Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Anokijig-Style Open House

About four years ago, Camp Anokijig was hosting "open houses," but they were very different than the ones we host today. Back in 2005, realtors brought land developers and speculators in to size up Anokijig for various construction projects that had nothing to do with camping, kids or the great outdoors.

Although we are not very far-removed from those days, Anokijig is now hosting a much different open house, one that celebrates all the great things Anokijig has been since 1926 and continues to be well into the 21st Century. This weekend Anokijig will host their Annual "Taste of the Outdoors" event, which is our own version of an open house, except the only thing we're trying to sell is a great time in the great outdoors.

Our doors will be open from 11AM until 4PM on Saturday and 9:30AM until 3PM on Sunday and we'll be serving up an all-you-can-eat buffet the entire time. Admission is just $8 for campers 13 and older and $5 for campers 4-12 (campers 3 and under are always free). All of our program areas will also be open for visitors to enjoy, including boating on Little Elkhart, archery, arts & crafts, archery and pony rides. If you've never been to Anokijig before, but you've always been curious about what it entails, this weekend is the perfect time to visit. If you're an alumni (either camper or counselor) of Anokijig and you'd like to come back and remember some great times, we're waiting for your visit.

If you're thinking about sending your child to Anokijig, but you'd like a closer look, come on up. If you're a parent on the East Coast, who couldn't get their child into one of those $1,000/week summer camps out there and you're looking for alternatives, we'll even offer complimentary round-trip shuttle service from the Milwauke airport*

Anokijig is also using this weekend to help our local food pantry. We will be raffling off five family weekend packages and each non-perishable food item our guests donate to the food pantry is good for one raffle ticket (they can also be purchased, in case you forget to bring food).

As always, if you have any questions about this weekend or Camp Anokijig in general, you can always call our camp office directly at 920-893-0782. We hope to see you this weekend!

*Offer good only for parents or guardians of camper-age children, who have sent their children to $1,000+ week East Coast camps in the 12 months and are flying to and from Wisconsin specifically and exclusively to tour Anokijig for the same purpose.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Could Changes in Tax Law Impact Anokijig?

When the Obama Administration released their budget proposals earlier this year, one area caught many non-profits (including Camp Anokijig) by surprise. It was a plan to limit the deductions that some individuals and couples could claim on their charitable gifts. While this change would not affect most of Anokijig's donors, it could impact most of Anokijig's donations. How could this be the case?
The proposed changes in the tax law would only impact taxpayers in the very top tax brackets, so it's a relatively small percentage of individuals. However, this small percentage of individuals accounts for a big percentage of giving. For many years, non-profits have recognized an "80/20 trend." This trend recognizes that 80% of an organization's donations come from just 20% of their donors (some groups see this percentage trending closer to 90/10). As Anokijig has moved into it's fourth season as an independent camp, we have also witnessed this trend emerge in our own donor base.
While this 20% segment of our donors are very likely to be impacted by this proposed change in legislation, the degree to which this might influence their giving to Anokijig and other non-profits is unknown. Some estimates put figures as low as a 1.2% decrease in giving, but even that number is a significant amount for Anokijig's bottom line.
Fortunately, this provision didn't have much support in either the House or Senate and both groups left it out of their respective budget resolutions, which are the blueprints for tax and spending bills to be taken up by Congress. That doesn't mean this idea is dead and we could see it surface again in future legislation. Keep your fingers crossed that we don't hear about any future tax proposals involving non-profits, unless they encourage giving.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Are Anokijig's Family Camps Too Good To Be True?

