125 Years, 125 Stories
The experiences and
stories of Wyman’s
125 years of service
Welcome to Wyman’s 125 Years, 125 Stories project! Throughout this anniversary year, we will be sharing a wide variety of stories and experiences through our 125 years of service to the young people of St. Louis and the nation.
Come back every week to read, experience, and learn something new about Wyman!
30 – “A Camper Experience, 1935”
35 – Greater St. Louis Kiwanis Clubs
“When I first came out here I had a disability, what they call St. Vitus Dance [Sydenham chorea] and I had very little control over my nerves. The 4 years that I was at Camp Wyman helped a lot, and I learned to manage it.”
My name’s Rich Bourgeois, I went to camp here from 1944 to 1948. I have a lot of memories. We had a campfire, which was at, I guess where the pavilion is now in the campgrounds, and that was all like half walls, which were seats. You sat around this campfire. This campfire was built up about six or eight foot tall, and then we had a cable that ran up to the cabins, into the tree. They would ignite a rag with kerosene on that cable, and that cable the fire would come down to the campfire, and the campfire would just explode. And it would just, the kids would just go fanatic over it, really nice.
I learned a lot of things. When first came out here I was, I guess you would say, a disability. I had what they call St. Vitus Dance. At the time I came to camp here, it was mostly handicapped children. And I had very little control over my body, my nerves. After the 4 years that I was at Camp Wyman, I was cured of my St. Vitus Dance, and the main thing was to have your mind occupied at all times. That helped a lot, so they did a lot for me, the Kiwanis, and I guess at that time it was the United Fund.
Gabriela started with Wyman as a practicum student in 2018. “My first impression of Wyman was that everyone was super welcoming, and that for Wyman as a whole organization, it’s all about relationships – with the adults and staff as well as the teens.”
The strong connections she made prompted her to immediately apply for a full-time position working with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.
“I loved doing that, and I just love TOP in general because it’s a really great program. I’m so passionate about working with teens, and to be able to do that direct work is just exactly what I wanted. I love group work, and I love individual work, and it had everything that I could have wanted from a first job out of grad school.”
Since then, she’s worked within both TOP and Teen Connection Project (TCP), and in the summer of 2022 moved into her current role as the Director of TOP.
“I really see myself as a support to teens. I’m just there as an assistant to help them grow; to help them think through things and figure out who they are, and to figure out how they can use these skills now and into the future.”
“I love the organization and I love what I do. I just really love the students. I love hearing what they have to say, having deep conversations with them, and really helping them be able to explore their own thoughts and identity. We’re able to have conversations that they might not be able to have elsewhere.
What sets Wyman apart is the relationships. We view the student as a whole person, and we want to support students in any way that we can. By being in the school building, being a partner we’re really one with the school. Not all partner organizations get to do that. But this is where we work, we know the schools. We’re here every single day so students can always come talk to someone. I think that’s a great part of Wyman.”
In her current role, Gabriela also gets to see how much Wyman does within the community. “We provide evidence-based programs that we know work and have positive outcomes for students. By Wyman being a part of the community, it expands opportunities for teens across the St. Louis area. And provides them with new experiences and support in the moment and in the future as well.
I really see myself as a support to people, and a support to teens. I’m there as an assistant to help them grow. I’m there to help them think through things and figure out who they are and what they want to think about and how they can use these skills now and in the future.
I have a lot of love for the organization and teens and the staff I work with. I would say Wyman has helped me grow as an individual, both professionally and personally. It’s just really supportive and relationship based, which makes the work culture a place you enjoy showing up to every single day. If you feel good, you know that you’re going to show up in a good place when you’re facilitating with students.”
“The Dillon philosophy of small group living was the greatest social change during my eight years at camp. It also contributed the most to relationships, and self-esteem became as important as country space and fresh air living.”
I was a counselor in the 40s and watched Wyman develop into a true outdoor environment.
In 1940 camp looked like a turn-of-the-century resort with picturesque, white-painted cabins in a row, linked by a cement sidewalk to hold back the muddy hillside. The children thrived in the out-of-doors. The camp inspired donors, volunteers and leaders to give over 100% in their efforts to help the needy children, and the spirit of giving became the heart of Camp Wyman.
Morning and afternoon campers lined up behind signs to choose activities individually. Some of these activities were Pets (play with white mice), hikes to the cave or to the fire tower, crafts, fire building (and cooking potatoes in the ashes). The campers found security in a non-threatening environment of no busy streets by day and only stars and insect songs at night. Adj (Adjutant) Dillon, a school principal in winter, was my camp leader in the 40s decade.
The Dillon philosophy of small group living was the greatest social change during my eight years at camp. It also contributed the most to relationships, and self-esteem became as important as country space and fresh air living.
Here is where our children developed self-discipline. Instead of individual choices for activities, the cabin of eight campers now moved as a family. They chose activities together, worked and played together. They learned the fun of being a contributing part of a unit; the counselors learned just as much. Dillon’s encouragement sent many a counselor on to higher education.
The counselors learned more from Eddie, a practicing social worker, as they prepared at training sessions. She emphasized how camp was an extraordinary opportunity since it put children in a positive 24-hour environment with good role models.
Camp was always adventure. Campers were encouraged to sleep out under the stars after creating their own campsite, but one time the sleepout group was caught in a torrential thunderstorm. Extra staff had to hike up the hill to rescue the little campers as they literally slid down the flash flooded gulch, rushed them to the hot showers of the swim pool for a 3 am cleanup and dry out! Another time a group returned at high noon from a hike to find their exit blocked by a huge rattlesnake coiled in the sun. Their girl counselor, Mike, carefully chose a large rock, threw it mightily and killed the varmint!
Counselors were nurtured, too. The democratic spirit made lifelong friends, and most staff returned yearly. Rest Hour alternated leader’s care; substitute counselors gave each leader a half day off a week. Night snacks were a big favorite where the discussions were almost more favored than the food. Once a session we enjoyed Counselors’ Night Out where the Dillons drove us to a neighboring small town and all cheered the cowboy movie, chomped the popcorn and then devoured fast food at Steiny’s.
During her final semesters at UMSL, Kristin was searching for a practicum to finish out her social work degree. A fellow grad assistant who had worked with Wyman introduced her to the organization. “She was like, ‘Oh I love Wyman, I really love their cause and what they’re doing.’
Kristin immediately hit it off with her interviewer, and ended up spending two semesters with Wyman as a practicum student. After that, she was hired as an admin for the Wyman Leaders program, and in 2019 transitioned into her current role as a persistence coach.
“Through all of these positions, I’m learning about Wyman. I got to know the program, the mission, and the ins and outs of what we do.”
“I feel like it’s been a full circle of me knowing what Wyman is and what we do as a whole. When new people come on they’re like, what does Wyman do? And I’m like, how much time do you have?”
“I was a first generation college student, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was just digging in the dark trying to figure it out on my own. I’m really excited to now be in this role and be able to do this for these students – because I went through the same thing.”
Kristin didn’t initially see social work as her career path, but now couldn’t be happier about the work she does. “I always had a really strong desire for the persistence side because I had such a rocky road when I was going through college. I was a first generation college student, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know what scholarships to apply for, or that I had to apply for FAFSA every year. I was just digging in the dark trying to figure it out on my own. I’m really excited to now be in this role and be able to do this for these students – because I went through the same thing.”
Kristin sees the impact of her work constantly in the successes of her students, and is proud of the relationships she has with them. “It’s not just about coaching for school or college, It’s personal too, because maybe they don’t have a support system that they can just chat with about what’s going on in their lives. For them, I am one of those supports and I want to make sure I’m there for them.”
She also sees her role in persistence at Wyman as a unique opportunity. “College access is a big deal for a lot of organizations, let’s get these students to college! Then they get there and it’s like, good luck! But there are still a lot of obstacles. I hope my impact is that I’m supporting them from that point. My hope is that they graduate with a degree that gets them somewhere beyond the life that they are used to. I want them to know that is possible. You matter, your education matters.”
“The teens get that you actually care about them and you know them. you’re not just the after-school person that is going to be there for the semester. For a lot of our students, that’s so important and rare in their life.”
Tim Kjellesvik worked his way through a lot of positions within Wyman over his 16 years on staff. He was hired in 2002 as the Associate Summer Camp Director and a few years later became its Program Director. When the Teen Leadership Program (now Wyman Leaders) was developed in 2010, he became Director and about six years later transitioned to Director of Special Projects, working in east St. Louis on several contracts with the United Way. His last role was in 2018, with Wyman’s Wrap Around Services in the Normandy Schools Collaborative.
Tim saw a lot of programming evolution in his time with Wyman. “The last summer of the historic Camp Wyman happened under my directorship in 2004.That was a really bittersweet summer because we didn’t have any inkling until the very end that that program was going to end. It was definitely bittersweet to see something that had been around for so long come to an end, but those changes brought in a lot of capacities and opportunities for the young people we served, including resources around college access and persistence.”
That new level of persistence was one of the biggest benefits during Tim’s time with the organization. “The teens get that you actually care about them and you know them. You’re not just the after-school person that is going to be there for the semester. For a lot of our students, that’s so important and rare in their life.
You can be very real with students when you build that time and show up day after day after day.”
After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, Tim and the Wyman staff stepped up to provide service to the young people in that community. “Me and a couple other Teen Leadership Program Directors went up to Ferguson and we picked up about 15 of our TLP kids because their schools were shut down. We wanted to provide them a safe engaging place while they couldn’t do anything else, instead of being shut up at their homes – and not knowing if they would have been in danger being at home. So, we brought them out to camp. I think we did that for two or three days until they got the school situation figured out.”
As Wyman continues to evolve in its service to young people, Tim knows that its roots as a camp and utilizing a camping experience will always be at the heart of the organization. “When kids are in that environment, they learn to take and navigate responsibility and they learn to navigate social situations. When you’re building relationships in that context, those relationships are so much more meaningful than most other points in their lives. And I think that’s kind of the heart of what Wyman will always be.”
“You can’t support the youth if you don’t know what they want. Or if you don’t listen to them. It’s important for young people to know that your opinion isn’t just an opinion. You can turn that opinion into action.”
Leila has been involved with Wyman since seventh grade at Ferguson Middle, where the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) was being offered. “I had a pretty good impression of Wyman because of all the things we were doing in TOP. After that, my mom was really adamant about me joining Wyman Leaders because it was a college preparatory program. I was hesitant because I was shy and you had to write an essay and interview, but overall I knew it would be something beneficial to me.”
Now, Leila has been participating in Wyman Leaders for several years and credits the experience with becoming a more confident individual. “As a result of being with Wyman, I have become more socially confident. I have moved around a lot in my life, and because of that it was nice to have Wyman and see the same people in the same events for an extended period of time. And you really have no choice but to get to know these people!”
In addition to participating in TOP and Wyman Leaders, Leila is also a founding member of the Youth Leadership Council (YLC). “I decided to join YLC because I know that I have the capacity to make a difference in the world. There are so many injustices and it would feel strange for me not to do anything about them.
