Camp Newaygo Wins National Honor

We know that experiences at camp can lead to lifelong friendships and new skills. But we also believe that camp can impact 21st century skills, which youth struggle to build in this technology-heavy world.

That has led to a five-year research partnership involving the Newaygo camp, Assistant Director Jalisa Danhof and Anja Whittington, a Radford University recreation, parks and tourism professor. Their surveys show resiliency increases 40 percent after a week at camp, with other noticeable growth in independence, confidence, relationships, college readiness and life skills.

The research done involving Camp Newaygo is being honored with the American Camp Association’s Eleanor P. Eells Award for Excellence in Research Practice. The recognition gets  bestowed Feb. 21 at the ACA  National Conference, which is Feb. 20-23 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Eleanor P. Eells Awards for Excellence in Research in Practice are designed to honor camp programs that:

  1. Develop and implement or apply an exemplary research or evaluation project, and
  2. Use research or evaluation findings to improve program practice, and
  3. Develop model research or evaluation project that can be adapted or replicated, and
  4. Share research or evaluation findings with others.

Dr. Whittington has been working with Camp Newaygo since 2014, when we met through an ACA email list. Camp Newaygo and Dr. Whittington have partnered on three separate research projects. In 2014, Camp Newaygo was one of eight camps in the study: “Measuring Outcomes Of Girls’ Experiences At Camp”, which helped to develop the Adolescent Girls’ Resilience Scale. In 2016, we partnered again on “Developing College Readiness Skills At Camp”, a study that used a retrospective analysis approach with Camp Newaygo alumnae. We held a research symposium at Camp Newaygo in January of 2017 to provide results of these studies to donors, parents, and supporters. Our current research project began in summer 2016. We worked with Dr. Whittington to create a tailor – made project for Camp Newaygo: “Developing College Readiness Skills At Camp 2016-2018”.

“Developing College Readiness Skills At Camp 2016-2018” is an ongoing fully collaborative project designed by Dr. Whittington and Camp Newaygo. The purpose of this study is to examine if Camp Newaygo promotes college readiness skills in campers. Campers entering 11th grade were studied in 2016 and 2017, with a pre-and post test during their camp experience. A follow-up study will be completed when the girls are freshman in college, after their first semester. The Camp Newaygo girls will be studied against a group of freshman at Radford University, who did not attend camp. This will be a small sample size, of about 25 campers per year.

Our five-year research partnership has been an amazing journey, and we are honored to be recognized with this award.

For Parents – Day Camp Prep Tips

Part of your child’s success at camp will depend on the preparations made before they check into camp. Whether it’s working through pre-departure jitters or knowing what to pack, following a few simple guidelines will ensure that your camper starts their experience on the right foot.

1. Tell your child what to expect.
Day camp is OUTSIDE on beautiful Lake Pickerel all day. Day camp is not day care. Get your child excited about camp by telling them all that they will get to do – shelter building, swimming, canoeing, archery – and MORE!

2. Double-check the packing list.
View the packing list HERE
Wear play clothes and closed toe shoes each day ready for fun. Remember to pack a lunch – which will not need to be refrigerated. And remember – we are tech free at Camp Newaygo!

3. Label everything.
It’s easy to lose things at camp, but if you want it back, it’s got to have your name on it. Label everything from your t-shirts to your beach towel. And leave really expensive gear at home. Most children lose something at camp, so check the lost-and-found during the parent closing ceremony.

4. Double-check the starting time for check-in and check-out
Start camp off on a smooth note by arriving on time and on the right day. Use a wall calendar in the months prior to opening day to make an exciting count-down to the big day. On Monday check in will be a the top of the camp hill, where you will get to meet with the camp staff and the camp nurse.

5. Decide if your child is signing up for the overnight
The optional overnight is a wonderful experience to add to the fun of day camp. Your child will help cook dinner and breakfast over the fire, sleep in a tent, and spend extra time with new friends. You can wait to sign up for the overnight until the week-of. If your child has never spent a night away from home, try practicing before camp. Spending the night at grandma’s, or at a friend’s house can help build confidence before camp.

