Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 23
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

SUMMERTIME FUN: “We have offered summer day camps at The Lawrenceville School since 1992,” says ESF Summer Camps admission director, Greg Ackerman. “The facilities are excellent, and offer ample indoor and outdoor space. We value our relationship with The Lawrenceville School and are very proud to be a partner with them.” Shown are campers enjoying a moment together.

ESF (Education, Sports, Fun) Summer Camps Offer Creative, Cutting-edge Camping Options

A camp for kids that was started by kids. How cool is that!

The first ESF camp was begun in 1982 by brothers Michael and Bill Rouse, aged respectively 15 and 11. It was a 2-week tennis camp held at The Haverford School in Haverford, Pa., and was an instant hit.

In the 29 years since then, the 2-week camp has expanded to nine weeks, and is available at sites in five states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland. The brothers continue to oversee its operation and make sure its core values are emphasized.

“ESF’s mission is to provide the finest camp experience for people of all ages — an experience that will be remembered for a life-time. ESF is committed to quality and excellence in everything we do. We provide carefully designed programs and activities, a dedicated, experienced, and well-trained staff, along with a caring, safe environment with premier facilities. Through education, sports, and fun, we offer opportunities for campers and team members to believe in themselves and to achieve their full potential,” reads the camp’s mission statement.

Various Camps

“Our biggest joy is seeing campers blown away by our programs and wishing the day wasn’t over,” says Michael Rouse. “Smiles on their faces tell us we did a great job. The letters we receive from parents that tell us our camp has changed their child’s life, how we helped them learn, and how they discovered new experiences and tried things for the very first time continue to motivate us.”

ESF offers various camps for children from 4 years old to 16, including a location at The Lawrenceville School. Camps there are in session from June 20 through August 19. Major Camp (formerly Innovation Camp) runs from July 11 through July 29. Camps are grouped by age and grade level, reports Director of Admissions Greg Ackerman, who has been with the organization since 1994.

“There are many benefits for kids who come to ESF camps,” he observes. Among them:

“The experienced, all-adult staff, offering excellent safety and supervision

Variety of fun programs and activities for all ages developed by our year-round staff

Our instructional swim program

Excellent indoor and outdoor facilities

Promotion of values and life skills

Optional extended day program and fun after-camp clinics”

Field Trips

The camps at Lawrenceville include Day Camp for boys and girls four to eight years old who want to participate in a wide variety of hands-on activities. Sports Camp is for boys and girls six to 14 who love sports. Nine sports are featured weekly for all skill levels.

Senior Camp offers exciting true life adventures for boys and girls 9 to 15 who are interested in new challenges. Major Camp helps to empower the creativity and imagination of kids 10 to 16. “The program allows campers to experience real careers, innovate and work in teams to solve real-world challenges,” explains Mr. Ackerman. “It features professionals in various fields as special guests, plus field trips related to individual projects.”

Phillies Baseball Academy is for children six to 14 and offers baseball and softball experience for boys and girls.

An important aspect of the ESF philosophy is to provide a safe, supportive, and fun environment where new experiences can be tried, and individual achievement as well as team work are encouraged. Children are exposed to new activities and not to worry if they make a mistake, adds a former counselor. “This is important because it shows kids they can take risks and make mistakes, and then learn from them and move on.”

Behavior and Development

Working as a team to solve a problem or create and develop a project is another focus. When asked what she had learned at camp, one little girl replied: “I learned to work with others.”

The team of counselors at the ESF camps consists of teachers, undergraduate, and graduate students pursuing degrees in early childhood, elementary, secondary school, and physical education, child psychology, social work, counseling, and other child-related fields of study. Highly qualified directors with a proficient understanding of child behavior and development are responsible for running each program. The aquatics staff consists of Red Cross-certified lifeguards and instructors.

The limited camper enrollment and low camper-to-staff ratio ensure that each child receives individual attention.

ESF’s full-time staff includes professionals who work year-round to create adventures and activities for children of all ages.

In addition to the standard ESF day camps, there is an outreach program. In 1998, ESF launched Dream Camp at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., a tuition-free, scholarship camp for underprivileged youth from the Hartford community. The following year, The Girard Sports Camp at Girard College in Philadelphia began operation. It offers one-week, tuition-free scholarship camp for underprivileged youth from the Philadelphia community.

These non-profit organizations “are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of underserved young people,” notes an ESF report. In addition, since its beginning, the Dream Camp has provided more than 5,000 scholarships to children in Hartford and Philadelphia to attend a year-long after-school mentoring and summer camp program free of charge.

Open Forum

Inspired by their sister’s struggle with cerebral palsy, the Rouse brothers and the ESF team helped her launch Acting Without Boundaries in 2004. It is a year-round theater program and workshop that provides an open forum for the creative and artistic experiences of children, teens, and young adults with physical disabilities.

Michael and Bill Rouse have emphasized inclusion in their camps from the beginning. ESF makes every effort to accommodate campers with special needs.

Greg Ackerman is proud to be associated with such a forward-thinking organization, and with personnel of such high ability. “I am happy to have the opportunity to make a positive impact on campers and families,” he says. “And to work with a great staff that is highly motivated is a big pleasure.”

ESF Camp hours at The Lawrenceville School are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Extended hours are also offered.

Enrollment is still available. (609) 896-0606. Website:

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