By: Marianne Boerigter (Teep)
I grew up as an outdoorsy kid,a stick in one hand and a butterfly net in the other…I don’t remember the reason for the stick. With an older brother a Boy Scout and Dad the leader of Troop 33, I energetically tagged along in “family camp” when the troop went to summer camp at Camp Ottawa and even a trip to the ultimate Boy Scout camp in Philmont, New Mexico. I was outdoors and loved every second.
I attended a few camps on my own as a kid also, by my real camp experience wasn’t until I was 21 and starting working at Camp Newaygo on Pickeral Lake. Not only did Camp instill in me self-confidence and the ability to change any well laid plan on a dime if needed, but I also could see the impact the experience had on campers and other staff.
That smile a kid gets when their arrow finally, finally hits the target in archery; the awe on their face when they see a bullfrog as big as a dinner plate; the joy of being with their new camp buddies around a campfire; feeling like they belong; being responsible and feeling a bit independent. I know these are only little things, but it is that good feeling that sticks with you for life.
In 1986 while I was on staff, Camp Newaygo celebrated its 60th anniversary. A reunion of sort for past staff and campers, it was a treat for me to hear the stories and meet the people who loved the camp experience as much as I was growing to love then too.
Now, 30 years later, I drive up the hill into Camp Newaygo and still feel like it is home. Of course, it looks different with new buildings and people, but the feeling of camp embedded many years ago still feels good. I can hear laughter in the air and see smiles as the people there now also get hooked on the camp experience. It is a community, a family of sorts and I am part of it.
There are lots of camps, with most providing similar experiences with their own unique flavor. My camp though is Camp Newaygo. The 90th anniversary of Camp Newaygo is this year and camp stories and memories are flowing. We will bring you some of these stories to you over the next few weeks and hope you too resurrect some great camp memories you may have had…at your camp.