6. Plan to attend the Friday Parent Ceremony
On Friday at the end of the Day Camp Day, a parent ceremony gives you a chance to see camp. Campers preform songs, receive awards, and show off crafts from the week. Don’t miss this awesome part of camp!

We can’t wait to see you at Camp Newaygo – please let us know if there’s anything else we can do to make your pre-camp experience any easier.

-Jalisa, Assistant Director

For Parents – Overnight Camp Prep Tips

Part of your child’s success at camp will depend on the preparations made before she ever leaves home. Whether it’s working through pre-departure jitters or knowing what to pack, following a few simple guidelines will ensure that your camper starts her experience on the right foot.

1. Don’t make a “pick-up deal.”
Promising “If you feel homesick, I’ll come and get you” undermines children’s confidence and dramatically intensifies homesickness.  Instead, normalize their anxiety, talk positively about camp, and make sure they know an early pick-up is not an option.

2. Double-check the packing list.
View the packing list HERE
Remember to bring at least 2 pairs of “whites” for ceremonies. If you are coming for session 4B, bring a long sock for Christmas in July. And remember – we are tech free at Camp Newaygo!

3. Spend practice time away from home.
Nothing builds confidence and teaches a child how to cope with time away from home better than…(you guessed it)…time away from home. That weekend at grandma and grandpa’s will do wonders for their adjustment. Remember: No phone calls. This is the time to practice writing letters!

4. Label everything.
It’s easy to lose things at camp, but if you want it back, it’s got to have your name on it. Label everything from your t-shirts to your toothbrush. And leave really expensive gear at home. Most children lose something at camp, so check the lost-and-found during check out.

5. Double-check the starting time for check-in and check-out
Start camp off on a smooth note by arriving on time and on the right day. Use a wall calendar in the months prior to opening day to make an exciting count-down to the big day.

We can’t wait to see you at Camp Newaygo – please let us know if there’s anything else we can do to make your pre-camp experience any easier.

-Jalisa, Director

Ten Reasons to Host a Destination Wedding at Camp Newaygo


  1. More Time with Friends and Family.

Your friends and family can spend time making new connections, having fun, and celebrating the new chapter in your life!


  1. There’s No Rush.

Don’t add to your stress – decorate and get ready on your own time without stressing about a curfew.


  1. Details are on Us.

Let us handle your meals, setting up, cleaning, and activities.  We focus on the details so you can enjoy your weekend.   We’ll help you create a custom schedule and provide staff to lead activities.


  1. Act Like a Camper.

Who says camp is just for kids?  Try out our archery range, take a stand up paddle board out on the water, soar through the air on our zip line, and more.  We’ll help you create a custom schedule for a fun and stress-free event.


  1. On Site Lodging.

Stay up as late as you like by the fire – your room is just a short walk away.  Choose a bed in one of our community style dormitories or an Adirondack cabin.  Private rooms are also available in our Health and Leadership Lodge – these rooms have queen beds and attached bathrooms.


  1. Picture Perfect.

Use our beautiful scenery for your photos – either by the lake, wetland or forest.


  1. Eat Your Heart Out.

This isn’t your typical camp fare.  With Ridge Specialties Catering, we’ll pamper you and your guests with gourmet items like Hickory Glazed Salmon, Mesquite Smoked London Broil, Prime Rib, and more.  We’ll help you plan out your weekend menu so your guests are full and happy.


  1. Celebrate for a Good Cause.

As a non-profit facility, your weekend at Camp Newaygo supports youth and family programs in the community.


  1. Natural Setting, Modern Amenities.

Kick back next to our natural wood fireplace and surf the web on our Wi-Fi.  Take a dip in the lake then warm up with a hot shower in our private restrooms.  Lay in a hammock while watching an outdoor movie.  Our up-to-date facilities are perfect for a modern event in a natural setting.


