Camp Wakeshma: Making Unforgettable Summers For Almost A Century

The Camp Wakeshma bath house Photo credit: Rachel Zook

The Camp Wakeshma bath house, settled in the middle of 12 camper cabins.
Photo credit: Rachel Zook

During the long school year, many students from Loy Norrix and all around KPS look forward to the summer haven that is Camp Wakeshma. Whether they go as campers or hope to be a part of the staff, Camp Wakeshma has put hundreds of Kalamazoo locals and residents all over Michigan under its spell.

Established in 1923 and located in Three Rivers, Michigan, Wakeshma offers 6 weeks of co-ed camp, one junior’s week for campers age 8-12, one band week, and one nationally renowned gymnastics week (UsaG). Registration for being a summer camper at Wakeshma starts early in spring and fills quickly; spots in co-ed weeks are usually all taken within a few weeks of registration being opened.

Staff spots are also filled quickly by high school age applicants from all around West Michigan and Chicago. Applicants age 16 can apply to be a junior counselor, an unpaid position with all the same responsibilities as a regular counselor, but with fewer weeks scheduled for work. Anyone 17 years or older can apply to be a counselor or part of the kitchen staff. Counselors typically work 6-9 weeks, while junior counselors usually work 4-5.

“My favorite camp experience [as a counselor] was definitely UsaG week. The skill of all the campers and the constant activities made it fun. Just watching the campers triple flip and twist was awesome,” said Loy Norrix junior and Wakeshma staff member Jack Kujacznski.

Compared to other camps around West Michigan, Camp Wakeshma is among the most inexpensive. Its grounds are not the most expansive, nor are its facilities the most luxurious. Yet, many families have been sending their kids for generations. So what makes Camp Wakeshma so special to so many people around West Michigan?

“I think it just gives kids a home away from home. It’s a place where kids let loose for a week and really be themselves. My favorite part about being a camper was getting to be as weird as I wanted for a week,” said Kujacznski.

With activities like human foosball, skit night and water carnival, there is plenty for campers with all sorts of interests to do. Classes taught by counselors such as fishing, air rifle, and yoga keep campers busy all week long, and freetimes in between classes allow for campers to take part in other activities around camp and meet other campers and counselors.

To give everybody the full summer camp experience, Wakeshma enforced a no phone rule to help campers and counselors experience the camp without distractions.

“As a camper, my favorite experience was always the Friday dances. The raves were amazing, [and] water carnival was a highlight of every week,” said Kujacznski.

Running for 91 summers and counting, Camp Wakeshma continues to draw in new campers and families every year with its picturesque setting alongside Corey Lake, activities that create a sense of family and togetherness in 6 short days, and a staff that creates lasting bonds with campers.

“[Wakeshma] impacted my life when I went as a camper and still does even though I’m too old to go now. It taught me about how quickly you can make strong bonds with people that last even after camp is over […] I wouldn’t trade my summers there for anything,” said LN junior Maeve Wilson.

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