We Are One

Oh man, what a session. What a week! What an amazing way to kick off 2022.

As we wind down into our second soul-filling Shabbat of 2022, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the start to what has already been an amazing summer. We’ve had an action-packed Session 1 and the second week launched it truly into orbit. From seeing the sales pitches made during our camper ‘Shark Tank’ to the amazing acts including a live-singing of ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ during Kaleidoscope (our talent show) as well as a camp dog doing wild tricks on stage, it’s been a wild week of seeing campers step outside their comfort zones and show us the best they have to offer as their individual selves.

On top of all of that, we also broke the week up with some pretty intense competition! This past Thursday was the first of our three camper Maccabiahs for 2022, with an over-the-top afternoon where the green team ultimately took the cake (quite literally, for some of the challenges) at the end of the day. It was an awesome day culminated by the Mac-o-Peel, thecross-campus relay race that starts at the front gate and finishes all the way at Niven Field.

Weeks like this are a special time at camp. We break up and have some pretty serious competitive events, which, depending on your camper, may sometimes be taken a little too seriously! We struggle, we yell, we scream, all in the name of our team winning and, most importantly, having as much fun packed into a single day as we can. It’s a nice reminder at the end of the day, when we celebrate with a color powder party, that our teams, at the end of the day, don’t really matter too much. The wrap up of this day serves as an important reminder that we are one family, no matter who we are, what we look like, how we identify or where we come from.

Despite our early challenges in the session and taking an impromptu evacuation field trip to the Elbert County fairgrounds, it’s been so great having a ‘normal’ first session of 2022 so far.  It was great hearing our 8th grades reflect on their four-day, and amazing to hear from all our campers on some of their reflections on what they’ve enjoyed most about camp during this week’s Shabbat service. I can’t wait for the stories to be shared with you.

Shabbat Shalom Ranch Camp. We’ll see you Sunday morning!

The First Shabbat

It’s on! What an amazing first week we’ve had to kick off 2022. From new sports like ultimate frisbee, to new friends being made, (Cabin 14 leading the way here) it has been a week of absolute awesomeness that has fired up our first week with campers.

Camp getting ‘fired up’ was an interesting choice of words, I guess, given the circumstances of the week. It’s still hard to grasp that we were evacuating camp on day three of the session, but we were able to do so safely, successfully, and get everyone off camp in under twenty minutes. I couldn’t even begin to imagine having to order the evacuation of both campers and horses and pray we will never have to again. However, it was also so reassuring to know that this is a team and a place that can respond to an emergency when the need arises. A big Shabbat thank you to our Elbert County First Responders, as well as the wildland fire crew who got the fire near us under control in just a few hours. I deeply appreciate the community’s patience with our first-time camper calls, being out of the property for most of Wednesday has really set us back a bit.

Despite the stress of Wednesday afternoon, it has been absolutely amazing getting back to what feels relatively normal, and a lot more like camp than how we began summer 2021. Seeing campers out and about with their peers and just enjoying being at camp has been a true blessing and truly sets camp apart as a space where campers can feel safe and able to just enjoy being themselves in the company of friends. 

As the story of the Torah wraps our 40 years in the desert, it’s been great to wrap our first week of camp after three weeks of staff training. Being able to have this community together, after years of waiting for a ‘normal’ week of camp, has really been one for the record books. From watching our Mini Campers do the ropes course and get up in the air ten times their own height, to seeing our EQers get their horses for the first time today, it’s been challenging, but a soul-filling few days. It’s been great to see staff leading chugim (electives) again, bringing their own passions to camp to share with kids and build an even better experience for campers. 

I’m excited about our first Shabbat dinner together and, a sentiment I’m sure I share with a majority of our campers and staff, cannot wait to see what the next week brings.

Shabbat Shalom Ranch Camp! See you in Week 2 of Session 1. 

Looking at 2022: A Letter of Unbelievable, Unimaginable, and Utmost Importance

As we wrap up what has been a wild, insane, and, most importantly, successful year, I’d like to switch from my normal monthly espousal of relatable content for our community, to something lined up specifically to share with our past, current, and future Ranch Camp staff. 

As many of past years’ staff, families, and campers know, staffing in summer ’21 was exceptionally complicated, challenging, frustrating, overwhelming; there’s a thousand adjectives I could use and it couldn’t fully describe it. I’ve always felt that working at camp, more than even going to camp as a camper, was one of the defining forces in my life and truly made me who am as a human today. It turned a shy thirteen (yes, that was once an acceptable age to begin working at camp, and yes, I was once very shy) year old boy into an outgoing, sometimes-too-confident, and compassionate individual. It taught me the importance of truly listening to those who need an ear, it taught me about running a business, and it taught me, most importantly, that working at camp, is, at the end of the day, a job. 

