Parent Handbook

Welcome to Camp Cullen

We are so excited your camper will be joining us for the upcoming summer. Since 1975, Camp Cullen has provided campers from all over the world with activities designed to leave them with a strong sense of accomplishment, belonging and a deeper understanding of the core values of Honesty, Caring, Responsibility, Respect and Faith.

As we prepare for the upcoming summer, we will continue to make your child’s safety our first priority. We will follow all American Camping Association standards, CDC guidance and our local health department recommendations. Now more than ever, our youth need a place where they can safely interact with their peers in an outdoor environment. We are proud to provide camp as a location to help our youth develop this summer.

Summer camp is more than just a place to make friends and have fun. This summer, we will encourage your camper to step past their limits and sharpen the skills they will use throughout their life. Focus, trust, communication and reacting to disappointment are all areas our programs will target. We will use our camp activities to improve how campers interact with one another and how they value their impact within their own environment. Our goal is to inspire campers to be their best self.

As you review the information in this parent handbook, please feel free to contact us directly if you have any additional questions or concerns. Provide us with any information you feel will be important in helping us make your camper’s week of camp exceptional. If you would like to come visit camp for a tour or need to speak to me directly, I am at your service. Camp can often times be harder for the parents than the campers. Anything we can do to make you more comfortable while your camper is at Cullen, please let us know. If you are nervous, they will be too. Let’s work together to ensure their week of camp is one they will never forget.

On behalf of our entire camp staff and the YMCA of Greater Houston, thank you for choosing YMCA Camp Cullen and look forward to helping your camper create unforgettable memories this summer.

YMCA Camp Cullen

Is an overnight residential camp nestled among the tall pines on 530 acres along the shores of Lake Livingston in Trinity, Texas. It is a perfect place for campers of all ages to enjoy a camp experience, providing campers with a safe, value-centered and educational experience in an enriching, outdoor environment. YMCA Camp Cullen seeks to encourage the best in spirit, mind and body for all its programs.

Spiritual Emphasis

We welcome campers of all faiths. We make room for campers to explore their own spirituality through non-denominational songs, stories, graces at meals and our core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility and Faith.

Our Staff

YMCA Camp Cullen employs more than 80 staff for our 2023 summer camp program. Staff members complete an application process that includes state and national screenings, criminal background checks and pre-employment drug tests prior to being hired. All staff attend a two-week staff training where they will be trained in topics including:

  • Safety and supervision policies
  • Age-appropriate activities
  • Transitional activities
  • Special activity certifications
  • Child abuse prevention
  • Dealing with homesickness
  • Rainy day activities
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • CPR, First Aid and emergency procedures
  • Positive discipline

Summer Camp 2023 Sessions & Rates

Ages 7–16 | $1195

Session 1: June 4-9 Buried Treasure
Session 2: June 11-16 Secret Agents & Spies
Session 3: June 18-23 Wet, Wild & Wonderful
Session 4: June 25-30 Superhero School
Session 5: July 2-7 Operation Purple

Session 6: July 9-14 Blast from the Past
Session 7: July 16-21 Texas Forever
Session 8: July 23-28 Wide World of Sports
Session 9: July 30-August 4 All Around the World
Session 10: August 6-11 Cullen’s Greatest hits

Specialty Camps

Same Dates as Main Sessions Above | Ages 9-16 | $1395

Equestrian Camp
Half day daily dedicated to riding, grooming, learning

Watersports Camp
Half day daily dedicated to all watersports

High Ropes Camp
Half day daily dedicated to all High Ropes Elements

Teen Camps

Teen Adventure Camp
Ages 13–15
Session 1: June 18-30 (2 weeks) $2795
Session 2: July 23-Aug 4 (2 weeks) $2795
Session 3: August 6-11 (1 week) $1395

Teen Leadership Camp
Ages 16–17 | $2795
Session 1: June 4-16 (2 weeks) $2795
Session 2: July 9-21 (2 weeks) $2795

Camp Registration And Fees

Registering for camp is easy! Register online at and for 2023, a $100 deposit is required. We have a guaranteed 100% refund if you have concerns about attending due to COVID-19. Your registration must be cancelled in writing (email) by the Friday before check-in day to be refunded. You may also work with us to schedule a payment plan via a credit card and/or bank draft, but the full tuition must be paid at least two weeks prior to the start of camp. Failure to complete payment will result in a cancelation of the registration and the advancement of another camper from the waiting list.

