Access to Adventure

“There has to be a lot of planning, especially among the departments. On the construction side of things, as that’s my expertise, I can come up with the perfect construction, but it might not fit programmatically,” says Perry. “The other thing is dreaming programmatically. Our activities department needs to tell the construction department their absolute dream, because it’s a lot easier to cut back on something than it is to try to add something later.”

Shoot for the stars, is Perry’s advice. The last thing you want to hear when a project’s completed is, “I wish we had done something else, or more.”

Dream big at first, then let practicality and reality set in to further hone the plan to that hopefully perfect balance. Inter-department communication is a must. Perry likens it to three circles where planning and communication interlock and dreaming encompasses both. Activity coordinators and carpenters, for instance, ought to be in touch with each other to bring all three circles into a cohesive whole.

This breeds experimentation, which further breeds practical solutions for making the camp operate more efficiently and more environmentally aware. Perry says he’s looking at fiber optic lighting and better, more efficient construction methods that are more expensive on the front end, but stimulate long-term savings.

The spraypark is a good example. It was too expensive to tackle in one big phase, but the groundwork for the entire park was laid down in the first phase. This made Phase I more expensive, but the subsequent phases will happen less expensively and much quicker.

This philosophy has also helped the camp become a year-round destination for all sorts of groups and various weekend parent-child getaways.

The Michigan camp runs 11 weeks of summer camp, and Indiana runs nine. During the non-summer months, the camps run retreats for youth groups and families. In the winter, Camp 44 runs 12 weeks of winter teen retreats, divided among middle school and high-school groups.

Perry reports that for the past five years the camp has run something every weekend. In addition to its summer camp programs and activities, there’s also an indoor pool for programs like water aerobics and lap swims, and a tubing hill (complete with snowmaking and a tow rope).

SpringHill’s operational costs are paid for with camper fees, while capital improvements are met with cash and in-kind donations. As noted earlier, SpringHill is meeting and exceeding both goals.

Perry expects the future to hold more of the same as the camp strives for relevance without compromising its values.

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