Summer Camp FAQs for New Families
Sending your child to summer camp can be just as momentous of an experience for your child as it is for you.
We know that it can feel emotional and that you and your child may have questions about the experience. Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions about our summer programs. You can also watch this short video of Camp Director Becca Meyer answering the most commonly asked questions from our New Family Orientations.
My child has never been to Camp and doesn't know anyone. Is this typical?
Yes! Every session has a mix of new and returning campers. Tawonga has built its reputation as a warm, welcoming place for every child by paying careful attention to the emotional experience of each camper. We create a non-competitive environment in which there is no hierarchy between kids. Our group-centered philosophy brings kids of diverse experiences and backgrounds together and facilitates deep and lasting friendships. Remember, everyone has a first summer at camp.
Our family has a decent income but camp still feels out of reach. Can we qualify for financial assistance?
We recognize that the expense of summer camp may feel out of reach even for families with an otherwise comfortable income. We offer a financial assistance program that maintains confidentiality for your family and child, in a way that reflects not just your income but also special circumstances. We encourage you to apply even if you are on the fence. Explore our many financial assistance options here, or call us at 415.543.2267 to discuss.
We've heard so much about Camp Tawonga and would love to see it. Can parents visit Camp?
Yes, you should bring your whole family up for a weekend program at Tawonga to meet our wonderful staff, see our beautiful property and get a taste of the Tawonga experience. Or, you can sign up for a tour of Camp with one of our directors during Memorial Day Weekend on May 29, 2022. However, we do not allow family members to visit campers while they are attending a session. This would interfere with you and your child making a healthy separation, which is a big part of the way kids gain confidence, independence and maturity at Camp.
Will my child have a positive Jewish experience?
Yes! Judaism is infused into daily life at Camp, from the Hebrew blessings we sing at every meal to the mindful way that we treat each other, rooted in Jewish values, to rich Shabbat celebrations. Your child’s Jewish experience will come through exploring Jewish values, customs and traditions. The approach to the Jewish experience at Tawonga is a joyful blend of culture, ritual, inclusion and inviting campers to experience spiritual and Jewish moments that resonate personally with them.
Tawonga campers include kids who are highly affiliated with their Jewish communities (through synagogue, JCC, or day school), kids for whom Tawonga is their primary Jewish experience, kids from interfaith families and kids who are not Jewish. They all share great Jewish experiences because we offer – and never force – a positive, fun, inspirational and uplifting “buffet” of Jewish experiences.
Shabbat is a highlight at Camp during our 2+ week programs, starting with a delicious Friday night dinner followed by joyful singing and dancing. Kabbalat Shabbat and Saturday morning Torah services are held outdoors against the gorgeous backdrop of tall trees, blue skies and the Tuolumne River. Your child will come home with a new appreciation for the beauty of our Jewish heritage and a deepened sense of pride in their own identity.
Whether your family attends synagogue regularly or never at all, Tawonga is a warm and welcoming Jewish home for your child. You can learn more about Tawonga’s approach to Judaism and spirituality here.
My child has never backpacked and doesn't have a pack. Is this pretty typical?
Yes! Our Wilderness Leaders are experienced backcountry experts chosen for their sensitivity and their ability to help kids feel comfortable in nature. They select destinations that match the ability and interests of each cabin group and are dedicated to making the overnight experience fun, positive and focused on group building. We have a full inventory of backpacks, sleeping pads and all the gear necessary for safe, exciting overnights in Yosemite and the surrounding National Forest. Your child just needs to bring a sleeping bag and comfortable hiking shoes.
My kids are really picky eaters. Will they like the food at Camp?
Yes! In addition to our main meal, we always have options available for picky eaters like plain pasta, string cheese, and other kid favorites. We will work with your child to ensure even the pickiest eaters never go hungry and there is always something they like to eat available to them at each meal.
We recently completed a million-dollar expansion of the Tawonga kitchen, so we can prepare nutritious and delicious fresh foods that address a variety of dietary needs, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and lactose intolerance, as well as other allergy restrictions. We make as many foods as possible from scratch, and strive to use organic and locally sourced foods when possible.
Snacks are available throughout the day and at meals, including fresh fruits and vegetables, string cheese and crackers. In addition to the main entrée, there is always a protein alternative, like egg salad, hummus, or tuna, plus sun-butter and jelly. Outdoor BBQs feature hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and veggie burgers, as well as pasta salads and fresh fruit. Food at Tawonga is kosher-style, so we separate milk and meat, and we never serve non-kosher foods, such as pork or shellfish.
I'm worried my child will be homesick. How will you handle this?
Our counselors are experts at helping children make friends right away and adjust to life at Camp. They facilitate partner activities, group games, sharing activities and provide lots of 1:1 support to help children make friends and feel comfortable at Camp. When children miss home, our counselors will listen empathically and then encourage them to get involved in cabin activities because having fun and making friends are the best remedies for missing home. Our staff members pay attention to your child’s emotional adjustment to Camp and are trained to provide appropriate support through that process. If needed, your child’s bunk counselor will get additional help from Unit Heads, Camp Therapist and Directors. If your child is missing home intensely we will reach out to you to brainstorm together the best ways to support them. We are ready!
Are Tawonga staff prepared to work with my child’s needs?
Yes! We carefully train our staff to meet your child’s social, recreational and physical needs. Each session, a total of nearly 200 counselors, supervisors, specialists and support staff serve 300 children — a staff to camper ratio that ensures excellent, dedicated care. The minimum certification for any Tawonga staff member working with children is CPR and First Aid, and Wilderness Leaders are certified as Wilderness First Responders. We know how to treat each child as a precious individual, and, at the same time, facilitate the kind of immersive group living and bonding experiences for which Tawonga is renowned.
If you have any questions about specific accommodations that your child might need, you may call our office at 415.543.2267 and speak with Shoshie Flagg, Assistant Director of Community Engagement.
How do I know which program is best for my child?
Each of our programs is grounded in our deep-rooted traditions and mission-based philosophy. Sessions at our Yosemite location offer the quintessential “camp” experience, including hiking, swimming, boating, campfires, sing-alongs and arts and crafts in a group-centered environment. Our Adventure Quests take Camp on the road for the ultimate adventure-based road trip.
Whether your child attends a week of summer camp or three weeks on an Adventure Quest, our staff will provide a safe environment for campers to feel great about themselves while deepening their independence, exploring Judaism in a beautiful, natural setting and developing a sense of belonging in our warm, inclusive community.
Typically, the best indicator of how much time away is appropriate is the child; a desire to go away to camp is an excellent place to start. For some, sleepovers and time away from home is still new, and one or two weeks can be a good start. For others with more comfort and/or experience being away, or for those with a heightened sense of adventure, programs lasting two weeks or longer will be a good fit.
Remember that it’s normal for campers (and their parents!) to feel nervous about being away from home, and this is a natural part of the overall camp experience.To discuss your child’s particular needs, please call our office to speak with a director. We’re happy to help!
My child is allergic to nuts. Should I be worried about them eating nuts at Camp?
No, we are very experienced in accommodating children with nut allergies at Tawonga. We make every effort to be “nut aware” by not introducing nut products into our kitchen, not cooking with nuts and reading food labels carefully.
Additionally, we ask that campers and program participants refrain from bringing nut products into Camp. However, we cannot guarantee that items have not been exposed to cross-contamination prior to arriving on our site and are therefore not a 100% nut-free environment. If your child has a severe nut allergy, please call our office to speak with a director.
2022 FAQs & Enrolled Family FAQs