Should it be necessary for you to change or cancel your child’s session, you must contact YMCA Camp Cullen at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the session. Changes will be made based on availability. Your registration must be canceled in writing (email) in advance of check-in day to be refunded.

A $100 deposit is required for summer 2023 and we have a guaranteed 100% refund if you submit cancellation in writing (email) by the Friday before check-in day. Your registration must be canceled in writing (email) in advance of check-in day for refund to apply. Camp session fees may be refunded only when campers are unable to complete their stay due to a medical condition. If the camper has received a scholarship or discount, this will apply to the last days of the camp session. Homesickness or disruptive behavior which results in the child leaving camp are not conditions for refunds.

Cabin Requests

Campers are assigned to their cabins the night before each session begins. Campers are assigned to cabins strictly according to age, gender, and space. We will try to honor cabin requests but cannot make any guarantees. Campers wishing to share the same cabin need to request each other during Part 2 of registration on CampDoc! They also must be of the same gender and within two years. Older ages will go down to younger cabins, younger will not be placed into older cabins. Beds within the cabins are not reserved and are filled on first–come basis on check-in day. Every cabin is air-conditioned and heated. We strive to keep cabin age ranges within two years or less.


Special emotional or physical needs should be brought to the attention of the camp. A meeting with camp staff is required prior to enrollment. Please contact YMCA Camp Cullen if you have questions regarding children with special needs. Camp enrollment may be dependent upon the appropriate qualifications of camp staff.

Our medical staff will treat routine scrapes, cuts and minor illnesses. Services rendered by the camp medical staff are administered at no charge. It is our policy to inform parents of any injury that is more serious than a minor cut or scrape. In the case of serious illness or accident, the staff will contact you immediately. In the event you cannot be reached, we will attempt to reach your designated emergency contact. Your signed authorization on the registration form allows us to secure prompt treatment. Parents or guardians are responsible for charges incurred for outside medical treatment of their child if treatment is required while in attendance at camp.

It is the policy of YMCA Camp Cullen not to keep campers with symptoms lasting more than 24 hours in our camp infirmary. Therefore, we ask parents of campers who are ill for more than 24 hours to care for their child at home and to see the family doctor. Transportation is not provided for campers returning home due to illness. If your child is scheduled to come to camp and becomes ill, please do not bring them to camp. Call the camp office as soon as possible Monday–Friday 8:30 am–5 pm or email after hours or weekends in order for us to schedule another session for you.

Parents or guardians must include their personal health insurance information when completing CampDoc. This information will only be used to facilitate outside medical treatment, if required. In the event of serious illness or accident, the parents will be notified immediately.

Emergency calls to campers should be made by calling the camp office at 936-594-2274. 8:30 am– 5 pm. After 5 pm, call the camp’s emergency cell at 936-200-8612.

First-Time Campers

Going off to YMCA Camp Cullen is a thrilling adventure for campers and parents. We know both parties may be a bit anxious about the camper leaving the comforts of home, adopting new routines of daily activities, and meeting new friends. Here are some helpful tips for first-time camper.

  • Send pre-addressed stamped envelopes with campers so they can send mail to family and friends.
  • Send old clothes they recognize as their own. Avoid packing new ones they will not remember as their own.
  • Do not send valuable clothing. Pack with your camper and make a list of what they bring so that they know what they should bring home.
  • Please do not send family heirlooms or expensive items.
  • Remember: label everything and pack light!
  • Camp is not responsible for lost or stolen items