In YLC, we’ve participated in trainings and met with legislators, which I never thought I would do, but it’s so cool that I got to do that. I’ve had so many eye-opening experiences and I think it’s important for me to do this work right now and as I progress in my life.”
“You can’t support the youth if you don’t know what they want. Or if you don’t listen to them. It’s important for young people to know that your opinion isn’t just an opinion. You can turn that opinion into action.”
Leila is now utilizing Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP) to finish their high school coursework. “When I graduate high school next year, I want to either pursue psychology or environmental studies. I want to either try to benefit the environment or understand how the environment affects people. I want my career to revolve around people and how their minds work.”
During their time with Wyman, Leila has found their voice and is grateful for all of the experiences over the years. “I think what makes me is my experiences. I like to be really grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the impact that they have had on me.”
I’m Art Korn. I was here first as a counselor in 1939, back when we had both boys and girls in camp at the same time. And then in 1942 I returned as an assistant maintenance engineer. And the first vivid recollection was the fire, when the mess hall, dining hall burned down in 1939. And a number of the counselors responded, they all tried to put out the fire, they tried to drag out anything that was salvageable, or moveable. And my friend Carl Schlesser had his hand burned on a hot timber. And after we got all this stuff out, we had no place to use it. And one of the things we had, was an excess of applesauce. In the (execution?) sized cans. Well Mrs. Hawkins who ran the laundry at the time, couldn’t see that go to waste. And the cooks couldn’t stand it either. So we moved back up one of the hollows and Mrs. Hawkins threw it in a copper kettle. And we dumped all that applesauce in that kettle, got the necessary spices and sugar, and we made apple butter. We had apple butter coming out of our ears when it was all over, but we saved everything. But, a lot of great memories, a lot of great people that I met there. Family, staff, counselors.
“The first vivid recollection was the fire, when the mess hall, dining hall burned down in 1939. And a number of the counselors responded, they all tried to put out the fire, they tried to drag out anything that was salvageable, or moveable.”
“This experience helps children gain social maturity. But most important of all, we think by the time the sixth graders have finished their week here, they’ve slowed down from a run to a walk and are looking at their environment through new eyes and with new understanding.”
William “Bill” Kloppe was an educator who worked for decades in the Webster Groves School District, as both a physical and outdoor education instructor. In 1948 he was the Director of Outdoor Education for the school district and began collaborating with Wyman to develop a licensed school curriculum of nature study. This project would become the Outdoor Education Program, a mainstay of Wyman, Webster Groves, and many other area St. Louis School districts for the next 75 years.
During the first season of the Outdoor Education Program, sixty children came for two weeks in the spring. The Webster Groves School District brought out entire classes at a time, including teachers, to stay on site for a week. Kloppe would organize conservationists, astronomists, geologists and other experts to come out and talk to the students. As described in a newspaper article at the time, “Rather than having classrooms, the pupils are taken on short hikes and the expert points out living examples for his lecture.”
According to Kloppe, one of the added benefits of the camping trip is that for many children it’s the first time they’re away from home, their first experience at group living with others of their age, the first time they have as much responsibility for their own and others’ welfare.
“We feel all of these things help children gain social maturity. But most important of all, we think by the time the sixth graders have finished their week here, they’ve slowed down from a run to a walk and are looking at their environment through new eyes and with new understanding.” said Kloppe.
It has since been used by many of the other major school districts in the St. Louis area, and has been duplicated with similar programs in Ladue, Parkway, Kirkwood, and other school districts. In the late 1960s, Kloppe mentioned in an interview that Clayton and University City School Districts also have had similar programs for many years and the Lindbergh District recently initiated one.
In 1967, Kloppe, along with George W. Brown (superintendent) and Liz Matheny published a Manual of Nature Activities in Outdoor Education and School Camping for Webster Groves, Missouri, a copy of which resides in the Wyman Archives. It includes guides and activities on topics like forest ecology, plant and animal identification, and on-trail activities for increasing awareness and appreciation of our outdoor environment.
Bill Kloppe directed and managed the program until his retirement in 1977. That same year, the weather station he had installed years ago at Camp Wyman was dedicated to him. It still sits on the north hill behind the dining hall.
Alexis has been involved with Wyman since she was 12 years old, starting as a participant in TOP and Wyman Leaders. “Throughout my trajectory in Wyman I was offered a full ride scholarship to Missouri State University, and while I was there I ended up working summers for Wyman doing postsecondary tours and some internship work. Any way that I could find to squeeze myself in Wyman’s nooks and crannies and help out young people and the organization’s mission, was something I was super passionate about in college. When I graduated in 2019, I was offered a full-time position at Wyman as a High School Support Coach on the Wyman Leaders team and then I transitioned to my current position as a Persistence Coach in the summer of 2021.”
She notes that her involvement with Wyman changed her life in middle school. “I am a child of a deaf and disabled adult, so the primary language we spoke in our household was sign language. I didn’t really know myself outside of helping my mom. Wyman gave me a place to let go of those responsibilities and really be able to accept childhood for what it is, be able to have fun, release all my worries, and develop into who I am.”
“I didn’t really know myself outside of helping my mom. Wyman gave me a place to let go of those responsibilities and really be able to accept childhood for what it is, be able to have fun, release all my worries, and develop into who I am.”
Before Wyman, Alexis says she was a quiet, shy teenager. “It really helped me to find my voice and helped me discover that advocacy was something I was super passionate about – because I was already doing it for my mom on a daily basis. I felt so thankful to be part of a program that accepted me and gave me a wider range of opportunities that I would have never had.”
That first summer at camp, Alexis remembers being pretty scared at first. “But I had such a great counselor – Nutty-Buddy. She was the sweetest and helped me to dive into my confidence that first year. I think what really stuck out to me was how she tried to make us feel comfortable. She knew that we were in an uncomfortable environment, that for a lot of us this was something we’ve never seen. So she made sure that we got to know each other and wrote down our norms for our cabin. Her ability to make us feel like we were home, even though we weren’t was something that stood out.”
“The more that I came to camp, the more I also did community service and internships. I felt so passionate about making sure that other people had the same experience that I had. That other young people who come from situations that are really difficult know that that’s not all that there is to life. And there are people who are helping you and are willing to help you see the other side of it. And I think it just lit this fire in me and so it was like, no matter where I go, I am going to be a voice for people and I’m going to create spaces where they can come together and lean on each other and grow. And I had to come back and work at Wyman. Because being around young people is something that feels really amazing. They just have the whole world in their hands, and sometimes they don’t even know it because of their circumstance. And you can be the person that helps them see that.”
“I remember talking my cousin Charlotte into signing up for all day hikes if I promised (which promise I rarely kept) to sign up for crafts the next day. Come to think of it, Charlotte still hates walking and I still hate crafts.”
Sue Depigian – memories of Camp Wyman:
Capture the Flag
The lookout tower, up the hill, behind the dining room
The mysterious and tree-lined road that was at the foot of the lookout tower. (I always wanted to walk down that road. I wonder, every now and then, where it led.)
P.M. camp fires singing Adge’s favorite songs
Learning to swim
Ticks in my hair
The cave with the imprint on the wall of the indian maiden with long hair
Cabins 12-16 (are the numbers correct?) with a bridge in front, and at last being able to stay in them. These cabins were for the “older” campers (ages 10 to 12, or so)
Cabin inspection (and not passing some very often)
Talking my cousin Charlotte into signing up for all day hikes if I promised (which promise I rarely kept) to sign up for crafts the next day. (Come to think of it, Charlotte still hates walking and I still hate crafts.)
Turning in ration stamps
Growing too old to return
Debeaux Bowman first came to Wyman with the Webster Groves School District. “Back then they did camp with elementary schools, as the kids were leaving fifth grade before they went into middle school. Camp Wyman was the first time I ever went to a sleep away camp. I loved everything about it. I loved being there with my friends and I loved having the high school counselors; it makes you feel really cool when you’re a kid and you have teenage friends. And all of the activities were so fun.
As a camper, I learned that I was capable of a lot. We did so many different things at camp, and it was really good to feel all of those different accomplishments. It was like ‘wow, these are all interesting, cool things I’m learning, and I’m growing,’ and there was this, ‘I can do anything’ sort of a feeling.”
Debeaux then returned to Wyman as a counselor in high school during their senior year. “I was helping with the sixth graders. I really enjoyed the counselors when I was at camp and so I wanted to be that counselor for a new generation of kids.” That year, the cabin Debeaux oversaw experienced a fire – an experience that had a strong effect on them. “At the time it was very scary, but going through that really solidified my bond with those campers, and really showed me that I’m as strong as I thought I was. It definitely shaped me into the person that I am today.”
“My goal is to make sure that everyone enjoys the outdoors and feels comfortable out there. I want them to feel like they can be a part of our natural world, and then also that feeling that they can do anything they put their minds to.”
Now Debeaux is back again, working as a program facilitator. “And I’m having an absolutely great time.
When I graduated from college this past May, a Wyman job posting popped up right at the top of my screen. I wasn’t really searching for a job at that point, but in that moment thought, ‘I can’t not apply for this job! This is such a perfect opportunity for me, and I can’t imagine doing anything else now.’ I love the team that we have at Wyman. It’s a really good group, a really good environment, and I’m loving the people.”
As a program facilitator, Debeaux works directly with campers and other groups who come out to Wyman and enjoys helping them connect to nature and their community. “My goal is to make sure that everyone enjoys the outdoors and feels comfortable out there. I want them to feel like they can be a part of our natural world, and then also that feeling that they can do anything they put their minds to. Whatever they want, they can achieve.
You get so much from interacting with the world outdoors and camp has such a sense of community and support. I think that is so important. Not everyone comes from a background where they have such a great support system. Being somewhere where you’re just unconditionally loved and supported by other campers and the counselors can really boost their confidence and show them that they can do anything. They have all of these people in their corner that are rooting for them.”
From the 1940s – 1970s, Kiwanians often participated in volunteer days out at camp. Each cabin sported the name of a Kiwanis Club that agreed to sponsor and maintain it.
The Greater St. Louis area Kiwanis Clubs are one of the longest standing contributors and partners to the Wyman Center. Since Kiwanis Chairman Harold Duffy visited Mr. Tillery at Camp Wyman in the 1940s, the St. Louis Kiwanis Clubs have sponsored Wyman’s facilities and programs.
In the early 1950’s, the camp’s financial condition was suffering, and staff were often paying for supplies themselves. Financial losses after WWII made the camp’s future uncertain. Kiwanis Clubs from across the region joined forces to raise funds, build new buildings, serve on the board, and provide ongoing maintenance. Without their contributions, Wyman could have quickly run out of funding and fallen into disrepair.
Members of several area clubs led the effort to enroll the clubs as sponsors of Camp Wyman. According to Kiwanis records, about 1,200 Kiwanians agreed to pay $1 per year to the camp association, and around 30-40 local clubs became sponsors of Camp Wyman.
