A Successful Summer – 2020 & COVID-19

In March of 2020, COVID-19 led to a complete shut down in the state of Michigan. Our Governor (Gretchen Whitmer, Camp Newaygo Alumni) ordered a stay at home order that lasted through June 1st. A task force was assembled to find a way to safely open summer camps in Michigan. Jane Vitek was able to serve on that committee, which gave the order to open residential camps on June 26th.

Camp Newaygo never wavered in our pursuit to safely accomplish camp program. Nearly every summer camp in Michigan closed, or offered either virtual programs or limited day camps. 

Programmatic sacrifices had to be made. There was no Day Camp, no alumni, no weekly volunteers, no wilderness trips, and no weekend adventures off camp. But what we lost to mitigate risk was balanced by what we gained in taking on the challenge of running summer.

We had RIG time, with cabin choice sign ups that included Dungeons and Dragons with Peter, ballroom dancing with Alex and Emma, and gypsy witch cards with Charley. Emma’s adventures sent campers on the trolley, to a mud pit, and through a spy maze. Cabins and units bonded closer together, with so many new activities to sample. We spent more time outside than ever before, with nearly perfect (but hot) weather all summer.

Driving out of the gate of camp in August, many campers did not know what their future would hold. Schools toggle between in-person and virtual learning, and rising cases warn of future state lockdowns.

Camp Newaygo has remained a constant for our campers and staff – one star dependable and bright for wishing on. Spending seven weeks surrounded by woods, water, and laughter is a reminder of all that is good about the human experience.

In a time of so much uncertainty, it was reassuring to wave goodbye to campers and staff with the ever-constant farewell of: “See ya next summer.”

  • Required every camper and staff to complete a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival at camp
  • Required all seasonal staff to stay on camp for the entire duration of summer (7 weeks)
  • Year-round staff were limited in interactions outside of the “camp bubble”
  • Facility staff (Shelby!) went above-and-beyond to make sure camp had adequate cleaning and sanitization supplies EVERYWHERE
  • Check-in and Check-out became contactless, with families staying inside their car for the process
  • Counselors stayed in their assigned co-pairing for the summer, whenever possible
  • Cabin and unit groups stayed together for all activities, with a new schedule we called “the grid”
  • Campers and staff had their temperatures checked twice daily
  • Two summer-long volunteers (Jelanie and Bridget) completed all store runs and grub hub dinners for staff
  • No off-site trips were able to be done, under restrictions from the state of Michigan. Unit campers completed overnight wilderness trips on camp property, in individual tents.
  • Spread out all programming, with marked squares on the tennis courts, dock seating for ceremonies, and LOTS of rotation-station evening programs.
  • Counselors sanitized bathrooms between every use
It seemed like an insurmountable challenge to run camp the summer of 2020. But we were determined to do whatever needed to be done to give the campers an amazing experience. We are excited to plan summer 2021, with the strength & knowledge we gained in summer 2020.


– Jalisa Danhof, Camp Director
Jalisa spent her childhood (ages 7-16) as camper at a 4-H camp in Florida then held various counselor positions, and spent a decade here as the Program Director at Camp Newaygo. She has a degree in Camp Administration from Florida State University. Jalisa lives at Camp Newaygo year-round with her husband Michael and son Calvin. In addition to staffing, enrollment, program planning, outreach, and camp management duties, she is the national chair of the American Camp Association Emerging Professionals in Camping, and the the Professional Development Chair for the Michigan Local Council of Camping Leaders.

