Serving the 5th Generation of Youth Campers
Located on the shores of Lake Washington in Le Sueur County, Kiwanis Camp Patterson has been serving thousands of youth campers each summer for the past four generations. In fact, today, the camp serves 2,600 each season. “My grandma, mother, and kids attended camp here,” said Shannon Gullickson, Camp Patterson, Inc. president. “I was the only one in my family who didn’t attend a camp there,” she said.
It all started in 1927 with a charitable donation of 9.2 acres of land on the east side of Lake Washington by Mankato merchant H. A. Patterson. The land was donated to the Mankato Kiwanis Club, which had been hosting youth camps on leased land. Over the years, Patterson family members and other Kiwanis and community members continued to fund improvements and the purchase of additional parcels of land for the camp, which now consists of 19.2 acres. Today, the camp features 14 cabins, a recreation hall, a restroom/shower facility, a caretaker’s house, and a newly expanded dining hall.
The camp property is rented at an affordable rate to area nonprofit organizations that offer youth camps, including the YMCA, Celebrate Me Week, 4-H, Royal Family Kids, Camp Oz, and others. Each camp provides its own staff, food, and planned activities, but Kiwanis Camp Patterson provides the rest, including sleeping cabins, recreation hall, dining hall with commercial kitchen, softball field, basketball court, volleyball court, archery range, gaga ball pit and of course, a swimming beach with kayaks and canoes.
Without the opportunity to welcome campers in 2020 due to the pandemic, Mankato Kiwanis Volunteers and camp caretakers Nate and Missy Starke formed a plan to fully renovate the interior and exterior of 10 of the camp’s cabins. Volunteers also worked to trim trees, repair broken fences, add new landscaping and make other much-needed improvements. A fundraising campaign was started with the goal of improving and maintaining Kiwanis Camp Patterson to serve the next (fifth) generation of campers.
In 2021 volunteer camp leadership approached the Mankato Area Foundation (MAF) with information about their “Next Generation Campaign” and plans were put into place to tackle the item most requested by groups utilizing the facility: an expanded dining hall with air conditioning and 21st-century audio-visual capabilities. Summers have become increasingly hot, and the danger to campers was becoming clear. In addition, the dining hall was not large enough to accommodate all campers at one time.
“We knew we’d have donors who would be interested in supporting Camp Patterson,” said Nancy Zallek, MAF President and CEO. “We reached out to our donor advised fund holders, and to date, they have contributed over $190,000 toward the campaign. We are so pleased by the enthusiastic support – it’s a wonderful project.” Members of the Mankato Kiwanis Club also contributed, as well as many community members and past campers. Gullickson also said many businesses contributed in-kind materials to help keep costs low.
The dining hall addition was completed just in time for the first campers in early June of this year, and the committee is already working on their next big project: raising funds for a new restroom and shower facility. Gullickson said she’s confident they’ll meet their fundraising goal. “Once we share the history of the camp and our plans to serve a new generation of youth campers, people fall in love with it.”
Go to kiwaniscamppatterson.com for more information on the Kiwanis Camp Patterson.