The Director’s Desk
By Dan King, Executive Director
The joyful sounds of summer camp abruptly ended on August 3. About two weeks later, those soothing sounds slowly returned as a trickle of students, families, and adults began arriving at camp for events and programs. Though seasons change, the excitement of 2019 summer camp is still on our minds. Thank you, Ondessonk campers and Friends, for helping to make 2019 fantastic thus far. 3,380 summer campers attended camp this year, and several thousand more people will visit this fall for retreats, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, campfires, archery, and a lot more.
The changing season reminds me of the many transitions we, as people, experience throughout our lives. It also reminds me that Camp Ondessonk, like other parts of our lives, also changes.
Alissa Hollmann became Camp Ondessonk’s Camping Services Director in September of 2015. Ondessonk was not her “home camp,” but she was, I now know, just the sort of person we needed at that time – partly because she was new to Camp Ondessonk. Alissa, a native of the Chicago area, grew up going to YMCA Camp Echo in Michigan. She was a counselor there and at other camps. After high school, she earned college degrees in recreation, became a camp director, and a college instructor. Alissa is leaving her position with Camp Ondessonk this fall, and while I hate to see her go, I love more that she was here. Her lasting mark includes, among many other professional achievements, vast improvements to the organization’s summer camp hiring practices. Alissa and her hiring team’s strategic staff selection and training efforts created a generation of excellent counselors that will continue shaping our campers (and future staff members) for years to come. Heepwah Alissa! She will be missed… but nearby. (Alissa accepted a faculty position in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Recreation Department; the place from which we “borrowed” her five years ago).
Change can make a person sigh, it sometimes brings delight, and, of course, it occasionally bears the weight of pain and loss. Sadly, our community has experienced significant loss so far in 2019.
On May 3, Dave McCoy passed away. He was a key Camp Ondessonk construction volunteer for over four decades. There are few buildings at Camp that have not received attention from Dave and his fellow St. Albert the Great / Holy Trinity, Fairview Heights volunteers.
Jim Beine, a beloved, loyal member of the camp community since the 1960s, died on May 18. We will never forget Jim’s winsome smile – a smile that started and ended in his eyes. Nor will we forget the thousands of outstanding Camp photos he captured in his lifetime.
Becky (Higgins) Fouts, mother of seven children, died on August 11. She is a former counselor, the daughter of Pat Higgins, former Camp Executive Director, and Donna Higgins, a former longtime camp nurse. With St. Paul, she fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.
Mike Klueh, a former camper, counselor, and forever a camp dad, died unexpectedly on August 15. Like Becky, this loss is still too fresh to comprehend. Mike was a good person. If you are interested in learning about his remarkable life, as well as the blessings Jim, Dave, and Becky brought to many during their lives, I encourage you to find their obituaries on-line. I also encourage you to pray for them, their families, and their many friends.
May God’s hands keep and guide the Campers of Ondessonk and may you find ways to keep camp in your life for the rest of your life.
Ps. Heepwah to those that answered our Spring Newsletter plea (and other pleas) to help send kids to summer camp. Your generosity helped make Camp Ondessonk experiences possible for 271 children – over $98,000 in 2019 scholarship funding!