Raising money to help him return to his favorite place — Camp Manitou, 12-year-old Isaac Wiechert decided to help other children attend, too.
So, he donated $35 — 10 percent of his earnings from selling bottled water — he declined to say where — to the Eau Claire YMCA’s campership fund.
In a post Wednesday on the YMCA’s Facebook page, Isaac challenged others to match his donation, “so that together we can help lots of kids go to camp.”
The day after the post, six donors — including Isaac’s mom — had responded, said Suzie Slota, director of mission advancement for the YMCA of the Chippewa Valley, a new association that includes the Eau Claire YMCA.
“It’s neat when a kid steps up and does something like that,” said Slota, who wasn’t completely surprised by Isaac’s efforts. “I know he loves camp.”
Isaac, who just finished sixth grade at DeLong Middle School, has attended various camps at Camp Manitou, located on the shores of Long Lake in New Auburn, since he was 6.
“I love it,” Isaac said. “It’s my favorite place. It’s a magical place. It’s part of my childhood.”
Some of his favorite activities at camp are swimming, sailing and catching frogs, along with seeing the friends he attends camp with each year.
Isaac, the son of Tim Wiechert and Liz Kennedy Wiechert, isn’t the first in his family to attend Camp Manitou. Richard Kennedy, Isaac’s late grandfather, went to camp in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Kennedy family once had a cabin next to the camp, where the chapel is now, and sold the land to the YMCA decades ago, Kennedy Wiechert said.
Like their father, she and her siblings attended Camp Manitou, a place that also has been part of childhood for Kennedy Wiechert’s other children – Charlie, 16, Oliver, 10, and Vivian, 8.
“It’s really incredible,” Kennedy Wiechert said, “and I just think it’s great that you can make it a part of as many kids’ lives as possible.”
Camp Manitou used to do a fundraiser to help campers pay for camp, but they haven’t done that in the past few years, Kennedy Wiechert said. To help cover some of the cost of camp, she and Isaac came up with the water fundraiser.
Initially, Isaac hadn’t considered donating part of cash he collected.
“But my mom said I should donate some to charity,” he said, “and I thought that was a good idea.”
So he opted to donate 10 percent of his haul to YMCA’s campership fund to help other youth attend.
“I thought if he was able to earn that much money, he should be able to give back,” Kennedy Wiechert said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Now, Isaac is hoping others follow suit. If they don’t have $35, he said they could donate any amount they can afford.
“A dollar would be great,” he said.
Thanks to a grant from the YMCA of the USA, donors can get more bang for their bucks, Slota said. The grant will match any new giving up to $18,750, and those dollars will be used to cover the full cost of camp for first-time campers with financial needs.
Multiple camps are offered at Camp Manitou, including Camp Wabi, main camp, sailing camp and wilderness trips, and the price depends on which camp a child is attending, but Slota said cost roughly ranges from $500 to $600.
Although financial assistance is available, “some kids still don’t have the money to go to camp, and I want them to go, too, and see how fun it is,” said Isaac, noting they can cook hobos – a mix of ingredients cooked in foil, pet the camp dogs and play games, including battleball.
Isaac, his friends and younger siblings are heading to Camp Manitou in July.
“I can’t wait,” he said.