From the 1940s-1970s, Kiwanians often participated in volunteer days out at camp. Many recall these volunteer days as being focused on maintaining the camp cabins. Each cabin sported the name of a Kiwanis club that agreed to sponsor and maintain it. Clubs from around the region had cabins or sponsored campers.
In addition to volunteering, Kiwanis Clubs raised funds to construct camp buildings and landmarks, including Catfish Lake, the Health Lodge, modern cabins, and the Council Ring.
The list of clubs who have supported Wyman over the years includes Bridgeton, Hampton/Midtown/Tower Grove, Kirkwood, West County, Georgana, Spanish Lake, O’Fallon, Southside, Gravois, University City/Clayton, Downtown, Maplewood, St. Charles, St. Clair/Union/Washington, and Midtown.
The dedication of local Kiwanis Clubs was honored in 1979 when Camp Wyman officially changed its name to Kiwanis Camp Wyman. This remained the organization’s name until the late 1990s when it was changed to Wyman Center to reflect the evolution of Wyman’s mission to include both camp and youth development programs. At this time, a board resolution was approved to honor the historic relationship with Kiwanis, naming the campsite as Kiwanis Camp Wyman until 2003. Additionally, Wyman’s address was changed to Kiwanis Drive, and remains so today.
Read more about the Kiwanis Clubs’ and Wyman’s history in our blog post here!
The Wyman Leaders program was not an immediate sell for my daughter. I remember telling her, “This seems awesome, they’re going to follow you and give you a great mentorship, however you’re going to have to sacrifice your summers.” She was so against it until she actually started participating. And then I couldn’t stop her. I wasn’t moving fast enough to get her to all the activities and classes she was doing over the summer.
I questioned it at first. My daughter has been at schools, with other organizations where she’s just been a number. She was the minority in the room. I thought, this is another organization who just needs her so they can get more funding. But at Wyman, she’s a human. She’s a mentor, she’s being mentored. She’s successful.
Overall she loves to respect herself. She has standards that I know I didn’t have at sixteen. And she’s very proud to own that. She’s always volunteering, she’s always helping people. A lot of the things she likes to stand up for are things that were untraditional to us. She taught us about like the LGBT community, and now we’re on the same team, championing for them as well. I have grown because of her. She’s always keeping us connected and she’s always giving back and helping.
“Wyman has the sauce. I wish they could expand all over St. Louis because there are not enough people doing what they are doing.”
Wyman is a once in a lifetime opportunity for hands on contact and a support system that has proved itself time, and year, and class, and school after school. I advocate for it all the time. If you need boots on the ground support for your child, not just academically but personally, it’s a one stop for that. I preach about it all the time.
Wyman has the sauce. I wish they could expand all over St. Louis because there are not enough people doing what they are doing. The mission they had from the beginning is still showing up every single day. I don’t know how they do it.
So what do I say about Wyman? I say why not. Why not Wyman.
“The program is about more than just education; it’s about how to interact with people that have different backgrounds from you. You get opportunities that most kdis dream about, and I feel like with that comes a sense of community.”
I was first introduced to Wyman Leaders in 6th grade, and at first I was hesitant to give up my summer. Then I created a family and I met new friends – even those that go to school with me. The program is about more than just education; it’s about how to interact with people that have different backgrounds from you. You get opportunities that most kids dream about, and I feel like with that comes a sense of community. It’s long lasting, too. Our coaches make sure that we’re able to keep those relationships and that they don’t fade away.
I always tell people who are hesitant: it’s not just focused on academics. They’re giving us time management skills, advocating skills, and the skills to feel more confident within ourselves and the decisions we make.
School was always hard for me growing up. I would feel discouraged most of the time. Having Wyman coaches that want to be there to help me really changed my mind-set about so many things. After being in the program, I have goals and aspirations. I know what colleges I am interested in and what they have to offer. Wyman has helped immerse me in so many different opportunities and now I know what to do. I used to think, ‘who cares about school?’ but now it’s my main goal.
The staff at Wyman are going to make sure you get things done, but they also give you that compassionate, fun side. That loving side. They want to see you succeed, but at the same time want to see a smile on your face when you walk through school. It’s relaxed and allows me and my peers to be ourselves and feel like we’re in this welcome environment without being judged.
Now, I want to go to college and become a marine biologist and baker. I can’t wait to graduate college and come back and pour into my community and Wyman.
My name is Carl Schlosser, I’m from Belleville, Illinois. And I was there 1937, ‘38, ‘39. When I first came out here, Jack Morris was in charge of the program. He invited me to come down in 37, I was the only male counselor here at the time. It was quite a bit of fun, and we always enjoyed it. Everybody always enjoyed coming down here. This was the first time I’ve been back since I was a counselor in ‘39
(Interviewer: So it’s changed quite a bit since you’ve been here) Oh, it’s changed a whole lot since I’ve been here. You’ve added more building, and you used to have a barn back in the back where the maintenance shed is, and that used to be a, more recreation and our, if it rained and our crafts and arts, that’s where we had all that, everything we that did that was done inside, it was done in the old barn. But it’s gone, too. It’s, just about everything’s been changed around here.
“I cannot think of anything better for me. Seeing a lot of the teens, former campers out there doing amazing things, that’s all I want. That’s all I hope for.”
Terrance Brown got involved with Wyman by “complete accident” in 2001. “I was supposed to be a staff member, but somehow things got mixed up and I arrived the same day as the campers. They told me they could drop me back off with my aunt, or I could stay. And I was like, well I’m here!
At the end of that summer they asked me to come back the next year, and I was like yeah, I would love to. Being in a place where I was able to learn so many new things about myself and the experience I had with all the staff members, was like oh I definitely want to share that with other people. I had strong ties to people who had been complete strangers, and that’s amazing to me.”
T Bone came back as a camp counselor and group leader, working with the youngest group of Wyman campers at the time. Now over 20 years later, he is a Program Manager on the Camp Wyman Experiences team.
“I’ve stayed at Wyman for so long because I met a lot of amazing people – staff members and campers – who I’m still friends with today.”
“I loved the phrase, ‘be the change you want to see.’ For me it was about being a positive influence that the campers can see – like, ‘Oh this is a person who has it together, or is a nice person, and maybe we can be like that.’ That was one of the things I strived for.”
T Bone also loved the bonding experiences at camp that built trust and strong relationships between the campers and their counselors like sneaking out of the cabin to watch movies in the dining hall or the rafting and canoeing trips.
In 2009 there was an open year-round position at Wyman that involved T Bone becoming the Team Leader for the Wyman Leader Treks. “I didn’t want to lead people! I was nervous to have it all ride on me. But the other Wyman staff said, ‘We’ve seen how you lead groups and lead people. We see that you can do this.’ It was a lot of learning, but I did it.”
T Bone sees his position and presence at camp as a way to make campers more comfortable with the experience and with spending time in nature.
“Throughout all my years, there haven’t been a lot of people of color who have worked in this position. There have been some, but they move on. There’s not a lot of exposure. Campers of color come out and see, oh man, there’s a person that looks like me, and they’re in the woods, they like the woods and they say the woods is fine.
My family still says, ‘I don’t see how you still work in the woods. I couldn’t do it.’ I think, it’s nature, everybody needs nature and should spend time out here.
I had a conversation with one of the campers not too long ago. And he’s like, you’re still at Wyman? I said, I cannot think of anything better for me. I could think of other things, but I don’t think it would make me as happy. Seeing a lot of the teens, former campers out there doing amazing things, that’s all I want. That’s all I hope for.
What a thrill for these children as they boarded the train and enjoyed a train ride, some of them for the first time in their lives. Trucks and private cars awaited them when they got off the train at Eureka, to take them to the camp. Arriving at the camp most of them were hardly out of the trucks before the playground apparatus was filled with happy children. Some of them had already discovered the lazy little creek and were making plans for dams and miniature lakes on which to sail boats.
Soon the big bell on the Assembly Hall tolled and all the children trooped into the hall. Here they sat with attentive ear and listened to the necessary directions for their life at camp. Then they were off to their cabins, where they were assigned their beds and changed into the farm clothes. By this time they were ready for lunch. Proudly they marched in straight lines into the large dining hall, where they all said grace together and attacked the wholesome food with a good will. Cabin mothers and counselors were kept busy refilling their plates. At last the big bell tolled again and the little girls were off to the swimming pool. Here they splashed, floated, swam, belly-flopped, and even dived a little, with nothing to fear because a counselor was always near.
“There were many great people out there who took part in the planning for camp to be possible. Those staff members were guardians in the best way. We knew that they cared about and respected each one of us.”
After supper little knots of children eagerly played games under the leadership of the counselors. Enthusiastic races, circle games, relays, dodge ball, baseball, and volleyball contests were going on everywhere on the campus.
As the shadows of evening were lengthening, children gathered into larger groups and listened to stories of the adventures of famous characters so dear to the imaginations of young children. At the sound of the big bell, the children again gathered in the assembly hall. After learning the camp song, a few comical songs and one or two folk songs, the children went to their cabins to prepare for the night.
Next morning after breakfast all the children wrote letters home to their parents or guardians, letting them know that they arrived safely.
The day after letter-writing the hikes begin. Both boys and girls explore the wood. The trees assume real identities with names that distinguish one from the other. Plain yellow flowers become black-eyed Susans. Long-stemmed weeds with white flowers come to be known as yarrow and Queen Ann’s Lace, with a real dignity and beauty of their own.
As the hike progresses a little boy out in front spies a little animal nestled in a tree. Excitedly he calls out, “Oh, look at the rat!” He learns differently, however, for what he thought was a rat is in reality a baby chipmunk. In the high grass a rabbit hip hops across the trail and everyone is excited. Up in the deep woods a long, black snake slithers hurriedly across the trail. Down on the other side of the hill ferns in abundance are seen and several of the hikers dig them up to plant around their cabin when they get back to camp.
During the morning and afternoon periods, the children pursue crafts and projects of their own choosing, under the guidance of the counselors. Some of them do pottery work, woodwork, leather and string work. Still others are interested in taking lessons in swimming, building towers, making nature books, and modeling puppets. Others are interested in campcraft and putting out a camp newspaper. How proud the children are of their articles in the craft exhibit on the last night at camp.
“At Wyman, we’re not just an island. Working in the community and in schools provides so many different benefits, and you get a sense of community through working with all those different partners.”
After earning his undergraduate degree in Social Work and serving in the Peace Corps, Eric moved to St. Louis and began his job search. As he started exploring his future career path, Eric considered what he could see himself doing long-term. “I wanted a career where I was going to be able to give my best and get a lot from. Social work and working with youth was that path for me.”
