Director’s Corner


Hello Camp friends –

What a summer! We saw record numbers at VBYC this season. 41% of our campers were new to Camp and as a result we made a lot of new friends. If the number of inquiries we are receiving about signing up for next year are an indication of good things to come, we look forward to another great season in 2023. Our staff worked very hard this summer, as they always do, to make sure campers were safe and enjoyed a wonderful program. Leadership training and preparing counselors for success continues to be our focus at the beginning of every season. As we head into the colder months we will begin to plan for our Leadership session. Some of our most cherished clinic and general session speakers have been Camp alumni who have experienced all the nuances of attending a leadership session and counseling in the past. We need your help to make sure that our young leaders get the best start possible. (Obvious plug for leadership speakers!) If this is of interest to you, please reach out via and someone will contact you with more details as planning moves forward. Our focus will be on the Leadership Triangle and our core values of camper first, inclusion, integrity, commitment, service, leadership, friendship, teamwork, respect, and responsibility.

We saw 851 campers this summer! That does not include our private groups like Paw Paw High School marching band, or other off-season groups that utilize our facilities. We sponsored about 80 campers/53 families with campership support to make it possible for their kids to attend Camp. A HUGE thanks to our donors who continue to support the dreams of the founding families in this way. It makes such a difference. I can attest to how finding Leadership Camp on a scholarship changed my life in ways I could never have imagined back then. Camp is so important to the social and emotional development in children in ways that are hard to put into words. This makes the donor support of the program and camperships vital to our success.

As we make our way through each year, the summer seasons are the reason we stay in business. In the off-season, we continue to look for ways to increase the use of our beautiful spaces, employ more staff beyond summer, and keep campers engaged in fun stuff over the winter. Stay tuned into our Facebook, Instagram, and website as we continue to keep you posted on the shenanigans we get into.

In the spirit of Camp –


Welcome to the Board

Lucia MacLeod

Lucia Macleod

Greetings all, Lucia MacLeod here. My daughter, Sabine, has been coming to VBYC since 2017 when she was enrolled in Little Bear. The first time I exited my car to drop her off, a feeling of peace and nostalgia came over me and I thought “now THIS is camp!” Though I never attended overnight camp as a child, it reminded me of the lake front day camp I went to archery, bb guns, hikes in the woods, spiders in the bathrooms, swimming and boating on the lake and, of course, the camp store!

Picking her up from Great Bear the following year after a whole week at camp, I remember her racing up the hill to greet me, crashing into me as she burst into tears and sobbed “Mom, I missed you SO much, but I had SUCH a good time!” SUCCESS! She looks forward to camp every year and I am grateful for the experiences she has had, the friendships that have been formed, and the memories that she will look back on fondly.

Serving on the VBYC Board is an opportunity to give back to the organization that has given, and continues to give, a wonderful and authentic camp experience to my child.

Campfest 2022 Crazy Weather and Fun Festivities

Campfest 2022

Who would think when we were planning a mid-August, Saturday afternoon Camp Fest Beach Party themed event that it would end with participants hanging onto canopy poles and trying not to get blown across Great Bear Lake? None of the VBYC Board members did. But in spite of the crazy weather and rainy end to the festivities we had an excellent turnout of 160 plus brave Michiganders.

“The Franchise” band from Chicago sent their amazing sound out over the water which brought lake dwellers over to join in sampling varieties of beers and wines.

A big Thank You to all our Staff and Counselors for their energy and imagination organizing an afternoon of fun.

Many kids activities happened in the Rec Area as well as around VBYC grounds. The finale of their afternoon was our first Kids Raffle. Baskets of themed items were available for our camper aged guests to take a chance on having their name announced as a winner.

Thanks to all of our sponsors, donors, and ticket buyers we made over $9,000 for Camperships!

Women’s Wellness Weekend

Women's Wellness 2022

Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold, this is true for all campers and especially Women’s Wellness Weekend! At the end of September 34 wonderful women ranging in age from 21-76 enjoyed a weekend filled with great food, fun crafts, and a variety of activities. Games, movies, campfires, cardio drumming, archery, massages and plenty of time for meaningful conversations and relaxation. Think about joining us next year!

