By Adam Swenson, Program Director
'Belay is on' here at Camp Henry! It has been an exciting start to 2016 as we welcome so many new great elements to our high adventure program. With a brand new high ropes course, a giant swing, leap of faith, dueling zip lines, and a Quick Jump out of the trees, there is something for all ages to enjoy off the ground and we are excited to share the adventures with you!
Whether it's facilitating team building with 6th graders or sending corporate groups down the zip line, the challenge program has become my favorite aspect of camp. I enjoy having a front row view of seeing the incredible growth through everyone's efforts as they work together towards a common goal. Being a part of this transformation is one of the most rewarding parts of my job and I love pouring my energy into helping folks leave camp feeling like a different, better, more confident individual or group.
The terms "Challenge Course" and "Team Building" have become buzzwords in recent years, and they have many connotations. Whether you're a corporate group, sports team, or school classroom, these challenge exercises are important not just for the immediate experience of the activities, but also for the group skills, communication and bonding that result. The activity, be it an obstacle course or 'Hot Chocolate River', is a high-impact learning experience. Team building programs provide realistic opportunities that empower individuals to contribute to their goals and feeds into our passion for providing life changing experiences.
The main goals of team building are to improve motivation, productivity, and build relationships among peers. Taking folks out of their normal work/school setting helps groups break down barriers, eliminate distractions, and ultimately, have fun.
As we are continuing to grow in this area at camp, so too must the staff running the show. In January, I had the awesome opportunity to travel down to Austin, Texas for the annual ACCT conference. ACCT stands for Association for Challenge Course Technology. The ACCT establishes and promotes the standards for effective challenge course programs such as safety procedures, programs, and element designs.
Facilitators and builders from all over the world met for the week to engage in workshops and share ideas as well as their experiences, which was a great networking opportunity for Camp Henry. During this time, I attended several sessions that highlighted areas such as effective debriefing tools, how to adapt initiatives to include everyone regardless of one's physical or cognitive abilities, and researching new material to keep returning groups invested.
Our keynote speaker for the conference was Pete Nelson from the show "Treehouse Masters". We are all familiar with him being 'the treehouse guy' and it was great hearing his background story of pursuing this unique and awesome craft. Like Pete and the rest of the attendees, it was refreshing to hear that we share so many common goals and reasons as to why we put so much effort into building zip lines and challenge courses.
If you have yet to participate in any of our challenge elements, I invite you to give it a try, whether it's with a dozen of your friends or an organization you're involved with throughout the year. You don't have to go to Cedar Point to experience the thrill or sit through a workshop on how to be a good team player, just come to Camp Henry! The adventure awaits.
One month of 2016 has already passed and we are on to February! There are a lot of great things happening at Camp Henry and we want you to know how you can get involved or at least stay up to date! Before we share the February events, let's take a quick look at what happened at Camp Henry in January 2016!
The Dining Hall and Theather renovations are moving along even in the winter conditions. Here's a look at the progress!
On Jan. 17th, the first Camp Henry LIVE! of 2016 at Rosa Parks was postponed to the 24th due to extremely low temperatures. The 24th was a hit with a good crowd of Camp Henry campers and staff skating together. Camp Henry year round staff memeber, Emily Thickens, better known as Sweet T, even tried her hand - or should we say feet - at ice skating for the first time!
On Jan. 23rd, Camp Henry set up at DeVos for the Kids and Family Expo and made well over 500 s'mores for kids and adults alike. Its also estimated that we put at least 250 temporary tattoos on the kids. It was wonderful to see some returning campers and also have the opportunity to share the joy of Camp with lots of new, young families. Staff members also found a moose on the loose drinking juice, who they believe is named Fred.
February starts quickly with a celebration of Camp Love! February 1st is I Heart Camp Day! Get involved by posting a picture or video of you or you and some camp friends with a sign that says "I heart camp!" Add the hashtag #iheartcampday and put it up on all of your favorite social media networks. Don't forget to tag Camp Henry or post to our wall so that we can see your love of camp! This is a global day of camp celebration so don't miss out on your chance to proclaim your camp love! Here's two fun videos - one is by your lovely Camp Henry summer staff from 2013 and the other is by the creators of I Heart Camp Day - to get you in the spirit!
February 5th is the day to join Camp Henry at Muskegon Winter Sports Complex for the 2nd Camp Henry LIVE! event of 2016. For only $15 you get to pick two activities from cross county skiing, or trail ice skating to sledding, or snowshoeing. Transportation from Grand Rapids is available at no extra charge but space is limited. This is a great chance to bring out a friend who hasn't been to Camp Henry before because both of you will score some toasty Camp Henry swag for coming! All are welcome, all ages and abilities! We hope to see you there! Click here for more information or to sign up. Don't miss out on your chance to sled 20 or more at a time with us!
On February 20th and February 26th, we are calling all who would like to volunteer their time to help build new dining hall tables and benches! If you have any of the following tools, please bring them with you: drill, skill saw, and square. All skill levels are welcome! To learn more or to let us know you are coming, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 616-459-2267. Feb. 20th is from 9 am - 3 pm with lunch provided. Feb. 26th is from 2 pm - 8 pm with dinner provided. Come for the whole time or just part! All helping hands are welcome!
