Access to Adventure

Camp Snapshot

SpringHill Camps

Evart, Mich. and Freetown, Ind.

Ages: Grades 1-12

Price: $250-$550

There are five degrees of separation between the two SpringHill Camps. The first camp, Camp 44, located in Evart, Mich., sits at the 44th parallel, while its four-year-old sibling, Camp 39, is five degrees south at the 39th parallel near Freetown, Ind.

SpringHill began in 1969 with about 250 campers. This year, the non-denominational Christian camps expect more than 30,000 guests. The camp, obviously, has grown exponentially. There has been no hiccup in SpringHill’s growth trend over the years, even during times of calamity and recession, most recently witnessed in the years following 9-11.

Recreation Function

The formula is actually quite simple. The camp has simply kept up with the latest ideas in recreation and has actually turned those ideas into reality.

SpringHill is committed to being relevant to children, teens and young adults without compromising the values and ethos of the camp. The personality remains intact, and is, in fact, magnified by new and exciting additions.

The most recent case in point is the construction of a zero-depth splashpark for the younger campers. Splashparks are a growing quickly in public and private water parks across North America. They’re dynamic, interactive and fun for the kids and are relatively low-maintenance and low supervision for those who run them.

SpringHill’s spraypark, found at its Michigan location, is described as a combination of A Bug’s Life and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The spraypark is currently in Phase II of three phases.

“With the next phase we’re putting in three flowers, an earthworm and three more ground sprays, so that will probably make it an hour-long program,” explains Jeff Perry, project coordinator. “The final plan is a 55′ x 110′ space on two levels. We’ll have all the water from the top level come down in a waterfall and drain at the bottom level. I highly recommend it. It’s simple to put together; if you have any building knowledge you could do it.”

The features, manufactured by WaterPlay, are interactive and computer-controlled. The water cannons, for instance, are timed to shut off and on to throw in the element of surprise when two kids are battling it out. You never know when you’re going to run out of ammunition.

Given its zero depth, the park requires little supervision, says Perry. “I think the water feature adds a professional water park touch to the camp, and there’s no big engineering cost or liability,” he says.

The spraypark supplements an outdoor recreation program that is bursting with new ideas and elements, such as in-line hockey and skating, skateboard parks, BMX tracks, zip lines, climbing towers and indoor climbing walls, water slides, mountain bike trails, paintball, RC cars and more.

These top-notch, innovative features, plus the camp’s dedication to developing relationships with the campers (the camps have a staff-to-camper ratio of 3-1), has bred steady growth. Perry says the camps grew in attendance 9 percent while donations went up 29 percent last year.

Conjunction Junction

Everything at the camp is themed to one degree or another. This includes creatively themed housing units such as railroad cars, walled platform tents, a farm village, a frontier town, a cargo plane, teepees, houses on stilts, and more.

“The theming aspect is a good icebreaker. I don’t care how old you are, but when you get on a caboose with the working chains and couplers you can’t help but play on those things. It’s unique to say you slept in a caboose,” says Perry.

The camps are divided by these thematic, age-specific divisions, with each age group having its own special niche. At the Michigan property, grades 1-3 are housed at Storybrook while grades 4-6 are at separate area called Copper Country, for instance. There are some common areas, but it is very rare for the different age groups to see each other.

Where everything comes together at SpringHill is planning. Perry emphasizes this point, and the camp’s two-pronged approach to it.

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