Try Chi is the “Gift of Camp”

Posted by: Jamie Lake, Assistant Director

Last summer I received an email from a parent who shared, “I always thought Try Chi was for the kids to get a taste of camp. It’s just as much for the parents to get a taste of having their kids away too, isn’t it?”

I imagine that many of you are going through the same range of emotions that underlie this parent’s observations. You want your child to have experiences away from home, gain independence, form new friendships and have adventures, which are all benefits of overnight camp. Yet, at the same time, you are wondering how they are doing, if they are remembering to brush their teeth, how they are getting along with their peers, and whether they are finding things they like to eat.

I see Try Chi as an introduction to overnight camp for campers and their parents. Just as Try Chi is an opportunity for your children to see if they like overnight camp (which they will!), it is a chance for you to experience what it will be like when they go away for a longer session next year. For some parents, these four days are a breeze while others have definite “kidsickness,” missing your child when they are away from home. Regardless of your state of mind, I hope that the daily photos and posts on Facebook give you a sufficient glimpse into all of the fun your child is having. I also want you to feel comfortable calling us if you just need to know how your child is doing and the “no news is good news” mantra isn’t working for you. This is all part of the bridge that we want to provide to you to make sure that you are feeling just as comfortable with overnight as your camper is feeling at Try Chi.

From years of working with new campers, I can reassure you that the first time is the hardest for most parents, but there is something to keep in mind that might help you along the way. As a camp director and a lifelong camper, I believe that overnight camp is one of the best experiences a child can have while growing up, and this sentiment was echoed in an article that went viral a few summers ago. In an Open Letter to My Daughter, The Camper, a dad shares his advice to his daughter as she is about to embark on her first experience at overnight camp. Read the article…

You can sense the love in his words; he recognizes that overnight camp is an unmatched opportunity, a lasting gift, for his child. By sending your camper to Try Chi, you have given this gift to your children.

Please feel good about this experience for you and your camper.  I hope you enjoy this last day and a half of Try Chi as much as we will!

sample schedule

sample schedule


Frequently Asked Questions

Try Chi is designed as an introductory program for first-time overnight campers who will be starting third-sixth grades in the fall. Some campers participate in Try Chi for multiple summers. Most campers come from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but campers from other places are welcome and encouraged to attend. You do not have to attend JCC Chicago day camp to participate in Try Chi.

Absolutely! Although the majority of campers at Try Chi are new to the overnight camp experience, we enjoy having current Chi campers attend Try Chi to show them the ropes.

We provide roundtrip coach bus transportation from the Chicago suburbs and, pending registration, Minneapolis/St. Paul. Counselors travel with campers on the buses where they play games, show movies and begin the camp experience. Information about bus stop locations as well as drop-off and pick-up times will be provided for families a few weeks before Try Chi. Families outside of these communities should contact the Camp Chi Office to discuss other transportation options.

Try Chi uses the redwood cabins at Camp Chi. The cabins are typical, camp cabins with electricity, bunk beds and shelves for belongings. Usually twelve campers live in each cabin (although groups can range in size between eight to fifteen depending on cabinmate requests and the building being used). At least two counselors are assigned to each cabin and sleep in a staff room located inside the cabin and separated from the camper area by a curtain. Bathroom facilities, including individual shower stalls, are located in a building nearby.

We employ experienced, fun and responsible counselors from Camp Chi and JCC Chicago day camps for Try Chi. Many of the staff attended Camp Chi (or another overnight camp) as children so they understand the excitement of a first overnight camp experience. These counselors enjoy working with third-sixth grade campers and are committed to helping younger campers adjust to camp life. Counselors spend the entire day with their cabin group and also sleep in the cabin at night.

For Try Chi, each camper can request two friends to be in his/her cabin. We honor all mutual requests, which means if your child requests a particular friend and that friend also requests your child, they will be in the same cabin (assuming they are the same grade). Please keep in mind that we group campers by grade in school and gender We take great care in creating cabin groups for Try Chi. We strive to make everyone happy and feel comfortable. We understand that for some campers, it is reassuring to be in a cabin group with a friend while also recognizing that one of the goals of overnight camp is to meet new friends. To achieve this goal, we sometimes combine groups of campers from different places.

Many campers come to Try Chi without knowing other kids. Our counselors are trained to help campers feel comfortable and make friends right away whether or not they know other kids in the program. We make sure that campers who are coming to camp without friends are placed in cabins with other kids in similar situations. Over the years, we have seen many special friendships form at Try Chi that carry over into future summers at Camp Chi.

