This post comes from another long time camper and current summer camp counselor, 'Burly' Ben Waterhouse. We asked Ben what it means to be ones 'camp self' and how it has made such a lasting impact on his life.
"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.
To find out more about becoming a staff member at Camp Henry,
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
As summer is rolling right along, we've asked a few campers to write about their favorite parts and experiences at Camp Henry to share with all of you. Here is what Erin has to share about her experiences at Camp Henry and in Waterskiing and Wakeboarding Camp.
I’ve been going to Camp Henry for 6 years now and it has always been one of my favorite places to go in the summer. You get to try so many new things and meet so many great people. Everyday, you do some activities with your cabin and some with your brother cabin. You also get to choose some activities to do four mornings a week with anyone else in camp.
However, there are alternatives to the regular morning activities. For example, the past two years I have done water skiing and wakeboarding camp. I’ve gotten into wakeboarding and Camp Henry has an awesome program for people who like wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, etc. that you get to do during the morning activities. It’s so much fun and you get to learn new tricks, or if you’ve never done wakeboarding or water skiing before then you can learn how to.
Every night at Camp Henry you close off with some all camp games or campfires, which are always so much fun and I look forward to them everyday. Camp Henry is a great place to spend part of my summer and I will be going for as long as I can.
Erin Overholt is 15 years old and this summer was her 6th time at Camp Henry. She has loved going every time. Erin will be a sophomore at Forest Hills Northern High School. She wakeboards and snowboards and loves to play sports like basketball, soccer, cross country and crew. Erin also has a younger sister named Emily who also attends Camp Henry every summer.
As summer is rolling right along, we've asked a few campers to write about their favorite parts and experiences at Camp Henry to share with all of you. Here is what Quinn Kirby, a long time senior camper, has to say about her time at camp.
Ever since I started coming to camp six years ago, it has always been a place of complete and utter acceptance and support. Chapel is a feel-good experience every day, and the messages that flow so freely through the staff's skits are uplifting to anyone who hears them.
It isn't the sense of belonging that brings me back year after year, although that alone would most definitely keep me coming back. It's the camaraderie, the bonding with your cabin and the complete overflow of activities that makes camp seem more like an amusement park rather than just 200-acres of land.
Take, for example, my personal favorite choice of a morning activity-rock camp. Rock camp is not, in fact, an intense, research-filled, daily expedition for quartz, petosky and other stones and minerals, but a fifty minute section of the day cut out completely for music. You never know what you're going to get each week. You could sing a barrage of Beatles songs, worship songs that make you feel like dancing, or secular songs that never fail to get everyone on their feet.
That said, at the end of the week, the camp enjoys a talent show where anyone can perform. This has become a personal tradition for me to write a song and sing along with my guitar. The support by the camp by the time I'm off stage is one of the happiest things I've ever felt.
Camp has taught me to love myself and to stand up for my beliefs, even if I'm the only one standing.