Long time camper, Molly Malnor, takes a moment to reflect on her 8 summers spent at Camp Henry before she enters her last year as a camper.
The first time I ever saw camp, I was much too young to be able to officially be a camper, but my parents and some family friends dropped off the kids who were lucky enough to spend a week at Camp Henry. It was always irritating being the youngest of three, but now I appreciate it more than ever. Thanks to my brothers who both went to camp sporadically through the years, I realized their fault, and started at age 9 and have gone every year since. That's eight whole years that my life has been influenced by the wonders of camp. Now, I am looking forward to pulling past the Nicely Center and lugging all of my camp baggage to a cabin for my last week as a camper, and while I'm sad to see my time go, I am more than excited to see what week six has in store for me this summer.
My first year I was in Shoshone Cabin, with Barbara as a counselor. Little did I know I was meeting friends I would see and get to know for years to come, and people who continue to inspire me to this day. Counselors and campers alike, I have learned so much about the world, other people, and myself. That is a feat. It really is. The ability that camp has to change people's lives never ceases to amaze me. For a long time, I really thought that camp magic was the power to make me a whole different person, more outgoing, fun loving, and overall, happier. In reality however, camp gives ME the power to be myself. Every week I've spent at camp has given me little pieces of information about myself, and that is a unique experience that I doubt most people will be able to have- unless they get to spend time on the shores.
Throughout this year I have been anxiously awaiting this summer at camp, and what that means for me, is looking at old pictures, and daydreaming about the wonders of camp. One of these camp throwback sessions, I was looking on the camp website, pretending that the weather was as nice as I wish it were, and reminiscing about my fondest camp memories. On that browse, I found the section of the site that gives the mission of camp. Ten adjectives are listed there: "Christian, Leadership, Tradition, Education, Diversity, Safety, Relationships, Teamwork, Sustainability, Fun". All are so astoundingly true. I also realized, that these were the qualities that I loved about camp, and their ability to shine through camp people. All ten are incredibly important to me; they are qualities that are influential in my day to day life and have been instrumental in making me who I am today.
Leadership is something that I've always strived to add to my personal repertoire. Looking at all the role models who have shown me their leadership at camp, it has made it so much easier for me to step into leadership opportunities in my school and community. Being an older camper last year gave me some insight into being able to cope with wild campers, lead activities even when people might not be thrilled to have been put in that group, and help to give advice to campers who might be going through tough times. Thanks to the most incredible staff people I've ever encountered, I've been able to find some resemblance of a leadership quality in my own personality, and used it to boost my success as a High School student.
Diversity is something special that camp adds to my life. I really try to put myself in situations to learn about different ways of life, and broaden my horizons, but most of the time, I have embraced diversity at camp. Diversity to me is being surrounded by people who have life stories that give you a new perspective on situations you may have never encountered. Learning about the various girls I've been so honored to spend time with at camp, it has taught me that people can rarely be judged fairly based on appearances or first impressions. This has also helped me want to get to know people who I may have been nervous to approach before my brilliant camp experiences.
Relationships are probably my favorite piece of camp that I carry with me today. Firstly I have gotten to know so many fabulous people who I still call my friends. Not only am I able to encounter new people and form relationships I otherwise might not be able to make without camp, but I have maintained many as well. It seems funny how there are people who go to my school, and I probably would not have had the opportunity to know well, but going to camp has made it possible. Making lasting friendships in approximately 45 minutes with the help of a plunge in the lovely lake Kimball has helped me learn to try and form bonds with varying people and taught me to be open to all different types of people.
The Christian aspects are also incredibly close to my heart because of how much they have helped me grow as a person, and camp always shows me that I still have so much room to grow. This past year, on one of the final nights of the week, my cabin sat in a circle on the floor of Ottawa cabin, and filled out each others last vesper papers. These sheets have a bare tree, and the idea is to fill out ways that your cabin mates are either rooted, or have grown. For our whole cabin people had little leaves labeled 'faith' which represents our growth in it, and that is the absolutely profound magic of camp.
