It’s been nearly 100 years since Camp Winona began. If the camp could talk
it would most likely tell stories of kids in canoes, sleeping under the
stars, catching bugs, learning about nature and it would probably recall
every laugh from every happy child.
In 1919, then General Director of the Daytona Beach YMCA, L.R. Reynolds,
found a pristine spot on the edge of Lake Winona in DeLeon Springs and
pitched tents there with several boys from the Y. Reynolds liked it so well
that in 1920 the YMCA obtained 40 acres on Lake Winona and Camp Winona was
born. The new camp would be used by the county’s three Y locations, New
Smyrna Beach, Daytona Beach and DeLand. Old camp photos show boys in bathing
suits jumping into the lake off docks built by local civics clubs.
Ten years later electricity was added to the camp. In the 1930s, as stories
go, campers liked scary tales around the campfire. Tales included the legend
of Chief Oskeewahwah whose tribe once lived on the shore there. It seems the
old chief’s spirit would come light a campfire if the campers called to him.
Sometime in the 1960s, girls were welcomed and fun in the sun ensued co-ed.
Jump ahead to 2016 and Camp Director Blaine Wheeler is looking forward to his second full
summer there. Wheeler, a camper since he was a child, knows how to create a
great camp experience.
“I wanted to be at camp. It’s in my blood. To be part of that 100-year
anniversary is what I’m looking forward to,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler has been researching the camp’s history to find “some traditions
from years ago we can bring back now.”
Things may change over the years, but today’s campers continue to get an
old-fashioned experience at Camp Winona; they live in cabins, swim in the
lake, eat in the dining hall and make new friends.
“We are striving to make a difference in kids’ lives, to teach them and give
them positive role models and positive examples. We all take a little bit of
this camp magic with us. They’re going to go home with worth, values. We
want to help them reach their God-given potential. We’re here to help with
memories that last a lifetime.”