be a first-year camper. Apparently, a lot of kids must stay for multiple weeks as we were asked repeatedly how many weeks he would be at camp!

At registration, all forms had already been completed online so check-in was quick and efficient. Spencer was advised about which cabin he would reside in and shown the cabin on the map. The staff confirmed that we had brought bedding for him (sheets and pillows are not provided…you can either bring your own twin sheets or a sleeping bag or both.) There was also a ‘step and repeat’ set up where I could take his photo and the staff took an identification photo of him (for multiple purposes, I’m sure, but I saw it used to ensure that his account funds were only being used by him) when we arrived.

After that, there was one station to review medical and health info for kids who might be arriving sick or had medical protocols to review. (I had to answer questions about whether or not he felt sick at check-in or had had a fever in the previous week…frankly, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had marked yes but that wasn’t an issue for us!) Once we had reviewed our medical information with the staff and ensured that all parent contact info was correct, we were directed to 3 activity booths. The first allowed S to sign up for a ropes course time during the week, the second housed sign-ups for horse back riding and/or an overnight horseback campout (both an extra fee of $30-$45) and the third offered a professional photo package of your camper in action for $250. I’m a sucker for good photos and buy every photo package available to me so they definitely had their mark on me for the photos. I’ll let you know how that turns out in a subsequent post! Spencer chose to sign up for a ropes course slot and a horseback riding slot but declined the overnight horseback camp out. I’m guessing he’s going to regret that and want to do it next year!

After getting through all of the registration, we were guided to the infirmary. The nurse that we met was extremely helpful, knowledgeable and kind. She spoke primarily to Spencer about his needs and his medication and advised him that a golf cart would be sent around to pick him up first thing each morning and last thing each night to make sure he got his medication. She also asked me a few questions about whether or not he is permitted to take OTC medication (ibuprofen for a headache or something for a bellyache, etc.) I left the infirmary confident that his medical needs would be attended to and Spence left feeling sure that he knew what he needed to do and would have the support he needed.

From there, we got back in the car and parked near his cabin. We were easily able to move his foot locker, sleeping bag, scooter and helmet/pads into the cabin. There, we met Barrett, Spencer’s counselor for the week. He’s from Arizona and seemed to have a good rapport with the boys who had already checked-in. Barrett pointed out the bunks that were still available for Spencer to choose and gave us the pros and cons of each. He was incredibly welcoming to us and answered any and all questions I had. Interestingly, one child who had already checked in spoke up and said, ‘Make sure nobody sees your combination for your foot locker lock. Somebody broke into mine last year and stole my stuff.’ Barrett immediately broke in and said, ‘Spencer doesn’t need to worry about that, X. Nobody will be stealing anything in this cabin!’ I appreciated both his willingness to reassure Spencer on that topic and his determination to ensure that everybody behaves appropriately while he’s there.

While we were in the cabin, I had a chance to check out the bathroom. There was a single shower with some soap supplies in it, a urinal and a toilet. It was nice enough though I’m sure it will be utterly gross at the end of the week with twelve 11-year old boys using it! 🙂 Once we had met Barrett, Spencer had picked out a bunk, met a couple of other campers and I had put some sheets on his chosen bunk, we headed out to The Canteen to check out the available merchandise. Of course, Spencer was adamant that he needed a hoodie and a hat!

The Canteen is amazing…apparently it’s either brand new or newly refurbished. It contains a shop that reminded me of a small Notre Dame bookstore and offered everything from Woodward-themed sweatshirts and hats to raincoats and bathing suits. The prices were to be expected…nothing different than what you would find in a campus bookstore and easily chargeable to his camper account. We also checked out the food in the Canteen and discovered that they offered several natural, corn syrup and dye free options for snacks. They also offered tons of junk too…but whatever. The Canteen also contains what appears to be a radio station…I’m not sure exactly how it is used at camp but it was pretty impressive!

I didn’t get to see all of the facilities while I was at Woodward for drop-off but the ramps, pools, obstacles courses, etc. that I did see were amazing! The camp itself is nestled in the hills of PA and it’s both beautiful and state of the art!

Another thing I noticed during drop-off was that many kids had already checked in and were running around camp in pairs or groups using the facilities by themselves. While that made me a little nervous, I appreciated that the camp is safe enough that groups of 11 year old boys can come and go freely on the grounds without fear.

Shortly after we purchased Spencer’s hoodie and hat, we returned to his cabin and he was ready for me to depart. I got a hug and a farewell and was back on the road. I was surprised, but he didn’t express even a moment’s hesitation about me leaving and was off with some new ‘buds’ before I could get out of the parking lot. While we definitely met the ‘spazzy kid’ (the one who warned us about theft) in the cabin, there were a number of other kids who all seemed to be less intense and were friendly and doing their own things. One boy was sitting in his bunk reading a book when I left! Meeting some of the boys left me reassured that all kinds of kids attend Woodward and are welcomed and accepted!

I’m staying in nearby College Station, PA while Spence is at camp this week. Him being a first-time camper and having a medical condition made me a bit anxious before we arrived. I have the opportunity to work remotely and am using it to be nearby without intruding. Having been there during check-in, I’m pretty sure it’s completely unnecessary but it reassures me that I can get there quickly, if needed, for any reason.

I received my first text from Spence at camp last night. (Campers are allowed to bring phones but are not permitted to use them during ‘programming’ or after ‘lights out.’) It said, ‘I found some natural strawberry/blueberry drink that I can have!’ (Big news for a PANDAS kid) ‘And…I met a new friend! His name is Patrick. He has one arm and can scooter!!!’ Based on that text alone, I’m sure Spencer is going to be just fine!

I’ll provide more updates as the week goes along but, at this point, I’m incredibly impressed with Camp Woodward and super excited for Spencer to experience this week. From what I’ve seen, the program at Woodward is going to be amazing and the staff and counselors really have it together! It’s an opportunity I would highly recommend for any kid interested in action sports…and would certainly recommend for a PANDAS kid with those interests!

To check out Camp Woodward for yourself, please click the link below:

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