Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why We Do What We Do

Every day here at Camp is full of moments where we as Pendalouan staff are able to look around and say to ourselves, "Wow. We really do make a difference." But every once and a while, we hear from a camper or alumni and it really hits deeper than our daily reminders. Below are the words of a recent young Pendalouan alumni who recently helped us cement our commitment to creating strong kids and reminded us of why we do what we do. Enjoy.

"I cannot put to words the excitement that arose within me each year as we traveled through the trees down the curvy roads to get the Camp Pendalouan. I always knew that that week at Pendalouan would be full of surprises, support, and love.

I started going to camp when I was seven years old, and I can honestly say that I felt safer and happier at camp then I ever felt at any other point in my life. As a camper, I felt no judgments, no persecution. My counselors just encouraged me to be myself, to enjoy life, to have fun. I knew that at camp, I would be safe and cared for no matter what and that meant a lot considering that I came from a home where love was never consistent.

Pendalouan encouraged me to be more than I thought I ever could be. Camp challenged me to overcome obstacles and helped me develop skills that would allow me to conquer many difficult situations in life. Without Pendalouan, I would not be the strong person I am today. I would have never felt like I was worth anything. Because of Pendalouan, I became a good leader, a hard worker, and a caring person.

I would like to thank anyone who has ever contributed to the Campership program. Without it, my mother would not have been able to afford to send me to Pendalouan, and I would not be who I am today. I look back on my time at Pendalouan and realize now that it was way too short. Those were truly the best years of my life whether it was learning that I was worth more when I was a camper or helping campers understand their importance when I was a counselor. Pendalouan will forever be in my heart, and I hope that many other children will have to opportunity to love camp as much as I do."

-Brittani, Campership Recipient 

Do YOU have a Pendalouan Story to share with the Pendalouan Community? If so, send it to Mark Olson, Alumni Coordinator at If you'd like to learn how to help to provide important camp experiences to kids who may not otherwise have the chance to get them, please check out our website or contact Bruce Spoelman, Executive Director at (231) 894-4538.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paint, Scrub, Rake, and Organize: April 15 - Spring Volunter Work Day!

Parents, Alumni, Friends of Pendalouan:

Do you like working with your hands, getting some good work done, and helping out a place that transforms the lives of children?

Then Pendalouan's Spring Volunteer Work Day is for you!

Sunday, April 15th, 2012, from 1pm-5pm, we are having a Camp Clean-up Day to get Pendalouan ready for our warmer months!  

You may come as go as you please, but please RSVP so that we can help plan projects and provide enough refreshments.

A Sample List of Projects:
- Organizing Eddie’s old Photos and Memorabilia
- Fence Construction
- Transplanting Trees
- Painting
- Cleaning the Shoreline
- Raking Leaves

Again, we’d like to get an accurate count to help us plan projects, so if possible, please RSVP by calling the office (231) 894-4538 or emailing your name and number attending to Mark Olson, Alumni Coordinator at

Help get Pendalouan ready for Summer Camp! We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Four Core Values and the Camp Motto!

Summer Camp is NOT just fun and games.

Okay, that's a BIG part of it.

But here at Camp Pendalouan, we are also in the business of developing kids into strong individuals. One of the chief ways we do this is by incorporating the Four Core Values and The Camp Motto (I'm Third) into every aspect of our programming.

Read on to learn a little more about the Four Core Values and The Camp Motto and to see how we bring them to life and get kids excited about being honest, caring, respectful, responsible, and third.

Honesty (The Blue Banner) - At Opening & Closing Campfire each session, four counselors stand before the whole camp and speak about each of the Four Core Values. When talking about honesty, counselors often speak about being True Blue - emphasizing how being honest with others and themselves makes life easier, more fulfilling and is just the right thing to do.


Caring (The Red Banner) - "The easiest way to remember which color represents Caring is that it is red like your heart." At the end of the day, we'll often ask the whole camp as they are gathered on the steps of the Lodge, "Who can tell me about a caring act that their cabin mate did for them today?" And the hands will fly up like metal to a magnet. Caring is one of the easiest Core Values for campers to understand, and is often their favorite when asked.


Respect (The Yellow Banner) - At minimum, the expectation for a Cabin group is to act like a team. At it's best, the outcome of a cabin group is acting like a family and hopefully emulating the Golden Rule. Both a team and a family cannot survive without mutual respect between members and we often tell campers, "EVERYONE here at Pendalouan deserves your respect."

Responsibility (The Green Banner) - There are so many opportunities for campers to be responsible at Pendalouan - at meal times, during Cabin Clean-Up Time, during Service Activities, when putting away equipment at the end of activities. We often describe responsibility as "taking care of things that belong to you or are under your care" and connect the value to taking care of our bodies, our friends and family, our belongings, and our specific tasks and chores. We remember the color because of our responsibility to the environment and the healthy green plants that are part of it.

