Hale Reservation Feels the Calm before the Summer Storm
Before summer camp began at Hale Reservation, nearly 700 staff members and counselors were hard at work preparing the grounds for play.
This week, a hoard of summer-hungry campers from the Greater Boston area are descending upon the nearly 1,200 acres that make up Hale Reservation.
About 2,000 kids from nearly 70 different communities, from kindergarten through grade eight, head to Hale for camp every day during the summer season, which runs through the end of August.
Campers engage in everything from arts programs to environmental education to archery lessons. Some also head out in a kayak or canoe on Noanet Pond, which lies near the center of the reservation. By summer's end, Hale's borders will have graced the presence of nearly 4,000 young faces.
But before camp even began, the reservation's 700-some staffers were busy preparing for an array of day-to-day activities.
"Next week we won't have that kind of silence," said Hale Development Director Paula McLaughlin last week, as she sat looking at the quiet and empty grounds in a motorized cart.
"It will be just filled with kids and laughter," she added. "It's really fun. But there's a lot of work that goes into making that a safe, fun, inclusive place for all these kids, because there could be close to 2,000 kids a day."
While the sound of tranquility filled the reservation last week, business ensued, and the Hale staff underwent yearly preparation training.
Much of the work, McLaughlin said, involves reviewing standard procedures with staff and giving them insight into how certain tasks and projects are carried out. But it's also a time for medical staff to restock supplies in the case of any accidents that may occur.
"We're responsible for stocking first aid kits," said Tara Tumulty, 26, one of two nurses on staff at Hale. She and fellow-nurse Erika Miller, 31, work with a doctor from Dedham Medical Associates throughout the season and address any camper-related injuries that might take place.
"We assess them (campers) first," Tumulty said. "We'll call the parents if it's more serious."
Meanwhile, a number of counselors and program directors were busy making preparations in the case of a rainy day at camp.
"We're getting all the sites their rainy day tarps," said James Reinhold, 40, Camp Director. "All the counselors are working on their program areas. All this week is staff training, going through all the basics."
The average age for a counselor this year is around 20-years-old, Reinhold said, with the youngest counselors having just finished their sophomore years in high school.
In a small lot at the top of a hilly terrain, Casey McLaughlin (Paula's son) and Matt Follen worked on their archery skills after a long day of setting up target stations. During the off-season, both attended training classes at Archery USA, a training center in Dedham, to prepare for proper instruction and to receive safety certification.
"I'm excited because we have this whole new range, all this new equipment," McLaughlin said. "We went to Archery USA a couple of times, and went to a basic certification class and learned how to shoot correctly and how to fix bows and arrows. It should be really fun."
Paula McLaughlin added that the staff is excited for the opening of Noanet Landing, a new small beach and boathouse area that was built during the off season as part of a campaign to renovate a number of the buildings and areas on site.
Camp Hale is but one of the many camp programs taking place at the reservation, though. Organizations from surrounding communities, such as West Roxbury and Needham, bring in groups of children on a daily basis as part of their own programs.
"Every camp is different," McLaughlin said, "and the agency partners run the camp their way. But there are certain things Hale does for all campers. One is the health and wellness, another is swimming, and then environmental education. We enjoy working with all the agencies and seeing all the different towns represented."
Eric Arnold, Hale's Executive Director, said that while the staff has been busy setting everything up, the group is eager to open the doors to a summer's worth of smiling faces.
"Clearly this is the biggest time (of year)," said Arnold, who lives on Hale grounds with his family. "There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to what's coming. It's definitely a time of year that requires all hands on deck."