Temporary homesickness is not an unusual feeling, particularly for new campers. Our staff are trained in constructive and caring ways to work with campers to help them overcome their feeling of missing home. Overcoming homesickness is an important learning experience and it helps your child grow stronger. With proper handling by staff and parents, a homesick camper can make big strides. Messages/mail can affect a homesick camper. Please avoid telling your camper that you cannot get along without them or how much they are missed at home. Instead, please send encouraging emails and talk about the photos you have seen of them online and how proud you are of them. We recommend you plan ahead to send letters/purchase care packages so that they have something at the beginning of the week. It is difficult for a camper when they see all their cabin mates receiving mail and they receive nothing. Campers who are homesick will occasionally ask our staff to call home. Our procedure is to try and work with our campers through their homesickness before we try calling home. We find that when homesick campers speak with their parents/guardians, their homesickness may only get worse. We believe in redirecting our campers to ensure that they have a successful, fun experience at camp.

Camp is great because it’s about getting away from day-to-day technology and the “everyday” routine. We encourage campers to get to know their new friends face to face. Please assist us by making sure your child leaves their phone at home.

If your child is homesick, or has any other problem you should know about, we will notify you of the situation. Our counselors are well trained and can usually prevent potential issues before they become a problem.

If you know that your camper may wet the bed, please indicate it on the specified form and notify your camper’s counselor at check-in. Our staff are trained to deal with bedwetting discreetly, and we will work with your child one-on-one. Campers should be instructed to ask their counselors for help, and every effort will be made to prevent accidents. Please send a plastic sheet and protective apparel with your camper if this may be a problem. An extra set of sheets if you know this may happen.


It is a great idea to bring mail with you when you drop your campers off to avoid any post office delays. Please write the camper’s name, session number and the day that you would like the mail delivered to your camper. If mailing, please allow five business days for mail to reach camp. We recommend writing to your child at least once before camp begins to make sure it arrives for the first day. This will guarantee that your camper will receive at least one letter from home while they are at camp.


YMCA CAMP CULLEN 460 Cullen Loop Trinity, TX 75862 Camper’s Name/Session Number/Cabin Name Campers will be encouraged to write one letter home each week. Mail can be slow, so some mail may be received after the camper is home. Please ensure they know their mailing address. You can also send pre-addressed envelopes with your camper.

Please – NO large packages!

Whether it is your child’s first or tenth summer at camp, mail-call is an important part of every camper’s day. Here are some hints to make corresponding with your child more enjoyable:

  • Leave letters for your camper to receive throughout the week on opening day.
  • Send photos of family, friends, or pets.
  • Have family members write a letter or send messages through the ‘Email a Camper’ feature on our website. Non-food items like magazines, stickers, books, costumes and items related to our camp theme are encouraged.
  • Talk about how glad you are that they have the opportunity to go to camp and how much you will enjoy talking about the fun things they were able to do when they return home.


The dining hall is modern and roomy. Our well-balanced meals are served by professional food service staff. If your child has any special dietary needs, please notify us upon enrollment while completing CAMPDOC and we will do our best to make accommodations. Water is our primary drink at camp and we encourage all campers to drink plenty throughout the day. We are also able to accommodate most general food allergies.

Please call if your child has special dietary restrictions, you feel you would like to discuss with our Food Director or if you have any concerns. Please inform the camp upon enrollment, by phone or email of any special needs at least two weeks prior to arrival and put in CAMPDOC.

Community Meals

Personal responsibility and group cooperation are important elements of the camp experience. Mature and caring staff members work with campers on the importance of caring for one’s personal space and belongings, assisting in daily cabin clean-up, and pitching in with shared responsibilities around camp. We strive to impart caring, honesty, respect and responsibility in our camp community so that it may carry over into our lives outside of camp.

Camp Store

We have a lot of fun camp apparel and other exciting camp items available. The store will be open during check-in and check-out. Ready-made bedding/towel sets will be available for purchase and can be pre-ordered at least 2 weeks prior to camp by calling the office or emailing


All prescription medication brought into camp must be in original containers that include the camper’s name, dosage and medication administration times.

All medications, including over the counter (vitamins, creams, lotions, etc.) must be turned in to be dispensed by the camp. Medications must remain in the original bottle to be dispensed by camp staff. YMCA Camp Cullen stocks most over-the-counter medications needed at camp, so it is not necessary that your child brings these items. If there are any over-the-counter medications that you do not want your child to take, please specify these on the medical form in CAMPDOC.

