With less than five weeks until the start of Camp Henry’s 81st year of summer camp, we are excited to introduce you to this year’s summer staff!
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!
Camp Henry gladly introduces you to the 2015 Summer Staff!
Adam is super excited to be spending his 4th year on staff serving as the program director! When not working, you can find Adam relaxing in a hammock, cuddling with his beautiful Siberian husky, Roscoe and eating Mexican food. Adam strives to live boldly, share his faith, and someday open his own Alpaca farm with a cafe called 'Alpaca You a Lunch' (no alpacas will be consumed). His hope for campers this summer is to discover their identity in Christ and learn to love their ground. Adam loves to travel and is currently sponsoring a Kiwi bird named Tarapeke in New Zealand.
Amber AKA "Bambi" is excited for her first summer at Camp Henry! Amber is originally from Illinois and is currently attending Calvin College in Grand Rapids. Bambi loves to dance (especially lindy hop and swing dancing) and has even participated in Calvin's "Dance Guild." She also loves reading, knitting, roller blading, and horseback riding. You may mistake Bambi for Rapunzel this summer because of her gorgeous blonde hair and sweet and sassy attitude.
Amber AKA “Turtle” cannot wait to spend her first summer exploring the nature and wildlife at Camp Henry. A Biology student at Alma College, Turtle is excited to hang out not only with all of the amazing campers but also with the abundant amounts of horses, birds, turtles (obviously), and other animals at camp. Turtle’s hope for each camper is to always be upbeat and positive in life. She can often be found bowling, swing dancing, scuba diving, and rock climbing when she’s not working at camp!
Audra aka “Audie” or “Duckie” is a long-time supporter of camp. After being a camper for 8 summers, her dream of working on staff has finally come true. Audra loves to read, run, and play the guitar when she is not studying for her classes at Grand Rapids Community College. Her favorite God-given beauty is a sunset, which is perfect since Camp Henry is in abundance of amazing sunsets! Audra is looking forward to connecting with campers, thriving in her relationship with God, and going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic this summer.
Ben, a student and marching band member at Michigan State (Go Green), will be joining us for his second summer at camp. Don’t be alarmed, Ben’s energy, enthusiasm, and joy completely make up for his strange choice in school spirit! Ben’s hope for each camper is to always be confident in who they are and know they are unconditionally loved by God. Ben’s biggest struggle this summer might indeed be giving up his “secret” addiction to the iPhone game “Bejeweled!”
Ben aka 'Burly' has enjoyed his many summers at Camp Henry so much that he is currently working at being a life-long camp professional and will be studying Recreation at Central Michigan University in the fall. Burly is known around camp for his superior 4-square, Ga Ga, and Smuggle skills as well as his ability to successfully finish off the Fifth Third burger. One thing Burly is excited for this summer is the opportunity to get to know and hang out with so many awesome campers!
Blake, who has spent the last few months traveling the country for work, has decided to pause his journey to spend his 4th summer with all of us in Michigan. All the way from California, Blake has found a home at camp and is beyond pumped to spend his summer in a place where love and joy is so easily found amongst everyone you meet. Some of Blake’s favorite things include singing Rare Bog, hiking through the forest, and listening to folk music. Rumor has it he even placed 2nd in a chess tournament back in the day, so you may just have to challenge him to a game!
Caitlin is extremely excited to come back and work on staff after several years of being a camper at Camp Henry. When she is not busy studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, leading Alternative Spring Break volunteer trips, or working as a research assistant on a cancer research project, Caitlin loves to play soccer and soak up the sun! Caitlin is currently striving to be more present and appreciative of the people and places surrounding her and hopes to support many campers with reaching their goals as well.
Callie has spent the last 15 summers at Camp Henry and cannot wait for another summer spent on the shores. She loves to spend time with family and friends, bake delicious food, read books, watch movies, and travel. This summer, Callie is most looking forward to spending time outdoors, relaxing, and laughing all the time. Callie believes it is vital to find what you love and do it as often as possible- which is a huge reason she is spending this summer at camp!
