Blue Star Blog

Eco Vision 2020

When we envision the long-term future of Blue Star and imagine our footprint for the next generations, we remain focused on doing our part to help heal the planet. Being kind to the planet is a deeply held value we actively seek to teach and model to our campers and staff. One of the most beautiful aspects of the Blue Star experience is connecting with the natural world; our lush 500 acre campus is truly one of nature’s gems. We are committed to preserving this natural beauty and instilling a sense of environmental stewardship in all members of our camp community.

Since we launched our Conservation Generation initiative several seasons ago with one of our long-time camp alums, we have evolved our approach to modeling behavioral change and making environmentally friendly updates to camp. As always, our philosophy remains child-centered and camper led. To recap some of what our campers and staff have accomplished over the past five seasons:

We conserve over 300,000 gallons of water each summer as our campers and staff more mindfully engage in their shower and faucet usage, making use of our eco-friendly low flow shower heads and sinks in every cabin. Each session our camp community comes together to actively compost our food waste in our dining halls, diverting over 15,000 tons of food waste from the landfill. In more creative arts-based applications, our campers have led the construction of a greenhouse made solely of recycled bottles as well as several beautifully decorated rain barrels. We are so proud of our campers for their ongoing efforts to realize one of our core camper outcomes of “doing good.” Our individual actions have a direct impact on the environment, and our collective community efforts absolutely make a positive difference.

How wonderful that our Blue Star campers and staff realize the potential they have to create positive change! With them as our inspiration, we are excited to officially announce our newest conservation initiative to be completed in 2020.

Putting a down payment on the environment, we have begun the process of turning part of our land where the Top Lake used to be into a Conservation Easement. In short, the portion of this space that will be under easement will be preserved through the state of North Carolina to remain in its natural state in perpetuity. A national leader in stream mitigation and forest rehabilitation, our partner in this long-term project, Restoration Systems, will restore this space to its original natural form. Two beautiful streams will be reformed and buffered on either side by native trees, plants, and other forest elements. Our camp community will be able to access, explore, and learn even more about nature as we expand our outdoor educational programming around our restored streams and forest. One hundred years from now this natural area will still be untouched and be an integral part of Blue Star.

Concurrent with this project we will bring to life the center portion (intentionally kept out of the easement) of this space between the two streams as a newly imagined Eco Park. Over several years we plan to build up our Eco Park to incorporate environmental and outdoor adventure programming such as the following:

  • “Glamping” style Unit Campsite & Outdoor classroom
  • Canopy Zip Line
  • Large outdoor pavilion as shelter for overnights with special campfire area
  • Sheltered cooking area with adjacent organic garden
  • Solidified trails surrounding the entire space to continue growing our Mountain Biking, HorseBack, and Hiking outdoor adventure programs

In summer 2020 we will unveil phase one of this project.   Over time we will devote ourselves to building our innovative Blue Star Eco Park, a unique and special future camp offering for our campers and staff. In the meantime our campers will be able to enjoy all of our current outdoor adventure and horseback trails as we always have. All of our programs will be moving full speed ahead this summer and next summer. For the time being, we ask that you “pardon our dust” (if you plan to visit us when it’s not the summer time)!

As always, we so appreciate you joining and supporting our efforts to help heal the planet…Choose kindness Share peace!


Summer ‘Chai Theme: choose kindness. share peace.









All the peace and happiness of the whole globe,

the peace and happiness of societies,

the peace and happiness of family,

the peace and happiness in the individual persons’ life,

and the peace and happiness of even the animals and so forth,

all depends on having loving kindness toward each other. –Lama Zopa Rinpoche


Creating a safe and inspiring place where we can build a community of good people living harmoniously together each summer is at the very core of our work at camp. With this goal in mind, we are excited and happy to share our theme for the 71st season of Blue Star magic…

choose kindness. share peace.

Choosing kindness means being kind to ourselves and kind to others. As the Dalai Lama taught, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Kindness is a choice that we can make consciously in every moment, every day.

Every day at camp provides opportunities for campers and staff to practice choosing kindness. It could be as simple as inviting a bunk mate to join the group in a cabin game of rafter ball or composting (boom!) in the dining halls; at camp we model, teach and support campers in being kind to others…and being kind to the planet. Through employing conflict resolution among campers and scaffolding group decision-making within cabins, we help model and provide a framework for peaceful discourse. Additionally, each week, as part of our camp-wide Havdallah, we recognize campers that exemplify these values with the “Mensch on a Bench” honor.

