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A New Spin On Summer Camp

A New Spin On Summer CampThrough the summer camp he started in Maine three years ago, Tufts graduate Rick Mades (A’83, G’90) is giving kids an opportunity to explore visual arts, theater and technology during their time off from school.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.23.07] For Tufts graduate Rick Mades, summer is his busiest—and his favorite—season. Every year when the weather heats up, the Florida resident heads to his native New England to run Bethel Camp for the Arts, a summer program he founded three years ago. Focused on fine and performing arts, individual sports and a variety of enrichment activities, the camp is a realization of Mades’ longtime dream, according to Florida’s Palm Beach Post.

“I guess you can say, at heart, I’m really just a big kid,” the 46-year-old, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tufts in 1983 and a master’s degree in education in 1990, recently told the newspaper.

As a child growing up in Belmont, Mass., Mades attended camp in Maine for eight weeks each summer, the Post reported. “It was a tradition in my family,” he told the newspaper. “I loved camp.”

The positive experience inspired him to join the staff of Camp Samoset—an all-boys, sports camp in Casco, Maine—at age 20. According to the newspaper, Mades worked there for nearly a decade as a cabin counselor, a tennis instructor and a tennis director.

“It was great being out on the tennis court with the kids with no pressure from school or home in the way,” he told the Post. But after teaching tennis for a few years, he was ready for a new challenge. After completing Tufts’Master of Arts in Teaching program, he relocated to Florida where he taught high school and middle school math for four years.

But even while he was in the classroom, Mades’ interest in summer camp remained strong. In 1994, he founded Camp Finders, a free, online service that matches children ages six to 18 with appropriate overnight camps and teen programs. “It works …like a travel agency. The camp pays if I place a child with them,” Mades, who personally visited about 170 camps when he was creating the resource, told the Post.

Mades also launched, a website that links camp directors with potential staff members. But the Tufts graduate wanted to do more. Three years ago, Mades decided to become a director himself at his own camp in Maine.

“It was something he always wanted to do,” the newspaper reported. “It made sense,” Mades added. “It is an industry I know well.”

Mades took what he learned from researching camps, working at them and attending them, and applied it to his new endeavor. As a result, Bethel Camp for the Arts, which targets children ages eight to 15, is a shorter camp than most. Mades told the newspaper that in talking with parents, he discovered that many of them consider traditional camps that last for four to eight weeks to be too long. The sessions at Bethel Camp for the Arts last for two weeks.

Mades also decided to focus his camp on visual arts, theater, dance, technology and individual sports. Activities include pottery, acting, hip hop dance, web design, animal care, kayaking and mountain biking.

According to one Tufts child development expert, summer programs that provide children with outdoor recreation can be a positive influence.

“One of the things that’s happening is childhood is moving indoors,” David Elkind, a professor of child development at Tufts, told the Washington Post. “Summer camp is a place where kids can be out of doors. It begins to reacquaint them with the natural world, which is so important.”

Even at this stage of his life, Mades still looks forward to summer camp each year.

As he told the Palm Beach Post, “I can’t wait to get to Maine.”

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