  1. Be Unique.

Your weekend, your way – one that will have your guests reminiscing for years to come!


The Mighty, Mighty Rangers

Some of my best camp memories are from being in units. When I was in Rangers in 2005, there was 9 of us. It was session 3, Christmas in July.  Four of us were going into 6th grade, 5 going into 7th grade. 5 were from The United States, 4 were from Mexico. We went tubing down the Muskegon River and stayed the night at Sanderson’s farm, where we learned Mexican nursery rhymes and children’s songs. We sang and laughed all night long. Since then, camp has really been growing with more campers coming every year.  Tripping storage has moved twice, Lang Lodge has been winterized, the Gaga court was built, and there are more than twice as many Rangers campers for Christmas in July. Many things have stayed the same. Camp Newaygo is rooted in tradition. Some are formal like, Scarving, Wishing Boats, and July Torches, others are more playful, Tuesday night cookouts, Christmas in July and Pi Banquet. One tradition that is entrenched in Newaygo history is always be ready for change.

Every summer, we strive to improve each camper’s experience at Camp Newaygo. It is an on-going task to make each summer at camp more memorable than the last. Units are a huge part of the camp experience. In recent years, our number of campers entering units has grown tremendously; many campers have had to  bypass the Rangers unit due to limited bunk space in the unit. From the planning stages of the new Health and Leadership Lodge, we knew we wanted to find a new purpose for the nurses’ station. As of September, it has been moved and renovated to become a new addition to our  unit living options! Rangers will now consist of the current Rangers Outpost and the Rangers Station as a sister unit. This will allow “Rangers 1” and “Rangers 2” that had previously all stayed in Rangers Outpost to spread out, have their own defined space and identity. This will ultimately improve campers’ experience in the unit and ensure more space for campers in Rangers.

Our goal is to make camp even better by improving the unit experience and allow more space for campers to attend the session of their choice. In most cases:
*7th graders and younger will be in our cabin area
*8th graders will  be living in Rangers Outpost or Rangers Station
*9th graders will be living in Tinuwen
*10th graders will be living in Wakonda
*11th graders will be living in Pioneer

Now, all 7th graders will be able to spend a final summer in cabins together with unique program and overnight opportunities as the oldest girls in the cabins.   We are very excited with all of the great options this provides for older camper here at Camp Newaygo.   

-Kori Swieter, Program Director

Camper and Staff Awards 2017

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 2016:

Rookie of The Year – Charlie Maguire
A first-year staff member

Appreciation – Bridget Fitzpatrick
A staff member or volunteer

Dedication – Emily Novick
The highest honor given to a staff member or volunteer

Independence Day Grommets – Cathy Briscoe & Serenity (Ren) Pastor
One outstanding Camper & Counselor given the grommets from our flag retirement ceremony

July Torches – Katie Chamberlin & Maddie Slade
Two campers (one from units & one from cabins) that light the final campfire of Session 4

August Lights – Addie Lewis, Taisia Kalinina, Athena Parkin
Three campers (one from cabins, one from young units, and one from older units) that light the wishing boats for the ceremony

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

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

My Daughter’s Love of Camp (and how we needed to work it into our budget)

Although it doesn’t sound possible, I think my daughter was in love with summer camp, even before she ever attended summer camp.  Below, is a photo taken seven years ago of Ava – all packed up and ready to go to summer camp for the very first time – even though we were hours away from loading the car and departing for Camp Newaygo.  She just couldn’t wait to go.  Ava’s anticipation was a little perplexing.  She’s not particularly outdoorsy, or crafty, or socially gregarious, so we couldn’t figure out why she was so excited about camp.  Perhaps she was just ready for a new experience and a good, old-fashioned adventure. . .