Also happening at the beginning of February is the start of registration for Camp Henry's 2nd Annual 5K Trail Run sponsored by Celebration! Cinema. Don't miss out on the chance to support Camp Henry's Scholarship Fund AND get out and get active in Camp's gorgeous natural setting! For more information, click here. If you are ready to register, go here! And if you would like to learn more about volunteering, we've got a spot for you here!
One more thing to be looking forward to this month is the launch of the 2016 Theme! Check back here for new blog posts this month on Adam's trip to Texas for the ACCT Conference and an interivew with Kenny and Kelly Hotaling.
By: Liz Allard
"We can do anything with a couple of sticks and a bucket of mud!" If you've ever sat in on a staff meeting with Jake at the helm, you've likely heard this phrase echo off the paper thin walls of Millar. I think about this phrase often and can't help but smile. Camp Henry is like an amoeba. It engulfs you with its inclusivity and makes you feel all of the feels-fun, happiness, empowered, confident, loved-the list of feels could easily take up this entire blog post. These feels, however, aren't derived from the buildings, the high ropes elements, the banana boat, four square balls, or any other resource we think is necessary to keeping the good times rollin'. Although all of these items are excellent, the Magic of Camp shines through when the resources are absent and we, as campers and staff, are left to our own devices.
Plain and simple, Camp taught me the definitions of resourcefulness and resiliency. I remember once, as a camper, walking into Arts and Crafts during week seven of Camp. The room looked post-apocalyptic. The cupboards were bare, except for a couple of small bottles of primary-colored paint that stood like the last few campers during a game of British Bulldog. Random cuts of yarn and string were strewn about and old wax was hardened in beef stew tins on hot plates from weeks of candle making. This could have been a moment where my counselor threw her hands up and directed us outside onto the A-field for chill time, but instead, she instructed us to go outside and find a rock. Meanwhile, she began gathering the remaining paint bottles, sponges, and any decent brushes and plopped them onto the center of the table.
When we returned from collecting our rocks, she exclaimed with that 'fake-it-'til-you-make-it' excitement, that we were going to paint our rocks! This had the potential to be a totally lame activity, but in true Camp fashion, us campers humored our counselor and got way too into painting our rocks. We even did a gallery walk of our finished artwork at the end of that afternoon activity! My painted ladybug rock is still used by my Dad as a paperweight in his office.
Flash forward to when I was a counselor during the summer of 2009. It was Pirate Day at Camp. These themed days started popping up at Camp once a summer as soon as a certain counselor (*cough* Kerry Drake) discovered, in our staff manual, that Camp used to host Paul Bunyan Day, and insisted we bring it back. When campers arrive at Camp, they come with whatever they have, unlike many of us counselors who come equipped with an entire closet filled with costumes that can morph into whatever theme we desire.
On Pirate Day, which ended up being another Olympic Day with pirate tendencies, it only seemed fitting that my entire cabin look pirate-appropriate. I began pulling out any pirate-ish clothing from my costume closet for my cabin of youngsters and drawing on face paint like our esteemed pirate colleague, Captain Jack Sparrow. Considering my costume closet was ill-equipped to dress 12 pirates in one day, I watched as campers pulled out items - scarves, striped shirts, bandanas - from their own bags and shared those items amongst themselves. We looked like a bunch of salty dogs by the end of rest period that day, and only spoke in pirate talk from then on. Being the youngest of the Girls' Village cabins, we weren't expecting to be the champions of all things pirate that day, but we certainly had the most fun. As my cabin and I got ready that day, I was reminded that at Camp, you don't have to have everything to be everything.
When I think back on my time at Camp Henry, most of my favorite memories revolve around instances where a camper or staff channeled this attitude of resourcefulness to create something unexpectedly awesome. Take morning activities during themed weeks at Camp, like Christmas in July. As you well know, there's no snow during the month of July in Michigan, but counselors, myself included, always insist on sledding as a morning activity, whether you're slip n' sledding on a soapy plastic tarp on the hill near the old corral or sledding on plastic mattresses down the stairs of Millar. Creating activities like these prioritizes imagination backed by innovation.
Like slip n' sledding, I definitely can't forget about the time that Jake wanted to make a go of a Camp Henry Rodeo as an evening activity. Us counselors were tasked with coordinating different events from line dancing to barrel racing to lasso practice. At the end of this newfound evening activity, Jake lined up the entire camp on the B-field to make the announce – uh, rather, share that the final event would be cattle roping! We all stopped and looked around at each other. To the best of our knowledge, camp didn't have any cattle. Jake then explained that two staff – Derek Whaley and Todd Boynton – would play the role of the cattle. Derek and Todd would have a ten second head start before the ENTIRE camp was to chase them down and lasso all four limbs together. I stood back and watched as Derek and Todd tore off across the B-field with hundreds of campers in tow. In an instance, dozens upon dozens of kids engulfed them as they disappeared amongst the pile of campers. When the campers cleared away, there laid Todd and Derek, disheveled and smiling.
