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“The Motivation of Ondessonk”- An Interview with John Foppe

“The Motivation of Ondessonk”- An Interview with John Foppe  by Tony Vrooman

John Foppe wears a lot of hats these days:  Motivational Speaker, Author, Executive Coach, Strategic Planning Facilitation Expert, Executive  Director of St Vincent De Paul and not to mention Father and Husband.  I recently had the opportunity to interview John;  a former Ondessonk camper and an inspiration to those who have had the experience to meet him.

John was born in Breese, Illinois into a family with seven other siblings, many of whom attended Camp Ondessonk. John was born without arms.   At the young age of 10 he had made a deal with his parents that if he could be self sufficient and dress himself, then they would let him attend camp that summer.  In true form John did attend  camp that summer and he reflects on the event as a challenging moment of deep personal growth. The experience helped him long term with his feelings of independence and responsibility.

John has fond memories of Camp. He notes, “I believe I stayed in LaLande due to location. I remember some of my favorite places were the waterfall at Pakentuk, the horse stables and visiting Tommy the bear.” John continues, “My favorite activities involved building a fire, foil burgers, swimming , handicrafts and earning my Arrowheads.”

As Executive Director  of St Vincent De Paul, John has dedicated his life to serving the poor through faith in action.  He credits his role model  Mother Theresa by saying, “When entering their facility you sense her spirituality. We recognize the face of Christ in the distressing face of the poor.” John continues, “When walking the faith in this culture your life is really not about you.  The sooner you understand that lesson the more you surrender; the more you gain.”

John offers our incoming summer staff some words of advice as they take on the challenge of working with today’s youth and the teaching of acceptance.  Foppe states,  “Remember how big you are in their small eyes. Your conduct is so impressionable to these children.  Utilize this rite of passage as a scared opportunity to keep it fun and tread lightly.”   John is an inspiration to staff and campers at Ondessonk.

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