YMCA Camp Storer

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"The Clark Ewing Saga"

by Greg McKee

 

"Guiding Principles"

 

Clark’s vision for Storer Camps was unique and focused.  Creating world class camping leaders is directly related to mentoring rising staff and young leaders in the values and heritage of that camp.  Clark’s mentor was Doc Miller, so when he assumed the reins at Storer, Clark was not starting from scratch. He had a clear and dynamic vision that would transcend Doc’s plan, and morph Storer into a world-class, year-round camp. Clark also benefited from the support and leadership of YMCA Executive Director Erie Chapman, who was a strong advocate of Storer’s development. Clark called Erie "the single most important factor in Storer’s success.”

Clark’s guiding principles :

  • Program quality: Clark took activities he loved—horseback riding, sailing, adventure camping/tripping—and made them excellent in every way. Key ingredients:
    • Hire top flight staff to run key programs.                                                                                                                             
    • Support programs with quality resources; from new horse barns to an armada of sailcraft, Clark garnered the necessary equipment and facilities to create epic programs.

  • A belief in the power of volunteers: First, Clark created a strong Board of Directors to help make Storer a great camp. The Camp Board provided community involvement, financial support for key projects, important guidance on a host of challenges facing Camp, and helped bring a set of unique skills and resources to the Camp.  Secondly, Clark created a series of volunteer experiences that put Camp’s mission of service to others into action. First and foremost was the Volunteer Program itself. High school campers spent their days in various work projects throughout camp, then participated in recreational activities—swimming, evening programs, camp activities in the evening—under the guidance of qualified leaders. Key programs included the mammoth hay operation and helping in the kitchen. The program extended to the September-June season, with a corps of high school youth coming to Camp each weekend to support the camp.  Clark introduced major volunteer weekends, designed to move the camp facility forward. Operation 600, (60 workers x 10 hours work) addressed major facility needs with skilled labor. Operation Greentree—held on two weekends a year—used volunteer labor to improve the camp environment. An offshoot was the Trash-a-thons, headed by Judy Harbaugh, in which volunteers cleaned up Toledo parks.

  • Land acquisition and protection: Clark’s vision for Storer included an active effort to purchase tracts of land around Stony Lake. Mindful of the the intrusion of development of the area, Clark proactively purchased land for further program development, and for screening the camp from the outside world. An active tree planting helped reach that goal, as a drive around Stony Lake will ably demonstrate.

  • Age appropriate programs: Clark’s insistence upon programs that reflected the needs of a particular age manifested itself throughout Storer, from the Prep/Indian Village to the Ranch. The creation of the Outback is case in point. When the Girl’s Camp began in 1968, the boy’s Explorer village moved across the lake.  Explorer enrollment dipped dramatically from 1969-1972. Storer staff member Ron Paoletti and I met with Clark that fall to urge that the program be moved to the primitive campsite west of the Girl’s Camp.  Clark responded “Before we even think about moving Explorer village across the lake, let’s answer the question ‘What are the needs of the adolescent boy?  Then let’s consider the place”. His counsel led to the birth of the Outback.

  • The Importance of Family: Clark was devoted to Marilyn, his children, his grandchildren, and his siblings. Despite major challenges in the Ewing family, Clark made family support and love the highest priority. This translated to program emphases at Storer. Storer’s week-long family camps were important end-of-summer affairs. Clark sought families when staffing key summer positions, providing appropriate housing, babysitters (and Playschool) to support these families. In a real sense, Storer Camps was a loving extension of the Ewing family.

  • Camping for the Severely Ill: Clark had a deep concern for campers who were severely ill and embraced opportunities to create programs for special needs groups.  The salient example was Special Days, a week long camp for children with cancer.  Working with Dr. George Royer, an oncologist in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Clark helped create only the second camp of its kind in the country. The camp proved a huge success, and is still in existence to this day.  In addition, Storer sponsored children with asthma, integrating them into the regular Camp programs with a host of highly trained medical personnel.

  • International programs: Storer became an international community during Clark’s tenure. Clark developed strong connections with the YMCA of England, working with key leadership to bring staff and campers to Storer. Clark even traveled to Cambridge to recruit staff, which helped improve the quality of counselors throughout the years. He also established a bond with the YMCA of Lebanon, working with key leaders to bring Lebanese staff to Camp during a challenging time. Individual mention must be made of Abimbola Fajobi, who has had an illustrious career at xamp in a variety of key roles; and Allessandra Simonetti, whose skills as a leader and sailor connected with Clark and Storer. The Plaza Simonetti was constructed in her honor.

 

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