Ever wonder how to get a sampler of camp without sleeping over? Well, I have the answer for you if you are between the ages of 5-8 or have children between the ages of 5-8. DAYCAMP at Camp Henry is the answer!
Every Friday night as I sit in the audience at the Camp Henry Talent Show, I am in awe of how many Day Camp "alumni" are up on stage, grown up to "big campers". Gobs of kids that started out at Day Camp and then found the courage to become a sleep-over camper fill the cabins each week. It is such a pleasure for me to be able to watch them grow into the amazing young people that they are. Maddie, who is now on staff at Camp Henry started out as a camper at Day Camp. She was up at the Nicely Center the other day and found her name on the Day Camp "skin". Here she is, 18 years old, going off to Africa for a year before she begins college, all grown up, and she still remembers her Day Camp experience fondly. Jake and JJ's kids, Levi, Luke and Logan, have all been day campers. My girls, Emma, Grace, and Jane, have all been day campers. Many previous staff members' kids have come full circle and have been day campers.
I have had the privilege of being the Day Camp Director for the past 8 years. Day Camp is a wonderful opportunity for children ages 5-8 to come to Camp Henry and do many of the activities that sleep over campers do, except they get to sleep in their own beds at night tucked in by mom or dad. A typical week at Day Camp looks a lot like regular camp including raising the flag, singing songs, arts and crafts, B-field games, horseback riding, tie-dying, mini-talent show, hearing stories, learning of God's love, making friends, swimming in Lake Kimbell, and of course, eating in the dining hall.
We somehow pack a ton of stuff into 6 short hours a day. Many local kids come from the Newaygo, Fremont area and many kids come up from Grand Rapids on the van provided by Camp Henry. The vans are often driven by former staff members of Camp Henry who are now moms that want their kids to have the same amazing experience that they had. The van leaves Westminster Presbyterian Church in the morning at 8:30 and returns at 4:30. The day campers are tired, dirty, and full of stories about their action packed day.
As a mother, I look back at photos of when my girls began at Day Camp. They were missing teeth, had knots in their beautiful hair, were covered in mud, had "red juice moustaches", wearing their tie-dyed shirts proudly, and most importantly, they were smiling! They were loved unconditionally by their counselors, they were immersed in God's love and they were allowed to just be "kids." They weren't watching television, playing video games, or rushing off to soccer practice, but they were encouraged to just "play", build forts, get dirty, chase frogs, wear silly face paint, and express themselves for who they are. Their experience as campers began as day campers and I am forever grateful.
When I was young (a hundred years ago), I went to a Girl Scout sleep over camp and was terribly homesick. I wrote my parents a letter in my best cursive explaining how much I missed them and how badly I wanted to come home. I have that letter framed and hanging up in my house now. The letter is funny and makes me smile now, but I vividly remember the feelings I had while I was there at camp with "Sea shell" as my counselor. It was all so new to me and the other girls seemed to be so much more experienced with camp than I was. I wish that I had the opportunity to attend day camp as a youngster as a prequel to camp because I think that I might not have been quite as homesick for my first experience as a sleepover camper. I took a couple of years off after Girl Scout camp, and later returned to sleepover camp and managed much better the next go around. Thank Goodness!
I am blessed each summer because I get to see these young day campers begin their love of Camp Henry. I also am blessed because I get to see my own children grow into the best version of themselves due to the love shown at Camp Henry.
Day Camp really does Rock!
Kelly Hotaling, Mom and Day Camp Director