2020 Summer Awards

Every summer we honor selected outstanding campers and staff. These awards are voted on by the summer staff and celebrated in the Log Book. Featured below are the award recipients from Summer 2020:

Rookie of The Year – Katy Pickens A first-year staff member

Appreciation – Nurse Carlene & Alex Kuske A staff member or volunteer

Dedication – Sylvie Isaac The highest honor given to a staff member or volunteer

Independence Day Grommets – Hannah Sharp & Julie Ashbaugh
One outstanding Camper & Counselor given the grommets from our flag retirement ceremony

Grommets – Hannah Sharp & Julie Ashbaugh

July Torches –  Louisa Cowen & Alex Farley
Two campers (one from units & one from cabins) that light the final campfire of Session 4

Louisa Cowen, July Torch

Alex Farley, July Torch

August Lights – Annie Poch, Lauren Jeffery, & Ella Best
Three campers (one from cabins, one from young units, and one from older units) that light the wishing boats for the ceremony

Light of Faith – Annie Poch

Light of Hope – Lauren Jeffery

Light of Love – Ella Best

Dedicator – Carrie Nielsen
A Last-Year-Camper (LYC) who writes the staff award pages in the log book. The highest award you can earn as a camper

Dedicator – Carrie Nielsen

Volunteer Awards

Program – Bridget Fitzpatrick
A volunteer who assists with Camp programs. Bridget, who lives in Columbus, OH, worked remotely for the duration of the summer on Lake Pickerel. She was at camp daily – driving the speedboat, dressing up for evening programs, and facilitating camp staff store runs to ensure safe quarantine. 

Admin- Jelanie Bush
Jelanie adhered to strict summer COVID-19 protocols in order to help at camp. During check-in and check-out days, she answered the phones. She did mail runs, proofed camper letters, and made camp life easier – taking on any task asked of her.

Congratulations to these fantastic recipients for their achievement. The beautiful tradition of these awards is one of the pieces that makes Camp Newaygo such a special place.

Camper, Staff, and Volunteer Awards 2019

Every summer we honor selected outstanding campers and staff. These awards are voted on by the summer staff and celebrated in the Log Book. Featured below are the award recipients from Summer 2019:

Rookie of The Year – Laura Schouman
A first-year staff member









Appreciation – Nate Good
A staff member or volunteer









Dedication – Nurse Sue
The highest honor given to a staff member or volunteer








Independence Day Grommets – Jessica Dockery and Mykynna Manor
One outstanding Camper & Counselor given the grommets from our flag retirement ceremony





July Torches –  Danielle Kostyuk & Frannie Boyle
Two campers (one from units & one from cabins) that light the final campfire of Session 4








August Lights – Elise Bradley, Kira Boyd, Annabel Bee
Three campers (one from cabins, one from young units, and one from older units) that light the wishing boats for the ceremony





















Dedicator – Hannah Cunningham
A Last-Year-Camper (LYC) who writes the staff award pages in the log book. The highest award you can earn as a camper








Volunteer Awards

Program – Sarah Kane
A volunteer who assists with Camp programs. Sarah was a daily summer volunteer, driving for camping trips and helping make camp possible, and is a member of our Advisory Board

Admin- Sarah Harris
Sarah serves as a member of our advisory board. This year she helped frame artwork for the new Health and Leadership Lodge with her work at The Nines Gallery & Framing Studio.

Congratulations to these fantastic recipients for their achievement. The beautiful tradition of these awards is one of the pieces that makes Camp Newaygo such a special place.

The Culture of Camp Newaygo

I get asked all the time by parents – so, what makes Camp Newaygo different from other camps?

Sure we have amazing facilities, our staff are incredible, and our traditions run deep. But the first thing that comes to mind is the unique culture of Camp Newaygo.

Our formal mission statement is: “Camp Newaygo fosters exploration, creativity and cooperation among individuals and communities in the natural environment”.

Many years back we took a tip from Simon Sinek and created our WHY statement: Because every child deserves a safe place to become their best self.

And that’s the heart of it. Camp is a place to become your best self. A former camper once said “camp taught me to love myself for who I am, not who I thought I was supposed to be”.

Camp Newaygo welcomes all. All personalities, backgrounds, beliefs, passions. The compassionate community created by our staff and returning campers is like a safety net saying: go ahead, be as weird as you want, we will still love you.

