Building Community: Camp Daggett

WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
PHOTOS | CAMP DAGGETT

According to Henry Daggett, a Petoskey businessman, “Children in a community are its richest assets, and its future depends upon the influencing of their lives for good.”  Daggett allowed a Petoskey middle school physical education teacher, Walter J. MacMillian, to begin using the property for character building programs in 1924.  He founded a boys’ summer camp on the property the following year.  In Daggett’s memory, his daughter Harriet S. Harper donated a 43-acre parcel of land to Camp Daggett Board of Trustees in 1939 to ensure the continuation of these services.

Since its 1925 inception, the camp has welcomed generations of campers to its beautiful location on Walloon Lake. Having withstood both the Great Depression and World War II, the camp credits its longevity to an engaged board of trustees, which has provided sound guidance and supported the camp motto, encouraging “The Other Fellow First.”

The camp’s mindful approach to programming is perhaps explained best by its mission to “provide quality character building experiences through educational and recreational programs in a safe, fun environment; serving all ages with an emphasis on youth.”

Brent Marlatt has served as the organization’s executive director since 2008. With a background in parks and recreational management, Marlatt was drawn to the fact that many aspects of the camp did indeed include character-building experiences.

“There is an intellectual wellness that comes from learning about Mother Nature as well as physical wellness. This job is a perfect meld of what I really believe in, and for 92 years it’s been a resource for people to think differently and relate to each other more generously,” says Marlatt.

Despite assuming the job during a time of extreme economic fragility in the US, the camp has maintained its numbers with only a slight decline, for which Marlatt credits the Daggett staff and board.

“You can have the most beautiful spot on the lake, but if you don’t have a good team, it’s really difficult.”

Annually, around 1,100 students attend the summer camp. About 80 percent of these are from Michigan, and 17 percent come from other states. The remaining two or three percent of the campers are from outside the country, the farthest to date hailing from Ethiopia.

Campers enjoy a variety of adventures on a typical day, including swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, campfires, and informal games interspersed with pockets of free time during which campers may select their own activity to engage in.

No family is turned away because of an inability to pay. Tens of thousands of dollars — $40,000, to be exact — go toward scholarships for youth who wish to attend the camp each year.

In addition to the summer camp, there is also an outdoor adventure center complete with a high ropes course and a 35 x 40-foot climbing wall. Families may also participate in a variety of events held throughout the year, from father-son and mother-daughter weekends away to snowshoe outings and kayaking on the lake.

Every year, the organization hosts its signature fundraising golf event at Walloon Lake Country Club, complete with 18 holes of golf, lunch, a cocktail hour, and a delicious dinner.

 

Camp Daggett  03001 Church Road, Petoskey MI 49770 l (231) 347-9742  l CampDaggett.org