For youths who have a parent incarcerated in the prison system, it can be difficult to have fun childhood experiences without being weighed down by the burdens of their complex family lives. One organization in the U.P. set out nearly two decades ago to provide such youths a place where they could let go of their burdens for a week and enjoy the outdoors while in community with other young people in similar life situations.
Camp New Day is the Upper Peninsula’s only summer camp that serves youths with parents or caregivers who are incarcerated, and it is this year’s recipient of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s annual donation for 2020. (See p.9 for more info.)
The camp lasts for one week each July and includes activities such as archery, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and nighttime campfires. Although the camp’s target population is children of incarcerated parents, the camp’s goal is to be a typical summer camp experience where kids only talk about their experiences with caregiver incarceration if they wish to.
“A lot of our kids have a lot of burdens and things that they have to tend to at home and it just lets them have a hopefully carefree week being kids,” Board President and Camp Director Gene Champagne said. “We’re perfectly willing to talk about [incarceration] if the camper wants to talk about it, but usually the counselors hear it at night in stories, and when the kids are talking in their cabins.”
To serve the camp’s target population, camp staff receives two days of in-depth training before the week begins.
“We have pretty rigorous training, not only what the state requires us to teach and educate our staff about, but also things that might be unique to children who have an incarcerated parent or caregiver,” explains Champagne. “Some of them might be, not all, but some of them, might have more examples of anxiety or [feelings of] worthlessness or guilt or who knows what else that might be associated with the incarceration.”
Oftentimes, Champagne said, the campers may come in unsure of themselves and unsure of the camp experience, but by the middle of the week they acclimate to the carefree atmosphere.
“Sometimes the smiles don’t come out until Wednesday; I call it Miracle Wednesday. You know, some kids might come in never having been to a summer camp before. I know the first time I went, I was probably nervous and scared. And some of them might come in with a real defensive attitude, (having) never been to camp before,” Champagne said. “But I call it Miracle Wednesday because by Wednesday they’ve had a day and a half at camp, and they realize, Hey, this is a fun, safe place to be. I’m getting three square meals a day and we’re doing all this cool stuff. And you see the smiles really start to come out.”
The organization, which hosted its first camp in 2002, drew the idea for its mission from a social outreach project at St. Paul’s church in Marquette inspired by a camp with the same premise in Denver.
The camp currently accepts U.P. youths aged nine to fourteen, and provides any necessities to the campers to ensure they are able to attend, according to Champagne.
“We provide everything free of charge to the campers, whether they need a toothbrush, bedding, or transportation,” Champagne said.
Camp New Day U.P. usually accommodates about twenty-five to thirty campers each summer. The campers are housed in four cabins by age range and gender, with about six campers and two counselors per cabin.
Unfortunately, Champagne said, the organization was unable to host a camp this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so instead board members traveled to see some of the campers and give them care packages of items that would usually have been distributed at camp, including beach towels, blankets, sunscreen, glasses, games, and other camping supplies.
In the future, Champagne said, the camp hopes to expand to accommodate children who age out of the current program. Although the target population is often quite mobile due to the foster care system and family financial burdens, making it difficult to keep in touch with campers through the years, Camp New Day U.P. hopes to host small regional camps throughout the year for high school students.
The camp survives on the generosity of organizations and individuals, Champagne said.
People donate time, money and goods to the program. Counselors for the camp are always in demand, especially male counselors for the boys’ cabins, added Champagne. The camp also looks for volunteers who can share fun skills with the campers.
“There’s groups of individuals around the UP that make blankets for these kids all year and donate to the camp, and the kids are just amazed,” Champagne said.
“I didn’t know there were so many people who cared about us… and who don’t even know us,” an anonymous camper said.
Akasha Khalsa is a student at Northern Michigan University, where she studies English literature and French. She is currently employed as a desk editor for the North Wind Independent Student Newspaper.
Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Winter 2016 – 2017 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine is out and bursting with helpful information on Sleep, Self-Care, Holiday Gift-Giving, Green Living, Positive Parenting, Services for Elders, Pet Safety and much more!
We are also excited to announced the recipient of our 2016 donation – Partridge Creek Farm’s Children’s Programming! You can learn all about this non-profit organization in our leading article and previous post!
To find out where you can pick up a copy of this latest issue, click here.