To further drive our mission forward, this summer we will be introducing a new daily practice within each cabin called a “Circle Up” (also known at camp as a “Rose & Thorn” as practiced for years with our leadership and cabin counseling staff). This daily practice will model explicitly how to share feelings authentically in a group. Our hope is that this will lead to campers feeling more supported to speak their truths and share what is in their hearts with their camp friends and bunk mates. We will explore the why and the how of it being just as important for campers to listen mindfully as it is to share. Hearing where others are coming from helps us to develop empathy and grow kindness in our hearts. In essence our good work is to guide our campers towards choosing kindness which then naturally flows into sharing peace. Choosing kindness allows us to share peace with others; the camp experience itself provides endless opportunities to find the peacefulness inside us.

Living in nature and connecting with the natural world, experiencing a unique universe where the emphasis is on feeling joy and having fun, forming friendships that affirm our sense of self and strengthening our spiritual connection to Jewish values guide our everyday life at Blue Star. The precious opportunities to connect with the most peaceful part of ourselves help us to choose kindness and proactively build a community with peace as its foundation.

In helping to develop the good people that will one day lead our planet, our hope is that this summer theme and the practical ways we apply it each moment in Summer ‘Chai at Blue Star offer a profound way to help transform our world outside of camp. Our world needs more people who actively choose kindness, and from their hearts, share peace with all other beings. Thank you for being part of our Blue Star family, sharing in and supporting our vision for a more peaceful planet. To the good work!

Season of Gratitude

Carpe diem.

Happy holiday season to everyone! This season Lauren & I are reminded of the awesome power of gratitude. Celebrating with family and friends over Thanksgiving marks an annual ritual of expressing our appreciation. Hanukkah provides moments where we can practice both the art of giving and receiving gifts with gratitude. Ringing in the New Year allows us to be grateful simply for being and for gaining another year to enjoy life.

With all of the noise and cacophony of the holiday season and in general in the world, we wanted to offer a humble gift of gratitude for all of you in our extended Blue Star family. Every day we feel grateful to carry the torch into the 3rd generation of Blue Star leadership, and we so deeply appreciate all of you for being part of our community. In this exact moment we also invite you to pause for a few moments and take in the visual and auditory experience of Louie Schwartzberg’s TED talk entitled Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

In it we might reconnect with the mindfulness concept of “beginner’s mind,” seeing every moment every day as if our eyes were opening to it for the very first time. We may be compelled to really look around us and observe our environment, opening our hearts to noticing “beautifuller” (i.e. more beautiful) things. Some of us will be transported right back to camp where we more easily can enjoy gazing at the blue sky in the “Cloud bursting” (or more simply put, “Sky”) special option. Or we might imagine ourselves sitting in the open air Elmore Solomon Chapel on a Friday evening, breathing in a moment of calm reflection during our powerful Shabbat services. Of course, being at camp in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains gives us all endless opportunities to appreciate nature and to simply be, comfortable being our best and most authentic selves.

Several years ago I learned a daily practice for intentionally cultivating a feeling of gratitude. I will share it here with an open invitation to everyone…Every night we might take a few moments to think about (or write down) three things for which we are grateful for that day. Simple moments where someone did something kind, whether for us or that we observed. An experience we had that day that lifted us up or made us feel happiness. Again, we are thankful for YOU!

The Rodger and Candy Popkin Harmony Garden

Shana Tova to our Blue Star family!

In our first blog post of the off-season, we want to acknowledge that it has been a difficult couple of months with several natural disasters impacting many of our camp families. Our hearts go out to all those affected by the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, and the earthquakes in Mexico.

Furthermore, we are deeply troubled by the acts of terrorism in our country and abroad and are keeping the victims of recent acts of violence in our thoughts. As we reflect on those events, we in turn consider the work we do at camp. Why is it that the camp experience is so important? What do we really hope to accomplish each summer when we have the unique privilege of working with the young people who will eventually lead and make their marks on the world?

Every year at camp we embark on a hopeful endeavor: to help heal the world through creating a peaceful, harmonious little universe where children and staff can discover their best selves, form meaningful connections with others, and ultimately build upon those experiences in ways that benefit the world around them. It was in that spirit that this summer at camp in honor of our 70th season, we created a Harmony Garden. At the start of this New Year, we wanted to take a moment to share more about this summer’s Harmony Garden project with you. It was designed intentionally to be a place of reflection, simplicity, play, and peace that would highlight our goals and hopes for the camp experience. It is meant to serve as a microcosm for that which we can create in the larger world that we will, both individually and collectively, “plant trees, under whose shade (we) do not expect to sit” (Nelson Henderson). It is our hope that this small act or offering can serve as a prayer for the planet, bringing more balance, joy, and peace to our world.

Given our collective intention for this project to recognize our camp’s rich history and bright future, we named the Harmony Garden in honor of Rodger and Candy Popkin, Lauren’s parents and long time Blue Star Owner/Directors. Rodger and Candy have always believed in and been devoted to the potential of camp to make the world a better place, knowing that the magic that happens at camp helps to create the changers, dreamers, and doers who heal the world. The Harmony Garden is an expression of our gratitude and a way to say thank you to Rodger and Candy on behalf of generations of campers and staff members.

