Ko-op Kamp for Kids

by Jake Althoff, HPC member

Going to Kamp Kenwood in Wisconsin was a fun and interesting experience. It is a camp that teaches children about co-ops and about how to run them. I went there in June of 2001 to study and learn more about cooperative lifestyle and what it means to be a co-op.

At the time I was 10 years old and was very interested in co-ops. This has a lot to do with my step-dad, Jeff Streiffer, being such a co-op person and thus raising me to be the same. But, when I got there I wasn’t like a lot of the kids because I already knew a lot about how cooperatives work, and as far as I could tell not many of the other kids knew much about co-ops. So that was a little striking, but looking back at it now, I see that it is a good camp for kids of any level of knowledge about co-ops. So, even if you have a kid that knows tons about co-ops or practically nothing, it is a great learning experience. Even though when I was there I knew all the basic things about co-ops, I got attention enough to expand my knowledge of co-ops so now I know even more.

While a lot of it is learning, Kamp Kenwood is pretty much like any other camp. You play games like basketball and go swimming and stuff. I especially remember a huge game of capture the flag that was loads of fun. They have a large dining hall where the kids get to all sit down and eat together and everything. We stayed in cabins that were just like a camp out of TV. Both boys and girls are welcome at camp, and from what I saw the accommodations seemed the same. The camp is on Lake Wissota and I swam often.

When I first got there, we all bought one share of stock from a business as the beginning of a cooperative. Our co-op was the camp store where you could buy snacks and souvenirs. Then we elected kids to be our board of directors. Every person had their job and if they didn’t do it, then the co-op store didn’t run. Of course we had some help from the adults but mostly it was just the kids running a co-op. Then near the end of the camp we had to tell them each of the co-ops we belonged to. I told them that I belonged to REI, Hampden Park Co-op, and Twin Cities Co-ops. Then the camp sent pictures and a description to each of the co-ops that I was a member of. REI even sent me a gift package with a Nalgene water bottle and a yin-yang keychain.

If you are interested in alternative business styles and want to learn more about cooperatives you should think about going to Kamp Kenwood. The camp is open to anyone ages 8–18. For more information, you can call 715.723.5561 or visit http://www.kampkenwood.com/. I enjoyed the experience and gained a lot out of it and I think that you or your kid would too.