Claudia, better known as Claudidia, loves spending time with family, painting, kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking. Claudia will be spending her 8th summer at camp this summer and is eager to connect with all of the amazing staff and campers! The lesson she most wishes every camper will learn this summer is that there is nothing you can do to separate you from God’s love. This summer you can look forward to watching Claudia go all in during her favorite evening activity, PJ Sing.
Cody grew up running around camp and practicing his 4-square skills and developing his quirky ways. Cody’s love for Camp Henry may only be topped by his love for any and all Disney movies. In fact, he is known for an impressive Disney stuffed animal collection that is worth nearly as much as his salary for the summer. Cody cannot wait to reconnect with returning campers and meet so many new faces this summer. His hope every day is to bring joy and laughter to those around him.
Colleen aka 'Coco' is a Special Education major at Hope College. She is a big sports fan and currently plays on the Women’s ultimate frisbee team. Some of Coco’s favorite things include making weird faces, busting a move, singing at the top of her lungs, and being a complete goofball whenever possible. Her personal goal for this summer is to thrive in her relationship with God and use that desire to inspire and pour into kids. When you see Coco, make sure to ask her about the time she held a baby squirrel!
Elizabeth aka 'E-Ray' has been spreading her love and bright smile with Camp Henry for 5 summers now. Her favorite camp activities include hammocking, chapel and sending people down the zipline. E-Ray strives every day to find her identity in what God says about her and not what others label her as. If you start to see double this summer, check again- it might just be Elizabeth’s twin sister Kathleen!
Emily is one of 3 Emily’s on staff this summer. There is little Emily enjoys more than an afternoon of water aerobics, spontaneous adventures, and climbing trees. Emily’s favorite memory from this year was exploring Asheville, NC on a spring break trip with friends. She is most excited to be surrounded by such amazing people and spend the whole summer dancing, laughing and growing spiritually. If you’re feeling particularly rambunctious, I dare you to challenge Emily to a chopstick eating competition (she’s pretty much a pro).
Emily aka 'Eeyore' is thrilled to spend her first summer on staff this year. After years of being chased and tagged during smuggle, Eeyore cannot wait to join the “staff” side of games. Eeyore is currently attending Michigan State University, spending most of her time studying Kinesiology and running around campus with the club running team. Next time you see Emily, ask her about some of the strange foods she’s eaten by playing the game “What Are The Odds!”
Emily aka 'Sweet T' is joining us from a small town in South Carolina with a greater cow population than human population. Sweet T is known around camp for her southern accent and love for –you guessed it- sweet tea. Equally as sweet in personality, Sweet T can always be found lending a helping hand with a bright smile on her face. Her hope for every camper is to truly value themselves and the people around them!
Erica is headed back to camp after a year spent teaching math and physics to students in Slovakia! When she is not teaching and traveling, Erica loves to run, bike, play soccer, hike, swim, read, and explore castles in Europe. Erica is looking forward to connecting/reconnecting with the staff and campers, learning how to thrive, and sharing her faith. For some pure entertainment, make Erica lick her elbow the next time you see her.
Erin might just become your favorite staff member this summer as she loves to bake delicious treats for all of the staff and campers! She will be spending her second summer at camp and is ready to share in the campers’ excitement as they discover what it means to thrive and live in the present. Her first time leaving the country was in May when she traveled to Israel! Erin is currently learning how to play the Ukelele, so you may get a brief appearance in the talent show this summer!
Hannah aka 'Flinch' just graduated from Michigan State and is headed to camp for her first summer on the shores. Outside of school, Flinch is a full time nanny to three young boys and leads a bible study for young female adults. She loves spending time by any lake, playing games, painting and running. Hannah is ready for warm weather again as she spent 15 years of her life living in Florida before she moved to Michigan!
Hannah Joy is bringing the ‘joy’ to camp this summer for her first ever year on staff! Hannah Joy relishes in the time she spends hammocking, reading, and singing. She is looking forward to worshipping and sharing God’s love with all of the campers. Hannah Joy’s favorite type of cheese is mozzarella and her favorite animal is a Cabunpuporsephin. Not sure what that is? Google it. You should definitely ask her about it when you arrive, though!