Surrounded by old and new camp families during a beautiful Havdallah ceremony in our 70th season Alumni and Family Camp Weekend, we celebrated our “camp with purpose” by unveiling the Harmony Garden. Additionally, in both first and second session, we held camper-led ceremonies to introduce the Harmony Garden to our campers and staff. Campers and staff made significant contributions to our garden throughout the summer. Their participation in creating and molding parts of the garden in their image is, to us, the most meaningful part of this endeavor. We know that the love our campers and staff feel for camp will help to make this garden even more special, unique and lovely as it grows and is shared by our camp family in future summers. May our garden and our camp always be a place of harmony, and in this New Year, may it serve as a prayer for a more peaceful, harmonious planet…

How We Develop Our Staff…

For nearly thirty-five years, Michael Thompson, Ph.D., has worked as a clinical psychologist, school consultant, and international speaker on the subjects of children, schools, and parenting. He has authored nine books focusing on the emotional lives of boys, friendships and social cruelty in childhood, the impact of summer camp experiences on child development, and other related topics. In preparing directly with Dr. Thompson for his full-day series of workshops at Blue Star, we have narrowed his focus on inclusion. Forming the basis of his interactive sessions with our counselors and leadership staff will be his book: Best Friends, Worst Enemies (Understanding the Social Lives of Children).

Dr. Thompson writes the following about children’s friendships:

As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.

Our emphasis with Dr. Thompson will be how to help our counselors become more mindful of how each of the campers in their cabin are coping with all of these social nuances. Drawing on anecdotes from our staff from past experiences, both as campers themselves and as counselors, Dr. Thompson will aim to illuminate a path toward more expert guidance from our counselors for our campers. Of course, our leadership team will debrief, re-enforce, and continually come back to best practices and learnings from these workshops all the way through the summer as part of ongoing staff development. Creating a safe space where all campers can feel comfortable being their authentic selves is at the very heart of our work at camp…we are excited to kick off our 70th season with the sage advice of Dr. Thompson and to build a summer community committed to inclusion and kindness.

For tons more info and resources, please visit Dr. Thompson’s website…

Keeping Blue Star beautiful…What’s new and exciting for Summer 2017!

Blue Star is a beautiful place. Our special summer home gives our campers the unique experience of living in and with nature. We take pride in making our camper’s “home away from home” the very best it can be. Every year we embark on projects that will enhance our camp’s natural beauty and improve upon the functionality and design of our facilities. Whether it is renovating the interior of all three of our dining halls, building a new custom-designed climbing tower, interior and exterior cabin renovations and updates, creating new Blue Star “Options” as well as creating spaces to house these exciting Blue Star electives, creating gorgeous riding rings to support our world class Equestrian program, or conducting a site-wide landscape architecture project that extends across camp and has created native planting areas that beautify our campus…At Blue Star we are innovators, dreamers, and doers! Put simply, we love our summer home and are devoted to caring for it. This upcoming 70th anniversary season is no different…we are excited and happy to share what we have been up to this off season!

With camp just around the corner, we are wrapping up the following capital improvements projects on site at Blue Star:

-The installation of a Waterski and Wakeboard Cable System right on site at the Old Lake on Blue Star’s Waterfront. This addition to our camp’s main waterfront creates a super fun way to provide opportunities for skill development and preparation for off-site trips to Lake Bowen. We can’t wait to see campers get to experience our new and custom-designed Water Sports Cable System.

-Interior and exterior renovations on Unit Three Hill in Senior Boy’s have been completed and include exterior painting of bunks, interior wood paneling and new wooden porches. The icing on the cake for Senior Boys Unit 3 is a brand new and gorgeous bathhouse that also is eco-friendly!

-We have renovated two additional riding rings up at Horseback. Our Equestrian facilities are really looking beautiful, and with larger rings, our skilled instructors are better able to provide the best lessons for our campers. Take a walk up that way on drop-off or pick-up this year to see the incredible enhancements made to this area of camp.

-Planning ahead for 2018…We also have begun a massive renovation to our Top Lake area. While our Zip Line will be on “pause” for this summer only, it all will be well worth the wait when we unveil our Top Lake experience in 2018. Please pardon our dust during this season…

-Already we have mentioned the creation of our Harmony Garden to honor and celebrate our 70th season of summer magic. This special spot on camp will be available to all campers and staff at Blue Star this summer and will be ready on time for our Family & Alumni Camp on Memorial Day weekend. Additionally, campers will be able to participate in projects this summer that add beauty, character, and their unique individual camp identity to the Harmony Garden. Stay tuned to learn more about how our campers will put their hearts into making a harmonious place even more special.

