That Was Then, This Is Now: 90 Years of WeHaKee! From Religious to Lay Direction!
Through all of its 90 years, WeHaKee Camp for Girls has been an important ministry of the Dominicans of Sinsinawa, founded as we all know, by Sister David O’Leary. And it remained under the direction of Sisters throughout it’s first 81 years. Sr. David directed the camp for nearly 37 years before handing over the reins to Sr. Noelle Boggs.
Sr. Noelle kept the camp moving forward and the traditions alive until 1964, when Sr. Marie Karen Hawkinson stepped in and lead the move of the camp from Marinette, Wisconsin (overlooking the Green Bay of Lake Michigan) to the current site near Winter, Wisconsin (on the shores of Hunter Lake).
During her twenty years directing WeHaKee, Sr. Marie Karen brought the enrollment of the camp to new heights and expanded the program for the girls. And in 1984, Sr. Arturo Cranston stepped in as only the fourth WeHaKee director in the first 60 years – a remarkable stretch of committment on the part of the Sisters to this wonderful and unique outdoor ministry!
Sr. Arturo arrived at WeHaKee with little camp experience, but with a tenacious and dedicated enthusiasm to make WeHaKee better than ever! With her gift of building design, Arturo committed herself to improving nearly the entire facility at camp. All of the cabins were renovated with new windows, flooring, a brightened interior as well as new siding and roofing. The kitchen was completely remodelled and expanded to ensure safe, clean and tasty food preparation. A new heated pool was built along with 4 new showerhouses. In her 21 years, she created one of the best maintained and beautiful camp facilities in the Midwest!
After the summer of 2004, Sr. Arturo passed on her camp leadership to the first lay director in the camp’s history – and the first director team to lead WeHaKee as well! Like many Catholic Schools had been experiencing, the numbers of religious available to lead was diminishing, so the Sinsinawa Dominicans chose to open up their search to qualified and experienced lay leadership. It was a big step for the Sisters to transition from direct leadership from their congregation to directors from the outside, if you will.
But the transition went smoothly and the camp is thriving under directors Maggie & Bob Braun! They initially worked diligently to ensure that the camp’s Mission, Vision and Goals stayed in line with the Dominican mission adapting the values of Community, Compassion, Justice, Truth and Peace. And they embraced the motto; At the Heart of WeHaKee is Relationship! Under their nine years of WeHaKee leadership, the enrollment has increased by nearly 150% and the program has been expanded including the addition of the WeHaKee Leadership Academy for teens.
In light of this transition from religious direction to lay leadership, it is important to emphasize that the committment of the Sisters of the Dominicans of Sinsinawa has not wavered in 90 years. They continue to play an important role in supporting the camp, ensuring that it’s mission stays consistent. The future of WeHaKee looks bright and optimistic and continues to provide high quality camping experiences for girls in an environment of embracing God’s great outdoors!