The Camp Motto: I'm Third - First established as our Camp Motto in 1930, I'm Third has always held a central role at YMCA Camp Pendalouan. I'm Third is short for God First, Others Second, I'm Third. Here at Camp, we share examples and stories of selflessness and sacrifice. We promote putting someone else before ourselves and offer generous praise when seeing campers and staff living the Camp Motto and being Third. Few things are actually carved in stone here and the "white" stone above our fireplace helps us remember this color.

How We Incorporate These Values Into Our Programs

Bands - Every Sunday before campers arrive, our counselors grab a new batch of Core Value Bands and get ready to distribute them to campers. When our staff see campers doing something that demonstrates one of the four core values, they give that kid a band and praise them for their action. By the end of the week, campers are giving them to each other! We even have had some campers bring back their bands from previous years at camp!


Activity Development - In designing our camp activities, we always make sure that they help fulfill our mission statement and embrace Camp's Core Values.

Reinforcement - Someone once said, "In speech, we give ideas life." We are constantly talking about these values and the Camp Motto - at Chapel every morning, during the Nightly Cabin Taps Talks, in activities and all camp events - the list goes one!

Role Modeling - We also practice what we preach! Each of our staff members are carefully interviewed, evaluated, and expected to uphold, promote and embrace the Four Core Values and the Camp Motto. We consider these values the foundation for the Spirit of Pendalouan.

We recently asked our Facebook Community what their favorite Core Value is. Have you seen the answered or answered yourself yet? Check it out by clicking here!

YMCA Camp Pendalouan is a fully accredited resident and day camp. While at Pendalouan, kids and teens make friends, create life long memories, and learn new skills all the while having fun in a safe environment. At Pendalouan, you are a part of a family and campers are lead by highly qualified and trained staff.  If you would like to learn more about Camp Pendalouan, check out our website, the Camp Blog and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wear Your Camp Gear to School & Work Day!

Calling All Pendalouan Campers, Alumni, Parents & Friends!

Next Tuesday, March 20th is our Annual
Wear You Camp Gear to School & Work Day!

We are asking all Pendalouan Campers, Alumni, Parents & Friends to celebrate MI Y Camps Month with us by wearing one of your favorite pieces of Pendy Gear (shirts, sweatshirts, hats, etc) taking a picture, and posting it to our Facebook Page or emailing it to

We'll be posting the photos to our Facebook Page throughout the week. Let's see how many photos we can post! Feel free to get creative in your picture taking!

We know you have at least one Pendalouan shirt in your dresser! So whip it out and show your Pendalouan Pride! If you can't wear it to work or school on Tuesday, feel free to wear your Pendy Gear and post or send in your photo later in the week!

If you are interested in purchasing a shirt from The Trading Post, give us a call at (231) 894-4538.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Daryl Sieplinga Remembers...

We asked Daryl Siepligna, former camper, staff, and Camp Director at YMCA Camp Pendalouan, to reflect upon his time at Pendalouan, the connections he made and the life lessons he learned, and how and why he stays connected to this special place on the shores of Big Blue Lake.

Daryl Sieplinga
We found this picture of Daryl from a 1983 Smoke Signals!

For me, Camp Pendalouan is all about family – that’s where my strongest feelings are about camp and that is also the link for my memory. My first memory of camp was in the summer of 1961 – the summer I didn’t go to camp.

I remember that summer when my dad and two older brothers took off for Dad & Son Camp. I couldn’t go…I was too young. The next year I would be old enough – I would be five! And in 1962 I attended my first Dad & Son Weekend. Those memories are some of my best memories of my early childhood.

I remember the “wet” and “dry” canoe trips. We always chose the “wet” ones with ambushes around the bend and loud shouts of attack and surprise. I remember falling out of bed and having “Chief” Horsely
do some first aid on my backside. I remember when I was finally old enough to stay up late with the older kids and play cards.

I also attended camp as a camper. I sold Thin Mints to help earn my way. My folks paid the deposit, but I was responsible for the balance. I hated selling candy, but I loved camp. I remember special staff members: waterfront director, Red Heeres; program director, Wayne Hile; counselor extraordinaire, Eddie Boersema.

Both my brothers worked at camp before I did. They worked in the kitchen and in maintenance at first. My first job at Pendalouan was in the summer of 1973 – just after my junior year of High School. I was the Assistant Cook. Maggie Chester was the head cook and Dick Morley was the Camp Director that year.

As Assistant Cook, I was really just in charge of the clean-up. From my vantage point in the kitchen, I learned lots of camp songs and traditions. I made some great friends as co-workers and I learned a wonderful sense of independence. I returned the next year when Ron Cook was the Camp Director.

I had opportunities for progressively greater responsibilities over the next several years and I became Assistant Program Director/Waterfront Director (working with Bob Bird and Polly Meyers). Then I had two years as Program Director.

