Wednesday, 07 June 2017 21:43

My Camper Days

By: Genie Williamson Lyman


My love for Camp Henry began as a camper in 1949. Wow, the changes I’ve seen: an expanded waterfront and dining hall, Millar Lodge, Idema Theater, the Gordon Chapel, new cabins, Barb’s Point, the climbing wall, the ropes course and zip lines, Frontier Camp and a multitude of special weeks, weekends, and programs! Each new addition and improvement impacts the lives of those fortunate enough to spend time in this special place. 

When I first attended Camp Henry, Reed Waterman directed three weeks of girls' camp and three weeks of boys’ camp. The rustic wood cabins with heavy shutters and the large common bathroom, referred to as the KYBO, were situated where the girls’ cabins are today. The" Swamp House" housed any male staff members, such as the Waterfront Director and kitchen help. This is where the boys’ cabins are today. I spent eight summers as a camper, followed by a summer as a counselor in training (CIT), and two additional years as a counselor. I looked forward to this wonderful time each year. 

The days were filled with fun and fresh air, from flag raising ceremonies and chapel in the morning to games, skits, singing, and storytelling around the campfire at night. As a younger camper, I especially liked rowing the boats through the chain of lakes: Pickerel, Emerald, and Sylvan. The thick lily pads between Kimball and Pickerel lakes and the beautiful blue green water as you entered Emerald Lake made a lasting impression. We would also row across Kimball Lake and camp out overnight. 

When I got older, my favorite thing was to canoe the Muskegon, Pine, and White Rivers. The trip down the White River ended by going through the seemingly neverending White Lake and out through the channel to Lake Michigan, where we camped on the beach under the stars. These trips were great adventures that gave me an appreciation of nature and a real sense of achievement. At the end of the season, as counselors we were given the chance to swim across the lake and back. I still remember the exhilarating feeling when I arrived back on shore! 

My family has had a long affiliation with Camp Henry. My dad served on the Board for many years, working spring clean up weekends and helping to design and build a larger dock. This may have given me an advantage in being chosen as one of four CITs at the age of 15! In those days the counselors were mostly members of Westminster Church. We had to apply and interview for the then expanded four-week session. Years later when I met my husband, he was President of the Board, and our first date was the steak fry! 

Our children were campers, and I’m thrilled that we now have a granddaughter who loves it as much as I did. It warms my heart to share in my niece Sarah Nelson’s enthusiastic involvement and commitment to the camp. Each spring, my brother, sister, and I along with my daughters and granddaughters plant flowers around a deck and at the entrance in memory of our parents. I will always treasure memories of times spent with friends and family at this wonderful place. 

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Genie and her husband and spend winters in Boca Grande, Florida and summers in Grand Rapids. Their five children and fourteen grandchildren, plus close extended family and friends, keep them busy in their "senior years”!

Published in Blog
Saturday, 03 June 2017 11:15

The Camp Family

By: Michelle Anderson


What is it about Camp Henry? What makes it so special to those who have roamed its trails, played on its fields, swum in its waters, or laughed around its campfires? It’s the sense of community it instills from the first time you walk in the dining hall, sing at the top of your lungs and catch a glimpse of the signatures hanging above your head letting you know you are not alone—you are not the first person to inhabit this special space and you will not be the last. While you may leave a footprint or two behind, the experience will stay with you for the rest of your life. 
I first wandered onto Camp’s grounds the summer of 1990, to pick up my brother from Blackfoot cabin. One year later, I had applied to be a counselor and was unknowingly embarking on an experience that would impact and inform my life in ways I could never expect and continues to do so today. Camp has always been a place that facilitates growth and actively encourages trying something new in a supportive environment. 
During my time at camp, I have been a counselor, village leader, arts and crafts director, assistant program director and worked with school groups during the spring session. These are just titles and positions. What is not included in the official job descriptions of these roles involves small and large group facilitating, listening- really listening to what is being said and what isn’t, walking up the frontier trail in the darks sans flashlight at 3:00 in the morning to help a sick camper to the health center, learning to drive a canoe trailer behind a 16 passenger van, drafting rainy day Plan B schedules only to be discarded for a Plan C or D option, asking a bee to give you some honey, crafting your improvisation chops, grilling hamburgers in 90 degree heat in the middle of July for the entire camp, chasing kids around the A-field attempting to stamp them with a potato covered in paint, making friendship bracelets, singing at a PJ sing until you lose your voice, reading The Lorax so many times the book is no longer needed, jumping off the green raft while lighting fireworks, spotting water-skiers and banana boat riders, riding bareback, cooking beef stew over an open fire (stirred with a stick), rainy campouts, waving goodbye at the end of a week to campers who don’t want to leave—watching them exchange addresses with their new cabin friends—already planning when they will all return next summer, laughing with your friends until it hurts and sharing this experience with your fellow camp staff, knowing they are the only ones who understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. They are your camp family. In fact, I was fortunate enough to work with both my brother, Dan and my sister, Jessica during my time at camp—extending Camp’s impact in my life.
camp photo 1   Camp Photo 2   Camp Photo 3
Left Picture - early 1990s Camp Staff
Middle Picture - 2000 camp staff trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes
Right Picture - The Andersons - Dan, Michelle, Jessica, summer 2000
The Camp Henry experience extends beyond the summer and each staff member’s tenure while there. My time at camp instituted a change of major from elementary to secondary education after my first summer. It provided me with the dispositions to become an effective classroom teacher and work with students, the courage to apply to grad school and undertake the dissertation process, and the skills to prepare course schedules, advise students and manage an entire graduate department. The songs and skits are so embedded in my brain that I can break into the Banana Song or the Giving Tree to entertain my adorable nieces and nephew. Camp nurtured in me the ability to troubleshoot, attack problems with proposed solutions, and find my voice. Most importantly, my 15 years at Camp Henry provided me with a network of life-long friends from Maine to California, North Carolina to Colorado, DC to Michigan who I can count on for support, encouragement, and love. Experiences at camp are shared. They do not happen in isolation and the impact is infinite. Friends become family and your family is CAMP.  
camp photo 4   camp photo 5
Left Picture - 2012 Camp Reunion
Right Picture - Mark Penning and me (1991-1995 staff) visiting summer 2016, dropping off his son (my god son) to camp for the first time.
Camp cultivates relationships and provides the space for them to grow. It is a family and does not matter if you are there for a day, weekend, or a summer.  It immediately feels like home.  As another summer of fun, friendships, and self-discovery approaches, I’d like to welcome you home. I hope to see you there!
bio photo 1
Michelle Anderson worked at Camp Henry from 1991-2006. Currently, she is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs in the School of Education at Felician University in Rutherford, NJ teaching courses in classroom assessment, teaching methods, and supervising student teachers. Beginning in July, Dr. Anderson will serve as the inaugural Dean of Academics for Lacordaire Academy in Montclair, NJ. In her spare time, she serves as the coordinator for the Emerging Filmmaker Competition at Montclair Film for student in grades 4-12 and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Montclair History Center. 
Published in Blog