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Camp Ondessonk Parent Testimonials

Camp Ondessonk Parent Testimonials 

Kenny Toohill-That sending my kids to Camp Ondessonk was one of the best things I’ve ever done for them. That Camp O was one of the most positive influences in their life. That my children have developed strong lifelong friendships at Camp O. That Camp O has enriched my children’s spiritual lives.

Jennifer Drainer-Schauster- Camp Ondessonk give your child a place to grow in responsibility and independence in a safe and structured environment. It provides them with positive role models and allows them to try out new skills and broaden their horizons. As a successful, collage educated, thirty something mother of two I know that Camp Ondessonk played an important part in getting me where I am today. I will certainly send my children there when they are old enough.

Valerie Oestry- That my child loves Camp O so much she wants to live there, and that she has learned things she will never learn at school or at home, but only at Camp O – all positive, life-changing things! (Plus it is a week of no-worries parenting for me!) Seriously though, I am letting go of her a little bit for that week, but in a positive way where I know she is growing soooooo much!! It is worth every dollar!!!
Norbert Garvey- All 4 of my well adjusted, college educated children attended Camp Ondessonk, I feel they were motivated to succeed, in part, by the outdoor education received while at Camp Ondessonk.

Tracey Simpson-A huge HEEPWAH to the Camp Ondessonk Staff for another outstanding Family Camp.  This may have been the best year yet!  I would love to name individually all the staff who made our time at camp incredible, but the list is so long and I am sure I would leave some people out.  Thank you to the many staff who walked with (or carried) one of our kids from one activity to the next, and to all of those who watched and played with the girls so that we could spend some time doing “big kid” activities with the boys.  We had an amazing hike through the split rocks and an awesome time on the zip lines – all while our younger children were scattered around camp (at babysitting and the swimming area) with various staff members.  I knew they were in good hands and never worried a minute.  Thank you!

While I am not able to mention all the outstanding staff we had, I want to mention a few of the members of our unit staff in Tekakwitha.  First of all, Brenn was an absolutely outstanding unit leader – always full of energy.  She was fabulous with the kids and was a pleasure to visit with during our stay.  It is evident she loves her job.  Lexi and Cindy (and others) spent much of their week playing with and helping our girls around camp.  It is always nice to have another lap to sit on or an extra hip to help carry.  I think Lexi had one of our girls on her hip every time I saw her.  J  All of the staff did a fantastic job of keeping the spirits high by sharing stories and leading songs.  Although Samm has never been part of our unit staff at camp, she has always been super friendly with our family.  Many others in the activity areas interacted with our children in ways they will never forget!  It was awesome to see the continued relationships between our boys and staff members that carried over from their experiences at camp during boys’ week and mini-camp – CIT Josh, David, Patrick, and Johnny.

I cannot end without sharing a story about David.  The evening of our unit campfire, my daughter Tess brought some of her books out of the cabin and enjoyed having various staff members (Cindy, Lexi, and others) read to her.  As dark approached my husband found our oldest son Jack, and the girls sitting on the porch of our cabin being read to by David.  Later in the evening, the girls were getting tired just as we were starting to gather under the rock hangover to sing camp songs.  David asked the girls if they would like him to put them in their bed and he would read stories until they fell asleep.  They were excited and off they went.  I will never forget looking back at our cabin between camp songs and seeing the glow of David’s flashlight and hearing the soft mumble of his voice as he read stories to the girls until they fell asleep.

Every year, I am in awe of the kindness, respect, and attentiveness of the staff at Camp Ondessonk.  They are outstanding role models for our children!

Last, but not least, thank you to whoever arranged for me to be the “Heepwah Counter” for the closing campfire.  It was an amazing surprise and closing to a wonderful trip.  It is a privilege I have only seen bestowed upon staff members, and I am honored to have been asked.  Thank you!

