Beans is a second year counselor with high spirits and limitless enthusiasm. He has gone to Camp Henry for the past 12 summers. Beans is an Eagle Scout with a passion for camping, hiking, and team building. He is also known for his ability to complete unique and thrilling food challenges that defy the human anatomy. Just ask how he got his nickname. His storytelling and devotions are soon to be back this summer at Camp Henry and he is more than excited to share his passions with campers and staff again!
Alex's nicknames include but are not limited to: Weiss, Weisser, Weissmeister, Weisseroo, and Bid Weiss Daddy. Alex currently attends Butler University in Indianapolis where he studies Communications and Media. Having grown up as a camper, he's excited to return for an 11th summer as the Videographer/Photographer. In addition to taking pictures and making videos, Alex likes to sing, act, and play instruments. He's looking forward to getting every camper to sing louder than they've ever sung before!
Alison spent 5 summers on the shores as a camper and is super excited to be spending her first year on staff as a Waterfront Director! When Alison isn’t studying Culinary Arts, she loves to spend as much time as she can outdoors, whether she's camping, kayaking, hammocking or just hanging out in the grass. You can usually find her snuggling her two dogs, Jake and Layla, being an awesome barista, or eating a snack. Alison's favorite camp activities are arts and crafts. outdoor cooking, and of course anything on the waterfront! She is looking forward to hanging out with some amazing campers and eating some beef stew around a campfire!
Annelise is eager to be a counselor after six summers at Camp Henry! When she’s not deciding on her major at the University of Michigan, she loves to hang out in hammocks, read, and play tennis. She is most excited to lose her voice during PJ Sing and star gaze at campouts! Something you may not know about Annelise is that she’s terrified of squirrels, which is unfortunate as they run rampant on Michigan’s campus.
Avery (aka Avesauce or Avebabes) currently attends Grand Rapids Community College and will be transferring colleges to Central Michigan University where he’ll be majoring in Journalism and writing for the school paper! Avery was introduced to Camp Henry through Westminster Presbyterian Church Family Camp, which he and his family attended every summer growing up. Some of Avery’s hobbies include collecting sneakers, exploring new places to get coffee and eat food, going to the beach, and going to the gym! Avery is most excited to see all of the campers he got to know last summer, see some new faces, and see camper's lives change for the better!
Burly currently attends Central Michigan University where he is majoring in Outdoor Recreation and minoring in Child Development. This summer will be his 11th summer on the shores of beautiful Lake Kimball. He spent six of those summers as a camper and the remaining five as a staff member. Last November, Burly traveled to Honduras and got to try eating iguana, which was really good. His favorite camp memory is when he was asked to speak at night chapel during his last summer as a camper - it was an amazing honor.
Caitlin is from Okemos, Michigan and will be graduating from the University of Michigan this spring. In the summer of 2004, Caitlin heard about her older sister’s unforgettable week as a camper at Camp Henry and knew she had to experience it for herself. She was then a camper for four summers and this will be her third year on staff. Outside of camp, Caitlin likes to practice yoga, rock climb, and spend time in the great outdoors. At camp, her favorite activity as both a camper and staff member is Smuggle. Caitlin is excited to spend another summer on the shores of Old Lake Kimball connecting with campers and making new memories!
Callie (aka 'Kale’) is excited to be back on the shores for her third summer on staff, and can't wait for opening campfires, wearing goofy clothes, riding the banana boat, and all of the kiddos coming to camp this summer. She studies Math and Sociology at the College of Wooster in Ohio and loves to read, laugh, and travel.
Cody is excited to be spending his 4th year on the shores of Old Lake Kimball. He started coming to camp many moons ago when he was a little 7 year old. Having grown up and lived near camp his whole life, Camp Henry holds a special place in Cody's heart. You'll catch Cody either running around as a Tiger in Safari or trying to master his spin on the four square court. This summer is going to hold lots of great things but above all Cody hopes it leads to growth through fun and through Christ for all of the crazy campers that grace the shores.
Dan is very excited to be back on staff for his second year as a counselor! He was a camper for 7 years as a kid, and then came back last year to be a counselor in Boys’ Village. Dan is in his second year at Miami University and is studying Spanish Education. He hopes to someday be a high school teacher. Dan grew up in East Grand Rapids, Michigan and has two siblings who are twins. His favorite camp activities are four square and Smuggle. He can't wait to see so many new kids come to camp, and also can't wait to reconnect with past campers!
