Camp officials, donors celebrate opening of new bath house

ROSE LAKE — Dozens of children are enjoying all the outdoors has to offer in Osceola County as they attend Rose Lake Youth Camp, right on the edge of Rose Lake near LeRoy.

"We've got a great setting here," said camp board president and volunteer Bob Patterson. "It's a really pretty spot on the lake."

Rose Lake Youth Camp originally began in 1948. Now, it hosts seven one-week camping sessions from Sunday through Friday from the end of June through the middle of August. It offers four types of camp, including resident camp, a coed overnight camp offered for ages 7 through 13; discovery day camp, which took place from June 29 through July 1 for special needs children and adults; day camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for ages 4 through 12; and specialty resident camps, which include specific activities throughout a portion of each day, such as dance, sports, horses and outdoor adventures.

Kids are encourage to unplug and enjoy the scenery which surrounds them.

"We have swimming lessons and recreational swimming, kayaking and canoeing, we have snorkeling, archery, crafts and we do a lot of team-building type activities," Patterson added. "They also have hikes, nature studies, a ga-ga pit, cookouts and campfires."

The camp averages 48 children each week from Osceola, Lake and Mecosta counties. Often, children from other states who are visiting Michigan with their families will attend camp, Patterson said. Costs vary per type of camping experience, and more than 50 percent of campers attend on a scholarship opportunity.

Patterson said he believes Rose Lake Youth Camp provides an opportunity for kids to learn responsibility and increase their social skills away from gaming consoles, computers, television and smart phones. Before arriving on the grounds, campers are advised to leave devices at home.

"I think the main thing is to step back and realize there's a life without electronics," he added. "A lot of kids don't get outside and enjoy nature."

To help keep campers safe, the camp provides week-long staff training, which includes first aid training. The grounds are regularly inspected by the state and it is a state-licensed campground. When children are in the water, counselors always are on hand and lifeguard supervision is provided.

Camp has been an enjoyable experience for 11-year-old Ariana Gardner from Morley. It's her first year at the camp, and she expressed interest in returning next year.

"I'm having a good time," she said. "We went kayaking and there were a lot of mosquitoes, but we had fun anyway."

She said her favorite activities include swimming and playing in the ga-ga pit, and she's also making some new friends.

"The counselors are really cool. They make it fun," Gardner added. "The other kids are fun, too."

Patterson has fond memories of the Rose Lake Youth Camp, as he grew up in Reed City and attended the camp as a child, then helped work on the staff as he aged. Now, he's happy to be providing some of the same positive memories for others.

"I just love seeing the kids have a great time," he said.

The grounds offer multiple six-cot tents, a laundry facility and a new bath house, equipped with a drinking fountain, shower rooms and bathrooms for men and women. The bath house was officially opened at a toilet paper ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrated by camp board members and local donors who made the project possible. Thousands of dollars were raised to build the structure.

"It is a great feeling to see so many give time and resources to make sure that camping opportunities for children will be available for many year to come," Patterson added. "The new accessible facility will make it easier for all of our campers to enjoy camp and help us offer more opportunities for special needs campers in the future."

More information about Rose Lake Youth Camp can be found at roselakeyouthcamp.org or by calling (231) 768-4351.