Pretty Lake Camp
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Pretty Lake Camp?

Pretty Lake Camp is a non-profit organization founded in 1916 by Mr. Edward Desenberg. We have served more than 50,000 at-risk youth from the Kalamazoo area. We provide a totally free residential camping experience to all our campers. In addition, we provide everything a camper needs while at camp – clothing, linens and bedding, personal hygiene items, transportation to and from camp registration, food and activities – at no cost to the camper or their family.

This summer camp experience is made possible in part through rental revenue and voluntary contributions from people who believe in our mission and understand our community’s role in caring for its youth.

What is Pretty Lake Camp’s mission and vision?

Motivated by the bright future of every child, we provide cost-free camp experiences to Kalamazoo County children who would most benefit from our programs – and be least likely to experience other programs.  We will be a premiere youth serving organization through camping services, growing happy, resilient, strong children through compassionate and healthy relationships with caring mentors.

How much does camp cost?

While it costs Pretty Lake Camp approximately $500 per camper, camp is completely free to all of the children who attend. We provide everything a camper needs while at camp – clothing, linens and bedding, personal hygiene items, transportation to and from camp registration, food and activities – at no cost to the camper or their family. Pretty Lake Camp provides everything at no charge in order to reduce the barriers that prevent children from being able to attend or afford summer camp.

What are Pretty Lake Camp’s funding sources?

Although we receive a small amount of USDA funding for the summer food program, as well as income from the renting of its facilities, Pretty Lake Camp is almost entirely funded by private donations and grants.

Has Pretty Lake Camp ever skipped a summer?

No. Pretty Lake Camp has run continuously since its founding – not missing a single summer, even through the wars and Great Depression.

How many children does Pretty Lake Camp serve?

Pretty Lake Camp typically serves between 700-800 children in its summer camp program. The sessions are six days, five nights in length, and campers can attend one of the sessions if they are chosen to participate. The maximum capacity per session is approximately 140 campers. To date, Pretty Lake Camp has served over 50,000 children.

What are the ages of youth that Pretty Lake Camp serves?

The summer camp programs serve children currently in the 3rd – 11th grades, with the majority (approximately 80%) being 3rd-5th graders.

How do children apply to the program?

Traditionally, paper applications have been distributed through the public and private schools and through partner agencies like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Department of Human Services, Prevention Works, Boys & Girls Club, Portage Community Center and the Gospel Mission. We have several ways children can apply to our programs: they can fill out an application online here, they can call us at 269-375-1950 and we will mail them an application, or they can contact their school office for an application.

How are children chosen for the program?

After the applications are collected, they are carefully reviewed and scored based on certain criteria, such as if the child receives free/reduced lunch at school, their living situation, if they have a parent with a life-threatening illness, etc. Children who demonstrate the greatest need are selected to attend a session.

In 2011, 82% of the campers qualified for free/reduced lunch at school, 37% lived in a single-parent home, 10% had an incarcerated parent, and a small number of children were homeless. All children who apply are either assigned a session (based on their score) or put on the stand-by list. Children on the stand-by list are welcome to show up at registration and may sometimes be selected to attend camp if registered children do not show up.

What do children do at camp?

Our summer program is full of many different fun and challenging activities for our campers. Activities include canoeing/kayaking, nature program, swimming, archery, arts & crafts, team building, campfires, games and much more! Pretty Lake Camp also provides programs that help support community and school initiatives, such as literacy (through journaling and checking out books from the camp library), being physically active, and the like.

What other programs does Pretty Lake Camp offer?

The Outdoor Experiential Learning Center (OELC) was created and designed to help students learn about themselves, others, and their world through land exploration, pond studies, gardening, team-building initiatives and animal husbandry. Over 800 children have visited the OELC since its inception in 2008.

During the 2009-2010 school year, every child from Edison Environmental Science Academy (a Kalamazoo Public magnet elementary) visited the OELC at least once. Schools from Portage also participated in half-day field trip days to the OELC. Additionally, the OELC is host to a six-week summer garden program, and more than 100 campers in the summer of 2010 participated in the garden curriculum.

What goes on at Pretty Lake Camp when camp is not in session?

From September to May, Pretty Lake Camp hosts a variety of retreats and conferences – large or small – such as business meetings, school outings, family reunions, multi-day retreats or other events. We provide overnight lodging with guests staying in all-season cabins or in the Retreat Centre. We also provide full food service that can be tailored to meet each group’s needs.

How big is Pretty Lake Camp?

Pretty Lake Camp has 250 acres and makes up 2/3 of the shoreline of Pretty Lake.

Where is Pretty Lake Camp located?

Pretty Lake Camp is located just ten minutes from Kalamazoo (southwest of the I-94/US-131 interchange) on Q Avenue in Texas Township.