Northwestern Settlement’s House In The Wood Camp is not your ordinary summer camp.
Since 1936, the North Shore Board of the Northwestern Settlement House has financially supported bringing children from Chicago’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to experience summer camp at House In The Wood, a camp that was founded in 1910. The camp moved to its current location in Lake Delavan, Wisconsin in 1951. And in 2015, the program expanded to offer an outdoor education curriculum, allowing the camp to run year round.
Each year, 1,000 campers discover a safe place to learn, grow, and just be kids—escaping the city streets to explore 23 acres of aquatic, wood, and prairie habitats through a hands-on STEM curriculum at the Valerie Hall Outdoor Education Center. The holistic program focuses on academic and social-emotional growth, and campers return home inspired to reach for their dreams after meeting mentors, strengthening their self esteem, and developing essential life, social, and leadership skills.
“When I used to tell people that I was raising money for House In The Wood Camp, some would ask how much difference two weeks at camp could really make,” explains North Shore Board President Amy O’Donnell of Winnetka. “The truth is that the impact is incredible—and often immediate—because we’re taking these kids out of their negative surroundings and showing them a different way of living. Almost instantly, our campers see a whole new world of possibilities for themselves.”
For 125 years, Northwestern Settlement House has been nurturing, educating, and inspiring Chicago’s disadvantaged families by offering comprehensive programming in all areas of life—opening the doors to new opportunities through the arts, education, and social services. They have six auxiliary boards that supports its efforts. The North Shore Board’s sole focus is to raise funding for the House In The Wood Camp.
“House In The Wood is critically important because it serves one of the most vulnerable populations from some of the most violent neighborhoods in the city,” adds O’Donnell. “House In The Wood uses data-driven approaches to empower these children to break away from the dysfunction they encounter and create new and better futures for themselves. After spending time at camp, the children see that what they experience at home isn’t the norm. We have some families who send their children here summer after summer because they know it might be the key to a better life for them.”
While House In the Wood has extensive anecdotal data to support its mission, they are now collecting empirical data as well. “As part of the curriculum, we give a pre-test and a post-test to see how the children are learning,” O’Donnell says. “It’s important for us to know that the programs we offer are resonating with the students.”
In addition to the outdoor education programs, many local volunteers are donating their time and talents at camp to offer workshops. “This has been a wonderful way to expose the community to House In The Wood,” says O’Donnell. “Last week, we had a local artist come and teach a painting class where the children learned about Jackson Pollock.”
Over the years, the North Shore Board’s annual fundraiser has evolved. What once was handwork sales in the Great Depression has grown into a dynamic evening of live and silent auctions, cocktails, dinner, live music, and dancing in a chic Chicago venue. This year’s House In The Wood Gala will take place on Saturday, October 21, at Morgan Manufacturing in the West Loop.
Tina C. Barr, Melissa Corley, and Vicki McDonald-Kastory are the event’s co-chairs.
“We have always experienced an incredible outpouring of support from our community for House In The Wood,” says O’Donnell. “Even last year when our event was on the same night as a World Series game with the Chicago Cubs, we packed our venue. Our co-chairs have outdone themselves. This year’s event should not be missed.”
To learn more about House In The Wood, buy tickets to House In The Wood Gala, or to become a volunteer, visit northshoreboard.org.