One month of 2016 has already passed and we are on to February! There are a lot of great things happening at Camp Henry and we want you to know how you can get involved or at least stay up to date! Before we share the February events, let's take a quick look at what happened at Camp Henry in January 2016!
The Dining Hall and Theather renovations are moving along even in the winter conditions. Here's a look at the progress!
On Jan. 17th, the first Camp Henry LIVE! of 2016 at Rosa Parks was postponed to the 24th due to extremely low temperatures. The 24th was a hit with a good crowd of Camp Henry campers and staff skating together. Camp Henry year round staff memeber, Emily Thickens, better known as Sweet T, even tried her hand - or should we say feet - at ice skating for the first time!
On Jan. 23rd, Camp Henry set up at DeVos for the Kids and Family Expo and made well over 500 s'mores for kids and adults alike. Its also estimated that we put at least 250 temporary tattoos on the kids. It was wonderful to see some returning campers and also have the opportunity to share the joy of Camp with lots of new, young families. Staff members also found a moose on the loose drinking juice, who they believe is named Fred.
February starts quickly with a celebration of Camp Love! February 1st is I Heart Camp Day! Get involved by posting a picture or video of you or you and some camp friends with a sign that says "I heart camp!" Add the hashtag #iheartcampday and put it up on all of your favorite social media networks. Don't forget to tag Camp Henry or post to our wall so that we can see your love of camp! This is a global day of camp celebration so don't miss out on your chance to proclaim your camp love! Here's two fun videos - one is by your lovely Camp Henry summer staff from 2013 and the other is by the creators of I Heart Camp Day - to get you in the spirit!
February 5th is the day to join Camp Henry at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex for the 2nd Camp Henry LIVE! event of 2016. For only $15 you get to pick two activities from cross county skiing, or trail ice skating to sledding, or snowshoeing. Transportation from Grand Rapids is available at no extra charge but space is limited. This is a great chance to bring out a friend who hasn't been to Camp Henry before because both of you will score some toasty Camp Henry swag for coming! All are welcome, all ages and abilities! We hope to see you there! Click here for more information or to sign up. Don't miss out on your chance to sled 20 or more at a time with us!
On February 20th and February 26th, we are calling all who would like to volunteer their time to help build new dining hall tables and benches! If you have any of the following tools, please bring them with you: drill, skill saw, and square. All skill levels are welcome! To learn more or to let us know you are coming, please email [email protected].org or call 616-459-2267. Feb. 20th is from 9 am - 3 pm with lunch provided. Feb. 26th is from 2 pm - 8 pm with dinner provided. Come for the whole time or just part! All helping hands are welcome!
Also happening at the beginning of February is the start of registration for Camp Henry's 2nd Annual 5K Trail Run sponsored by Celebration! Cinema. Don't miss out on the chance to support Camp Henry's Scholarship Fund AND get out and get active in Camp's gorgeous natural setting! For more information, click here. If you are ready to register, go here! And if you would like to learn more about volunteering, we've got a spot for you here!
One more thing to be looking forward to this month is the launch of the 2016 Theme! Check back here for new blog posts this month on Adam's trip to Texas for the ACCT Conference and an interivew with Kenny and Kelly Hotaling.
By: Liz Allard
"We can do anything with a couple of sticks and a bucket of mud!" If you've ever sat in on a staff meeting with Jake at the helm, you've likely heard this phrase echo off the paper thin walls of Millar. I think about this phrase often and can't help but smile. Camp Henry is like an amoeba. It engulfs you with its inclusivity and makes you feel all of the feels-fun, happiness, empowered, confident, loved-the list of feels could easily take up this entire blog post. These feels, however, aren't derived from the buildings, the high ropes elements, the banana boat, four square balls, or any other resource we think is necessary to keeping the good times rollin'. Although all of these items are excellent, the Magic of Camp shines through when the resources are absent and we, as campers and staff, are left to our own devices.
