At-Risk Youth Build Resiliencey in the Wilderness

by Camp Amnicon

“I’m trying to express in words how much this trip meant to me, but truly it’s not completely possible to describe it. This trip has brought me so much happiness.”    -Camper Melissa

It’s often hard for us to express in a simple letter how much your support of Camp Amnicon means to kids like Melissa. To put it simply: without your gifts, there would be no wilderness trips like the one she attended last summer, no summer staff to help her build faith and confidence, no place in the Northwoods for her to call ‘home.’

Melissa’s church brought a group of teenage girls to camp. They didn’t know each other well, but they had one thing in common—a tendency to be negative towards themselves. Their guides stepped in right away with a new rule: for every unkind thing each girl said about herself, she had to give herself two genuine compliments.

It worked. Two days into the trip, and the girls were starting to see themselves—and each other—in a new light.   Melissa shared things with the group that she never would have shared at home. She felt safe here. She was real. She was challenged. And she was changed.

Later she said: “We discussed as a group things that were a ‘light’ in our darkness and these trips are mine. These trips remind me of my importance and my place in my faith. I hadn’t known I was on the wrong path until this week, but I feel I’m once again on the right path. I will take home confidence and new friendships.”

Dear Friends of Camp Amnicon,

Here’s one nice thing about being a supporter of an adventure camp: it’s easier to remember that all of life is an adventure.  At Camp Amnicon, every day is an adventure, full of challenges and opportunities—and like all good adventures, the friends you travel with make all the difference.  Thank you for being one of those friends!

It’s a good time to be Camp Amnicon together.  The momentum is palpable.  The adventure is on.

Let me explain what I mean. 

We’ve just come off of the biggest summer in five years, and the new family camp program has already had a powerful effect on the families it touches.  Thanks to your generous Campership giving last spring, new partnerships with churches and organizations have cropped up as we seek to bring the neediest kids and families into the woods. 

Around the site, new roofs and furnaces are being installed all over camp, all funded by your generosity.  This month we’re breaking ground on a new staff house—funded by a designated gift—which will offer stability and longevity to the camp staff.

New long-term staffers are coming on board—an investment in the future of our ministry together and sometimes a tight squeeze in our tiny shared office!

Do you see what I mean about momentum—and about adventure?  As the world changes, Amnicon is keeping up, and you who love this camp are making it all possible.  This camp is not content to rest on past success.

Every gift, large and small is moving Camp Amnicon forward.

But adventure, by definition, is challenging—even risky.  When my colleague Bethany Ringdal talks to campers before they head out ‘on trail’ to canoe or hike, she often reminds them that adventure is “worthwhile discomfort and healthy risk-taking.” 

That’s what we’re doing here. 

For over five years—ever since Central Lutheran Church made the difficult decision to cut funding for Camp Amnicon—we’ve been an independent non-profit.  That means that we’re entirely dependent on individual supporters, like you, for our operating budget.  Programs like trips and retreats cover some, but not all, of their own costs.  When it comes down to it, the future of this ministry counts on you.                      

Do you see what I mean?  We’re in this adventure together—you and I and the kids.

The growth and investment that the camp is currently undergoing does, like all investments, carry real risk.  Some organizations respond to this kind of uncertainty with fear, looking back and shutting down.  At Amnicon, we’ve chosen to respond in faith instead.

I have faith that we’ve been called to a difficult and important task—to showing people of all ages their own worth, and to inviting them to the adventure of truly living.  I believe we’ve only just begun this work.

And I have faith that you also believe in this calling.  Whether you’ve experienced Amnicon’s loving ministry yourself as a camper or guest or staffer, or have seen a child come home from camp aglow with the light of love, you know what I’m talking about. 

Together, we’ve signed up for the adventure of this work of love.  It isn’t easy.  But it is worth it. 

I’m writing today to ask you to support Camp Amnicon with a financial gift.  Any amount will help keep this ministry growing, but please consider a gift of $400, or maybe even $500. 

I don’t ask this lightly—I know you’re thoughtful about how you use your resources—but I do ask seriously.  The adventure is on.  The need is great.  Will you be a part of it all?

In love and gratitude,

 Alana Butler, Executive Director


A camper enjoys the Amnicon beach--now protected
A camper enjoys the Amnicon beach--now protected

Before each group of kids gets into their canoes for a week-long adventure at Camp Amnicon, they learn about the ‘seven-generation principle.’ They learn that many Native American communities protected the about the land in it’s pristine state by thinking seven generations into the future in their decisions; and campers are challenged to think the same way during their trip. And we tell them that we at Camp Amnicon are working hard, with the help of you, our supporters, to be a seven-generation organization, so that someday they can take their kids, their grand-kids, their GREAT-grandkids to camp and find the same strong program and pristine land and water.

This year, the Camp Amnicon board of directors took a big step towards seven-generation sustainability by signing a historic conservation easement. The easement legally protects 500 acres of Camp property as habitat in perpetuity, including a half-mile of wild Lake Superior shoreline and two miles along the Amnicon River; it excludes the area where the camp currently functions, as well as some extra space giving the ministry room to grow.

Protecting the Amnicon wetlands means protecting the fragile ecosystem of Lake Superior, and preserving the land for generations of youth to come.

The Western Wisconsin Land Trust will hold the easement on Camp Amnicon, and the administrative costs are funded by a $10,000 gift from Enbridge Energy and a $5,000 gift from a Land Trust member.   As part of the deal, the property will become a migratory bird research area through the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative. Bird experts say the waterfront forest may be an especially important component for neo-tropical migrants that summer in northern forests and winter in South America.

