My name is Lauren Schoendorf and I am pleased to introduce myself as the Girls Unit Director for Summer 2013. I’ve been calling Minikani my summer homeland since 2000 and am thrilled to take on this new position at camp. I plan to graduate from Creighton University this upcoming December with a degree in Justice & Society. While at school I am a staff supervisor of a local Day Care Center and this past semester I was also the development intern for a non-profit organization. Last summer I was Minicamp Director and am looking forward to working with resident campers and the Girls Unit counselors. I will be working alongside the counselors to ensure each camper has a safe, enriching, and positive experience at Camp Minikani. My goal this summer is to create a place where girls feel comfortable enough to let their inhibitions down and express their authentic self.
We’re in full swing here at Camp Minikani with our Spring season! We’ve had thousands of kids out here in the past month participating in a variety of classes. These students have done some incredible stuff, like conquering their fear of heights with our high ropes and rock climbing wall, archery, learning about native Wisconsin animals, wading through mud and catching small insects with our aquatic ecology classes, capturing some beautiful photos with our nature photography class, canoeing and rowboating, and tons of other fun classes!
These classes, while a ton of fun to participate in as well as teach, take a whole lot of effort to put together! It would not be possible without the tireless work from our dedicated staff of environmental educators. A HUGE thank you goes out to Olivia Smith, Jenny Adkins, and Amanda Lafty who joined the Minikani EE staff for this spring season, and have bought a tremendous amount of passion and love for the various aspects of the outdoors to our staff and to the thousands of kids we’ve worked with. It simply would not be possible to do these classes without them!
A few of the schools this spring have even met our Food Waste Challenge. Marcy Elementary, Oak Creek East Middle School House 6-1, Tippecanoe, Barton, and Lakeview have all beaten our famed challenge! In addition to the recognition here on the Minikani blog, they got the fun reward of seeing one of our staff members get pushed into Amy Belle Lake! We hope these schools keep up their ability to make wise choices about how much food they consume, and they take it back to their schools and at home!
And we of course cannot forget that Summer Camp 2013 is arriving in less than two weeks!!! Everybody here at Minikani is super pumped for yet another summer season, with the friendly faces of returning counselors and summer campers! Spring will be ending quicker than we can think, and summer camp will be upon us even faster!
Talk about a busy weekend!
Not quite a month ago, we had what is likely our busiest weekend of the year! On Friday, April 26th, every single student, teacher, assistant, and a bunch of parent volunteers came out from Steffen Middle School to help with their fourth annual Steffen Community Service Day. This day alone brought out about 450 people to help volunteer their day with us at Minikani. Over 30 projects were accomplished, including planting 150 trees, spreading hundreds of pounds of mulch, expanding our butterfly garden, redoing our waterfront fencing, planting flowers, painting rain barrels, and many, many more tasks! This day was truly a remarkable experience, and to see the enormous impact the kids from Steffen have on our camp is wonderful!
Then the next day, we had a whole bunch of camp alumni come out and help us out as well! They raised the two old totem poles that were at Council Bluff for years, and put them inside of Halquist Lodge. They also helped finish up painting some numbers for our brand new, old fashioned wooden scoreboard for Norris Field.
And then, on Sunday April 28th, we had our second annual Pancake Breakfast and Family Fun Day Open House! This day brought in about 700 people to camp. They were able to partake in rock climbing, horseback rides, archery, getting a camp tour on a wagon, and of course, enjoying a gigantic brunch buffet with more food than you could ever imagine! This day was a great chance for families to come on out and see camp running in its full glory, and to see just how much fun we all have working here at Minikani! If you missed it this year, be sure to come out next year, as it’ll return once again with a great day of food and fun for everybody!