Every now and again I remember all of the night chapels I have cried during, and I'm constantly thinking all of the worship that happens on the shores and I'm so glad to have been blessed enough to be a camper for these many years, and look forward to making new memories in 2014. Although I went to camp for multiple weeks for a few summers, I am now limited to just one as I struggle to schedule a hectic summer prior to my senior year. As I look forward to joining the group of my peers that have outgrown their days as campers, and even though many of the staff members have since moved on to different jobs and locations, my camp stories and memories, and theirs I'm sure, will remain favorites for years and years to come. Because as you may know, a camp friend is a friend forever and a day.
Molly will be a senior at East Grand Rapids in the fall and is looking forward to her last summer on the shores as a camper.
Meet the 2014 Summer Staff! These short bios will help you get to know our awesome staff before summer even starts. Be sure to check out Part 1 below if you haven't already.
Grace Erb aka Gerb or Gracie is so enthused to be spending a whole summer with kids outdoors! It's her goal to become an elementary school teacher. Grace is a native to Crystal Lake, IL and is studying at the University of Illinois. When she has down time, you will probably find her in a body of water, be it a lake, river or pool. And if she is not on the lake front this summer, you can catch her up with the horses as she used to ride competitively. Believe it or not, she actually spent an entire month in Australia with her family, snorkeling and riding camels! Grace hopes her actions this summer will show the campers they are loved and accepted.
Ryan Reisler aka Reis will be keeping Camp Henry running smoothly as he is the Facilities Director. When he has down time, he loves to go backpacking and whitewater canoeing. As a native to Vermont, he has an affinity for colder weather and can often be found wearing shorts in weather most people would consider wearing a winter coat in. Ryan completed his degree in Adventure Education at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. You can rest assured that Camp Henry's facilities are in good hands as this is Ryan's dream job! Click here to learn more about Ryan.
Tim Larson will be making the trek to Camp Henry all the way from Fort Collins, CO for his second summer. Tim is an outdoor aficionado and loves to go hiking, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking and so much more. You name it and if it's outside, Tim probably loves to do it. In fact, he has hiked to the top of two 14,000 ft. mountains in the same day! He is really looking forward to returning to Camp after a hiatus and can't wait to work with the amazing kids and staff. He hopes they know that they are loved and that they are important and that they learn to show other this love.
Ben Waterhouse aka Big Ben has found a great niche at Camp Henry. He is currently enrolled at Anderson University and hopes to work in the youth ministry field once he finishes up his degree in Bible and Religion and Nonprofit Leadership Management. He is excited to see the campers grow over the course of the week they spend at camp. While Ben enjoys playing Rugby now, he used to do gymnastics when he was little. His hope is that every camper will know how amazing they are and how much God loves them.
Blake Lopez, originally from Southern California, has made his way out to Camp Henry for the past two summers and excited to be here for his 3rd year on staff. Blake will finish his Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this June. When he has free time, he enjoys going on hikes and hanging out in his hammock. He can't wait to see new and old campers and staff experience and embrace the 2014 theme of "You Are More" and he wants them to know that they are loved.
Colleen Roddy aka C-Rod or Rods is a fresh face on staff this summer. She grew up in Traverse City and is a student at Hope College studying Special Education. C-Rod enjoys playing sports, hiking, boating and skiing. A really cool fact about Colleen is that she has never had any form of soda. She is eager to have the opportunity to be with kids every day at Camp Henry! She hopes that each camper walks away being confident in who they are and embracing their unique quirks.
Liz Price aka LP is one of many staff members that loves a good dip in the lake and can really get into a good water polo match! Liz is taking a summer break from her studies at Grand Rapids Community College and is returning for her second summer on staff. She is looking forward to pouring into the kids in her cabin as well as connecting with other campers new and old alike. In her spare time and when she is not in the water, she can be found shooting hoops, picking flowers, long boarding, and eating canned peaches. Next time you see her, ask her to make her eyebrows do the worm. Her hope for this summer is that every camper that leaves the shores will know and believe they are more and are truly loved.
David Alorka will be coming over from England to spend his 4th summer on the shores. David is truly a man of many talents. He is passionate about football, the British kind, otherwise known as soccer. He also uses his degree in International Business Studies to help start ups and small to medium organizations grow through consulting work. David is also working on becoming a pilot for British Airways and is logging away as many hours as he can to reach his goal. David hopes that every camper that attends camp this summer will have their lives enriched by their time here.
