News & Events

Q&A with our new Executive Director, Dan!

posted on Thu, Oct 28 2021 8:10 am by YMCA YMCA Camp Northern Lights

Dan O'Brien

Please join us in welcoming our new Executive Director at Camp Northern Lights, Dan O’Brien!

Dan’s Y camping experience began in fourth grade. His elementary school took their class to YMCA Camp St. Croix for a multi-day retreat, and he loved every minute. This passion for Camp continued, and after graduating from high school, Dan spent five summers working as a counselor at Camp St. Croix. After filling numerous roles on the St. Croix summer staff, Dan spent four years as the Program Director at YMCA Day Camp Heritage. 

Looking for a new opportunity to serve families, Dan was a part of the founding staff team at Camp Northern Lights, spending the past three years as the Program Director. The camp has seen significant growth thanks to strong leadership from the incredible staff and volunteer community he helped shape.

Dan is a native of Hudson, Wisconsin, but he has lived in St. Paul for the last eight years. He enjoys down time with friends, cooking, and seeing live music. Some favorite outdoor activities include cross-country skiing in the winter and biking in the warmer months. Dan recently adopted a retired sled dog named Tundra, and they love to spend time together outdoors. Dan is grateful to be a part of the Northern Lights community and honored to serve in this new role.

We recently asked Dan to answer a few questions, camp-style.

Q: Most important question first. What’s your favorite camp song and why?

A: Muhlenberg County. Every time we sing that song, it makes me happy. I honestly sing or hum it a lot, whether it is while doing chores or around a campfire.

Q: What are you most excited for, especially as you think about your first summer as executive director?

A: For summer – I am very excited about the growth of our mountain biking program, as we have recently developed three miles of new trails. I can’t wait to see the program grow – I love to bike myself and can’t wait to get out on the trails with camp families.

Camp Northern Lights is a beautiful space to enjoy at any time of year. This winter is going to be great because we just finished building our new sauna and will be able to groom ski trails for everybody to enjoy all winter long. Because it gets dark up north around 4 p.m., the school-year staff and I love playing broomball by headlamp!

Q: Tell us about one or two of the initiatives at camp you care about deeply.

A: I am passionate about all of the equity work Northern Lights has already accomplished and its path forward as an equity leader through the S.T.E.P.S. program. This is an initiative that has been driven by our passionate community, and I am excited to support its growth. The mission of Camp Northern Lights is to nurture our need for belonging and connection, to each other and to the outdoors. We want to make sure this mission serves anybody who wishes to be part of Camp Northern Lights.

Q: When you’re not cleaning biffies or defending Camp from black bears, you’re…

A: Over the past three years, I’ve been called on to provide support to a few stranded pontoons, played countless games of nukem with age groups, stayed hip on all of the latest trends by chatting with LDPs, frantically typed and delivered the noon announcements, and delivered meals throughout the entire property.

If you would like to contact Dan, please email daniel.obrien@ymcamn.org.

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Taking S.T.E.P.S. toward Equity at Family Camp

posted on Thu, Jul 15 2021 10:09 am by YMCA YMCA Camp Northern Lights

Tseganesh Selameab

After enjoying four years of family camp in the Northwoods, Tseganesh Selameab feels the comfort and familiarity of the YMCA of the North’s Camp du Nord and Camp Northern Lights. Now her goal is to make Camp Northern Lights a place of respite for everyone.

Tseganesh’s family was among Camp Northern Lights’ first summer campers, and she was invited to join and develop the new community board. She said yes because of her love of camp, but more importantly to be part of creating a place of inclusion from the start and to insist it becomes a home for everyone and not just for some. 

The Taking S.T.E.P.S. Campaign (Supporting the Transformation of Equity and Power in Outdoor Spaces) was created as an awakening – or new beginning – to recognize the reality of racism and racial injustice. Camp leaders, like Angela Wunderlich, shared in their outrage at the many terrible acts of racism and felt the weight of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 as they entered staff training last summer. These feelings, which had been present for a while, prompted them to create tangible changes to address inequities that happen in the camp world. Tseganesh feels hopeful and glad to see “…known barriers for families of color are being addressed.”

Tseganesh believes this equity energy is just starting and wants to expand on that to ensure this inclusivity extends to the LGBTQ+ community and people with diverse abilities.

