Way back in the woods where nobody goes, there’s a little old unit called Raganeau…And the Rag Rats go: ooh, aah, oh, Raganeau!
By Pati Egan
Before we learn the story of why Raganeau staff (no matter what generation) call themselves Rag Rats we need to go back to the beginning.
Way back in 1972, a tent unit was temporarily erected at the current site for the first Raganeau campers. Carol Kreitner was the first Unit Leader of Raganeau and was assisted by the amazing staff of Ginny (Boyer) O’Brien and Pati Loehr. Carol recalls that the builders would arrive in the early morning and begin working on the unit cabins. These three staff members laid the groundwork of future staff to come – fun, adventuresome, and “rough and tumble” (in a good, positive way) staff who, once they were assigned to Raganeau, were hooked for life!
Raganeau is truly located way back in the woods – it is past Tekakwitha and the next closest unit now is Amantacha. Going down to Raganeau is not too bad – but going up that hill between Tekakwitha & Raganeau is a beast! Campers used to have to haul all of their luggage up that hill on Saturday morning. Since Raganeau was one of the farther units, this could be a real challenge. Heepwah for luggage haul!
The Origin of The Term “Rag Rats”
Michelle Kreppert Bretscher was the first to use this term. I asked Michelle how she came up with the term, and she said, “Growing up, my family spent a lot of time on the Illinois River. We kids spent some special summer days hiking and boating and having great adventures and sometimes getting into a little trouble…nothing serious…just pushing the rules to the limit. My dad called us River Rats.” This was before campers signed up for a unit ahead of time. Most of the units had been rebuilt by now. During girls’ camp, it was not the first choice of too many campers. “The first unit I had was a pretty rough and tumble group of South-Side Chicago girls who I described to my dad, and he reminded me that they sounded like a group of river rats to him. So, I modified the name, and when we added it to our cheer, it stuck.” This was in the mid-1980s and it definitely has stuck – Rag Rat now describes anyone who loved being in Raganeau – including me!
The summer of 1975 broadened my life in so many positive ways. Avya Ishaya (Pat Perdue), Carol (Nelson) Klinger and I spent six weeks together in Raganeau. We are still closest of friends. Pat had not been down to Camp since the late 1980s. She now lives in Canada, and we took a road trip to Camp last summer, and, of course, Raganeau was on our must visit list.
Raganeau has had some amazing campers and staff. One person made Raganeau the coolest, most excellent place to be for Boys Camp – Steve Appel! He started many traditions such as planting fern-lined paths in the unit. He really engaged and motivated his campers and staff. He started a running list of accomplishments for each week on the walls of the staff cabin. This tradition has lasted until this day. I believe staff now write on a removable plaque that can be kept as an artifact of Raganeau staff.
Steve Appel at the entrance to his unit. Steve took pride in his unit looking sharp and the campers and staff invested in keeping the paths clean, the staff and campers looking great for inspection, and having pride in being the best.
Suzy Munn Mahoney took pictures of Raganeau’s accomplishments when she was in that unit. This group was also the creators of the personalized Raganeau shirt.
Raganeau is now one of the oldest units. It has been improved by removing the triple bunks (similar to what the original Amantacha had for bunks) and adding a cabin. It is still a favorite of many former staff who return for Friends Weekend.
The stair case in this picture was added later – I can recall climbing an attached ladder to get into the unit. There was another entrance that did not involve climbing a ladder.
This picture was taken from the catwalks. The unit is probably preparing for the day’s schedule. Raganeau has lots of shade! It also has a creek and bluffs behind it.
Raganeau’s spirit animal is the squirrel. Its color seems to have changed throughout the years from tan to turquoise. Raganeau staff and campers pride themselves in being a little rugged and unique. When you are in the unit you feel as if your closest neighbor is miles away. They develop a strong sense of independence and have a “can do” attitude. They encompass the positive values given to them by past leaders such as Carol Kreitner, Steve Appel, Michelle (Kreppert) Bretscher, Suzy (Munn) Mahoney and countless other original Rag Rats.
Click Here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s history.
Click Here to learn more about the Missionary Paul Raganeau.