When Assistant Scoutmaster Andy Leuschen arrived at Camp Mitigwa, tears welled in his eyes.

Just a few weeks prior, Troop 188 of Ankeny, Iowa, had camped at one of the camp’s sites. This was where the Scouts agreed 2020 proved to be the best year of summer camp they had ever experienced, thanks to the camp staff’s efforts. It’s where he went to camp as a boy, and played the bugle during a flag ceremony — something his son Tatem, a First Class Scout, recently did, too.

But in August, a devastating wind storm, called a derecho, swept over the state, producing straight-line wind gusts of 140 mph — and Camp Mitigwa sat directly within the storm’s intense path.

“The camp we loved — here it is, destroyed,” Leuschen says.

More than 350 tall trees fell within the 420-acre camp just north of Des Moines, Iowa, and nearly every one of the 70 structures on site sustained damage. Scouters quickly jumped into action to clean and restore the camp — an effort that continues and is in need of help.

Picking up the pieces

When the derecho blew through, summer camp had just ended — camp staff was on site only days before it hit.

“If this had happened a week or two earlier, we would’ve had different results,” says Seth Elgin, Troop 188 Scoutmaster.

In addition to the downed trees, the climbing tower’s main support was damaged; shingles were ripped off the dining hall, allowing rainwater inside; buildings’ doors were flung open so violently that they broke, and the camp’s museum was hit by a tree.

Hundreds of local Scouters, including some from Troop 188, volunteered to help in the aftermath. Leuschen works for a construction equipment company, which offered a skid loader for the clean-up.

“I feel like God put me in a position where I can help,” Leuschen says. “I’m doing something for a place I love.”

Scouters have completed two massive workdays so far. The parking lot was filled with brush afterwards. Logs were sawed and shipped to a lumber yard. Repairs will likely continue until next spring as Mitigwa is cleaned up for next year’s summer camp.

“Our troop had been up there every year; this was the 98th year of camp,” Elgin says. “I went there as a kid. It’s important to us.”

How to help

In addition to organizing the workdays, the Mid-Iowa Council has been raising money for the camp’s recovery, setting up certain giving levels in the “Mitigwa Strong” campaign. Donors can receive a patch for their donation.

“It’s been an outpouring of support,” says Elgin, who also serves on the council’s board. “It’s made us feel extremely blessed. Mitigwa is a great council camp.”

Money is still needed not only for the restoration, but also for multiple storm shelters for the camp. Camp Mitigwa has a safety plan for bad weather, but council and camp leadership wants safe places that can sustain violent storms. Some tornado-resistant shelters have been funded, but the camp wants more to ensure every camper is safe.

“Mitigwa is a special place to me and I am sure there are thousands of other amazing memories of this place,” Leuschen says. “Mitigwa will be back next summer and be stronger than ever.”

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