Camp Chi 100 years and Counting
It is safe to say that 2020 was a year of firsts. The first time we did not have in person camp over the summer. The first time we relied on a computers and technology for camp programs (we focus on personal connections, not internet connections at camp.) The first time many of us had remote school, virtual meetings and the first time many of our holidays and celebrations were online and/or more intimate than usual. As we think of all the firsts of 2020, our focus shifts to 2021 and Camp Chi’s 100th birthday celebration. It makes us think back to the firsts of Camp Chi and there is no better first to start with than our first year 100 years ago.
In the 1920’s life was very different than today where we are all so connected to our phones and computers and can reach almost anyone anywhere in the world with ease. In 1921, no one would have imagined having a cell phone or the internet, let alone a phone that connected to some sort of world wide web. A hundred years ago, the United States was made up of 48 states, Israel was not yet a state, and the moon was decades away from being landed on. One hundred years ago, the Chicago Theatre opened, and Camp Chi marked its first summer, developed as safe place for girls during the polio epidemic. In 2021, Camp Chi will be a safe place for campers and staff during this pandemic.
In 1921 camp was very different from the place we call home now. It started as an all-girls camp at Loon Lake in Antioch, Illinois. The very first year of camp there were 559 girls registered and their counselors were members of the JCC Woman’s Auxiliary. Camp Chi did not move up to Lake Delton, Wisconsin until 1952 and it did not become co-ed until 1955. The move north to Wisconsin nearly 70 years ago allowed Chi to continue to grow and blossom into the camp we know and love so dearly. Today we serve well over 1100 campers each summer and have 300+ staff that come from all over the world. The world may have changed in the past 100 years, but Chi has always remained focused on its’ values and individuals
These days our most popular specialties include water ski, DJ, outdoor cooking and the ropes and adventure courses. Whether it is one of those or one of our other 50+ specialties offered, do our best to be innovative and creative so there is something for everyone. Back in 1921, Camp Chi specialties included classes on hygiene, sewing, athletics, Jewish rituals, and dance pageants. At the time, this is what the campers wanted to do, and this was important to their growth as individuals. While the popular specialties have changed so much, some things have remained exactly the same. Our programming continues to focus on a balance of fun, growth, and meeting campers where they are, while giving them the opportunity to challenge and push themselves if they so desire.
We won’t know what Chi campers a hundred years from now will think of when thinking about camp back in the “olden days” of 2021. What we do know now is that camp has always been a safe place for us and we all need camp more than ever. It was so hard for our Camp Chi family not to be able to go home last summer. This will make our 100th birthday celebration so much sweeter this summer, when we can say the phrase every one of us longs to hear “welcome home!”
For details on our 100th summer and centennial celebration click here.