Our goals for campers start with RIG – Respect, Independance, and Grit. We hope campers (and staff) gain these things while at camp. We also measure how well we do at developing these skills through our long-term partnership with Radford University. You can read all about our research HERE.

So what makes us different than other camps? I feel like Camp Newaygo truly lives and breathes its mission. An accepting, inclusive space for campers and staff to discover themselves, and love what they find.

“Memories that Linger”, a Quilt for Camp Newaygo

Annie, one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her sister Ellen commissioned me to make a wall-hanging for the newly renovated and expanded lodge at Camp Newaygo, in Newaygo County, Western Michigan, near where we grew up.

Camp is very important and dear to Annie and Ellen–all the women and girls in their family for three generations have gone there. Thousands of girls who have attended since its founding in 1926 feel the same strong love and gratitude for camp as they do.

I myself went to a similar camp north of Newaygo, called Camp Arbutus. This cabin, Slide Inn, was my perch above the lake as a complicated 12 year old who found peace in the woods, and also as a much more complicated college-aged counselor at age 19.

Until Annie and Ellen hired me for the commission, I was oblivious as to how this reinvention of Camp Newaygo was made possible. I certainly didn’t know how much it involved my own father. Nor did I anticipate how my old friendship with Annie would be reinvigorated with such beautiful love by this place and this project.

When I was asked to make a wall hanging for the newly refurbished and expanded lodge at Camp Newaygo, the first thing I had to know was where it would hang. I love site specific design very much, and my design process was going to be based on the location of my piece.

I traveled to Michigan and got to stay with my old friend Annie, and she took me to camp for a tour. Though I have years of happy camp memories from my youth, I had never been to Camp Newaygo.
I needed some real time visuals, not wanting to work from someone else’s photos.

I also knew that I wanted the focus to be a very iconic image from camp. The lakefront with the dock and all the canoes? A campfire? The path through their wetlands?
All good but no….it had to be the cabins, the oldest ones there, built when the camp was founded in the late 1920s.

When I think of the hundreds and hundreds of girls who have called these cabins home, in that special girl-power reality that is camp…all the friendships, the fun, the longing inherent in those adolescent years, (and the concomitant endearing and exquisite dramas)–and most of all, when I remember my own growth and happiness within the rustic outdoor world that made camp so special….I just knew this was my scene.

I asked Anne and Ellen to choose a phrase that would be meaningful to everyone connected with camp. I like words on quilts. After what I am told was a serious and protracted family discussion, they chose a phrase from a favorite camp song, “Witchcraft”. We used to sing that same song at Camp Arbutus. Memories that linger/Constant and true was their most excellent choice.

The focus, heart and soul of this project for Camp Newaygo is the grouping of these three old cabins. They are driving the entire piece, so I wanted to “build” them first. I was constantly referring to the printed photograph I am basing this composition upon, using that slick lighted magnifying glass to peer as closely as I could into the actual construction details, especially of the railings and the steps. I really want this to read properly. The eyes of my future viewers will catch anything false!



I started roughing in the woods behind the cabins, the yard area in front, and the trees of course. When the background woods were finished, I began to add all the foreground leaves. The upper banner is in place, against a beautiful sky hand dyed by Stacy Mitchell of Shades Textiles.http://www.shadestextiles.co/



The scarves you see in the picture have great significance at Camp Newaygo. Each color represents a specific group of campers, according to age. You are presented with your scarf when camp begins, and hand it on at the end of camp. The camp’s director gave me one of each scarf to incorporate into the quilt. When I asked what order they should be in, she made a spreadsheet!I made the colors overlap each other a little, to symbolize how a girl makes transitions as she grows up.

I ironed the facings to the back and whip stitched them into place by hand. Luckily, my Dodgers are on a winning streak this June, so watching some games while I handstitched was great.