That first year of camp for Ava was just a three night mini camp.  I sure missed her for those three nights.  It was hard for this mother not to be with her daughter.  I was like a stalker, obsessively checking the Camp Newaygo photo blog, hoping to see a glimpse of my daughter. Occasionally, there was a photo of Ava, and I’d zoom in to analyze the photo and to see if it looked like she was having a good time.  I worried a lot that first three night mini camp.  I wanted Ava to have a good time.  But I shouldn’t have worried at all.  When I arrived to pick up my daughter, she immediately burst into sad tears.  “Mom, three nights just isn’t long enough.  Next year I want to come for a week!”

Camp Newaygo is rich with many traditions – the songs, the rustic settings, the ceremonies, the characters on staff. Ava particularly loves the scarves that are passed on every year to the next group of girls (which they wear proudly for all ceremonies, like the Wishing Boat Ceremony where girls carve and paint their wishing boats to be lit by one of the chosen light campers). We both love the beautiful traditional closing ceremony where tears roll up in my eyes as soon as I hear the girls singing songs as they walk though the woods holding hands.

And now, our family’s relationship with Camp Newaygo also has become rich with a tradition – one that sounds like this: “Mom, (insert number of weeks) just isn’t long enough.  Next year I want to come to camp for (an increase in the number of weeks).”  And so it grows, from one week to two, from two to three, from three to a month, and so on and so forth.  This mother sends her daughter off to camp, but not for my own gain or ends.  I suffer.  I miss my daughter. Another tradition is my stalking the photo blog, analyzing the photos. . . . But I don’t worry if she’s having fun any more.  I know she’s exactly where she wants to be – at camp and in her full glory!

Every year Ava comes home from camp, and I think, it must be fun to have grown so much in such a short time.  She returns to us filled up with stories, and struggles, new skills, new experiences, more friends, and GIRL POWER!  Those campouts and campfires light a fire of confidence in our daughter that is a direct result of living under the trees and swimming in the fresh waters of Pickerel Lake.  It is also a direct result of taking photography classes (including dark-room developing), being mentored by talented and caring councilors, hiking long trails, and being guided by the thoughtful programming that gives structure to daily life at camp.


Another family tradition we have with Camp Newaygo, is how to pay for it.  It’s a gift to be able to go to camp.  It’s also an investment in experience, and one that we make sure our daughter is fully invested in.  Part of our bargain as parents is that we’ll help pay for camp as long as she helps to pay for camp.   It started out that Ava had to raise her own spending money, but as Ava’s commitment to attend more weeks of camp increased, so did her own financial commitment.  Camp Newaygo has become so important to our daughter that she is willing to pay for some weeks of her camp experience all by herself.  She baby sits, works odd jobs, runs a table at the local farmer’s market.  Now, Camp Newaygo has made it much easier on us by giving us the choice of a monthly payment and allowing us to set it up automatically with our choice of amount each month.
Thank You Camp Newaygo for giving us the opportunity to keep sending Ava to camp every year where she is growing, becoming a leader for life and making life long friends and beautiful memories.

-Guest Blog By Sarah Harris, mother of Ava Fink

Top 10 reasons to be a counselor at Camp Newaygo

Top 10 reasons to be a counselor at Camp Newaygo


10. Meet People from all over the World – Who wants to go to Europe over fall break? Camp Newaygo has international staff every summer. When you go back to school in the fall you’ll start to tell camp stories that start with “Well my friend from Ireland…” or “One time, my friend from Australia…” Plus it makes traveling internationally easier when you make connections and can stay with friends!

9. Be Paid to Play! – Tie-dye, archery, zip-line, and paddle boarding are some of the awesome activities here. The day of a camp counselor is never the same; you will teach up to 3 fun activities a day each week. Never been sailing and want to learn? You’ll be taught how to teach these activities and more during our two-week staff training. Your nights will consist of an evening program where you might dress up as a Disney Princess, a ninja master or you’ll lead your team into battle for Marshmallow Paint Wars.

8. Popcorn, Slushies and Sushi – Food, food and more food! Slushies and popcorn from Wesco are a must. It is the perfect salty and refreshing treat at the end of a busy week! During time off, you can head over to Fuego: A Fusion Kitchen. They offer Latin inspired cuisine and Japanese sushi, as well as the all-favorite “sushirrito”, which is sushi the size of a burrito! There is always something new to try. During the week our camp food is prepared by our executive chef, and leftovers usually make it over to the break lounge for mid-day snacks.

