For Parents

YMCA Camp Benson’s mission to BUILD STRONGer campers by providing a safe, fun, educational and transformational overnight summer camp experience for all campers. We strive to create opportunities for personal growth and new friendships while always keeping physical and emotional safety a priority. At Camp Benson we build relationships through camp activities while teaching and practicing the YMCA core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Inclusiveness and Dedication. We hope that YMCA Camp Benson becomes a yearly tradition in your family. 

This page is designed to make your life easier as a parent or guardian when registering or preparing to send your child to camp. Below are some common questions we get at YMCA Camp Benson about summer camp. If at any time during the registration process or leading up to camp you have a question or a concern, do not hesitate to contact us.

YCB Parent/Guardian Handbook 2018

How do you keep campers healthy and safe at camp?

Your biggest concern is for your child's safety and we understand this. The health and safety of our campers is our top priority here at YCMA Camp Benson. Regardless of how beneficial a program could be, it is worthless unless an effective camp health and safety program is in place and implemented by knowledgeable summer staff.



A well-equipped health center is staffed by our Health and Wellness Director 24/7 when camp is in session. In addition to this, Registered Nurse lives at the front of camp and is on call during this period as well. All of summer staff are First Aid/CPR trained and certified. The safety of a great camp depends on the experience and professionalism of the director and their staff. We will give you a call if anything happens at camp that we would want to know about as parents. This includes spending more than one night in the infirmary or any needed visits to the nurse or doctor.



On your Camp Benson account page you will find a forms links. This link will include a few different forms that need to be completed, signed by you NOT A PHYSICIAN, prior to your camper attending. We will also ask you to let us know of any changes at check in so that we can make them to your account. Please fill these forms out prior to arriving to camp. If you have not done so you will wait in line to fill these forms out with the Health and Wellness Director.



Campers are not permitted to keep any medications in their cabins. We require all camper prescription and non-prescription medications be dispensed by the camp Health and Wellness Director. Medications will be given to the Health and Wellness Director during check in.   



We cannot provide customized menus for campers with allergies (our menu does currently account for a vegetarian and gluten-free diets), intolerance to specific foods, or "picky" preferences. We will, however, assist campers in selecting appropriate food items at each meal from the camp's preset menu. Please contact the camp director in advance of enrollment to be sure that your camper's needs can be met. If your camper experiences more serious eating disorders, this camp may not be the right fit for you. A healthy diet is necessary to fuel your camper for the active lifestyle at camp.



YMCA Camp Benson is proud to be an American Camp Association (ACA) accredited camp. The ACA nationally recognizes camps that meet the highest standards, focusing on health, safety and program quality. The accreditation process has over 300 safety and quality standards to which we must adhere.



Please call us in advance to discuss any medical conditions or special concerns that need to be managed at camp. Our first priority is being sure we can care for your child while at camp.

What should I be packing for my camper?

Life at Camp Benson is informal! Send play clothes-the kind you can afford to lose or don't mind getting really dirty.

Guide your camper as he/she packs. Pack in smaller suitcases, soft packs, or duffels. There is no room for trunks. Send enough clothing for the entire period your camper will be with us.

Please put your camper's name on everything you can. YMCA Camp Benson is not responsible for any lost items during camp. Lost and found is sorted at the end of each session and is retained for one week after the session ends. Please check the lost and found area in your camper’s cabin before departing on check-out day.

We provide bunks and mattresses. Send whatever bedding seems most comfortable (sleeping bag or 2-3 blankets, small blanket, old bed sheets, 1 pillow). Remember the pillow, and be sure to include an old bed sheet, to be used for a mattress cover. Stuffed animals are welcome!

Laundry service is not available at camp. Only in emergency situations, such as bedwetting or illness can we make an exception.

Sleeping Bag/Bedding
Warm Weather Clothes
Cool Weather Clothes
Long Pants
"River Duds" - old pants, socks, shoes, and shirt for river hikes
Swimming suit (one piece for SDPs)
Closed Toed/Tie Up Shoes for all activities
Sandals/Flip Flops for the Shower
Towels (2)
All Toiletries

Disposable Camera
Insect Repellant
Stationary and Stamps
Water Bottle
Lots of extra socks!

Cell Phones and Other Electronics (iPods, game systems, TV’s and expensive cameras). Please leave these items at home, as they are not allowed at camp.
Outside food. This attracts critters and creates problems in the cabin. Your child will get plenty to eat at camp.
Rifles, ammunition, knives, hunting/fishing knives, controlled substances, matches/lighters, and fireworks are prohibited. Possession or use of controlled substances, alcohol, tobacco, or fireworks will result in immediate dismissal from camp without refund.

