Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the Spring 2020 issues of Stamford Plus and Norwalk Plus magazines, but because of the pandemic, which was only accelerating at the time, the Long Ridge Camp had to postpone its season last year. So now, as LRC is gearing to reopen its doors and offer another unforgettable summer for hundreds of kids this year, we have decided to republish this piece online to again shine the light on this long running local summer program.
For almost six decades, thousands of local kids have been making their summer camp memories in one of our area’s best traditional summer programs – Long Ridge Camp in Stamford.
Started by his parents in the summer of 1962, Geoff Alswanger is now directing the camp along with Herm and Myrna Alswanger as they continue the tradition of offering summer fun to children from age 3 to 14.
Geoff has gone full circle at the organization – starting as a camper, then working as a counselor and now being the director of Long Ridge Camp.
Set on a sprawling 15-acre location on the Long Ridge School campus in Stamford, the camp is a popular place for many kids from our area. Geoff reports that at any given week, while the camp is open in the summer, there are 350 kids enjoying what the program has to offer.
The Long Ridge Camp is a traditional day-camp offering a myriad of summer activities in the likes of swimming instruction, archery, baseball, basketball, gaga, cookouts, music, dance, drama, soccer, volleyball, miniature golf, arts & crafts, nature, low ropes & zip lines, special events and more.
While the program runs for 8 weeks, this year between June 22 and August 14, a camper can be signed up for as few as 4 weeks, which could be convenient if the child is unable to participate for a longer period of time because of travel or other commitments. However, Geoff explains that about two thirds of the campers are there for six or more weeks which, he points out, provides a lot of consistency to build friendships and to allow for personal growth.
Campers are divided in groups by age and gender which allows for age-appropriate activities, development and makes the groups more cohesive.
Last year, of the 146 staff members at the camp, almost 70 were teachers and adults involved in education year-round and the rest were in high school and college and many of them former campers themselves.
Parents can drop off their kids after 8 a.m. and campers can be picked up by 5:30 p.m. but Long Ridge Camp provides transportation from all over Fairfield County and parts of Westchester County as well.
Additionally, the pre-school camp, for ages 3 and 4, is available for both half and full-day campers.
And while the camp might seem to kids like being all fun and games, there is serious child development going on, especially on skills that might be challenging to teach in school. “We focus a lot on the social-emotion learning of our campers, so they learn how to cooperate together, sportsmanship, how to lead, all these very important skills who are very difficult to teach in a traditional classroom yet are essential for a child’s growth.
Additionally, for those kids who might benefit from additional academic learning during the summer, Geoff explains that one-on-one tutoring is available.
Among the most popular activities at camp is swimming, according to Geoff. And both beginners as well as expert swimmers can learn a lot while at camp.
“Swimming is a real core of the camp. We swim twice a day—instructional swim and free swim.” While some kids are taught how to swim, there are also the campers who are already proficient swimmers who may then be instructed on how to improve their stroke by some of the camp’s Division I swim instructors who are already competing in college.
Another big favorite, among the activities and events that the camp holds every year, according to Geoff, are the annual Olympic Days where the entire camp competes for three days and there are a lot of traditions associated with that day. “And one of those is finding the very famous Long Ridge Camp rock and whoever finds it their team is rewarded many, many points,” said Geoff.
We live in an era of electronics and social media. And as Geoff explains, camp is paramount to developing a well-balanced individual.
“In today’s very complex world that we live in, the essential camping skills are so important – the ability to learn how to lead and cooperatively work with your peers has been an essential skill that is important that every child has the benefit of attaining,” said Geoff.
And just like during that first session in the summer of 1962, the primary goal of the Long Ridge Camp is still to “ensure that each child has a happy and healthy summer”. It looks like, for a 59th time, memories await the kids who will be part of it.■