YMCA Camp Copneconic Shaping Lives


campcopneconic-1For kids, summer camp can be a profound experience – an opportunity to be outside and physically active, gain confidence and resiliency – and to unplug from technology! Since 1916, The YMCA Camp Copneconic has been providing outdoor programs for kids and families. According to Executive Director John Carlson, Camp Copneconic has become the leading camp in the nation in forging partnerships with local organizations to meet the changing health needs of the community, and provide high-quality care for all children at camp.

Camp Copneconic has made it possible for kids with special needs to engage in the camping experience – the camp is very passionate about their partnerships with organizations that serve children with chronic diseases and specials needs. In the last 16 years, Camp Copneconic has developed long-lasting partnerships with the American Diabetes Association, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Camp Quality: Children Living With Cancer, and the National Kidney Foundation. They have also partnered with Hurley Children’s Hospital for Camp Easy Breathers Asthma Camp; Camp Move It Healthy Living Camp; and the Autism Support and Resource Center POWER Camp, Camp Tall Tree Autism Camp, as well as LCMS Special Friends Camp. The University of Michigan’s Camp Kesem is a camp for children with parents who have had cancer.

“Our partnerships with these organizations ensure that all kids have a chance to experience the joys of summer camp!” John exclaims. “These camps provide opportunities for kids despite the challenges they face – and a chance for them to just be kids.”

The 2015 enrollment statistics indicate that YMCA Camp Copneconic provided camp experiences for over 24,000 children and 1,400 of those children are coping with major life challenges and/or chronic diseases. With child health and safety being Camp Copneconic’s number-one priority, the Health & Wellness Center opened in 2014 and has played a prominent role in ensuring the health and well-being of the campers. Doctors, nurses, and the camp’s health officers have a state-of-the-art medical center to meet the campers’ daily health and safety needs.

“I had a vision of building the ‘Great Wolf Lodge’ of medical facilities, so that the kids do not feel like they are in a hospital, but rather in a warm and caring camp that’s going to help them feel safe and cared for,” John explains.

“The camp experience helps build a guiding compass of values
and character that develops kids well beyond their time at camp.”

On the upper level of the Health & Wellness Center are exam rooms, resting areas, treatment areas, and a medical station with a “walk-through” window where campers receive their medications. The facility’s lower level also has comfortable housing that helps the camp recruit the best possible medical staff.

According to the director, Camp Copneconic is a positive force in the lives of children, providing enrichment in a number of key developmental areas that promote personal growth. The camp focuses on what John refers to as the “Camp Copneconic Cs”: Confidence, Camaraderie, Caring, Collaboration and Character.

John believes that the camp’s focus allows kids to form lifelong friendships while participating in activities that help them conquer their fears, learn healthy and active living in the out-of-doors, building confidence and fostering independence.

“The camp experience impacts children for life,” says John. “It leaves them with lasting values, skills and qualities. Time spent at Camp Copneconic is fun and adventurous, but it also serves as something much more. It helps build a guiding compass of values and character that develops kids well beyond their time at camp.”

As one counselor describes, “In today’s day and age, kids don’t get outside often. At camp, on the first day they’ll walk around a puddle. On the last day, they run right through it!”



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