Derek grew up in North Carolina but attend Camp Henry as a camper with his 9 cousins for a week every July. Derek later went on to serve on summer staff for six years as a counselor and Tripping Director. Derek graduated from Western Carolina University in 2010 with a degree in Recreational Therapy and is a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist. When Derek is not at work he enjoys practicing what he has ingrained in the youth he has served. He enjoys getting outside with his wife and two dogs through mountain biking, skiing, hiking, camping, running, and canoeing.
Elizabeth McGovern attends Kendall College of Art and Design where she studies Interior design. She was a camper for 10 years, all the way up until she was no longer allowed to attend camp as a camper. Elizabeth is super excited to work at camp this summer because it has always been a goal of hers to do so. She has so many favorite camp memories, but her ultimate favorite would have to be her last summer at camp when she brought hundreds of glow sticks and her cabin hooked them together as stick figures, taped them to themselves, and walked through boys village in the middle of the night to make their brother cabin laugh.
ERAY is currently in Arizona pursuing a Master of Arts in Adventure Education, with an emphasis on Camping Ministry. ERAY will be returning for her 7th summer since first working at Camp Henry back in 2011! ERAY's hope for every person that comes to camp is to know they are loved by God, unconditionally. Also, if you wind up in the high ropes course with ERAY, she will be happy to send you down the zip line. Overcoming a fear of heights is something she can attribute to her time at camp! That being said, if you see ERAY zip, you'll definitely hear her scream. Even after countless trips down, she simply can't help herself.
Emily (aka ‘Eeyore’) grew up at camp as a camper and can’t wait to be back for her third summer on staff. She studies Kinesiology at Michigan State University (Go green!) and loves to do outdoorsy things with her friends. Eeyore’s big heart and joy radiates throughout camp, but don’t think she’ll go easy on you during Smuggle or four square! In addition to camp games, Eeyore is looking forward to tackling high-adventure activities and seeing all the campers!
At camp, Emily’s gone by many names, including Pickles, Kosher, and Julie. Emily attends Oakland University where she is studying Nursing. Emily was a camper at Camp Henry for nine summers, an Assistant Counselor last summer, and is beyond excited to be a Counselor this summer! One of her favorite camp activities is low ropes and team building because she loves how it brings a group of people together. This summer, Emily's goal is to make sure every kid leaves camp with a huge smile on their face, countless awesome stories to tell on the car ride home, and is super duper excited to come back next summer!
Hannah (aka ‘Nelly’) will be back at camp this year for her second summer on staff after growing up on the shores as a camper and a Westminster family camper. She's a student at the University of Michigan where she studies Psychology and Spanish, and in her free time, Nelly loves to read and spend time in the sunshine. She loves singing and dancing to camp songs, and her hope for campers is that they would experience the joy of the Lord and the love of Christ!
Hannah was a camper on the shores for many summers and is excited to be back for her second summer on staff! Hannah is currently attending Michigan State University where she spends her time studying Political Science, as well as camping and hanging out in the outdoors with MSU’s Outdoors Club. Hannah loves hanging out in hammocks, biking, running, and just anything outside. She is super stoked for campfire skits, Smuggle, and Capture the Flag.
Ian’s still waiting for a nickname to stick, however, he has been called both Cupcake and Tarzan before. There was also a week when his entire cabin called him Captain, which was pretty awesome. Ian currently lives in Ann Arbor where he is studying Art and Design at University of Michigan. This summer will be his third summer on staff and his fifteenth summer at Camp Henry. Ian’s favorite Camp Henry pastimes are playing four square and chilling on the deck. He is excited to be back on the shores with all of the people that he loves - both campers and staff.
Dabs is ecstatic to return for his 10th summer at camp and his first full summer on staff. He is currently finishing up his freshman year at Grand Rapids Community College. When not at school, Dabs can most likely be found playing hockey. He can't wait to claim his rightful throne as king of the four square court this upcoming summer!
Jason is a newcomer to Camp Henry this summer and is originally from Ripley, Tennessee, but has lived all over the country. He will be in need of camp nickname and is looking forward to suggestions. Jason is looking forward to all the experiences and people he will meet during his first summer. His hobbies include taking very long walks across the country (including thru-hiking the PCT), watching college football (go Mississippi State!), playing/building guitars, trying new things, and cracking bad jokes. He's hoping campers will make new friends, have tons of fun, experience lots of good memories, and grow through their time at camp.
