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6.14.18 – SPOKES Notes & Photos

Today’s Rotary luncheon found us visiting Indian Trails Camp (ITC) for our annual visit.  Tim Hileman, Executive Director of IKUS Life Enrichment Services (ITC) provided us with at our Rotary Club of Grand Rapids support through the years.  The following is a transcript provided by Tim for our visit:

Thursday June 14th, 2018 – Rotary Luncheon at Indian Trails Camp

“This is always one of our favorite days at camp as we bring together friends, campers and community.  The GR Rotary club has been instrumental in the history of our organization and today I have the pleasure of sharing some of this History and Similarities between each organization.

So let’s get into more about the history of both our great organizations.

Individuals-Starting in 1923 the Grand Rapids Rotary Club partnered with Eastern Orthopedic School, the Blodgett Clinic and Mary Free Bed and delivered Christmas presents to children with disabilities.  They wanted to make sure that every individual child received a gift.

At Indian Trails Camp, every individual here is seen for the gifts they bring to our camp and staff.

Teamwork- In 1952 parents of children with physical disabilities in Grand Rapids got together and dreamed that their children would be able to experience the kind of outdoor play and recreation experiences that were available to other children.  Thanks to the Teamwork of the Grand Rapids Cerebral Palsy Association, Grand Rapids Board of Education, Michigan Special Education Department, and Grand Rapids Rotary members, the first two weeks of camp for physically challenged children occurred.  The Camp was held at Yankee Springs.

At Indian Trails Camp all the campers and staff work as a team to accomplish goals and participate in new life enriching programs.

Campers- In 1954 the Camp moved to St. Mary’s Lake just north of Battle Creek where they would serve 68 campers for two weeks.  The Grand Rapids Rotary club voted that year to contribute $2,500 towards the camp which was nearly half of the yearly $6,000 budget. The Rotary Club put the campers first!

At Indian Trails Camp the campers are most important reason why we are here.  Every year we hear from staff, that they came into this job thinking they were going to make an impact on others, but that it was truly the campers and their love and joy that have impacted them.

3’s-  Love is any easy one to explain.  It is the Grand Rapids Rotary motto of service above one self.   Indian Trails Camp is build around compassion, meaningful relationships new experiences.


Generosity-  In 1955, The Grand Rapids Rotary Sub Committee-Designated towards serving individuals with disabilities raised over $11,000 to construct a lodge. In addition, they committee spent countless hours helping to find a permanent home for Indian Trails Camp within Aman Park.   The Rotary club was instrumental in obtaining this first lease, and today current rotary members Scott Brinkmeyer and Ted Vecchio has continue working with ITC and the city of Grand Rapids to ensure that ITC always has a home.  Giving of your time and resources is greatest example of generosity.

At ITC, every day there are campers and staff who give of themselves in all of the skills abilities they have.

Relationships- In that summer of 1955, Indian Trails Camp ran a 6 week summer camp season.  During that summer, it was evident that the organization was going to run over budget.  The Grand Rapids Rotary Club then voted to pay the operating deficit so that all campers could come to Indian Trails Camp and experience the outdoors, recreation, fun and relationships that are so important to the camp experience.

Respect- So we have talked about the founding History of Indian Trails Camp and The GR Rotary, but want to put into context how incredible this really was.  Thinking back to the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s 50’s, 60s’  Many families were told that their child with a disability would not be able to have the same experiences as everyone else.  There were institutions, were individuals were sent to as to not disrupt the home or community.  And so having the GR Rotary club, make it a primary point that every individual deserves a high quality of life and every individual should be respected and looked upon for their gifts was really a different frame of thinking and truly innovative for that time.  Today we are still fortunate to have leaders in our community who maintain these ideals.

Again at ITC every is respected for who they are.

Open-Minded- By the  late 1970’2 it was clear that Indian Trails Camp needed another renovation. The camp needed a new sewage system, upgrades to the swimming pool, cabin roofs, and maintenance building.  And though now Indian Trails Camp was acting as its own independent non-profit organization.  The Grand Rapids Rotary stepped right in to assist.  As Current Grand Rapids Rotary President at the time Kenneth Johnson stated, “They called on us and we agreed to help”.  In short time the GR rotary raised $130,000.  The club later helped lead the way for the 1988/89 Capital Campaign for the building of 4 new cabins, a lodge renovation and in-door swimming pool.  By always being an open minded club to new ideas and service, the GR Rotary club made this place possible has helped change thousands of lives.

Timeless-  It has hard to put into words what Indian Trails Camp is all about.  The reason, is that it is so special to so many individuals for many different reasons. Some campers can still tell you who their first counselor was their first summer of.  The relationships, the activities, the laughter are all moments that continue to live on forever.  And so for our next letter T, we have given the word timeless.

Acceptance- The GR Rotary club not only has a wonderful history with ITC, but many other service projects in Grand Rapids including STRIVE, Seniors Holiday Luncheon, The Community Engagement committee performing numerous volunteer activities. Internationally, clubs continued dedication to eradicating polio and providing clean and safe has serve provided an incredible template of service done right.  All of these projects and services again are built on service above self and accepting all individuals.

Respite- When the GR Rotary club helped in the formation of Indian Trails Camp, its mission was to provide children with the same opportunities of all others.  Another wonderful benefit that Indian Trails Camp provides is break for caregivers who care for their loved one all year. The Respite provides a chance to rest and recharge.

Year after year-  Since the inception of this wonderful organization, the GR Rotary Club has been providing support to Indian Trails Camp.  This year the GR Rotary Club present ITC a check of $10,000 to provide scholarships for many of our camper to attend.  Year-after campers look forward to their special week of camp, or weekend respite or Holiday Camp.

Thank you so much for all you do.  All of our campers and staff extend a very big thank you. ”

Below is a photo gallery of our time spent at ITC!


Indian Trails is a remarkable facility that brings adaptive recreation to the lives of each camper. It is simple in theory, but daunting in task. Indian Trails offers a barrier-free camp setting in which those with disabilities can participate in all manner of activities the outside world is ill-equipped to provide. It is a place filled with fun, recreation and friendship. Campers learn perseverance, team-work and self-reliance. They leave for home loaded with love, respect and memories.

The history of the partnership between Indian Trails Camp and the Grand Rapids Rotary Club is one of energy, commitment and loyalty. Since 1953 Rotarians have invested their time and money toward the success of the camp, helping Indian Trails become a community and state treasure, and one of only five camps in the nation serving the most disabled group with barrier-free camping facilities.

Indian Trails Camp, located six miles west of Grand Rapids, has been providing camping experiences to individuals with disabilities since 1953. Campers return year after year to suspend personal obstacles long enough to enjoy those activities we all remember as part of a treasured camping experience – swimming, canoeing, archery, music, competitive sports, challenge course, dances, and most of all, the opportunity to make friendships and build relationships that affirm and encourage greater self-discovery.

Indian Trails’ campers range in age from 5 to 70+ with such disabilities as: spina bifida; cerebral palsy; traumatic brain injury; congenital anomalies; down-syndrome; autism; multiple sclerosis; arthrogryposis and cognitive impairments.


Indian Trails Camp is located

O-1859 Lake Michigan Dr. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49534

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