• LifeCamp People

  • The Brady family started LifeCamp, when James C. Brady donated the land where our campus has been located since 1923. For the past 70 years, the Brady family has steadfastly supported the summer camp operation. Recently, Jim Brady III researched the LifeCamp history and said:

    "Going back to the early 1950s and up to the present, our family has consistently supported LifeCamp year in and year out. The camp meant a great deal to my father and his siblings, and they supported the camp for decades. Our family has collectively put a great deal of time and effort into LifeCamp, and it means a great deal to all of us. You can see this effort moving on to the next generation with the efforts that have been put forth for this centennial and second century gathering. The next generation of our family and other young people are becoming actively involved to make LifeCamp viable going forward."

    Today, Jim remains a board member, and works hard to support the camp. He was even featured in our centennial video.

  • Kathy Cree
    Executive Director
    Years at LifeCamp: 9

    Kathy became the executive director of LifeCamp in 2014 after seeing the positive impact on her son, John, who was a counselor there starting from age 15. She talked about how LifeCamp supports families.

    There's such a variety of families. We've had kids who are in foster care. We've had kids who have highly functioning, multigenerational families where everybody's working and it's a solid unit. I have a few grandmas who make sure all the grandchildren from multiple families get to LifeCamp, and they do call in to check on the assorted families with me directly and make sure everybody's on time and on target. Because every family has challenges. No matter where you live, every family has challenges. And so, a lot of the things that we do at camp are designed to try and eliminate as many of those challenges as we can.”

    Kathy’s job includes recruiting the staff for camp each spring, and working with the schools where our campers attend in the winter.

  • Shana Brown
    Former Camper, Mother of Camper
    Current Position: LifeCamp Office 

    Shana grew up at LifeCamp and has raised her own daughter there. She remembers her first day at LifeCamp decades ago.

    I remember getting off the bus and seeing all this land and I'm like, ‘We're going to get lost.’ That's what I thought. The pool is in the woods. All this stuff is in the woods. We're not going to make it back home. But after the first day, it was just amazing. I fell in love with the camp. I fell in love with the activities. I have a lot of friends that I met from childhood here. We're still friends today. It's just a sense of family and a connection that kept me coming back every year to the point that when I raised a child, my daughter became a camper. My daughter is a senior counselor now. It's just home away from home.”

    Today, Shana is an educator. She supervises paraprofessional staff in the Newark public schools.

  • Sherri Cook
    Years at LifeCamp: 21
    Current Role: Kitchen Staff 

    Sherri Cook has been working at LifeCamp for 21 years. Her first two years here were as a counselor and the last 19 have been as a cook. Her husband, Akbar Cook, served for many years as LifeCamp’s program director. When the former cook retired, Eddie Franz offered Shari the opportunity.

    “I love the campers. My children were campers here from the time they were five and up. Cooking for them, seeing what they like, makes me happy. ... I think camp is a chance for them to get away, get new experiences and to try different things. Some of the campers have been here since they were five and they’re still here. When they leave, they want to come back and volunteer. Many of them are volunteering now. That says a lot. It says that they want to be here and they love coming here.”

    Because of the strong family feeling, Sherri has chosen to come back to LifeCamp summer after summer.

    During the school year, Sherri teaches second grade.

  • Chris Brady
    LifeCamp Counselor, early 1970s. 

    Chris Brady’s great-grandfather started LifeCamp in 1923 with the donation of the land where the camp stands. When Chris was a young man, he worked at LifeCamp himself, in the 1970s.

    “It was the summers of my seventh grade and eighth grade. I was a counselor up there. I loved it. … About eight kids would sleep in these massive army tents, and a counselor. So I had a bed up there. I didn't sleep every night because it was a ten-minute bicycle ride for me, but I slept there a lot. ... We put the kids to bed in the tent and the counselors at all meet around a campfire somewhere up along that road. They came from a very deprived part of America. You're mixing country boys with city boys. I guess I was a country boy, and they were all the city boys. It is exactly like the army. I loved those guys. They were so nice to me. And they didn't have to be.”

    Chris continues to live just down the road from LifeCamp, and his family has never stopped supporting the camp.

  • Marc Harris

    Current Position: Camp Director

    Marc became camp director in 2023 after a decade of helping lead the camp. His daughter was a camper and became a staff member, as a specialist. He noted that members of our LifeCamp family never seem to leave.

    “You're in the camp, and then you're volunteering as a junior counselor, then you're a senior counselor, then you move up to specialist, and you go on in your life, but you come back to visit. People, when they're at LifeCamp, they’re always a part of us, regardless of if they move on. They'll go to college, but they'll come and work in the summer. They'll get a job and a career, but they come back whenever they can and volunteer, because they love it. And it's just a great atmosphere, a family atmosphere. It's long days when I'm working. But they say if you do work that you enjoy doing, you'll never work a day in your life. So I don't feel like I'm working. I go, I'm tired, but I get there and I'm full of energy and I'm having fun with the kids. And then I'm worn out, just like they are, at the end of the day, and then I'm back at it the next day.”

    During the rest of the year, Marc teaches seventh grade math and science at Avon Avenue School in Newark, a position he has held since 2004.

