Fostering Independence at YMCA Camp Ohiyesa

Detroit Mom partnered with the amazing people at YMCA Camp Ohiyesa to bring you this post. All opinions are our own.

Summer camp is an amazing place for children to learn new skills, gain independence, and make new friends. YMCA Camp Ohiyesa has served metro Detroit for over 100 years, specializing in Day Camp and Overnight Camp for youth. With the careful guidance of camp staff, kids build confidence as they try new activities. Summer camp teaches self-reliance, an appreciation for the outdoors, healthy habits, and lifelong leadership skills.

Here’s why your kids will love spending their summer at YMCA Camp Ohiyesa!

Tradition and Innovation

YMCA Camp Ohiyesa prides itself in balancing tradition and innovation. “Each new summer brings new ideas to our campers’ experiences. This summer, we plan to have an increased emphasis on environmental stewardship, including weekly hands-on games and activities to give campers experience with things like gardening, wetlands, animal habitats, orienteering–all related to the theme of each week,” says Ryan Mertz, executive director of YMCA Camping Services. “There are arts, sports, and science-based activities every week. There really is something here for every child.”

They also welcome schools in the spring and fall for Outdoor Environmental Education and team building field trips. They’re accredited by the American Camp Association, for which they meet about 300 standards for health, safety, and program quality. Camp Ohiyesa’s staff take pride in creating safe, transformational, outdoor experiences for every child that comes to summer camp.

YMCA Camp Ohiyesa offers a Ponderosa horseback riding specialty program, as well as traditional camp activities like arts and crafts, archery, climbing, sports, and swimming. Overnight camps have a different theme each week, too, which provide a backdrop or story line for the camp each week.

“Another really central aspect of the camp experience is that children are closely mentored by positive role models,” says Mertz. “That dynamic learning from a positive role model outside of their own family is a powerful experience. Our staff are mostly university students studying education, social work, or recreation. These highly-trained role models help guide kids towards being the best versions of themselves. They are amazing, relatable, and continue to push each other to make camp absolutely incredible for each camper each summer.”

What can campers experience during summer camps?

For younger campers, it may be their first time away from home. So, Camp Ohiyesa tries to help them feel comfortable at camp. They’ll stay with the same small group of campers and counselors throughout the week. This provides a sense of stability and allows them to make great friends at camp. The counselors tailor the activity schedules for each specific age group–the youngest campers may be playing parachute in the field, feeding the petting farm animals, going on pony rides, or swimming. They encourage them to try things like the climbing wall and archery, but we know their favorites might still be drawing with sidewalk chalk, the waterslide, or making a craft to take home. Other activities include yoga, art, canoeing, and kayaking.

Camp Ohiyesa welcomes girls and boys ages 5-16. Overnight camp starts at age eight. Overnight campers can focus on skill development in the activities they are most interested in. It’s an opportunity to learn about goal setting in a healthy way with positive, encouraging role models.

Older campers also get to try out more adventurous activities like the giant swing, the alpine climbing tower, and paddle boarding, while learning leadership skills from our staff. Research shows that overnight camp is among the most comprehensive youth development programs available to children. At camp, youth learn distinct and transferable skills including responsibility, appreciation for differences, relationship skills, and appreciation for living in the moment.

Camp yields significant leadership-related gains in personal growth, independence, innovation, responsibility, and teamwork. At camp, kids can be the best version of themselves and explore their activity interests without judgment.

Campers spend most of their days outside exploring, teaching, and playing together. Camp Ohiyesa is located between Milford, Hartland, and Holly, so camp is easily accessible. It’s less than an hour from most of metro Detroit. They have daily bussing available from Novi, Birmingham, White Lake, and Milford. Despite the close proximity to the city, the camp itself is still a very natural environment. It’s surrounded by farms and forests. Camp Ohiyesa itself features 300 acres of rolling fields, forests, and lakefront–full of fun activities for youth.

Why is camp so important in mitigating summer learning loss?

Camp helps children to be successful in school, in higher education, and in the workforce later in life. Research tells us that camp experiences are distinct from other learning environments because kids learn skills at camp that they do not learn in the same way in school.

Youth also learn distinct and transferable skills at camp, including responsibility, appreciation for differences, relationship skills, and appreciation for living in the moment. At camp, kids are out of their school environment and don’t have the same pressure to fit into the school social structure. We help children learn to grow and thrive socially while continuing to develop confidence, communication, teamwork, and science skills.

The Power of Camp

Camp is a place where youth gain independence, build friend-making skills, and challenge their limits. They also explore the natural world and create lifelong habits of healthy living under the careful guidance of responsible role models. For kids, having positive role models who believe in you and encourage you (outside of their own family) is tremendously important in the youth development journey. We often hear from past campers, “It was the best summer of my life”, “I made my lifelong friends at camp”, and “Camp helped shape me into the person I am today.”


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