Eric didn’t initially plan to work for a non-profit, but “Wyman just kept on coming to the top.” So, in 2019 Eric started at Wyman as a Teen Outreach Program (TOP) Specialist, working with 7th and 8th graders at Brittany Woods Middle School. He immediately began to enjoy the unique position of being a TOP facilitator working within the school itself. “At Wyman, we’re not just an island. Working in the community and in schools provides so many different benefits, and you get a sense of community through working with all those different partners.”
Eric recognizes that “Middle school is no stranger to life’s complexities. I think back to my experiences, and it set me on a path with the friendships that I built, the people that I was around. That’s why I feel like it’s important to work with middle school students – trying to build memorable moments in community. Whether that’s a family community, a classroom community, or a school community.”
Eric is now a Teen Connection Project (TCP) Specialist at University City High School with Wyman and continues to develop community and support opportunities for youth to grow around the St. Louis area.
“The impact I hope to have is to help teens build memorable moments. I find value in looking back at those memorable, transformative moments from my own life; and I want to help students build those moments for themselves- and watch them learn and grow from those moments and make them transformative. That’s what the people around me were able to do, and I want to be that person for others.”
Going to Camp Wyman was the highlight of my life back in the 1930’s. Both my sisters and my brother went to camp whenever the occasion presented itself. I grew up believing that I was privileged to go to a wonderful place like Camp Wyman. To actually go swimming every day in a real pool.
How I remember the dining hall and all of the wonderful meals we enjoyed. Those hot biscuits and meat every day. I don’t remember just what all the menus were, but I do know that that was the most delicious food I ever had.
The great thing about the dining hall was the large frame over the director’s table. It was covered with fringed paper and had cords attached at several places so that it could be pulled back and forth, thus keeping pests from bothering the diners.
We were always awakened early in the morning. We slept well the night before on straw filled mattresses. To the outhouse and the cold water to clean up and brush our teeth. The aroma reaching out over the camp brought out the chow lines. All dressed and ready to eat and enjoy all the experiences that made our stay, the times so pleasant to us.
“There were many great people out there who took part in the planning for camp to be possible. Those staff members were guardians in the best way. We knew that they cared about and respected each one of us.”
There were the early morning hikes, waking up and hurrying to dress and off we would go. Out in the woods on a trail and girls wore dresses, if I remember right. We never had jeans. Also I seem to remember the tales of snakes. I don’t ever remember seeing one snake there. Then the best of all, that wonderful breakfast out in the open. No food in the world tastes that good.
The playground was such fun. It seems to me that it was the best I’d ever seen. We really enjoyed making up games to play there. I remember making objects and crafted treasures.
After supper, we had the flag ceremony, then we gathered in the pavilion, there we sang songs, had plays, and other good times.
There are many great people out there who took part in the planning and provisions for all that to be possible. Those staff members were guardians in the best way. We knew that they cared and respected each one of us.
I must have been about 7 or 8 years old the first time that I went. It probably was through Kingdom House, Caroline Mission. Later on I went with Taussig School and Council House. The last time was about 1939.
That train ride is such a biggie in my past. The only time that I ever rode a train until I was grown. The train was met by large trucks and we rode out to camp while jostled and getting used to the rugged time ahead. After assembling, we were greeted by the staff, assigned to our cabins and House Mothers. We were instructed on the schedules of the days ahead and about bathing and teeth brushing.
I could never forget that there were people out there who cared about little children living in dirty cities and would not have the opportunity to experience such a wonderful vacation. I have always felt gratitude for all this and for all of the kids who still benefit from this program.
“Before Wyman I was a kid that was focused more on their work. Now I’m more social,, talking to my friends during class, too. Being in Wyman has been awesome.”
Kiera joined Wyman Leaders at the end of 7th grade and was immediately excited to participate in the program – even the time she’d be spending at camp. “I was totally good with the three weeks away. I went to camp that first summer and I loved it. We weren’t able to go overnight, but it was still so much fun.”
The Wyman Leaders program supports teens as they develop life skills and strong connections through powerful, transformative, and fun experiences. For Kiera, these opportunities and experiential interactions with her peers have given her more confidence and enjoyment in social situations.
“I’ve never really had a problem in school: it’s more the social interaction. I’ve had more social interactions through Wyman than I have in the past few years for school.
Before Wyman, I was a kid that was focused more on their work. I’d still talk to my friends after school and before school, but I mainly tried to focus on my schoolwork to get the best grades I could. Now I’m more social, talking to my friends more during class, too.”
“Being in Wyman has been awesome, I love it. I tend to avoid social interaction, but I enjoy doing it at Wyman – with people I know and the people I didn’t know.”
Kiera joined Wyman Leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic so she especially enjoyed the in-person activities available with her Wyman team. “I enjoyed when we go outside to the parks. The year before that everything was over Zoom. We’d have a box delivered to our house of supplies that we’d need. It was fun though. Zoom isn’t my favorite thing, but it was still enjoyable.”
Since middle school, Keira has enjoyed helping out with her school plays and would like to pursue a career in costume design. Now attending Fox High School, she continues to enjoy the Wyman Leaders program and is looking forward to attending a 7-day post-secondary tour this summer.
Camp Wyman is childhood memories that will always be with me. Being from a poor family, we couldn’t afford the luxuries of life. I attended St. Peters Episcopal Church for several years when a child. They are the ones who sent me to Camp Wyman.
Those were the best days of my life, the hikes, swimming, songs, and evening gatherings.
On one hike our leader took us into a very small cave. She taught us a song while in there. I don’t have the faintest idea of what the words (or tune) is but I still sing it once in a while to little tots, the best I can.
Not sure, seems like the leader was a lady named Ruth Bedell. There were trees near the little cottages we slept in and one night one girl cried most the night and kept the rest of us awake. She was afraid of a funny noise outside. It was an owl. She wanted to go home so they called her mother to come get her. There was a song we sang almost every evening “Out at Eureka Farm we’re happy all the time”. I am 75 years old but I still think of the good times at Camp Wyman.
“Camp Wyman is childhood memories that will always be with me. I am 75 years old but I still think of the good times at Camp Wyman.”
“Wyman showed me that the more you believe in yourself, the more limitless you become. And the more limitless you become, the more success you’ll see in life.”
When Jalen Mathis was introduced to Wyman in seventh grade, the experience was a little daunting. “The first things we did were a 10-mile hike and canoeing; things I’d never imagined doing. My first thought was, oh my gosh, will I survive? But I was really inspired to be part of an amazing program like this.”
After graduating high school in 2018, Jalen returned as a camp counselor. “Going from a camper to counselor is a full circle moment. As a camper, I looked at my counselors to lead me. When you become a counselor, you start to realize the amount of patience you need when you’re dealing with the development of young people.”
In 2022, Jalen graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in business finance and is currently working at Boeing in Revenue Management. His recent move to Seattle is one of the biggest challenges Jalen has faced. “The environment was less diverse and it was hard for me to connect to people. I didn’t quit was because I knew that I could create a sense of community and be a change agent.”
“As a Black man no one ever educated me on life beyond a degree. I think the degree was always the ceiling. Once I achieved that, it felt like I was stepping into a bigger world and was stripped of everything that I once knew. I have to be patient and learn how to navigate this professional world and communicate effectively in those spaces while also bringing more to it. Even in spaces where I’m surrounded by other leaders, I still find ways I can contribute and add value.”
Jalen has seen a lot of personal growth since joining Wyman, particularly in how much he believes in himself. “Wyman really lit that internal flame and showed me that the more you believe in yourself, the more limitless you become. And the more limitless you become, the more success you’ll see in life. I have a lot moments of gratitude, because I think, wow, I never imagined being in this place when I was young. I never imagined I’d be graduating from Morehouse and moving to Seattle, being in these new environments.
Now, Jalen is a founding council member of Wyman’s Youth Leadership Council, a group of young people focused on sharing ideas, creating solutions, and putting those solutions into action. “I decided to join YLC because I wanted to bring more change within my community.
I want to create a better life for the generation that comes after me and continue to help people. “
“Being able to sit at the table and know that we as young people have a voice and can continue to be advocates for the entire community of young people is huge. Understanding how to navigate and work with professionals and legislators is a big advantage we’re gaining.”
“Wyman allowed me to feel even more confident to try new things and go for whatever goals I have. It makes you see the world in a different lens when you have a support system in your corner that wants to advocate for you and wants to see you succeed; and that’s not an opportunity a lot of people get. Wyman never forced me to be a specific person; they allowed me to grow into who I needed to grow into. But they always made sure I was comfortable and had whatever I needed to succeed. I’m grateful for Wyman indeed.”
Price Schulte was born in 1908 in Eureka, MO and knew about Wyman all his life. He came to work at Camp Wyman as a maintenance person for the Tillerys just after graduating from Eureka High School in 1927.
He wrote to Camp Wyman in 1991 and recalled building the permanent cabins on “Cottage Row” (1920 – 1928), painting buildings, running the deep well pump, attending the camp’s 5 reservoirs, and maintaining the swimming pool. Price was also at the scene of the dining hall fire in 1938 and helped with the resulting clean-up.
Records of Price’s maintenance hours were found in the Tillery’s papers from the 1920s and 30s. They recorded some of his summer job activities including putting shelving up in the laundry; cleaning the pool, shower room, and dressing room; “digging leak at new reservoir;” installing a drinking fountain at the dining hall; and more.
Price Schulte, along with fellow maintenance workers Alfred Jefferes, Preston Pauls, and Buell Manhanke was able to perform any and all maintenance tasks needed around camp.
In Eddie Dillon’s personal recollections in 1981 from ‘Fresh Air & Love’, she remembers:
The Tillerys, their son Risdon, and his friend, Price Schulte (who worked on maintenance with Risdon, under Mr. T’s supervision), and the Boys’ Program Director all ate at a special table with a white tablecloth and did have some food different than that served everyone else…All the tables for everyone were similar except that the Tillerys used a long dining room table.
“Any time you’re put in an environment that’s brand new to you, it comes with challenges. Wyman Leaders taught me to think outside the box. It was the first time I was faced with having a growth mindset.”
Marnae’s first summer with Wyman Leaders in 2004 wasn’t her favorite experience. “My entire first year I was sad and upset. I was homesick, and I did not want to come back the second year.” But her mom made sure she stuck with the program. “I wasn’t a happy camper, and I did not have a good attitude about it. But I saw the benefit once I was actually in it. My perspective now that I’m older and looking back on what I learned and experienced is much different; it was extremely valuable for me.”
“Any time you’re put in an environment that’s brand new to you, it comes with challenges. Wyman Leaders taught me to think outside the box. It was the first time I was faced with having a growth mindset. It was one of the first times where I couldn’t talk my way out of something, and I had to be ok with being uncomfortable to get the job done. That affected the way I showed up in class and in college and even now, because of that group work I did back then.”
Marnae admits it took a while, but she learned to enjoy the experience by her third year. “I did love the activities I was exposed to. I loved zip lining, I loved canoeing. For my second Trek we did a 5-day canoe trip. I loved it because I felt extremely accomplished and very free.”