As part of Year Two of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s 5-year commitment to increased support for a different area of community life each year, we’ve increased our coverage of youth and parenting issues and have chosen two local children’s programs to receive our annual donation – Start the Cycle, and Music 4 All Kids.
We’d like to thank those advertisers who have generously added to this donation – Moonstone Gallery, Coco’s Restaurant, Panara Imports, Hempy’s Company, Huron Earth Deli, Alicia Smith Dambeck, LAc, CH, Aurelia Holistic Health & Healing, Wendi Greer, CSW, Natural Connections, Serendipity Salon, Intuitive Learning Creations, Elements of Consignment, Intentional Healing, Joy Center, and Northstar Employee Assistance Program.
We look forward to including a special feature on Start the Cycle in an upcoming issue.
And please comment here to let us know what you’d like to see added to our youth and parenting content, or on our Facebook page.
Our special Season for Giving & Living Health & Happiness issue goes to press today! It will be delivered to over 250 Marquette & Alger County locations over the next week. I hope it will inspire you to do just that, for an extra wonderful holiday, and beyond!
With best wishes,
Roslyn Elena McGrath, Publisher
We’re thrilled to announce the recipient of Health & Happiness’s 2012 donation, as part of year one of our five-year commitment to supporting a different area of community life each year, beginning with Elder Care this year.
Our recipient private, non-profit organization is in its twenty-fifth year of providing quality, caring assistance to a growing need of local elders and their families, regardless of their ability to pay.
Specially trained staff at Marquette Adult Day Services, located in Marquette’s First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Front and Bluff Streets, provide those with memory impairment, Alzheimer’s Disease or other related dementias, as well as elders who would otherwise be isolated and lonely, with meaningful social and recreational activities in a safe and supportive environment.
Puzzles, music, singing, arts and crafts, exercise, bingo, Game Day, birthday and holiday parties, reminiscence group, creative storytelling, sensory stimulation, bingo, even table volley ball, are just some of the creative, helpful activities offered.
Local resident Jane Van Evera appreciates that “The staff are intelligent, optimistic, and caring people who bring education, common sense and community mindedness to our area.”
For those wishing to participate, an intake and assessment interview with the caregiver and/or participant is scheduled. Staff members then work with the family to determine a successful experience for their loved one, and caregivers can attend with their loved one until they feel comfortable leaving him or her in MADS expert hands. Fees are on a sliding scale basis, and no one is ever turned away for inability to pay.
Free transportation is also available from the Marq-Tran bus service, with Marquette Adult Day Services staff assisting with pick-up and drop-off, and riding on the bus with participants.
Approximately half of Marquette Adult Day Services funds come from UPCAP/the Area Agency on Aging, one-fourth from caregiver fees, and the remainder from small local grants, (11%), individual donations, (6%), and the Marquette County senior millage, (5%). Additional forms of assistance are also provided by the First Presbyterian Church, Pathways, Marquette General Hospital’s Neuroscience Center, Marquette County Aging Services, and the Great Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Marquette Adult Day Services programs run Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 am to 4 pm, and can include up to thirteen participants a day; however the agency is currently seeking a larger space to rent or possibly own that would allow it to be open five days a week and serve more of this growing portion of our population.
If you have a special talent to share with participating seniors, you would be welcome to do so. For example, various musicians have come in, as well as a tai chi expert and a massage therapist providing foot massages monthly. among others. Local jewelry-maker Beth Millner has recently designed a pendant she is selling with 50% of the proceeds going to support Marquette Adult Day Services. Direct financial donations are also greatly appreciated to assist with rising costs and needs.
And a big congratulations and thank you to Marquette Adult Day Services for all it does!
For more information on Marquette Adult Day Services, or to schedule a visit, contact (906) 226-2142, or go to their website, http://www.marquetteadultdayservices.com.
This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2012 – 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
In honor of our 5th Aniversary, Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine has made a 5-year commitment to additional support for a particular area of community life each year, beginning this year with Elder Care. As part of this commitment, we will be contributing money to a local Elder Care non-profit agency or project. There are many worthy candidates to choose from, so we need your help! Please tell us where you think the money should go and why by using the comment box below or emailing email@example.com by November 1st, 2012. And please ask your friends and neighbors to weigh in too!
With thanks & best wishes,
Roslyn Elena McGrath, Publisher