Hello Camp friends –
We are busy getting ready for the 73rd operating season at VBYC. We’ve been interviewing staff, including two friends who’ve been trying to work for us since 2020 and couldn’t because of Covid. Berfin Yilmaz from Turkey and Abigail (Abi) Howe from the UK will be joining our staff team in June.
Coming off of a recent trip to Portland, Oregon for the American Camp Association National Conference, my head is full of ideas to continue to grow as an impactful part of raising these amazing kids who come through our program each summer. Staff roll their eyes at me every time I say, “I have an idea…” but they know that I am only trying to help them grow as leaders, continue to revitalize the program, and keep us fresh in the eyes of our counselors, campers, and their collective parents. We put a lot of effort into making sure the staff grow as individuals as well and attempt to give them opportunities to lead in an area they enjoy or never thought they could. Giving the staff and counselors the tools to lead has the eventual impact of making Camp even more magical for the kids at a time they need us to step up the most.
Someone asked me recently why I hadn’t walked away from this kind of work over the last couple of years. They were coming at it from their perspective, I’m sure. Thinking about how hard it is for them to teach their kids from home, work from home, manage the masks/cleaning/sanitizing, etc., if they are in a service profession possibly thinking about how folks have often lashed out, so I wasn’t offended. But the question stopped me in my tracks. My answer… “are you kidding? I think I am exactly where I need to be right now.” I realized in that moment how lucky we are to be doing what we do. We can be here for the children in our communities in a way that is so important for them at a time when a lot of things in their lives might be pretty messed up. I mean, talk about the true meaning of service or servant leadership. We get to help kids – understand their feelings/emotions, look at the world through different eyes, understand/accept/appreciate what makes them different from other people, and why that is so great. We get to play with them outside all day for a whole week and help them make new friends. We get to help them at a time when it will hopefully impact them the most.
So, we are still here! We are planning for an amazing season at Camp this year. Enrollment numbers are almost double what they are normally at this time of the year and we are enrolling around 35% new families to VBYC. We have ample staff applications (which is lovely) and are looking forward to a good percentage of return staff as well. We increased camper fees this season to offset increased expenses and to raise salaries for these dedicated young people. Their commitment to VBYC and the kids is outstanding. We sure hope to see you and your family at Camp this summer! Don’t have camper age children/grandchildren?Mark your calendar for the all age inclusive Camp Fest August 13th – truly a great event for everyone – visit with Camp staff, Board Members, and alumni as you enjoy the activities and the evening meal.
And as always – thank you for your continued support! In the spirit of Camp –
Welcome to the Board
Hi, I’m Kris Badra. My first connection with VBYC was in the early 90s when m y oldest daughter Rachal came to Camp. Not long after, her younger sister Danielle came as a camper. I still have the first letter I ever got from Danielle which was from her first ever week at Camp. The line she wrote, “it’s not like I cried or anything” was in reference to being away from mom and dad for the first time. She was trying to be so brave. From then on, it was VBYC every summer for years.
Danielle eventually became a counselor and staff in training (SIT) when she was in high school. Although I never got the opportunity to go to Camp as a kid, I know how much my girls enjoyed it.
In my professional life, I’ve been a mental health counselor working with kids and their families for 30 years. I love what kids can teach us about love, each other, and ourselves. I think it would be great if all kids who want to go to Camp had the opportunity to have as much fun as my kids did.
Eli Field and Dani (Weber) Field
Eli Field and Dani (Weber) Field have a long history at VBYC, dating back to diapers. Both Dani and Eli come from families who have treasured the history and legacy of Camp making the statement “I love Camp and this is why” really live on in their lives.
Dani comes from a folk dancing family and in her time at Camp she could be relied on to carry on this song and dance tradition through her years as a camper, counselor, and staff member as the Head Counselor and Song and Dance instructor in 2003 and 2004.
Eli has roots in Camp with a family of folk dancers as well before becoming a camper, counselor then staff member from 2002 to 2004. He is excited to be a part of the board of directors because some of the fondest memories in his life came from VBYC and the friendships made there and the opportunity to be a part of that again is like another exciting chapter to begin.