  • Mike Ranger

    Years with LifeCamp: 13

    Current Position: Board Member

    Mike knew little about LifeCamp when his daughter Maggie came home from her counseling job in 2009 saying she had been asked not to take her salary because the camp was in financial difficulties. He visited the camp and learned about it, and decided to make it a turn-around project, like the corporate turn-arounds he had led professionally. Over the following years, the camp became independent and grew to financial stability. 

    “LifeCamp gives campers a very safe, comfortable space to decompress during the summer, feeling really welcome and feeling part of something special, and learning skills that are available to be honed there, from riding a bike to swimming to the enhancement of academics. … The mission is so pure and so simple and so effective that once I went out there and visited, it became clear to me that this was an incredible resource for those kids. And the only way it would ever work was, you could never charge them full price, because it would be about $500 a week per camper. And so we had to figure out a way to have a business model that was subsidized by fundraising.”

    Mike Ranger served as co-chair of the LifeCamp board for many years and is still a strong supporter of the camp.

  • Gretchen and Jimmy Johnson

    Long-time neighbors and supporters of LifeCamp

    Owners of the LifeCamp campus

    The Johnson’s have long lived in Pottersville as neighbors of LifeCamp. Since buying the LifeCamp property, they have leased it to the camp, and kept up their long-time support for the program. Gretchen shared her thoughts about the camp:

    “It was just a lovely idea that kids that are stuck in the city get to come out and learn about nature and experience it, and I think it's phenomenal that the Brady family could keep that going. … And that leads me to another part of the LifeCamp that's very important. A lot of young people in our community do volunteer there. And not only do the kids from Newark get to learn about all kinds of things—the creatures in the river, swimming, how to use computers, sports, camaraderie, healthy food, better reading. All those wonderful things. But also, the kids in our community get to learn about a population that lives in a city very different from their own.”

    The Johnson’s own granddaughter was a junior counselor at LifeCamp!

  • Caleb Moten

    Years at LifeCamp: 6

    Current Role: Physical Education

    Caleb loves the community that surrounds LifeCamp. He has been coming since his freshman year of high school. 

    “The best thing about LifeCamp is the people that you meet, the friendships that you build. From the first summer here, you get closer every year. You have all these memories here and funny moments that happen. Six weeks feels like a short time but in those six weeks you make a lot of memories with your friends and do a lot of things you weren't exposed to from where you grew up. … Working at Lifecamp made me realize why I wanted to become a teacher. I enjoy being around kids which makes working here a fun experience.”

    Caleb graduated Morristown Beard School and currently attends Montclair State University. He is a physical education major and plans on becoming a teacher.

  • Asia Harris

    Years at LifeCamp: 5

    Current Role: Specialist, Science

    Asia Harris understands that it is all in the family at LifeCamp. She is the daughter of our Camp Director, Marc Harris. Asia attended Carteret High School when she first started volunteering at LifeCamp five years ago.

    “I think the best thing about life camp is the family atmosphere. Everybody showing so much love and it truly feels like a family when you're here. … Campers learn skills here, but actually they learn more about themselves. A lot of the kids are so nervous on their first day. They don't know anybody, and they're just worried. But once they get here, everybody is so friendly and they make so many friends and they start coming up out of their shells and then they start to see who they really are here.”

    Asia attends Rutger’s University and is a history major with a minor in education. She plans to be a teacher.

  • Jamaal Smith

    Years at Life Camp: 14

    Current Role: Specialist, Computers

    August 21, 2023

    Jamaal Smith was a high school freshman when our late Camp Director, Eddie Franz, hired him as a counselor. Fourteen seasons later, he teaches computer skills to campers.

    “This camp means so much to so many people, especially me. And don't mind me if I get a little emotional, but Eddie Franz really had a very, very big impact on my life. … I was going down the wrong path in life. … I don't know what I would be doing, or would if we be able to have this conversation, if Eddie Franz didn't give me a job here in summer 2009.”

    Jamaal played professional basketball in Spain, Australia, and the Dominican Republic. Today, he teaches computer video game design and coding at Newark’s West Side High School.

  • Sydney Spero

    Years at LifeCamp: 6

    Current Role: Specialist, Drama

    August 7, 2023

    Sydney Spero started as a junior counselor and now is a specialist teaching drama. She believes drama helps campers gain confidence and skill in speaking in front of others.

    “It does more for me than it does for the campers. I feel like sometimes, it changes me more than I can see a change in them. … It just changed the way I look at situations and I look at people. It's made me so much more compassionate and it's helped me decide what I want to major in.”

    Sydney is a student at High Point University, where she is studying business. She hopes to use her skills in the non-profit sector to increase access to educational opportunities like LifeCamp.

  • Malik Salaam

    Years at Life Camp: 9

    Current Role: Junior Counselor

    July 2023

    Malik Salaam started as a camper when he was six years old. He will graduate from Kipp Lab High School in Newark in 2026.

    As a junior counselor, Malik’s enthusiasm brings out the best in his campers. They admire and respect him and have fun following his leadership at camp.

    “LifeCamp brings so much joy,” Malik said. “Getting to see a kid learn to ride a bike brings me joy because I taught that kid something that they can do for the rest of their lives. That is a crucial moment in their lives, because where I come from, it has its dangers. In Newark, you can be shot, killed, jumped or robbed of your bike if you ride in the wrong neighborhood. Here it is tranquil, there are no sirens, buses or loud cars, it is peaceful. All you have to deal with is yourself and your campers.”

    Malik is interested in a career in music. He is a dedicated percussionist in his marching band.