Looking forward to our next visit to Camp,

Tracey Simpson and the Simpson Family 

Mark Cowgill -Just wanted to send you a note concerning my first experience with Camp Ondessonk. My daughter Susy Cowgill was a first time camper this past week at Girls Week 2. While my three older children showed some interest in the past in attending Camp Ondessonk it just never worked out. Our oldest who just graduated from high school was involved in boy scouts and it seemed like scout camp took precedence during his camping years. The Cowgills moved from Belleville to Breese about 4 years ago and that adjustment seemed to also affect the camping possibilities of our older two daughters. This past school year Susy showed some interest along with a few classsmates and decided to ask if she could go. Susy is the fourth child of eight so as parents, my wife and I have to “limit” the activities or family life “quality” would go down dramatically as I am sure you can understand. We always try to let our kids be active in sports and music and whatever else they show an interest in. So while I mentioned we limit things we still go crazy with all of the running here and there.  🙂

We dropped Susy off on the 15th of July and while we were a bit worried because of the heat we left hoping that it was going to be a good week for her. We thought of her often during the week and hoped and prayed that she was doing well, having fun and behaving. My wife and I showed up with our newest addition (2 month old daughter) and left the other ones in the care of their older siblings. While new at the pickup experience as well we were impressed with the talk and presentation you gave in the chapel while the girls were cheering and singing nearby. We left the chapel and waited like all the rest of the parents to meet up with their campers. Our first glimpse of her was her crying and hugging a new friend she had met at camp. We watched this for a few more moments while we worked our way to her. All the while watching her with tears in her eyes hugging new friends goodbye. We started to tear up as well as we finally caught her attention and got our first hug from Susy ourselves.

We took your advice and didn’t rush out. We let Susy say her goodbyes, show us around a bit and even watched her play a game or two of gaga ball as we believe it is called. After cashing in some barter bucks we said a few more goodbyes and headed to the parking lot. The drive home with a stop for gas and a soda and fries for the camper took a little over 2 hours I think. I must be honest I am not sure because for the whole duration we heard Susy tell us about the “whole week”. Everything from all day hikes to adventures to meals to bugs to dirt to sleep to inspections to showers to new friends to units to earning arrows to leaders to CIT’s to LIT’s to horses to archery. You get the picture. Susy is like most every other girl her age who is growing up too fast and the more we try to slow her down the harder it gets. While having 8 kids gives us an excuse as to why she can’t have the latest and greatest hi-tech gadget or the most up to date fashions I am sure you understand the pressures on young girls to be one of the crowd. It is no different in the wonderful town of Breese. We moved here to raise our family in a small town environment and must say that it has been a true blessing. We could not be happier with the move. Having said that we must also say that it is not a perfect place. Kids are still kids and some have things that others don’t and that will always cause issues.

I may be saying this without all the facts but based upon what we saw at Camp Ondessonk it looks like you have figured out a way to combat that.  She left there absolutely loving the experiences that she had. While I believe she grew up tremendously during the week, I also believe on the flip side that she also remained a young girl for one week longer than if she would not have gone to Camp. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that one week at Camp Ondessonk fixes all that is wrong with the world but just maybe if parents take your lead and get back to getting a little dirty while having fun and not worry about keeping up with the world we might all be a little better off.

I sometimes ramble on but thought I should take the time to send you this note.

Congratulations to you and all the staff at Camp Ondessonk.

This may have been our first experience with Camp Ondessonk but something tells me it will not be our last.

Thanks for the great experience and God Bless you in all you do.

Mark Cowgill
Breese IL


Dear Dan,

I am a postulant for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, currently teaching 7th and 8th grade religion at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Alton, IL.    I wanted to send a short note of thanks to you and your staff for the work that you are doing.

Prior to joining this religious order, I was a full time staff member at Camp Gray, the Catholic Camp in the diocese of Madison, WI.  I worked there for 8 summers and full time for the past 5 years.  I had always known the power of summer camp and other experiences at camp.  I had believed, and taught my staff, that kids who come to camp gain measurable and intangible gifts and skills that help them in all areas of life – most importantly in the faith.  Now, as a teacher, with kids from your camp in my classroom, I am witnessing what I always knew to be true.

There is a noticeable difference in my classroom in the students who attend your summer camp.  These differences include respect for adults and peers, self-confidence, integrity, work ethic, commitment to and love for the faith.  Of course, I can’t say for sure camp is the reason, and I am sure there are other factors at work here.  But, as a former camp staff member, I cannot sell short the impact that their camp experience has on them.   I am filled with joy at knowing that there are other camps out there doing the same work, and that there are other youth whose lives are being changed through their time at camp.  Thank you all for the work that you are doing and for the positive influence it has on my classroom!

Recently our 8th grade boys chose a patron saint in St. Isaac Jogues and formed the “St. Isaac Jogues Blackcoat Brotherhood of Awesomeness”, largely to the influence of these campers.  If you have any materials online that you would care to share, feel free to send them along!


Theresa Wilks



Don’t take our word for it read the Camp Ondessonk Parent Testimonials.

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