Parent Info

Here at YMCA Camp Benson campers have been given the opportunity to create a very special community focused on friendship, acceptance, self-discovery and independence since 1928.

Overnight summer camp gives children the chance to step away from the familiar parts of their daily routine and venture outside their comfort zones. They make new friends, lifelong memories and learn new skills in a safe, well-supervised, and “unplugged” environment. Whether you’re looking for a week-long overnight camp, an overnight summer camp for younger campers or a teen leadership program, YMCA Camp Benson has a program that’s right for you.

“YMCA Camp Benson provides a positive alternative reality to his digital and virtual tech world.  It provides a necessary connection to the natural world and personal, meaningful face-to-face social relationships.  Also he just gets to have FUN!” – Camper Parent



Entering 1st - 2nd Grade

Explorer Camp is a 4-day, 3-night camp session designed to introduce our youngest campers and their families to overnight summer camp.  Our focus is to create a safe, comfortable, and fun camping experience for our Explorer campers.  Each Explorer cabin is made up of 9 campers and 2 staff members.  We place a very strong emphasis on cabin unity and comradery during these camp sessions.

Explorers stay together with their cabin group and sample camp activities in shorter, age-appropriate activity periods.  Climbing wall, Twilight Zone, Flying Squirrel, Arts and Crafts, and the Kangaroo Hunt are just some of the fun activities that our Explorers enjoy.  Explorer Camp counselors are dedicated to creating a supportive environment where our youngest campers can become more independent and build new friendships.

EXPLORER Camp Dates:
Explorer Week 1: June 7-10
“Space Explorers”- Join us in a week of outer space adventures and intergalactic challenges. We need your help to find our compass and return it to the safety of Planet Benson!

Explorer Week 2: July 5-8
“Mystery Week”- Something is afoot at Camp Benson. Mysterious beasts, new found magic, tasty potions. Embark on a 3-day quest with the leaders of YCB. There is much to be discovered and learned. Mysterious villains lurk around camp and it’s your job to sniff them out. We need the explorer’s help!

Fee: $425 Members, $475 Non Members




Entering 3rd - 8th Grade

Adventure Camp is a week-long overnight camp for campers focused on skill building and character development. This is our most popular summer camp program.

During a session of Adventure Camp, campers have the opportunity to try a wide variety of camp activities that interest them. In fact, campers are empowered to choose which activities they want to participate in, which fosters self-reliance and decision-making skills. Adventure Camp provides campers with the chance to unplug from electronics, get outside, and just be a kid.


Adventure Week 1: June 11-17
“Superhero Week”- Get ready to zip through the air on the zip line like Superman and escape to the Bat Cave like Batman. Help us protect the compass during this adventure packed week!

Adventure Week 2: June 18-24
“Survivor Week”- Outwit, and outplay the other cabins during Adventure Week 2! Take your camp experience to the next level as you and your cabin mates complete challenges in the quest to come out as the top “tribe” of our Survivor week!

Adventure Week 3: June 25-July 1
“Time Machine Week”- We have done it! We created the world’s first time machine. This first full week of camp, YCB will be taken to all different centuries. Dinosaurs, Space Exploration, Ancient Egypt, Square Dances, and the Greek Gods are all present here at YCB this week. Come with us as we go Back to the Future!

Adventure Week 4: July 16-22
“Fantasy Week”- Do you want to experience your favorite movie, show, video game screen free? Immersed in Hogwarts learning spells, fighting the evil empire with your own lightsaber, MAGIC THE GATHERING!!!! This week is for all the fellow Harry Potter fans, Star Wars fanatics, Magic players and Minecraft explorers!

Adventure Week 5: July 23-29
“Tropical Escape”- Looking for a tropical escape this summer? Sign up for Adventure Week 5 to experience the great outdoors at YCB. With water and land based activities, you don’t have to go far for an adventure filled retreat!

