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


Nevin Webster said...

It is good to hear from you, Daryl, through your remembering... and good to see your updated, wonderful smile in the attached photo. I remember two very special summers spent at Pendalouan in '80 and '81 as counselor and program director. Thanks again for those opportunities.

Camp Pendalouan said...


I've passed on your note to Daryl in case he didn't see it. I also wanted to let you know that we've been looking for Staff from the 80s for a long time! If you would like to update your camp history and contact information, we'd love to send your our next issue of Smoke Signals, our Alumni & Friends Newsletter!

Click here to update your info:

Hail Pendalouan!

Mark Olson
Alumni Director
YMCA Camp Pendalouan