Alejandra De Mingo aka Ali is traveling all the way from her home in Madrid, Spain to be on staff this summer. Ali attending Camp Henry as a kid and is returning for her first year on staff after several years away. She has a flair for sharing her international experience with other and hopes to pursue a career in foreign affairs. Ali is overjoyed to be returning and is eager to help campers have just as amazing a time as she had when she was younger. When she has some free time she enjoys working out, singing and spending time with loved ones. Her hopes for the campers this summer is that they love and appreciate themselves and in turn appreciate and respect others.
Cody DeLonge is super excited to be on staff this summer. He was a former camper and is glad to be returning as a counselor where he can connect with his campers each week. Cody is currently working on writing his first book and is studying Communications through Devry University. He aspires to be an journalist. When he is not busy writing, he enjoys playing disc golf and flag football. A fun fact about Cody is that he has actually grabbed a charging bull by the horns. He wants the campers to see how important they really are.
Angela Polmanteer, who is studying at Grand Valley, joins us for her second summer on staff. Her favorite outdoor activity is horseback riding, which is where she spends most of her time at camp as a wrangler! She actually won the Best Child Rider Award in 2006. She is excited to meet new campers and staff and be reunited with the returning folks. During her spare time, she likes to read, run, cook, and hike. Her hope and advice for the campers and staff this summer is that you should be proud of your faith and to never be afraid to exploring and furthering your faith.
Adam Swenson aka Swentz is a jack of all trades and is excited to be completing his third year on both year round staff and on summer staff. Originally from New Bloomfield, PA, Adam loves going boating, camping and traveling. He also enjoys baking and eating delicious food. In case you didn't know, he also has one two male pageants and toured Europe with a choir. He would love to own his own alpaca farm and call it "Alpaca you a Lunch." Adam is eager to see what this summer will hold and hopes that all campers get a better glimpse of who they are in the image of God. To learn more about Adam, click here.
Jennie Bander aka JB, Biebz, Jay Band, and Fever is getting ready to spend her second summer on the shores. She's a part of the year round crew that staffs camp during the school year for various school and retreat groups. If you can't find Biebz, she is probably off hiking or enjoy a good rest in her hammock. A University of Michigan alum, she studied Nursing and has a passion for working with people who have special needs. During her younger years, she was a competitive figure skater for 15 years. Now she's a volunteer coach in Grand Rapids in her spare time. Jennie is looking forward to spending time in the wonderful community of camp and assisting the campers in learning more about their identity in God. To learn more about Jennie, click here.
Catherine Bradley aka Cate is a Newaygo native and is excited to be on staff for her first time this summer. Cate enjoys horseback riding, swimming and a is always down for a mad game of kickball. During the school year, Cate is attending Western Michigan and studying Biomedical Science and Nursing. She hopes to use her education to do mission work abroad in orphanages. A interesting fact about Cate is that she has a twin brother! Cate is looking forward to the campfires at night and swimming in Lake Kimball. It is her hope that each camper that attends Camp Henry will leave feeling like Camp has made them a better "them."
Sarah Allaben aka Saqua is going to call Camp Henry home for her third summer and can't wait for the 2014 theme "You Are More" to be applied. She because everyone from ages 1 to 100 can benefit from being reminded of how wonderful they are and how perfectly they were created. Saqua is an avid water polo player and loves to swim in all bodies of water. She can also wiggle her ears just like Marissa. She just graduated from Michigan State University with her Bachelor's degree in dietetics and will be returning in the fall to start on her master's degree. It is her goal this summer to the campers not just know but truly believe they are more.
Maura Davis is gearing up for her first summer at Camp Henry and can't wait to see it in summer mode. As Guest Services Director, she is one of a handful of year round staff. She hails from Royal Oak, MI and studied at Alma College. In her spare time she like to go hiking with her family, attempt to garden and walk her dog, Porter. A fun fact about Maura is that she likes to find and identify spiders. With her BS in Biology Education, she is passionate about helping kids unplug and appreciate spending time outdoors. To learn more about Maura, click here.
Madison Wojtkowski aka Madi or Wojo is following in her mother's footsteps by returning to the shores of Old Lake Kimball. Madi loves to play all sports from football to kickball. She is busy during the year studying Special Education and Psychology at Indiana Wesleyan. She enjoys working on arts and crafts projects when she has a free moment. She also has a very unique middle name, ask her what it is next time you see her! This summer, Madi can't wait to meet all the kids and help them realized that God loves them no matter what.
Nate Peterson aka Gator is headed to the shores for his first summer on staff. He can be found either playing sports, swimming or laying in his hammock when he has downtime. In fact, he is so good at swimming, he earned a scholarship to study and swim at Olivet Nazarene University. He is hoping to go into business management after college. He loves to skate and be active but most of all he loves to share God with others and show them that their faith is something to be proud of.
Genevieve Howell aka John-V spoken with a French accent will be spending her 3rd summer on staff at Camp Henry. She has been a year round staff member for the past two years and playing on the High Ropes Course. Genevieve is also one of our musically talented staff. She plays piano, violin and guitar. She claims to have been raised by polar bear for twelve years, although this may be up for debate. John-V is looking forward to the chaos of summer camp and hopes campers will learn more about the height and depth of the love of Christ. Click here to learn more about Genevieve.
Ben Thompson aka Thompson is from Dowagiac, MI and will be coming to Camp Henry for his 1st summer. He is currently studying at Michigan State and is hoping to pursue a career working with children or following his calling to ministry. When he is not in classes, he enjoys playing the Spartan marching band, watching old movies and going to the beach to soak up the sun and play in the water. This summer he is looking forward to warmer temperatures and helping kids have a wonderful experience at camp, especially those attending for the first time. Ben hopes campers can find a deeper understanding of God while they are here.
Amanda DeKuiper aka Mandi has one of the most important jobs at camp. She is our Food Service Director, which means she is in charge of running the kitchen and getting delicious food prepared for every single meal this summer. She is excited to meet all the people and kids that will come through camp over the summer months. Mandi is from Fremont, MI and when she has free time she enjoys camping, hiking, boating, fishing and swimming. She also has a gigantic book collection, enough to fill a library! Mandi's goal for the summer is to show campers and staff that camp food is great!
Jennifer Robelli aka Jen or Knower of all Things is the master mind behind the scenes that helps Camp Henry run so smoothly. During her time at camp, she has worn many hats and is currently the Camp Administrator. And yes, she really knows just about everything about what is going on at camp or how to get things done. When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, Daisy. Her goal for this summer is to have everything on the office side of things run as smoothly as possible. She also hopes to get up to the horses for at least one trail ride and out on the lake to try out our new stand up paddle boards. For more information on Jen, click here.
Meet the 2014 Summer Staff! These short bios will help you get to know our awesome staff before summer even starts and this is just part one! Stay tuned for part two later this week. Pictures will come in early June once staff training gets underway.
Spencer Wild aka Swild is coming back to the shores for his 3rd summer on staff. His favorite outdoor activity is anything that is competitive or involves a ball. Swild is a Grand Rapids native and he enjoys reading, going to concerts and playing basketball when he is not studying for his classes at Hope College. A random fact about Swild is that he once swam 4 miles in the open ocean, now he can maybe swim 4 yards, on a good day, with floaties. He wants each camper that comes to Camp Henry this summer to simply know that they are loved.
Emily Cole is returning for her second summer on staff and is really looking forward to wearing crazy clothes, singing at the top of her lungs and being invested in campers' lives. When she is not at Camp Henry, she can be found cooking and eating delicious food, rock climbing, swimming or working in the garden. An interesting fact about Emily is that when she was a child, she was bitten by a deer at a petting zoo and has a picture to prove it! Her hope for the campers this summer is that they will try new things and find new gifts and abilities they didn't know they had before camp.
Marissa Vargo aka Maraqua or Mer or Merbin (take your pick) will be starting her 4th summer on staff after spending many summers on the shores as a camper. She just finished up her degree in Communications with a minor in Youth Studies and Recreation at Central Michigan University. She is also one of the handful of year round program staff at Camp Henry. She loves water activities, going on adventures and playing bandana tag. She is really excited to see how much returning campers have grown and help new campers grow as well. Marissa hopes that every camper will learn to be more positives, strong and confident by the time they leave camp this summer. Next time you see Marissa, ask her to wiggle her ears for you!
