Boy Scout camp run by Lake County group ravaged by storm
Donations are pouring in to fund repairs of storm-ravaged campgrounds run by a Lake County-based Boy Scout group.
The Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Scout Reservation in northern Wisconsin was badly damaged by a July 19 thunderstorm's torrential rain and strong winds. Remarkably, only one person -- a Scout from the Northbrook area -- was injured, suffering a broken leg or ankle, a Boy Scout representative said.
The Vernon Hills-based Northeast Illinois Council of Boy Scouts of America, which owns the site, has received nearly $81,000 in online donations to help rebuild the campgrounds.
But the property damage was so severe, camps planned for the rest of the summer have been canceled.
"We have significant infrastructure damage to roads, electric and water," said Nick Roberts, Scout executive and CEO of the council.
Repairs could cost more than $1 million, Roberts said.
"Our facilities and property was developed over the past century," said Roberts, whose group serves Lake and northern Cook counties. "To replace all that was lost will require a tremendous amount of capital resources."
Open since 1929, the 1,500-acre Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Scout Reservation consists of campsites on the east and west sides of Spring Lake, near Pearson, Wisconsin.
Camps run each summer, typically for a week at a time.
More than 350 people were at Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan when the storm hit about 8:30 p.m., Roberts said. They included Scouts from 17 Chicago-area troops.
Employees had been monitoring the weather and moved people indoors to two dining halls for safety. The storm produced winds exceeding 80 mph, Roberts said.
Michael Harding, a member of Lake Zurich-based Troop No. 309, experienced the storm from the west camp's dining hall. The 12-year-old Wauconda resident said the wind was so strong, some windows blew open.
Camp employees tried to keep the kids calm by having them play card games, Michael said. But he wasn't scared.
"I've been through a lot of storms at home," he said.
Chicago-based Boy Scout Troop No. 626 took refuge in a dining hall in the east camp. The storm lasted 20 or 30 minutes, troop leader Paul Johnson said.
Despite its relative brevity, the storm's strength was evident the next morning. Many trees in the heavily wooded area snapped, were uprooted or were stripped of bark.
"There are so many huge stands of trees that are just gone," Johnson said.
Buildings and other structures were damaged by fallen trees and debris, as were cars parked at the sites.
Roads on the east side were blocked, too, which required the assistance of a local logging company. Boys' tents, sleeping bags and other belongings were drenched.
The camp lost electrical power and phone service, Roberts said, and the water supply was limited.
Fortunately, the casualty count was low.
"It is a divine miracle that, with a storm of this magnitude and the widespread damage, only one injury occurred," Roberts said. "Our camp staff and volunteer leaders saved many lives that night."
Roberts is confident the campgrounds will be rebuilt. He's thankful for the generous donors who stepped forward after news of the disaster spread.
"Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan has been the summer home to thousands of our members for nine decades," he said. "There is a strong emotional connection as a child, parent and grandparent to this camp. There is a desire to see it rebuilt for future generations to make their own memories."
Donations can be made online at makajawan.com or sent to: Northeast Illinois Council, 850 Forest Edge Drive, Vernon Hills, IL, 60061. Envelopes should be marked "Attn: Rebuilding Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan."