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Our Directors

Our Directors

Camp Emerson has been owned and directed by the Lein Family since 1968. For us, camping is in our family.

Sue Lein, Kevin McDonough & James Thompson

Marv & Addie Lein

Welcome Back James Thompson – Camp Emerson Camp Director!

james thompsonIf you were to paint the picture of a great Camp Director, you’d undoubtedly end up with James Thompson. James loves camp and knows better than most, the power of the camp experience. He is fanatically kid-centered (and a big kid himself) and admired by staff. James pours his heart and head into everything he does to make camp fun, safe and unforgettable.

James Thompson first came to Camp Emerson in 1989 from Australia as a video-radio-canoe instructor. That summer sparked his passion for camp and for Camp Emerson specifically. He came back for 6 summers taking on more responsibility and shaping the video program, our first website and memorializing each summer in photos and film. James moved on in 1994 to pursue his career in film, television and production. Even through those pursuits, he gravitated to projects that worked with children and promoted positive development – of course, because that’s who he is.

In 2001, James returned to the US for a wedding and stopped by to say hello. Well, we knew we didn’t want him to leave! We invited him to return as Media Director and then Assistant Director. He lived in CT and got to experience his first winter and snow!

In 2007, James got his green card and once again went to pursue his career in media. James continued to travel the world (another huge love) and work for a cruise line, The World Bank and International Monetary Fund conferences and others, doing what he does best – teaching and making everyone look good.

Due to the pandemic, James’s conference producer work was on hold. He was happily working in Australia, spending time with family and managing a children’s before and after school center. The timing was right, and we asked (okay – begged) James to help us shape this very important summer and to bring his creativity and love for camp to Camp Emerson 2021. To our incredible glee, he said YES!

So, it is our privilege and honor to announce that James Thompson will be Camp Director along with us (Sue & Kevin) this summer. James will be responsible for the camp program and supervising the staff.

If you know James, then we can hear your squeals of delight. If you have not met him yet, get ready to see his signature on the activities and the WOWs that will make this summer special.

Thank you, James, for coming home this summer! We love you.

Sue, Kevin and the Camp Emerson Family

When you select a summer camp for your child, you are placing a huge amount of trust in the people who run the camp. If it were me, I’d want to know as much as I could about the Director, her values, priorities and background.

directors1My name is Sue Lein and along with my husband, Kevin McDonough, we are the Camp Directors of Camp Emerson. I have gone to camp my entire life. First, day camps and then sleepaway before my parents, Marv and Addie Lein, started Camp Emerson. Camp Emerson has been owned and directed by the Lein Family since 1968. For us, camping is in our family. I love summer camp! I love the depth of the relationships, the joy of a day spent outdoors, the exposure to so many activities and the opportunity to define oneself separate from home.
addieI was a child who loved being at home and was cautious about putting myself out in the world. I never felt “popular” and didn’t have the confidence I saw other kids have. Except for when I was at camp. At camp, I could redefine myself and be who I wanted to be. I was comfortable at camp and that allowed me to try things and connect with my peers in ways that felt so much better than at school. I lived for the summers. I found that I was a really good swimmer. This gave me the self-confidence that I yearned for. My counselors encouraged me and I felt rewarded. I also loved the special days at camp where we could dress up, be silly and have fun. And as a swim instructor I found that I treasured helping children develop new skills or overcome a fear. These experiences profoundly shaped my college and work life.

I went on to train as a sociologist and work in Human Resources for many years. I was only away from camp in the 80’s and would visit every weekend soaking up as much camp spirit as I could. In 1990 it was time to come back full-time and learn from my parents. Now over 25 years later, my goals as a Camp Director are to be true to Camp Emerson’s core values of bringing out the best in each child, giving them many choices to explore and providing a place where they have fun, feel safe and are respected.


I made the smart decision to hire my husband, Kevin in 1992. We’ve raised our children, Gemma and Alex, at Camp Emerson and I’m thrilled that they now work here in their “special place”. Together we work all year to meet each family and take great care to plan another amazing summer camp experience.

I’ve lived as a camper before Camp Emerson and know what it feels like to miss my family to the point where I begged them to get me (they didn’t). I’ve worked as a counselor who relished the success of each of my campers and understands the hard work that goes into a long day with children. And I understand what it means to be a Director who feels the weight of the responsibility of caring for other people’s children. I’m also a Mom and appreciate what it feels like to miss your children and to send them away.

directors3I have watched 1000’s of campers, each different, find themselves at camp and then use this special time to launch their future selves. I hope this has given you insight into who I am and why I believe in the power of the Camp Emerson experience.

I look forward to talking with you and learning all about you and your family.




Emersonians have come from 39 different countries