Hello Camp Tanuga Family!
You’ve heard the good news - Camp Tanuga isn’t going ANYWHERE! Over the past several months, we’ve developed a plan to keep the camp gates open, and we are ecstatic to share it with all of you at last!
What’s the grand plan?
We have established the Camp Tanuga Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that will purchase Camp Tanuga. The mission-driven organization will have board oversight, direct all profits back into Camp, and, most importantly, eliminate the possibility of Camp Tanuga ever being sold for profit.
Will it still feel like the Camp Tanuga I know and love?
ABSOLUTELY. The essence of Camp is what makes it so special - where the “Tanuga Magic” happens, and we intend to honor the customs and traditions cherished for over 70 years. We plan to build on this foundation, streamline systems and operations (who’s ready for online registration?!?), invest in camp infrastructure, and enhance the experience for all.
When does this all happen?
We recently signed a purchase agreement and established the 501(c)(3). We are now organizing our efforts to raise money in order to purchase Camp (PSST! We’ll need your help with that!) with plans to complete the purchase in the fall of 2024. Ron Fritz and Sharone Bigelman will be working closely with Sid and Cody until then to observe the nuances of running the greatest camp in the world to create as smooth a transition as possible.
What can we do to help?
There’s the old camp spirit! In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more from the Camp Tanuga Foundation on how you can help this plan come to fruition - we can’t do it without you!
A huge thanks to those who have taken the lead and contributed their time and resources toward this exciting next chapter for Camp Tanuga:
Drew Billmeyer Jessica “Lopie” Drescher
Ian and Marcy Burnstein Jill “Beigs” Javahery
Matthew “Style” Usher
Steve and Alix Craig Ross Klar
We are grateful to Sid and Cody for their dedication to making Camp Tanuga a place we all treasure. They are woven into the fabric of Camp, as are the directors who served before them. We are honored and humbled to keep the Tanuga fires burning for generations to come. We can’t wait to connect with you all!
Can you tell me a little more about all of this?
We figured you’d have more questions - we would too! Read on if you want to know more about our vision, structure, goals, and more.
Here’s a little more information for those wanting to know….a little more!
Mission of the Camp Tanuga Foundation
The Camp Tanuga Foundation is deeply committed to the philosophy of a traditional camping experience, enriching the lives of children through outdoor education to promote personal growth, leadership skills, self- esteem, and community while fostering lifelong friendships.
Why restructure as a 501(c)(3)?
We spent a lot of time researching how to best structure the business of Camp. We determined the best way to secure Camp Tanuga in perpetuity is to establish it as a nonprofit organization, and here’s why:
- We will be able to fundraise and apply for grants for special projects such as a new high ropes course to replace the existing one that is no longer operational. (And all donations are tax-deductible - double bonus!)
- All excess revenue will be reinvested into Camp, allowing us to better maintain the historic grounds and buildings, invest in staff development, improve equipment for activities and so much more.
- A board of directors will serve as the governing body to ensure that Camp has the infrastructure to thrive. (more about the board of directors below)
- It will eliminate the possibility of a private owner ever selling camp to a developer
- Many camps around the country have moved to this model for sustainability with great success
Board of Directors
Think of the board of directors as the stern of the canoe, guiding and directing camp to keep it on the right path. Composed of Camp Tanuga devotees, the board will work to ensure Camp stays relevant but also stays true to its values and mission. The diverse board of directors will work on strategic planning and critical decision-making always with Camp Tanuga’s best interest at heart. Board members will represent a variety of skills, backgrounds, and expertise to serve the needs of Camp and will be a built-in resource. We are in the process of building the first board of directors and look forward to sharing the names of the board with you all over the next few months.
A little about us
Sharone and Joe met at Michigan State University in 2001 and have been together ever since. Their three kids, Noah, Ari, and Amelia have been Tanuga campers for years, just as Joe and his siblings had been growing up. Though she didn’t grow up at Camp Tanuga, Sharone has been a lifelong camper and has worked as a counselor, family camp staff, artist in residence, and led camp trips throughout the Canadian wilderness as a tripper. Joe has been a leader in the mortgage industry for over 24 years. He serves on the executive board of Temple Israel, having recently completed his term as President. With a professional background in nonprofit management and communications as well as running a bustling household, Sharone has mastered the role of ringmaster. She fell in love with Tanuga at family camp in 2015 and 2016 and is eager to bring family camp back in 2025!
Jenny and Ron met as students at the University of Michigan and got married at Tanuga 25 years ago. Their two college-age kids, Adler and Parker, were raised at Camp Tanuga; in fact, Adler, was born in Petoskey and spent the first summer of his life at Tanuga! Jenny was a camper at Tanuga since she was 10 years old and has worked as a counselor, head counselor, and tripping director before becoming the assistant director. Jenny introduced Ron to camp where he quickly became involved in many different areas before also becoming an assistant director. Ron is a teacher at Berkley High School, where he also coaches football and wrestling. Jenny, a social worker, is currently the Dean for the College of Health and Human Services at Eastern Michigan University. She serves on several boards, including Jewish Family Service and the Gary Burnstein Clinic.