At Camp, there's never an "I'm bored" moment because we are always thinking about those couple of sticks and that bucket of mud. In today's world, where cheap distractions and entertainment rest at the tip of my index finger, I'm reminded of the value of my experiences at Camp. Camp challenged me to reach beyond perceived limitations and to fill every moment with intention, regardless of where I was or the resources I had on hand. Camp Henry is about taking what might be considered mundane and building extraordinary experiences with the perfect storm of resourcefulness, imagination, intention, and can-do attitude.
About the Author: Liz Allard
I first attended Camp Henry mini-week when I was eight years old. I remember showing up with the pack my mom used when she worked on a fire crew for the U.S. Forest Service. The pack stood a third of my height above my head and was packed to the brim. I wore my signature jean short overalls all three days and had Emily Clark as my first counselor in the old cinderblock Commanche Cabin. It rained all three days and one of my first memories from those three days at Camp was Jake on stage in Idema Theater screaming the words to “Singing In the Rain,” while the rest of us sopping wet campers screamed along with him. When my parents arrived back at camp to pick me up after those three days, I begged them to send me back to camp the following summer.
I spent eight years as a camper followed by six years on staff, during which, I met my best friend and husband, Derek. We married in May of 2015, surrounded by our Camp Henry family. I currently live in Alaska, which I first visited when I was 16 years old while on the Teen Challenge trip with Camp Henry. I am excited to help with the same trip this upcoming summer when the new crew of Camp Henry teens visit the 49th state in July.
By Wendy Jacobs
Wendy is the mother of Jeff Jacobs, aka Jake, the Executive Director of Camp Henry
Jeff, or Jake as he is known at Camp Henry, began attending Camp Henry as a 9 year old soon after we moved to Michigan from Ohio. I thought it would be a good place to meet some new friends...little did I know it was the beginning of a long term relationship with such a special camp. It is a huge part of his life as he has gone from camper to counselor, program director and then summer camp director to now he is the Executive Director! His love for Camp Henry shines through with his enthusiasm for making sure each camper has the best week of their lives at camp as well as his ideas for new programs (like spring break trips and off-site trips for teens), and new facilities. Yet he also retains the old traditions of camp.
Our car can practically drive to Newaygo and the shores of Lake Kimball all by itself due to the many trips we've made there. Each summer Jake would invite us to come and share the various events, from the Indian campfires, with the horses picking up each cabin of campers, to observing Olympics week, watching talent shows, attending chapel services, to having the experience of eating in the dinning hall, or for special cook-outs, on the deck. During the years that he and J.J. (his wife) traveled from California to run the summer camp, it was a bonus for his father and I to be able to spend time with our grandchildren!
I'll never forget my first experience at the Indian campfire when Jake came across the lake dressed as an Indian and paddling a canoe to begin the traditional campfire. It was all so impressive and you could hear a pin drop. The campers were so engrossed in the ceremony!
Camp holds such a special place in Jake's life that when his first son was born, he was named Levi HENRY Jacobs! And where do you think he was baptized?....at the Camp Henry chapel!
Now he has three sons and what a joy it is for him to have them there as campers! Also now many of his high school and college friends are sending their children to old Camp Henry, old Camp Henry.
I know I'm a very proud mother, but I think Camp Henry is so lucky to have such a dedicated person at the helm. Jake is so knowledgeable of the camp history while at the same time he has great vision for the future. Any parent sending their child to camp should know that he will be in good hands with such a caring and capable director along with such a competent staff.
Here's a poem that captures the impact Jake has on Camp Henry.
C amper,counselor,summer director, and executive director too
A well qualified man for the job to do.
M any friends made and a role model too -
P lus camper numbers growing - new cabins going up.
H elping each camper - being the best he can be,
E njoying a week at Camp Henry -
N ature, boats, games and songs
R elating to counselors all week long.
Y es, sad when the day comes to leave ---
But plans will be made to come back once more
To that special place Kimball -right on the shore!
2015 was an incredible year for Camp Henry. So incredible that we're taking a minute to look back on all the amazing adventures, exciting events, ridiculous records, mind numbing numbers, superb staff, and fantastic new facilities. If you only have 30 seconds to read, check out the 2015 at a glance infographic below. If you have more than 30 seconds, get comfy and lay back in a mental hammock as we take a trip back through all the fun events of 2015.
Like was mentioned above, we enjoyed a multitude of exciting events in 2015, including exciting Camp Henry LIVE! Events. There was ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, a night of jumping at SkyZone, a plethora of activities at 3 Mile Project, and an afternoon at the ballpark for a Whitecaps game.
Join us in 2016 as we head to Rosa Parks Circle again on January 17th, 2016 from 2-4pm. Or get your louge on at Muskegon Winter Sportsplex in the evening on February 5th, 2016. And we already know we are headed back to 3 Mile Project on March 13th, 2016!
In April, we brought back the Spring Break Trip by heading out west to Winter Park, Colorado for a week of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, hiking, and copious amounts of camp shenanigans. Join us this year for our 2016 Spring Break Trip.
Also in April, we revealed our summer 2015 theme, THRIVE. We were so excited when we landed on this idea and we were able to began creating the material to support it during the summer. We wanted the campers to come to camp and learn that they didn't have to just get by or barely survive life. We wanted them leave knowing that they have the ability to be the best version of themselves through positive attitudes, hard work, and trust in God's love for them. We were made to thrive. And not just at camp, but in all aspects of our lives.
