Program Plans for 2024

A Lesson from My Dog

Happy Spring! At least that’s what the weather was like last week when I sat down to type out my thoughts. I had just been outside in the 60-degree warmth and sunshine playing with my dog, Joey, and enjoying the wonder of her endless enthusiasm for chasing the little orange ball. She’s relentless. Until she’s not and decides to lie down and take a break. I’m always seeking inspiration for storytelling. So, both the dog and the weather seemed like good opportunities. Let’s start with the weather.

If you’re from Michigan, or anywhere else in the northern half of the country, the saying “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” may resonate with you. It seems to relate to the uncertainty of weather patterns and the level of our satisfaction with them. Regardless of how we feel about the weather, it changes. That’s something that North Star Reach’s campily has experienced over the last couple of years. Change from COVID; change from funding; change from change. We are not the same organization we were in 2019.

But what we are is an organization that has experienced change AND is still committed to the same mission, with perhaps a different vision of how to get there. As mentioned in our last message, our Board and CEO completed and endorsed an updated strategic plan. Our mission is to provide life-changing camp experiences for children with serious health challenges and their families, free-of-charge. That is the core of our purpose. Our vision is to be a sustainable and resilient organization that offers year-round, high-quality, medical camp programming that transforms the lives of our children and their families while sharing our regional asset with collaborative, mission-aligned partners. So, what does that mean and how does it affect me you might ask? I’m so glad you did.

As I consider the stakeholders who are vital to NSR’s success, I think of campers, families, donors, volunteers, our community, and our staff. For many, if not all, the change won’t dramatically impact the experience you have or hear about at camp. There will still be mooseness, the “magic” we talk about that happens here. There will still be the lasting impact that our camp programs provide. There will still be a need for volunteers and donors to help make camp happen. Camp may be cost-free, but it still costs money. Perhaps the biggest impact will be on our community. We are working hard to become sustainable and resilient, as our vision states. With those two characteristics, North Star Reach will be here for the long run. Not that challenges won’t continue. In the nonprofit sector, they always do. We will be better prepared to meet them as we offer historical North Star Reach programming AND continue to collaborate with mission-aligned partners to increase opportunities for others to take advantage of our camp facility, a purpose-built regional resource.

As we work toward sustainability and resilience, our plan for this year is still somewhat fluid. We know we will be partnering with the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan to support a weekend family camp. We are also continuing to host two weeks of Friendship Circle, a program with a mission to provide every individual with special needs the support, friendship, and inclusion they deserve. May 3rd – 5th is a Spring Work Weekend, a sequel to one held last Fall. We have welcomed the leadership team from Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan for a retreat and look forward to the Hemophilia Foundation coming to camp in October. Exploring and growing partnerships are key steps to achieving sustainability and resilience. They will also help us bring our traditional programs back by increasing support funding.

To bring those programs back, we will need to add more staff and funding. Our hope is to schedule fall family camps as our resources allow. While we can’t wait to have our campily return, we want to make sure that our long-term goals of sustainability and resilience are the focus. It is difficult to be patient. Believe me, I know.

Which brings me back to the dog. What I discovered during our game of fetch was when she was fatigued, it only took a moment for her to catch her breath and she was back at it. She never really stopped wanting to play. She just knew when she needed a rest. Her relentlessness was still there, just based on what she knew she was able to do. Like Joey, our team is relentless in wanting to achieve our goals. We want to weather any storms and enjoy the warmth and sunshine outside at camp. But sometimes we must pause to catch our breath in our efforts to become sustainable and resilient in order to get back to full stride. Something we continue to learn from our campers and families who share their stories of how camp has left a lasting impact on their lives. And of course, my dog.

Love the mooseness,

Chief Program Officer