Jake just might be the biggest camper to step foot on camp grounds in over 30 years. With years and years 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). When not spending time at camp, he loves nothing more than spending time with his beautiful wife and three sons. Jake can also be found tearing it up in Bombo or four square!
Jennifer began working at Camp Henry as a registrar during her teen years in the mid-90's. After a break for college and seven years in a medical office, she returned to Camp Henry in 2005, spending time in various administrative roles. Jennifer is married and has three children, Tyler, Celia, and Eliana. When not at camp, you can find her spending time with her family and their dog, Daisy.
Jess started working at Camp Henry this past fall as the Guest Services and Program Coordinator. This will be her first summer on the shores of Lake Kimball but she grew up as a camper and counselor at a number of camps in the Northeast. Her favorite camp activity is anything on the water and she loves combining her passion for the outdoors with her joy in serving guests and campers here at Camp Henry. You can usually find Jess out and about on a lake in her kayak or exploring a new trail on foot.
JJ is known at camp 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 a proud mother of three boys.
Kathy (aka ‘Aunt Kathy’) is the proud mom of her two sons, Cody and Jackson. They are her life's joy. Aunt Kathy retired last June after working 26 years in school food services. She has been keeping busy hiking with her dogs, paddle boarding, playing beach volleyball, taking fun classes, and traveling. When Aunt Kathy isn’t on the shores, she lives in Morro Bay on the coast of California. Her wish for campers and staff is that they feel the love, hope and beauty that is present at camp.
Katie is excited to spend her first summer as a staff member at Camp Henry after eight years of being a camper! Katie is from West Bloomfield, Michigan and is currently attending Michigan State University where she is studying Kinesiology. You can probably catch Katie doing projects in Arts and Crafts or hanging out in a hammock. Katie can't wait to watch campers go all in this summer, especially during PJ Sing, her favorite camp activity!
Kelly (aka Phoebe, Schmelly, and Mom) has traveled to camp with her family from Morro Bay, California every summer for the past 12 years! Kelly is super excited for this summer because she’s a “grown up” who gets to be around so many wonderful young people, who love Jesus, at a summer camp! Kelly is the proud mother of her daughters, Emma, Grace, and Jane and is excited to share her mom love with staff and campers. Aside from spreading the love around camp, you can find Kelly running (with JJ preferably) and sitting on the deck of Idema with Kenny watching the sunset over Lake Kimball. Kelly’s favorite camp activity is Night Chapel!
Kenny and his family have been coming to Camp Henry for the past 12 summers! He and his family travel from Morro Bay, California, which is quite a ways, but they are happy to do it for all that Camp Henry has to offer. Kenny gets excited about camp each summer because no two summers are never the same, but every summer is always amazing. Kenny strives to help others experience God's love in ways that don't always happen outside of camp. He can't wait to see what unfolds this summer!
Kendell (aka Ken or Kenny) is from Clare, Michigan but currently lives in Grand Rapids where she is studying Hospitality and Tourism Management with an emphasis in Tourism at Grand Valley State University. This is Kendell’s first year at Camp Henry! Something she is most proud is when she makes decisions to try new things - she is not normally one to step outside her comfort zone but since she has started doing so, Kendell’s life has become much happier and more exciting. Her favorite camp activity is roasting marshmallows over the fire, and listening to music while enjoying a delicious s'more. Kendell’s favorite memory from church camp growing up is when she learned to canoe with her friends, but not being very successful from the beginning and flipping the canoe over into the river. Although it sounds scary, it kind of was fun! Kendell is very excited for this summer and some new experiences!
Kenzie is a student at Central Michigan University. She is pursuing a degree in Recreation and Event Management with a minor in Youth Studies. Believe it or not, she was brought to camp by winning a free week on the radio (woo-hoo!). Kenzie has been coming to Camp Henry since 2009 as a camper, was an Assistant Counselor for one summer, and this will be her second year on staff. Her favorite camp memory was when her cabin created a scavenger hunt throughout camp for Swild to find his lawn chair. What Kenzie is most excited for is to see returning and new campers and to lose her voice during PJ Sing!
