The staff for Camp Tippecanoe is ready to host of former campers expecting to celebrate the camp's 60th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of YMCA of Central Stark County)

Originally published on Aug 6th, 2018
by Gary Brown

Tippecanoe alumni called to relive camp and remember summers of the past.

YMCA of Central Stark County calls its Camp Tippecanoe more than a just a camp, and “Y” officials look at those who once spent time there as more than a mere community of campers.

Alumni of the summer camp — who grow in number each year — are members of a “Y” family. Camp Tippecanoe, nestled in a rustic area of Harrison County, is a fond memory for them.

“Tippecanoe’s campers form friendships that last for life, and often feel more like family,” says the website on a page devoted to Camp Tippecanoe. “Our counselors and staff form bonds that cannot be broken over the years. This is why many campers and staff return for years on end.”

Camp Tippecanoe has been bringing campers together for six decades. This weekend, the summer camp for youngsters throughout the Stark County area will celebrate its history and renew the relationships that camp life fostered.

Officials for The YMCA of Central Stark County are calling it the “60th Summer Celebration” and claiming, rightfully so, that for former campers, “60 summers of fun and adventure” have made “a lifelong impact.”

The words “fun and adventure” echo a sign that campers see when entering. And, many of those who have stayed and played and blossomed at Camp Tippecanoe will have a chance to renew the memories from their camping days with a concert Friday night Aug. 10, a campers reunion on Saturday Aug. 11, and an open house on Sunday Aug. 12.

“In 1958, fun and adventure at Tippecanoe began,” wrote Amy Ropp, communications director for Camp Tippecanoe and also for North Canton Community Building YMCA, in promotional material for the 60th anniversary celebration. “It was then that the first 100 campers entered through the gates for the first summer at YMCA Camp Tippecanoe.”

A little history

Actually, the camping experience started even longer ago for YMCA members in the Canton area.

“It all began in 1906 when the Canton YMCA conducted the first boys’ camp in Canton, with about 30 boys attending,” notes a camping history at the website for YMCA of Central Stark County. “During these early years of camping, the location changed several times. By 1911, however, a piece of property came into existence on Mud Lake, later called Turkeyfoot, and some permanent fixtures were made possible in 1916, with a one-acre site called Camp Inawendewin. In 1927, W.H. “Boss” Hoover contributed $5,000, and at that time permanent waterfront fixtures were added.”

Expansion of the camp and purchase of the property on which it sat was made possible in the 1930s by gifts from Hoover, by then president of what was then called Canton YMCA. By early in the 1950s, however, heavy recreational activity at Portage Lakes had caused YMCA officials to search for another location for safe camping.

“The sale of the Turkeyfoot Lake property provided enough funds to purchase 515 acres on the shores of Lake Clendening and to put in one mile of new road to the present lodge site,” recalls the YMCA’s online history. “The new camp was named YMCA Camp Tippecanoe.”

A camp grows

The original Camp Tippecanoe included a lodge, 14 cabins, the health center, a craft building and the director’s house, according to the online history.

Over the years, the camp has grown to more than 1,000 acres, with access to not only Lake Clendening, but also Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District land.

“Throughout the 1960s, under the leadership of Camp Director Dan Farch, other buildings were added as programs grew,” remembers the online history. “These included the Lazy T bunkhouse, the caretaker’s home, and Adirondack shelters on The Ridge. Special funds from the Deuble Foundation through the years have made many new buildings possible, including a second large barn at the C Bar T ranch in 1973 and a new C Bar T Lodge in 1982.

“Between 2010 and 2015, almost $1,000,000 of improvements were made to camp facilities and infrastructure, including major renovations to the lodge, a new maintenance facility, a new sewage treatment plant, and the installation of a zipline program center.”

Though facilities are larger and more modern today, the past will be in the minds of visitors to Camp Tippecanoe during the anniversary weekend, Ropp said.

“Camp was their home away from home, so it’ll be very nostalgic and very emotional,” said Ropp. “Former campers will come and see how the camp has grown, and they will see the impact that it has had on a new generation of campers.”

Ties to the past

The current camp director, Luke Overmire, has firm ties to Camp Tippecanoe’s history and an experienced hold on its direction for the future. Overmire was a camper in 1996, noted Ropp, who said the director’s stay at the camp taught him how to be comfortable with himself in his ever-changing young life.

“Throughout that first week, my counselor spent time talking to me about things that interested me, like bugs and nature,” Overmore told Ropp. “My counselor really made me think this was a place I could be myself.”

Holly May, program director at Camp Tippecanoe, also has grown up, in a sense, at the camp. May first came to Camp Tippecanoe almost two decades ago, Ropp notes in her promotional material, which was distributed by Morgen Rutledge, marketing and communications director for The YMCA of Central Stark County.

Now May is in her fourth summer on staff at Camp Tippecanoe.

“I love the authenticity and energy camp brings out of the campers as well as the counselors,” May told Ropp. “As I’ve grown older, there has always been a piece of me that shines brightest in a camp atmosphere and I love seeing that bright, burning campfire ignite in each camper’s heart as well.”

Many come back

Many alumni are returning, Ropp said. They will exchange stories of what they gained from their time spent at Tippecanoe.

“Camp is truly a special place in many people’s hearts,” wrote Ropp, predicting with her words a large attendance at the 60th Summer Celebration events. “It’s where summer memories shine brightest, friendships are forged deepest, and lives are changed forever.”

Overmire called his camp stay an experience that prepared him for the rest of his life.

“Over the years at camp, I learned how to be kind and caring toward others,” said Overmire, who also holds the position of teen and family director at North Canton YMCA. “I learned countless camp skits and songs. I learned that my life can have a positive impact on young people. And now I am blessed to be leading the charge into our 60th summer in 2018. I am so thankful for all of the people who helped make my camp experience life-changing. And now it’s my turn to make camp that fun, adventurous, life-changing experience for kids who will one day grow up to be our leaders.”