Do we ever outgrow summer camp?

July 9, 2012 01:59 PM
By Glenda Hoppe

The average age of the campers this past week at Camp Ma-He-Tu was 44 years old. The rest of the summer season, the average drops to a more normal 12. Who are all these ladies who cause the atypical age skew at an all-female sleepover camp in Bear Mountain?
Most of them were campers or counselors at Ma-He-Tu many years before. Ma-He-Tu, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, offers a 5-day program for women and girls of all ages at its site on Lake Kanawauke. The program is a tremendous success, particularly with those Ma-He-Tu alumni who just never wanted to outgrow camp.
This year, four participating families had 3 generations of "Ma-He-Tu girls" at camp. One of those families is headed by eighty year-old Dot Becker, whose first year at Ma-He-Tu was as a camper in 1939. Dot has been coming to camp for the last 15 years with her two daughters and four granddaughters – all of them hiking, swimming, eating in the dining hall, singing camp songs and sleeping in rustic cabins and platform tents.
Dot grew up in Queens and her parents, who owned a delicatessen, sent her off to Ma-He-Tu (founded in 1937) as a 7 year-old so they could tend to their store. She, in turn, sent her daughters and when it came time to send her granddaughters to camp she said, "I felt very good about that – I knew they would have a good time".
Through the years, the reasons for sending girls to Ma-He-Tu haven’t changed very much. Friendship, fun and fresh air are perennial rationales. Experiencing true independence from mom and dad and developing new skills – playing softball, kayaking, rock climbing, singing, performing in a play – are others.
Ma-He-Tu alumni attended the 75th anniversary celebration from all over the U.S. and Europe, eager to connect with old friends and tent-mates. Many brought daughters, nieces and granddaughters and stayed for the ensuing 5-day camping program – filling the pipeline with future campers who will carry on the cherished traditions Ma-He-Tu has created through the years.
Altos and sopranos sang at the closing campfire, ages 2 through 80, and blended in perfect harmony. The future of Ma-He-Tu seems secure.
For further information about Ma-He-Tu’s programs, visit