In the fourth and fifth years of the program, college visits replaced camping trips, and helped Marnae envision her ideal school. “Those helped me to see exactly where I wanted to go for college, it helped me to prepare. And I ended up graduating from one of the schools we visited.
Wyman helped me to be comfortable with being away from home. And the experiences encouraged me to do new things in college, like study abroad. I also remember, I had a camp counselor who meditated. I didn’t know what he was doing back then, but now I meditate regularly and I’m a yoga teacher. Seeing him do that at the time, it made me more open. That exposure to different experiences, places, and people, it affected my trajectory.”
Through Wyman, Marnae also built lifelong friendships with fellow campers and counselors. “I met my very best friend there. We came back as counselors, we went to college at Mizzou together, and both of us have now joined Wyman’s Board.” Marnae hopes that by being on Wyman’s Board today, she can contribute with her own experiences and help guide the process to make the leaders of tomorrow more well-rounded.
“From a 14-year-old perspective, I was going away to camp. My pre-teen mind wasn’t aware of the intangible gifts I was getting, and I wasn’t paying attention to the soft skills I gained. You never know how the skills and experiences that happen while you’re at Wyman will come in handy in the future.”
My memories are riding the train and finding there was a world outside of the city. I was raised in the areas of Henry school on 10th street. I didn’t know that the outside had a river and lots of trees – I thought O’Fallon Park was all there was.
When I got to Camp it was like a world all its own. I loved it and cried when I had to come home. The cabin, swimming and crafts were all new to me and I loved it all and the people who were so good to us kids. And when a poor kid is given a different look at the other side, I loved it, to this day I think about the camp with fond memories.
“I hope I have an impact to help young people grow into their potential. I hope I’m helping people become strong, confident versions of themselves, whomever they are and whatever they have to bring to the community and the world.”
When Annie Philipps was at St. Louis University getting her Bachelor’s in Social Work, she met Wyman’s Allison Williams at an internship fair. Annie said, “Allison was so friendly and just seemed like she would be great to work with.” Annie had some experience in youth work and was originally looking for an internship with a different age group, but meeting first Allison, then Wyman’s Near South Side team, led her to accept an opportunity with Wyman.
Her internship started in September of 2001 in Wyman’s Near South Side office. Annie loved the “awesome community” in the Near South Side, and as she went on to earn her Master’s in Social Work, she continued to work part-time, in after school programs, summer day camp, and community programs.
In 2006, Annie took a full-time role with Wyman in the Teen Leadership Program, which would later become Wyman Leaders. She was part of residential camp, college tours, and ongoing work with youth and families.
Annie says, “I’m so grateful for my time with Near South Side and Wyman Leaders. It was a privilege to work with the youth and families and to watch youth grow into amazing young adults. I have so many memories of sharing both incredible moments, like milestones and celebrations, and ordinary everyday moments, like singing and laughing on a bus ride. My time in those programs really shaped me and is such a part of the person I am today.”
In 2009, Annie joined the newly created Wyman Institute, working closely with Claire Wyneken on what would soon become Wyman’s National Network. Over ten years later, Annie is still working with the National Network and has loved the experience of fostering its growth. “It has been amazing to see organizations all over the country, with all of our similarities and differences. It’s been incredible to meet so many passionate people and learn about so many different communities. Every year it grows and changes and there are always pieces that are new, different, and really interesting.”
Nowadays, you can’t talk to many people at Wyman without one of them mentioning the impact Annie had on their career and professional journeys. Annie has inspired many of her colleagues and Wyman Alumni to pursue degrees in social work, even mentoring some of them through their degrees and internships.
“I hope to have an impact to help young people grow into their potential. I hope I’m helping people become strong, confident versions of themselves, whomever they are and whatever they have to bring to the community and the world.”
The first thing I remembered was the train ride to the camp. We were about 6-8 with a counselor in each little cabin. The open spaces, the fresh air, the swimming pool, the old cave we explored on the front of the property, the fun each nite as the staff put on shows. I think the couple in charge of the camp was a Mr & Mrs Tillery. The food was so good & I helped in the dining room pulling a board with cut news paper, & received a small plastic purse when I left. Got a swimming patch <W> for the front of my suit. I attended 2 – 3 years? & one time my brother came, Jerry E. Murray. I know all the people who came to that camp enjoyed it. I know I did. I was an inner city child. I often think as I get older how fortunate I was to get to Wyman. Thank you.
Nina M. House
“I know all the people who came to that camp and enjoyed it. I know I did. I often think as I get older how fortunate I was to get to Wyman.”
“I am confident that this organization will always have a way of providing and serving young people; however that looks. I expect there will continue to be shifts in the future as we serve them and our community.”
Crystal’s Wyman story starts when she was a camper, around the age of 12. “Wyman looked very different from what it’s evolved to now. Campers ranged from kindergarten up to high school, with a large population of young people in the foster care system.
I came back every summer and as I got into my teen years, Wyman started its CIT opportunity where older campers had a chance to be counselors. When I graduated high school, I was like, ok, well I’ll just spend my summer before college at camp, because that’s what I do. And then it just stuck!”
Crystal was with Wyman through its programming evolution in the 1990s and 2000s, and as a result participated in a wide variety of programs. She was a counselor for Camp EDI (camp for young people with diabetes), Camp Coca-Cola, she went on Treks, and she spent two summers at the Summer Adventures program in the Near Southside.
Crystal then took a break from Wyman for a few years, but one day Allison Williams called to invite her back for a new after school program, called 5-Star. “That was my first experience with the Teen Outreach Program (TOP).”
Crystal ended up working with TOP in her programs at Compton Drew and Normandy, and in community events that included parents. “The parents learned so much from TOP, too. They were then able to apply it to their parenting and how they communicated with their kids. It was a really cool way to see that progress.”
In 2015, Crystal started working with Dr. Joe Allen in the development of Wyman’s new Teen Connection Project (TCP). “I definitely feel passionate about the program. I think it’s exactly what people need as a whole, and the teens have echoed that. It also addresses how our young people are experiencing the pandemic, thinking about the isolation and challenges with their social relationships and peer dynamics. What a great time for this program to be utilized; I would love if we could get as many young people to experience the program as possible.”
In 2018 Crystal transitioned into a role with Wyman’s National Network, and in 2023 became the Director of the National Network Teen Connection Project.
“For me the National Network was the ideal circumstance. I have such a sense of history doing TOP, implementing TOP, and knowing what TOP looks like in a variety of environments.”
After helping Wyman evolve throughout the past 25 years, Crystal is confident the changes and adaptations will continue. “I am confident that this organization will always have a way of providing and serving young people. Providing opportunities to them or to the community, however that looks. It was a big adjustment for us to move into a focus on adolescents; but we shift and things work, so I expect that there will continue to be shifts in the future because as an organization we want to do our best to serve our young people and community.”
Dominique has been excited about Wyman Leaders from the start. And since participating in the program, she’s gained the confidence to try and do so much more than she ever imagined. “I’m really glad I’m doing it. It’s been really fun. I loved the first activity we did after I joined. We had to write a positive quote on the sidewalk: it was just so good, it was creative stuff that I never really thought to do.”
Due to COVID restrictions, Dominique didn’t have her first summer out at camp until 2021. But through that experience, she quickly learned that she enjoyed being outside and hiking. “It’s shocking! Because I’m not an outdoors person. I’m not gonna lie, when we went to the summer camp it had me outside more than ever before.” She was also surprised to learn she liked hiking and target sports. “I kept going up to see if I could do it; that was my favorite thing to do.”
“The first day of camp no one wanted to talk to each other. It was so awkward on the van ride that I put on earphones. We started doing team building exercises and there was this one with numbers on big pieces of paper. We had to count 1 to 30 and press on the numbers with our feet. People started yelling, it’s right there by you, it’s right there! And they got us more comfortable with each other. I feel like that’s what we needed.”
“We all love the staff. My coach was my go-to person. I’d text her and she’d text me right back, no matter what time it is. She was always there for us. They all were.”
The rest of the year, the support she gets from Wyman staff is something Dominique feels every day. “My coach is my go-to person. I text her and she texts me right back, no matter what time it is. She is always there, and the rest of the staff too. I can go to them anytime.
Dominique is confident that skills like this will allow her to reach her goals. “I think Wyman has helped prepare me to achieve my dreams by helping me become more outspoken. Before, I was really shy; even if someone asked me a question directly, I wouldn’t speak out. And I don’t think I could achieve my goals by continuing to be so shy. Wyman has helped me find my voice and encouraged me to participate in new opportunities.”
Adj was known as a leading educational reformer over the years because of his innovative work as an educator and camp director. His influence so deeply touched the lives of counselors and staffers that many became educators or worked in public service
Melvin “Adj” Dillon was a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, majoring in Education and Philosophy. His career at Camp Wyman began in 1930 as the Boys’ Program Director, where he introduced more camping activities to the program, including cook-outs and overnight sleep outs.
In 1932, he and the Girls’ Program Director, Eddie Beal, began collaborating on a critique of the program. They followed this critique with a proposed program of their own, which stressed democracy, group dynamics, personal development, and love and concern for the children; all promoted within the context of an outdoor camping program.
Eddie remembered, “ Adj was the first to look at the program and begin questioning what was being done and making suggestions for improvements. He had many years’ experience in Boy Scout and YMCA camps. Prior to his coming, there had been ‘nature’ hikes and occasional craft projects, but he succeeded in introducing camping activities and replacing the almost total free-play with organized and directed activities.”
In the summer of 1936, Adj decided he had made as much progress as he could at the time and stepped away from Wyman. He took a job as Business Manager at Camp Sherwood for three years, and married his former co-worker, Eddie Beal, in 1939. During this time, he continued to work as a teacher and then principal of Affton Junior High.
In 1942, new President Marquard Braun re-hired Adj as Executive Director of Camp Wyman, a post he held for the next 25 years.
As Director, Adj Dillon raised money, did the administrative work, trained, and supervised the summer staff. Sacrifices were commonplace for the Dillons and typified their dedication to the camp. In the 1950s, Adj and Eddie made hundreds of speeches and presentations, working seemingly endless hours all over the St. Louis area. Newspapers of all kinds wrote articles about camping and counseling by Adjor announcing some visit to or from the camp to drum up interest.
Adj was known as a leading educational reformer over the years because of his innovative work as an educator and camp director. His influence so deeply touched the lives of counselors and staffers that many became educators or worked in public service. Long before the national craze for outdoor education, Dillon and other local innovators were teaching a course in “Camp Leadership” at St. Louis University in the early 1940s. The Camp Wyman school camping program began in 1949 with the Webster Groves School District and has been duplicated with similar programs all over the St. Louis area.
With his wife Eddie, the two pioneered the transition of a fresh air country outing experience to that of an organized camping program that developed character and taught principles of democratic living and environmental ethics.
