There’s something magical about overnight camp, especially at Camp Tanuga in Kalkaska (30 miles east of Traverse City.) The camp includes 220 acres of wooded trails, grassy fields and modern day play areas overlooking Lake Manistee. Last week, about 50 DBG students experienced the magic firsthand. They packed their bags for an amazing 3-day trip made possible by the Bear Hug Foundation, a Birmingham-based nonprofit organization that sponsors students to go to overnight camps. Since its inception, Bear Hug has given over 3,500 children the opportunity to attend a residential summer camps.

“Our mornings started bright and early to the sound of the Reveille bugle call and raising of the flag,” said Tia Talton, programs team administrator and one of the chaperones on the trip. “After breakfast, everyone got ready for the different activities for the day. Campers were able to do water activities like tubing, paddle boarding, and open swim, play basketball, go mountain biking, do arts and crafts, and other fun team games. We all gathered for milk and cookies in the evening, had a lip sync battle, and bonfire. It was great being able to see the students have fun in nature and bond with each other.”

“This was my first time ever camping, too,” Tia added. “It was unforgettable.”

“Camp is a huge exercise in confidence and independence for the kids,” explained DBG’s elementary school academic coordinator Morgan Parr. “They try totally new things around new people, and are encouraged to be silly, curious, and brave, all while roughing it in nature.”

Research shows summer camp provides a safe environment for children to develop social and decision-making skills while experiencing the great outdoors. Other benefits include the chance to develop self-confidence, social integration, nature appreciation, and emotional intelligence skills like empathy. DBG campers took turns holding a tiny toad that hopped by one afternoon, swimming and boating on the lake, playing sports, working on art projects, and enjoying the summer sunshine. Evenings were spent around the campfire and sleeping overnight in cozy cabins.

We made memories to last a lifetime. Check out more of our great photos below. From all of us at DBG, thank you, Camp Tanuga and the Bear Hug Foundation for three days of sun, fun, and a truly awesome adventure.