Adventure Week 6: July 30-August 5
“Strategy Week”-This week of Camp Benson is all about a camp favorite, sports and games. Gaga ball will be an option to play for campers every day. Evening programs will feel like Friday Night Lights. Every sport and/or game under the umbrella will be attempted this week, as well as our usual camp activities. Bring your game faces, this week will be a ball.

Adventure Week 7: August 6-12
“Down The Rabbit Hole Week”- Ooo! Don’t be late! Don’t be late!  Follow the White Rabbit to the Mad Hatters Tea Party, croquet with the Queen of Hearts and a very Happy Unbirthday Party for all!

Fee: $625 Members, $675 Non Members


Entering 3rd - 8th Grade

MEGA Camp is a 13-day overnight camp that allows our campers to more fully immerse themselves in the YMCA Camp Benson experience. Campers get the chance to try more activities, participate in the special weekend stay over and get to know their counselors and fellow MEGA campers much better. MEGA campers will leave with a greater sense of independence, belonging and accomplishment.

MEGA Camp Dates:
June 18th – July 1

Mega Week Themes:
“Survivor Week”- Outwit, and outplay the other cabins during Adventure Week 2! Take your camp experience to the next level as you and your cabin mates complete challenges in the quest to come out as the top “tribe” of our Survivor week!

“Time Machine Week”- We have done it! We created the world’s first time machine. This first full week of camp, YCB will be taken to all different centuries. Dinosaurs, Space Exploration, Ancient Egypt, Square Dances, and the Greek Gods are all present here at YCB this week. Come with us as we go Back to the Future!

Fee: $995 Members, $1,150 Non Members



Entering 3rd - 8th Grade

MINI Camp is a condensed version of our most popular session: Adventure Camp. During this action packed 4-day camp, our campers will participate in a wide range of traditional camp activities focused on skill building. This camp session is perfect for both returning and first-time campers. Fun and memory making are maximized in MINI Camp.

MINI Camp Dates:
Mini Week 1: June 7-10
“Space Explorers”-Join us in a week of outer space adventures and intergalactic challenges. We need your help to find our compass and return it to the safety of Planet Benson!

Mini Week 2: July 5-8
“Mystery Week”- Something is afoot at Camp Benson. Mysterious beasts, new found magic, tasty potions. Embark on a 3-day quest with the leaders of YCB. There is much to be discovered and learned. Mysterious villains lurk around camp and it’s your job to sniff them out. We need the explorer’s help!

Fee: $425 Members, $475 Non Members





Entering 7th - 12th Grade

This week of camp is specifically designed to meet the needs and interests of teens. TEEN Camp is all about forging friendships and helping teenagers discover who they really are while giving them more freedom to choose what they actually want to do at camp.

TEEN Camp Dates: July 9th – 15th
“Shenanigans Week”- Shenanigans, Opposite Day, breakfast for dinner, Green Eggs and Ham. This week we will all be thrown for a loop. No bets are off, you and your cabin will compete to be the wackiest cabin on camp this week. This is our last week, so you better bring all your creativity. Counselors have a lot planned for this week, get ready to have fun.

Fee: $625 Members, $675 Non Members


Every child deserves an overnight summer camp experience. Just one summer at camp can positively influence a child’s life forever. As a non-profit dedicated to youth development, YMCA Camp Benson wants the overnight summer camp experience to be available to everyone. Below are some ways that can help make camp fit any budget.


Camp Scholarships

We understand that some families may still need some additional assistance to help get their children to summer camp. If your need is greater please do not hesitate to apply to our Camp Scholarship program which provides scholarship off of Member and Non Member prices. This confidential Camp Scholarship allows numerous children, who would otherwise not be able to attend, to experience all that YMCA Camp Benson has to offer. Applications for Camp Scholarships are available now.

Please click here to begin the scholarship application.

Please feel free to contact Gwyn “Mama G” Bemis if you have any questions.

Annual Candy Bar Fundraiser

YMCA Camp Benson has partnered with the Great American Candy Company to help get children to summer camp. This is not a mandatory fundraiser. Here are some important things to know about the popular Candy Bar Fundraiser.


Boxes of candy bars can be picked up from the front desk of the Sterling-Rock Falls Family YMCA and Camp Benson once summer camp registration opens. Your camper or campers must be registered with the $50 deposit paid in order to check out a box of candy bars. Register online by clicking on the button in the top right corner of the page. Each box contains 60 chocolate candy bars: 18 caramel bars, 12 crisp bars, 18 almond bars, 6 milk chocolate, and 6 dark chocolate bars.
Families are not allowed to have more than 4 boxes of candy bars checked out a time. Once a box is completely paid off you will be able to check another one out. Candy bars are to be sold for $1.00 a piece. This is a fundraiser, so $0.50 from each sale goes to the Great American Candy company to pay for the candy bar and the other $0.50 goes towards camper fees.
When you check out a box of candy bars, a charge of $30/box will be applied to your camper account. This represents the actual cost of a box of candy bars and will be paid off when you bring back the money raised from selling a box candy bars. This helps us keep track of how many boxes of candy bars a family has in their possession. The other $30 will go towards the cost of camp.


  • Early Bird Discount- $25 off of camp fees if camper registers between
    November 7th-December 31st.
  • One-Time Sibling Discount $25 off of camp fees per child after 1st child registered.

  • Multiple Session Discount –$50 off for each additional resident camp session. This does not apply to SDP sessions, as they are already discounted.
Only the YMCA Member discount can be combined with other discounts.



Please review this list before your arrival to make sure everything is completed before your campers stay. All items can be completed by logging into your Camp-In-Touch Account. Getting ready for a session for overnight summer camp takes some time and preparation.

  • Completion the Camper Profile and Health History Form two weeks before your camper’s session.

  • Camp balance is paid in full two weeks before the start of your camper’s overnight summer camp session.

  • Read through the YCB Parent/Guardian Handbook.


To help you decide what to pack for your camper, we have provided a basic packing list below. Remember to pack light. It will also be a big help to label all of your child’s clothing and equipment with his or her first initial and last name.



When*:  Sundays from 3:00-4:00 PM for Adventure/Mega campers.

Where: The Merrill Benson Pavilion (located right next to the parking lot)

Notes: Please bring all campers medications with you to the Pavilion, so that you can check them in with the Camp Nurse.


When:  Saturdays at 9:00 AM for all campers.

Where: The Merrill Benson Pavilion (located right next to the parking lot)

Notes: Do not forget to pick up your campers medication from the Camp Nurse. Make sure to stop into the Camp Store and check your balance.

*Campers attending Mini/Explorer Week 1 or 2 will Check-In on Wednesday from 3:00-4:00PM. For all other campers, please see above:


Staying in Touch with Your Camper

We want all of our parents and guardians to feel connected with their camper while they are at YMCA Camp Benson. The Communications Dashboard in your Camp-In-Touch account allows you to do just that. Through the Communications Dashboard you are able to: send one-way emails to your camper and view camper photos. We will also be putting pictures up on our Facebook page almost daily. The one-way emails are printed daily and delivered to the cabins every afternoon.

*Packages and letters can now be dropped off at check in, for easy delivery to your child during the week.


Please mail your letters and packages to:
16355 Scenic Palisades Rd.
Mount Carroll, IL 61053

Visitors Policy

We understand you may wish to visit your camper during their time at camp (especially if it is their first time), but we have strict no visitor policy during the week. Visits can be disruptive not only to your camper’s schedule, but also to the schedule of other campers on camp. Check-In and Check-Out day are specifically designed to give you the opportunity to tour camp, meet your camper’s counselor and the rest of the staff. There are no other visiting days during the week. If there are extenuating circumstances regarding this issue, please notify Gwyn “Mama G” Bemis, the Camp Director. She can be reached at or at 815-244-8722

Lost and Found

We highly recommend that you label all of your camper’s items that they bring to camp. On Check-Out day check the benches on the porch for any unclaimed lost and found items. If you do leave something at camp please contact us immediately and we will do our best to locate it and get it back to you. Note that YMCA Camp Benson is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.

