In just a few short months, children will, hopefully, get to do what they were not able to do last summer because of COVID-19.
They will pack up sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights and duffel bags filled with their names labeled on everything, give mom and dad a hug goodbye, and then board a bus that will take them up to Friendly Pines Camp in Prescott.
Located in the cool pines of the beautiful Bradshaw Mountains, Friendly Pines Camp has become a favorite sleepaway camp tradition for thousands of families.
“We’re now seeing a fourth generation of campers,” says Kevin Nissen, the long-time co-director who has worked full time with the camp for 30 years.
“Many of our former campers, who are now the parents and even grandparents of current campers, tell us that they love that we’re still teaching the same, classic camp songs and square dances; still cooking Dutch oven biscuits over a campfire; and offering many of the same outdoor sports, activities and camp traditions that they remember doing.”
Founded in 1941 by Bud and Isabelle Brown and accredited through the American Camp Association, Friendly Pines Camp is Arizona’s longest-running family-owned summer camp. The founders’ great-granddaughter, Megan May, is the camp’s other co-director.
Designed for ages 6 through 14, this coed sleepaway camp offers more than 30 traditional camp activities, including horseback riding, swimming, waterskiing, ball sports, rock climbing, performing arts, fine arts, pet care, fencing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, dancing and sewing.
According to Nissen, “Sleepaway camp is the ideal training ground for developing resilience or grit. At sleepaway camp, boys and girls are encouraged to try new things, like riding a horse or waterskiing, or scale the climbing wall.
“Camp is also a place where children can discover their inner strength. They learn that maybe — for the first time — they can make their own way in the world. And isn’t that what we really want our kids to know?”
Being “unplugged” and away from so much screen time is another big reason why parents choose to send their children to Friendly Pines for a couple of weeks every summer.
Nissen says he hears from more parents every year that they simply want their children to enjoy socializing and playing with other kids face to face, not on social media, and they want their kids to enjoy being outside in nature. Every afternoon during “siesta” kids can be found reading and relaxing in the hammocks that swing between the trees.
This summer, Friendly Pines is scheduled to operate from May 29 through July 24. There are one-, two-, four- and six-week sessions available. The camp’s COVID-19 safety protocols are on the camp’s website.
“We will continue to communicate with the state and county health departments and maintain our high level of communication with our camp families regarding changes in status for summer 2021,” Nissen says.
“We are currently enrolling for this summer, and all families have until May 1 to cancel without any penalty, less a $100 administration fee.”
Parents should also know that while many of the camp’s activities and traditions have remained the same over 80 years, all the main buildings and cabins have been remodeled and upgraded. Each cabin comes equipped with its own bathroom and shower. Plus, while many of the same classic camp foods continue to be served, the kitchen staff today is very willing and able to accommodate any child who is vegan, gluten free and lactose intolerant.
“What we really try to offer kids — in addition to lots of new experiences and learning — is just a great deal of fun,” Nissen says.
“Unlike a school setting, summer camp is primarily designed to be fun. In fact, most former campers will recall their time at camp as being the most singularly fun time of their lives.”
Save the Dates
• 7 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, March 28: Friendly Pines will host a Facebook Live information night.
• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 22: Free open house. Families are invited to visit in person for camp tours, wagon rides, toasting marshmallows, zipline rides, drawings for prizes, and a special 80th birthday celebration.
For more information, call 928.445.2128 or visit friendlypines.com.