A job, by definition in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, is ‘a paid position of regular employment.’ Well, I can almost guarantee that camp is just about the most irregular job, with nationwide irregularities in pay. When I started at Ranch Camp, entry-level pay was abysmal. It was slightly better than when I started working at camp in 2003, where I earned about $600 for the entirety of the summer. While compensation has gone up in recent years, it certainly hasn’t increased nearly enough. If I didn’t make it clear enough above, working at camp is one of the most fun and rewarding jobs in the world. However, it’s often not mentioned that camp is also one of the most challenging, demanding, and exhausting jobs. I’ve heard it compared to everything, from deployment to crab fishing to rocket science – you name it, the comparison has been made. It is, without a doubt, the hardest job you’ll ever love. 

It’s why, in 2022, to bring in the best staff camp can, we are paying cabin staff positions at camp about 80% more than they were making last summer. Sure, an effective supervisory team is important. Sure, as you work your way up through the ranks at camp, salaries increase, just as with any job on the planet. However, our direct-care personnel have some of the most important jobs in the world – creating the experience of camp for the kids they live, work and journey through camp with. It’s critical to me, the administration of the JCC, and our lay leadership, that camp employment is considered, and feels as such in terms of compensation, a real job. It’s about as real and raw as some of the most demanding jobs on the planet, and the work done for campers literally changes lives. I cannot echo the thanks that all staff at Ranch Camp, and all the staff at camps around the globe, enough to make it worth it. The five year old in me, who learned not to get changed for swimming in the dining hall, thanks you. The ten year old in me, who developed a love for adventure in all forms, thanks you. The twenty year old in me, who learned from some of the best in the business on how to facilitate a three-day adventure for NYC teens, thanks you, beyond words, and from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul. 

In addition, one of the pleasures of both growing up at and working at camp is the connections you make with the team that you work with. I’m a big fan of bringing communities together, and camp is a place like no other to do so. It’s not abnormal to have international staff join you for a summer at camp, this summer will have more international staff from around more places on the globe than ever before, and I can’t wait to introduce our community to those we have already met. 

Looking forward to seeing you join, rejoin or reconnect with our family in 2022. 

#projectrealjob, #campismyhappyplace, #haveagreatnewyear


Ryan Bocchino

Thanks… for Giving us your campers!

Happy November! I hope everyone is enjoying their autumn and getting excited for some family time together in the upcoming week, and, if winter sports are your thing, praying for some more snow to get some action out on the slopes. See you in Breckenridge!  

I have spent the past 23 days in utter amazement at how registration has gone so far. I haven’t seen the speed of registration like this in a long, long time. We’re making amazing headway towards being full for summer 2022, all done in under a month of opening registration. If you have friends or family who has not yet registered for camp, give them a nudge and let them know that the time to register is not in January, February, or March, but now. We’ve got more than a few programs with waitlists and space is already at a premium.  

We’ve begun meeting with staff for next summer – who only share our community’s sentiment in returning to camp for 2022. Whether they are new for this year, returning from 2021 or 2019, or coming from abroad to join our family, every person we’ve spoken to is itching to get back to our camp family and spend another summer together on the Ranch. We’re excited to see our Jewish community from abroad, Israel, the UK, Uganda, Australia, Argentina, and more, make their return to us for summer 2022. I’m thrilled to share that we’ve already begun the review of prospects from both Argentina and Israel and have been very excited about the people we’ve met so far. We’re planning on having the highest proportion of international staff present at the camp, ever, in summer 2022, to bring people together from around the world together at Ranch Camp, and create a unique space of cultural exchange and immersion that hasn’t been present before.  

On an entirely different note, we’ve gotten more than a few questions about COVID regulations for this next summer. In the coming weeks, we’ll be updating our website to a new FAQ section regarding COVID/healthcare practices for next year. At this point, and I imagine for some time, we will not have answers on policies regarding masking, testing, or vaccination requirements until we get a little more guidance from the state and its associated regulatory agencies. As always, our main vaccination policies stand for next summer, and all campers in attendance must be fully vaccinated per child care & school-age requirements unless there is a medical exemption. 

As you sit down to a smoked turkey, which in my opinion, is the only way turkey should be prepared, please urge anyone interested in Ranch for next summer to give us a call and get registered. We’re seeing record numbers of campers joining us next summer and, as I mentioned, spots are filling up faster than ever before.  

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, eat a lot of food, and spend some quality time with your family.  

Camp on! 

Ryan Bocchino
Ranch Camp Director