Women's Wellness 2022

Catching Up With Alumni Staff

Neil Curiel

Neil Curiel

My name is Neil Curiel and I have been a lifelong camper (’95-’03), counselor (’01-’03) and staff member (’04-’10). Camp has shaped me into everything that I am today. It taught me the value of hard work, compassion, and most importantly leadership values. After graduating college from Florida Gulf Coast University, I began a career in the hospitality industry in Fort Myers, Florida. I started working in marketing and events for one of the top ten most visited historic sites and museums in the country. From there, I continued in sales, PR, and event management for destination marketing organizations, other attractions, and now as a sales manager at a five star-five diamond hotel located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

But throughout my entire career, I have always made sure my resume highlights that I have worked at such an amazing organization such as Van Buren Youth Camp. Often in interviews, the question gets brought up about what your biggest strength is. I always respond with the leadership values and experiences I learned from my time at VBYC. I am forever grateful and proud to have had the opportunity to grow up at camp.

The leadership triangle holds a very important place in my life, so much so that it is tattooed on my ankle. When ‘non-camp’ people see my tattoo, it starts a conversation… a very simple, but also complex conversation about the leadership values we teach. On the triangle are the three types of leaders: the S standing for Spiritual, the M standing for Mental, and the P standing for Physical. You can be any type, but it takes all of us together to burn the flames that is the L of Leadership. And you don’t have to just be the strongest, or the smartest, or even the loudest person to be leader. You can be a little bit of both… or all three! Because as the leadership triangle shows, you can fit anywhere within that triangular plane and still be a leader! You can be strong and smart, or spiritual and physically fit, or most importantly: just be yourself. You can be whatever you want, because in the end, To Lead is to Serve.

Since my time at camp, I am proud to continue utilizing the values that I learned into my personal and professional life. Whatever successes I attain in my future, I will always hold a special place in my heart for VBYC. And in many ways, I feel like I’ve never really left. I’ve just transitioned into a different environment. I still lead by the example set in the poem, “A Little Fellow Follows Me”. Do the best job you can do, put your best foot forward, and people will notice. A true leader sets the example for others to follow and when you hold to that, your values bring you back walking the trail to Thought, or circling the campfire on a crisp summer evening, or to the crisscrossed hand holding around the flag poll bidding farewell to the week singing the final line…  “For you belong to youth camp, and youth camp belongs to you.”

Lorraine’s Corner

Trees. Yep, that’s all that is on my mind this time of year (ok, it’s a pretty small mind). Waking hours, sleeping hours, it doesn’t matter, trees and their leaves are on my mind, and in my dreams. Scientists guesstimate that a mature hardwood tree has between 10 and 50 thousand leaves depending on species. Yes indeed, that adds up to a lot of leaves here at VBYC. Tons and tons of them. The other reason trees are on my mind at this time of year is that because of the change in seasons (and climate change), it is a season of high wind speeds. In my humble opinion, that can really be cause for a really bad day when you have high winds and 110 ft. tall, really old trees (all of which are within striking distance of a building, or three).

Yes, it is a beautiful time of year. Yes, this fall was beautiful beyond belief with tree color like we have not seen in a long while. Yes, I really love trees in all their various shapes and sizes, leaves or needles, they all are beautiful, amazing beings. I am just willing to admit that for a few weeks a year, it might be more of a love/hate relationship.

Board of Directors

  • Johnn Tapper (President)
  • Marge Durm-Hiatt
  • Sue Knudstrup
  • Joy Conrad
  • Debra Berkey
  • Helene Moya
  • Nick and Abby Leonard
  • Eli and Danielle Field
  • Brian Moon
  • Ben Holt
  • Lucia MacLeod
  • Dave Field

Life Members

  • Bob Gregory
  • Rick and Katherine Kinas
  • Russ Reynnells
  • Tim and Georgie Washburn
  • Jane Vaught