Since Lutheran Children Family Services bought Camp Wartburg in 1996, the facility has grown significantly.
Several features have been added including a dining hall and high ropes course, and this year an item that has long been on the camp’s list was finally built.
That is the camp’s over 7,500-square-foot recreation center.
“This has been on our long-term plan for many, many years,” Executive Director Bob Polansky said. “As we all know, the winter weather in the St. Louis area is not conducive to planning for outdoor activities.”
The camp has been planning to build this facility, which is located next to the dining hall, for the last few years.
In the last year, Cleary Building Corporation and several other local subcontractors have actually constructed the building.
Most of the cost for the construction was covered by Penny Singleton, a Waterloo resident who bequeathed money to the camp. The camp has also raised money for the structure at events like its charity auction.
In addition to the weather aspect, Polansky said this was an important addition because the camp has grown significantly.
According to Camp Manager Sparky Hemenway, Camp Wartburg has seen an increased attendance in the various services it offers, from summer camp to AfterCamp.
That latter program has more than tripled in size in the last few years, as it gives children an alternative to traditional day care.
Children who participate in that program, which runs every day over winter break except Christmas and New Year’s Day, will start the day off with a breakfast and devotional at 6 a.m.
If the weather allows, children will then spend many of the next 12 hours playing outside.
Otherwise, they will spend time in the new recreation center, which offers a full basketball court, indoor Ga-Ga ball pit, homework room, game room with things like foosball, music area, rock climbing walls and dining area.
“This is always our fallback,” Hemenway said of the facility. “This is the best plan B we can come up with.”
Some students have already experienced that backup plan, but many more will have that chance this winter.
AfterCamp Coordinator Matt Hubbard said those who attend that program will find it offers more than traditional options.
“We’re Christ-centerd and we get kids outdoors,” Hubbard said. “You can stay with your grandma and play on your iPad, or you can come here and go outside.”
Polansky echoed that sentiment, noting that studies have shown children who play outside perform better in school, sleep better and more.
“The kids who come out here benefit greatly from the fellowship, the friends that they make and all those things,” Polanksy said.
Hemenway also noted that the camp can do more than most places because it has over 128 acres.
“It’s the space that we have that day care’s aren’t able to provide,” he said. “The things that the kids are doing out here are team-building. They’re learning communication skills, they’re doing sports and they’re also learning nature skills. So they’re learning, but they’re also having fun.”
To sign up or for more information on Camp Wartburg’s offerings, including an all-camp game day Dec. 21, visit campwartburg.com or call 939-7715.