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As the campers, many of whom had never canoed before, got used to their paddles and tipsy boats, Percival, 18, grew into his leadership role at Pretty Lake Vacation Camp. He shouted a few words of encouragement to his campers, adrift on the lake, before climbing into a kayak to join them.
“Now I feel like I have all these eyes on me,” he said. “I’m in the counselor shoes now.”
“I really wanted to be a part of that,” Percival said of Pretty Lake. “I want to help kids have fun and be safe for the summer. . And it makes a difference in their lives.”
It’s made a difference in his.
The nonprofit camp, on more than 200 acres surrounding Pretty Lake in Kalamazoo County’s Texas Township, hosts hundreds of in need and underserved children from the Kalamazoo area each summer for free. The camp provides everything for the campers, from shorts and shirts to toothbrushes.
Percival’s mother, Piper Spaedt,
said that without Pretty Lake, her son would have never had a camp experience. The camp, she said, helped Percival grow.
“He’s just turned into a great person, and he seems to be great with the kids,” Spaedt said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him. He just seems to really enjoy it.”
The lanky Bloomingdale High School graduate, clad in flip flops, jeans, a long sleeve T shirt and a baseball cap with a pronounced bend in the bill, still looks like a kid in some respects. But Percival said he has come a long way from his first summer at Pretty Lake.
“I was really a quiet kid,” he said. “Coming to camp made me open up a lot.”
Jay Kartje, the camp’s assistant summer director, said he knew Percival had the mettle to be a camp counselor. Kartje was Percival’s counselor in 2004 and remembered a canoe trip when Percival and his canoe partner took to the front of a flotilla and guided the rest of the campers down the river. Kartje said Percival just seemed to be a leader.
Percival is still learning. Many of the counselors and staff at the camp are college students. Percival, who plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College in the fall,
said he has picked up a few college tips during the summer.