Probably not many people have attended Jewish summer camp for as many years as Randie Collier. She spent 13 summers at Steve and Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC. Camp Interlaken is in Eagle River, Wis., a five-hour bus ride north of Collier’s hometown of Milwaukee. When Collier aged out of being a camper, she became a junior counselor, then worked her way up to counselor, head counselor and finally assistant director.
Collier worked for four years as a school counselor in Wisconsin before she and her husband, Shelby, moved to Tucson in 1997. They started Beyond Bread the following year. While they are happily settled into life in Southern Arizona, Collier, 45, credits her summers at Camp Interlaken with shaping her into the person she is today.
“Working as a camp counselor made me realize how much I enjoyed helping kids,” she says. “The experience at Interlaken led me to a career in counseling and it motivated me to earn a master’s degree in the field.”
Collier has been working for four years as a part-time counselor at Catalina Foothills High School in addition to working part-time at Beyond Bread and parenting two teenagers. As busy as Collier is, she still makes time to promote Camp Interlaken in Southern Arizona.
“Until around the year 2000, Interlaken’s camper population was almost exclusively drawn from Wisconsin,” she says. “These days the camp draws its population from a more national base. Parents who attended Interlaken in their youth now send their own kids there. They have such fond memories of their time in camp that they send their children as a way to continue living the experience themselves. You can almost equate it to having a favorite sports team.”
Collier speaks from experience. Her two children, Maya, 16, and Joel, 14, have attended Camp Interlaken for five and six years, respectively. At the beginning of her children’s summer camping years Collier did outreach from her home to promote Interlaken to other Tucson families and in recent years she has organized reunions of former campers.
The Milwaukee JCC, which is the administrative home of Camp Interlaken, openly describes the camp’s “hidden agenda” on its website: to subconsciously develop a love of Israel, enhance self-esteem and strengthen Jewish values in its campers while they have “the time of their lives.” Collier concurs: “Everybody would agree that going to Jewish camp is the best way to forge a Jewish identity. There’s nothing like living your Judaism in a fun, effortless way.”
Renee Claire is a freelance writer in Tucson.