No quilt is complete without its label. This one has a little story…. My friend Anne, who with her sister commissioned this quilt, sent me a shirt while I was working on the quilt. When we were 19 years old (over 40 years ago), I had snuck it out of her closet, embroidered it, and mailed it back to her for her birthday, which is in the fall. She wondered if I could include any of the embroidery in the quilt. I did include a bit of it in the label…and the fabric with the writing on it is from the shirt as well.

The very final step was attaching cording to my finished edge. I wanted to add that final definition to my composition.

The quilt was installed and unveiled at Camp Newaygo last week. What a thrill that was! It was very moving for me, to see the quilt hanging in its forever home, looking like it had always been there. Every time campers or conferees or wedding guests (all people who use the lodge) go down the stairs to the rest rooms, they will see it! 😉 This space gets no direct sunlight so the quilt should hang there safely for many years.

The song sung at camps all over the US, that inspired my quilt:
“If there were witchcraft, I’d make two wishes,
a winding road that beckons me to roam,
and then I’d wish for a blazing campfire,
to welcome me when I’m returning home.
But, in this real world there is no witchcraft and golden wishes do no grow on trees.
Our fondest day dreams must be the magic that brings us back those golden memories.
Memories that linger, constant and true,
memories we cherish, Newaygo of you”

Guest Blog by: Allie Aller
Allison Aller has been stitching, sewing, knitting, and writing since she was a child….and that child is alive and well in the joyful work she creates today in the field of crazy quilting and now, stained glass quilting too. Now she has turned her attention to stained glass quilts, with her new book, Allie Aller’s Stained Glass Quilts Reimagined: Fresh Techniques and Design.

Her work has appeared in Quilters Newsletter Magazine, American Quilter, the $100,000 Quilt Challenge, Needlepoint Now, and the Way to Womens Wellness Art Bra Calendars (cover, 2007), as “guest artist” in several books, and in her own Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting, C & T Publishing, 2011. Quilts…A Little Bit Crazy, co-authored with fellow crazy quilter Valerie Bothell, was published in May 2014.

Follow her blog and connect with her at: http://alliesinstitches.blogspot.com

Leave To Serve

This summer I spent the majority of my time as an LIT or Leader in Training at Camp Newaygo, a girls residence camp in Newaygo MI. As an LIT,  I worked as a counselor, taught classes, and helped make the camp experience special for the girls who attended. I myself am a long-time camper and the progression from camper to counselor seemed the most obvious path to me. I was very excited to go and the night before I left I laid awake dreaming of what being a counselor would be like.

But being a counselor was much different than I thought it would be. For one thing, it was a lot of work. I was in almost constant motion. Teaching classes, cleaning the cabin, setting up for new sessions, picking my girls up from their classes and dropping them off at the next ones, sweeping and wiping up spills, and setting up tables, and doing odd jobs that needed to be done. At first it was tiring,  but as the summer progressed I found I liked it; I liked to feel helpful. Even the less glamorous aspects of camp, like cleaning up after a camper when she had an accident in her sleeping bag were rewarding in their own ways. I liked to feel useful and like I was making a difference at camp.

The biggest change from camper to counselor though was the change in mentality. As a camper, camp revolves around you, your interests and dislikes, but as a counselor I had to be a lot more selfless. I had to put my girls and other counselors first. Yet, I found I enjoyed helping others and making them happy. I found that it was so rewarding to help a camper succeed. For example, my first week as a camp counselor I had a very sweet camper who was struggling to fit in with the other girls, yet by the end of the week with encouragement and gentle pushing she had become much more social and was making an effort to interact with the other girls. Her victory filled me with pride and joy; it was so rewarding to have helped her succeed.

Camp made me a better person. It made me more brave and confident in myself. It taught me the true essence of leadership: that to be a good leader I had to do what was best for those I was leading even at my own expense. Camp forced me to not take myself so seriously and have fun through silly skits I had to perform, ridiculous costumes I had to wear, and mistakes I made that I had to recover from. The mistakes I made kept me humble and reminded me that even though I had been going to camp for years, I by no means knew everything there was to know. The other counselors were always encouraging and accepting of my flaws which allowed me to take risks and grow without fear of rejection. This supportive environment has always been one of the most attractive things about camp to me and as a counselor the feelings of love, support, and appreciation were deepened.