Kevin Graham lives in Grand Rapids and is currently a student at Central Michigan University where he is studying Secondary Education in Social Studies. This will be his very first year at Camp Henry and could not be more excited to meet all of his fellow staff and campers and he is looking forward to creating meaningful friendships this summer. Kevin loves to get outside and play beach volleyball, basketball, and other physical activities in his freetime. He absolutely cannot wait to play some capture the flag this summer with everyone!
Lauren is super excited to spend this summer on staff after countless summers of being a camper at Camp Henry. Lauren attends Michigan State University where she studies Hospitality Business with the future hope to work with tourists in National Parks. She is also on the water polo team at MSU and can't wait for any activity on the waterfront this summer. Lauren is most excited to have the opportunity to hang out with so many amazing campers!
Lisa lives in Battle Creek and studies computer programming at Kellogg Community College. She has never been to Camp Henry but is super excited to be spending the summer here! She enjoys reading, crafting, anything involving water and spending time with her dog. Her favorite camp activities are capture the flag and crafts. She does not have a nickname but is ready for suggestions.
Liz first came to Camp Henry as an eight year old for mini week and here she is 20 years later and still kicking on the shores! Liz graduated from University of Michigan in 2011 and moved to Alaska where she served with multiple youth programs, summer camps, and non-profit groups. Liz loves sharing her passion for the outdoors with youth, whether she's coaxing kids up the climbing tower or geeking out about plant life on the wetland trail. When Liz isn't running around in costumes, you're likely to find her cuddling her two puppies, riding single track with her husband, or acquiring some newfound homesteading skill.
Liz is a longtime camper and staff member. Some of Liz’s favorite memories happen when she is working on the waterfront and a storm shows up out of nowhere! Liz then finds herself with her waterfront partner running all over the place to close things up, while it's raining so hard that they can't see an inch in front of them. Afterwards they find themselves jumping in puddles like toddlers. This is a favorite moment, because it's a reminder that anything can happen in a second, and if you walk into it with a great attitude, you can receive so much joy from it. Liz hopes campers can find the endless joy and love that she finds at camp! She hopes they feel safe and that they go home a totally different kid.
Maddy (aka ‘sweet pea’) is going into her sophomore year at Depaul University in Chicago. She is currently a double major in Health Sciences and Nursing. This year will be her second year at Camp Henry. Last year, she was a counselor for Camp Sunshine, but this will be her first year as a counselor at Camp Henry! Sweet pea loves to be outside as much as possible, especially when it rains. She is so excited to work at Camp Henry this summer because she can't wait to see how each kid grows closer to God!
Mandy grew up in Rockford, Michigan and now lives in Fremont. Her first camp experience was her 6th grade class retreat to Camp Manitoulin, something she has never forgotten to this day. This summer will be Mandy’s first summer at camp! Mandy has children - Brianna, Cortland, and Morgan - all of whom have been campers here at Camp Henry. When isn’t holding it down at camp, you can definitely find her on the ballfield watching her kids play baseball/softball and cheering them on!
Maura is originally from Royal Oak, Michigan and earned her BS in Biology Education from Alma College. After college she spent 8 years at YMCA Camp Thunderbird in Lake Wylie, SC where she fell in love with camp and decided to make camping her career. Maura is thrilled that life has led her to camping and loves to build relationships with groups and campers at Camp Henry. In her spare time you'll find Maura with her husband Steve, their daughter Aubrey, their son Elliot, and their dog Porter. She also enjoys identifying spiders, speaking in accents, and perfecting her guacamole recipe.
Molly is a third year staff member and long time camper who is thrilled to be headed back to the shores this summer. She loves a really good rain storm, your best dad joke, and all things Michigan State. Her favorite meal at camp is anytime she gets to eat outside, whether it’s a classic cookout or a stick-stirred beef stew. Molly can’t wait to have a crazy fun summer full of singing, laughing, and organized chaos.
Rebecca is from northern Minnesota and grew up attending camps, both as a summer camper and year-round family programs. She is passionate about working with campers and horses together. She loves to help campers develop new skills and learn more about animals and nature. Nature walks, forest ecology, and team building are some of her favorite non-horse related program activities to share with campers. She enjoys her role taking care of our horses year round, and can often be found out at the barn or blazing new riding trails in DeVries Woods.