Last night, Milwaukee's TMJ4 did a feature on affordable family vacations, highlighting Camp Anokijig's family weekend camps. In case you missed it, you can see all of it here-
In the story, they claimed a family of four could enjoy a weekend at Anokijig for about $325. Is that accurate or is it too good to be true? The truth is, a family of four can enjoy a weekend at Anokijig for even less than that and that includes all of your meals!
Rates for our Fall Colors weekend start at just $84 for campers 13 & older, $79 for campers 4-12 years old and campers under 3 years old are always free. Program Director, Darin Holden, describes Anokijig family camps as "a rustic camping version of an all-inclusive resort." All meals are served buffet-style in beautiful Western Lodge and campers are always welcome to come back for seconds (and even thirds).
There are no fees of any kind for our waterfront area, so campers don't have to worry about getting a sailboat or paddleboat back within an hour or risk incurring additional charges. Our archery and pellet gun range are also free of charge and if kids want to spend all afternoon shooting at targets, they're more than welcome to do so.
Our arts & crafts area does charge nominal fees to cover the cost of the supplies of some crafts, but a family of four can spend hours painting in the arts & crafts building, without spending a dime. Our horse rides also have nominal fees attached to them, but Anokijig's private trail system is second to none in the area and our rates (like everything else at Anokijig) are very reasonable.
For more information on our family camping weekends, please visit our website-
If you're not sure about committing to an entire weekend, come on up for the day and check us out! Our Taste of the Outdoors Country Breakfast & Family Fun Day is coming up May 30th & 31st. It's an all-you-can-eat extravaganza and all the program areas will be open as well. You can get all the information you need on Anokijig's Taste of the Outdoors here-
Thank you TMJ4 for visiting us and we hope to see you all soon!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Anokijig Makes Another TV News Appearance and Additional Family Weekend Announced


WTMJ4 cameras were recently at camp to file a story about affordable family vacations. Several interviews with our guests from Blakewood School in Milwaukee as well as with our Director Jim Scherer were conducted to help tell our story. There were also some great camera shots of our Voyageur canoes in action from the Allegheny electric launch as well as a tour of our great facilities and a chance to see our some of our staff (Scott Mabie, Heidi Mabie, and Don Hill) and guests in outdoor education action.

Our family weekends are one of the best affordable family activities that you can find anywhere.Each year we offer 3 weekends to choose from Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fall Colors.

This year we've opened an additional new weekend for families called the August Get-Away. This will be a Fri-Sun event August 28th-30th. We are currently taking registrations for all of these weekends, but they're going fast. Check out our Family Camp page at 09family.htm for all of the information and register at 2009 family web registration form.htm

Be Sure to check out the report on Friday the 22nd to see a great visit to Anokijig.

If you miss the report it will be available on the WTMJ website for your viewing pleasure. We'll be sure to put up a link as soon as we get it.

What Makes Anokijig Different?

ABC news recently ran a story about camps being "recession-proof." In the story, it talks about parents making sacrifices to ensure their children have an opportunity to attend camp. These parents clearly understand the profound and positive impact a camping experience can have on the development of their children.

The story did make me contemplate how the environment at Camp Anokijig is different from what children normally experience and even how Camp Anokijig is different from other camps. The absence of technology is one big difference. Kids at Anokijig don't text, twitter, e-mail or phone their friends, they talk to them. If they can't find their friend, they can't page them or google them, but they can walk around and look for them.

Kids at Anokijig don't play video games by themselves, they play real games with other real people. They don't watch TV either, although they may check out a few skits by a campfire.

Kids at Anokijig also don't play soccer, baseball, tennis, golf or any number of other "stick and ball" sports, that they can play at home. They ride horses, sail boats, paddle canoes, catch fish, shoot pellet guns and arrows, make arts & crafts and do a lot of other things they don't do at home. Those activities might also differeniate us from many other camps.

Anokijig doesn't have manicured lawns, paved roads, concrete playgrounds, air-conditioned cabins with Internet access or chlorinated swimming pools and they're not on our "wish list" either, although some paved roads in spots might be nice. Whenever we're not at Anokijig, we're surrounded by all that stuff and we enjoy getting away from it. We have grassy meadows and lush forests, gravel roads and dirt trails, scatterball games in the parade grounds, tents and cabins that allow you to enjoy your natural surroundings, not isolate you from them. We have a beautiful lake and island, that is big enough for kids to explore and feel like they've gone on an adventure, but not so big that we have to limit our camper's access to it, for fear of jetskis buzzing our paddleboaters.