Ronald Hedgcock aka Ron is from Crystal Lake, IL and is joining the Camp Henry Summer Staff for his first summer on the shores. When he is not busy applying to be on the next Survivor, Ron likes to go camping and backpacking. He also enjoys board games, running and swimming. Ron has an extensive background in working at camps and is excited to be at Camp Henry and have the opportunity to serve in new ways. He studied Psychology and Political Science at Calvin and plans on working with kids. He hopes that each camper will come to know about the power of God's love and strength.
Jennifer Lewis aka Jenni, a former AC (assistant counselor) is wrapping up her first year at Grand Valley and will be spending the summer on staff for the first time. It's her goal to work for a nonprofit that focuses on children after she graduates. Her favorite outdoor activities are riding horses and playing soccer. She also plays the guitar and piano and is fluent in Spanish and working on learning American Sign Language. She is excited to see all the friendships campers will form and to help them grow in their faith and confidence.
JJ Jacobs has been able to call Camp Henry home for many summers, more summers than she can count on her fingers. Her favorite thing to do outside is go hiking and she also enjoys spending time with her family, going running and reading a good book. She can't wait to see campers smiling while they sing, play and enjoy camp this summer. Something you may not know about JJ is that she spent two summers living in a tent, planting trees for the forest service. JJ hopes that every camper will leave camp knowing that they are special.
Jake Jacobs is getting ready to spend his 18th summer on the shores as Camp Director. He is also the Executive Director of Camp Henry and is looking forward to having a front row seat to seeing lives changed (including his) at camp! Jake loves to go canoeing and traveling with his wife, JJ, and three sons, Levi, Luke, and Logan. A fun fact about Jake is that he once worked on a train in Alaska. His hope for each kid that comes to camp this summer is that they are loved just how they are. To learn more about Jake, click here.
Elizabeth Ray aka Liz, Lizzie, E-Ray, E-Beth is getting ready for her 4th summer on staff. She is from Benton, MO and after graduating from Southeast Missouri State with a BS in Recreation, she sought her dream job of working in camping ministry by coming to work at Camp Henry year round. She is so amped to see what the summer staff will accomplish and to see lives that are impacted while at camp. An interesting fact about E-Beth is that she is closer in age to her youngest niece than all her other siblings, other than her twin sister, of course! She hopes that campers will leave with the knowledge that they are more than they know. To learn more about E Ray, click here.
Erica Thomas aka Eri Cat is a California native who joins the Camp Henry Summer Staff after spending the past 10 months as year round staff. She is excited to experience her first summer on the shores and can't wait to sing, play and laugh all summer long. Erica loves to be active and can often be found on the waterfront SUPing or swimming. She has the unique ability to lick her own elbow despite claims that it is impossible. It is her desire that all summer campers will have a strong identity after their time at camp and that they will feel and know they are loved. To learn more about Erica, click here.
Madeline Karsten aka Maddy joins us from Grand Rapids for her 1st year on staff. She loves to go hiking and swimming in the great outdoors. She also likes to run, read and spend time with friends. A fun detail about Maddy is that she can't roll her tongue. She is thrilled to meet new people and change kids' lives this summer. She wishes that campers will learn and know that they are more than their mistakes or flaws and that they are always welcome at camp.
Kenny Hotaling aka God Father is coming to Camp Henry for the 9th summer in a row from Morro Bay, California. When he isn't teaching middle school, he is busy surfing and spending time with his family. His favorite activity at camp is wakeboarding and can often be found on the waterfront. Kenny is eager to explore the 2014 theme, You are more, and hopes that campers learn that God has a plan for them and that plan is GOOD!
Brianna Marshall will be spending her 3rd summer on the shores as a staff member and is looking forward to seeing the kids again and learning new things! She is one of a few California natives at Camp Henry. She came to Michigan to study Geology at Calvin and aspires to help rural areas deal with the effects of natural disasters. Her favorite outdoor activity is hiking and everyone loves to hear her sing with her beautiful voice. A random tidbit about Bri is that she met Arnold Schwarzenegger in California's state capitol, Sacramento. Bri's desire for campers this summer is that they understand that they are loved and that each of them has so much to offer the world.