Ron (aka 'Papa Taco') lives in Grand Rapids year round working for Young Life and at a church! This will be his fourth summer on staff at Camp Henry. He is looking forward to seeing kids experience heaven on earth and finding life in Christ this summer. This year he has been trying to work out, backpack, and read more. The weirdest thing he ate this year was a several thousand calorie sandwich he made out of honey ham, cheddar cheese, and an excessive layer of dijon mustard. His stomach has never regretted anything more.
Ryan found his way to Camp Henry in 2011. He grew up in Bennington, Vermont, and after graduating from Messiah College with a bachelor's in Adventure Education, Ryan continued pursuing his love of camping ministry by serving as the Facilities Director at camp. Ryan loves working behind the scenes to make camp a beautiful place. He is especially good at using a chainsaw, tractor or any piece of power equipment or machinery. When Ryan is not working on stuff around camp, you can find him playing with his dog Boulder, hiking or finding a project to work on at home.
Sarah lives in Grand Rapids and during the school where she serves as Special Ed Inclusion Aide at Meadow Brook Elementary in Forest Hills Public Schools. Her family is the fourth generation Camp Henry alum! Sarah has been coming to camp since she was 10 - many many moons ago. Her hobbies and interests include coaching track and volleyball and seeing live music. Sarah is most proud of her three amazing daughters. She most looking forward to helping campers overcome their horse-related fears and seeing new and familiar faces!
Schuyler is incredibly excited to be spending his first summer on the shores. When he's not busy with his studying Education at Calvin College, you can find him playing and coaching baseball, in the gym rock climbing or dabbling in some guitar and ukulele. Schuyler cannot wait to share smiles, laughter, and amazing times with campers this summer, as well as putting his four square skills to test!
All his life, Tyler has loved fixing, building and creating things. Since coming to Camp Henry, he has found such a perfect fit for what he loves to do, using his gifts and passions to serve God. His hobbies include snowboarding, working on and riding his motorcycle, and pretty much any extreme sports (watching or participating). Some of Tyler's favorite things to work with include but are not limited to: his router, chainsaws, a good set of cordless power tools, and anyone's welder. If you ever need to find him, look for two guys who always seem to be hanging around camp together driving a mule, fixing a bell, or stealing cookies from the kitchen.
Kenny Hotaling, a key member of the Camp Henry's leadership summer staff, sat down with us...er, technically with his computer since he and his family live in California...and took the time to answer a barrage of questions about his 10 (soon to be 11) summers at Camp Henry. His presence at Camp is noted in his hard work, his kindness, his fatherly compassion for the staff and campers alike, and his humor. If this interview doesn't have you chuckling, then you should come spend some more time with him on the shores this summer.
How did you first get connected with camp? Sitting around the Jacobs' dinner table here in California, my response to Jake's question was something like this" "What??? Chaplain? I've never been one before! Do I have to wear a collar or would the outfit from Princess Bride be ok?"
What made you want to get more involved? Sometimes God answers prayers immediately. As I began to consider whether my family and I should relocate to Michigan for the summer, with a newborn (Jane) mind you, He told me repeatedly that he wanted to challenge me by talking to campers about my experiences with God, my relationship with God, how God loves you, and how great it is to have God directing your life. I was nervous that I would blow it, but listened to God anyway. I sure am glad I did... for so many different reasons. It clearly showed me how big He is and how small I am... but I can still make a difference for His kingdom.
How many years have you been coming to camp? Year 11 this year! We've gone through a couple sets of tires, many oil changes, and a transmission, but have every intention to return for 12.
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 Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp as a teenager, and it the spot where I finally understood what having a personal relationship with God is really all about. I found out that it was so much more than the "stand up and the right time, sit down at the right time, and repeat after me..." church experiences. What I remember most was the "peace that passes all understanding" as well as the friendship of another camper and the guidance of our counselor. John 3:16 became a part of my heart.
What would be your "ideal' day at Camp Henry? No such thing exists as there are infinite answers to the ideal day. Despite all the uncountable number of wonderful/funny/sad/life changing/challenging/ridiculous/inspirational/powerful moments that have already happened, I know that God has even more in plan to make room for additional entries into the "ideal" day.
How has camp changed since you first came? Camp changes every summer; sometimes dramatically, sometimes, subtly. Camp isn't supposed to stay the same. We can always get better, get kinder, get closer to God, and make more headway to making this earth like He intended.
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? Yep. Nailed it.