What time is check-in and check-out for summer camp?
  • Check-in is from 3:00-4:30 pm on the first day of camp. We will not start checking campers in until exactly 3:00 pm. Check-in takes place in the Merrill Benson Recreation Center (big green pavilion next to the parking lot).
  • Check-Out is at 9 am on the last day of camp. Campers will be picked up and signed out from their cabins.
What type of food is served in the dining hall?


At YMCA Camp Benson serving kid friendly, yet healthy and balanced meals is our goal. A daily breakfast bar includes cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit and more. A fresh salad bar is available at every lunch and dinner. Breakfast, lunch and dinner always include vegetarian options.
Click Here to see a sample weekly menu.
To discuss special dietary needs, please contact our Kitchen Manager, Christopher Davis, at 815-244-8722 or by email at [email protected]

What forms do I need to fill out for my camper and where are they?

At Camp Benson, we are a 95% paper free camp. This includes our required forms. They can all be submitted to us electronically through your Camp Benson account. Please fill these forms out prior to arriving to camp. If you have not done so you will wait in line to fill these forms out with the Health and Wellness Director. We have 2 forms that are required for attendance at YMCA Camp Benson:

The health history form tells us a number of medical things about your camper in case there were an emergency and we needed to take them to the hospital. Some of those things include: your insurance information, acknowledgement of immunizations, and any medications that are being taken.
A couple pieces of advice as you fill out the form. First, you must fill out all required spots on the form. It will not let you move on if you don't. Second, if you don't know something, just fill in some random letters or numbers so it lets you move on. Third, we do not need all of the immunization dates, just tick whether or not they are up to date.
A doctor’s physical is no longer required to attend camp in Illinois.

This is your opportunity to let us know if we should be aware of anything as it relates to your camper. Things such as; bed wetting, special home situations, recent trauma are just a few. We will print this and give it to our counselors to review before your camper arrives.

Bunk mate requests and the financial assistance form (Kids to Camp Scholarship) are available in the forms and documents section. You can add camp trading post funds or purchase the camp care package under Additional Options here as well.

Log into your Camp Benson account by clicking on the "Parent Login" button. Once logged into your account, you will see a button called "Forms and Documents". Click there and you will see the forms and your progress on them.
What does the first day at camp look like?

After check in, parents will walk their campers to their cabin where their counselors and SDP's will help introduce them to the other campers, and help them move in. Parents might also want to give the counselors any special instructions regarding how to best care for their camper. After this, parents are welcome to head out as soon as you are comfortable so your child can begin becoming a camper.

After all the campers have arrived for a particular cabin, the cabin will head up to the Recreation Center for a meet and greet with all the other cabins. Each cabin group will travel from station to station playing some get-to-know-you games. This time is critical in developing commonalities between the individual campers. After each cabins has spent 6 minutes at 6 different stations, the cabin will go with their counselor to the Amphitheater for a gathering of songs, skits, and fun. We'll give a quick talk that covers some rules, respect, and responsibility and then off to opening night dinner.

After dinner, each cabin heads out for an hour tour of camp. This a great bonding and connecting time for campers. They will do the tour with their brother/sister cabin from the other village of camp. They will become familiar with all the main destinations of camp...and maybe their counselor will show them some secret spots.

This is the highlight of opening night. Filled with staff skits, lots of loud singing, tons of laughter, roll call of how many years you've been at camp and where you're from, make for a fun hour and half of campfire.

What is life like at YMCA Camp Benson?

At home, each child has their own routine depending on their family traditions and their own individual likes and dislikes. At camp, we have our own traditions and daily routines that make each camper's stay as enjoyable as possible, while still giving them choices to do what they like to do best. The transition from home to camp can sometimes be a challenge, so here is some information to help you and your camper succeed.

Campers are placed in their cabin families according to age and gender. Each cabin group typically has between 8-12 campers, depending on the session. Campers may request two cabin mates who are of the same gender and within one school grade. We do not guarantee placement, but will make every effort to honor it if both/all campers request each other and are within the appropriate age range. It is our belief that each camper will have a significantly better camp experience by not requesting too many cabin-mates — our counselors are trained to build cabin unity and make each camper feel welcome from the moment the session begins. Going to camp with a friend may be great, but meeting new people while on your own is a valuable experience that will last a lifetime.