The lessons of bravery, humility, selflessness, kindness, supportiveness and more that I learned this year at camp are ones which I have been learning throughout my years as a camper – now solidified as a counselor. I hope to bring all these qualities into my senior year of high school and further –  to college, to jobs I will work, and even to my own family someday. Camp has truly impacted my life and hopefully will continue to influence me for years to come.

-Guest blog by Audrey Patterson, an L.I.T. from summer 2018. Audrey is a senior at West Catholic High School. She is a member of r the West Catholic Peer Ministry Team, Choir, and attendee of the Kent Technical Center Early Health Careers program.

Camper, Staff, and Volunteer Awards 2018

Every summer we honor selected outstanding campers and staff. These awards are voted on by the summer staff and celebrated in the Log Book. Featured below are the award recipients from Summer 2018:

Rookie of The Year – Ariel Charles
A first-year staff member

Appreciation – Scott Lakin
A staff member or volunteer

Dedication – Liza Kalinina
The highest honor given to a staff member or volunteer

Independence Day Grommets – Mikayla Matteson &
One outstanding Camper & Counselor given the grommets from our flag retirement ceremony

July Torches – Maisey Anderson & Ilana Epshetsky
Two campers (one from units & one from cabins) that light the final campfire of Session 4

August Lights – Emma Perez, Mary Clare Olive, Natalie Nagel
Three campers (one from cabins, one from young units, and one from older units) that light the wishing boats for the ceremony

Dedicator – Athena Parkin
A Last-Year-Camper (LYC) who writes the staff award pages in the log book. The highest award you can earn as a camper

Volunteer Awards

Program – Mary Wilner
A volunteer who assists with Camp programs. Mary volunteers regularly at almost every Resident Camp check-in, and is a member of our Advisory Board

Admin- Nurse Sue
Sue Oleneack returned for her second full summer as our Camp Nurse. Nurse Sue dispenses meds, patches up scrapes and bumps, and is also a healing heart in our camp community. 

Community- John Oom
John is a year-round volunteer, helping with events like Daddy/Daughter Dance. This summer he was a volunteer driver for our wilderness tripping program, helping campers arrive at North Manitou Island.

Congratulations to these fantastic recipients for their achievement. The beautiful tradition of these awards is one of the pieces that makes Camp Newaygo such a special place.

New Team Member – Chef Whitney

Whitney Saylor is our newest team member at Camp Newaygo, starting the summer with a bang as our Executive Chef of Ridge Specialties.

Whitney has roots in West Michigan; she was born in Holland and has family in the Grand Rapids area.   As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Michigan, Whitney started her career with the Gilmore Collection working at The Bob.  She continued to develop her culinary skills at places like Soaring Eagle and Disney World.  She also has experience from the other side of the kitchen – working the “front of the house” throughout her career – which helped her learn the importance of the experience when it comes to dining.

Whitney comes to us from Lucy’s Cafe in Grand Rapids, where she had not one, but three titles: Executive Chef, General Manager, and Event Coordinator.

She is very excited to send her daughter Brooklyn to camp when she is older.  Brooklyn, 5, is starting school this year and is already making friends with the staff and the camp pets.  She is always asking to pet Captain, Jalisa’s Dalmatian, or the miniature horses, which got special nicknames for the summer (our favorite was “Speedy Steve”).

Whitney has had a packed summer learning the ins and outs of camp life, and will now concentrate on continuing to grow Ridge Specialties.

She specializes in baking, and her favorite dish to make is biscuits and gravy.

Her favorite part of camp so far is the relaxed atmosphere, and the sense of community.

We are excited to have Whitney on our team, and we can’t wait for you to join us for dinner!