Plain and simple, Camp taught me the definitions of resourcefulness and resiliency. I remember once, as a camper, walking into Arts and Crafts during week seven of Camp. The room looked post-apocalyptic. The cupboards were bare, except for a couple of small bottles of primary-colored paint that stood like the last few campers during a game of British Bulldog. Random cuts of yarn and string were strewn about and old wax was hardened in beef stew tins on hot plates from weeks of candle making. This could have been a moment where my counselor threw her hands up and directed us outside onto the A-field for chill time, but instead, she instructed us to go outside and find a rock. Meanwhile, she began gathering the remaining paint bottles, sponges, and any decent brushes and plopped them onto the center of the table.
When we returned from collecting our rocks, she exclaimed with that 'fake-it-'til-you-make-it' excitement, that we were going to paint our rocks! This had the potential to be a totally lame activity, but in true Camp fashion, us campers humored our counselor and got way too into painting our rocks. We even did a gallery walk of our finished artwork at the end of that afternoon activity! My painted ladybug rock is still used by my Dad as a paperweight in his office.
Flash forward to when I was a counselor during the summer of 2009. It was Pirate Day at Camp. These themed days started popping up at Camp once a summer as soon as a certain counselor (*cough* Kerry Drake) discovered, in our staff manual, that Camp used to host Paul Bunyan Day, and insisted we bring it back. When campers arrive at Camp, they come with whatever they have, unlike many of us counselors who come equipped with an entire closet filled with costumes that can morph into whatever theme we desire.
On Pirate Day, which ended up being another Olympic Day with pirate tendencies, it only seemed fitting that my entire cabin look pirate-appropriate. I began pulling out any pirate-ish clothing from my costume closet for my cabin of youngsters and drawing on face paint like our esteemed pirate colleague, Captain Jack Sparrow. Considering my costume closet was ill-equipped to dress 12 pirates in one day, I watched as campers pulled out items - scarves, striped shirts, bandanas - from their own bags and shared those items amongst themselves. We looked like a bunch of salty dogs by the end of rest period that day, and only spoke in pirate talk from then on. Being the youngest of the Girls' Village cabins, we weren't expecting to be the champions of all things pirate that day, but we certainly had the most fun. As my cabin and I got ready that day, I was reminded that at Camp, you don't have to have everything to be everything.
When I think back on my time at Camp Henry, most of my favorite memories revolve around instances where a camper or staff channeled this attitude of resourcefulness to create something unexpectedly awesome. Take morning activities during themed weeks at Camp, like Christmas in July. As you well know, there's no snow during the month of July in Michigan, but counselors, myself included, always insist on sledding as a morning activity, whether you're slip n' sledding on a soapy plastic tarp on the hill near the old corral or sledding on plastic mattresses down the stairs of Millar. Creating activities like these prioritizes imagination backed by innovation.
Like slip n' sledding, I definitely can't forget about the time that Jake wanted to make a go of a Camp Henry Rodeo as an evening activity. Us counselors were tasked with coordinating different events from line dancing to barrel racing to lasso practice. At the end of this newfound evening activity, Jake lined up the entire camp on the B-field to make the announce – uh, rather, share that the final event would be cattle roping! We all stopped and looked around at each other. To the best of our knowledge, camp didn't have any cattle. Jake then explained that two staff – Derek Whaley and Todd Boynton – would play the role of the cattle. Derek and Todd would have a ten second head start before the ENTIRE camp was to chase them down and lasso all four limbs together. I stood back and watched as Derek and Todd tore off across the B-field with hundreds of campers in tow. In an instance, dozens upon dozens of kids engulfed them as they disappeared amongst the pile of campers. When the campers cleared away, there laid Todd and Derek, disheveled and smiling.
At Camp, there's never an "I'm bored" moment because we are always thinking about those couple of sticks and that bucket of mud. In today's world, where cheap distractions and entertainment rest at the tip of my index finger, I'm reminded of the value of my experiences at Camp. Camp challenged me to reach beyond perceived limitations and to fill every moment with intention, regardless of where I was or the resources I had on hand. Camp Henry is about taking what might be considered mundane and building extraordinary experiences with the perfect storm of resourcefulness, imagination, intention, and can-do attitude.
