Above: Harold and Pam Campbell
“The Kimball Camp is such a wonderful place and such a wonderful opportunity for our area kids. So many great things can happen at camp that cannot happen anywhere else.”
Kimball Camp Executive Director
By Mike Coughlin
Meet Harold Campbell. Harold is a very blessed man for many reasons – one of which is for being able to marry two of his passions in life into a lifetime career: being active in the great outdoors and his great concern for the welfare of our area children. As executive director of Kimball Camp YMCA in Hillsdale County, he positioned himself well to combine them both into a career of caring spanning over 35 years.
The early years and Yellowstone
Harold had what one might call a somewhat unique childhood. He was born to Harold Sr. and Joan Campbell in Hudson, Mich. back when Hudson actually had a hospital. Harold’s dad, a loan officer with City Finance, moved the family way out to Bozeman, Mont. when young Harold was only about three years old. For the next eight years of his life Harold got to hike and fish in God’s country right outside Yellowstone National Park.
“It was beautiful country – we used to go to Yellowstone all the time,” Harold tells us.“It was a wonderful, wonderful place to grow up. We would go down to the local hatchery. They used to stock it with rainbow trout, and you could fish there. I used to go almost everyday with a can of corn, just like Opie Taylor, and bring home my rainbow trout for dinner.”
Back to Michigan and Pam
The next move the family made was back to Michigan – Adrian this time – where Harold settled in and graduated from Adrian High School in 1974. Then a move to Lansing proved to be life changing for Harold, for it is there, in 1978,that he met his future wife, Pam.
“I lived in Lansing and Pam was the lifeguard at my athletic club and I was enamored with her life guarding skills,” Harold said with a gleam in his eyes. “That’s how we met. Also, we were both divers and swimmers from our high school days. Seven months after we met, we were married. I was 23. Pam was 19. I didn’t want her to get away.”
A series of jobs and educational opportunities had them moving through Phoenix, Kansas City, and then back to Michigan – Oxford area this time– to work at the Salvation Army Camp there. A while later Pam got a job in Jonesville as a science teacher and Harold started his career at the Kimball Camp YMCA in Hillsdale County – a job that has held him for nigh 25 years now – and he still loves it. (More below)
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“The Kimball Camp is such a wonderful place and such a wonderful opportunity for our area kids,” Harold points out. “It’s just something they need. It’s different than the four walls of the classroom. Out there you can feel, touch, and experience things. So many things can happen at camp that cannot happen anywhere else.”
Camping, though, did not always come easy for Harold. His first experience attending a summer camp happened at the age of 12 – but ended all too quickly when his parents had to come the first night and take him home. Diagnosis: home sickness.
Harold has settled into his 25th year at Kimball Camp – and with two grown boys, Mark and Jonathon, and a new grand baby, Eleanor – life is looking good. A milestone 65th birthday for Harold was May 12 and, true to form for the camp he loves, he had a special request.
“For my birthday this year, I’m asked for donations to Kimball Camp Hillsdale County YMCA
,” he tells us. Kimball Camp YMCA Nature Center endeavors to put Christian faith and principles into practice through programs that build healthy body, mind, and spirit for all, in an environment which fosters a wholesome relationship between man and God’s creation.
The fun stuff
When not working at his camp, Harold loves to head off camping in his motor home (and this is the 12-year-old kid who couldn’t make it overnight at camp!), kayaking, biking, walking, and going out to eat in the Toledo or Brooklyn areas. He has an adventurous side to him as well, as he loves white water rafting with Pam and has even jumped off the wing of an airplane in a solo jump – with a parachute of course.
One of Harold’s most memorable camp stories happened at the Salvation Army Camp early on in his career and very well could help explain why he is still involved in youth camping.
“This young girl was attending camp there while I was tending the pool and everyday she would yell, ‘Lifeguard, lifeguard – watch me do a flip! Watch me do a spin!’ She always wanted me to watch her. She was driving me crazy. On the last day of camp, she was about to get on the bus, and she ran up to me, gave me a big hug, and with tear-filled eyes said, ‘This was the best week of my life.’” I’ll never forget that moment – how camping can change a child’s life forever.”
His love for his camp and all it can do to make a child’s life better – and his love and caring for our area kids – are some of Harold’s highest priorities. So next time you see him in town ask him how Kimball Camp is doing; ask him if the kids are pouring back in for a summertime of fun and caring. And watch him smile – for this is his passion.
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The joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh. 8:10