Heidi Ho!! (as Jake typically shouts) has so much love for camp that she has chosen to spend her last summer before school with all of us on the shores of Old Lake Kimball. After summer, Heidi will be leaving Newaygo to live in Vancouver, WA. Heidi wishes to share her strength and happiness with everyone at camp and hopes that people learn to make the best out of every situation in life.
Ian has been a part of the Camp Henry family for many moons and is getting ready for his first summer on staff. Ian just wrapped up his first year of art and design at the University of Michigan and cannot wait for a summer of fun and adventure. Ian loves hiking, disc golf, boating, and pickles. You can often find him challenging kids on at the 4-square court, so you might want to brush up on your skills before summer!
Jake just might be the biggest camper to step foot on camp grounds in over 30 years. With years and years (29 to be exact) of experience, it is no surprise Jake plays a huge role in the success of such a life-changing place. Jake has worn many hats at camp (much of which have been silly) and he currently wears the hats of Executive Director. When not spending time at camp, he loves nothing more than spending time with his beautiful wife and 3 sons. Jake can also be found tearing it up in Bombo or 4-square! It is safe to say he is one busy, talented, and amazing man.
JJ is known at camp not only for being married to Jake but, more importantly, for being one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people on the planet. This makes her THE greatest camp mom. JJ has a servant’s heart and contagious smile that brightens the day of those around her. She loves running, skiing and spending time with her friends, family, and dogs. In fact, JJ was once a Junior Olympic Skier! If you weren’t convinced of how awesome she was before, you should also know that JJ is currently training for a marathon while working and being a mother to three boys!
Jen aka 'J-Ro', 'J-Belly', and 'Knower of All Things' is Camp Henry's Camp Administrator. If all else fails, just ask her! Jen began working at camp as a teenager and returned to the shores several years ago to work full time. She is also the mother of 2 and a 3rd that is on the way! (just a few more weeks!) Although she is sad to miss part of the summer, she is super excited to spend time with her family and watch them thrive!
Jessie just moved to Michigan with her husband, Tyler, and cannot wait to spend the summer hanging out with campers, riding horses, and taking in the sun! This will be Jessie’s first summer on staff and she is most excited to meet a ton of new people. She spends her spare time playing cards, making crafts, and working on her Mary Kay business. Jessie’s favorite God-given beauty is her husband (feel free to say “aww”)!
Justyne was practically born with Lake Kimball flowing through her veins she has so much history with this place! Justyne grew up coming to camp with her family and is continuing a long tradition of Weenink staff members. She loves spending time with family, friends, and her adorable dog when she is not busy with classes at Alma College. She also enjoys sailing, skiing, cooking, and online shopping in her spare time!
Kelly and her husband Kenny travel all the way to Michigan from California each year to spend their summer encouraging and loving the staff. In addition to her very own 3 beautiful daughters, Kelly is known for mentoring and “raising” the Camp Henry staff throughout the summer as another “camp mom.” Along with adopting 35 extra children for a few months, Kelly runs the Day Camp programs, life guards, and is an all around happy helper. Seemingly perfect in so many ways, Kelly is willing to admit her one flaw might have to be snoring in her sleep!
Kelsey is back at camp, this time as Mrs. Wilson! Kelsey’s love for camp has her extremely excited to be back in the sunshine with wonderful staff members and amazing and crazy campers. Kelsey is one of those unique staff members that truly enjoys working out and uses Essential Oils for just about everything she can think of! If you’re at camp, you just might see Kelsey’s toes (yes, toes) doing tricks in a talent show this summer!
Kenny, husband to Kelly, will also be traveling from California to spend the summer at camp. For years Kenny’s wisdom, humor, love, and selflessness have helped make him an amazing role model for the staff. When not at camp, Kenny plays the role of father, husband, 6th grade teacher, and girls’ soccer coach. He also loves to surf, run, and bike in his free time. Kenny’s hope for every camper is to witness how much of a blast living as a Christian truly is!
