Camp Mishawaka for Boys was founded in 1910 and is the oldest camp in Minnesota to operate under the same name. Mishawaka for Girls was established in 1963, and for decades the two Camps operated under the premise of “Two Great Camps – One Great Tradition.” They really were separate Camps and the boys saw the girls only on Sunday visit day, and the big musical productions at the end of the summer. In 1987 the two Camps moved closer to one another and began sharing many of the facilities and a bit more co-ed programming. Today each Camp maintains its own unique traditions and also provides time for boy and girl campers to interact before meals, activities, and other special events.
From an administrative standpoint, it would be much simpler to merge the two programs, yet we have made the conscious decision to keep the tradition of the two Camps alive. We do so out of a sense of tradition, yes, but we also do so out of a belief that it offers great benefits to young men and women. One of our longtime Boys Camp staff members said it best when he commented that this has allowed his campers to model respectful relationships with members of the opposite sex in a new way.
In an environment free from constantly worrying about appearances or holding back for fear of being too assertive, too passive, or too different, campers are able to shed stereotypes that are so often implicit (and explicit) in our daily digest of media. It helps make them better citizens – both in and out of the Camp Mishawaka world. It’s a big part of what we mean when we say Camp Mishawaka helps kids find their best selves.
Our predecessors often described Mishawaka as Brother-Sister camps, and we still have many siblings attend each summer. But the development of the brother-sister relationship, and friendships fostered each summer, transcend blood relations. This blended approach has allowed us to preserve the traditions of each Camp, provide time for the unfettered friendships that develop in each camp, and also do the important work of modeling how each of us would like to be treated in our world outside of Camp Mishawaka.
Years ago, when asked by a friend who runs a camp referral service if we were a co-ed or single sex camp, I explained our set up. “Dude”, he said in his subtle Oklahoma drawl, “there’s nobody else out there like that.” We tend to agree.
We are counting the days till our season begins and hope it might include your child!