It was June, 1995 when I first interviewed as a Youth Worker with Chicago Youth Centers’ Fellowship House. I clearly remember one of the questions I was asked during the interview process, “Would you be open to camping with the children as part of your role as Youth Worker?” The Program Director of Fellowship House explained to me that Chicago Youth Centers owned a Camp in Michigan and camping was integrated as part of the position at Fellowship House. I paused for a moment and replied “I have never been camping in my 22 years of life, but I could try.” Well, little did I know, after getting hired I would spend over 25 weekends at Camp Rosenthal.
Never in my life could I imagine that I would come to love the camping experience as much as I did while attending Camp Rosenthal. Everyone laughed at me because I was called “high maintenance” and they thought I would never survive at camp. Well, I proved everyone wrong. Not only did I survive at Camp Rosenthal, I did it in style. Camp is equipped with showers and electricity, so that was all I needed. A place to clean up and plug my blow dryer in and the rest was history.
Fellowship House historically sent groups of youth to camp three times a year, Fall, Winter, and Spring for a weekend and then for a week in the Summer. My first time at Camp Rosenthal was in the fall. As the bus arrived on the property, the sun was setting over the lake and I could remember the beautiful orange sky and a sense of tranquility. This was far different from the neighborhood I was working in at Fellowship House. The majority of the youth had been to camp before and started chanting as they saw the “infamous Lodge”. The excitement was overwhelming and I couldn’t help but get caught up in it. Over the course of the weekend, I was able to experience paddle boating, canoeing, archery, bon fires, hayrides and just relaxing under the stars at night. These activities were so much fun but the much more meaningful experience I was able to have been with the group of youth we brought for the weekend. Camp seemed to have a “spell” over them. There were no cliques or arguing. Everyone played and interacted with one another and really worked as a unit. The air seemed to have a calming effect. It was wonderful to see these youth outside of their ‘normal” environment where they were always proving themselves or keeping a guard up to deflect any incidence of violence. Camp Rosenthal was a safe place and they could feel it.
Over the course of my tenure at CYC, I have spent many weekends at Camp Rosenthal, worked during the Camp Clean up Weekends, and sent alumni groups back to relive their childhood. I could go on forever about how many memories were made at Camp Rosenthal and how many youth were inspired by their experience. I have to admit that I grew as a youth worker, more importantly, as a person. So thank you Camp Rosenthal… A Boom Chicka Boom!!!!
Tales from Chippewa trails…
(Guest blogger and Center Director at CYC Fellowship House)