Oz and Toad Designs – Alumni Give Back

We all have special places in our lives… Places that have shaped us, molded us, enhanced us. Camp Newaygo is my place. And giving back as a volunteer teacher is one of my loves.

Camp Newaygo is a Girl’s Resident Camp sitting on 101 acres along Pickerel Lake, which is snuggled in the Manistee National Forest region, near the town of Newaygo, Michigan. For over 90 years, campers from around the country and throughout the world have enjoyed fun filled experiences here. As a child and young woman, I was one of those lucky campers who spent 10 summers at this magical place. I grew from an awkward, inexperienced young girl, into a confident, independent outdoor enthusiast. Living at camp allowed me to reflect, project and grow.

As an alumni, I return every summer to spend a week volunteer teaching jewelry and metals. Nothing gives me more joy than helping a camper try something new, improve an old skill or follow a passion. I like to encourage my students with positive optimism through the learning process so that she can see her full potential in a creative challenge.

Guest Blog From Jenny Burns Turner

Jenny was a Camp Newaygo camper, CIT, and counselor in the 1960’s-70’s. She was recognized as an August Light, and lovingly called “Buns” by her camp friends.

Jenny reconnected with Camp Newaygo in 2016 to volunteer as an alumni instructor during Resident Camp. She has returned since then, teaching Fly Fishing at our Girlfriends Get-a-way and inspiring a new generation of artists with her amazing jewelry designs.

Besides being a full time residential Realtor, Jenny likes to play outside (rain or shine), sleep under the stars and work out. She loves to fly fish, and photograph graffiti. She loves art, family, friends and a good belly laugh!

See Jenny’s designs, including her Camp Newaygo collection, where a portion of the profits are donated to camp on the link below

Oz and Toad’s Camp Newaygo Collection

Enhancements Continue at Camp Newaygo

The further enhancement of the Camp Newaygo facility with our new Health and Leadership Lodge will be celebrated with a Grand Opening on August 23rd at 4pm, save the date and join us.

The new year-round building will include a nurses treatment room, 4 recovery rooms, 7 private sleeping rooms with bathrooms, a meeting room with views of the wetland, new laundry facilities, space for our wilderness tripping program, and more.

The building will be LEED certified, using geothermal heating and advanced environmentally friendly technology.

Camp Newaygo is committed to using local contractors for this project. Many of the same fantastic crew members who designed and renovated Lang Lodge are completing this project.

With any facility enhancement, you expect delays and challenges before completion. We had hoped for this building to be complete in time for the summer season 2018. However, even in perfect winter conditions 9 months is a very short time frame for building and with extreme cold this past winter the Grand Opening had to be delayed.

For Camp Newaygo Resident Camp friends , that may leave you wondering what the plan is for a Health Center for summer 2018.

Camp Newaygo is incredibly fortunate to have beautiful facilities – including Lang Lodge. The lower level of the lodge includes our restrooms, classrooms, and year-round dormitories . This summer, a suite of two connected dormitories along with our Fireplace Conference Room will be reserved, to serve as the Health Center.

Our fantastic Camp Nurse – Sue, returning for her second summer, will have a private residence in one dormitory. This will connect to a second dormitory, which will serve as the camper recovery room.

Our Fireplace Conference Room, which includes a refrigerator, sink, and locked storage, will make a perfect temporary treatment center. With air-conditioning, comfortable beds, and great restrooms across the hall, this pod will be a perfect solution for this summer.

Camp Newaygo always keeps camper safety as the highest priority. We also understand that families choose our Resident Camp program because of our commitment to an all girls’ community. By summer, the new building will have minimal exterior work so we don’t anticipate disruption to program. The crew finishing the building interior this summer have separate restrooms, and we will be sure they keep safety as their priority as well.

Some of our crew members are parents of Camp Newaygo campers – whose children attend our Day Camp Program. We are also proud to have female crew members – like Cora Crowley as one of our masonry crew.

We hope you are able to join us for the Grand Opening on August 23rd. We are thrilled to complete this final leg of our Capital Campaign.