About the Author: Liz Allard
I first attended Camp Henry mini-week when I was eight years old. I remember showing up with the pack my mom used when she worked on a fire crew for the U.S. Forest Service. The pack stood a third of my height above my head and was packed to the brim. I wore my signature jean short overalls all three days and had Emily Clark as my first counselor in the old cinderblock Commanche Cabin. It rained all three days and one of my first memories from those three days at Camp was Jake on stage in Idema Theater screaming the words to “Singing In the Rain,” while the rest of us sopping wet campers screamed along with him. When my parents arrived back at camp to pick me up after those three days, I begged them to send me back to camp the following summer.
I spent eight years as a camper followed by six years on staff, during which, I met my best friend and husband, Derek. We married in May of 2015, surrounded by our Camp Henry family. I currently live in Alaska, which I first visited when I was 16 years old while on the Teen Challenge trip with Camp Henry. I am excited to help with the same trip this upcoming summer when the new crew of Camp Henry teens visit the 49th state in July.
By Wendy Jacobs
Wendy is the mother of Jeff Jacobs, aka Jake, the Executive Director of Camp Henry
Jeff, or Jake as he is known at Camp Henry, began attending Camp Henry as a 9 year old soon after we moved to Michigan from Ohio. I thought it would be a good place to meet some new friends...little did I know it was the beginning of a long term relationship with such a special camp. It is a huge part of his life as he has gone from camper to counselor, program director and then summer camp director to now he is the Executive Director! His love for Camp Henry shines through with his enthusiasm for making sure each camper has the best week of their lives at camp as well as his ideas for new programs (like spring break trips and off-site trips for teens), and new facilities. Yet he also retains the old traditions of camp.
Our car can practically drive to Newaygo and the shores of Lake Kimball all by itself due to the many trips we've made there. Each summer Jake would invite us to come and share the various events, from the Indian campfires, with the horses picking up each cabin of campers, to observing Olympics week, watching talent shows, attending chapel services, to having the experience of eating in the dinning hall, or for special cook-outs, on the deck. During the years that he and J.J. (his wife) traveled from California to run the summer camp, it was a bonus for his father and I to be able to spend time with our grandchildren!
I'll never forget my first experience at the Indian campfire when Jake came across the lake dressed as an Indian and paddling a canoe to begin the traditional campfire. It was all so impressive and you could hear a pin drop. The campers were so engrossed in the ceremony!
Camp holds such a special place in Jake's life that when his first son was born, he was named Levi HENRY Jacobs! And where do you think he was baptized?....at the Camp Henry chapel!
Now he has three sons and what a joy it is for him to have them there as campers! Also now many of his high school and college friends are sending their children to old Camp Henry, old Camp Henry.
I know I'm a very proud mother, but I think Camp Henry is so lucky to have such a dedicated person at the helm. Jake is so knowledgeable of the camp history while at the same time he has great vision for the future. Any parent sending their child to camp should know that he will be in good hands with such a caring and capable director along with such a competent staff.
Here's a poem that captures the impact Jake has on Camp Henry.
C amper,counselor,summer director, and executive director too
A well qualified man for the job to do.
M any friends made and a role model too -
P lus camper numbers growing - new cabins going up.
H elping each camper - being the best he can be,
E njoying a week at Camp Henry -
N ature, boats, games and songs
R elating to counselors all week long.
Y es, sad when the day comes to leave ---
But plans will be made to come back once more
To that special place Kimball -right on the shore!
2015 was an incredible year for Camp Henry. So incredible that we're taking a minute to look back on all the amazing adventures, exciting events, ridiculous records, mind numbing numbers, superb staff, and fantastic new facilities. If you only have 30 seconds to read, check out the 2015 at a glance infographic below. If you have more than 30 seconds, get comfy and lay back in a mental hammock as we take a trip back through all the fun events of 2015.
Like was mentioned above, we enjoyed a multitude of exciting events in 2015, including exciting Camp Henry LIVE! Events. There was ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, a night of jumping at SkyZone, a plethora of activities at 3 Mile Project, and an afternoon at the ballpark for a Whitecaps game.