Daily chapel messages helped the campers learn to understand what thriving means, how to recognize and overcome barriers to thriving, what thriving looks like and also what it looks like to not be thriving. One parent shared with us in October that the idea of Thrive has become a core part of their family home life and that it has helped their child excel in many areas since leaving camp this summer.
Year round retreats and school groups blessed the shores with their presence throughout the year and left refreshed, fulfilled, and equipped to tackle new challenges together. In addition to enjoying all of the new facilities projects and high adventure elements, many groups had a blast competing in the Camp Henry Amazing Race, learning about wild edible plants, trying their hand at the Photo Scavenger Hunt, and bringing out their inner engineer in Paper Brigades.
We had no shortage of construction to help boost year round bed space and improve our high adventure activities. The B-field recieved an upgrade with two standard soccer goals for soccer camp during the summer and sports teams during the school year. Through the support of many generous donations and supporters, we built three new cabins, one in Boys' Village and two in Girls' Village. This also meant that sadly we said our goodbyes to the last three cinder block cabins in Girls' Village. Behind the two new Girls' Village cabins, two apartments were built to help house special guests, group leaders and more. We were able to renovate the inside of Millar Lodge and add a spacious deck overlooking Lake Kimball. We also continued laying down durable pathways throughout camp to make it more accessible for those with mobility challenges. And the main entrance recieved a face lift with addition of ranch style entrance built using the old climbing tower poles.
2015 Assistant Counselor Aiden "Beans" Wysocki chose Camp Henry to be the focus of his Eagle Scout Project and made several adirondack benches for us! They saw much use through the spring, summer, and fall.
Our high adventure program recieved a face lift with a new high ropes course being built in November in the same location as the old course. There are 14 new elements to try up in the trees! A new exit was added with the thrilling QuickJump, a 53 foot drop out of the course. The Cargo Net recieved an additional zip line parallel to the existing zip line. And we added the Leap of Faith and the Giant Swing in November, which has already been enjoyed by many in the late fall.
Year Round Events hosted by Camp Henry were a big hit as always! From Dad & Me Weekend, Family Camp, and Fall Festival to Mom & Me and New Year's Eve Camp, we celebrated lots of new and returning campers and families. If you haven't been to Camp during the year for one of these events, you should seriously consider coming this year. In 2016 we are looking forward to bringing back all the favorites again! New to 2015 was the Camp Henry 5K Trail Run in May (Don't miss it this year, it's set for May 7th, 2016!) and The Last Supper in November to celebrate the last meal in the Dining Hall before the $1.1 million dollar renovation began. Keep your eyes open for updates on the construction progress!
Camp Henry had the opportunity to serve almost 1,600 summer campers and over 4,300 year round guests in 2015. This lead to an epic amount of smiling faces, zany antics, life changing experiences, and many boat loads of fun. One of the most vital pieces to serving so many, is having a phenomenal staff. Without the staff, there'd be no one to love up on the campers and guests, no one to prepare the food, run the activities, share in the memories, add to the wonderful organized chaos, or plan the craziest of all camp games. Let's give our 2015 staff three cheers!
As our reflection on 2015 comes to a close, we hope you are as excited as we are for everything that happened and even more energized for what 2016 and beyond will bring, including more Lake Kimball sunsets like this one. We hope to see you all in 2016!
By Amy VanHaren
There is a week at camp that is perhaps even more magical than all the rest.
A week when lights are hung around cabin doors and A-field games become reindeer games. When counselors fight over who gets to be one of five golden rings or the coveted partridge in a pear tree. When your cabin just might get a trip around the world or a serenade by the Boys Village Backstreet Boys.
It's a special time-warp week in the heat of summer when the animals attend chapel as part of the nativity scene, staff disappear to Tom's shed to become elves, and you get to carol cabin to cabin by candlelight (or, maybe, around the lake as part of a Flotilla).
This joyful week is Christmas week, and it has always been my favorite.
I would guess it's a favorite of many, because if you really think about it, summer camp and Christmas are not all that different.
You spend the month before each arrives in a state of heightened anticipation, counting down the days. You can't sleep the night before. You want to be the first one to the tree - or check in table - on the day it arrives.
You sing some songs. You dress up a lot. You decorate (the tree or yourself). You make things for other people. You gather around a table, sit before a fire, and tell stories of mythical beings (one happens to wear a santa hat and slip down the chimney, the other, seaweed while slipping into cabins).
It goes way, way too quickly.
And when it's over, you feel sad, but you wake up the next day with warm memories and a full heart, already excited for next year.
Both come with much merriment and a whole lot of gifts (some you've asked for, others not so much), so in honor of both seasons, I present my top 12 Camp Gifts:
1. The Gift of Spontaneity.
You never know when you'll get picked to be a British Bulldog or what will happen during the Steeple Chase or whether or not you might have to carry someone around the table. There is structure to the days at camp but only enough so that you can rely on the rhythms, not enough to prevent creativity or adventure or teachable moments. The ability to veer wildly off course, to start a chant or throw in a new a rule in four-square, allows us to be playful and adaptable in ways the rest of the world does not.