What roles have you served/do you serve while at camp? I am just a humble "Happy Helper"- friend, chaplain, musician, mechanic, researcher, driver, reader, lifeguard, belayer, encourager, fire builder and plumber. I almost got the plumbing figured out for the bottom of the Blue House :) Maybe next summer.
How has going to camp each summer effected your daughters? Camp have helped us immeasurably parent our children. It is impossible for me to comprehend how all these summers have had an effect on my daughters. Likewise, it's impossible to comprehend what they would be like without all of those wonderful summers. What I do know is that my daughters are smart, confident, kind, athletic, beautiful servants who love the Lord and others. I am so thankful for Camp Henry for all it has done to help shape Emma, Grace, and Jane.
Any fun stories to share from your adventures across the country? Nebraska is horawful (horrible + awful = horawful). What's the best thing that ever came out of Nebraska? I-80! Uncountable rows of corn for hours is all one can see. But, out of necessity, a new car game was created: Corn Wars! The game is played by naming a corn type product. For example, Corn on the cob. The next person needs to name another- Corn Pops. It turns out there are quite a few corn products. Let's see how many you can come up with!! Hours of entertainment! By the way, do you know what the "N" on the side of the University of Nebraska football helmets stands for? Knowledge!
Any fun camp stories to share? A king calls for his servant. The servant asks what the king needs. "Bring me my Royal Papers!" he shouts. It turns out his royal papers aren't recycled papers from the office, nor are they some of the left over sheet music from the Theater. It turns out what he really needed was some Toilet Paper!!! Oh! Those Royal Papers!! Hilarious!!!
What do you do for a living outside of camp? I am a 17 year veteran public school teacher. I teach in an integrated classroom that focuses on math and science. It is a STEAM school that is heavy on engineering and computers so the math and science that we experience is applied to some sophisticated capstone projects. It's a blast going to work each day as I work with some very smart and motivated teachers.
What are some of your hobbies outside of camp? I have recently rediscovered my love of mountain biking! I'd ride everyday if I could. In addition, I also read a lot of non-fiction. Lastly, I am plowing through the Office on Netflix. Michael is so uncomfortably funny.
Favorite camp meal? Sausage patties. I eat the entire red basket.
Favorite camp activity to lead? Night Chapel. It's a blast to see God go to work in that sacred and beautiful place.
Favorite camp activity to be a part of? Christmas week's PJ sing. If you haven't heard Away In a Manger camp style... well, you are missing out.
If someone was not sure whether they should send their kid(s) to camp, what would you say to them? I completely understand! Having your kids away from you for an entire week! Super scary. However, this week I promise that your child will experience God's love and I also promise that we will take tender loving care of them.
What is your hope for Camp Henry's future? Someone once asked a question about my church here in California. They asked, "If this church closed down, would anyone care after a couple of years?" It's a pretty interesting question. Now, ask the same thing about Camp Henry. Presently, in my opinion, there would be an uproar if Camp closed! So that's my hope for the future. If in 10, 20, 50, 100 years from now, Camp Henry closes... there would be an uproar!
What is your hope for your future with Camp Henry? I hope they hire my back as a Happy Helper!
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.
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!
By: Amy VanHaren
Summer has officially arrived and with it a familiar five senses attachment to summer camp. Like having an invisible thread, or a piece of yarn from a get-to-know-you cabin activity on my finger, there is physical connection to Camp Henry that arises every June when a new batch of counselors gather on the A-field for Staff Training. It's as if those of us who have been there before are still part of that circle, still linked to the adventure of what lies ahead.
I'm right back in the dining hall when my daughter slams the door on our screen porch or sings "Bringing Home My Baby Bumblebee" in the back seat of the car. I catch the smell 0f camp in the air just before a rainstorm, on my swimsuit as it hangs, drying out from the lake, in passing the horse barn up the street. The sight of dew on the grass and a light foggy mist over the backyard at 6 a.m. make me feel like I'm walking to an early staff meeting instead of work, with the flag pole trivia questions running through my head rather than the day's marketing meeting agenda. I feel camp anytime I sit on wood in the evening - whether a dock or a log - and am always taken right back to a floating campfire or the opening campfire or better yet, a sacred ceremony.
I feel camp on Friday nights and Wednesday mornings and Monday afternoon rest periods. I still feel the excitement of check-ins and the bittersweet emotions of Saturday send-offs.
There is nothing, however, that makes me feel camp's roots in my soul more than Sunday evenings. For that's when time shifts, when the week begins, when you slip into your own world to let the magic of camp really set in.