Post-Camp Survey

We truly value your feedback and we are constantly making changes based off of it. Once your camper’s overnight summer camp session has come to a close we will send you an online survey where you will have the chance to tell us what we do well, what we can do better and a little bit about our camper’s experience.


YMCA Camp Benson Dinning Information

At YMCA Camp Benson it is our goal to serve healthy, balanced and kid-friendly meals. Each meal is served family style, where we focus on the sense of community and fellowship. Campers are responsible for helping set the tables and cleaning up after themselves.

YMCA Camp Benson’s Dining Hall is a peanut free facility offering vegetarian and gluten free meals for campers with dietary restrictions. We have fresh fruits and other snacks available throughout the day for our campers and staff. Please remember to complete the necessary camper medical form which will list all dietary restrictions for camp to be aware of prior to your camper’s arrival.

YMCA Camp Benson Menu

Ice water is served at every meal.  Milk is served at breakfast and dinner.  Juice is served at breakfast and lunch. Peanut Butter & Jelly note: we serve Sunbutter (which doesn’t contain peanuts).  The salad bar includes: lettuce blend, spinach, tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumbers, cheese, croutons, dressing and cottage cheese.
For further information or clarification about the menu please contact our Camp Director, Gwyn Bemis at


At YMCA Camp Benson we offer a variety of items available for sale at our camp store. These items include: Hoodies, T-shirts, Water Bottles, Journals, Sunglasses, Baseball Hats, Mugs, Stickers, Patches and snacks. Campers have the opportunity to visit the came store Monday-Friday. Funds can be pre-loaded on your child’s camp account and can be monitored during their stay through your parent portal.  Prices range from $0.75 to $30. We highly recommend a bare minimum of $10 per camper with the average being $30. We are unable to extend credit to campers that run out of funds, but if your child’s Camp Store account runs low mid-session we will email you and explain how to add it on your CampInTouch account. Do not send money to camp.


Q: How do campers purchase items?

A: Parents setup a camp store account prior to the start of the session with funds to cover the anticipated purchases of their camper – a good budgeting exercise to go through with campers! 

Q: How do I add money to my campers Camp Store account?

A: You can view the balance and add funds to your camper’s account on your CampInTouch account.



Morning Reflection

This daily occurrence at camp has been traditionally called Chapel. After cabin clean-up all of camp gathers at the Chapel to listen to story or a poem told by one of our staff members. This story, poem or skit highlights one of our six core values: caring, honesty, respect, responsibility, dedication, and inclusiveness. We challenge our campers to really think about that core value and to think about how they can model that core value in their lives. This is one of the most serious and meaningful activities at camp.

Camper Choice Activity Time (CCAT)

As part of a camper’s experience, they will have the opportunity to choose activities during the morning hours. CCATs are progressive areas that throughout the week will build on the previous day’s skills to build skills in specialty areas. Choices are made on Sunday evenings afterthey get to view each program areas “commercial” performed by staff.

Free Choice Activity Time (FCAT)


During FCATs 1 & 2 campers have the opportunity to do multiple activities at their leisure with their cabin mates and friends. Activities vary daily and can be anything from ropes, water activities, arts or unique activities planned by our staff. Campers are able to go from activity to activity as long as they are in a truddie, which is a group of three. The Camp Store is also open during FCATS 1 so campers can grab a snack or some camp merchandise.


QUEST is an opportunity for individual cabins to grow closer together as a cabin group. Cabins use this time to focus on the Core Values and get to know each other better. Examples of QUEST activities include doing the low ropes course, going on a trust hike, writing a skit for the Staff & Camper Show on Wednesdays and much more.

