GREENVILLE — Snow currently blankets the Greenville Optimist Camp (Wah-Wah-Tay-See) and the only sound of children you hear at camp are those screaming with delight as they descend down Tower Mountain. It is time to start thinking about summer and summer means camp.
The Greenville Optimist Club presented a check for $1,000 to EightCAP Inc., the administrative body for the camp, to start the annual “Keep the Doors Open” campaign to support the camp. Each year $70,000 must be raised for the camp to open and this year the fundraising board has a big job in front of it. Thanks to contributions from the Optimist Club and other businesses and organizations, EightCAP President Dan Petersen said there is $10,000 toward the $70,000 goal.
For the past 60 years the Optimist Camp has opened its doors for six weeks of fun for children and adults with special needs. Campers come from all over Montcalm, Ionia and surrounding counties. Campers are asked to pay a registration fee of $20 if they are able. If not, no camper is turned away. Each week campers enjoy activities such as fishing, canoeing, archery, science and nature, arts and crafts and swimming. The campers are served three meals a day plus a snack before bed and sleep outside in tents on army cots.
“It’s a great place to be a make friends,” said Billy, one of the campers.
“It costs $250 for a camper to come to camp,” said Joe Minier, a member of the fundraising board and Optimist Club. “The camp gets over 300 campers each year, which means we must raise $75,000 each year.
“Two years ago donations were own and the board decided to charge each camper $250 to attend camp. That year we only had 75 campers attend camp. That is not an option that we will repeat. That is why this fundraising event is so important to the campers. Speaking for me, I do this for the campers and their families. My reward is the enjoyment I see in each camper’s face.”
Bob Hemingsen, who currently serves on the fundraising board has been involved with the camp for more than 25 years.
“I have done every job out here,” he said.”I was a counselor, worked in the kitchen, was the lifeguard one year and my wife Heather and I were the directors for nine years.
“This place is a part of me. It’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. It’s where I met and asked my wife to marry me. This place means a lot to many people.
“You know it means a lot to the campers when you open one of the fundraising letters and 65 cents rolls out from a camper, wanting to help keep the doors open to this place. You are reminded of the importance of camp when a camper sees you in town, in the middle of winter, and ask you what tent they will be sleeping in or lets you know they are already packing.”
“Camp is truly a community effort,” Camp Director JoLynn Spencer said. “Without the Optimist Club here to take care of and maintain the buildings or EightCAP helping with the administration or the city of Greenville and all that they do, I don’t know how we could do this each year.
“I know that $70,000 is a big goal for the fundraising board, but each year the people, business and organizations of this area come together to support this very special place and I and the campers want to thank them.”
For more information about the Greenville Optimist Camp, call (616) 754-9315 to have a representative come to your group, organization, business or church to do a presentation. To learn more or to donate visit optimistcamp.org. Donations can also be mailed to EightCAP/Greenville Optimist Club, 904 Oak Drive Turk Lake, Greenville, MI, 48838.