Dani and Eli met at VBYC in 1999 as Rec Lab campers and a friendship grew into love and they have been together ever since. Now, as parents, Dani and Eli are happy to share a seat on the VBYC board of directors and love seeing the joy of Camp live on in their three children: Grayson (11), Crosby (9), and Millie (6). We love Camp and this is why!
Ambassadors and Leadership
At the recommendation of an alumni board member and a Camp staffer, in 2021, we created a group called the VBYC Ambassadors. This group has officially been added to the VBYC Board as representing VBYC in its efforts to:
- Create a place for current and previous VBYC counselors, campers, and staff to work together to share VBYC with the world, and
- To facilitate a year round avenue for involvement with Camp for our youth. It is a multi-generational group (youngest member is 12 and the oldest 70+) who will host fundraisers, advertise, support programming by helping to survey campers, counselors, and parents for improvement minded feedback, and to organize alumni activity like our upcoming 75th anniversary celebration.Committees consist of topics like
- A Day In the Life
- What?s Cookin?
- Truly Techy
- JEDI Preparedness, (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion)
Catching Up With Alumni Staff
Hey you Guys!
My name is Matt Watters and I’m an Alumni Staff member from VBYC. I was on staff from 2010-2014. I served 2 years as archery instructor and 2 years as the Volunteer Coordinator. I got involved with Camp through my grandparents. I lived in Illinois my whole life, but my grandparents lived on Great Bear Lake and told us about a youth Camp right across the way. I went as a great bear camper and was hooked! I loved every summer at VBYC, especially my time as a counselor and staff member.
Simply put, Camp changed my life as it has for so many. While working as the volunteer coordinator, I was lucky enough to work with over 50 high school age students who were willing to volunteer a week of their summer to supervise children without their phones! It helped me realize how incredible high school students can be and how much I enjoyed helping them and working with them.
Fast forward a bit, and I’m a high school math teacher in my 5th year of teaching. I credit so many of my social and communication skills to my time spent at Camp. I would still say that I’m no good at public speaking, yet everyday I find myself standing in front of 150 students that I don’t know trying to educate, entertain and understand them. The people I met, worked with and learned from taught me how to be understanding of everyone I meet, how to meet people in the middle and understand the many paths people take to get to where they are, and how to help someone whenever they need you. These qualities show up in my teaching every day.
I even adopted a weekly kitchen sticky list filled with fun challenges for my students! I love visiting my Camp friends around Michigan and enjoy every opportunity to return to Camp, see it thrive and give back to the place that gave me so much. If you were a camper when I was on staff, I hope my high energy fun helped you enjoy a great week at Camp.
To all the people I worked on staff with, thanks for making the long nights, long days, and long summers so much fun. Can’t wait to see you all again!
One of the questions I seem to get every year (and usually more than once) is “Isn’t it too quiet at Camp in the off season?” I am here to tell you that the answer is an emphatic “No”. It seems that everything around VBYC makes noise, some of it extremely loud, some annoying, some a joy to the ear.
On the loudness scale, the biggest is wind (sorry to the lake residents that voted for Canada geese to win the prize). The wind in the trees, especially when it gets gusting above 30 mph is Really, Really Loud. This time of year, I can also hear: the train going through Grand Junction, deer moving through the leaves, dogs barking at deer moving through the leaves, smaller mammals moving through the leaves (Yes, you may have noticed, leaves are Very Noisy) All kinds of birds, from woodpeckers to owls and chickadees to hawks. (Our red shouldered hawks have begun their spring fling and achieve the rating of Kinda Noisy.) So, I guess what I am saying is that every season has its noises, some Very Noisy, some that you need to just spend a little time being quiet so that you can enjoy hearing them. Yes, it is just about time to start hearing the Very Noisy, having a good time, Campers!
Board of Directors
- Johnn Tapper (President)
- Marge Durm-Hiatt
- Sue Knudstrup
- Joy Conrad
- Debra Berkey
- Nick and Abby Leonard
- Eli and Danielle Field
- Joe and AbbySchmidt
- Ben Holt
- Lucia MacLeod
- Dave Field
- Sharon Baile
- Bob Gregory
- Rick and Katherine Kinas
- Russ Reynnells
- Tim and Georgie Washburn
- Jane Vaught