Sail-a-brating 30 Years of Rolling River Day Camp: “The First 10 Years”- 1993-2002
Q&A with Directors Rhonda and Mark Goodman
In 2022, Rolling River Day Camp will be celebrating our 30th anniversary camp season. We sat down with Directors Rhonda and Mark Goodman to learn more about the history of Rolling River and how they got started with owning and operating a highly successful summer camp.
Why did you want to start a summer camp?
Rhonda- Owning and directing a camp had been Mark’s dream! Growing up in a single parent household, he received a scholarship to attend camp as a child and the experience changed his life. When we met in Camp Kent in 1975, we always talked about our love for camp and how it would be amazing to start our own one day. We felt that we had the skills to provide a program that would benefit hundreds of children in the community.
Why did you choose this location to operate Rolling River?
Mark- This location had served as a summer camp since the 1950’s (known as Camp Millett). The previous owners were moving out of state so we had the opportunity to purchase the property. While it needed extensive renovations, it was a beautiful waterfront campus with a lot of potential. We also lived nearby with three young children so it was a perfect location to grow a strong customer base.
Who do you credit with helping to start Rolling River?
Rhonda- We really had an extensive team of friends and family that pitched in to get the camp off the ground (both professionally and financially). Ultimately, it was their trust in Mark to conceptualize and run a fantastic program that helped to launch Rolling River.
How did you come up with the name “Rolling River Day Camp”?
Rhonda- We actually ran a contest called “Name That Camp”! The winner received free tuition for the first year of camp. A local East Rockaway resident named Jon DeSantis came up with the name “Rolling River”. He was about 11 years old- how cool is that?
When you first opened Rolling River, there were many other summer camps in the area. What was the selling point that differentiated your new program?
Rhonda- We were family owned and operated and the idea of a “family-friendly” environment really stood out amongst the competition. We were also very authentic and approachable. We were young parents with three kids so we completely understood our customers!
What was your favorite memory from the first year of camp?
Mark- My favorite memory was when the buses started rolling into the parking lot on the first day of camp. It was proof that we had accomplished our goal of building a brand new summer camp. We had bought the camp in 1992 so it was over a year of preparation to open for our maiden voyage!
What was the biggest facility or program change in the first decade of camp?
Mark- Absolutely the planning and construction of the Multi-Porpoise Building and the vinyl pool. After year 3 of operation, our numbers way surpassed what we had anticipated and we needed more space. The two-story building provided us with additional changing rooms as well as a practical multi-use, air conditioned space, The new pool also allowed us to expand our phenomenal aquatics program and increase our total camp enrollment. We also expanded the physical footprint of the camp when we bought the adjacent house in 1995 and converted the property to what is now Skipper Field. Those first years were a lot of work and renovations but set us up for success in the future.
What is your favorite tradition that was started in 1993?
Mark- My favorite tradition is definitely Song and Plaque Day. I started this idea as a Head Counselor at sleepaway camp and I was so excited to bring it to Rolling River. It was amazing to see the creativity and spirit with both the songs and the plaques. It’s also fun that the original plaques are still hanging up around camp!
Besides you both, is there anyone still here that attended in 1993?
Rhonda- Yes! Of course, our three children, Marissa, Ali and Jon, were here as campers and now all work on the year round team as Directors. Also, our Events Manager Chrissy Osgood was an assistant counselor in the Mariner Division. Our Health Center Supervisor Alicia Stone has been here since day one as well!
When you look back on the first decade of camp, what word best describes the experience?
Mark- Success, Rhonda- Change
When you celebrated the first 10 years of operation in 2002, what would you say was your biggest accomplishment?
Rhonda- We had created a nursery school and camp program from scratch and subsequently established ourselves as a highly respected children’s business. In only 10 years, we had reached full capacity with over 700 campers! It was a great feeling to know that our vision had come to life and we looked forward to many more years of creating priceless summer memories!