Please give all prescription and over-the-counter medications directly to the Medical Station upon arrival at camp. If your child will be arriving by bus, please check in medications with camp staff at Weekley YMCA. Make sure your camper’s name is on all items. It is recommended that all campers stay on regular daily medication during their time at camp. It is our policy for the infirmary to keep the camper’s inhaler (if applicable) during camp unless instructed differently by the doctor. Our medical staff are always available so inhalers can be obtained at a moment’s notice.

Lost & Found

We will make every effort to return lost and found items while your camper is at camp. Please mark all items with your child’s name in a permanent marker or laundry label for easy identification. Please check your child’s belongings prior to leaving camp and the lost and found display before you leave to make sure your camper has not left anything behind.

Items found after your child’s camp session with names visible will be held for 2 weeks after the last session of camp and may be claimed by description. Please be especially thorough on check-out day to make sure that bags are not left. If you discover something is missing upon your return home, please call as soon as possible. We will do everything we can to make arrangements for the item(s) to be returned to you promptly. Arrangements can be made to pick up the item(s) at YMCA Camp Cullen.

After September 1, all remaining items will be donated to a local non-profit. Undergarments and socks that are left at camp will be thrown away immediately after each session.

YMCA Camp Cullen is not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged articles.


Summer Camp is a great place to learn new skills and try new things. At YMCA Camp Cullen, we have a lot of great activities because a great camp should have something for every child. For campers who want to water ski and play sports all day, we have the right mix. For campers who enjoy nature exploration and sailing, we have that too. And for campers who love horses and swimming, no problem! Our camp activities are led by trained and experienced facilitators who guide campers in having an unforgettable experience.

Some activities include: Arts and Crafts, Alpine Tower, Archery, Basketball, Canoeing, Fishing, Kayaking, Outdoor Skills, Performing Arts, Riflery, Swimming, Horseback Riding, Zip Line, Environmental Discovery and much more.

Camp Cullen canoeing
Archery Kid with Arrow

Swim Test

All campers must take a swim test each time they visit the pool to demonstrate their level of swimming ability, providing information to the lifeguards on duty throughout the week. Personal flotation devices are required and provided for participation in any of our lake front activities.

Swim Test

All parents/guardians will receive multiple communications with complete details, including specifics for multi-camper families. *Masks are optional.


All parents/guardians will receive multiple communications with complete details, including specifics for multi-camper families. *Masks are optional.


Sundays | 1-4 pm


Fridays | 4:30-7 pm

Gates open at 4:30  pm. If you are going to arrive before 4:30 on Friday, please call and let us know.

*Horse Show at 5 pm

Dinner at 5:15 pm

Closing ceremony at 6:30 pm

All parents must check out with camp staff and show proper identification before their campers will be released. If someone other than the parent is picking up the camper, please note in CAMPDOC under AUTHORIZED Pickups or notify the camp office in writing via email. Please make sure you pick up your child’s medication from the camp medical staff and get your child’s luggage (including laundry bags that may have not made it back into the suitcase). It is parents’/camper responsibility to ensure all items brought to camp are taken home. Please label every item!

There will be a horse show on closing day (Saturday) each week for Equestrian Camp participants of all riding levels. The show will begin at 9 am at the equestrian center. Parents should come directly to the equestrian center and camper checkout will take place prior to the show. The entrance to the equestrian center is located on Taylor Cemetery Rd., south of FM 356 (on the opposite side of the highway from main camp). You will be able to meet your camper’s horse, watch them ride, register for early bird and collect their luggage. If you are not able to attend, please email to let us know and we will make sure to get photos for you and arrange for your camper to be picked up at main camp. After the horse show, you are invited to attend closing ceremony at the arts and science center behind the dining hall at 10 am. Please don’t forget to visit the nurse’s station for your camper’s medication!