There are a lot of great camps that offer plenty of modern faciliies and ammenities and as far as we're concerned, they can keep 'em (and their $1,000+/week pricetags). We would rather offer our campers experiences and activities that they probably won't get anywhere else. Many of our campers enjoy Anokijig, because they recognize it as a real vacation from schedules that are jam-packed with after-school activities and sports.

Finally, we think our staff makes Anokijig different. We know every camp will claim their staff is "the best" and we're no exception. Our nine full-time staff members give their heart and soul to Anokijig every day and we're not just talking about our nine weeks of summer camp. Anokijig doesn't have a winter address or a business office in another city. We never close and we always have staff on premises. Several of our staff members even live on-site and have been there for more than 25 years. They know Anokijig like the back of their hand and when someone or something is not where it's supposed to be. We're glad they're there, keeping the Anokijig spirit alive!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Filling Out the Forms...

It's that time of year again. Just when we think the burden of filling out all those tax forms are behind us for another year, parents get hit with the task of filling out even more forms for summer school, baseball teams and yes, Camp Anokijig.

As parents fill out their forms for Anokijig, we ask them to keep a few things in mind-

  • Please be neat. If your handwriting looks like it belongs on a prescription form, consider filling out one of our online forms, which can be found here- . Some forms may need to be completed by hand, so please take your time and consider writing in all capital letters. This often makes handwriting easier to read.
  • Please double-check your forms. Little things like the wrong zip code can slow down the registration process and cause unnecessary aggravation for everyone. We also need accurate zip codes for determining camper demographics. This information helps us decide things like where to schedule stops for the camp bus, potentially saving families time and money. Service organization who help Anokijig, like the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, also like to know if Anokijig serves children from their communities or neighborhoods.
  • Please fill out all the information. Why do parents need to fill out employment information? The main reason we ask, is so we know how to contact parents in the event of an emergency. If a parent tells us they work at Wal-Mart, but doesn't include contact information, that really doesn't narrow things down for us very much. Another reason we ask, is because we often apply for grants from corporate foundations and professional associations. Many of these groups restrict their giving to organizations who serve their local communities and we are often asked if any of their employees or families come to Anokijig. We never share anyone's personal information, but simply being able to say "yes" to that question can make a huge difference for us.
  • Please plan ahead. Some of our session options are already beginning to fill up and our last six weeks of summer camp have traditionally sold out. Please don't wait until the last minute to register your children. Also, keep in mind that we need current medical information on your child and that may require an updated physical. Many doctors are booked out weeks in advance for physical exams, so please plan accordingly. For everyone's safety, we cannot allow children to come to Anokijig without current medical information.
  • Please double-check your confirmation information. When you receive your confirmation by mail or e-mail, please make sure it is correct. Did you really sign Betsy up for Fishing Expedition and Trent for Scrapbooking? If something got mixed up, don't hesitate to call us right away at 1-800-741-6931.
  • Please call if you have any questions. Our office staff is on duty Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 5PM Central time. You can contact them by phone at 1-800-741-6931 or by e-mail at

Monday, May 11, 2009

NRA Foundation Helps Fund New Pellet Gun Range

Anokijig's Pellet Gun Range has a new home for 2009, just north of Foxwell Lodge (The Arts & Crafts Building). The Pellet Gun Range has been one of our most popular program areas, since it was introduced several years ago, but finding a good home for it at Anokijig has been a challenge.

Ideally, we'd like to have the Pellet Gun Range in a central location, but at the same time, we need to make sure this location is absolutely safe for everyone involved. That meant we needed to find an area of Anokijig that didn't have any foot traffic (horse or human) anywhere behind the range. The first location we selected was at the bottom of the hill, along the lake, at the South end of the Parade Grounds. In addition to the Kevlar backstop, this area also had the safety of a hillside location that wasn't easily accessible to campers, in case errant shots missed their targets alltogether.