We here at Camp Minikani are happy to see spring has finally arrived! The snow has melted, the temperatures are warming up, and the spring peepers, chorus frogs, and skunk cabbage have all made their spring arrivals known in our wetlands. As we eagerly await school groups coming out here again this spring, our environmental education department is wrapping up the in-school lessons we’ve been teaching over the past few months. We’ve been weekly visitors to Steffen Middle School, Richfield School, and Tippecanoe Elementary School over the past couple months. As part of these classes, the students have learned about their ecological footprint, composting, and environmental media. At Richfield School, the 7th graders raised awareness of various issues that were of concern to them. One group focused on food waste at lunch, and they created a video and presentation that addresses the issues and showed it to the students at the school. Another group organized an E-Cycling drive, where students, teachers, parents, and community members could bring in their old electronics and have them donated to organizations that will then give money to Richfield School in exchange. These students also wrote nature journals, took nature themed photography, and worked on their projects in their free time.
Steffen Middle School 7th graders have had an extensive program combining classes on eco footprints and composting. The students first took quizzes to determine how much of an impact they have on Planet Earth. After they discovered their impacts, they began learning about a way to reduce their impact, through composting. These classes focused on how long it takes for materials to decompose in both a landfill, and then in a compost pile. The difference for some materials really surprised the students. With our last visit there, the school will receive a large composter to use for composting their organic waste from lunches and any snacks the students might have. The 7th graders are pumped to take on the responsibility of maintaining their composting system at their school throughout the rest of the year. The students at Tippecanoe also took part in the same composting program. They built small composters made of two liter soda bottles, and then added organic waste to the composters that were kept in their classrooms over a few weeks. The students at Steffen added the compost from their own bottles to the large composter at their school and it will hopefully turn into nutrient rich soil in the next few months for them to use. We only have a few more weeks until the schools are out here every day…we’re excited to get going once again!
They wrote these goals on small sheets, and kept them taped to their school desks, their lockers, or took them home and put them in a clearly visible place. Many students reported back with success in keeping up with their goals, while a few admitted to struggling, but they all did say they were at least doing something to help reduce their impact! The culmination of their five classes resulted in them creating clever slogans, ideas, and pictures to be included on signs that were posted around their school. These signs all had something to do with trying to help reduce their school’s ecological footprint. The students were very excited to see that even within just minutes of their signs being put up, other students and teachers in the halls were already stopping to check out what these new signs and posters were saying!! We look forward tremendously to seeing these same 5th graders come out to Camp Minikani in May for some outdoor exploration and fun!
A BIG shout out and thank you to students of our Minikani Equestrian Center who raised $13,490 towards the annual campaign.
One of our youngest student, age 8, raised over $1000 by sending a personal letter to friends and family throughout the US. We had several donations from out of state, including two donations from Japan!
We are so proud of the commitment shown by these youngsters to help others experience the benefits of camp.
In celebration the students and their parents are invited to a “bowling party” on February 17th. Congrats on the hard work!
Last month, Camp Minikani hosted the annual family event, Holiday Cookie House. Even though there may not have been more than a light dusting of snow on the ground at the time, the holiday cheer was flowing throughout the dining hall! With a fire roaring, the Christmas tree all lit up, and Santa dropping by during the busy season, families, kids, and the young at heart all enjoyed a tremendous time. Upon arrival, everybody was given the option of decorating cookies, gingerbread houses, and for many…both! We had over 40 different decorations available to use, and they were all put to good use! This time we had lots of first time Cookie House visitors and they expressed tremendous surprise and joy at the amount of decorations that we have available for the cookies and houses.
The event is not only a great family tradition here at Minikani, but it also is a fundraising event for our summer camp. The money we raise through the event goes directly into our Annual Campaign, which helps every kid experience the life changing power of summer camp. During this event, we raised $551.80 for summer camper scholarships! A big THANK YOU to everybody who came out to Cookie House this past weekend, and we hope you will be joining us for Camp Minikani’s Holiday Cookie House in 2013!
As Executive Director at YMCA Camp Minikani, my days are filled with lots of wonderful moments; meeting campers and their families throughout the year, watching campers meet and exceed the goals they have set for themselves during the summer, sharing the excitement when outstanding young people are accepted into the Leadership Training program, visiting with alumni who site camp as “the formative experience” in their lives. Each of these interactions is a true joy and I know that I am blessed to come to work and love what I do every day!
