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.

Volunteers Honored at Community of Efforts

Last night at our Community of Efforts Celebration hosted by TrueNorth Community Services, we honored outstanding volunteers and donors.

In the lobby of TrueNorth, a quote from Margaret Mead reads: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

That rings true for each person who makes the outstanding work we do at Camp Newaygo possible.


Gene Cotton Award: Barb Veenstra

The Gene Cotton Award recognizes those who support program development and service delivery and who embrace actions that benefit our communities and those in need.  Barb Veenstra’s commitment to Camp Newaygo has truly impacted our future in very positive ways.

As a member of the Building a Brighter Future Capital Campaign Cabinet Barb was one of the first to sign on in support of the new Health and Leadership Lodge. This facility replaces the 1926 nurse’s station with a modern health center and community use facility. Barb has been keeping close tabs on the project with frequent drives from her home in Cedar Springs to check on the progress.

As a child, Barb’s parents, Kay and Don Veenstra, grew up during The Great Depression. However, they made sure that Barb had the opportunity to come to Camp Newaygo. One of her greatest loves was learning about anything in or on the water. As a tribute to honor the 20th anniversary of the passing of her mother, Barb wanted to do something special.  Camp Newaygo had just been presented with the challenge of preserving property around its primitive camping area. Barb stepped forward with a 15-year financial pledge to purchase the property and save a vital part of the Camp Newaygo experience for generations to come.

In honor of her parents and Barb’s English and Scotch heritage, the new property was dedicated as Veenstra Highlands.

Barb was honored for her vision and willingness to take action to ensure a brighter future. Her financial commitment will preserve this natural setting for generations of campers and community members to enjoy.


Camp Newaygo Program Award: Nancy Norden

Nancy became a volunteer as a Camp Newaygo Advisory Board member in 1995 when Camp Newaygo was acquired by TrueNorth. Over the past 23 years, Nancy has helped guide camp leadership through a period of growth working towards sustainability for generations to come.

As a retired special education teacher, Nancy has a real understanding of the need for a special place for children to learn and grow. Nancy is an alumnus of camp and works to ensure girls today have the same opportunity to learn, grow, and gain leaderships skills just as she did.

Nancy has been involved with raising funds for Camp operations and scholarships; she was a member of the Camp Newaygo Golf Classic Committee; and volunteers for The Enchanted Forest as well as being a resident camp volunteer helping to greet parents on arrival day.

Nancy’s family has been attending Camp for three generations, with her grandchildren attending Mom and Me and family community events.

We are honored to have Nancy’s dedication to the mission of Camp Newaygo to provide programs and opportunities to children and families.


Community Partner Award: Brant Electric

The Community Partner Award is given to honor a business whom has undertaken a specific project to assist TrueNorth and it’s programs.

Brant Electric is a rather new company in Newaygo County. Owner Ryan Brant and his wife have shown from the beginning that improving the community they grew up in was a priority.  Whether it was coming out to do service on the weekend or meeting to plan a major project, Ryan is always there. Ryan has a creative problem-solving mind and doesn’t hesitate to do the work to lay a strong infrastructure foundation for Camp Newaygo’s future. He is always looking for cost savings and energy efficiencies, allowing camp to serve more children and families.

Ryan supports the work of TrueNorth by being a sponsor and engaging a team for TrueMentors’ Bowlapalooza 2018 event, as a sponsor for Camp Newaygo’s Golf Classic and is also a Leadership level donor to the Peggie Stone Center project.

We appreciate Brant Electric’s volunteerism and support of TrueNorth’s programs and facilities, and honor them as our Community Partner of the year.

New Friendships in Argentina

Walking around campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my friends always say they know it is me across the Diag simply because they can spot my Kori-Approved-Orange backpack with all of the “brightly colored strings” attached.

Well, what people don’t always understand about those “strings” is that they are, in fact, retired friendship bracelets given to me throughout the past two summers at Camp Newaygo. What they don’t know is that I can tell you exactly which camper or counselor gave me each one. And what they can’t know is that with each bracelet comes a plethora of memories of smiles, songs, campfires, adventurous campouts, hugs, and colorful scarves.