Kirty has devoted over 52 weeks of her life to camp throughout her years as a camper and now as a staff member. This summer will begin Kirty’s life-long dream of working on staff. Kirty is from Illinois and just finished her first year of college at Colorado State University. During her free time, Kirty enjoys playing guitar, hiking, camping, doing yoga, and exploring nature. If you’re lucky enough to experience PJ Sing this summer, you might just notice it happens to be Kirty’s favorite evening activity when you lose your hearing!
Kurt aka 'Sunshine' is taking a break from swimming and studying at DePauw University to spend his first (official) summer on staff. Sunshine enjoys fishing, swimming, disc golf, camping, and surfing. He is most excited for the chance to go on campouts with his campers. Sunshine hopes to show campers how fun it is to be yourself and always try new things. Something you may not know about Sunshine is that he is color blind.
Maddy, who has spent the last year traveling around East Africa and Peru, is settling in at Camp Henry for the summer. Maddy is excited for opening campfire skits, crazy clothes, 4-square, and all of the kiddos coming to camp this summer! She loves listening to country music and going for long runs to relax. A fun fact about Maddy is that she hates olives!
Maddie aka Mad-Dog is currently studying Kinesiology at the University of Illinois- Chicago where she also stays busy playing on the women’s soccer team. Mad-Dog is looking forward to helping campers step outside their comfort zone and try new things this summer. Her favorite camp activity is Smuggle and camp song is Wagon Wheel!
Marissa is beyond excited to spend another summer at her favorite place on earth. She loves having the opportunity to connect with so many amazing kids and share her love of camp with each and every guest. Marissa likes to run, hike, read, hang out with friends, watch TV, and go on adventures when she is not working at camp. She would like every kid to know that life was meant to be enjoyed and appreciated, not merely survived.
Maura aka Mo Davis is excited to spend the summer participating in camp games and watching how summer camp operates. Maura is the Guest Services Director for Camp Henry, which means she gets to work with registrations, perspective groups, and much more! Maura is a nature guru known for her superior birding and nature ecology skills. Don’t believe me? Ask Maura about the time she got some hands-on experience diving into the Wetland for water samples- in January!
Molly aka 'Gilly' is coming back for her 3rd summer. Gilly just finished her last year at Michigan State and loves to spend her spare time volunteering, saddling horses, eating, lip-syncing, impersonating Kristin Wiig, and quoting Nacho Libre. Her hope for every camper is to realize how amazing and life-changing God’s love and grace can be. Gilly’s favorite God-given beauty happens to be freckles, which fit perfectly because she has so many!
Molly cannot wait to spend this summer on the shores with all of the amazing campers and staff. Molly loves getting dirty at camp, which is why her favorite camp activity is tied between potato round-up and rolling in the mud. She loves painting, crafting, writing poetry, and participating in her school’s theatre department. You can easily show Molly a RAK (random act of kindness) by opening popsicles and ice cream sandwiches for her because she secretly hates tearing paper!
Nadia will be entering her first year on staff this summer before heading to GVSU in the fall. She has a huge heart for kids, camp, and being as helpful and loving as possible! Nadia enjoys playing tennis and volleyball and is always ready to get her craft on. This summer, she hopes to teach every camper how blessed, loved, unique, and awesome they are. Nadia was adopted from Russia as a kid, so next time you see her have her tell you her birth name!
Noah is looking forward to taking a break from his studies at MSU to be on staff for his first ever summer. When not working and studying, he loves running, camping, and eating IHOP with his friends! Noah recently overcame a fear of heights by sky diving and would recommend it to even the most vertically fearful individuals! Noah is most looking forward to playing Ga Ga this summer. You better watch out, though, because he doesn’t plan on showing any mercy in the ring!
Rachel’s beautiful smile and contagious laugh will be blessing camp for yet another summer! Rachel recently graduated from Kendall Art & Design and is currently working on illustrating a children’s book. She loves adventures, 4-square, dancing in her car, and being with her zany friends! Rachel’s hope for each camper is to love and be proud of the unique person God created you to be.
