Camp Mixes Young, Old to Create Fun Family Setting

With the sailboats and swimming, archery and arts and crafts, summer camp can be a kingdom of joy for all kids -- even kids like Russ Halloran, 73.

"I'm the biggest kid in the camp," Halloran said. But that title might suit Judy Schrieder better. She's 92.

The camp's campers are kids, but Halloran and Schrieder are members of the "seasoned" staff of counselors at the Rivers Day Camp in Weston, Mass., right outside of Boston. Other older members include Charlie Rose, 69; Rose's wife, Sandy, 65; and Jim Dancy, 78. Though most camp counselors around the country are of high school and college age, only half at Rivers are younger than 25.

"We don't want children to take care of children," said camp director Ed Schreider, who has 55 years under his belt as a camper and counselor. "We want to give the kids an experience of having counselors of all ages."

Camp: Multigenerational Staff and Family Atmosphere

He said from the camp's beginnings -- Rivers was established 47 years ago -- the goal has been to create a multigenerational staff and family atmosphere.

"The younger counselors have the excitement ... and they run around. The older counselors ... are able to spot things. They recognize things due to their life experience that some of the younger counselors don't see," said Schreider who took over the camp from its founder Paul Licht who died in 2006.

His mother, Judy Schreider, has been teaching woodworking at the camp for 20 years. She taught school for 45 years, finishing when she was 88.

"I love it. Every part of it. I love the children. It makes me feel young," she said about working with children. "I'm treated by my children like a queen."

Counselor-in-training Patrick Thornbird, 14, said he doesn't think much about the age difference between him and Judy Schreider. "I still listen to her as a boss and stuff, but we still have jokes and fun times. I just think of her as like we're friends."

Older Counselors 'Know When a Child Needs TLC'

"Being parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, they [older counselors] know when a child needs a hug. They know when a child needs TLC," Ed Schreider said.

Halloran used to pitch in the minor leagues for the Red Sox, though some of the campers joked that he'd lost a little off his fastball. He was commissioner of parks and recreation of nearby Newton, Mass., for almost 30 years. He's now in his 11th summer at Rivers.

He said he likes the camp's diversity the most.

"I look forward to coming here and it's been a complete divergence from 35 years of doing administrative work and listening to everybody's problems. I've enjoyed it thoroughly," Halloran said.

"It's great. We're a very unique camp. We have both the youngest and the oldest people here," said Zachary Camp, 7.