2. The Gift of Nature.
Camp exists almost entirely outside. You move from place to place on dirt paths. You spend nights under the stars. You zip line among the trees and swim across the lake and ride horses through DeVries woods. On rainy days you slip and slide in mud. During capture the counselor you cozy up to bushes. You might even clean seaweed out of the red area if it's early in the summer. At every turn, you are exposed to all that our natural world has to offer and it shapes not only our time at camp but also our time beyond in meaningful ways.
3. The Gift of Friendship.
Bunkmate, Ottawa cabin, buddy call, Olympic team, fire toss, teen challenge, staff training. These are just seven out of 700 ways we make friends at camp. We're thrown together in unique ways and from it, we form tighter bonds with those we came with and new bonds with others we've just met. We make fast friends because we must, and lasting friends because we choose to. Whether for a week or a lifetime, camp is filled with opportunities to connect and those connections are what make the ride all that much more amazing.
4. The Gift of Self-Esteem.
This might be the biggest gift I ever received from camp: the chance to try out being me, being brave enough to really be me, and finding acceptance. We give of ourselves in spades while at camp, everything from our energy to our voices to our hearts...we give it all. And in return, camp gives us a safe environment to grow and flourish.
5. The Gift of Music.
Can you still hear it? Music fills the days and the nights at camp. We sing rounds in the chapel and rock out at PJ sing and look to the water during Witchy Ti Ti. We sing before meals and after. We sing at the talent show, on the deck during down time, and at every campfire. Those of us who can't sing a lick are encouraged to join in. Those who can, do so loudly and move us to tears. Some even write their own beautiful music. We sing as a form of expression, in silliness and reverence and together, as a community. The songs burrow into our souls and we take them with us. We sing the songs of camp in the backseat of the car all the way home and at our camp weddings and in the middle of the night to our babies. Somehow the camp soundtrack finds it way into the playlist of our lives.
6. The Gift of Jake.
Where would we all be without a camp leader like Jeff Jacobs? (Or his wife JJ!?) Or Ron Goodyke, Steve Kadu, our favorite staff members, or any of the hundreds of people who have given their time, money, and hearts to Camp Henry year after year? Those who build and sustain camp are our treasured gifts.
7. The Gift of Emotions.
Camp is a place of feeling. A place where everything somehow feels more real, raw, joyous, and sometimes sad. We gather on the shores and wear our hearts on our sleeves in ways we don't elsewhere. We hug actively. We laugh easily. We get fiercely competitive on the field and overly dramatic on the Idema stage. We fall in love (see #9 below). We feel every star in the night sky in our core and every relationship deep in our bones. Sometimes we sob when it's over and we frequently sleep for days to recover. There is risk in allowing yourself such emotional openness but there is even greater reward. Such feeling - learning how to feel, feeling our way forward, putting our feelings out there - is crucial in life and camp gives us a place to hone our skills.
8. The Gift of Rest Period.
Period. We may fight it but what relief it is to pause and restore. How important to all the other gifts. (I'm talking to you future campers, embrace it!)
9. The Gift of Crushes.
The boy in your brother cabin. The waterfront director with the whistle. The girls counselor you hope you're paired with. (I'm sure your own are coming to mind at this very moment.) Camp is a place for crushes, and I mean more than just romantic. It's filled with friend crushes and crushes on athletic ability and crushes on someone else's amazing costume. We crush on counselors because they are role models who show us fearlessness and vibrancy, and other campers because they share our love of books or share nothing at all. It's a place where we learn to look up to people and to really look at people. Camp crushes give us hope.
10. Gift of shared experiences.
The real magic of camp might just lie in the fact that we've all been there. We've experienced it together. We have stood at the flagpole and collectively made someone eat from the gut bucket. We have checked in and bunked up. We've become women and warriors. We've gone through camp together, so we remain together. We're all Camp Henry people and better off for it.
11. The Regift.
Camp is not so different from the Giving Tree. It shakes with joy when we're around and gives just what we need, at every age we need it: a place to play, love, adventure, plant roots, and sit in peace. Camp gives back and it does so over and over again, when we're physically present and even still when we've grown up and moved away.
12. The Gift of Immortality.
Because we're all going to live forever on the shores of Lake Kimball.
As time goes on, I think back on the multitude of gifts Camp Henry has bestowed (these twelve and so many more) and I feel compelled to also give back.
I dole out gifts in many ways. I like more camp photos on Instagram. I reach out to camp friends more frequently. I can't wait to send my kids to camp. And I support camp scholarships and initiatives like the improved dining hall because everyone deserves the gift of camp. Everyone deserves to sit squashed together on a bench, elbow to elbow, eating Helen's food, having the time of their lives and awaiting the next laking.
Here's to Christmas at camp and to camp at Christmas. I hope you look fondly on your camp gifts and have a very merry season!
About the Author:
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.
Amy VanHaren is a regular alumni blog poster for Camp Henry. To see her previous posts, click here.
