MICHIGAMME, Mich. (WJMN) — An organization in the Upper Peninsula is celebrating 20 years of providing fun for kids who otherwise may not be able to spend a week at camp.
Camp New Day U.P. is a free one-week camp for kids age 9 to 14 who have or have had a parent or family member in prison or jail.
“This camp, there’s a lot of focus on being together, coming together. Everyone here has a similar story. It’s really good to bring them here and let them be kids again. That’s what it’s all about,” said camp counselor Lewis Goff.
New Day U.P. offers all the camp staples, like swimming, boating and campfires.
“My favorite part about the job is interacting and making connections with these kids,” counselor Tommy List said. “A lot of times they don’t get an opportunity to meet a lot of different people around here. It’s just great that we get to come from all around the U.P. and even downstate to interact.”
Noah has been coming to Camp New Day for three years. At 14, this year is his last.
“One thing that I’ve learned is that no matter what, you always got to be happy, and if you’re shy just go out and meet new friends,” Noah said. “When I first came here, I didn’t like talking to new people. Here I am, third year, and I have a bunch of new friends.”
Campers and staff say it’s about the relationships and bonds created with one another.
“The most rewarding part of my job, we have a lot of kids that come in with a hood on,” Meghan Erickson, board president and camp director, said. “They don’t want to be here, they may not understand why they are here. But when they come here … we call it ‘Miracle Wednesday.’ …The hoods come off. I could cry about it because it’s amazing. They actually smile, they’re happy, they don’t want to leave. It’s just amazing to see the kids grow in this one week.”
The board is made up of volunteers and the camp relies on donations and grants to operate. To learn more about Camp New Day U.P. or to donate, click here.