"I get to cheer them on, they get to cheer me on, but we don’t always have to do everything together."

Mihoko Yamamoto, Voice Teacher

I owe my Ballibay experience to the person who, every year, made camp possible for me: my mom.

For eight summers, she worked at camp so that I could attend.

Without her, I never would’ve been a camper at Ballibay.

I've only recently realized that camp was not just a place for me to sing, dance, and be with friends, but it was also a place for my mom and I to be together in a setting only unique to Ballibay.

Now as a staff member, without my mom around, it’s made me more observant of the camper and camp parent dynamics around me and if they are similar to my own. It’s also made me so much more appreciative of them.


"They get to see me living my best life 

and I get to see them living their best lives!"


I have the pleasure of working alongside several camp moms and recently had the chance to talk with Sara Galkin and Deidre Struck- both who currently have kids of their own attending camp.

When talking to them about how their camp experience has been alongside their kids, they both answer earnestly.

“I was nervous about how I would be sucked into their daily lives and that it would prohibit them from being campers and me from being an artist” Deidre replies. “But in fact, I found the opposite to be true. Being at camp with them really helped me creatively because I saw them trying new things, in such a child-like way, which inspired me to do new things as well.”

Sara answers similarly. “I was definitely worried initially. I think they were a bit annoyed in the beginning but they all ended up including me and it was exciting for them that I was there. It’s been awesome because they get to see me living my best life, and I get to see them living their best life. I get to be a fly on the wall and see them putting themselves forward.”

Sara Galkin, Head of Art

I realized very early on that at camp, we had the space to be our own people. I could go out and explore on my own and my mom could do the same. But we also had the support of the Ballibay community to collaborate and cheer each other on.

One of my core memories with my mom at camp was singing “For Good” from Wicked with her in 2009. It was my first ever performance at camp and I was a nervous wreck. Now looking back on it, it makes me smile to think that I shared my first of many Ballibay performances with my mom.

When talking to Sara and Deidre about growing and creating simultaneously alongside their campers, they felt similarly.

“The first year I went to camp with the kids, I didn’t see them at all for the first few days. I really missed them. But then there’s this amazing feeling of knowing that we are in the same environment but doing our own thing. I get to cheer them on, they get to cheer me on, but we don’t always have to do everything together,” Deidre reflects. “It’s honestly incredible to make art alongside them and with them. Playing for them in camper cabarets is something that I always think about because I don't know how long they want me accompanying them! It's something that I'll always cherish."

“They get to have their own space there,” Sara states. “I don’t think they ever really felt like I was intruding on their experience. I let them set the pace and watching them at camp has been great. It doesn’t seem like they’re holding back at all.”

Deidre Struck, Music Director

As my camper summers at Ballibay continued, I saw less and less of my mom. As you can probably imagine, pre-teen Annie wanted to be on her own and enjoy the same freedom her cabinmates had with no parental eyes on her. Now, it’s made me think of how I never had to be directly associated with her all the time and vice versa. Some space was a good thing- a beneficial thing!

When talking to the camp moms about how camp has impacted their lives, separate from their kids, they respond contently.

“It’s been a place where I feel safe and understood- and this security helps me when I return home. It’s a memory of how I can appreciate all the little things. It’s a constant reminder of that level of being present and this trickles down into so many different things. Realizing the space where I come alive has really contributed to understanding what doesn't serve me and making sure that I surround myself with people that lift me up and vice versa. I really get to do my own personal growing,” Sara replies.

“Ballibay encourages people to try new things and do cross disciplinary art, and this has really carried over into my artistic life at home. Sometimes it can be very lonely being a composer. So, I ask myself ‘why do I love Ballibay so much?’ and ‘how can I bring it more into my daily life in New York?’ I came up with the acronym PEACH. P for purpose, E for the beautiful Ballibay environment, A for staying active- my calves get so strong!,” Deidre laughs. “C is for community- at Ballibay, I thrive in community, and H is for health. So that’s PEACH! I actually have some peach stickers to help remind me of how I feel at camp,” Deidre replies.

I don’t think I realized how lucky I was to have my mom at camp with me. The shared memories and experiences we have of camp created a connection unlike any other. I can relate to so much of how Ballibay brings people together- especially family. Camp offers such a special bond that you can’t get anywhere else.

“We start talking about Ballibay pretty much as soon as we get home from Ballibay,” Deidre laughs. “It has become a huge part of our lives.”

“It's certainly added another level of connection for all of us,” Sara reflects.

“It sets such a warm tone. I think it helps the kids understand me and it helps them see me in a different light- out of the regular day to day.”

At times throughout camp when I was feeling down or a bit stressed, I found myself seeking comfort, support, and advice from our camp moms. I think that it’s partly due to missing my own mom, but also because camp moms are able to offer a different perspective and energy that our younger staff don’t have just yet.

“Being a camp mom is the best. I think having moms at camp is really important because a lot of campers miss their moms and may not be able to articulate it. If I’m ever in a rehearsal and I notice that a kid may need a hug or a little extra something that day, I’ve invited kids to sit next to me at the piano. And I think that they enjoy having a mom-like presence around. I try to create space for mom-like community and love. It’s great because there are several of us and campers know that they can go to any one of us for something that’s more of a mom thing- I don’t even know what a mom thing is!,” Deidre chuckles. “It’s just a vibe!”

“The benefit of being a camp mom is really understanding that the kids come first- period. I think there are times we can intervene a little bit with the younger counselors and help them understand the kids in a different way. I think it’s different coming from us,” Sara states.

More Balli-Moms!
From left to right: Janine Sopp, Jana Flynn, Sara Galkin, Deidre Struck, Yuna Weiss

Finally, I took the time to talk to my own mom about her camp experience. We haven’t talked much about camp in a while, so I was interested to hear her thoughts after talking with the current camp moms.

"I really appreciated that I had the privilege to see my child thrive as a young performer and artist. I liked seeing you being so cute and happy!" she laughs. Even if I wasn't always around you, I knew you were in good hands."

"Ballibay gave us such a nostalgic place to always return to- it was our home away from home. I am always nostalgic for camp and it gives me such a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart."

"I met the most professional minded people, like Jay, Jesse, and Mel, to enrich my artistic growth and experience. I loved by being surrounded by all the nature at camp because it motivated me to produce more music- it was so much better than being stuck in my home studio."

Mihoko and the 2010 Balli-goats!

In wrapping up my conversation with Sara, Deidre, and my mom, Mihoko, I asked them to share any final words of camp mom wisdom.

“Let your campers be campers. The best thing that I’ve done for my own children, because they’ve grown so much since they’ve started at camp, is to just let them be campers. And remember, no news is good news!” Deidre replies.

“Have your own separate connection with the camp. And have a bond with the other camp moms. Like the same way the kids form a bond with their friends, we (camp moms) have a bond with each other and it’s a very open, honest, and trusting bond,” Sara reflects.

"Let your child free even though you're there! You are two different individuals trying to experience something different so respect each other's space! Have fun in your own world," Mihoko shares.

It has been so enlightening speaking with these camp moms about their camp experience. Our camp moms are a beloved part of the Ballibay community. Through their eyes, we see the impact of a community built on kindness, compassion, and love. These camp moms, with their unwavering dedication, don't just contribute to the camp's environment, but are also so important in shaping the lives and memories of our campers.