This essay comes from long time camper, Raven Lucas. Raven started coming to camp years ago via recommendation of her cousin. She fell so in love with the sanctuary of acceptance, optimism, and love camp provides that she has been back every year since. Here is a little of what camp means to Raven:
Ode to Camp
As I walk into camp, being immediately greeted by many warm, welcoming, familiar faces; I pick up my pace. The words of the camp song repeat in my thoughts. I take in my surroundings with full adoration for the beauty they hold. I feel the hugs of well missed people and venture to find the senior cabin- my cabin- Kiowa. Instantly, memories of birds singing harmonically throughout the trees are brought to life. The shouts of joy rumbling the tables in the dining hall, while the counselors watched with animated eyes, rush through me like a gust of wind, wrapping around me with an aura of genuine love and affection.
I smile, seeing the faces of new campers bunking in the youngest cabins, eagerness manifested in their expression as they long to acquire the knowledge and feeling of joy that camp life bestows upon you. I hear the usual "hip-hip" or "heey campers!" from Jake the director, and know the true magic is about to happen. He gets that twinkle in his eye and a small mischievous smile as campers respond to his every chant and wish, then it's off to the races. I get dressed in whatever crazy gear he tells us to wear and quickly find myself caught up in a crazy game of strategy outside.
The wind whipping through my hair, and the sounds of laughter and shrieks fill the air and my legs run until they cry sore. I have paint in my hair and mud burning into my skin, coloring me darker than I am. Throughout the next hours I attend chapel, group activities, and create a bond with people from all across the world. I share stories of my life and opinions and they do, too; debates of silly topics or deep meaningful emotion. The nights consist of vespers on the floor, our bodies held close together in a circle as we voice our thoughts and pray hand in hand. In no time at all, camp comes to a close.
The scenery kisses me goodbye and I exhale on my bed as I long for camp to start all over again. Camp has taught me so many intricately beautiful lessons of life and how to love oneself and others. The words of the speakers and songs we go over in chapel move me like a weak tree swaying in a strong, soothing breeze. I taste the sweet flavor of new experiences and feel the wisdom grow through me as I strive to understand all that camp is and does. Camp makes me a better person, it teaches me valuable lessons that I wish everyone could know and cherish in their thoughts forever.
Surrounded by beautiful people with beautiful outlooks on life, camp was and is a place where I find pure joy and inner peace. It is a place where I can truly be myself without worrying about judgement or not fitting in. I know that there I am loved and cared about on a level that normal reality just doesn't offer me. I am always eager to attend and never ready to leave. It is my home, they are my family, and I'll never forget my sweet summer sanctuary.
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.
The Camp Henry staff has been putting a lot of time, energy, and thought into creating a theme that could continue to reflect on last summer's theme- You Are More. We wanted a tangible idea in which every camper could easily relate to for the rest of their days. With that, we find this summer's theme a continuance of instilling confidence, strength, and identity into every camper's hearts.
With that being said, we are very excited to introduce to you Camp Henry's theme for summer 2015 (drumroll please...)-
The dictionary defines Thrive as an action to prosper, to be successful or grow and develop vigorously.
With this, there are many different ways to see something thrive. For example, when you think of a tree that is thriving, you might picture strong roots and branches that are simply flourishing with green leaves and bearing fruit. Or you might imagine a store that is thriving with all of its foot traffic through the doors, expanding locations and growing in revenue. The more I think about it, the more I want to see this word define the way I live my life.
Too often are we seeing ourselves living in the past or looking ahead for what's to come and not being fully present with what's happening right in front of us! We are so dialed in to this 'survival mode' of just 'getting through' a situation or experience in life instead of enjoying and thriving in it. We often find ourselves thinking:
If I can just get to this weekend...
If I can just get to summer vacation...
If I can just finish this school project...
If I can just get to graduation...
We get so caught up in the "if I can only get through THIS, then I can get to THAT."
I then ask myself, how many moments and opportunities in between are we missing out on with having this mindset? It all becomes an exhausting cycle that is not very fulfilling.
During this summer, we want to encourage all campers and guests to not only discover their true selves and love the skin they're in by digging into God's word; but also think about how we can extend those experiences past camp and thrive in everything we do! We were not meant to struggle to make it through the week, the day, or the next hour. We were not meant to be held back by anxiety, worry, and fear; we are meant to live out the life we have and live it abundantly by knowing God and making Him known!
It is easy to identify something that is thriving and we hope that after your time spent at camp, you will see yourself thriving and not just surviving.
Thinking about coming to camp? While that sounds like a great idea, I want to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. I've been at Camp Henry for over 10 years now, and there are a few things they don't tell you in the brochure. Here are a list of 10 reasons you should not come to camp. If you can overlook these, camp is probably the perfect place for you!
1.It's quite possibly the ugliest place on Earth. Don't believe me? Just look at the sunsets- not even worth a second glance.
2. You’re encouraged to get as dirty as possible, paint your face, jump in the mud, and slip n’ slide down the slippery slopes. Sounds boring and gross if you ask me.
3. You’re forced to interact with strange people from all across the world and listen to them share their stories and traditions. Oh my days- who loves a British accent, anyway? Come on- you’re a mess if you do.
