Meet Our Day Camp Team: Rhonda Hoekenga
Rhonda Hoekenga, Youth Development Director at the Hastings Lake YMCA, is originally from Michigan (any good Michigander will use their hand to show exactly where they’re from). Hoekenga moved to Illinois 22 years ago, where she started as a fitness instructor then moved to Fitness Director before becoming Camp Director. She has worked for the Hastings Lake YMCA for 18 years and has been the Camp Director for eight years. There’s nothing she believes in more than the power of Day Camp at the Y!
Q: What is your favorite part of working at the YMCA?
A: Summer camp! I love fitness, but [Day Camp at the Y] is my happy place. I truly love working with kids at camp and working directly with staff and kids.
Q: What do you like most about the work that the Y does?
A: I believe [Day Camp] allows kids to meet people from other schools, and it also takes away social barriers. Sometimes kids get into cliques in school, but in our camp setting, those barriers are removed because they are with people they may not have “hung out” with in school. This gives them an opportunity to be whoever they want to be in our camp space.
Q: What is your favorite part about Day Camp at the Y?
A: Camp songs, skits, games, field trips, and sometimes just hanging out during the before care hours and getting to know the campers. This brings out great conversations!
Q: What is your favorite memory from Day Camp at the Y?
A: A favorite memory is [watching] a group of teen campers, who were previously the most rowdy troublemakers, become the kindest and most caring group. We had a child with severe autism with a very traumatic background of bullying. Watching the male teen campers take him under their wing and the pride they showed when I thanked them was enough to make me cry. By the end of the summer the teen with autism, who was pretty much nonverbal, was able to express joy through words and interacted with the teens without fear. One of the best moments ever.
Q: What are you most proud of in your career so far?
A: I am always proud of the staff I get to work with. In my eight years, I have had a strong run of returning staff, some were around for four to five years. I am always impressed with how the counselors I have worked with interact with children and how responsible they are, taking on the responsibility of developing young minds.
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be (and why)?
A: I try to make my superpower tolerance and kindness. I feel like these are abilities not often used with kids and daily life. Not flashy but very important.
Q: What’s the last song you listened to?
A: “Daydreaming” by Harry Styles.
Q: What’s one thing on your bucket list?
A: Visit Abbey Road and take the cliché picture.
The YMCA of Metro Chicago believes in the power of play. We play for fun and for progress. Day Camp at the Y empowers Chicagoland youth to do mighty things — making friends, developing new skills, creating life-shaping experiences, and so much more!
Our experienced and talented counselors and staff are committed to making sure your camper experiences a full day of play, exploration, learning, and personal growth. Here at the Y, we want to show off our Day Camp team’s amazing talents and contributions to our community — and find even more talented, community-oriented individuals who want to work at the YMCA!