The 45th annual Keller’s Lake Day Camp for the developmentally disabled was held at Keller’s Lake Aug. 2-6, with organizers and campers celebrating 45 years of fun and friendship.
Camp Director Cindy Carrick, of Clintonville, has been volunteering at the camp for 44 years, serving as director for the past 25 years. Her husband, Doug, is also an instrumental part of the camp’s success each year.
“The camp originally got started through efforts by the New London Girl Scouts,” Carrick said. “They earned a Reader’s Digest grant and had 38 campers the first year at Camp Vic-to-Rae in 1965.
“In the camp’s second year, girl scouts from Clintonville were invited to participate, and that’s how I got involved,” Carrick recalled. The camp is now open to anyone in Waupaca County, and 88 campers turned out for the camp this year.
The camp moved to Keller’s Lake after two years at Camp Vic-to-Rae and is funded by the United Way and other businesses and individuals making in-kind donations, including a supply truck donated by Clintonville’s Jim and Kathy Dins, cases of soda for the campers donated by the Waupaca VFW 1064, and many other donated items.
“We still have the same flag raising ceremony and sing songs, just like the girl scouts did at the first camp,” Carrick explained. “We also divide into units, and each noon meal is cooked over an open campfire. Each day is also closed with the lowering of the flag, just like the girl scouts did it.”
Carrick said the Keller’s Lake site is ideal for summer camp activities. “We have a lot of space here for different camp stations. We also can offer swimming, boating, arts and crafts, and many other fun activities to our campers,” Carrick explained. “We even have a basketball court, playground equipment, and a host of great attractions to keep the campers busy.”
The volunteer staff members are key to the camp’s success. Though Carrick said she worries each year about not having enough staff, things always work out and enough volunteers are always available.
“Some of the staff members are ‘lifers’-we’ve been doing it forever, and this is our week of vacation time each year,” Carrick said. “It’s an all-volunteer staff, and we wouldn’t miss it for the world. The campers are always ready to give out hugs and smiles, and that’s what keeps us coming back-just seeing the kids enjoy themselves.”
New London’s Pat Schoen has been volunteering at the camp for 39 years, and said the camp is special each and every year.
“My favorite thing to see is the campers enjoying themselves,” Schoen said. “All of the volunteers work hard to make it an enjoyable week for them.”
Clintonville’s Butch Zabel has also been at the camp for many years, and enjoys lending his time and talents to the campers.
“I’ve been coming here for at least 37 years, maybe more,” he stated. “I have no idea how I got involved-somebody just asked me to help, and I said yes.
“I really enjoy helping the kids with the fishing boats, and any other events going on,” Zabel said. “My favorite thing about the camp is the fellowship and understanding between everyone here. For the most part, we have the same dedicated staff and campers each year, and it’s always great to see everyone again.
“I think anyone would enjoy working with these mentally and physically disabled children,” Zabel said. “I was in the Marine Corps for 30 years, and it was sometimes difficult to adjust to civilian life after I left the service, but this camp really has helped me to connect with and serve other people. It’s not the easiest job in the world, but it’s definitely the most rewarding.”
New volunteers are always welcome, and Carrick said it’s easy to plan for the camp, which is always held the first week of August. The camp runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each weekday, and interested volunteers can contact Carrick at 715-823-2823 to learn more about being a part of next year’s camp.