4. You spend the entire week participating in extremely boring activities such as climbing the Tator Tot, riding horses, rock climbing, zip-lining, and tubing on the Big Banana. Don’t put me down for that.
5. It’s hard to make life-long friends when everyone at camp is so welcoming, accepting, encouraging and loving all the time… how rude.
6. You have to go an entire week without electronics. Who wants to unplug, unwind, and spend time in community when they could be scrolling Facebook for the 300th time in one day? I won’t have time to post videos of people doing cool things if I’m stuck at camp doing nothing, so no thanks.
7. The people there wear ridiculous costumes, chant for no reason at all, and walk around complimenting you all day. Who wants to be a part of such a negative environment?
8. Once a week you have to camp outside and cook dinner over a fire. Who wants to sleep in a hammock, lay under the stars, or sit around a campfire with their cabin mates? Not me. And don’t even get me started on the beef stew- it’s so terrible I can’t stop eating it.
9. You spend the whole week challenging yourself, trying new things, and growing as a person. No thanks, sounds like way too much work.
10. You have to go to chapel every day, watch super boring skits, hear how amazing you are, and learn how great God’s love for you is. What a shame- just count me out right now.
Basically, camp is a really boring place where nobody would want to go. It's a shame I've been there for ten years now!
"When thinking about camp, so many memories comes to mind. I often see myself raving not only about the awesome activities we get to do like riding the big banana, or jumping in the mud pit, but also the vespers, chapels and cabin group connections that have shaped me in more ways than one.
One of my most prominent memories was during Friday night chapel when Kenny Hotaling asked me to speak about my faith journey and how camp has helped guide me. The biggest highlight was witnessing how camp extends love to truly every individual; just as Christ does. At camp we are surrounded by people who are constantly encouraging us and pouring positive energy into our lives. I knew from the first minute of stepping foot onto camp that my life would never be the same. I was shown God's love in so many different ways throughout my years as a camper.
Now in my time of being a staff member and being a few years older and wiser, I have found that it is much easier to show my faith from when I was a younger camper. It is very easy actually. Regardless of where you are, if you act just like you do while you are at camp, then you will be showing your Christian values. I have always thought that the words you speak are the most important aspects of representing oneself, but what's more important are your actions. Your actions will show what your heart reflects better than what you say. I try to live out my Christian faith in my everyday life by being who I am at camp all the time.
In my daily life I try to keep the mindset of being the biggest kid. I think one of the greatest parts of being a kid at heart is to live to my fullest potential and realize that if I glide through life just enough to get by, it won't be as fulfilling. As kids we go all out in every game we play and everything we do; not necessarily because we want to win but because of the simple fact that we are playing amongst our friends- which is all the joy we need. I love being a kid at heart because I can see the simple things and enjoy them.
My encouragement for everyone is to not lose their inner kid and to remember how they act at camp and to bring it out wherever they go. We can all spread our Christian values by extending camp's grace to the rest of the world. Embrace that inner child that we all have! Go have a spontaneous game of basketball, or eat your food with just your hands, or break into song! Whatever it is, remember the joys of being a child of God and know that He is with us through all of it. That is how I learned that my "camp self" is not only my best self but also my true self."
-"Burly" Ben Waterhouse
(If that's not enough to convince you there are still 6 more reasons!)
2. You can participate in adventurous activities like horseback riding, rock climbing, zip lining and riding on the big banana!
3. You get to do zany things that are out of the norm like stomp in a muddy puddle, wear a crazy wig, dress up like a pirate, and paint your face.
4. You get paid to eat s’mores, play with fire, go star tipping, sing and dance, throw your peers in the lake, conquer the wooden spoon challenge, watch the sun set, and eat pizza with chocolate milk.
5. You will meet some pretty amazing people and I can safely say that camp friendships are one of a kind that last a lifetime.
6. The memories you make at camp cannot compare to anything else.
7. And the best part- you get to be somebody's hero, make a lasting impression on a child's life and show every camper that they are important, valued and loved.
One thing I can guarantee is that you will start the summer off not knowing what to expect, but 10 weeks later, you will wish it never had to end.
This essay comes from long time camper, Amy Androw. Amy has been a part of camp for many years and just spent her last summer as a camper here on the shores. While applying to colleges, Amy used this as her essay topic to exemplify the true impact that camp has on an individual and how it will remain a part of her for the rest of her days.
Sublime to the Ridiculous
"Every summer, my parents joke that I go from the sublime to the ridiculous. But I think it's the other way around. From September to June, I attend a high school in Winnetka, Illinois. It is located in a privileged suburb, attracts top students, is highly competitive, has an extensive college counseling department, and facilitates social, academic, and athletic pressure. During June through August, however, I go to a small summer camp in Newaygo, Michigan. It is in a rural area, rich in history & tradition, inclusive to all and even extends a scholarship program to low income families. Their focus is not entirely on educational programming but is intentional about providing a positive life changing experience to ALL who come. It is located on a beautiful lake and exudes tranquility.
After nine months at my high school, Camp Henry is a place to refresh, renew, and recharge. The pace is slow, the air is fresh, the lake is clean (relatively), and the counselors believe that every camper deserves kindness, respect, support, and warmth. Essentially, it is the exact opposite mind-set that I view my school to possess.
