“I love seeing kids have a great time and interact with each other,” Jim Payne said, describing the best part of his job as director of Camp Orchard Hill. “I love hearing the laughter. I love seeing the smiles.”
The recipe for creating those happy campers at Orchard Hill in Dallas, where there are options for day as well as overnight camp, includes plenty of ways to stay active, some of which have been traditions since the place opened in 1972.
“We do have a lot of the traditional activities like archery, boating, swimming, fishing, all those kinds of things in addition to adventure options and sports of all kinds, like basketball, volleyball and soccer,” Payne said. “We’ve added outdoor and indoor climbing walls, a skate park, a giant pendulum swing and racing zip lines — four that go down at the same time.”
You’ll notice the activities list doesn’t mention “screen time.”
“We do the ‘no cell phone’ thing for a lot of reasons,” Payne said.
“A lot of the parents tell us when they sign up they don’t want their kids to be sitting in front of a TV or using an electronic device. They want them to experience things outdoors.”
Leaving cell phones home eliminates the risk of losing or damaging the device at camp, and reduces the risk of cyberbullying, Payne said. Best of all, it eliminates the electronic distraction, so kids can be active and interact face-to-face.
“Kids usually tell us after a day or so they don’t miss the phones,” Payne said.
Throughout the summer, Payne said, he expects 3,000 young people will spend time at Camp Orchard Hill, about 400 of them on any given day.
They might swim in the Olympic-sized pool, take a field trip to a stable for horseback riding, or take part in drama and arts-and-crafts in addition to all the sports.
And, of course, they will chow down to keep their energy up.
“The food ranks consistently among the top three things campers tell us they love about camp,” Payne said.
“We work with kids who are picky eaters or kids who have dietary issues with gluten or tree nuts,” he added.
The camp attracts overnight campers from as far away as New York, Philadelphia and Virginia, and day campers from Northeastern Pennsylvania. “We have 16 different transportation stops where they get on a bus or van and come here,” he said.
While the camp identifies as Christian and offers Bible lessons and chapel time, Payne said, “We’re open to anybody who wants to come, people from all different faith backgrounds and non-faith backgrounds. Nobody’s forced to believe anything.”
Camp Orchard Hill offers day camp options for ages 4 to 15 and overnight options for ages 8 to 17. There are also opportunities for children with mild to moderate special needs to be included.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.