Lions celebrates 60 years of helping kids
For one family, it’s the extra touches of counselors, a photo and synopsis of the week since the child has difficulty remembering. For another, it’s “best all-inclusive resort in the world for vacation.” These reactions are what Rosholt Lions Camp and Lions Foundation officials treasure.
And it is the reason they celebrate 60 years this month.
“The impact and specialness of camp is not always seen but is profound,” Camp Director Andrea Yenter said.
Rosholt Lions Camp and the Wisconsin Lions Foundation celebrates 60 years with an open house event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21, at the camp, 3834 County Road A, Rosholt. There is no cost, and the public is welcome to attend. Food will be available for purchase from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Hustle S’more for Lions Camp walk and bike race begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at the camp. Registration is $25 for children 13 and under and $30 for adults. Proceeds benefit the summer camp program.
The Wisconsin Lions Camp in Rosholt, which is owned and operated by the Wisconsin Lions Foundation Inc., began its 60th year in May. The 12-week summer program is provided free through donors and the Lions, Lioness and Leo clubs of Wisconsin.
In 1956, working off a passing comment that blind children cannot attend outdoor camps, the Lions Club passed a resolution to purchase the 240-acre camp and opened a session for visually impaired children. That first year, attendance was 26.
In the following six years, the dining hall, camp cabins, property manager’s house and garage and a memorial building were constructed, and eight years after it opened, the first camp for visually impaired adults was held, and 40 more acres were purchased. Five more years added bathrooms, totem pole, director’s cabin, a duplex for health lodge and handicrafts and two more campers’ cabins.
The 1970s saw 100 more acres added, five more cabins, recreation and conference/retreat centers constructed and a swimming pier. By now, there were six different programs for adults and children with disabilities offered.
And still the camp grew: A nature center, expanded swimming area, more lodges, more storage buildings, more programs such as the ropes course, dining hall expansion, another bathhouse built, eyeglass recycling center, renovations on original buildings, memorial gardens and a music program. Ten years ago construction on a new Health Lodge began, and since, new elements added to the ropes course, roofing and renovations and a new totem pole.
It all provides a safe, secure and welcoming place for retreats, conferences and the main focus, children.
Today, there are 440 acres with a 50-acre private lake, the buildings are air-conditioned (and will be available for touring on Aug. 21). The past three years, the camp has run close to 1,300 campers annually.
“They are no longer the only one with that specific disability,” Yenter said. “They can be themselves first, disability is not the first thing noticed or the defining characteristic that the ‘regular’ public zeros in on.
“It’s a place to play, participate and have fun in regular camp activities without restrictions,” she said. “It’s amazing and pretty awesome.”
The camp is often looking for staff and campers, Yenter said. For more information on the camp and its opportunities, visit wisconsinlionscamp.com.