Carlberg is new Camp Pepin directorThomas Carlberg went to work for YMCA Camp Miller during the summer in between his first two years of college and the experience was life changing: It produced his life’s work.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Thomas Carlberg went to work for YMCA Camp Miller during the summer in between his first two years of college and the experience was life changing: It produced his life’s work.
“My first real camp experience was that summer,” Carlberg said. “That sparked the pilot light there.”
Carlberg, now 45, was hired recently to take over as director of YMCA Camp Pepin, a position with a rich history and beautiful landscape.
“Being an overnight camp director was always a goal or a dream at the Y,” Carlberg said. “I always wanted to look at that right situation where I could balance professional life and personal life.”
Camp Pepin at Stockholm, Wis., was established in 1935 when Joe Saul, the director of the Red Wing YMCA, led a group to camp on the banks of Lake Pepin. After a large donation, the campsite was further developed and over time became the camp it is today.
“It’s a beautiful setting,” Carlberg said. “It’s got a great, rich history … it’s an honor to say I get to be a part of all this.”
Carlberg’s father worked for the YMCA for a number of years while he was growing up. That and his upbringing led him to Camp Miller, he said.
“We were always in day camps through the family business,” Carlberg said. “It had a lot of history steeped in YMCA values.”
Before coming to Camp Pepin, Carlberg spent many years running day camps around Minnesota and he said he talked with his wife, Kimberly, who works in Edina, to decide if it was the right time to transition into an overnight camp position.
“This was an opportunity we both thought we should go for,” Carlberg said. “It was time to make a move.”
Born in Duluth, Carlberg moved with his family to Texas when he was 6 months old. His parents own nine day care centers in the Dallas area and he stayed in Texas for 25 years, going to Texas Lutheran University in Seguin near San Antonio. Right after school, he moved to Minnesota and, in the summer of 1991, he worked part time at the Southdale YMCA in Edina. He moved to a full-time position a year later.
Carlberg later became the child care site director at Southdale and moved into a youth program director position.
He also led the Minnesota Valley Camp’s youth development program for seven years while at Southdale and transitioned into the community program director.
Recently, Carlberg set up the first “Winter Camp Pepin,” his first official event as camp director. About two dozen kids attended, taking part in hiking, target practice and other outdoor activities despite the lack of snow.
“We want to keep kids connected,” Carlberg said. “It’s good to get them out here to show what’s happening.”
Camp Pepin Senior Counselor Layla Moosavi said YMCA camps like Camp Pepin are an outlet to promote self-esteem and allow kids to thrive outside a school environment.
“It creates friendships sometimes for kids who struggle,” Moosavi said.
Carlberg said he hopes more events will create more opportunities for growth for campers.
“It gives kids who may be coming back for the third or fourth time … a sense of ownership,” he said.
The landscape is a major draw for attenders to Camp Pepin, but Carlberg said he appreciates that YMCA provides much more as campers grow in a safe environment.
“A lot of people, they think, ‘Camp, all you do is swim and go canoeing all day,’” Carlberg said. “But when you bring a kid out to camp and see them come out of their shell reminiscing around a camp fire, the lifelong skills. You bring that out in a very safe setting that YMCA camps provide. And you get to do it on beautiful Lake Pepin and you can’t beat that.”
Camp Pepin is open year-round and camp counselors are still needed, Carlberg said. More information can be found on the Camp Pepin Facebook page as well as www.camppepin.org.