Friday, July 17, 1981
Christians camp out
By Renee Trappe
North of St. Charles, way off the beaten track, is a camp that houses all sorts of God's creatures. Begun in 1977 by the Rev. Tony Danhelka, Riverwoods Christian Camp is a little-known retreat for children and adults, off of Route 25 about 3.5 miles north of Route 64.
Sixty-five of its 88 acres are owned by Wayside Mission of Aurora, the rest by Midwest Christian Camp Meeting Association. Much of the land is wooded and fronts on the Fox River.
"We're here to better understand the Lord, and witness everything that's been given to us," said Wanda Krolikowski, a trained missionary and public relations director for Riverwoods.
Witnesses range from children of affluent families to those who otherwise wouldn't get out of their neighborhoods much.
Children in trouble who have been told by judges to make some kind of community restitution; adult men with histories of drug or alcohol abuse, referred to Riverwoods from Wayside Mission; they all come to Riverwoods to get closer to God. Some come indefinitely; others for only a week.
Riverwoods looks like a basic Scout or YMCA camp, except for the chapel and the revival meeting tent.
The wooden dormitories, with names like Oak Hall, are small and neat. The grounds are well-kept except when it rains and things get muddy.
Including Rev. Tony, as he is known, Riverwoods has 11 year-round staff people. Forty 18- and 19year-olds have moved in for the summer to act as camp counselors.
Also helping out are volunteers, who help run programs and do clerical work.
"There's a strong dedication here," said Wanda.
Much of the camp's maintenance is done by the small number of adult men who are recovering alcoholics or drug abusers.
"We don't want to just shelter these men, so they all have responsibilities," Wanda explained. "Theydon't come here unless they've been at Wayside for at least three years. One man just started a job as a tool sharpener."
Krolikowski acknowledged that having such men present at camp might persuade some parents to keep their children away.
"Yes, it may be detrimental to us, but we won't hide it," she said bluntly. "There's never been any trouble. These men are a wonderful help to us."
Riverwoods is open for retreats all year long, explained Karen Janssens, who doubles as retreat director and camp nurse. Area organizations can use camp facilities during the week with very little interference from Riverwoods staff. However, Riverwoods asks that the themes of weekend retreats be spiritual.
Riverwoods operates its own programs from June through August, for small children to high schoolers.
All but the smallest children attend resident camp, where they stay for a week. The youngest ones come only during the day.
"We have arts and crafts, canoeing, Bible study, game time, swims, pony rides and concerts," Krolkowski said.
And hard work. Most of the construction at Riverwoods is done by teen-age and adult work gangs who arrive for a weekend's "work trek." Area church youth groups volunteer their time to the camp.
"We all believe the Lord will supply our resources," Wanda said.
Financial donations come to Riverwoods from all over the country.
But the money collected does not go to pay staff. Staff members support themselves, by soliciting financial backing from families, friends and churches. So do the young summer counselors.
"Our biggest problem is that no one here knows about us, especially in St. Charles," Wanda said. "And we're in St. Charles' back yard."
Children who visit Riverwoods Christian Center have free time for games, sports and crafts. Here, Brian Peliwo, right, and Mark Behning, both of Carpentersville, play a little one-on-one basketball. (Chronicle photo by Renee Trappe)