At Camp Anokijig, campers find all of the traditional trappings and fun of a traditional summer camp — think archery, horseback riding, campfires and lots of water time — but then it does something that sets itself apart from other camps. Camp Anokijig is all about choices, giving its summer campers the ability to make their camp experience fit their interests.
“Our campers love the opportunity to customize their camp experience doing what they like to do and learning new things they are interested in, not being forced to endure an activity they do not like,” says Heidi Mabie, Program Director at Camp Anokijig. She is going on her 19th year with the 96-year-old camp that has become a beloved part of children’s summers. “We love the fact that this opportunity helps build independence, decision-making skills, fostering new friendships with others who have the same interests as you and resiliency.”
Located on 396 acres of hills and woodlands, Camp Anokijig, in Plymouth, Wisconsin, nearly surrounds Little Elkhart Lake and has its own island. It was able to offer summer camp throughout the pandemic when others didn’t due to creative changes in its operations and enrollment, but this year, camp staff and campers alike are excited for the big return to normal, Mabie says. That means normal capacity and normal programming.
However, that also means camp spots are filling up quickly, she says.
To keep everyone safe, the camp is requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for all campers and all staff. The focus will be on fun and a normal, carefree summer. The most popular choice is the resident camp for boys and girls, ages 7-16. Parents also can sign up for cool specialty programs that coincide with resident camp.
Camp Anokijig could be considered the best of both worlds for campers, a traditional summer camp and a specialty camp, Mabie agrees.
The traditional, overnight Resident Camp program offers every camper two skills from a long list of activities to focus on in the mornings. Campers can choose from traditional camp activities such as three different types of archery, swimming, sailing, fishing and crafts, to more unusual activities such as ukulele, woodworking, digital photography or yoga, just to name a few. In addition to skill time, campers also have additional directed free periods to participate in even more activities that interest them. Mabie says sometimes having all the choices can be overwhelming for children who aren’t used to having so much control, but parents shouldn’t be worried because enthusiastic camp counselors are on the lookout and can give them some gentle guidance to make sure they get involved and have a great time trying something new.
What makes the free period choices unique is that a camper can choose something new and if they discover it’s not for them, they don’t have to stay the entire time. Instead, they can join something else that interests them, she says. Or they can focus more on what they know they already love.
“When they get to customize, they get to be in control. This gives kids an opportunity to make their camp experience what they want it to be,” Mabie says. “In a more traditional camp, they might have to do something they don’t want to do.”
The Camp Anokijig format encourages them to build independence, moving around the camp for their own choices based on their own interests, not dictated by their group of friends or cabin mates, and lets them meet someone new with similar interests, she says. It also reinforces their decision-making skills, allowing them to take risks in trying something new without consequences or feeling like they wasted time.
The big takeaway is that they are in control of what their experience looks like day to day, but they have all the camp experiences that make camp so vital to a full childhood: fun, friends and adventure.
Mabie’s goal is that campers drive away with a new-found confidence in themselves, knowing that they can take on new challenges and be OK. She also wants to give campers a car ride home full of stories to share with their family and lasting friendships and memories that remain with them long into adulthood.
Spots filling quickly
Kids are more than ready for the fun of summer camp, especially this year, she says. For that reason, many of the weeks of camp are already filling up after the Fourth of July.
To make sure families secure a spot, she recommends if summer schedules allow, to sign up for the earlier weeks. However, if only the later weeks work, get on the waiting list because the camp fills all remaining slots off the waiting lists first. Plus, it costs nothing to be placed on the waiting list.
“Most of the sessions after the Fourth of July are on a waiting list. But don’t let that dissuade you,” Mabie says. “Just because you are on the waitlist doesn’t mean you won’t get a spot.”
Learn more about Camp Anokijig and sign up for summer camp at anokijig.com.