7. Camp Swag is the Best Swag – Tie-dye shirts, friendship bracelets and sunglasses. Our camp store is filled with comfy camp attire available at a staff discount, and through staff training there are swag surprises! You’ll leave the summer with more Camp Newaygo gear than you know what to do with.

6. An Outdoor Office- Get a great summer tan! Your office will consist of 104 acres of woods and a mile of waterfront. Spend your days hiking through the woods or paddling on the lake. You won’t have a cubicle that blocks you from the sunshine. Staff meetings are in the shade of an oak tree, around a campfire or on the wetland deck.

5. Make a Difference – This is your chance to impact the lives of over 600
campers. “Who is your role model? Who do you look up to?” At the end of the summer, a camper’s answer may be you! There is nothing better than knowing you have made a positive impact in someone’s life. At the end of a week as the campers are packing up, hearing campers say “I hope you are my counselor again next summer” may be the best compliment you ever receive.
4. Develop Skills for your Career – You are capable of more than you think. So you don’t necessarily want to work in camping or even with kids as a career? Working at Camp Newaygo will build skills that transfer to all aspect of life: leadership, confidence, time management and problem-solving. Your “out of the box” summer experience may be the ticket to getting that next interview.

3. Sunsets and Starlight – Experience a world without technology. The night sky over the lodge will take your breath away. The weekly wilderness trips may take you to the sunsets on Lake Michigan, the fireflies along Pine River, or the sands of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The natural beauty you miss with your face in a screen is at your fingertips all summer. With the stress of the outside world out of mind, you will be able to live in the present and appreciate all that Camp Newaygo has to offer.

2. Be a Part of History – Camp Newaygo was founded in 1926 as an all-girls summer camp and there are traditions dating back to the very first summer 91 years ago. Every summer we make a Log Book, which is a scrapbook of the summer that features each camper and staff member. Years from now you can return and flip through the log books and find yourself in the center of camp history.

1. The Hardest Job You Will Ever Love – This is truly a summer like no other.  Camp counselors at Camp Newaygo are hard workers; there are long days and sleepless nights filled with making memories for yourself and each camper. Women in their 80’s say that summers at Camp Newaygo were the best times of their life. Working at Camp Newaygo is a life-changing experience. Come be your best self this summer.


January E-Newsletter



January E-Newsletter
Because every child should have a safe place to become their best self

Your Impact

As we kick off 2017, there are great things planned for the coming months at Camp Newaygo. Hundreds of campers will grow friendships and forge resilience, countless students will foster their appreciation of nature, members of the community will enjoy an excellent dinner on our patio, and families from across West Michigan will explore all that camp has to offer.
To make all of these great things happen, we need great volunteers like you! Becoming a Camp Newaygo volunteer goes way beyond helping with check-in, driving a van, or raking leaves. Your support means a nervous camper sees a smiling face when they arrive, a group of adventurous girls starts a back country hike on the right foot, and that camp is beautiful for everyone who visits throughout the year.
At Camp Newaygo, your time ensures everyone who visits has an experience that is beyond ordinary. Please consider volunteering with us this year!


Upcoming Events at Lang Lodge

Blushes & Brushes 3/11

Welcome Scott
Scott Lakin joins the year-round team as a second Program Director. Scott will be managing our Community Events and Volunteers.
Registration for Day Camp Opens February 15th

Day Camp is for Boys and Girls 1st grade – 7th grade. Find out more about Day Camp HERE.

Proof of Success

For less than $600 per year, you can invest in your daughter’s growth and maturity by becoming more resilient, more self-confident and ensure her independence for a successful college experience.