I never intended to make the YMCA my career, but my work at Pendalouan changed my life. In the summer of 1978, Pendalouan was hard up for a Camp Director and I thought that would be a great thing to do between college and graduate school. I’m still working for the YMCA and I haven’t regretted one bit.

At Pendalouan, I saw lives changed – mine included. I saw the impact that the camping experience could have on young lives. We learned independence and interdependence. We learned that people matter. We learned an appreciation for God’s creation and our responsibility for stewardship of that creation. These are the learnings that keep me connected to Pendalouan and have challenged me to assist financially so that others can have that same experience.

I started out by saying that my camping experiences were about family. Indeed, my immediate family experiences were important, but the new family created with each new camping season was a critical part of my experience. The friendships and connections that I made through Pendalouan and the YMCA made lasting impressions on my life.

While I was at Pendalouan, I had the chance to meet some volunteers that were a part of Pendalouan in its earliest days. I realized that the history of Pendalouan was only kept in the memories of individuals. Fred Grienenberger and Walt Moessner helped create a written history of Pendalouan.

That history taught me that there was a lineage of people who cared about the place, the traditions, and the impact of Pendalouan. That lineage has gone back to 1924. There were visionaries and dreamers, workers and contributors. People made Pendalouan possible.

I have had a chance to see many YMCA camps – some of the finest in the country – but there’s no place like Pendalouan. The beautiful vista across the lake is without equal. It is preserving that vista that is one of my unfulfilled dreams for Pendalouan’s future. As alumni and friends, we may have a challenge to preserve that vista across Beautiful Big Blue Lake for the next generation of Pendalouan campers.

As we build connections through the Smoke Signals, Alumni Day, Facebook and other places, we have a chance to challenge one another to dream big about the future for Pendalouan. I hope that in looking backward, we can also look forward to the life-changing programs and services that Pendalouan can afford in the future.

Daryl (top center) at the 2012 Mid-America Camping Conference with  Pendalouan Staff and Alumni

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Why Kids Need Nature & Camp

Pendalouan Day Campers showing the frogs they found during an activity called Pond Study

Time and time again, research has shown the numerous health and social benefits of spending time in the outdoors. However, in the fast-paced urbanized world most of us live in, today's youth are missing out on those many benefits. Instead of playing tag outdoors, they are spending hours in front of television, computer and cell phone screens. 

There are several ways to get kids engaging with the natural world around them - camping trips, time at local parks and beaches, family field trips to state parks and nature centers, just to name a few.

But, here at Pendalouan, our specialty is Camp! And while all those other ideas are great, we think that having kids spend a whole week (or more!) in the outdoors at camp provides them with benefits that other experiences can't offer. Luckily, camp has been effectively connecting kids to the nature and the outdoors since camping first started in the mid-1800s! In fact, it's part of what makes camp Camp.

See below to read about the main ways Pendalouan gets kids engaging with the natural world around them.


We think our beautiful waterfront is one of the aspects of Pendalouan that makes us unique.
1. During our Summer Camps at Pendalouan, kids are only indoors for a few hours of each day (not including sleeping). Those hours are for meals, rest hour, and if an activity calls for being inside.

2.Surrounded by Manistee National Forest and the Owasippe Scout Reservation, Camp Pendalouan is a beautiful setting that includes uninterrupted forest shoreline, dirt roads and paths, and natural forest ecosystems to explore, learn and play in.

3. Several of our activities are nature-based! Hikes to Sleepy Hollow, Nature Class, Pond Study, Swim Lessons, Fire Building Class, Lake Swim, Survival Lessons, our Horse Program, and more!

4. We encourage curiosity. Here at Pendalouan, we don't just allow for kids to play in and explore mother nature, we encourage it! Whether it is working with campers to investigate the pond ecosystem during Cabin Time or playing a game about camouflage during our Nature Activity, our counselors know how to create teachable moments and take advantage of a child's curiosity about nature.

At Camp Pendalouan, kids don't just live in the outdoors, they experience it.

Looking for More Information on Child Development, Nature & The Outdoors?
Check out these links that we recently read and enjoyed:

Psychology Today - The Need for "Wild" Play: Let Children Be The Animals They Need to Be

Richard Louv: Want Your Kids To Get Into Harvard? Tell 'em To Go Outside!

Study Finds Access to Nature Improves Health

Summer Camp: An Antidote to Nature Deficit Disorder

Outdoor Education and Play Benefit All Children

YMCA Camp Pendalouan is a fully accredited resident and day camp. While at Pendalouan, kids and teens make friends, create life long memories, and learn new skills all the while having fun in a safe environment. At Pendalouan, you are a part of a family and campers are lead by highly qualified and trained staff.  If you would like to learn more about Camp Pendalouan, check out our website, the Camp Blog and our Facebook page.