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New Monsignor Fournie Mini Camp Village gets “Two Big Thumbs Up!”

“Thanks to everyone who helped build Mini Camp Village. We really love this place and give it two thumbs up!” said Josh, who was one of the first Chiwatenhwa mini campers of 2015.

Camp dedicated “Monsignor John T. Fournie Mini Camp Village” with a ceremony on May 30th, and the unit bunks were full all summer-long with eager campers ages 8-10.

Monsignor Fournie Mini Camp Village Camp Ondessonk

Photo by Cocky Beine

“This new home away from home for our youngest campers is the first major expansion of our camper capacity since the 1970s,” said Board of Directors President Elizabeth Keserauskis. “Enrollment has grown tremendously over the last several years, and this new unit will provide fun, unique features for our 8, 9, and 10-year-old campers during their journey at Camp as they explore nature, make lifelong friends, and build character and leadership skills.”

Mini Camp Village is comprised of two units – Aonnetta for the girls and Chiwatenhwa for the boys. Each unit houses up to 30 campers and their staff.  The units are constructed to meet the unique educational and safety needs of mini campers. Cabins feature screened-in cabins with porches and offer handicap accessibility.

A generous lead gift from Thomas Cromwell and Jeanne Newton, in memory of Jeanne’s uncle, Msgr. John T. Fournie, made the expansion project possible.  The longtime pastor of St. Philip Parish in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, founded Camp Ondessonk in 1959. Their gift jumpstarted the first phase of the project.  Significant additional support came in the form of design work provided by David Sheppard as well as numerous private donations.

Mini Camp VillageMore than 165 volunteers donated 2,200 hours of their time and talent to complete Fournie Village, working alongside Camp Ranger Mike Jennings, and Assistant Rangers Brandon Dalton and Kevin Craig. A cold winter and a very rainy spring didn’t deter our dedicated volunteers and staff, and the cabins were ready to welcome campers on Opening Day.

“My husband, Tom, and I believe that children benefit by knowing they belong to something greater than themselves,” said Jeanne Newton. “Like Msgr. Fournie, we believe that young people can grow intellectually and spiritually when they experience Camp Ondessonk’s natural beauty and inspiring features. We hope the Mini Camp will further the mission of outdoor education in the Diocese of Belleville.”

Phase Two construction will include a central meeting space with environmentally-friendly play equipment, seating areas, landscaped pathways, and activity areas that will immerse campers in nature.

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