A Lifelong Legacy to Widjiwagan
Upon arriving at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan in 1962 Armand and Beverly (Bev) Ball came with energy, hopes and dreams of how they could make Widji a better place for all youth.
As a young family relocating from the south they came with new ideas and fresh perspectives on how to expand Widji's already successful history.
Armand, who led Widji for 13 years, was instrumental in creating a sustainable camp by completing the road around camp, installing a sewer system, and developing the North Woods Resource Center enabling year-round programming.
Armand and Bev also had a passion to diversify the environment at camp. Under Armand’s leadership, he made deliberate efforts to increase the number of campers from low-income families. In Armand’s first year, 14 camperships had been granted. In partnership with social agencies, 60 camperships were awarded annually by 1974. He also saw a need to bring people of color to lead camp, including staff and volunteers. Within two years Widji had its first Black campers, and its first Black staff member, Jim Westbrook, who served for four summers.
“One of the things Bev and I were anxious to accomplish was to provide access to camp for youth of all backgrounds,” Ball said. “We were always interested in helping young people who wanted to camp, but whose parents couldn’t afford it, get there.”
Bev complemented Armand’s vision of equity by serving camp as dining hall manager and girls program director, all while being a mom to two young toddlers. She welcomed and made everyone feel comfortable at camp—from kids who were homesick to international visitors from Japan and beyond. While overseeing the dining hall, Bev ensured that campers got the foods they liked to eat. She was also influential in expanding the girls’ program to be fully equal with the boys’ program. By 1972 it was no longer standard practice to have male guides on girls’ trips.
Upon Bev’s passing in September 2021, with a gift from Bev’s estate, Armand established the Armand and Beverly Ball Family Endowment Fund for YMCA Camp Widjiwagan. Armand hopes to continue supporting the needs of camp, while also investing in the continued effort for racial and economic diversity.