Alexander MacDonald aka Maverick or Mav is coming back for a second season at Camp Henry. Outside of camp, Mav is working on his dream of becoming a pediatrician. Ask any camper from last summer and they can tell you that Maverick is an Ultimate Frisbee fantastic. He also enjoys reading, riding his motorcycle and solving Cryptics. A fascinating fact about Mav is that he had 6 wisdom teeth pulled when he was a teenager (that's two more than usual!). He can't wait to go mermaid watching this summer and help campers know they are loved.
Kelly Hotaling aka KB, Kelly Belly, or Schmeli is coming back for her 9th summer at Camp Henry. During the year, Kelly spends her time in beautiful California practicing physical therapy and helping people have more mobility and a greater quality of life. Kelly and Kenny have three daughters that come to camp for the summer as well. Kelly loves to go hiking, running and skiing. In fact, she has climbed the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states two times! She is looking forward to loving kids and staff and growing closer to Christ this summer. She hopes that every camper knows they are loved for who they are.
Hannah Kugele, who happens to love playing with and blowing bubbles outside, is a familiar face at Camp Henry despite this being her first summer on staff. Hannah is currently wrapping up her first year at Ashland University and hopes to become a reading teacher and eventually open up a boarding school. It should be no surprise that she loves to read and write. She also enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies and playing quidditch; in fact she is a beater on her school's quidditch team. She hopes that campers will learn that they have the power to make the world just as loving, caring and friendly as camp is.
Rachel Mindes aka Rae, Rach, Mindes is another long time Camp Henry camper and staff member. She is coming back for her 4th summer on staff. When she is not at Camp, she is working on her degree in Illustration at Kendall College of Art and Design. Mindes loves to go camping, hiking and swimming and she also enjoys a chill afternoon lying in the sand or on the deck. You can also find her on the four square court or on the A-field playing Bombo. She is thrilled to be able to impact and love on more kids this summer and help them learn to love and accept themselves!
Scott Fowler aka Scott Bro is another veteran staff member with 4 summers already under his belt. Scott Bro comes from St. Joseph, MI and is very musically talented. He spends time playing his guitar in a praise band and is eager to find new ways to positively impact kids' lives at camp. If you can't find Scott on the Dining Hall deck playing his guitar, you may be able to spot him searching for 4 leaf clovers. He is really good at finding them. Scott is looking forward to assisting campers as they learn to try new things and step outside of their comfort zone.
Even though this is Erin Eighmey's first summer at Camp Henry, she can't wait to be a part of all the traditions! Erin is a majoring in Public and Nonprofit Administration with a double minor in Hospitality and Tourism Management and Environmental Studies at Grand Valley. She hopes to put her studies to work with a nonprofit similar to Kid's Food Basket. When Erin isn't studying, she is busy crocheting scarves for the Winter Special Olympics. She also enjoys running or riding her bike and spending quality time with her family. Her hope for this summer is that campers know how valued and loved they are.
Sarah Veldman aka Serr-ah or Veldie is coming back for her second year on staff and can't wait to hang out with campers on the shores. She is excited to learn and experience God's love together with them this summer. Sarah's hometown is Coopersville, MI and she is currently attending Grand Valley and studying Clinical Exercise Science. She loves to play basketball, throw a Frisbee around, play guitar and go fishing. And even though she is not entirely sure what color her eyes are, she is certain that each camper will learn that God sees each of them as His perfect, amazing, and beautiful children.
India Daniels aka Inds is another new staff member who joins us from Chicago. She is just wrapping up her first year at Calvin College and can't wait to learn all the Camp Henry traditions this summer. She loves a good book or going on a hike in her spare time. A random fact about India is that one time she ended up with cornrows accidently and apparently they aren't a good look for her. Ask her about that sometime as there has to be a good story behind that! India is hoping that campers and staff will know that God loves each of them and that they will love others in the same way.
Jaclyn Mancos aka Jackie hails from Farmington Hills, MI and is about to start her first summer at Camp. She spends her free time doing yoga, swimming, cooking, and running when she is not caught up in her studies at Central Michigan. Jackie hoping to become a registered dietitian that helps families live healthier lives. She is thrilled with the opportunity to meet all the campers this summer and is hoping they understand that they are more than whatever it is that society depicts them to be. If you happen to start a pick-up game of soccer this summer, she's a good one to have on your team as she played for 11 years!
