By Janis Fontaine
Lisa Borg has been asking camp directors the hard questions for more than 16 years as an adviser for The Camp Experts & Teen Summers, a free service for parents with up-to-date information about summer camps. The guide was founded in 1987 by New Yorker Joanne Paltrowitz.
Today about 20 advisers provide a curated list of camps carefully tailored to your child’s likes and needs. They gathered facts on more than 1,000 local and sleep-away camps and teen trips, both in the United States and abroad.
“The families we help have kids that are age 7 to college-age,” Borg said by phone from her home in Delray Beach. Borg’s territory is Palm Beach, Broward and Martin counties, and she helps families find sleep-away camps or local summer programs for families who don’t want residential camps.
Borg found the Camp Experts & Teen Summers when she was searching for a summer program for her children in the early 2000s. She soon found herself in training as an adviser to help other parents do the same thing.
“My goal is to find a camp that a kid wants to go back to every year,” Borg said.
She said her Florida clients don’t usually send their kids to sleep-away camp for the whole summer. They might send children to sleep-away camp for a couple of weeks, Borg said, but summer is usually reserved for family vacations.
Borg’s children are adults now, working and studying in Manhattan, but Borg is still helping families find camps that are perfect matches for their children.
She and the other advisers visit camps in the summer and ask hard questions about safety, emergency procedures, programming, the extent of background checks, and some questions parents haven’t even thought to ask yet.
Borg is open and friendly, with a no-nonsense edge. Her Manhattan accent may have faded, but her New York personality is as sharp as ever.
She does an extensive interview with the parents and child “to learn and understand their child and their distinct needs,” but her interviews with camp directors are just as thorough.
Questions parents should ask before enrolling their children
Lisa Borg, an authority on summer camps who lives in Delray Beach, says parents should know what questions to ask before signing up their kids.
Here are her top five suggestions:
• Be sure you know what the camp’s strengths are.
• Check out the camper-to-counselor ratio. “The lower the ratio the better,” Borg says.
The acceptable ratios, according to the American Camping Association, are 1:8 for day campers age 6 to 8, 1:10 for day campers age 9-14, and 1:12 for day campers in the 15-18 age range.
• Ask how many of the counselors are former campers and inquire about how they are vetted.
“Some former campers make great counselors because they already know the lay of the land, but all campers should complete training,” Borg says. “They need to be passionate about working with kids.”
• Locate the nearest hospital or emergency clinic and how long it takes to get there.
Ask camps if they have medical staff on site for emergencies, how they handle food allergies, and what their emergency plans are for situations like power outages, thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes.
• Explore the geographic mix of the campers: Will there be kids from other states, other countries?
“More diversity among campers means kids learn about other cultures, and about tolerance,” Borg says.
Find out more about Camp Experts & Teen Summers online at campexperts.com. Reach Lisa Borg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 995-5633.