I came to live on the shores of old Lake Kimball in the summer of 1990. I had applied for a counselor position, only to be told they were all filled. I was quickly asked if I would be interested in another staff position. The trip director position was available. I had all the qualifications except a CDL driver’s license. I would need to learn to drive a manual transmission bus. With the encouragement of both the Camp Director and Assistant Director, I took on the challenge and succeeded.
Going to a new camp, needing new skills to do my job, and only knowing the two people that interviewed me was kind of scary. But those nerves were quickly put at ease after the first few days of staff training. I felt welcomed by all the staff that had been there in years past and all the new staff, as well. My days were made brighter by the presence of Tom and Barb Halstead. If I was ever having a down day or had a question, they were there for me. All the positive role models at camp encouraged and supported me in every way to help me grow and become more self-confident. I left that summer feeling like I could accomplish anything I set my heart to.
With how much camp positively impacted my life, I hated to move on to a “normal non-camp life.” But I knew someday, when any child of mine reached camper age, I would return in some form.
In 2005, my oldest daughter was in 4th grade and started her summer camp experience on the shores at Camp Henry. She attended camp every summer from there on out through the summer of her senior year in high school when she served as an Assistant Counselor. In 2008, my happiness returned when camp started offering Family Camp. That year started the LOVE for camp with my family. We have three daughters, who then, were at the ages of 13, 3 and 14 months. This became the new tradition for the next eight years until the younger girls could go to regular camp independently.
In 2011, Katelynne, reached the age of attending Day Camp, then Allie joined the following year. In 2013, Katelynne went to mini week, with Allie again following the next year. In 2014, Kate attended her first full week of camp, and yet again Allie followed the next year. They have looked forward to every summer and always ask: “When can I go to camp this year?” “How many more weeks until camp?” and “Who will be my counselor this year?”
This year, both Katelynne and Allie will be spending two separate weeks at camp (One week in Frontier Camp and one week of Regular Camp). They are so looking forward to their camp time and their favorite camp staff.
I cannot even explain how much camp means to both my girls and me. The growth that I see with every session is amazing. The girls both become more independent and strong. They learn to be both leaders and followers. Confidence becomes a bigger part of their lives while at camp. The pressures of everyday life fall away while at camp, allowing everyone to relax and just be themselves.
Not only have I signed my children up for many years of summer camp sessions, but I have expanded their camp experience even more through year round program options. Both Kate and Allie have enjoyed going to Fall Fest and Winter Camp for the last few years, bringing camp into our lives all year long. They both participated in the Camp Henry triathlon. Plus the entire family participated in the 2015 Camp Henry 5K. We have also attended Mom and Me weekend for the past two years.
I have also been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at camp in different ways (camp cleanup days and twice as volunteer nurse). It fills my heart knowing I can help the place that helps my family grow in so many ways.
I have also brought our high school cheer squad to camp for a team building weekend before their season started. For the last two years, I lead multiple Girl Scout troops on camping trips to Camp Henry. Both types of trips had rave reviews by both the kids and the parents that attended. Camp Henry just makes everything work.
Most recently we celebrated Katelynne’s 12th birthday at Camp. What kid wouldn’t want to spend their special day doing their favorite things at their favorite place?
Camp Henry is a special place. You walk onto camp’s property and it just feels different. You feel welcomed. You feel at home. You feel loved.
Thank you Camp Henry for touching our lives in so many ways!
Kelley Cole (Momma Cole) and family
Kelly Hotaling holds one of the most important positions at Camp Henry in the summer months, Camp Mom. There have been many Camp Mom's over the years and each serves selflessly as a mother to all the staff and campers. Kelly gains 40 new kids each summer in the form of the summer staff and each week turns through 200 campers, many of whom started in Day Camp years ago and have aged their way into overnight camp. She's always available to help in those motherly moments, yet she is also tough as nails, a fierce competitor in any camp game, and one of the goofiest "big kids" out there. She took a moment out of her busy days in California to be interviewed and so here's a glimpse at the wonderful Kelly Hotaling.
How did you first get connected with camp? Over 10 years ago, our very best friends, the Jacobs said, "You should come to this camp that we run in Michigan. " And Jake (Jeff as we knew him) said," Oh, and Kenny, you should be the Chaplain." Our response was, "No, that is crazy.
