On June 26, 1937, Camp Hiwela officially opened in Wild Rose.
At that time, the residents of Oshkosh had a powerful belief that their daughters could benefit from a residential camping experience. From the architects who designed the cabins and dining halls, to the volunteers who built and maintained the camp, to the parents who gave up a week of vacation every summer to act as camp nurses or rangers, the whole community supported Camp Hiwela.
Jean Collier, past camper, counselor and current Hiwela Youth Fund committee member, recalls the 13 years she spent at Camp Hiwela.
“When I was a child, Hiwela was important to me as it allowed me to be in the outdoors with girls my age. It is difficult to describe the fresh air, beautiful pristine lakes and the aroma of pine,” says Jean.
“I loved sleeping in screened cabins and open-air tents, singing, swimming, canoeing, hiking, and spending time being a kid in a kids’ world.”
For 58 years, Camp Hiwela taught the value and joy of being outdoors and camping. After the sale of the camp in 1995, the Winnebagoland Council of Camp Fire Boys and Girls used the proceeds to create the Hiwela Youth Fund. It was the first field of interest fund focused on youth within the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. Annually, the fund supports youth-related programs and activities focused on camping, environmental education and outdoor learning experiences. Since the fund was established, 477 grants totaling $1,243,000 have been awarded.
“A donation to the Hiwela (Youth) Fund honors the spirit of our predecessors and their commitment to residential camping for all children in the Oshkosh area. Contributing to the Hiwela (Youth) Fund maintains and strengthens the Hiwela legacy: the belief that spending time in the outdoors is childhood’s ultimate joyful experience,” says Jean.
The Hiwela Youth Fund committee will be hosting a celebration of Camp Hiwela’s 80th anniversary on June 24, 2017, at the Paine Art Center Prairie Woodlands in Oshkosh. The event will feature all the things that happen in a day at camp.