YES...our campers do make their own beds. Good hygiene and stewardship are key areas to gaining independence and good habits while at camp. Campers are responsible for their beds and personal gear, cabin cleanliness, assisting in table setting /clearing, and camp clean up.

Each day, the whole camp gathers for a short time to reflect about the world around us, our relationship with others and self. Staff and sometimes older campers plan this activity, which may include thought-provoking games, skits or discussions. Themes like caring, hope, forgiveness, trust and love are discussed. Each morning at this chapel, a staff member presents a theme for all to think about throughout the day. It is a precursor to their Reflections Talk that is given at night where we sing slow songs and reflect on our day.

Schedule content will vary with camp and age group. This sample is a Monday through Friday schedule. The MEGA Camp stay over weekend will follow a different schedule.
8:00-10 am Wake up, Flag Raising, Breakfast, Cabin Clean-up and Thought of the Day
10-11:45 am Camper Choice Activity Time
12-1 pm Lunch
1-1:45 pm Rest Period
1:45-3:30 pm Free Camper Activity Time
3:45-5:30 pm Pool Time and Cabin Bonding
5:45 pm Dinner
6:30 pm Cabin Quest
7:45-9 pm Evening Program
9:00 pm Slow Songs and Daily Reflection
10:15 pm Lights Out

How do you handle camper homesickness?

A recent study by the American Camp Association reported that nearly 96% of all boys and girls spending two weeks or more at overnight camps reported some homesickness on at least one day. Homesickness is not just common, it’s nearly universal, and it is also a rare opportunity for growth. A wonderful home deserves to be missed. But we are also made to engage the world we live in and to not be afraid to move toward opportunity, even when it means leaving behind things that are more familiar. A great camp for kids provides a safe and controlled environment to begin the adventure of healthy independence.

Homesickness is most acutely felt when campers have the least to do, which is of course the exact moment that they are able to write home! If you do get a sad letter please respond by doing two things quickly. First, write them an email letting them know that you understand they miss home but that you are also proud of them for their growth at camp. Next, please call us and let us know. Chances are that we will be aware that they have missed home, but we can also let you speak with their counselors and give you more information.

The fastest way for a camper to remain homesick is for you to say you will come get them if they remain homesick. It’s a circular promise that builds momentum in a camper’s planning so that they then find it very difficult to become a camper.
Parents make “the bargain” for a number of reasons, but it is often because they are just as concerned about time away from their camper as their camper is about time away from home. Just like our children need to develop a sense of adventurous independence, we as parents sometimes need to be stretched a little too. If this is true of you, it is okay, you’re in good company. Instead of making “the bargain” with your camper give us a call and let us give you details about how they are doing.

Camp Benson's overall return rate is high (67% in 2014, the national average for camps is 55%), but we believe the return rate of campers who struggle with homesickness is even higher. We believe it is higher because these are the children who grew tremendously, who committed to something that was a little more of a stretch for them and who were in the end richly rewarded and then profoundly proud of themselves. We are proud of them too, and we tell them every year they return. How can I stay in touch with my camper?

How do I communicate with my camper?

All camper parents will have access to the communication dashboard through their online Camp Benson account. Parents will be able to view daily photos, read the nightly newsletter and send one way emails to campers all through the easy to use communication dashboard.
Or you can send letters and packages the old fashioned way, through the mail, to your camper and they will be delivered every day at dinner. If you would like your camper to write you please include an addressed and stamped envelope in their luggage.

Is there a Camp Store?

The Camp Trading Post is open every afternoon for snacks, shirts, water bottles, flashlights, and more. It is highly recommended that you add funds to your camper’s Trading Post account online prior to arriving at camp. If you wait to add the add funds until check-in you may have to wait in line at the finance table to do so. We suggest a minimum of $30. You can also purchase a camp care package for $20 that your camper will receive on day one.

How do I register for Summer Camp?

All registration is done online. Click the register tab at the top of the page to begin your camper application. Our secure online registration system allows you to sign your campers up for camp, make payments and submit forms all from the comfort of your home.

Is there financial assistance available to help send my camper to camp?

Every child deserves a camp experience. Just one summer at camp can positively influence a child’s life forever. Our confidential Financial Assistance Program allows numerous children, who would otherwise not be able to attend, to experience all that YMCA Camp Benson has to offer.
Applications for assistance will be made available on our website beginning May 1, 2016, with submission being accepted after that.


Here is a great resource for parents of first time campers: 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Sending Kids to Sleepaway Camp.