Pretty Lake Camp is about a 20-minute drive from Kalamazoo College’s campus, but it has always been much closer in the eyes of Director of Security Eric Wimbley. He is the current sitting president of the Board of Directors at Pretty Lake Camp, but that is not his only connection. He attended the camp, designed for local at risk youth, in 1974 and 1975 when he was a child. He says it changed his life.
“Think of kids who are in a small neighborhood, it’s like a study abroad but on a very, very small level,” Wimbley said.
Pretty Lake Camp has 250 acres of land and makes up two-thirds of the shoreline on Pretty Lake, located in Mattawan, Michigan. Since its founding in 1916, the camp has hosted over 50,000 children to date, never charging any of them.
The summer programs at Pretty Lake are designed to show children possibilities and opportunities that they can achieve if they work hard.
“When I got to Pretty Lake, I saw I had options and opportunities that were bigger than my neighborhood,” Wimbley said. He gives Pretty Lake Camp endless praise in any conversation about the topic, and he is not the only member of the K community to think that way.
K’s Director of Golf Mitch Wilson was the Executive Director of Pretty Lake Camp from 2009-2014.
“Showing the kids that somebody truly cares about them; that’s probably the most important thing,” Wilson said.
Wilson took over Pretty Lake Camp as Executive Director in 2009 when it was struggling through the economic recession. Under his direction, the camp turned around its fortunes and even acquired a new farm for camp usage. According to Wimbley, under Wilson the camp has experienced some of its best financial stability ever.
At this point in time, the camp is preparing to begin interviewing and hiring counselors, lifeguards, and other employees for next summer. In past years, several of these positions have been filled by K students. Both Wimbley and Wilson hope that more K students will apply this year and that many others will volunteer to work with the kids.
“The people who volunteer and work there, they’re not only serving the youth of the community, but they’re also setting an example,” Wimbley said.
Anyone who wants to get involved with Pretty Lake Camp can contact Wimbley with any inquiries.