Molly Peterson aka Gilly loves a great game of smuggle and will be delighted to be playing it many times during her second summer on staff. Gilly is very comedic and will be sure to have you laughing whether you are kayaking, horseback riding or just playing a round of Euchre. She spends the school year studying Human Developmental and Family Studies at Michigan State. If you want to learn a fun fact about Gilly, ask her about her belly button, it's one of a kind! She is eager to return to the camp community and hopes that kids learn more about a life with Christ.
By definition, a camp friend is simply someone that you meet at camp. It may be someone you met as a camper or someone you had the pleasure of working with on staff for a summer. Camp friends know you better than most. They have seen you act a fool at opening camp fire, they have been with you on a camp out when a massive storm blew at 3 am, they have cried with you at Friday chapel during Week 8, they have laughed with you during skit night, they have loaned you their grooviest polyester threads for disco banquet and they helped you wash peanut butter out of your hair after Dutch Auction. Hands down, these friends are, to quote my camp friend Kelly Hotaling, "the best in the west."
The summer between 4th and 5th grade my family relocated from the Detroit area to Grand Rapids. To make the big move seem less traumatic, my grandparents sent me to Camp Henry and lucky for me, my best friend Angela was able to come too. I remember it like it was yesterday; we were in Apache cabin and our counselor was Stephanie Litton. I recall having butterflies in my stomach as we waited to jump in the lake and take the swim test and how excited I was to see that our first meal was pizza and chocolate milk. During that week I met some new friends who went to the school I would be attending in the fall and on the first day of school I was so grateful to see a few familiar faces. When I got a little homesick for my old friends back in Detroit, I always knew I would see my best friend Angela for a week a camp every summer despite the fact that we now lived two hours away instead of around the corner. Having "camp friends" from my old home and now my new home made all the difference in helping me with this transition.
In the mid-90s when I was on staff, "camp friends" were your entire life for the summer. This was before cell phones, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc. Back then there was a one payphone in Millar that everyone used to contact those back in the "real world." I remember distinctly having discussions with my non-camp friends about my lack of communication May – August. If it was an emergency, family and friends knew to call Millar and keep their fingers crossed that someone would answer – and then be able to locate me. Saturday day offs were spent with camp friends. Rarely did we even consider heading back to Grand Rapids or our respective schools to visit our "other" friends. The main concern was who was driving to the laundry mat, what time the Taco Bell in Fremont opened, what we needed to pick up at Wal-Mart for the upcoming week and when Palmer Tie Dye Weekend would be. We traveled in packs, always together.
Eventually we all grew up. We graduated from college, started attending camp weddings and then camp baby showers. I am so grateful that my camp friends were present when I married by husband and loved when they loudly chanted for him to carry me around the gazebo at our reception. These camp friends are now not only special to me but also special to my daughters. My girls love looking at my photo albums and hearing stories about the fun, crazy and now probably unsafe things we used to do at camp. If I close my eyes I can still hear Chris McCleary and Cary Fletter singing "Forever and a Day", Katy Kozal's voice as she called "HORSES!!" at feeding time in the corral, Mark Penning giving the best weather report anyone has ever heard ("sunny skies and a high near 90!"), Jody Waclawski's giggle and Jake singing Big Yellow Taxi at a PJ Sing. No matter how much time goes by, when I see these camp friends it is like no time has gone by at all. We will always be united by that special bond of time spent together on the shores of old Lake Kimball.
Sarah (Carrington) Nelson began her camp journey during the summer of 1985. She has been a camper, Assistant Counselor, Counselor and Wrangler. Currently she is a camper parent, Camp Henry Board Member and works part time at MVP Sportsplex.
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.
Camp Henry's 1st Annual Triathlon!
Saturday June 14th, 2014
Each year we strive to never turn a child away due to their inability to pay to come to Camp Henry. In 2013, over 26% of all campers received some level of financial assistance – and Camp Henry was able to provide over $118,000 in scholarship support.
Yet, we still had campers on the waiting list for scholarships and we were not able to fund every request.
Camp Henry's IronKid will be an awesome event that will help provide a child who is in need of support with the opportunity to experience Camp Henry this summer.
IronKid Sponsor - click here to find out how you or your company can get involoved as an IronKid Sponsor
Donate - Click here to donate to Camp Henry's Summer Camp Scholarship Fund!
To reach the IronKid main page with all of these links, click here.