BIG RAPIDS – More than a thousand youth, the state of Michigan and beyond, will have kind words about Ferris State University when asked, “Did you do anything exciting this summer?”
Traditionally, youth camps hosted at Ferris have focused on sharpening athletic skills in a variety of sports: basketball, football, softball, hockey, volleyball, tennis, golf and more. While sports camps still rank among the most popular summertime activities for kids visiting Ferris’ campus in Big Rapids, the University has expanded camp offerings. Now, in addition to the physical training of the various athletic camps, young people can also train their brains in a variety of academic-centered camps sponsored by the College of Professional and Technological Studies.
Adam Wetherell, who is Coordinator of Camps and Conferences in CP&T, is excited about Ferris’ academic camp offerings in Big Rapids and Grand Rapids.
“We have about 105 high school students attending our academic camps in Big Rapids, 40 in Grand Rapids and 60 6-to 14-year-olds attending our Sports Skills & Fitness School,” he said. “We also have about 785 students through group camps at Ferris, such as marching bands and cheerleading.”
The benefits of these summer camps are numerous for the University.
“The most important benefit of academic camps is they expose a high school student to Ferris, both academically and physically,” said Wetherell, who points out that camps are important to the University not only for exposure to Ferris, but also for revenue that is created for Dining Services, Housing, University Recreation, Athletics and local businesses.
Athletics-wise, attendance numbers also have been encouraging. Renovations taking place inside of Ewigleben Ice Arena have forced the cancellation of hockey camps. But, the numbers for athletic campers remains solid overall this summer, according to Gary Wendlowsky, the athletic camps coordinator.
“This year our individual athletic camps will bring in about 600 campers. That number would normally be well over 1,000 if it weren’t for our ice arena being renovated this summer,” said Wendlowsky, who emphasized the diverse makeup of camp attendees (last year, athletic camps drew students from 23 states and three countries to Ferris). “Our team camps will draw well over 1,500 campers as well as coaches and parents to the University and the local community in Big Rapids. Our biggest draws are volleyball team camps (more than 600 young ladies) and boys’ basketball shootouts with 80 to 90 teams.”
Outside the University, camps can be a boon to the local Big Rapids economy during the otherwise slow summertime months of June and July.
“Campers and parents are exposed to what a dynamic campus we have at FSU,” Wendlowsky said. “The entire Big Rapids business community benefits from our athletic camps. Parents often shop or eat at local restaurants. There is also a sense of vibrancy on campus throughout the summer.”