We pack Try Chi with the best of Camp Chi activities using a rotation system that allows groups to experience different activities taught by Camp Chi specialists. Campers travel with their cabinmates and counselors to different specialty activities throughout the day. These specialty activities can include horseback riding, rock climbing, boating, ropes course, art, radio, outdoor cooking, archery, athletics and more. We will also go tubing, swim in the pools, visit the Canteen (our camp store/snack shop), go on a field trip and make s’mores over a campfire.

We serve kid-friendly food at Try Chi – waffles, pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti, chicken fingers, tacos, etc. All food is prepared in the Camp Chi kitchen and kosher products are used. Meals are served family-style and we have different options to please even the pickiest eaters. At lunch and dinner, salad and tuna are available. Nuts are not used in the preparation of any food. If your child has special dietary needs or food allergies, please call the Camp Chi Office to see if we can accommodate your child’s requirements.

Camp Chi’s Health Center is open for all basic health care and first aid needs. We have over-the-counter pain medication available. A registered nurse is onsite during Try Chi to attend to any camper. Campers needing additional medical attention will be brought to the local clinic or the nearest hospital, fifteen minutes away. Parents will be contacted regarding any medical issues while their child is at Try Chi. If 4/8/14 your child has any particular medical needs, please call the Camp Chi Office to see if we can accommodate your child’s requirements.

How is medication handled?

We use a careful system to administer and monitor all campers’ medications during their stay at camp. All medications, prescription and over-the-counter, are kept in the Health Center and only administered by the camp nurse. These medications must be in their original bottles. We can only dispense medication in accordance to the instructions on the bottle or packaging. Medications are distributed at every meal and in the evening prior to bed. Prior to Try Chi, you will receive a medication envelope in the mail with instructions about packaging medications. Please bring this envelop to the bus site and give it to staff at check-in.

We encourage parents to write “letters” to their campers while at Try Chi. Getting mail is part of the camp experience. Parents can send actual letters to camp a few days before Try Chi begins to:

Your Child’s Name
Camp Chi – Try Chi
PO 104
Lake Delton, WI 53940

Parents can send a daily email to their camper through our Camp InTouch system. Emails and mail will be delivered daily after lunch. Please do not send care packages during Try Chi. Campers just aren’t at camp long enough to enjoy the great stuff you would send. If you want to “send” your child a package at camp, please call the Canteen at to order a special package that we can deliver to your child. We do not permit parents and campers to talk on the phone while they are at Try Chi. As a traditional camp, we believe in the personal growth that occurs when a child successfully adjusts to overnight camp without parental involvement. This sense of independence is part of the magic of overnight camp and makes the experience even more special. We know that it might be difficult to not speak with your child during Try Chi, but we will call you if anything unusual occurs or if your child is having trouble adjusting. Of course, you can always call us to check in, too.

We have a packing list especially for Try Chi. You can see it here. Please remember to pack sheets, blankets and towels along with clothes and other belongings.

We do not believe that electronics (Nintendo DS, PSPs, iPods) have a place in camp, but we are also realistic that these items can be “security blankets” for many first-time campers. We generally suggest that campers should not bring any items that they would be unhappy if 4/8/14 they were lost or broken. If campers do bring electronics to camp, they will have to be kept in the cabin and only used in the cabin. There are some electronics that can NOT be brought to camp under any circumstances, these include cell phones, computers, portable DVD players or any items that can connect to the Internet. We prohibit these items for both safety reasons and to support the outdoorsy feel of camp. We see camp as a healthy escape from the instant communication and technology overload that bombards our campers on a daily basis. There’s also no place to charge these devices in cabins. Please help us by supporting these rules and not bringing these items to camp.

Yes, we do! This is the best way to see all the great activities your camper is doing at Try Chi. You can access the daily photos through our Camp InTouch system.

Campers love Try Chi and, based on past experience, unhappy campers are rare. We view missing home as a normal part of being away from home. If a camper is sad at any time during Try Chi, our counselors will spend time listening to the camper and talking through any issues. Counselors will then steer the child back into an activity to keep him/her busy and focused on having fun. If we sense that any issues are outside of normal adjustments to camp, we will contact you right away. Please do not tell campers that you will come pick them up if they are unhappy. Our job is to make sure that campers succeed at Try Chi, and we are really good at it. We’ll spend the time with your camper to make sure s/he feels cared for, listened to and accepted. This sets the stage for success.

As campers board the buses to head home, they often beg us to stay a few more days. We love hearing this because we know that they will want to come back for longer next summer. Don’t worry, though, we promise to bring them all home to you with great stories to share and some dirty laundry.

Before Try Chi begins, please call the Camp Chi Office at 847.763.3551. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the program and how it will work for your child. Once Try Chi begins, you can call 847.763.3551 (our phone number is the same in Illinois and Wisconsin) to speak with Jamie Lake, Assistant Director, or your camper’s village leader.