Campers staying multiple sessions are allowed to remain at camp between sessions for an additional fee of $200. This must be arranged at time of enrollment or with the camp office. Please send two weeks of clothing for these campers, or detergent for laundry on Saturday. Counselors will assist with laundry if requested. If you are unable to pick up your campers on Friday during check-out, they will be able to stay Friday night at an additional cost of $75/per child. This must be arranged at time of enrollment or with the camp office and campers must be picked up by 9 am Saturday morning. Please send an additional set of clothing with for these campers to wear on Saturday.

YMCA Camp Cullen Packing List (1 week session)

  • 2 pair of closed-toe shoes such as sneakers or athletic shoes
  • 1 pair of sturdy closed-toe shoes with a smooth sole (if camper wants to take part in horseback riding)
  • 1 pair of water shoes for the showers and waterfront activities
  • 1 pair of jeans (required for horseback riding)
  • 2 swimsuits (Girls – one piece or tankini only, NO BIKINIS ALLOWED)
  • 7–8 pairs of underwear
  • 7–8 T-shirts or blouses
  • 7-8 pairs of shorts
  • 7–8 pairs of socks
  • 1 set of shirt and shorts for MESSY night activities 11
  • 1 raincoat or poncho
  • 1 hat or cap (protection from the sun)
  • 1 water bottle or canteen (heavy duty)
  • 1 sleeping bag or 2 single sheets and 1 light blanket
  • 1 pillow
  • 1 laundry bag (pillowcase will work too)
  • 1 vinyl mattress cover for twin bed (optional)
  • Soap and soap dish
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Brush or comb ❑ Shampoo and conditioner
  • 4–5 washcloths
  • 3–4 bath towels
  • 1–2 beach towels
  • 1 flashlight with extra batteries (REQUIRED)
  • Insect repellent (non-aerosol)
  • Paper, pen, envelope and stamps
  • Camera (disposable)
  • Sunscreen or sunblock

Campers staying for longer should pack accordingly.


Personal Electronic Devices: iPods/iPads, expensive digital cameras, cell phones, computers and any other electronics that are expensive and can be broken or disruptive to camp. Firearms, fireworks, matches, lighters, knives, tobacco products, drugs, alcohol, valuable items, gum, candy and snacks

Discipline and Guidance Procedures

Self-management skills and positive social interactions among children and adults are encouraged and maximize everyone’s enjoyment of camp. Programs use positive guidance methods including reminders, distraction, logical consequences and redirection. Self-management skills are taught according to the following guidelines:

  • Consistent rules are clearly stated. Campers are expected to work and play within known limits.
  • Behavior expected of campers is age-appropriate and based on developmental level.
  • An atmosphere of trust is established in order for campers to know that they will not be hurt nor be allowed to hurt others.
  • Staff members strive to help campers become acquainted with themselves and their feelings. This will help them learn to cope with their feelings and control them responsibly.

Camper safety is the most important concern of the program; therefore, campers whose behavior is dangerous or repeatedly disruptive will be discussed with the camper’s parent and will result in loss of privileges or activities, suspension or termination from the program. Parents are financially responsible for intentional damage to equipment and facilities caused by their camper.

The following conduct policies apply directly to each individual camper and will be used in determining the camper’s eligibility to continue as a participant in the camp program. Infractions are documented in an incident/discipline report. Please make certain that both you and your child are completely familiar with these policies.

A camper may be suspended or released from camp, without refund, for the following behavior while participating in the program or while being transported:

  • Leaving the YMCA campsite without permission, or going into unauthorized areas
  • Using foul language, fighting, being rude or discourteous to staff and other campers
  • Defacing Y property or field facilities or any property visited
  • Engaging in fighting, intentionally injuring another camper, or bullying
  • Bringing or using any illegal substances and/or weapons
  • Public displays of affection
  • Stealing or defacing another camper’s property
  • Refusing to remain with the group while at camp and during outings
  • Refusing to follow check in and out procedures or refusing to follow basic rules of safety
  • Refusing to participate in daily camp activities
  • Not remaining seated at all times while being transported
  • Not keeping his/her seat belt fastened while being transported
  • Having any body part out of the window, defacing the vehicle and/or being rude and discourteous to the driver or to other drivers on the road while being transported
First incident:

Parent notified by phone and/or in writing

Second incident:

Disciplinary write-up

Third incident:

The action taken at this point is at the discretion of the Senior Program Director after appropriate consultation with the parent.

