Director Jud's Blog

How SMA Two Week Teen Camp Will Benefit Your Child -By Felice Margiani

Posted by Jud Millar on Tue, Jan 5, 2016

The following article was written by a Former SMA Teen Camp Counselor and Current SMA Teen Camp Parent Felice  Margiani (formerly Felice Walker) who lives in Portland, Oregon.

A group of Campers pose for a pictureAs a college student in the 1980s, I attended a campus job fair in search of a job at a summer camp. A booth for a camp called Stone Mountain Adventures (SMA) drew me in and there I met two enthusiastic men who convinced me that SMA was no ordinary camp. They explained the camp's Mission Statement, the fantastic activities offered, and the family oriented atmosphere of the camp. They said that working at SMA was not just a job, but an adventure! I now know that stopping at the SMA booth at that job fair changed the course of my life forever. Those two inspiring guys turned out to be Biff Houldin, the former camp director and founder of SMA, and his son Jud Millar, who at that time was a camp counselor, but now owns and is affectionately known as "Camp Director Jud" at SMA Summer Camp for Teenagers. 


As a child I attended a YMCA day camp for five years. Later, as a teen, I went to a two week Girl Scout camp. I had wonderful memories of attending these camps as a child and I really wanted to be part of giving that experience to other kids.  After speaking with Biff and Jud for a few minutes, I knew that SMA was the place I wanted to work that summer. Immediately I filled out the employment application and mailed it in. Not wanting to put all of my eggs in one basket, I applied to several other camps that day, too, but SMA was the one that I really wanted to hear from. Over the next week, I heard from several camps and amusement parks that I'd applied to and was offered several jobs, but I was anxious because I was holding out to hear from SMA and I didn't want to accept another job before I'd heard from them. When Biff finally called and offered me my dream job as one of their staff for the upcoming summer, I was so excited!  At the time I had no idea how much that choice would affect the rest of my life.


Fast Forward Four Months:

When I arrived at Stone Mountain Adventures for our pre-camp staff training, I was blown away by the experience. It wasn't just the beautiful and peaceful location that impressed me, but the welcoming and inspiring camp director and his family made me feel as if I'd been a part of their lives for years.  The other camp counselors were fantastically fun, motivated, and so "stoked" to be at SMA tween summer camp. Many of the other staff had been working there for several years. I also loved that the staff came from all over the world! This gave all of us a chance to learn about our different cultures and made me appreciate them all the more.  The enthusiasm of the staff was contagious.


When the first group of kids arrived and I learned how the daily and activities were handled, I realized that this camp left MY childhood camps and good memories "in the dust." Yes, I had some outstanding camp counselors as a child and my camps were also in a beautiful areas, but that's where the similarities ended. In the old YMCA camps and Girl Scout camp I attended when I was little, I remember having no choice of activities at all, and sometimes dreading what we were going to do and being terribly homesick while we were doing it or feeling left out if I was not good at it. All of us had to participate in the activity of the moment regardless of whether or not we liked or had any interest in it.


Stone Mountain Adventures is worlds beyond any camp that I ever attended. At SMA, your child chooses whatever THEY like, from several activities every day and the choices are always varied to ensure that there is something to interest every camper, whether they are extremely outgoing or a very shy "loner." I was incredibly impressed, as a counselor, by how the director, his family and the entire staff at this camp went out of their way to include, support and enfold every single camper there. We tween-summer-camp-felice.jpgwere like family. I never saw a homesick camper the entire two summers I worked there. Campers at SMA are accepted and embraced for who they are. As a counselor I became more confident. We learned, along with the kids, to challenge ourselves and grow. I tried activities that I'd never had the opportunity to try and, even if it wasn't something I ended up liking, I felt more confident and proud of myself for having done it.  SMA Teen Camp offers an incredible amount of activities and outings and we hardly did the same thing twice. We went white water rafting, canoeing, hiking, watched 4th of July fireworks, went rock climbing, mountain biking, wind surfing, scuba diving, played miniature golf, went to Hershey Park, made crafts, had funny contests, drew “secret friends” from hats and made friendship bracelets for them, went horseback riding, watched shooting stars, went to a water park, visited an Amish market, played games out in the field...  The list goes on and on…  We cheered on and helped one another when trying new things, dressed up in ridiculous costumes and laughed ourselves silly all summer long. Stone Mountain Adventures Overnight Teen Camp is, truly, like a home away from home for both the staff and the children. Kids and counselors were often crying as they left camp.New Call-to-action

Now... Fast Forward 25 years!!

I have a 12 year old daughter named Nina and she had the opportunity to attend her first session of Stone Mountain Adventures! Some of the activities have changed but SMA Teen Summer Camp is still the same magical place it was when I was a counselor there 25 years ago. I've waited YEARS to be able to send her there knowing how much more SMA has to offer compared to other teen camps.  I know from the first hand experience of working at SMA what experiences Nina would have and the lifelong friends she would make. For me to be able to provide a meaningful overnight summer camp experience to my daughter, this is a dream come true, and now we both have had experiences at SMA and will share that forever.   

In Nina's own words, "My time at SMA was one of the most incredible and fun experiences of my short life!"  :)


I knew that Nina would grow emotionally at SMA and I could not be more impressed with the staff, the other campers and the experience as a whole.  I can easily see that after just two weeks at SMA Nina is more confident, more self starting, more tolerant and patient with others.  She is less self conscious, more responsible, motivated and even more fun loving than she was before. She, seriously, even said that I could make going there next year her Christmas present!


As a former SMA counselor and now a parent of a camper, to anyone considering sending their tween or teen to SMA: I cannot recommend this OUTSTANDING camp enough.


And here is what Nina wrote upon returning from Stone Mountain Adventures…

 I’m 12 years old and recently attended Stone Mountain Adventures as my very first teen sleep away camp.  There is not a single thing about this camp that I would not recommend.  After just a few days it felt like another home.  The people there were awesome and I made new friends of all ages.  It was one of the funnest experiences of my life and I hope to return next summer!


Nina Margiani

Portland, Oregon




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This blog will give you the "411" about everything that is Stone Mountain Adventures Teen Summer Camp!  Everything from "Summer Updates" to useful family and camp resources.  Check it out! 

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