Of course, there will continue to be new plantings, fresh coats of paint, and other special touches across camp to make Blue Star as beautiful as possible when we open our gates on June 11th and embark upon our 70th anniversary season. We can’t wait to share it all with you—our summer family past, present, and future! L’Dor Vador – Camp with Purpose.

Announcing our Summer theme…L’Dor Vador – Camp with Purpose

Carpe diem. With the onset of spring we are excited to share the theme for our 70th anniversary summer of Blue Star Magic…

L’Dor Vador – Camp with Purpose

As we approach this special anniversary season, we are reminded of and humbled by our rich history and strong foundations. Our theme this year is rooted in an adage from Herman Popkin (Lauren’s grandfather and co-founder of Blue Star in 1948). While Blue Star always has been a “camp with a purpose,” in this year’s theme we shift subtly towards an action statement, reminding our campers and staff to camp with purpose. We want our campers to understand that they are a link in a chain, part of something bigger than themselves. Further, we hope to instill the values of kindness and inclusion, empowering children and young adults to contribute positively to the world around them. This summer’s theme especially highlights our camp’s dedication to social action, social justice and environmental conservation.

In our effort to model these ideals and one of Blue Star’s core outcomes of “doing good,” we will embark on a special project for our 70th season that each of our campers will have the opportunity to participate in and experience. Stay tuned for more information on how our campers will contribute to the addition of a “Harmony Garden” at Blue Star, creating a space for all members of our camp community to enjoy! Our summer theme and our Harmony Garden highlight our goals and hopes for this and future summers at camp; that we will, both individually and collectively, “plant trees, under whose shade (we) do not expect to sit,” –Nelson Henderson.

This summer at camp we all will experience the Blue Star Magic on multiple levels and across generations. As part of our Alumni & Family Camp in May, at our first ceremony in the Harmony Garden, we will celebrate our camp’s deep history and bright future, as well as the unique nature of camp friendships and the power of camp experiences to shape identity and life paths. Our living history will be manifest in 4th generation campers, counselors who are guiding the next generation, leadership team members with children at camp, alumni visiting who were at camp in its founding years, and the Elmore Solomon Chapel still radiating as the spiritual center of camp. Our purpose, on the day of camp’s founding and now, serves as the connective tissue among generations of Blue Star alumni. To that end, our theme this summer is really a celebration of the vision, collective experience and heart of our camp. We are inspired by the many ways in which our shared purpose may positively impact our planet. It feels more important now than ever to recommit to our purpose, learn from the generations who came before us, and continue dreaming big for a beautiful future…

L’Dor Vador, from generation to generation, let’s camp with purpose!

Annoucing our Campership program…Give the gift of camp and spread the Blue Star Magic!

Happy holidays! We are so excited and honored to be celebrating our 70th anniversary season of Blue Star Magic in the Blue Ridge Mountains this summer. As 3rd generation owners/directors, we are proud of our rich history and time-honored camp traditions which have positively impacted the lives of generations of Blue Star campers and staff since 1948!

While summer 2017 is still months away, we are diligently focused on the upcoming camp season as we continue to nurture the future of our welcoming and inclusive camp community. Dedicating ourselves to helping each camper realize Blue Star’s three core outcomes (self-discovery, building community and doing good) is our humble way of making the world a better place, one camp experience at a time. We know how vital these 21st century skills are for children. All kids should be given opportunities to discover their best selves, form meaningful and genuine connections to others, and feel empowered to affect positive change in the world around them.

We believe that every child deserves a chance to experience camp and it is for this reason that Blue Star has funded an internal camp scholarship (Campership) program that has given the gift of camp to hundreds of campers who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to attend. Recipients of these funds are typically awarded to long time camp families that may be experiencing a financial hardship and prospective families that are unable to afford either full or partial tuition costs. We have often been met with requests from members of our camp community who have wanted to contribute to our Campership fund. For those camp families and alumni, we are excited to announce that now our camp community can also support our Campership program! As an accredited camp of the American Camp Association (ACA), Blue Star is eligible to build our camper scholarship fund through the 501(c)3 tax exempt status of ACA.

If you or a family member are interested in making a contribution that will assist with tuition costs, giving the gift of camp to a child that may otherwise not be able to attend, please view our electronic flyer here ( For those who would like to participate, please know that donations to the ACA Campership fund will be used for the sole purpose of providing need-based financial assistance to campers. You can help make it possible for a deserving camper to experience the Blue Star Magic by visiting ACA online here (

We so appreciate our amazing Blue Star family and the many ways the good work we do at camp is supported by our camp community. Looking forward to sharing a spectacular 70th season with you all and remember, “The heart that gives, gathers” – Lao Tsu