Sunday nights are when you go on Camp Time.
On Sunday night on the shores of Lake Kimball, after you've made it through the introductions and the swim test and the elevated noise of the dining hall, and you are tucking into bed to the sound of mosquitos buzzing, and bunk beds creaking, and the security of knowing your counselor is present in the room this time, you turn your clocks back one hour. Really, you do. You ignore the laws of time zones and the master universe and the rhythms of the world everywhere outside Camp Henry and you make time work for you.
You gain an hour of sleep and awake to the sense that this place - this camp - is really something special. This place has gumption. And you, by proxy of being at camp, have gumption too. You, are something special too.
This shift happens week after week and there are many times when it seems crazy to go forward and back, and forward and back - especially as a staffer when it affects your sleep (and a little of your sanity).
But always, there is more light in the morning. More dark in the evening. There is the magic of knowing you are all in a pocket, in a place, where you control what happens and even time bends to your whim.
I've come to see that that actual time shift, is really just a metaphor for the true shifting that takes place at camp. The way you subtly let yourself take more time to laugh. To sing. To sit on the H dock and watch the sunrise. To make friends with people you wouldn't think to in a normal time zone. To make way for being silly, spending hours in conversation, getting absorbed in a friendship bracelet or a frog hunt, or a song chorus that never ends. (Down her nose, to her toes! And she whistles while the...)
Camp Time is not about the numbers on the clock but about the state of your heart. The subtle shift in your soul. The surrender to an experience that demands your attention so completely and rewards you so richly.
I'm now removed from Camp Time, and not turning my numbers back on Sunday nights anymore, but along with the invasion of the senses, that feeling of Camp Time returns for me every year. I notice that stirring to slow down and make a little more time for the things that matter in life.
To appreciate people; to sit down at dinner and connect. To linger over the sunset and play certain songs on repeat. To turn off the technology and constant "to do list" and just be present in the moment. To call old camp friends.
Camp Time has taught me that you can control where your energy goes. It's taught me that deep relationships happen when you commit yourself fully to a moment, when you listen completely to a person and see them - really see them. It's taught me that tent time is the best time, forks are for dorks, the chocolate skit is always a bad idea - but hilarious to kids, that the boy loved the tree, and that you actually can jump off the green raft/play a guitar in front of people/ride a horse with no saddle in the dark/wear a bathing suit and tennis shoes (only a bathing suit and tennis shoes).
Most of all, Camp Time has taught me that the moments move too fast in life, that you must embrace them. Because whether in Michigan or Maine, not even controlling the time can make it stop.
I feel fortunate to see so many others connected to camp still living on Camp Time. Just this past week, there were signs of it all around me: The ten lovely camp ladies I adore sent a fury of emails and photos getting ready for the newest Hanks Honey's weekend, Sarah Hammer sat next to me on my porch, Nick Koster taught his new family to wakeboard for the first time, and the inspiring Trout Steak Revival - made up of Travis, Casey, and Will - three guys who used to play guitar at PJ sing - won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival! And that's only the beginning. I see Camp Time taking place all around (mostly in my Facebook feed but thank goodness there is a place to remain visually connected!) and it makes me feel as though I'm still back in that pocket, in that time warp.
I hope to never go off Camp Time. I hope to teach my daughter that special camp time spirit and to continue to help Camp Henry give others the gift of Camp Time. I hope to keep it going until I am out of time.
Maybe, if like me, you feel the pull, we should all turn our clocks back once a year, during the first week of camp, and imagine we're in our bunks, trying to sleep without fear and overrun excitement, and wake up knowing we have an extra hour and a whole week - a whole summer - of magic before us.
Amy VanHaren is becoming a regular alumni blog poster for Camp Henry. She wrote a post for Camp back in March 2014 that you can't miss, check it out here. Amy is the owner of VanHaren Creative, a social media marketing company. Her first visit to Camp Henry was for mini-camp at age 7. She stayed in the Ottawa cabin and had so much fun she came back for an entire week that summer and kept coming back every year until she turned 17 when she went on work as Camp Henry staffer for 10 summers. Stay tuned for more posts from Amy and keep up with her on Facebook and Instagram.
This announcement (yes, I have another one, I have them all the time) is to tell you why my heart belongs to Camp Henry and how the traditions I have experienced here have helped shape me into who I am today.
