About two hours north of the Twin Cities, YMCA Camp Warren sits on Half Moon Lake near Eveleth, Minnesota. Once a summer home for the Warren Family, the land is now a second home to 85 years worth of summer campers. The Warren Family’s 1880s New England style lodge—affectionately called Homaji—is now the cornerstone of a traditional residential camp. Girls and boys spend their summers there, learning outdoor skills and creating lifelong friendships.
Girls attend camp during the first half of the summer and boys attend camp during the second half. It’s that single-gender environment that allows campers to let down their guards and form stronger, deeper friendships. The lakeside setting, with towering white pines and ancient cedar trees, provides the perfect backdrop for kids to participate in progressive skills-based activities. With no outside influences, strong community lies at the heart of the Warren experience.
Camp Warren’s core programming includes two-week sessions (shorter and longer options are available), during which most campers focus on four activities reminiscent of traditional summer camps: everything from pottery and archery to canoeing, kayaking and sailing—even horseback riding. More adventurous campers can go on canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But what makes Warren unique is the way campers are encouraged to build on their skills over time and taught the importance of service. Every other day, campers pitch in sweeping the dining hall, performing trail maintenance, or helping in the barn or garden.
Giving back has become part of the culture and what campers call the Warren Spirit. Staff like to say that at Warren, the camp self is the true self. Campers can be themselves and embraced for who they are. Warren has a history as a place of acceptance and a refuge for kids where they reconnect with friends and healthy lifestyles, and learn to take risks. It’s kept them coming back for 85 years, so that some families have attended for three generations.
This summer, Camp Warren celebrates its 85th Anniversary. Old and new campers alike will reconnect with camp. Yesterday’s campers will get to see what camp is like today, and today’s campers will view pictures and videos of Warren dating back to the 1930s. Most of all, they will see that the Warren Spirit is alive and well, uniting the generations. To learn more about Camp Warren visit www.ymcatwincities.org/camps/camp_warren.
Memories of Camp Warren
I often tell people that I think I should write a book called “I Learned Everything I Need to Know About Life at Camp.” I mean, I’m psyched that I know how to shoot a bow and arrow and sail a sailboat, but it’s the life lesson stuff, that I didn’t even know I was learning, that I rely on again and again as I navigate the professional and personal tides of my time.
At Camp Warren, in every moment, in every little log cabin built for nine, I learned, from the age of eight, how to live and work with people different from myself. Now, after 26 summers at camp, I know this much is true:
There is always a clear blue lake at the end of a grueling canoe portage, no matter how long it seems or how many mosquitoes you have to battle to get there. Anything can be fixed with duct tape or kind words. Nature provides all the games and toys and food and wonder that you need. Life is better when you find people to be on Your Team, and keep them around forever. If something doesn’t exist yet, you can create it from tin foil or dancing bodies or birch bark or ideas. Do the dishes. Listen to music. Laugh.
– Emilie Hitch, Camp Warren Camper, 1980s
Camp Warren has been a special place for my family. Three generations of Scotts have special memories of camp…individually and as a group. I was a camp counselor at Warren for three years back in the mid 60s, and I have been on the Camp Warren Board of Management for over 25 years. My sons John and Mark have been campers, and my daughter Kathy was the camp office manager. Now five of their eight children have been Warren campers, and three of those campers have become Warren staff members.
Each Labor Day since 1970 our family has attended Family Camp at Camp Warren. Last year, with friends, we had 18 at camp …. more than enough to do our annual family skit. Fishing has always been a big part of that weekend. When my youngest son was 14 he caught a 6 pound largemouth bass, and that is still the Family Camp record bass.
I always say that Camp Warren is an experience that lasts a lifetime, and it has been for my family. My kids have taken the teachings of the YMCA principals… “Respect, Honesty, Caring and Responsibility” to heart. Those core principals have helped shape their lives, and those of their children, as well. At Camp Warren, individual development is what we strive for, with each child getting the attention and encouragement needed to grow in body, mind and spirit.
– Jeff Scott, Camp Warren Counselor, 1960