Just Peachy

Camp Snapshot

Camp Woodmont

Cloudland, Ga.

www.campwoodmont.com

Ages: 6-14

Rates: $895-$1,025, two-week terms; $545-$675, one-week term

Camp Woodmont owners Jane and Jim Bennett live 125 miles away, and together with their son Tyran and daughter Alyson Gondek have operated the camp long-distance for more than 20 years. Recently, Tyran has been able to realize a long-time goal of living at the camp year-round with his wife Suzy and their two children.

Woodmont is located about two hours from Atlanta toward Chattanooga and Birmingham and is nestled against Lookout Mountain, with about 170 acres of hardwood forest and 30 acres of pasture.

Tyran and Alyson’s parents — Jim and Jane — started the camp in 1981, and Alyson was its first director. Jim and Jane were camp counselors as teenagers and college students and fell in love with camp life, so they bought the property in the ’70s, paid it off, and used it as collateral for an SBA loan to build the original camp buildings.

Their perseverance paid off, and they now own the camp outright. They have since retired from teaching and are in the process of turning over more of the day-to-day work of operating the camp to Tyran and Alyson.

Now that Tyran and his family have moved up to camp, Tyran says it has made things not only better for them, but for their guests as well.

“It was a hindrance to us being so far away to run off-season retreats and business, and it was almost impossible from a customer service point of view to run a weekend retreat,” Tyran says. “I like it now because I’m able to do maintenance at the camp regularly. Living at the facility will be a big plus for us, so that we can develop more camp programming — like orienteering courses, scavenger hunts and so on.”

Foundations & Goals

Woodmont runs a nine-week traditional overnight program. It used to be four, two-week sessions, but a week-long session has been added at the end of the summer. Though that session falls at the end of the season, the entire camp schedule has been moved up a week at the front end to make room for it, and to deal with progressively earlier school start dates.

Every two weeks the camp closes on Friday afternoon, and doesn’t open until Sunday afternoon for the next two-week session. Tyran says Woodmont used to run until Saturday morning, but found that didn’t give them enough time to adequately prepare for the next session, nor did it give the counselors a long enough break.

Woodmont is a small private camp that hosts 80-110 children at a time, and 400-500 kids per summer. Most of them come from Atlanta, with the rest from Birmingham, Chattanooga, Nashville and points beyond.

Over the years, Woodmont has steadily built a number of what Tyran calls “marquee” activities, such as a climbing wall and ropes course. Woodmont currently offers traditional camp programs like swimming, boating, fishing, archery, drama, various team and individual sports, dance and nature. Tyran says the camp decided to keep everything inside camp and not venture outside camp grounds for off-site treks.

“We found for a camp our size, planning and executing an off-site trek with our staff size does not work for us. That might be why we get younger campers,” Tyran says. “We used to offer field trips where we took them local attractions for part of the day, and we found that really breaks up the routine of summer camp and causes relational problems among the camp. All of the sudden you take them to Rock City for half a day, and they get back into that amusement-park-we’re-back-at-the-mall kind of day. Next thing you know you’ve got five or six couples that are boyfriend-girlfriend because they rode on the bus together. The more you can control what happens the fewer issues you’ll have on a boy-girl basis. Kids who are 12 and 13 don’t need to get involved with that kind of thing while they’re at camp for two weeks anyway.”

Woodmont plans to add more activities and programs — like skateboarding, mountain biking and more waterfront activities, like slides and blobs. The camp’s philosophy, Tyran says, will be to add incrementally and systematically as adding in small steps has proven to be positive, both financially and programmatically.

Tyran reports that the horseback program has been a big success and a great drawing card for kids. The emphasis here is on certification and excellent instruction as a 1,000-pound animal is much harder to control than a pool area or ropes course.

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