Join us in 2016 as we head to Rosa Parks Circle again on January 17th, 2016 from 2-4pm. Or get your louge on at Muskegon Winter Sportsplex in the evening on February 5th, 2016. And we already know we are headed back to 3 Mile Project on March 13th, 2016!
In April, we brought back the Spring Break Trip by heading out west to Winter Park, Colorado for a week of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, hiking, and copious amounts of camp shenanigans. Join us this year for our 2016 Spring Break Trip.
Also in April, we revealed our summer 2015 theme, THRIVE. We were so excited when we landed on this idea and we were able to began creating the material to support it during the summer. We wanted the campers to come to camp and learn that they didn't have to just get by or barely survive life. We wanted them leave knowing that they have the ability to be the best version of themselves through positive attitudes, hard work, and trust in God's love for them. We were made to thrive. And not just at camp, but in all aspects of our lives.
Daily chapel messages helped the campers learn to understand what thriving means, how to recognize and overcome barriers to thriving, what thriving looks like and also what it looks like to not be thriving. One parent shared with us in October that the idea of Thrive has become a core part of their family home life and that it has helped their child excel in many areas since leaving camp this summer.
Year round retreats and school groups blessed the shores with their presence throughout the year and left refreshed, fulfilled, and equipped to tackle new challenges together. In addition to enjoying all of the new facilities projects and high adventure elements, many groups had a blast competing in the Camp Henry Amazing Race, learning about wild edible plants, trying their hand at the Photo Scavenger Hunt, and bringing out their inner engineer in Paper Brigades.
We had no shortage of construction to help boost year round bed space and improve our high adventure activities. The B-field recieved an upgrade with two standard soccer goals for soccer camp during the summer and sports teams during the school year. Through the support of many generous donations and supporters, we built three new cabins, one in Boys' Village and two in Girls' Village. This also meant that sadly we said our goodbyes to the last three cinder block cabins in Girls' Village. Behind the two new Girls' Village cabins, two apartments were built to help house special guests, group leaders and more. We were able to renovate the inside of Millar Lodge and add a spacious deck overlooking Lake Kimball. We also continued laying down durable pathways throughout camp to make it more accessible for those with mobility challenges. And the main entrance recieved a face lift with addition of ranch style entrance built using the old climbing tower poles.
2015 Assistant Counselor Aiden "Beans" Wysocki chose Camp Henry to be the focus of his Eagle Scout Project and made several adirondack benches for us! They saw much use through the spring, summer, and fall.
Our high adventure program recieved a face lift with a new high ropes course being built in November in the same location as the old course. There are 14 new elements to try up in the trees! A new exit was added with the thrilling QuickJump, a 53 foot drop out of the course. The Cargo Net recieved an additional zip line parallel to the existing zip line. And we added the Leap of Faith and the Giant Swing in November, which has already been enjoyed by many in the late fall.
Year Round Events hosted by Camp Henry were a big hit as always! From Dad & Me Weekend, Family Camp, and Fall Festival to Mom & Me and New Year's Eve Camp, we celebrated lots of new and returning campers and families. If you haven't been to Camp during the year for one of these events, you should seriously consider coming this year. In 2016 we are looking forward to bringing back all the favorites again! New to 2015 was the Camp Henry 5K Trail Run in May (Don't miss it this year, it's set for May 7th, 2016!) and The Last Supper in November to celebrate the last meal in the Dining Hall before the $1.1 million dollar renovation began. Keep your eyes open for updates on the construction progress!
Camp Henry had the opportunity to serve almost 1,600 summer campers and over 4,300 year round guests in 2015. This lead to an epic amount of smiling faces, zany antics, life changing experiences, and many boat loads of fun. One of the most vital pieces to serving so many, is having a phenomenal staff. Without the staff, there'd be no one to love up on the campers and guests, no one to prepare the food, run the activities, share in the memories, add to the wonderful organized chaos, or plan the craziest of all camp games. Let's give our 2015 staff three cheers!
As our reflection on 2015 comes to a close, we hope you are as excited as we are for everything that happened and even more energized for what 2016 and beyond will bring, including more Lake Kimball sunsets like this one. We hope to see you all in 2016!