But the days that go down in my memory as most special, the moments that I can clearly see even years after they occur, are the times when we are able to say, “YES.” to a family in need. In June, I was leaving a meeting in Shorewood, walking down the sidewalk wearing my Minikani staff shirt on my way back to my car. A woman and her children were walking by on the sidewalk and I smiled and said hello to them. As soon as they passed me the woman turned back around and said, “Camp Minikani??” I said, “Yes, I work there—are you a camp family?” She shouted to her kids, “Camp Minikani!! This lady is going to help you come to camp!” She proceeded to tell me that her children were coming to camp this year for the first time with the help of a scholarship. She had a stroke last year and was the sole breadwinner in her house as her husband was laid off. Her daughter is coming to day camp and her son is coming to overnight camp. “Thank you for the miracle!” she said. She said she had worked with Katy and Kelly in the office and, “They are just miracle workers. I can’t believe my kids are going to Minikani!” She gave me a big hug and her eyes were filled with tears. I talked to the kids for a little bit about what they are looking forward to at camp (archery and swimming!) and told them I would look forward to seeing them at check in.
As I walked back to my car, I was pretty choked up. I smiled as I realized (again) what an amazing job I have, what an amazing privilege it is to be able to give the gift of camp to such wonderful families and how lucky we are to be involved with a program that provides miracles.
Many of you helped us to be able to say “Yes” this summer, by donating to the annual campaign for scholarships through Project 212. Thank you for your involvement in helping us raise funds for scholarships. As we near the end of our campaign for 2012, we have raised just over $75,000 needed to meet our goal of $105,000.
If you have not yet had the chance, I would like to ask you to consider supporting the YMCA Camp Minikani Annual Campaign for camp scholarships. The costs are roughly $100 a day or $700 for a week of camp. If you can help send a camper for one day, that’s wonderful. Two days or maybe a week? Even better. As you know, the YMCA is a non-profit, so your contributions are tax deductible, and eligible for matching contributions from many employers.
Making a contribution is easy, you may send me an email at email@example.com directly with the amount you would like to donate and when you would like to be invoiced, a check may be sent or dropped off at camp or you may donate online as well. The link takes you to our Minikani site and you can click through the Milwaukee YMCA giving page and select “Camp Minikani” in the designation box.
I know there are a lot of great causes needing support, especially this time of year. Thank you for considering a year-end gift to YMCA Camp Minikani.
ARE YOU IN!?
It has been a successful fall EE season! Golda Meir was our last school group of the year, and they took us out with a bang. These 4th graders had a blast practicing their Wisconsin lumberjacking skills, learning outdoor survival with shelter and fire building, and getting to know the woods of Minikani in forest ecology. They also participate in several nighttime adventures including a night hike and Star Lab, in which they looked at constellations in our inflatable planetarium and then went outside to take a look at the same constellations in the night sky. We also had the pleasure of belaying the 6th graders of John Long Middle School and Tamarack Waldorf School on our high ropes and rock wall this month.
At the end of October we worked with Milwaukee Montessori 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. These little kiddos explored all over camp and did some hands on learning about bats, erosion, and lumberjacking. They also bundled up to take a rather chilly wagon ride behind our tractor around camp, but they loved it! Oak Creek Middle School came to camp for a couple days of rock wall, high ropes, and low ropes. Merton Middle School also came out for a day to test their knowledge of groundwater, watersheds, and orienteering. They even tested their debating skills in Environmental Debate. They had quite a day and ended it with cider, cookies, and a huge thunderstorm.
It’s been an excellent fall full of environmental teaching, rock climbing, nature hiking, composting, campfire song singing, and lots of laughing. Although the fall just ended, we’re already looking forward to the spring season and getting ready for the next group of students to experience camp with their classmates. Happy Winter!