Every camper learns the rule of thumb to leave a campsite better than you found it. As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, we have the ability to leave our world a little better than we found it by giving back to others.
We are bursting with ideas of how Camp Tanuga can achieve this! Some of our goals include camper scholarships, internships, and community service opportunities, providing camping experiences to at-risk inner-city children, and more beginning in October of 2024.
Happy staff = Happy campers
We plan to retain dedicated staff who want to return for another great summer, and we look forward to recruiting more former campers as staff as well. Staff need a place to recharge, and we want to create a space on camp grounds for them to take a break, connect with each other, and maybe even do a load of laundry without the need to go into town.
Sometimes campers have challenges that are too big for counselors to handle. A social worker will be on staff to help with those instances and support staff and campers alike.
Activities and programs
We want to build a new high ropes course, bring back the horses, and other beloved Tanuga activities and programs that belong back in the rotation! We will reconfigure activities to focus on skill development and goals, including bringing back patches associated with level achievement. (Who still has their patches?
Let’s see ‘em!) We are eager to reinvest and expand on the arts & crafts programming so that campers create projects they are proud of and want to bring home to share with their families. Bringing back a Counselor Assistant/Junior Counselor program to help retain and develop campers as future staff members is also a big goal of ours.
Putting on the toolbelts
You can imagine how much wear and tear there is from years of happy campers running around. We will work on deferred maintenance projects to get camp shining!
Embracing technology (for the parents…not the campers)
Camp will be going paperless! No more filling out forms by hand for each child year after year - all registration, medical forms, and payment will be done online through a camper portal. On a computer or through the app, parents will have the ability to fill out any forms, correspond with camp, and see photos of their campers with built-in facial recognition.
Alumni outreach is a BIG priority for us. We will be putting out regular alumni newsletters, creating alumni groups and challenges, and creating opportunities for alumni retreats at camp. Get READY! It’s gonna be a blast!
Family camp at Tanuga is the BEST. Parents get to feel like campers again and little ones can experience the Tanuga Magic with the security of having their parents around. Can you imagine anything better than snuggling with your family around a Tanuga fire? We can’t either.
Connecting with fellow parents from your child’s cabin is a pretty special thing. Families will be provided with cabin lists including contact information so parents can be in touch with each other while the kids are having a blast at camp and kids can stay in touch with each other when they’re missing camp back at home.
We want you to know who is supervising your kids while at camp. Directors, unit directors, specialists, and counselors will be connecting with families, introducing themselves, and providing updates from camp.
We’ll be sending out a monthly note to keep you updated with what’s happening throughout the year to stay connected. This will be a great place to share exciting milestones with the camp community, funny pictures, cookie recipes, you name it!
Ok, but why is all of this important?
Kids need camp now more than ever. Did you know that in 2023, the pediatric mental health crisis is THE top patient safety concern? It’s no surprise that with the state of the world, we are approaching a national health emergency.
Research shows that the social-emotional skills learned and practiced at camp support kids year-round. As kids build friendships and social connections, they form key skills that bolster academic performance and are at the core of college and career readiness. Findings released in 2023 from the American Camp Association National Impact Study indicate that camp is instrumental in the educational development of the whole child, including mental health. Similarly, it was found that working at camp provides professional development and life skills in a profoundly unique way, thus sending young adults (and our future leaders!) into the workforce with confidence and superior skills to manage challenges.
Bottom line: We need to give kids a break from the pressures of over-scheduling, academics, social media, and screens. With so many camps having to close their doors due to mounting financial hardships, we owe it to our kids to give them a place to grow in a way they can’t at home. Our future depends on it and our community needs it!
Now that we have an agreement to do all of this awesomeness, we need to raise the money to do it. We have created a whole great letter on this that you’ll be getting in a few days, but the gist of it is we have a preliminary goal of raising $4.25 million to make sure the gates of Tanuga remain open for generations to come. In addition to acquiring Camp, this amount provides for important structural updates to the historic camp facilities and establishes a sound foundation for this next chapter for Camp Tanuga. Our ULTIMATE fundraising goal of $6 million will set up the Foundation for the greatest success out of the gates and will position us to start this next chapter in a way to make Camp Tanuga the most desirable choice when it comes to where to send children to overnight camp in Michigan. We truly need the support of the entire Tanuga family and hope you’ll be a part of Tanuga’s future!
Wow, that’s a lot of info to process! The most important message we want to relay to our Camp Tanuga Family is that we have NO intention of changing the camper experience (other than to enhance it!). We are dedicated to ensuring that Camp Tanuga is the best choice when it comes to where to send your kids and we are SO excited and honored to be doing this. We can’t wait to talk to you all, so if you want to reach out to say hi before we get a chance to reach out to you, please do!
Joe & Sharone Bigelman
Ron & Jenny Fritz
Founders, Camp Tanuga Foundation
Joe Bigelman- (248) 302-3652
Sharone Bigelman- (248) 798-5159
Jenny Fritz- (734) 604-4316