At Harvey Cavalier Camp, it’s possible to find the “Perfect Fit” for your child, from actor to athlete.
“A great program, ultimately, centers around the right fit for your kid. The camper has to connect [with the offerings] and be the right camper for the program.”
Sure, it’s the dead of winter, but Vinny Alexander, current director of Harvey Cavalier Camp in Katonah, is all smiles, as he looks forward to next summer, where he’s got several wheels in motion for the multi-faceted Katonah day camp to go “full steam ahead” and enter its 22nd year in business.
But for now, he throws his hands back and laughs while candidly discussing his views on why choosing the “right camp”–child’s success within the given program. “Picking a camp is almost like a lifelong commitment,” he continues. “Once you find the camp that you love, you’re more than likely to stay with it.”
And no one knows this fact to be more true than Alexander, having been an integral part of the camp in its development over 20 years ago, before taking over the reins full-time from its founder and longtime director Chris Del Campo in 2016. He recognizes firsthand how valuable dedicating one’s self to a camp–nay, a community–can be, and the extent to which it can impact both current campers and alums alike. Says Del Campo: “We have people who actually work for us who went to the camp…. people who’ve been with us for almost 20 years, and raised their own kids through the camp, and then stayed on as staff.”
He adds: “We don’t have much of a turnover in staff from year to year; it’s a real testament to what the camp offers,” speaking in terms of external and internal offerings. Del Campo, who founded the camp in 1996, and served as director through summer 2015, also heavily praises the professionalism of the instructors, all of whom are artists in their own right.
Teachers range from accomplished photographers and New York Times bestselling authors to visual artists whose work hangs in the Brooklyn Museum, and more. With all this to choose from, it’s really not hard to see why people return.
“There’s just so much variety…. so many different things to do,” echoes Del Campo, on the subject, “and that appeals to parents, especially if they want to nudge their kids toward trying something new. Kids can feel free to explore this and explore that–without the threat of report cards, tests or grades–and it really adds to the experience.”
“It opens them up and awakens them to things they may not be aware of,” adds Alexander, on the subject of exploration, adding that his son, through his prior connection to the camp via Alexander, is now going to school for art. “Me too,” Del Campo pipes in. “[The experience here] inspired my daughter to major in theatre.”
“It allows the child to really dig into what they love, and seek out activities they may not get to try out during the school year,” Alexander continues. To that end, he says, “what makes our camp unique, too, is the fact that campers create their own schedule. They pick from a list of activities and they choose what they’re passionate about. So, in terms of finding your perfect fit,” he adds, calling back to the earlier question posed to him, “I can’t think of a camp that does that better… in that [here] you pick a program that fits you personally. What more could you want?”
“Our philosophy is simple,” reiterates Del Campo, describing the feeling of watching prospective campers’ eyes “brighten up” as he explains to them the dynamics of the program. “You tell us what you want to do, and we just tell you where and when you’re going to do it.”
And the Harvey campers certainly have an array of eclectic activities to choose from. Primarily based in the arts, the camp offers workshops in the visual fields ranging from painting, printmaking, cartooning, and graphic design to doll-making, mask-making, pottery, puppetry, and woodworking. Performing arts offerings include workshops in acting, playwriting, and stage makeup, to name a few. But there are also offerings for the budding scientist, the tech whiz, and the sports fan, so you’re sure to be satisfied no matter what your child’s interests are.
What’s more? It’s all laid out within a vast 125-acre campus, complete with an arts center and newly built 20,000-square foot athletic facility, to carry out some of the aforementioned activities, in addition to full access to all the academic classrooms, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, and (yes, you’re reading right!) even an indoor ice rink!! “That element is what makes us probably the most unique day camp in Northern Westchester,” Del Campo proudly states. (Adds Alexander, with a laugh: “Where else can you swim in the morning and skate in the afternoon?!”)
They also point out the many hands-on projects, with Del Campo deeming it “the ultimate maker-space.” “Everything is learning through doing,” Alexander explains. “Kids try it until they get it.” In that sense, he asserts, “the works of art that come out of here at the end of the summer–be they productions or craft projects or songs that are written…. they’re all a real celebration of the power of the individual.”
But whatever your motivation to enroll, the two maintain the “best fit” argument is the most important of all. “I think it’s important for the kids to take away a sense of self, and the sense of self-expression,” Alexander says, of his goal for the campers that filter through year after year.
“We aim as a camp to develop the individual, and our mission is clear: we want the individual to succeed. [Therefore,] I hope they leave here at the end of the summer having developed their voice in one way or another.”
Again, there’s no doubt the Harvey Camp provides them with the tools to do just that, and Alexander is the first to agree the staff members do it all. “If you asked any family connected to the camp, they’d say it’s about the professional people who put the time in,” he concludes. “We have real committed staff members, who just really care about what they’re doing and care about the kids. It makes for an awesome program.” Indeed it does, and it’s for those reasons, among the plethora of others aforementioned, why we see Harvey Cavalier Camp as–aptly–“the perfect fit.”
The Harvey Cavalier Camp is located at 260 Jay Street in Katonah, NY. The camp’s next open house is scheduled for March 4th, with another set for April on an exact date to be announced. For more information, please visit harveycavaliercamp.org.
Matt Smith is a writer and contributor to The Inside Press. For information or inquiry, please visit www.mattsmiththeatre.com.