Range of discipline:

Removal from camp activities to removal from camp. Parents are responsible for picking up any child that has been expelled from a session. Once the decision has been made to remove a camper from the program they are immediately removed from their cabin and activities until the parents/ guardians arrive.

House System

Our YMCA House System is primarily aimed at creating a sense of belonging for your child, and legacy for your family. Throughout all of your child’s YMCA camping experiences, week by week and year by year, they will have the same ‘house’. This allows for familiarity and an instant sense of “being at home”. A camper’s house gives them a symbol to call their own, to uphold the value of, to compete for and hold themselves accountable to. It creates a feeling of small community within the larger camp community. Cabin groupings change every year, the Y camp they 13 attend may change, but their house will remain the same. As with all camp programs, the teaching of core values is woven into the fabric of this aspect of the camp program.

The Houses at YMCA Camp Cullen are Dragon, Phoenix, Centaur and Lusca. You will notice the inclusion of Astronomy as an additional piece of STEM awareness. Incidentally these houses also tie into elements; Dragon is air, Phoenix is fire, Centaur is earth and Lusca is water.

As a legacy program, your child’s house will be consistent throughout camping and from year to year. Your child’s siblings will also be in this house, and with an eye to the future, your children’s children will also be in the same house.

Each House has its own symbol and color scheme to help create the feeling of ownership and belonging. Being in one house or another will not in any way take time from your child being with friends or result in your child spending less time in age-appropriate groupings.

Other Programs at YMCA Camp Cullen

1- or 2-week programs available

Ages 13–15

Teen Adventure Camp (TAC) is a specialty program specifically designed for Campers who are looking to start expanding outside of the normal camp routine and begin a journey focused on growth that will challenge them to reflect on their values and goals and to identify experiences not yet had at Camp Cullen. This program is a “final frontier” for campers ages 13-15 who seek to grow in the camping world, but have a final bucket list of activities and experiences to tackle. TAC will focus on team building, community, outdoor camping skills, problem solving, community.

In addition to having fun in the traditional camp setting, TAC participants will take part in unique activities that give them an introduction to the summer camping world. Campers will get a sneak peek at life as a counselor as they learn how to prepare and operate an Evening Program at camp. They will also embark on a three-day, two-night tent camp out on the Camp Cullen property.

Fun and creativity are pillars to our TAC program. Get ready for an exciting adventure at Camp Cullen like never before.

Ages 16–17

The Teen Leadership Program (TLC) is a two-week program designed to introduce teens to the knowledge and techniques they will need not just as counselors but for life. Working closely with the TLC Director, they will learn new leadership skills and develop the skills they already have. Problem solving, teen enterprise, interviewing skills, leadership and teamwork are just some of the skills to be learned during the different workshops. These lifelong talents will benefit them and all the children they serve as volunteers, mentors, employees or as future parents.

Through leading children and serving as role models, TLC participants will find and develop their own strengths.

The goal of this Two-week program is to provide training to teens who sincerely want to improve their skills and become outstanding leaders. All teens who show maturity, implement the YMCA core values in their daily lives and possess a deep love for camp will be asked to stay on camp (free of charge) for the remainder of summer. Here they can gain volunteer service hours, experience in specific programs they want to work in or have a passion for and gain a greater sense of community.

For the most specific directions to YMCA CAMP CULLEN, please use your GPS with our address:

YMCA CAMP CULLEN 460 Cullen Loop Trinity,
TX 75862
Phone Number:



Monday–Friday 8:30 am–5 pm


Camp Contacts:

Executive Director: Luke Dooley –
Summer Camp Director: Chance Orton –
Camp Business Director: Cynthia Drake –


Early Bird Registration will be available beginning on June 4, 2023 at check-out for next summer. It is never too early to secure your camper’s place for next year!