Some people believe the stereotype that camp is solely a place you go to get dirty, sing silly songs, have a lot of fun, and run around playing weird games. In some aspects, that is a lot of what we do at camp, but it is also so much more.
During my ten years at Camp Henry, I have experienced countless crazy camp traditions. I have learned that behind every ten minute announcement song, wacky campfire skit, and absurd dining hall chant lies years and years of memories, friendships, and gut-splitting laughter. I learned that camp is a place filled with tradition, a place for kids to relax, have fun, experience nature, and connect with other kids in a stress-free environment.
As I look back on my time at camp, I realize that these traditions, although seemingly pointless, have had a large impact on my life as well as countless other campers and staff. I, like so many others, came to camp as a nervous, excited, starry-eyed child afraid of not fitting in or making friends. However, each day at camp taught me new lessons and traditions that would eventually help lead me to becoming the person I am today. It is through every wacky tradition I have been able to feel truly connected to camp and form relationships that will last forever and a day.
Camp Henry is entwined with traditions, each one an opportunity for campers to instantly build connections and slide into the camp community. Each tradition, no matter how big or small it may be, is also a chance for campers to challenge themselves, take risks, and grow in confidence and strength. I think most returning campers will agree that the Chipmunk song is not just a song, Smuggle is more than just an excuse for staff to tackle campers and hide in trash cans (sort of!), B-field games are more than just an excuse to run up a ridiculously steep hill, and yes, still wearing the paint from Potato Round-Up three days later is indeed a fashion statement.
I will never forget witnessing staff members getting thrown in the lake for no real reason at all (i.e. running over a chipmunk with the golf cart or 'stealing the magic of camp'), sweating from nerves watching fire-tossing celebrations (javelin throws, anyone?), crying from laughter at the Opening Campfire skits (When in doubt- Sit, Stand, Kneel for the Three Horsemen), or even crying from heart-wrenching emotion at a great Vespers (cabin in tears = success).
No matter what happens in life, I will always believe pizza and chocolate milk is the best meal on a Sunday, beef stew (stirred with a stick) is a must on campouts, and the Sacred Ceremony and Night Chapel are by far the best ways to end a week at camp.
Each activity, chapel message and shared meal has brought me closer to my cabinmates, staff, and God. Most importantly, it is through amazing traditions that I have learned to live simply, be confident in who I am, stand up for what I believe in, and never forget to see the world the way God intended it to be.
Although camp traditions, despite the name, change over time, I will always feel connected to camp because of the experiences they have provided me. While we may not always play the same games, sing the same songs, or share the same stories, I know that these traditions will continue to grow and develop as time goes on to make camp the best possible place it can be.
Marissa Vargo joined the year round staff at Camp Henry in March 2014 after she graduated from Central Michigan. She has spent her summers growing up on the shores as a camper, AC and summer staff member. She enjoys a good round of Smuggle and spending time on the waterfront. You may recognize her from the IronKid video in our last blog post. She's the one swimming on top of a frozen Lake Kimball.
Christina Koehler, a long time camper and high school senior, reflects on her camp experiences and how it has affected her life. She encourages all of us to "go and find out for yourself" what camp is all about. Camp is a certainly best experienced first hand!
"Camp is a place like nowhere else. I want to say that if you look hard enough that you will find a place like camp, that makes you feel as good as camp, but trust me, you won’t. Camp is one of those unique places where no matter what you say or do, everyone around you will still love you. Between the campouts and the games, I met people who will stay with me for the rest of my life. I met one of my best friends seven years ago at camp and we are still best friends to this day even though she lives 5 hours away from me.
People always ask me what I love about camp, that’s actually what I am supposed to be writing about, but I can ever put into words just what it is that makes me love camp. The only thing I could ever tell my friends when they would as why it was so important to me is “Go. Go and find out for yourself, because I sure as heck cannot describe it."
I have gone on canoe trips, 2 UP trips, and an Alaska trip with Camp Henry. I have been blessed to be able to see the beauty that God has put on this Earth and I have been blessed to be able to recognize that it is God who put that beauty there to share with all of his children. I truly believe that without camp, I would not be the forgiving and caring human being that I am today. Matthew 7:7 says “Ask and it shall be given unto you.” Well I asked for love, acceptance, and happiness; God gave me camp."
Long Time Camp Henry Camper
High School Senior