LIVONIA — The latest pop sensation to sweep the area is in a "Flower City State of Mind."
Popular Peninsula, the house band of Camp Stella Maris on Conesus Lake, has drawn a devoted following among campers, staff and alumni who have memorized the group’s good-natured parody songs, including "Flower City State of Mind," which has been played on local TV and radio stations. A concert by the band Aug. 7 at the Old Navy store at Victor’s Eastview Mall drew an estimated 600 people.
Band members, who hail from the top ranks of the camp’s leadership, will return to the camp stage Sept. 18 for a fall social at Camp Stella Maris, which is an affiliate of diocesan Catholic Charities.
The social begins at 2 p.m. with Mass on the beach. Camp activities and food start at 3 p.m., and a closing campfire takes place at 6:30 p.m. The event promises such activities as games, crafts and reminiscing, in addition to Popular Peninsula performances. The event is sponsored by the camp’s alumni association, and proceeds from food sales and donations will go to the Camp Stella Maris Campership Fund.
Helping to bring camp to more people is one goal of the fund, which this year aims to award more than $90,000 in camp scholarships to more than 200 children and their families. The Campership Fund was founded in 1977 by the late Charles M. Bayer and provides need-based scholarships to the camp’s resident, day and family camp programs. At least 10 percent of the camp’s enrollment is reserved for families seeking financial assistance.
Proceeds from the sales of Popular Peninsula’s CD and T-shirts go toward the Campership Fund; sales this summer have raised more than $6,000.
"This is our highest year of our Campership Fund," said John Quinlivan, executive director of Camp Stella Maris. "Our goal this year is to increase our Campership Fund by 10 percent."
About 2,500 young people attended resident camp this year, and about 350 attended day camp. Throughout the year, the camp is used for other activities, including youth and family camp experiences, and private organizations also rent facilities for team-building activities. Although the camp is used for other things, camp staff members aim to keep the focus on personal and spiritual growth, Quinlivan said.
"We want to make sure that it’s mission-based," he said. "We have this great facility, and it is a great asset to the diocese and to the community."
Quinlivan said more than 300 kids attended camp on scholarship this year. Although the camp’s population is predominantly Catholic, this year the camp’s staff worked with the Hillside Work Scholarship program and urban schools to identify young people who would benefit from camp scholarships.
During a typical day at resident camp, campers rotate between waterfront, spiritual adventure, arts, nature and ballfield activities at various points in the day. Campers are encouraged to try new things, including one of this year’s favorites: "GaGa," an Israeli form of dodge ball played in a walled-in circular pit.
At the chapel, which is decorated with handmade posters featuring inspirational sayings, campers get a break from the hustle and bustle to contemplate spiritual lessons. In a recent interview at the chapel, 8-year-old Ann Margaret Mealey of Pittsford said as a second-year camper she was excited to see a new inflatable at the waterfront and some familiar faces.
"I knew friends this year from camp last year," she said.
Eight-year-old camper Chloe Pouthier of Rochester said sometimes she felt homesick during her first year at camp but learned to cope with being away from home.
"As you do something, you’ll forget about it," she said.
Campers also can ward off homesickness by sending e-mails to family through a centralized system. Staff members also post updates on Facebook and Twitter several times a day during the summer regarding what campers were doing at that moment. Otherwise, such electronics as cell phones, laptops and MP3 players are banned at camp. Staff members said they find kids spend more time building relationships with each other when electronics are out of the equation.
"I think the community is so much greater here because God is behind us and that is what camp is founded on," said Molly Tette, 18, a junior counselor from Livonia whose father, Ray, was previously a camp director. Tette, who is attending Hofstra University this year, worked in the kitchen during the summer of 2009 and was a camper for many years.
"As a camper, you get to experience the camp magic, but as a counselor, you get to create it," he remarked.
The passion and dedication of its counselors helps set the camp apart, said Adam Bell, camp director and a Popular Peninsula member.
"I hear it in interviews every year that they want to be on staff so they can give back what our counselors gave them," he said of those seeking summer camp jobs at Stella Maris. "It’s not just a summer job for them, but it’s a ministry and something they really believe in."
EDITOR’S NOTE: To purchase a Popular Peninsula CD, mail a check for $13.50 to: Camp Stella Maris, 4395 E. Lake Road, Livonia, NY 14487. Albums also may be purchased for $10 at the camp store in Livonia. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 585-346-2243, ext. 132, for details.