Camp people often say that they were their most authentic and best selves at camp, and that so much of who they are as adults comes from the experiences they had at camp each summer. This is the spirit behind so much of the creativity and ingenuity we’ve seen on display from camps since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the form of virtual summer camp. Every camp, but especially those that have had to make the difficult choice to close this summer, is looking for ways to keep their kids engaged through long distance outreach. It’s that spirit and need that has driven Karen Gruenberg, Abby Pecoriello, and Robyn Nish Friedman to form a company called S’more Ideas and launch CAMP@HOME as their first project.
Free to summer camps who can brand it and share with their parents and families, CAMP@HOME delivers content focused on everything we love about camp directly to campers in a summer when they need it more than ever. Added bonus: the partnership with UNICEF USA provides a way for kids to make a real difference in the world, simply by having fun.
“Press Play and Go Play”
Gruenberg and Pecoriello have deep roots in kids media. Gruenberg is a former Executive Vice President at Sesame Street and Pecoriello was an executive at Nickelodeon before co-founding GoNoodle, a movement and mindfulness content platform for elementary schools. The CAMP@HOME team also includes production lead Robyn Nish Friedman, who previously worked for major media companies including Viacom.
All three are also camp people – campers, counselors, and camp parents – and are as passionate about their new project as they are about which color war team they were on. Pecoriello had her most transformational experiences at Camp Tapawingo in Maine (go Gray team!), where she also sends her two daughters. Gruenberg (of the green team) went to Camp Merriwood in New Hampshire and believes her Merriwood Invitational championship guided her toward playing Division-1 college tennis. Nish Friedman grew up at Camp Candlewood in Connecticut, where her favorite activities were water skiing, sailing, and singing camp songs day and night. They are all still connected to the friends they made at camp and credit these experiences with teaching them everything they needed to know to be successful in life.
It’s this unique combination of kids entertainment industry experience and love for camp that drove them to partner up and create CAMP@HOME with a single goal in mind: supporting kids and families this summer.
“Turn Bugs into Bug Juice”
Pecoriello and Gruenberg saw the challenges camps were facing and have built a platform that combines high-quality content for kids with everything that makes camp special. It allows camps to customize their online programs to meet their specific schedules and needs without having to develop the content on their own. CAMP@HOME is hosted by UNICEF Kid Power, a free activity video platform which empowers children to make a difference while learning about teamwork, empathy and the world around them. Camps and campers can actually make an impact simply by participating in the camp activities they love via this free virtual summer camp.
Beginning in late June, camps will be able to create free CAMP@HOME accounts (sign up for notifications here) and soon after will gain access to more than 75 short videos to share with their families. At 90 seconds to two minutes long, the videos will feature all sorts of camp-style fun. There will be sports, arts and crafts, sing-alongs, recipes, and more, all led by camp counselors. After watching the videos, campers will then spend time off screen putting everything they learned into action.
While they could have simply created a single virtual camp, the S’more Ideas team wanted each camp to have total control over their online programming, and to be able to provide their campers with the right combination of activities. All participating camps will generate their own unique links for each video to send their campers in whatever way they choose.
Beginning in late June, camps will be able to create free CAMP@HOME accounts, and soon after will gain access to more than 75 short videos to share with their families.
“UNICEF USA Partnership Helps Kids Feel Empowered and Impactful”
This is where the UNICEF USA partnership comes into play, which provides campers an opportunity to give back while having fun. Each time a video is watched, points and coins are earned and added to camp totals. These points then translate into donations of food, trees, and doctor visits to those in need globally, and locally.
The team also chose to work with UNICEF USA because of the safe environment it provides. Kids will never be asked for email addresses or donations, and they will not be marketed to in any way. For these two camp alumni who have dedicated their entire careers to creating content for kids, this is all about creating productive, creative, and mindful experiences on a safe and secure platform.
“Kids Don’t Just Love A Camp, They Love Their Camp”
While there are common threads that unite kids across all camps, the truth is that campers are deeply attached to their own camp, and its people, places, and traditions. Understanding this, CAMP@HOME was developed in such a way that camps can still create their own schedules – all the content will be available at once and the videos can be watched on any day and in any order. Camps can also incorporate original content they create in combination with what is available on the platform. The counselors who lead the activities will even be available for live activities upon request. The outcome is a digital community that serves camps trying to function in a variety of ways during challenging times.
As former campers, the S’more Ideas team also understands the closeness created in a typical summer, when campers are seeing each other daily, are living together, and are functioning as a collective community. This, like so many other parts of camp, is hard to replace right now. While they can’t bring kids together physically, participating in CAMP@HOME activities can help summer camps create community even though their campers are far apart. Because they are participating not just as individuals, but also contributing to their camp’s collective point total, camps are making an impact as a unit and can celebrate that collective success. The hope is to put camp into the world to help make a productive, healthier, and happier summer.
“Longer Than Ten-for-Two”
The S’more Ideas team sees CAMP@HOME as their passion project. They believe in the power of camp, they feel for kids and other parents, and they recognize that many camp directors have so much on their plates right now. For these leaders, the idea of creating tons of content can feel overwhelming, not to mention the need for the skills, equipment, and staff to build a video library of activities. This is where they really want to make a difference this summer. They also want to encourage camps to continue to use their tool beyond summer to maintain campers’ connections to each other throughout the year.
They know camps need this content, and that they need it now, and they’re working as fast as possible to assemble their team and create their videos. Camps will be able to set up CAMP@HOME accounts in mid-June, and the entire platform will be available by July 6. For camps who have questions, or want more information, CampMinder will be hosting a walk-through webinar with the CAMP@HOME team on June 23.
As the perfect combination of creativity and strategy, Gruenberg, Pecoriello, and Nish Friedman have the skills that it takes to build something this solid in a short amount of time. But what drives them isn’t professional recognition. It’s their deep connections to their own camp experiences, it’s their empathy for other parents, and it’s their desire to bring joy, happiness, fun, and laughter to a summer that badly needs it.