Adj became ill with emphysema and died in September 1966, after a lifetime of generous devotion to others and to Camp Wyman
Jared’s first experience with Wyman happened when he was in middle school at Ferguson, where they offered TOP to 7th grade students. “They told us about the program and it sounded pretty cool so I signed up.”
He enjoyed it so much, that when he learned about Wyman Leaders he was eager to apply for that program as well. Since joining, Leaders has introduced him to many new friends and experiences. “They open you up to new opportunities that some people will never get. It’s a great program. We may have to work hard sometimes but it’s beneficial. We have a lot of fun together.”
“Wyman has helped me uncover that I can do anything. I can go to college, or anything else I want to do!”
Jared will graduate in 2024, and is already excited for the future. “I want to go to college and actually do something with myself. I’m not sure what I want to do yet, I just know I want to graduate high school and go to college.
Wyman has helped me uncover that I can do anything I want to do. I can go to college, or anything else I want to do.
Other teens should join Wyman if they can. They’ll get an opportunity that they can’t get anywhere else.”
And Jared is excited to perhaps come back to Wyman and help pay the experience forward. “I want to come back to work or volunteer with Wyman. I want to help other teens like me when I get older.”
“It was in those first summers, amidst the fresh air and sunshine of the rolling Ozark foothills, in the company of so many lively young people of character, high ideals and compassion that I found my life’s calling; to work for the well-being of children.”
Edmonia ‘Eddie’ Beal (later, Dillon) arrived at Wyman as a counselor in the summer of 1928. She was joined by her sister Fran and several friends from Washington University. “It was in those first summers, amidst the fresh air and sunshine of the rolling Ozark foothills, in the company of so many lively young people of character, high ideals and compassion that I found my life’s calling; to work for the well-being of children.”
After being promoted to Girls Program Director in 1932, Eddie and the current Boys Program Director, Melvin ‘Adj’ Dillon worked together to transform Wyman from a ‘playground in a country setting’ to a camp that focused on outdoor skills, camping and character-building activities.
In 1935, Eddie graduated from Washington University’s School of Social Work and immediately got to work “helping people and trying to bring about change.” She experienced the beginning of the Welfare System and was Chief Child Welfare Advocate for the Children’s Aid Society. Eddie became a case-worker at the County Office of the Children’s Aid Society (now Provident Counseling), and then went on to establish the case work program at the Protestant Home for Children (now Edgewood Children’s Center).
After being promoted to Assistant Supervisor of the County Office of Family & Children’s Service, she was transferred to the City Office and promoted to Chief Child Welfare Consultant. Meanwhile she had married Adj Dillon, and again became involved with Wyman when he was hired as the camp’s Executive Director in 1942. In 1946, after a long-time secretary retired from the organization, Eddie retired from social work at the height of her career to help the camp by filling the vacated position.
The camp’s financial support was very unstable, and Eddie kept taking on one camp-job after another to keep the camp running. Eddie worked as Adj’s assistant in all areas, doing bookkeeping, secretarial work, and supervising the kitchen. From the 1940s – 60s, while supporting Wyman, Eddie also worked with St. Louis University, Washington University, Harris Stowe College and the American Camping Association to prepare college students for service in youth camps, classrooms and social services.
After Adj’s death in 1966, Eddie was appointed Executive Director of Wyman. Eddie now recruited and trained staff, recruited campers, made speeches to raise money, prepared budgets and continued to manage the kitchen. Sixteen-to-eighteen-hour days were normal for Eddie over the next six or seven years.
In 1972, Eddie was able to hire an Assistant Director, David Hilliard. Now with better resources and new support for the camp, Eddie began to bring many plans and dreams to completion. Under her direction the summer camping operation was expanded, outreach programs and preschool programs were established, and the camp began to be winterized.
With confidence in Dave Hilliard’s leadership, Eddie Dillon set up a five-year plan during which the two would swap positions. Even after this, Eddie would not stop working. On the eve of her retirement Eddie conceived and launched the region’s first camp for older adults. in 1976, she became the Co-Director of the Craft Program and Director of the Senior Citizen Program. She remained involved with Wyman as Director Emeritus until her passing in January 2000.
Eddie’s relationships and life of service linked three centuries of Wyman’s history. She touched countless lives through relationships built while serving in every capacity possible at the organization. Along the way, she established the values of excellence in service, commitment to best practices in youth development, commitment to staff training and development and adherence to the hightest standards for health, safety and administration that are hallmarks for which Wyman is recognized around the world today.
Prudence and Price Tillery came to St. Louis from Columbia, MO, where Prudence had earned her degree in education at the University of Missouri. She quickly became concerned by the lack of opportunities available to children in St. Louis, and hearing from her brother-in-law George Roth of an opening at Wyman, Mrs. Tillery became the Hostess (what would now be considered Director) of the camp in 1902.
She persuaded her husband, Price, to take the position of Manager at the camp in 1906. A house was built for them on the grounds the same year. While Mrs. Tillery worked at camp during the summer, Mr. Tillery stayed year-round managing the business and property. During the school year, Mrs. Tillery taught 7th and 8th grades at the elementary school in Eureka and later served as principal.
Mrs. Tillery kept the books, wrote the rules, and personally hired and trained staff members. During the camp’s formative years, her ideals were codified in her annual ledgers. She followed a consistent, orderly program which consisted mainly of games, swimming, daily worship, and occasional hikes.
Prudence and Price Tillery guided Wyman through the first era of its operation. Together, they left behind a legacy of deep concern for the campers and an insistence on a disciplined program, providing the camp with an excellent foundation on which to build and grow.
Mrs. Tillery retired from camp in 1938 at the age of 70. Mr. Tillery, however, stayed on for almost a decade longer, continuing to supervise the maintenance work of the camp.
During that time, Mr. Tillery furthered his legacy at Wyman by quietly convincing the St. Louis Kiwanis Clubs to sponsor Wyman in the 1940s. Kiwanis Chairman Harold Duffy apprehensively came out to camp one dreary winter weekend and found no one there except Mr. Tillery and a dog. Whatever Tillery said to Duffy, it worked. Mr. Duffy simply said, “He really sold me – and I sold the Inter-Club Council.”
Mr. Tillery worked steadily on, until the very day of his death in 1947. On that day he did a full day’s work as usual, closed the office, and went up to the house and passed peacefully away at the age of 86. After he passed, Mrs. Tillery continued to return to camp in the summers.
Prudence and Price Tillery guided Wyman through the first era of its operation. Together, they left behind a legacy of deep concern for the campers and an insistence on a disciplined program. It was a policy that provided the camp with an excellent foundation on which to build and grow. They helped found the deep tradition of loving care for others that is so obviously a part of Wyman. Their relationship to the camp is finely expressed by the motto they placed over the guesthouse mantelpiece that still sits on site, now in the Health Lodge:
“Welcome Ever Beckons
Farewell Goes Out Sighing”
“Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade teens start to find their path. I want to be able to help these young people achieve their potential. What in the world would be more satisfying than that?”
Doug Archibald, Sr., first learned about Wyman through his daughter when she came home from North Kirkwood Middle School talking about how her class was going to 6th grade camp. “I just thought, that’s the coolest thing ever,” Doug remembers. He started talking to her teachers to learn more about the opportunity and asked if all students get to attend. “And the answer was, well, we want everybody to go, but there’s a cost.”
Doug and his wife didn’t hesitate and became anonymous donors for other students at the school. “We wanted to help support students but did not want to be a part of picking them, nor did we necessarily want anybody to know about it. We just thought that going to camp was a great thing, and everyone should have the chance to go.”
Two years later, his son also attended 6th grade camp at Wyman. “The day we came to pick my son up from camp, we found him at Catfish Pond with a fishing pole in his hand. We asked him, ‘Hey are you fishing?’ And he said, ‘Well, sort of. About an hour ago, I caught a fish, and a hook went through his eye and hurt him really bad, so I’ve just been fishing without bait for the last hour, so it looks like I’m fishing.’ And he’s still that guy today.”
Now, Doug Sr. has returned to Wyman as the Director of Finance. Doug says the alignment between Wyman’s mission and his own visions for young people are the main reason he was drawn to the organization.
Over the last 15-20 years, Doug Sr. has often been in conversations with friends or family that led to the question, ‘What would you do if you won the lottery?’. Doug would share, “I do like boats, so I admit I would own a very large boat. But the most important thing I would do is start interviewing middle schoolers looking for young students with great potential. My wife and I have raised two children, and somewhere around 6th or 7th grade something important happens. Teens start to find their path. And in a lot of cases, social and economic situations can be barriers. I would want to be able to help these young people achieve their potential. What in the world would be more satisfying than that?”
In 2021 when Wyman was looking to fill his current position, Doug was recommended for the job. “Claire invited me to an interview with Wyman, and I didn’t clock it exactly, but it took me somewhere between two and four minutes to fall in love with Claire and the organization. The leadership team is amazing – everybody’s extremely kind.”
And well, “I didn’t win the lottery yet, but we’ve got a whole organization of people interviewing 8th graders. So I’ll just help do it that way.”
Norma Yerger’s first position at Wyman was as a counselor (at the time called ‘entertainers’) in 1923 and 1924, when organizations around St. Louis sent boys and girls ages 6-12 to the camp.
Counselors were recruited from local colleges and Norma remembers that like her, most of her colleagues were Washington University students. They were also all women. The counselors would meet the campers at the Central Railroad Station in downtown St. Louis and ride the train with them to Eureka. Each group of 200 children would stay for 2 weeks, and afterwards the counselors would ride back with them and pick up a new group of campers for sessions all throughout the summer.
In a letter sent to Wyman in 1984, Norma reminisced about the daily jobs for counselors, including taking campers on nature walks and watching them play baseball or on the playground equipment in the afternoons. Counselors ran crafts, put on plays, or led group singing. There were about 12 for each session, and they were assigned certain hours each day to lead activities or watch defined areas around camp. The counselors stayed in separate help quarters, a large cottage with 2 double beds in 3 large rooms.
“Most of us were Washington U. students. I loved the whole experience very much. In fact, as a result, I took up social work. I was going to do away with poverty!”
In 1928 and 1929 Norma returned to Wyman as Assistant Director to Mrs. Tillery. She recalls that as Assistant Director she had the fourth room in the help quarters all to herself as she was there for the entire summer. Her responsibilities were now to supervise the counselors, plan activities, take groups back and forth on the train, inspect cottages, and generally help the director keep camp running smoothly.
Through activities at Washington University, Norma met a young man named Melvin Dillon. It was through her that he first came to Wyman in 1930 becoming the third Boys’ Program Director at camp. Norma was also Mrs. Tillery’s Assistant when Edmonia Beal (later Eddie Dillon) first came to Wyman as a counselor. Eddie herself has said that Norma was a great influence in bringing her into social work, along with her other experiences out at camp.
As a result of her time at Wyman, Norma took up social work studies at Washington University. She received her bachelor’s degree from the institution in 1929.