7:45 AM Rise and Shine

8:00 AM Optional Morning Club

8:20 AM Flag Raising

8:30 AM Breakfast

9:15 AM Cabin Clean-Up

9:45 AM Morning Reflection

10:00 AM CCAT

12:15 PM Flagpole

12:30 PM Lunch

1:30 PM Siesta (aka Rest Hour)

2:30 PM FCAT 1 & Camp Store

3:45 PM Afternoon Snack

4:00 PM FCAT 2 & Camp Store

5:30 PM Flag Lowering

5:45 PM Dinner


7:45 PM Evening Program

9:00 PM Slow Songs and Daily Reflection

9:30 PM Showers and Prepare for Bed

10:30 PM Lights Out

* The schedule at Camp Benson varies slightly based on a camper’s age and the program he or she is registered for. For our youngest campers, the evening schedule is modified to get them to bed sooner.

Evening Program

Each evening has a special time for campers to come together as a camp and participate in different activities until the sun goes down! We are on a rotating schedule so each week the activities change allowing a variety of sorts for all campers. Some common Evening Programs are an all camp game in the A-Field, Staff and Camper Show, and Closing Campfire.




YMCA Camp Benson is proud to offer modern and comfortable overnight summer camp facilities. All of our Camper Cabins were built in 2011 and 2012. These cabins were designed to provide a high-quality overnight summer camp experience while maintaining a rustic camp feel. Each cabin houses between 8-12 campers, 1 Teen Leader (aka SDP), and 2 staff members. Mattress sizes in the cabin are standard twin mattresses. Camper Cabins are all equipped with air-conditioning.




The physical and emotional safety of our campers is our number one priority at YMCA Camp Benson. Our camper’s safety and well-being is at the forefront of our minds at all time at camp, from hiring staff to designing new programs to planning Staff Training. As an American Camp Association (ACA) Accredited Camp we proudly meet all of the standards set forth by ACA Concerning staff screening, supervision ratios and topics to be covered during Staff Training. To view these standards, click here.


Our summer camp staff are hired based on their strong character and high ideals. Summer camp staff are carefully selected to ensure that we have a diverse group of skilled and responsible staff who care about children. Before campers arrive, all of our summer camp staff are trained in safety, counseling techniques, conflict resolution, child development, bullying prevention and camp policies and procedures. Our staff understand that his or her job is not just to lead activities, but also to help campers develop life skills while always looking out for their well-being.

Our summer camp staff undergo extensive background and reference checks before being hired. All staff are Red Cross First Aid and CPR certified.

Our one-to-five staff-to-camper ratio makes sure all campers have the best camp experience possible.

Here is an example of how we keep our campers and staff safe. One of the first things that we do during a session of camp is gather all of the campers and staff together for an orientation on camp rules and expectations. During this orientation we discuss importance of safety at camp and explain how our camp rules and expectations are in place to keep us all safe. All campers are taught that they should never wonder around camp alone and that they must always travel in a TRUDDIE (aka a group of three). Here we also talk about how it is each camper’s responsibility to look out for the emotional and physical safety of one another.


YMCA Camp Benson has a well-equipped Wellness Center that is staffed by our Camp Nurse 24 hours a day. We also have a Registered Nurse on-site daily who directs and oversees all the actions of our Camp Nurse. Our Camp Nurse takes care of all camper medical needs, including medication management. All camper medication must be checked in with our medical staff during Check-In. The camper Health History Form must be completed two weeks prior to the start of your camper’s session.


YMCA Camp Benson is proud to be an American Camp Association (ACA) accredited camp. The ACA nationally recognizes overnight
summer 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.

We do not have to be an ACA Accredited Camp, but we have chosen to be because the safety and well-being of our campers is our top priority. To learn more about the American Camp Association and the value of Accreditation click here.