Ron aka 'Papa', 'Papa Taco', 'Honey Buns', etc. wears many hats both at camp and outside of camp where he works several part-time jobs, all relating to working with youth! Papa really enjoys hanging out with friends, watching TV, playing board games, working out, and getting thrown in the lake-ok, maybe that's just what the staff likes to do. He also recently ate the 1400+ calorie monsterthickburger from Hardee's merely to cross it off his bucket list!
Ryan aka 'Ricecakes' is often the epitome of what it looks like to get dirty at camp! Ryan has taken hand in fixing, and building near everything at camp these last couple of years. Although he would never tell you himself, Ryan is quite talented at creating beautiful things out of “trash.” When he is not getting called to fix a leaking sink or check out the sewage system, Ryan loves hiking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and- most importantly- singing Bill Grogan’s Goat for all the campers!
Sarah aka 'Sveldie' cannot wait to spend another summer on the shores teaching kids how much God loves them and how awesome they are. Outside of camp, Sarah stays busy studying exercise science at GVSU, leading a Young Life group, playing sports, hammocking, and eating ice cream. Those that know Sveldie know she is passionate about showing others the love, confidence, and freedom that comes with knowing Christ. Next time you see Sarah, you should help her figure out what color her eyes are, because she is quite unclear!
Stephanie 'seek' Christensen recently moved to camp from Nebraska to act as the “face and voice of Camp Henry.” Chances are when a phone is answered, it is her bright and cheery voice on the other end! Stephanie appreciates trying a little bit of everything including new restaurants, fairs, exhibitions, theater, traveling, etc. If you’re looking for a running buddy, you might want to ask Stephanie- she just picked up running as a new hobby and she hopes to complete a half marathon in every state!
Tim aka 'Lars' can be spotted around camp by his bright blonde hair and frequent shouting, chanting and singing. Okay, so maybe it’s only the blonde hair, but he has been known to sing a great Hippo song! Tim spends most of his time hiking, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, fly fishing, and studying physics at Colorado State University. Something you may not know about Tim is that he has hiked across the Grand Canyon!
Tyler has found the absolute perfect place to work since one of his favorite jobs is “fixing things that are broken,” and we all know camp has plenty of those! Tyler enjoys adventurous sports such as wakeboarding, snowboarding, dirt biking, and skateboarding. Tyler and his wife Jessie just moved to camp from Indiana and are excited to spend time getting to know the campers and share their wisdom and love.
By Stephanie Wojtkowski
The last time I was at Camp Henry was in in 1988. I had graduated that previous May from Alma College and was not quite ready to give up my summers of camping fun on the shores of Old Lake Kimball. This was my final gift to myself, one more summer after many years as a camper, then a CIT, counselor and Arts and Crafts director before heading into the real world. When I left camp at the end of summer I took a parting gift, a little black kitten I named Millar.
I watched Camp Henry change and grow through the years. The director I had worked for and loved, Ron Goodyke retired. Jeff Jacobs, who had once worked with me as a counselor, took over the reins, and I knew all was well at camp. So even though I was not there, I knew in my heart, that in the summer every Sunday night there would be an opening camp fire and every Friday a closing indian campfire.
This year the camp counselor tradition is being passed on in my family. My daughter Madison is headed off to Camp Henry. Now it is her turn to experience the joy of being a Camp Henry counselor!
Madison has heard many stories of camp through the years. She thought it was hilarious that I used to ride a horse into camp as Stinkin Steph with Mad Dog Merrick and hold up the dining hall which had been transformed into a saloon.
Madison leaves for her summer at camp this Friday. This morning I went into her room to wake her up and something caught my eye. Something so simple, so plain, a black waterproof watch, similar to the one I wore each summer at camp. And for a moment I wished it was me, that I was going to be putting on that watch and heading off to camp.