Arts & Crafts Shop Renovation 
The Capital Campaign: “Building a Healthy Future – a Campaign for Health, Leadership, and The Arts”, is in full swing! Our goal is to have the Craft Shop ready for use Summer 2017.
This beautiful new space will host our Arts Program during the summer months, and can be rented year-round.
It will be the perfect spot to host birthday parties, baby showers, bridal showers, small weddings & receptions, meetings, yoga workshops, and of course – crafts!


5333 Centerline Road – P.O. Box 610 – Newaygo, MI 49337
Ph: (231) 652-1184
TrueNorth Community Services, 6308 S Warner Ave, PO Box 149, Fremont, MI 49412
Sent by in collaboration with
Constant Contact



Sweat, Sunscreen and Tomato Soup – by Karol Kane

Sweat, Sunscreen and Tomato Soup


Drip, drip, drop. The beads of sweat falling from my forehead and chin waterfall onto the rocks surrounding the massive campfire made out of three log cabins. I don’t think I have ever been so hot in my life. Mentally, I am in the middle of the Sahara desert. Physically, I am at Camp Newaygo preparing a meal – all cooked over a campfire – for eighty six camp alumni.

Rows and rows of picnic tables are set up and covered by our homemade table cloths. The decorations that we spent countless hours on are hung from the old trees surrounding our living quarters. I swell up with pride as I see my counselors talking to Jane, the camp director about how much work we have put into this year’s Pioneer Banquet.

Quickly, I remember what task I am working on as my quadriceps’s burn as if I just got done with a two hour long leg workout. I have been squatting into the fire stirring the giant pot of butterfly noodles simultaneously with the spaghetti sauce, each in giant scolding pots.
The noodles are nearly done now, so I call over to Fran to help me drag the pot away from the hot embers of the fire. We wrap our hands in our burnt bandanas to act as potholders, and successfully land what seemed to be a 200 pound pot of noodles onto the dirt. We are ready to start serving our guests. I feel independent.

Independence is making others proud. Independence is lonely. Independence is hot. Independence is putting others before you. Independence is happiness. Independence is grownup. Independence is hard. My last year as a camper, my last year to show the camp staff that I am indeed ready to take the next step at camp: being a counselor. As a last year camper, the “Pioneers” put on Pioneer Banquet to thank camp for blessing them with all of the magic camp holds. Camp alumni and all of the important people of camp gather for a meal and entertainment, put on by ten, seventeen year old girls.

Throughout history, women are seen only to be cared and provided for with the help of the working man. In the past couple centuries women have made leaps and bounds to stray from this stereotype. Seeing the proud, almost surprised faces of the camp alumni, I realized I could
never rely on a man as many women do. Now, I have high expectations for myself and other women to make their own way in the world.

As I lay in bed the night of the Pioneer Banquet, I take a deep breath and realize we did it! My fellow Pioneers and I made this banquet one to remember. We did it by ourselves,  with no help from our counselors. We finally were independent.

Beep! Beep! Beep! My ten dollar, hot pink, plastic, Walmart watch has alerted me- as it does every morning at 7:15 – that it is time to “Rise and shine and give God my glory”, as it is sung in the all too familiar camp song. I jump out of bed, not before hitting my head on the metal bunk above me, scavenge through my disheveled trunk and pick the first t-shirt I come across that doesn’t smell too potent of a burning campfire and quickly throw it over my neon green sports bra. Luckily, my French braided pigtails are still intact after three days so all I need now is to find my favorite bandana.

Without waking the four other counselors in our minuscule, screened in, tree house, I manage to maneuver over to the opposite side of the room – a whole three steps – and snag my orange bandana which is holding my smelly Tevas together in a  friendship knot. While tying my bandana on my head like a headband and slipping on my Tevas as if they are the most fabulous pair of shoes, I hear Kori and Amanda’s watches go off in unison, signaling the start of another day. Beckoning to “my girls”, I start singing another favorite camp song to wake them from their slumber. Without any further preparation besides grabbing my backpack and sunglasses, I stomp out of the door, down the steps, on my way to start another magical day at Camp Newaygo.

