Many camp professionals use S&S Worldwide (www.ssww.com) for ordering camp supplies this time of year. There are a few great things about S&S: First off, they have generous coupons on a regular basis. Before placing your order, Google “S&S Coupon” and see what you can find. If there isn’t a current promotion running, call your S&S representative and see if there is one coming up. You should never be placing an order through S&S without at least a 30% or 40% off coupon.
This is a slightly more expensive investment, but it will pay off majorly in the long run. Julia Roberts of Camp Michigania said in my staff appreciation presentation at ACA Mid-States this week that they have one at Michigania that they allow staff to use at any point. Each button produced (and be sure to order the button pieces as well) costs less than 9 cents, and it’s a great way to allow staff to make gifts for each other for birthdays, activities and more. We have one at Camp Al-Gon-Quian, and one of the funniest pranks someone played on me was creating a button of Monica Lewinsky’s face and pinning it to my dog’s collar.
Button makers are also great for the following ideas: creating a custom set of visitor passes, quick alumni gifts made with camp photos, quick-fix arts and crafts and awards.
2. Masking tape. Lots of masking tape: http://www.ssww.com/item/masking-tape-AS125/
When I became a camp director, I thought back to what some of the most frustrating things were for me when I was a counselor. One of these things was the fact that we were constantly running out of tape! On each year’s S&S order, I would go ahead and order at least 30 rolls of masking tape. It’s a lot cheaper through S&S (especially with a coupon) and there’s no reason that we should not have a ton of tape on site. I’d apply the same concept to cheap scissors, construction paper, glue, paintbrushes…you can always use these in additional years, so they won’t go to waste if you get too many! Additional pro tip: Only have a few rolls of tape and other supplies out at a time. Hide the surplus in secret stashes that you release on an as-needed and secret basis.
3. Indoor/Outdoor Basketballs: http://www.ssww.com/item/spalding-indooroutdoor-composite-basketball-W10586/
Basketball can be very, very serious business at camp. My friend Marshall gave me a tip my first year as a camp director, which was to purchase Indoor/Outdoor basketballs. Marshall got into every single law school he applied to, so it is always wise to listen to Marsh. Our basketballs at camp stay outdoor all the time, so I thought I would just go ahead and buy some outdoor basketballs. Marshall stopped me. He said the indoor/outdoor are of better quality and will last longer than the plain old outdoor ones. He was right.
4. Whistles for your Lifeguards: http://www.ssww.com/item/arbiter-pealess-whistle-and-lanyard-W10511/
Stock up now. Get every lifeguard a whistle and have a crafty staff member puff-paint them to customize for each individual. This pack of 12 is listed at $19.99. Add a coupon to that and your whistles will be just over $1 a piece. These create pride in the waterfront staff and help prevent additional spit-swapping among your lifeguards.
5. Clipboards: http://www.ssww.com/item/letter-size-clipboard-OC1037/
Staff stay more organized when they have a clipboard. They can store rosters, schedules, activity plans and more. I have found that when staff, especially activity staff, are given a clipboard at the start of staff training, it helps direct their organization. You are setting the tone that there are things they need to attend to. These plain clipboards are $1.49 each before any discount, so they’re another inexpensive way to get your staff some gear and keep them professional. Again, a crafty staff member can decorate to make some personalized gifts. Order about 10 more for the office for things like check-in rosters, inspections and more. A stack of papers will look much more organized (and won’t blow away in the wind) when attached to a clipboard.
6. Playing cards: http://www.ssww.com/item/playing-cards-SL1254/
I’d order a bunch of 12-packs. And remember that you will end up paying less than half what you would end up paying at Walmart. The secret stash of office supplies rule also applies here so your kids in week 9 still have some cards!
7. "Super Jumbo" Playing Cards: http://www.ssww.com/item/super-jumbo-playing-cards-W9355/
Think of all the game possibilites with these!!! Look at how happy that kid is!! I’d say this is $12.99 well spent, even if you don’t have a coupon.
8. Pickleball Set: http://www.ssww.com/item/diller-pickle-ball-set-W5589/
OK, it has a silly name and the picture isn't that great. But guys, I am OBSESSED with Pickleball! NBC Nightly News even called it the fastest growing sport in America. Pickleball is a racquet sport that crosses tennis, ping pong and badminton. You can set up 2 pickleball sets on a tennis court, meaning 8 people can play on one court instead of just 4. It's really easy to learn and a great equalizer. People of all ages can play together. I can go on and on about this! I especially recommend this sport for camps that are no longer doing tennis for some reason, and for family camps. The nets are portable and removable, too!
9. Sidewalk Chalk: http://www.ssww.com/item/color-splash-giant-box-sidewalk-chalk-SC877/
Sidewalk chalk is the ultimate team art activity. Kids love to get a big box of chalk and just go wild drawing, creating, making games, etc. What a classic! These boxes are huge, the chalk is of a fine quality, and it's much less expensive than the name-brand stuff at Walmart. It's also an amazing activity tool as you can do great things such as turn your tennis courts into a life-size game board.
10. Giant Embroidery Floss Pack: http://www.ssww.com/item/giant-embroidery-floss-pack-ST2479/
With as many as 105 skeins in a pack, ordering your embroidery floss early from S&S is a great plan. There have been many times when this gets sold out, in my experience, so place your order soon. I would estimate how many packs of floss you go through in a week at your camp, and then multiply to place your order. Our Arts & Crafts director would ration these out by week. It's important that the kids in your last session have more than brown thread to work with, so don't get stuck at Michael's on the last week of camp searching high and low for more-expensive floss packs that you're not going to find. Stock up now!
Note: Friendship bracelet making tends to be crazy-popular. Once I had a camper suggest to me that we sell embroidery floss in our camp store. Has anyone ever done that? She was quite the young entrepreneur.