Taking a step back, volunteer leaders know this work begins with acknowledging the land where camp is located. Camp Northern Lights is not the beginning of this land’s story, nor will it be the end. New stories will continue to build on its history because we change and evolve. We are stewards of this land, not owners.

Camp volunteers and team members also recognize there is more to being equitable than inviting people into this space. It’s more complex than that. It is in how comfortable and prepared our campers feel being in outdoor spaces. They’re looking at multiple areas where inclusion is sometimes left out, such as water safety, staff training, and considering how safe a person of color feels as their family travels to camp. The summer team didn’t think it was right that someone who identifies as BIPOC felt like an outsider in this camp setting. Everyone should enjoy nature and its ability to restore – but they also need to feel safe. The way we help campers prepare for their time outdoors will determine success. The Camp Northern Lights Board is having conversations around engaging new campers with touch points throughout the year to give them a better understanding of what they can expect. Hopefully, they can meet some camp counselors and see photos of the spaces, so they already have a sense of familiarity when they arrive on check-in day.

When families and individuals get to camp, they should feel they’re joining a community that actively promotes equity. They should see people who look like them, giving them a natural comfort of belonging. Kids should have fun and enjoy a level of freedom to explore. Camp experiences create fond memories and instill values in young people. At family camp, they learn to be tenacious and motivated to do good things. When they see success in their hard work, they learn resiliency. It’s not just the kids, it’s the grown-ups who also learn to be brave and to try something new.

When campers get to Northern Lights, they should not only feel welcome, but know it is a space created intentionally for them.

Learn more about getting involved in Taking S.T.E.P.S. at Camp Northern Lights.

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Check out our Online Camp Store

posted on Wed, Dec 2 2020 11:07 am by YMCA YMCA Camp Northern Lights

We have created a one stop shop for all of your camp swag needs!

We have clothes, mugs, stickers and more that can be shipped to your doorstep.

Visit store

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Calendar of Events

posted on Fri, Feb 28 2020 7:53 am by YMCA YMCA Camp Northern Lights

Upcoming Events

October

November

December

January

February

March

April

May

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Exciting Summer Camp Details

posted on Fri, May 17 2019 1:33 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Northern Lights

We hope you are ready for some fun in the north woods! Here are some activities and opportunities available to your family this summer at Northern Lights.

  • Anna Maries Store & Patio – As always, this is one of the favorite places to spend those gorgeous summer afternoons. Right next to the Buena Vista swimming and boating areas, enjoy a tasty ice cream treat, watch campers enjoy the water or join us for daily happy hour. 
  • Family Art – We of course will have several opportunities for fun sign up art classes along with open art hours. Back by popular demand, the Family Art Tent! Express your creativity in the open air, create lasting family memories, and bring home a fun craft as a reminder of all the good times you had at camp!
  • Bear Island Lake – There are countless ways to enjoy the beauty of this lake including:
    • Paddle Sports: kayaks for all ages, tandem kayaks, canoes, row boats, peddle boats and stand up paddle boards. 
    • Motorized Watercraft – We have fishing boats and pontoons available to rent for a ½ day. 
    • Sisu Beach – This beach location has an incredible view of the lake. With much more shallow depths, it is perfect for families with younger kids looking for a quieter experience. There is also a floating platform you can swim out to!
    • Buena Vista Beach – This beach is located near The COVE and Bathhouse in the heart of camp where all the action is. There is also a water trampoline you can swim out to and jump off with the whole family! 
  • New this year! – Fat Tire Bikes – Take out our bikes and enjoy some nearby trails! This is the perfect opportunity for you to give it a try if you’ve never been on a fat tire bike. There will be options for individuals to check out a bike or joining others for a group ride led by staff.
  • The COVE (Center for Outdoor Ventures and Experiences) – We have moved operations to Anna Marie’s, making it even easier for them to help you enjoy the great outdoors! Anna and Bjorn will be available to help you plan an overnight camping trip on the island, set you up with some fishing equipment, or tell you about some great places to explore on Bear Island Lake. 
  • Linens – We provide flat and fitted sheets for all of the beds in camp, so you only have to bring your own pillows and blankets, a little less to worry about packing! Follow this link to see what other contents we provide in your cabin.

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