I feel beautiful. Beauty is laughter. Beauty is holding hands. Beauty is Teva and watch tan lines, Beauty is running down a hill with the wind blowing through your hair. Beauty is sweat. Beauty is a band aid, Beauty is the dirt on your hands and feet. Beauty is easy. The expectations of a woman in the “real world” are substantially different than those at camp. After eight glorious summers at Camp Newaygo I have formed my own expectations of woman both in the “real world” and at camp. Early on, I was taught that beauty was mascara, shoes and expensive clothing. Not until I was welcomed into the world of camp did I realize these values did not hold true for many women, certainly not me.

At Newaygo the sunscreen with the highest SPF holds the equivalence of the most expensive foundation in the “real world”. Bug spray is our perfume, our freckles act as concealer, friendship bracelets as our diamonds and the paint on our hands from the marshmallow paint war the day before is better than any nail polish. Our sun kissed skin and mosquito bites tell stories of the beauty that we all have on the inside, rather than the beauty that society expects us to grasp. Now, I have realized that being a woman is ultimately about being beautiful as you see it, not how the status quo does.

Prior to learning this valuable knowledge I would not have been caught dead going to class – or even out of the house – without makeup on. After becoming confident in my newfound perception of the beauty that I have, I became confident in all aspects of my life, again with help from the magical world of camp: “What do I do?” I whispered to myself. I start to help my campers put up their tents that are missing many pieces: stakes, poles, zippers and tarps. Evidently, none of my girls have the slightest clue how to put up a tent, with a smile on my face still, I manage to single handedly put up four makeshift tents in twenty minutes. This only momentarily put off what was about to come. The matches are wet. The waterproof matches are wet. My hiking boots are wet. My campers are wet. The firewood is wet. I hear my stomach growl in unison with two of my girls. We are hungrier than we are wet.

Unloading the canned tomato soup, bread, butter and cheese from my pack, I realize what I have to do. Placing my ten campers in a circle I tell them that we are going to have the best camp meal ever! The girls scream – as girls always do – with delight. After buttering twenty two slices of bread, and portioning eleven cups of ice cold tomato soup out, I begin to pass the food around the circle to my girls. I watch their faces turn down into frowns as they look down at their “best camp meal ever”. Thinking on my feet I tell the tiniest white lie: “This is what all of the counselor’s eat on their nights off, this is our absolute favorite meal”, I proudly stated. To prove this to my campers I begin to choke down my cold bread and cheese sandwich followed by me drinking the horrible tomato soup.

Five minutes later my campers were asking for seconds and thirds.
I feel proud. I feel confident. Confidence is smiling. Confidence is crying. Confidence is smiling through your tears. Confidence is being a leader. Confidence is funny faces. Confidence is being proud. Confidence is singing. Confidence is going first. Confidence is raising your hand. Confidence is hard. Who knew eating a bland, cold sandwich and a cup of ice cold tomato soup could impact me so much? Who knew being vulnerable and afraid would turn me into a confident leader?
Who knew girls would look up to me?

Looking back, I had no clue the prominence of my actions in the summer of 2011. I started my summer with a closed mind and although I knew every one of the other counselors, I was still closed off and shy. Within the first week, my walls came down and I knew that I was becoming more and more confident with every day that passed. Although I knew I was changing for the better, I still had questions: What does confidence even mean? Why aren’t more women confident? How come it has taken me this long to be confident?

Prior to that summer, it was rare that I had a prominent and confident woman in my life. I knew the many celebrities I had seen on TV and in the tabloids were not truly confident, only hiding behind makeup and expensive clothing. All of my life, men were the confident characters surrounding me. In society today, women are expected to stand behind the man, rather than beside him, partially due to their lack of confidence. As the summer came to an end, I refused to go home only to fall back into the common stereotype of a woman standing behind a man.

I am completely satisfied with the woman I have become: a beautiful, confident and independent woman.

-Karol (Kane) Maurer was a camper, LIT, and currently volunteers for Camp Newaygo. She now lives with her husband in Grand Rapids