We are proud to be a seven-generation organization, seeking sustainability in our community, our programming, our finances, and our relationship with the land. Many thanks are due to the Western Wisconsin Land Trust, Enbridge Energy, and the Amnicon Board of Directors for their work on this project, but the biggest thanks belong to you, the supporters and friends who sustain this ministry for the generations to come.

A campership supported camper
A campership supported camper
Campers learn to care for the God
Campers learn to care for the God's creation


Kids from St. Olaf Lutheran Church.
Kids from St. Olaf Lutheran Church.

Dear Friend,

You are the heart of Camp Amnicon. You hear us say this all the time; and I hope you know that it’s true. You are, quite literally, the vital life force of this ministry.  

Because of you, Amnicon is known as a camp that follows Jesus’ call to serve the poor, the down-trodden, and the outcast, by providing wilderness experiences to all, regardless of ability to pay. Campership is what we’re about here at Amnicon. I hope that you feel proud of your camp in the Northwoods, and that you feel a sense of ownership for the empowering ministry that goes on here.

Amnicon’s very identity is dependent upon your generosity, and you haven’t let us down yet. Since 1966, we’ve never had to turn a camper away because of inability to pay. With your help—and only with your help—Amnicon can continue that proud legacy in summer 2014.

This year, we have the ambitious goal of providing $25,000 in campership funds to kids and families who would otherwise never make it to camp. That’s a big number—but it’s not just a number.

I want to tell you about a few of the many children who are hoping for the opportunity to come to camp this summer—the children who you can impact directly by giving to the Campership Campaign. They are what is at stake in your choice to give.

This summer, a group of young men from the foster care system will paddle and portage the Sylvania wilderness with their guides. I talked to Gretchen, their social worker, to learn more. These boys have experienced horrifying abuse and neglect. That long-term trauma, Gretchen says, has a negative impact on “everything they do, including their ability to be in a social setting with other kids.” And yet, when it comes to Amnicon trips, she says “they get completely invested, are very well behaved, and become completely different kids. These are the boys who need campership this year.” For these young men, camp isn’t just a fun vacation—it’s a lifeline. “It’s way more than one week.” says Gretchen. “It’s huge for these kids.”

Later in the summer, a racially diverse group of kids from the St. Olaf Lutheran Church in inner-city Minneapolis will be paddling the sparkling waters of the Namekagon River. These kids are part of a year-round peer mentorship program at the church, and Pastor Dale tells me that their yearly Amnicon trip is an important part of the program’s impact. “It’s a part of bonding—a special kind of bonding that comes from being in the wilderness. To resolve childhood trauma they need a time away, in close proximity to a group; it’s a place to work that out.” But money is always an issue for the group from St. Olaf. Pastor Dale says “These kids just don’t have any money. People don’t understand that.” The garage sales and work days they hold can only pay for a small portion of the fees. They need you to pick up the rest of the tab.  

Scripture tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Today, I am asking you, in Christian fellowship, to ‘bear the burden’ of these precious children of God.

Yes, $25,000 is a big number; but together, as followers of Christ and supporters of Camp Amnicon, we can provide campership funds for every single camper in need. It costs $400 to bring one child to camp.   Now is the time to prayerfully consider how you much you can give to bear their burdens. For kids who have so little, any amount will help.

Please join me in prayer: for every child we will serve together this summer, and for all the friends and supporters of Camp Amnicon who commit to bearing their burdens.

In Christ,

Alana Butler

Executive Director—and proud supporter of the Campership Campaign

P.S. Thank you again for making campership who we are at Camp Amnicon!   I look forward to sharing with you in this summer’s ministry. Please give today!





A Young Retreat Guest
A Young Retreat Guest

10 years ago, a group of ladies from Bethesda Lutheran Church in Carleton got the idea to put on a women’s retreat. They signed up for a weekend at Camp Amnicon—and they’ve never looked back since. That same group met for their annual retreat a few weeks ago, and after many hugs, reconnections, and exclamations, I had the opportunity to sit with them and hear just what makes them come back—some from as far away as Alaska and Montana—year after year. Their answers say much about the power of the retreats that you support by supporting Camp Amnicon.

The women of Bethesda told me that their retreat is intimate, their attention undivided and that the sharing is often deeply personal. Inspired by the awe and beauty of the natural world and set apart from normal routines and distractions, this time together in a quiet place creates opportunities to get to know one another in a powerful way. Lasting friendships and support naturally blossom in this setting, even for people who have “known” each other for years. “You just can’t go this deep during a coffee hour!” one of them told me. Another one exclaimed: “She’s my daughter-in-law and I didn’t know something this important about her until now!” Deep indeed.

Retreats can be quiet, reflective and relaxed, with free time to read, craft, walk, stargaze and sip something warm by the fire; retreats can also be busy and fun with a an organized program. At a time in our history when more and more people struggle to find quality time with family and friends or find any time of Sabbath – a time to renew and reconnect with that which is greater than us—retreat programs are increasingly necessary. Your support of camp Amnicon helps provide those experiences and rebuild what our busyness has stolen from us. Maybe Jesus was right to gather his community in ‘a deserted place!’ The experience of the women from Bethesda is just more evidence that we need retreat for ourselves, and for our friendships, for our church, and for our world.

May you be filled with the peace of Christ,

Alana Butler



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Organization Information

Camp Amnicon

Location: South Range, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Leah Damon
Development Coordinator
South Range, WI United States

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