Over the years Norma Yerger received many letters and invitations from campers, which she donated to the Wyman Archives in the 1980s along with her personal recollections of the camp. She kept photographs, newspaper clippings, jokes, skit lists and other records of her activities while at Wyman in hand-made photo booklets, some of which were also donated to the archives.
Mary Wickes was a camp counselor at Wyman in the 1920s, who many campers remember for the roles she played in the evening skits. She went on to become a famous acress, known for her extraordinary career on Broadway, in film and television.
Mary Wickes was born Mary Wickenhauser in St. Louis, MO, in 1910. Growing up, she attended many different area schools and graduated from the newly built Beaumont High School in 1926 at age 16. Mary then attended Washington University, studying both English literature and political science.
In 1927 she came to Wyman with several of her friends from Washington University as a counselor for the summer camp. Campers recalled her enjoyable performances in the staff plays, particularly her recurring role playing the giant in “Jack and the Giant Killer”.
Besides her acting roles at Camp Wyman, Mary also performed in St Louis community theater in all-women productions from 1927 to 1929. From 1929 to 1934 she performed in productions at the St. Louis Little Theatre.
Mary graduated from Washington University in 1930 with her Bachelor of Arts Degree. Though she had originally planned to pursue a career in law, a favorite professor encouraged her to give acting a go. She went on to have a successful stage, film, and TV career spanning 61 years.
Her first Broadway appearance was “The Farmer Takes a Wife” in 1934 with Henry Fonda. After years on Broadway, she started acting in Hollywood movies, including “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (1942), “White Christmas” (1954), “Dennis the Menace” (1959), and “The Music Man” (1962).
On December 19, 1949, in a one-hour live Studio One in Hollywood presentation on CBS, Mary Wickes originated the role of Mary Poppins.
Mary was also a common face on television in the 1950s and 1960s. She was good friends with Lucille Ball and guest starred in The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and I Love Lucy (including episode, “The Ballet”, playing Madame Lamond). She also earned an Emmy nomination for her work on The Gertrude Berg Show.
Mary continued acting into her 80s, with roles including “Sister Act” (1992), “Little Women” (1994), and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), which was released after her death in 1995 at the age of 85.
Mary was known for her killer comedic timing, excelling at both farce and dry wit. Her star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame was inducted in 2004.
To learn more about Mary and her St. Louis roots, visit UMSL’s digital exhibit “In Character: “The Life and Legacy of Mary Wickes” or visit the library in person to view the Mary Wickes’ papers.
Jason Rose started college planning to go to medical school, but quickly pivoted to outdoor education when he learned it was an option. “I realized that I could major in something I was really passionate about, and that was the wilderness, the outdoors, going to camp and working with youth.”
He made his way to Wyman in 2003 through a southern Illinois summer Trek experience, taking campers backpacking, camping and paddling. “We had teens going out camping for the very first time ever. We’d bring them into southern Illinois, which is jam packed full of bugs and giant spiders and coydogs” The kids just had a tarp and a sleeping pad for the night. “It was a pretty intense Trek, and a tough challenge. That was my whole summer. I’d go on a trip, come back, get a day off, and then the next day we were resetting for the next trip then gone again for a week. I cycled through that for the summer and loved every minute of it.”
Jason came back to Wyman the next year for an internship working as a team leader, helping to plan and execute the first Trek trips out west with third year Wyman Leaders. He then stayed on as a seasonal employee and spent the next summer leading the same Treks, doing activities like backpacking and white-water rafting.
“Everything that Wyman does is rooted in what started here at camp. It has influenced everything else, it’s part of all that Wyman is.”
Jason became a full-time staff member in 2005, working with year-round and summer camp programming. He is still heavily involved in planning and scouting the Leaders’ treks each year, and loves finding new and challenging experiences that bring out confidence in program participants.
During his job search, Jason looked at other camping programs in the area, but none of them could compare. “There are other camps in the area but none quite like Wyman that have the same opportunities or are doing this caliber of programming.”
Jason met his wife, fellow Wyman employee Jillian Rose when they were both working summer camps through the organization. The two have such a connection to the Eureka property that they got married there in 2008, and even lived on site together for several years.
Though Wyman has grown its reach over the years, Jason still sees camp as an integral part of the organization. “
Mary first came to Wyman as a summer camper in the 1920s, and returned in the 1980s for Senior Camps
Transcribed from Mary’s own account and memories, written in 1986
The first time I came out we came by train from Union Station. A horse and wagon with straw took us out to the farm – later a truck was used.
The swimming pool was on the side of the hill and the floor of the pool was covered with tin. The girls wore tank suits and the boys in their birthday suits. The girls dressed behind a wooden wall. The boys learned that they could watch by sitting on the hill and looking down as there was no roof.
The girls’ uniform were tiny dark blue and white checkered gingham dresses, and the underwear was made of the same material – a one piece suit with a drop seat. The boys wore overalls and blue denim shorts and no underwear. The laundry was done back of the old dining hall. The clothes were washed and thrown over a wire, never ironed. The clean clothes were given after the swim.
The dishes were made of white enamel with a blue border. The supper every night was boiled fried potatoes, biscuits, milk and Karo syrup. A large wooden frame suspended from the ceiling by ropes with newspaper cut in strips hanging from it was to chase the flies. This was used over the counselors’ table. Whoever had to pull the rope that moved the wooden frame was called a fly chaser. You got to wear a ribbon with a safety pin – a great honor!
The cottages had no electricity or water. The mattresses were made of straw.
Every night there was a program in the assembly hall and after the Lord’s Prayer everybody made a mad rush to their cabins. Since everyone went barefoot they had to wash their feet in the large galvanized tub before they could go to bed. The first cabin to get to bed was notified at breakfast (the nurse made the rounds to check the cottages). The winning cabin got the American flag over their door for the day – a big thing! One night the girls in our cabin didn’t wash their feet and so were the first in bed. We kept giggling about it so much that the nurse suspected something and found our dirty feet.
The last day at camp was held for races. Some factory would donate straw hats for the winners, next time the prizes would be beads. Whatever the prize, to win was a great honor. It was really a great thing to get to go to camp. We stayed 10 days.
The camp song was sung every day;
We’re at Eureka Farm
We’re happy all the day
‘Mid flowers and birds and trees and stream
We laugh and sing and play
We eat like bears and sleep like tops
Gee, but aint it all fine
Here’s to the Farm we love so well
In the good old summer time.
Anisa Reynolds is pretty sure she has been a part of Wyman her whole life. “I think my mother was pregnant with me while she was working at Wyman. So I’ve known about Wyman forever.” She remembers going into the downtown office with her mom, and spending summers with campers. “My brother was also part of the program when he was younger, so I would sit next to him and do activities.”
When she was in middle school, Anisa was nominated for the Wyman Leaders program and successfully made it through the interview process. She has a lot of impactful memories from Wyman Leaders, including Treks to Illinois and Tennessee, and her journey to conquer the high challenge course at camp. “I’m afraid of heights, and I probably stood up there for a good thirty to forty-five minutes, stuck in the one spot because I was so scared. All the other teens came up and jumped, and I’m still stuck up there on the platform.
I tried again the next year. I finally made up my mind like, oh I have to do this, I can’t give up. I’m going to do this today. I think experiences like that are why today, no matter how small or big the task or goal is, I refuse to give up; I refuse to quit. I am going to accomplish everything I set my mind to.”
“Wyman introduced me to so many things. It changed me as a person in a good way; it brought out who I was. When I joined Leaders I was extremely shy. Wyman pushed me out of my comfort zone, and because of that I’m not afraid to experience anything.”
She’s also grateful for the persistence support she had from her coaches during undergrad. “My coaches were the main three people who helped me through undergrad. It was hard, but they came through for me and helped me out so much.
I don’t even think they realize how much they helped me or were there for me. I was always texting my coaches asking, can I do this, can I use you for that, I need some resources, I need something. And whatever I needed, they provided.”
After graduating from Wyman Leaders Anisa didn’t think she’d come back to the organization. “I came up in Wyman, knew Wyman my whole life, but I never thought about working for Wyman,” she says. But during her time at the University of Central Missouri, Anisa ended up doing an internship at Wyman and a year later she applied for a full-time position. “And here I am today. I love the position. I love working with Wyman. I can tell the people that Wyman hires are passionate about their jobs, and love helping the next person out.”
“Wyman introduced me to so many things. It changed me as a person in a good way; it brought out who I was. When I joined Leaders I was extremely shy. Wyman pushed me out of my comfort zone, and because of that I’m not afraid to experience anything.
I could go on and on and on about Wyman. I am grateful for my experience; I am grateful for where I am today and who I am today.”
“We would rush to our cabin and was our feet, then go to bed. We tried to be the quietest cabin and earn a flag to fly the next day. Sometimes we just put dirt in the water instead of washing our feet.”
A Letter to Wyman from Helen M. Meyer, written in the 1990s:
The first time I went to Eureka Farm (it was called in those years) was back in the early 1920s. My brother, sister and myself went together and was part of a group from Boyle Center. Our parents came to visit on Sunday and had my nephew, about 4 years of age, with them. I was swinging and he ran in front of the swing and acquired a nice big lump on his forehead. Naturally, he cried, and so did I. I wasn’t satisfied until I went home with my parents. Mrs. Tillery, the director, told me if I went home I could never come back. I didn’t care. I went home. In 1927 I went back for 3 years in a row. I guess my name was not on the black list.
Some of my memories follow:
The train ride to Eureka and then by truck from town to the Farm.
Hikes to the cave.
Two pieces of stick candy after supper and you made it last as long as possible.
Skits performed by camp counsellors.
The very, very cold water in the pool.
The staff member called “Miss Sugar” who seemed to be chief staff member.
The clothes passed out, dress and some type of undergarment for girls, overalls and a shirt for boys. You got clean clothes twice a week.
The creek where we waded and looked for petrified rocks.
Cows in the meadow above the creek, licking a block of salt.
The boys going on a hike and killing a snake and at lunch saying the spaghetti we had looked like the insides of the snake. Quite a few kids left the table.
After the performance and the night prayer rushing to our cabin and washing our feet then going to bed, getting real quiet, trying to be quietest cabin and earning a flag to fly the next day. Sometimes we just put dirt in the water instead of washing our feet.
Boys in the sandpile putting sand in their trouser legs and not being able to stand up. That was a sight.
Those were the days, and I can still laugh about them.
P.S. In 1950 I would up teaching Physical Education and Driver Education at the old Eureka High School. On days when we could not use the gym nor be outside because of mud on the field, we would walk (gym classes) down the road to the entrance of Camp Wyman. That was a good workout for the kids and the teacher.
Allison William’s Wyman journey began when she was in St. Louis University’s undergraduate social work program. “I was looking for employment with young people for the coming summer. One of my friends, a woman named Julie (Tellez) Cleveland, had worked at Wyman in 1992 and suggested I try it.” She ended up spending that summer at Wyman, working with teens in the Morning Star program. “I had never started a fire before, never set up a tent. And this was all an adventure-based program. I had to learn how to canoe, how to cave, and how to run a high challenge course. And use these activities to create amazing camp experiences for young people. But it was wonderful. It really clarified for me the amazing growth that can happen when you set up the right kinds of supports and opportunities for young people.”
