Adventure Camps: Rory Judge
Every so often we conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids. We recently exchanged emails with Rory Judge, owner and director of Adventure Camps, in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Yelp he is described by a former camper as “…perhaps the coolest, hippest camp counselor ever to grace San Francisco”. Adventure Camps is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and we are very happy that Rory agreed to share some of his camp wisdom with our readers.
Rory came to San Francisco in 1978 to play the drums and work in the clubs at night and he landed a job at Adventure Camps during the day. Over the next few years he took over more responsibility in the camp and eventually became a partner and then sole owner of the business. He says Adventure Camps has never been just a job for him; it has been his life and his passion for over 33 years.
With so many camps available, how can parents find the right camp for their child?
Talk to other families, research, and ask the camp specific questions about what it will be like for your child to attend. Before the Internet, parents would talk in person or on the phone about what their children were doing and where they were going. For 40 years Adventure Camps has had word of mouth and our reputation as our main source of advertising.
What questions should a parent ask a camp?
- Who are the counselors?
- What kinds of activities will the children be doing?
- How long have they been in business?
- What is their safety record?
I find most parents have done their research and know what questions to ask by the time they call me.
Any specific advice on selecting a mobile day camp?
Ask the same questions of any other camp plus, “Who are the drivers?” Find out where they go and what kind of vehicles they drive. At Adventure Camps, kids love being in our vans. We are not just a transportation company driving campers to a location. The children have fun from the moment they step into our van in the morning until the time they step out at the end of the day.
Some kids attend as many as 10 weeks of summer camp. The summer can seem long. Any tips on preventing camp burn-out?
It really comes down to the counselors. You can have great activities for the kids to do, but it is equally important for the counselors to be there for the kids and to give them the best and most fun camp experience. The kids come first. We have many children attend camp all summer long, and it always goes by too fast. Time will fly when the kids have fun.
How should parents help kids prepare for camp?
For young children and first time campers it is important for them to know what to expect and that they will be doing fun things that really enjoy. At Adventure Camps, we talk to new parents about their kids and find out what they like before they get to camp.
Tell us what is special about Adventure Camps.
We offer a safe and fun place where all kids can feel like they belong, and get to be themselves. From Golden Gate Park to Tilden Park and from The Marin Headlands to China Camp State Park, we know all the great places to go for kids. Being a completely mobile day camp, we get to use the great Bay Area as our playground, and we have unlimited resources within a very short distance. Adventure Camp offers fun and educational programs for children 48 weeks a year including summer, fall, spring and school vacations.
Congratulations on Adventure Camps’ 40th Anniversary this year! Has much changed in the camp over that time?
While the world has changed very much over the last 40 years, essentially, we are still the same camp that we were in 1971. We take children in our vans, offer them a really fun unique day camp experience, and provide memories that last a lifetime. While we have embraced modern technology, using two-way radios in our vans, mobile phones, the Internet and all the other new devices designed to speed up life; we still take it at a nice slow pace designed specifically for the kids.
As an experienced camp director/owner what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Never make assumptions about children; each child is different and unique and should always be treated with respect. Camp counselors are here to facilitate the children and ensure that they are safe and having a great day. They are the stars of the show and we are the support crew.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We consider it a privilege to have children attend our camp and be able to spend time with them.