Camp Henry is a Christian-based environment, to which I am half Jewish. But there is no conflict between the values of camp and my personal values. From the director on down, the philosophy, and therefore behavior, takes the best part of Christianity— kind acts, warm connections, encouraging words, and selfless gestures— and leaves the prejudices behind. There are wild activities, night time pranks, and the occasional challenges, but Camp Henry is committed to providing a comforting and loving haven for all the campers. I have attended this camp since I was eight-years-old, several years for a six-week period. I have backpacked in Alaska, slept on the beaches of Lake Superior, helped cook beef stew over a campfire, cleaned the bathrooms, made dozens of friendship bracelets, and in general lived with compassion and without fear of judgement in a way that would be utterly foreign to my high school atmosphere. Sometimes it is hard to reconcile those hard-driving, overly anxious, and overachieving pressures with the relaxed and gentle people at Camp Henry. In fact, I think my classmates would be surprised that I derive so much pleasure from such a simple place.
I realize that Camp Henry is a little piece of paradise where everyone is more generous, friendly, and complimentary than people in the real world. But I have learned how to take some of that goodness back to reality with me, and try to keep it alive under any circumstances. As much as Camp Henry and my high school differ, they also provide a balance in my life. I use kindness and selflessness in the way I interact with people, yet still use the knowledge and ambition I have derived from school. Nonetheless, as I look at the cycle of my life during the year, I am absolutely convinced that in June I go from the ridiculous to the sublime."
Amy has spent the last 10 summers on the shores and hopes to keep a strong connection with the camp family. Amy is currently a senior at New Tier High School in Chicago, Illinois and plans to later attend college for political science.
Ever wonder how to get a sampler of camp without sleeping over? Well, I have the answer for you if you are between the ages of 5-8 or have children between the ages of 5-8. DAYCAMP at Camp Henry is the answer!
Every Friday night as I sit in the audience at the Camp Henry Talent Show, I am in awe of how many Day Camp "alumni" are up on stage, grown up to "big campers". Gobs of kids that started out at Day Camp and then found the courage to become a sleep-over camper fill the cabins each week. It is such a pleasure for me to be able to watch them grow into the amazing young people that they are. Maddie, who is now on staff at Camp Henry started out as a camper at Day Camp. She was up at the Nicely Center the other day and found her name on the Day Camp "skin". Here she is, 18 years old, going off to Africa for a year before she begins college, all grown up, and she still remembers her Day Camp experience fondly. Jake and JJ's kids, Levi, Luke and Logan, have all been day campers. My girls, Emma, Grace, and Jane, have all been day campers. Many previous staff members' kids have come full circle and have been day campers.
I have had the privilege of being the Day Camp Director for the past 8 years. Day Camp is a wonderful opportunity for children ages 5-8 to come to Camp Henry and do many of the activities that sleep over campers do, except they get to sleep in their own beds at night tucked in by mom or dad. A typical week at Day Camp looks a lot like regular camp including raising the flag, singing songs, arts and crafts, B-field games, horseback riding, tie-dying, mini-talent show, hearing stories, learning of God's love, making friends, swimming in Lake Kimbell, and of course, eating in the dining hall.
We somehow pack a ton of stuff into 6 short hours a day. Many local kids come from the Newaygo, Fremont area and many kids come up from Grand Rapids on the van provided by Camp Henry. The vans are often driven by former staff members of Camp Henry who are now moms that want their kids to have the same amazing experience that they had. The van leaves Westminster Presbyterian Church in the morning at 8:30 and returns at 4:30. The day campers are tired, dirty, and full of stories about their action packed day.
As a mother, I look back at photos of when my girls began at Day Camp. They were missing teeth, had knots in their beautiful hair, were covered in mud, had "red juice moustaches", wearing their tie-dyed shirts proudly, and most importantly, they were smiling! They were loved unconditionally by their counselors, they were immersed in God's love and they were allowed to just be "kids." They weren't watching television, playing video games, or rushing off to soccer practice, but they were encouraged to just "play", build forts, get dirty, chase frogs, wear silly face paint, and express themselves for who they are. Their experience as campers began as day campers and I am forever grateful.
When I was young (a hundred years ago), I went to a Girl Scout sleep over camp and was terribly homesick. I wrote my parents a letter in my best cursive explaining how much I missed them and how badly I wanted to come home. I have that letter framed and hanging up in my house now. The letter is funny and makes me smile now, but I vividly remember the feelings I had while I was there at camp with "Sea shell" as my counselor. It was all so new to me and the other girls seemed to be so much more experienced with camp than I was. I wish that I had the opportunity to attend day camp as a youngster as a prequel to camp because I think that I might not have been quite as homesick for my first experience as a sleepover camper. I took a couple of years off after Girl Scout camp, and later returned to sleepover camp and managed much better the next go around. Thank Goodness!
I am blessed each summer because I get to see these young day campers begin their love of Camp Henry. I also am blessed because I get to see my own children grow into the best version of themselves due to the love shown at Camp Henry.
Day Camp really does Rock!
Kelly Hotaling, Mom and Day Camp Director