When the weather is warm and school is out, there should be one thing on kids' minds: summer camp! And at YMCA Camp Pendalouan in Montague, children will stretch their imaginations in the great outdoors and get a chance to grow as people, too.
Founded in the mid-1920s, Camp Pendalouan has been pitching tents and making campfires for nearly ninety years. In that time, generations of families have come to define summertime with paddling around Big Blue Lake, hiking through the surrounding woods, and making friendships that last a lifetime. But what makes Camp Pendalouan unique among summer camps is its focus on social interaction development as well as skill development.
In a world buzzing with cell phones and constant digital contact, children and youth are fast communicators. But it is a different form of communication than previous generations learned. Camp, says Executive Director Bruce Spoelman, is a place to come and unplug and get back to the roots of socialization.
"People don't talk to each other anymore," Bruce said. "Kids get out of class and they're texting or on their cellphones. They don't talk person to person.” At camp, by personalizing activities and formulas to each individual camper, counselors are able to provide an experience and environment for children that is conducive to positive, peer-to-peer interaction.
Camp Pendalouan is set up to be a haven for children, young and pre-teen. Natural gathering places encourage groups to engage in games such as four square, talk in groups at large tables, play on swings, or simply dig in the dirt. Although face-to-face interaction could be difficult, the challenge is one Camp Pendalouan tackles head on—and Bruce said the camp has found it makes lasting impressions for cabinmates, and even among siblings who are camping together.
Forging sibling bonds is something parents have come to appreciate. At Pendalouan, they are careful to mix up age groups with separate cabins and activities. Because they are out of their natural settings, Bruce said, brothers and sisters see each other in a different light—among different social groups—and it evens the playing field.
Because of the nature of activities at Camp Pendalouan, children relate at multiple age levels, Bruce said. Camp-wide games and other activities include campers of all ages, and counselors find older children are more than willing to interact together, even if it means a thirteen-year-old gets beat by a nine-year-old.
Camp Pendalouan underlines its “God first, others second, I'm third” motto with varied outdoor activities and an emphasis on building relationships. In a digital age, it's important to give children opportunities to broaden perspectives and learn lessons essential to life at all ages.
Are you ready to sign up for camp? Registration is now open! Choose from specialty camps, day camps, and overnight camps. Pendalouan also has two Camp Preview Days coming up on April 21 and May 5, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Come enjoy a camp tour—and try your best at archery or the climbing wall. For more information, call the office at (231) 894-4538 or head to http://www.pendalouan.org/.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it.