Emma as a Camper at Camp Newaygo

I’ve been an avid fan of Camp Newaygo since the first day I stepped foot on the beach of Lake Pickerel with my Mom in 2005. I quickly turned into an annual camper for the next seven years, and after a short break, returned to Camp as a counselor for the summer of 2016. That’s a total of ten years of sunny days on the lake, shady walks through the woods, competitive games of Capture the Flag and Camper-Counselor Hunt, and exploring Northern Michigan through countless hiking and canoe trips. That’s ten years of making best friends/sisters during the summer and counting down the days until the next reunion.

But the thing about Camp is that I can’t always take those friendships back to Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor. Therefore, I’ve always treasured those brightly colored strings woven into (sometimes questionably executed) designs. Each friendship bracelet is unique to the person who gifts it – there’s always at least one mistake, a difference in pattern, or a deliberate color scheme that distinguishes it from the one it sits next to on my wrist.

Emma with Campers, Summer 2016

When I was a kid, I would keep the bracelets on my right wrist until they fell off. I would then pick them up and put them in a box in my room with the other retirees.

Since being in college, however, I’ve had to remove them as soon as school starts back up because of the dance team I compete for. But removing them just feels so… sacrilegious. So instead, I came up with the idea of carrying them with me in a different way – hence the collection on my backpack.

Emma on Pictured Rocks with 2017 LITS

Naturally, while packing for my semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina this winter, I decided to keep them attached so as to bring a piece of Home with me across the Equator. Since then, they’ve made the trek through 24 hours worth of flights, countless bus rides to La Universidad Católica de Buenos Aires, and of course on a couple of adventures to National Parks across the country.

Emma & Liza – Unit Directors 2017

The wanderlust Camp instilled in me as an eight year-old searching for Blueberry Hill has persisted as a key piece of my personality to this day and I’ve been lucky enough to find friends in Argentina who share my same desire to be surrounded by nature and to explore.

Here in Buenos Aires, we recently had a week long break from classes. After being in the city for two months now, my friends and I decided to travel to the North-West of the country and explore the Andes. One of the days, I was climbing some mountains outside of a little village called Purmamarca – HIGHLY recommend — and half way through the day took a break in a plaza to sit down. I had my backpack sitting on my lap and after a minute, a group of little girls (who quickly informed me that they were “this old” while holding up four fingers) came up and tapped me on the shoulder. They asked in their high pitched Spanish, “how much are you selling those for?” I looked at them, confused. Nothing had been lost in translation… but I was not selling anything. The leader of this small girl-group looked at me, repeated the question, and pointed at my backpack.

LYNSF – Love Your Newaygo Sister Forever

After a minute, I realized she was asking about my sacred friendship bracelets. 

I quickly told her I wasn’t selling them (obviously, they’re priceless!!!), but that I would let her look through them if she wanted. As she browsed, I told her and her friends that my very best friends made these for me and that each one had a very special place in my heart. She paused for a second and responded, “You have some pretty good friends. Mine don’t make me bracelets”, shooting her pack of followers a pointed glance. I thought, she’s not wrong – I do have some pretty high-quality friends around the world.

Pioneers performing at Skills n’ Thrills Summer 2017

Well, eventually, she found a pastel bracelet that a camper made for me this past summer and exclaimed “this one makes me really happy inside!” I smiled, internally acknowledging the fact that it made me happy inside too. But oddly enough, I found myself untying it and, using a friendship knot, retying it on her tiny wrist. Sure enough, when her friends saw her receive one, I ended up giving out a few more – smiling and remembering each camper or counselor as I untied them one by one. The girls admired their wrists, exchanged versions of “mine is better than yours!!”, then said thank you, gave me hugs, and ran to continue playing.

Emma, Lucy, & JuJu – Summer 2017

So, despite my collection of “brightly colored strings” shrinking ever so slightly, the glory in my heart has grown just that much more. Knowing that in some way, shape, or form the Newaygo Spirit made it all the way to the North of Argentina made me realize how lucky I was to have grown up with Newaygo only an hour North of me. It made me remember that the Newaygo Spirit and the love felt under those wide oak trees isn’t something that ends when you leave the bubble of Lake Pickerel. It becomes a defining part of you and manages to influence and radiate through every little thing you do — even after your time at Camp has come to a close.

-Guest blog written by Emma, long time camper and counselor.