Stephanie Wojtkowski returned to the shores in March 2014 to drop Madison off for a Summer Staff Retreat. She hadn't been back in years, yet all the memories came flooding back. A big thanks to Stephanie for writing this month's alumni blog post.
If you were or are apart of Camp Henry and would like to share your story or memories of Camp Henry, email [email protected]
Stephanie Rustem, a former camper and staff member at Camp Henry, took a moment to look back on all her years at Camp Henry and has a wonderful story to tell from her experiences!
From Caterpillar to Butterfly: How Camp Henry Changed My Life
It isn't every day you get the opportunity to share memories from one of your favorite places with the rest of the world, but I am one of the lucky few who has been given that chance.
During my last few summers working at Camp Henry, campers and staff were likely to find me chanting at the top of my lungs, eating out of my cabin's "gut bucket", pulling snacks out of my pocket, or even refraining from showering for an entire week in the name of "stink". I was, and continue to be, confident and comfortable in my own skin whether it's covered in paint or clad with a 1980s frock.
Many people today would probably be surprised that I was not always a lover of my own quirks nor did I always have the confidence to crawl on stage during the rules of flashlight tag. Those with whom I worked during my first summer as a counselor in 2007 probably remember me as a shy, quiet person who laughed often, but only spoke out of necessity. I was always cheerful, but found myself intimidated by the seemingly outlandish traditions and high level energy that the other staff members managed to bring from the first day of staff training.
I knew that camp was a judgment free zone since I had experienced it first-hand as a camper. However, I kept to myself for fear that my true quirkiness was beyond the tolerable level of "weirdness" that was camp. As a high school student, I had allowed myself to fade into the background and preferred being overlooked and invisible over taunted and teased. I had unknowingly built an armored wall around myself. Given how shy I used to be, to this day I could not tell you what possessed me to apply for a counselor position in March of 2007 as a 19-year-old kid without a single friend on staff. Perhaps I wanted the challenge of growing into myself while helping kids find their own path in life. In any case, I was terrified.
With each passing day as a staff member, however, I realized that camp really was a special place where judgment of individuals' unique personalities was embraced—a place where "flaws" were viewed as positive attributes and "normal" was absent from our vocabulary. Rather than feeling ostracized for things I viewed as "abnormal" about myself, they were embraced. I could feel my wall coming down stone by stone. I was no longer afraid of letting others really see me. I felt myself transforming from a caterpillar into a butterfly.
What I learned during that first summer on staff was that the location doesn't make a place special, it's the people. I am one of the lucky few that has had the opportunity to grow up at Camp Henry as both a camper and a staff member. I've learned to love myself and share my quirks with the world thanks to the amazing staff members and, most importantly, campers, I now consider my family.
We often talked about the "Magic of Camp" which made it different from the "real world". What I'm realizing now, however, is that the true magic lives in the hearts of the campers that attend and the staff that support them. It can be carried away from camp and shared with the "real world". The camp experience does not need to begin and end at 5575 Gordon Ave, but a small piece of it lives on wherever you might go. Even though I am now a Camp Henry camper and staff alumni, I know that camp lives on in my heart because of the people I had the chance to know.
While at camp, I learned to embrace the "powdered donut" and that no matter how ridiculous a nickname is, it is ALWAYS a term of endearment. So, yell at the top of your lungs, run as fast as you can, and roll in the mud. After all, life is to be lived out loud, not hiding behind a wall.
If you allow it to happen, camp will change your life forever. Embrace its people and traditions and you, too, can become your own sort of butterfly.
Stephanie "Rustamove, Rustemus Prime, Crusty, Aunt Jemima" Rrrrrustem
Stephanie Rustem is currently the Assistant Director for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs Youth Camp in Chelsea, Michigan. She received her Master of Science degree in Community Sustainability in May 2014 and hopes to pursue a career in environmental education and youth development at the end of the summer. Stephanie was a two-time Camp Henry Teen Challenge camper to South Manitou Island at the ages of 15 and 16. She stayed in Dome Village before it saw its demise from a tree. She returned to camp at the age of 19 and served as a counselor, nature director, and assistant director over the next 7 years.