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Southern Illinois camp’s tech-savvy fans use Facebook, Twitter to recreate a week of summer camp online

OZARK, IL – (Feb. 2, 2012) – Swimming, boating, eating s’mores; the lovers of Illinois’ Camp Ondessonk will get a chance to relive their summer camp experience starting this Sunday. But they won’t be roughing it in the woods of southern Illinois – this camp will all take place online.

More than 200 “campers” from all across the U.S. will participate in a week of digital summer camp through Facebook and Twitter. The entire program, called Ondessonk Online, will take place within the capabilities of the social media channels Facebook and Twitter, but will mirror the organization’s normal summer camp schedule. Menus will be tweeted out, sing-alongs will take place in Facebook status comments repeat-after-me style, and there will be friendly competitions like the virtual tug-of-war that involves getting people to vote for your cabin’s name.

The program used social media to reach out to former campers, playing on the nostalgia and camp spirit many expressed in keeping up with the camp from spots across the globe. With a full 53 years of camper, staff and volunteer alumni, there are “Ondessonkers” everywhere, and this program aims to raise awareness online in the hopes of allowing former campers to reconnect with the organization. While Camp Ondessonk’s facilities continue to improve, much remains the same since 1959. Ondessonk campers still sleep under the stars on Wednesday nights, they live in wonderfully rustic open-air cabins, and they still hear the calls of whippoorwills at night. It is truly a last frontier – a place where living in the outdoors can be enjoyed to the fullest.

“It’s amazing how many former campers and staff have kept in touch with the people they went to camp with, many of them staying in touch for several decades,” said Executive Director Dan King. “It seemed like a natural use of social media to give people a chance to relive the experience, no matter where they live or how long ago they went to camp.”

Camp Ondessonk promoted the program solely through their Facebook wall and an email newsletter. Campers registered through a Facebook tab where they could elect to choose their cabin preference, and request friends to “stay” with. Campers could also opt to help plan a physical, offline meet-up for Wednesday, February 8th. Over 80 campers elected to do so and have planned multiple events throughout the Midwest including a rock climbing field trip at Upper Limits in Bloomington/Normal, a cookout in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis, and a meetup at someone’s house in Springfield, IL.

“We have a few things planned, like a unit spirit contest, roasting mallows, and a scavenger hunt, but mostly it would be an informal party to celebrate how much we love camp,” said Dylan Finnell, host of the Springfield event.

Ondessonk aims to not only provide an engaging program for their current and alumni communities, but also to update fans and friends with current news and encourage them to interact with the brand and with each other in the online space. This program was developed and executed by Elasticity of St. Louis, whose staff includes an active camp alumna, as an in-kind donation.

Since 1959, Camp Ondessonk has provided children and children-at-heart the opportunity to experience first hand the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. Ondessonk’s summer camp programs provide an experience that encourages campers to have fun, grow spiritually, make friends, grow in self-confidence and self-esteem, and develop values. All of Camp’s programs focus on providing a fun and enriching experience for participants by encouraging them to participate in a wide variety of new and exciting activities. Camp Ondessonk is the Premier Adventure Destination of the Midwest.  Our camper fees are extremely competitive and unlike many other summer camps, Ondessonk does not charge additional fees for horseback riding or senior camper electives.

While the Ondessonk Online campers compete for the coveted “Golden Arrowhead” patch (which has its own Twitter feed), follow along on their Facebook page and with the hashtag #Ondessonk.

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