After that first summer, Allison returned to Wyman as Assistant Director of Summer Camps. But not long after she moved to Boston to get her graduate degree in social work. She remained there for several years, working in children’s residential treatment. “The experience solidified that I wanted to do proactive work – getting into the side of the work where we are pouring into young people to build their skills and help them create the opportunities for themselves. So, I called Claire up to see what possibilities were at Wyman, and made the decision to come back in 1999.”
“My first summer with Wyman was wonderful. It really clarified for me the amazing things that happen when you set up the right kinds of supports and opportunities for young people.”
Since returning to Wyman, Allison has held many more positions in program development and implementation. “I laugh that I’ve probably had probably 13 different roles since then. I’ve been fortunate that with Wyman, there was always the next challenge, the next opportunity.” She helped direct Wyman’s first foray into program evaluation, and documenting outcome and impact. She then went on to support the Community Connections team in the Near South Side of St. Louis City, and was part of the team that developed what is now Wyman Leaders.
And in 2009, Allison was a part of launching Wyman’s National Network. “We knew that Wyman could only impact so many youth in our direct service programs. But we were great trainers and had this wonderful evidence-based program in the Teen Outreach Program. We wanted to use that to support other organizations who were doing similar work with young people, and expand our impact by scaling the program through partnerships.”
Today, Allison is fortunate to focus on Wyman’s national partnerships, support research, learning, and innovation efforts, and strategize ways to center camp experiences. Allison’s early experiences at Camp Wyman continue to hold a special place in her heart – and it’s where she met her husband, Kevin, working as camp counselors together.
“I had never experienced another place as impactful and special. A place where I know so many people have life changing experiences. It is the place where the sense of belonging and community and connection and caring and relationships that carry across all Wyman programs started.”
“I knew where the Elberta peach trees were… Mr. Tillery caught us. He said, ‘I see you found my peaches. Take them to Mr. Gray and we’ll have peach pie for supper.'”
My name is Ralph Ward, I was a camper here in 1925, late June and early July for ten days. I went to camp here in 1926 for the same amount of time. In 1927 my mother had a job as a cook in the kitchen and we stayed all summer. And in 1928 we stayed all summer.
We were brought out here by train to Eureka, put on a straight bodied truck and brought out, and assembled in the Assembly Hall. The Assembly Hall was a large building with a porch on three sides and the side that didn’t have a porch on it was the walkway for the cottages. The tent faced the Assembly Hall, to the left was the boys’ cottages, there were ten of them, they had space for ten campers and a mother. And on the right-hand side they had ten cabins, and they had space for ten girls and their mothers. We assembled there in the morning and then marched over to the dining hall to eat. We ate at big, long tables, and we either had oatmeal or corn flakes for breakfast. And if you wanted something more, they always gave you some bread with some syrup.
In the afternoons we always had two sessions in the swimming pool. Then we gathered at the Assembly hall in the evening and they would have some announcements and then they would have a kind of a show. In 1927 when we were here we had a very large girl counselor by the name of Mary Wickenhauser. And since we were here for all summer, every time they had a new set of campers they did Jack and the Giant killer again, and Mary would always play the part of the giant. And she turned out to be the Mary Wickes of the movies and of the TV. So that was one of the people that was a counselor that went on to be somebody else.
The years that we were here for all year they would have two and a half days, and Mr. Tillery would always gather us up, and it was only about eight or nine of us that were staying the whole summer, and he would show us around the barn. And they had ducks and they had chickens and he made sure we understood how corn grew and tomatoes grew and the potatoes grew and the carrots. Foods that city people with brick sidewalks didn’t understand or didn’t know.
I knew where the old Elberta peach trees were, right up behind the swimming pool, this was across the road and up the hill, and I took the girls up. And the girls those days, they got a gingham dress and gingham bloomers, with frills on the bottom. So in 1928, things were not the way they are now, and we went up there, the girls held out their dresses and we filled them with great big Elberta peaches and of course Mr. Tillery caught us right behind the swimming pool on the way back and he said, I see you found my peaches. He said, take them to Mr. Gray and we’ll have peach pie for supper.
Most of Claire Wyneken’s childhood years were spent involved in Girl Scouts and the Fort Wayne Youth Theater. “These were my two great youth development experiences, and some of my best role-models for working with people and for leadership.” These positive experiences led Claire to work at summer camps every summer from age 18 through college, and plan to study theater and communications. Her early college years were spent at Wittenberg University and finished at Purdue, shifting her studies to environmental geography and outdoor recreation management.
In 1987 Claire arrived at Wyman in Eureka for a 3-month stint teaching the spring, school-based Outdoor Education Program. After that, she was asked to stay and help run the summer program. “That was my introduction to Wyman’s mission. I just completely fell in love with everything about it, with the youth, the staff, and the mission.” Claire was then offered a position for that fall, running the Outdoor Education program. “And that was that. I’ve been here ever since.”
Claire has been involved in, and at the forefront of many programs at Wyman throughout the years, including the Sunship Earth Program, a camp for Senior Citizens, and the initial design for what is now Wyman Leaders. She has been a camp director, program designer, trainer, program director and partnership leader with area schools and agencies.
“You have to bring new thinking and fresh, different perspectives if you’re going to make this community what it really can be. And that’s a community where everybody has what they need, is able to contribute through their strengths and everybody has an equitable chance to win.”
Claire designed the Camp Caravan Program, which brought formative camp experiences out of Eureka and directly to many students in the region. “We developed a whole program that included environmental science, social emotional learning activities, conflict management, and team building. We outfitted a box truck and created a mobile camp. We went around to schools and neighborhoods and set up camp, running all kinds of programs throughout the region for years.”
One of Claire’s largest contributions to the organization was recognizing the importance of, and securing, the Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) curriculum. Claire worked as a facilitator and trainer for TOP around the country, and when the curriculum came up for sale, Claire knew Wyman needed to acquire it. What struck Claire about TOP from the beginning was the way she saw young people engage with it. “It was so centered on them, on things that matter to young people. Not things that adults want to matter to young people, but what teens yearn to talk about and work out. There was a lot of attention on creating a strong bond in each group, which was very aligned with how we lead and influence the environment. The other thing I saw is that every staff member that we trained in TOP at Wyman grew in their professional practice. They went from a teaching mode to being great facilitators getting at what youth development truly is. Which is centering on the young person and their developmental needs and helping them to identify and leverage their strengths.”
Claire has had many moments in her journey where she could have chosen a different path, but she always chose to stay with the organization and the St. Louis region. She saw a bigger, more impactful future for Wyman and was an immense part of bringing those changes into the organization. “You have to bring new thinking and fresh, different perspectives if you’re going to make this community what it really can be. And that’s a community where everybody has what they need, is able to contribute through their strengths and everybody has an equitable chance to win.”
“I am hoping that my impact is to build meaningful relationships with teens who know that I’m here to support them in any capacity they need. That they know I truly am a champion for their success, whatever that may look like.”
Brandi Higgins has been involved with Wyman since 2008, participating in Wyman Leaders and spending three summers as a camp counselor before becoming a full-time staff member for two years on the Wyman Leaders team.
She remembers her time at camp being full of new experiences, challenges, and growth. “Everything wasn’t sunshine and daisies. You think about those hard moments, those moments of conflict with other teens or challenging moments when you are met with conflict. But if I could do it all over again I would. I’m grateful for those opportunities and experiences because they impacted the person that I am today.
You think about those experiences and how intentional they were when creating programming. You don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to throwing you in this canoe with another kid, but you were in there to practice critical thinking and effective communication.”
In 2019, Brandi graduated from Missouri State University (MSU) with a degree in Child and Family Development and an emphasis on youth development. She is currently about to finish an MED in higher education at the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL). Brandi credits her experiences with Wyman for the path her career has taken. “My journey was unique and it came with its own sets of challenges. I went to college as a cellular and molecular biology major, but it wasn’t for me. Looking back, the supportive relationship that I had with my Wyman coach really helped me understand what I wanted. I like impacting my community and I always knew I wanted to work with people. I knew this is what I wanted to do; I wanted to continue working with youth.”
She knows how important it can be for teens to have a support system outside of their homes to help them navigate adolescence. “Having a trusting, supportive relationship with my coach – someone who helped me discover who I am and who understood what it was like to be a first-generation college student – was incredible. Through my work, I hope that I am able to impact just one student; to be able to build even just one meaningful relationship with a teen who knows that I’m here to support them in any capacity that they need, and knows I truly am a champion for their success in whatever that may look like. Because I know how important and transformational that can be.”
“To me, Wyman is magical. Maybe because I’ve spent so much of my life here, but to be able to come back and see teens have the same experiences I had is such an amazing feeling.”
Frank Wyman was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 25, 1850. A prominent businessman in the area, he held such distinctions as the President of both Silverine Co. of St. Louis, and Scott Drill Co. In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt appointed him as Postmaster of the City of St. Louis, a post which he would hold until 1909.
In 1901, Frank Wyman was elected as the third President of the Wyman Board of Directors. He is remembered as one of the earliest supporters and champions of the organization because of his impressive fundraising efforts. He secured countless donations which played a large part in keeping the original farm operative.
Frank Wyman appealed to potential donors through form letters which depicted the success of the camp, the great value the experience held for the children, and the significant benefits that donations would produce. Wyman was also careful to stay in touch with past supporters to insure their continued support. Another method he employed to raise money for the camp was newspaper advertising. Such advertising included information about the camp, photos of camp life, and testimonials from the children. Readers were encouraged to donate just ten dollars which would allow one child to attend camp.
Third president of Wyman and one of the earliest supporters and fundraising champions of the organization.
Frank Wyman was very active in the project of purchasing the camp’s rented farm acreage from Dr. Monroe. In 1910, Wyman solicited a local land baron, Peyton Carr, to help raise funds to buy the land. Carr agreed to pay half of the cost if Wyman raised the rest. Wyman quickly raised his share and the 80-acre farm was purchased that same year for $3,500.
Many visitors probably remember the original row cabins that housed campers up until the 1990s. In 1915, Wyman undertook a campaign to build permanent structures at the camp, including the original sixteen cottages. Several buildings from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis were also purchased and moved to the property.
In the absence of a regular system of support, the presence of Frank Wyman was vital. The effect of his constant and extensive fund-raising efforts was to assure a steady flow of operating funds. Had he not been interested, the camp might very well have been forced to close.
Over the years he gave much time and effort to the farm and encouraged many other people to do the same. He often visited and enjoyed spending time with the campers. In 1922 the name of the camp was changed to The Frank Wyman Outing Farm in tribute to the man who took such an active part in raising money for the property and the young people it served.