While this served location served us well in the initial years, we wanted a location that afforded us the opportunity to construct a more permanent facility. We're very familiar with the Wisconsin DNR's restrictions on building anything near bodies of water. If you can even see the blue stuff from your building site, you need to get ready to jump through hoops, just to stick a shovel in the ground.

While we appreciate how this oversight has limited development on and around Little Eklhart Lake, we wanted to move the Pellet Gun Range to a location that we hoped would allow us to eventually build some permanent structures. Last Fall, we met with a field representative and range consultant from the NRA at Anokijig. We showed them our current range and asked them for assistance in identifying a new, safer range location.

After reviewing our current location and alternative sites, the NRA Foundation gave us recommendations and encouraged us to apply for a funding grant from the NRA Foundation. We're happy to report that our request for partial funding from the NRA Foundation was granted! This initial funding allowed us to move the range to it's new location, while adding some additional safety features, including permanent barriers running the length of both sides of the range. Our new location also makes it easier to collect spent pellets after they are shot, which makes this range more environmentally-friendly.

Future plans call for permanent benches on concrete pads in the firing area and other upgrades to further enhance the experience for campers. We're excited about our new range and we've already been receiving a lot of positive feedback from our weekend campers on our new site.
This new range would not have been possible without the generous funding and guidance of the NRA Foundation and we appreciate their assistance very much. They understand that our pellet gun range is more than just a fun activity. It helps us teach our campers important lessons in safety, respect and responsibility.
We would also like to extend a special thanks to our tireless crew of volunteers, who are the lifeblood of everything we do at Anokijig. Claude Gonzalez, Chris Regis and several other volunteers put in a lot of hours to make this new range a reality for us. If you would like to help us with future improvements at the Pellet Gun Range, please contact our Executive Director, Jim Scherer at 920-893-0782.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A New Addition Behind Western Lodge

Campers hiking up the hill behind Western Lodge this summer will notice a new addition to Anokijig. This big shed houses the summer office space for Scott Stewart and Scott & Heidi Mabie. Those three used to occupy an office with Darin Holden and another assistant program director.

Five people in an office originally intended for one or two people was a challenge, but our staff found a way to make it work for many years. Even with their efforts, it had been apparent for a long time that we simply needed more space.

Several years ago, a generous donor gave Anokijig a very nice log building package. This building would create the additional space Anokijig desperately needs for year-round, insulated offices (we currently spend about two weeks each year moving in and out of Western Lodge). It would also give us space for a year-round dining and meeting hall, capable of handling larger groups in the cold months, when Western Lodge simply cannot be used. Most importantly, it would provide us with additional storm shelter space, in case of dangerous weather (you can never have too much of that!).

The fancy name for it is the "Outdoor Education & Program Development Center with Storm Shelter" and we would love to put that building up now, but we just don't have the resources to do it and our top priority is to pay down the debt incurred to save Anokijig from developers. Until that day comes, the logs, insulation, shingles and the rest of the building all sit in cold storage at a nearby farm.
In the meantime, we've been able to reduce the number of "cloffices," made room for an additional staff member and increased the productivity of Anokijig staff.

We would've liked to have made our new "staff hut" more
aesthetically pleasing, maybe by adding log paneling to match Western Lodge. For this type of addition, we're strictly in "need" mode. We need it to be functional and look neat in appearance, even if we want it to blend in to the surroundings and match other buildings in the area.

The good news is, we can always do that at a later date, although we'd much rather replace it entirely with the building with the really long name. If you'd like to see some of the other items on our wish list, you can visit it at this link-

Until the time comes that we can build our dream building, we will continue to make do with what we have and keep our fingers crossed for the future. Keep working hard Scott Stewart, Anokijig depends on you!