A. We have never been to Michigan.
B. We don't know anyone in Michigan.
C. I have a career and a mortgage.
D. We have a 6 month old baby!
E. Kenny said," I am not a chaplain. I am not qualified to do that." Jeff said said, "That's ok, all you need is strong faith and be great with kids."
What did we do? We prayed about it and we said that sometimes the Lord is subtle and sometimes the Lord puts situations right in front of you... this was one of those times that He put it right in front of us even though there were so many reasons why we shouldn't go. We said, "OK, we will go for ONE summer!"
What made you want to get more involved? Once we experienced one summer, we were hooked. The love of camp was everywhere. We grew closer to God and knew that perhaps our "mission field" involved a boat, some arts and crafts, zany songs, face paint and a bucket of mud.
How many years have you been coming to camp? This summer 2016 will be our 11th!! (the picture below is from our first summer on the shores!)
Did you attend camp growing up as a kid? If so, where, what was it like, what experiences do you still fondly reflect on now? I went to a girl scout camp for 1 week and was so homesick, I was miserable. I went to a YMCA camp on Catalina island 1 week which was great.
What would be your "ideal' day at Camp Henry? Lake swim, chapel, DAYCAMP, rest period, arts and crafts, capture the flag, grilled cheese and tomato soup, night chapel and reading a bedtime story to a cabin.
How has camp changed since you first came? Camp seems to change for the better each year. The staff inspires me and camp each year. Camp is more God focused which is ALWAYS better.
Many people would consider what you do each summer, taking the whole family across the country, living in small living quarters, etc., kind of crazy, what do you say to these folks? Absolutely true...many people in the "real world" think what we do is crazy, and many are quite envious. Many wish they could do it. It's hard to explain camp to people in the corporate world. It is really hard for them to grasp what we do; driving across the country each year, living in cramped quarters, working for love, not money, eating in a loud dining hall each meal, and being filled with unimaginable joy. I say that I'm so blessed that we have jobs that allow this to happen. Financially, it isn't perfect for us, but I always say that we do it as a memory maker, not a money maker.
What roles have you served/do you serve while at camp? Camp mom, day camp director, arts and crafts, dish washer, cook, driver, chaperone, lifeguard, medical assistant, referee
How has going to camp each summer effected your daughters? Oh my goodness! They are confident, Jesus loving, smart, adaptable, tolerant, athletic, grounded, caring young ladies much because of camp. They have perspective and goodness that I truly credit to Camp Henry. Their true red heart friends are from Camp Henry. They have had the most amazing roll models at camp which have helped mold them.
Any fun stories to share from your adventures across the country? Every year there are sooooo many. Arches National monument, Mt. Rushmore, hail storms, tornados, broken legs, sick kids, camping, Women's World Cup in Vancouver, Yellowstone National Park, mad libs, movies, books, stupid car games, visiting family in Colorado, playing songs in the car, laughing so hard that we all need to pee, having ice cream in each state we visit, Vegas, visiting family in Chicago, visiting friends in Colorado, exploding yakima box on I-80 with Emma driving, 112 degree heat in the desert, passing the "Pure Michigan" sign when we enter Michigan, and passing the "Welcome to California" sign when we return.
Any fun camp stories to share? Sooo many! The year of the great Blue House Flood, fixing the sewer with a "jump rope", living in same house as the Jacobs, staff camp out in the rain when it was raining inside our tent, super secret missions with JJ, Christmas carols, Christmas Santa on the Jetski...too many to list!
What do you do for a living outside of camp? I'm a physical therapist, mom, classroom volunteer, and coach
What are some of your hobbies outside of camp? Run, soccer, ski, read, movies, hike
Favorite camp meal? grilled cheese and tomato soup
Favorite camp activity to lead? Day camp talent show
Favorite camp activity to be a part of? Day camp talent show, waterfront activities, vespers
If someone was not sure whether they should send their kid(s) to camp, what would you say to them? I can speak as a mother that I have seen my own children thrive at camp and truly be the best version of themselves. The best part is when I see that version spill over to their everyday life which happens a lot. I see Jesus living in them. I experience their tolerance, their kindness, their bravery because of their experiences at camp.
What is your hope for Camp Henry's future? I hope that Camp Henry continues to grow, thrive and keep Jesus first.
What is your hope for your future with Camp Henry? I hope I'm there till I'm 100. :)