FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Franke Park Day Camp is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022. The summer camp is the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s longest running children’s program and has served thousands of kids over the years, many of whom attend the camp year after year.
Longtime Camp Supervisor, Chris Freehill, says Franke Park Day Camp is all about getting kids in the great outdoors, and most of the camp activities haven’t changed since 1946.
“They’re still mud sliding, they go to Bloody Gorge, they dig for bullets at Bullet Hill, they do arts and crafts, they select a campsite in the woods and cook over an open fire, they do all kinds of water activities and storytelling, there’s adventures in the woods,” he said. “Anything that celebrates the great outdoors, that’s what the kids are doing here.”
Franke Park Day Camp runs six weeks during the summer, with new campers each week. The campers range in age from 4 to 18.
“They come here, meet someone new, and for many of the kids it’s a lifelong friendship, and they never forget their time here. That has made this camp so special for so many kids over 75 years,” said Freehill.
“It was really fun when I was six, and I really wanted to come back,” said camper Logan Dwire, who listed some of his favorite camp activities like the mud slide and Bloody Gorge.
Camper Alice Barker, who also enjoys the mud slide, says Franke is a great camp if you like getting dirty.
“This is my favorite camp to go cuz lots of the camps you stay inside, but Franke is more fun cuz you can get dirty and learn how to make a fire,” she said.
Like the campers, many of the camp counselors return year after year. Spencer Fey has been a counselor for 3 years, and started out as a camper himself.
“It’s the interaction with the kids and the experience to give them something new,” he said. “Not many people get that opportunity to to go out and learn new skills.”
“Kids come away with an appreciation for nature and their environment, they gain confidence in a setting they might not be familiar with,” Freehill said. “I think they come away with some leadership skills that they take back to the community and to their schools.”
The camp is holding a 75th anniversary celebration Tuesday, July 26 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be a ceremony, guided tours through the woods, giveaways including a free week of camp for the 2023 summer season, pictures, and the facilities will be open for people to walk through and reminisce about their own time at the camp.
The Fort Wayne Park and Recreation Department provided WANE 15 a trove of pictures that show the different activities at Franke Park Day Camp. You can view them below: