News & Events

Garage Sale

posted on Thu, Feb 27 2020 1:06 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

Join us in celebrating the Garage Sale's 50th Anniversary!

Our sale needs donated items, shoppers, and volunteers. Be a part of the team of families and friends that make this Garage Sale successful. All proceeds fund the Camper Scholarship Endowment.


Search your attic and basement for treasurers to donate. Donation Guidelines

Donations accepted: Schedule a Pick-up

  • Saturday, September 19 | noon - 7:30pm
  • Sunday - Tuesday, September 2-22 | 9:00am - 7:30pm

Financial donations may be made directly to the Widji & du Nord Endowment Fund.


Whether you want to sit, stand or walk we have just the job for you. Teens earn valuable service hours and families can work together.

Saturday-Saturday, September 19-26
Week at a Glance



Shop for treasures! Huge assortment of books, patio furniture, sporting goods, and more.

Thursday - Saturday | September 24-26

  • Thursday-Friday, 9am - 7:30pm
  • Saturday BAG and Cart Sale, 8am - 4pm

Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Merchandise Mart Building
1640 Dan Patch Ave
Falcon Heights, MN 55108

Questions? Call:651-645-6605

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Recognizing and responding to mental health in outdoor experiences

posted on Wed, Dec 11 2019 1:47 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

Widji is part of a greater Outdoor Adventure community. One topic that has gotten a lot of needed attention over the past few years in this industry is managing and responding to mental health concerns in the field. Widji is just one of many programs who have seen an increase in participants coming to our program struggling with their mental health. To address this, Widji has adapted in many ways in order to effectively support our campers. Our administrative team are all trained in Mental Health First Aid, our seasonal staff receive basic training focused on assessing if someone is in crisis and in need of advanced care, and we work with multiple mental health professionals in order to determine how to best support each individual camper.

We also recognize there is a limit to the level of mental health support that we can provide. Similar to wilderness medicine where we do not practice beyond our scope, we do not want to set unrealistic expectations that put campers and staff at any greater risk. While trail has the potential to be a place of healing, it can also be an isolating experience and one of great struggle for someone coming without the proper support plan and network in place. We are working to be more transparent in what physical, emotional, and mental proficiencies are necessary for a successful trip at Widji. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the overall wellbeing of our campers. We will always be learning new and better ways to do this and have been challenged by this journey but also have grown a lot as an organization and as people.

If you know a camper who wants to come to Camp but is struggling with their mental health, we ask that you to reach out to us before coming to Widji this summer. We want to work as a team with campers and families to ensure that we’re providing an experience that will be successful for that individual.

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Successful Fall Season for Widji’s Outdoor Learning Program

posted on Wed, Dec 11 2019 1:46 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

Widji wrapped up a fun and successful fall Outdoor Learning Program season on November 8th.  Overall, approximately 545 participants came to Camp and learned, explored, paddled, hiked and bonded with their classmates and groups in just over 2 months!  Some of the comments from students, teachers and chaperones include:

“Parents are telling me stories about the impact Widji had on their kids this fall. Kids have become more independent and confident, are spending more time outside, and even guiding family adventures outside. It's so great! Thanks for facilitating this in these young lives.”

“I had a great time because it was an adventure every second.”

“I had a great instructor.  He pushed us to try new things and let us explore.  I loved getting over my fears and finding new ones.  I felt like I could find my own limits.”

“I really appreciated the instructors’ patience and positive attitudes no matter what came their way.”

“I usually don’t enjoy my time at camps but I had an amazing time.  The hikes were great and I had so much fun with the instructors and my friends. I can’t wait to come back!”

We’re looking forward to kicking off the winter season in early January and have a busy schedule of schools and weekend groups ahead of us!

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Widjiwagan celebrates 90 years!

posted on Wed, Dec 11 2019 1:44 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

On Friday, July 12th of this past summer Widji alumni from across the country made their way to the shores of Burnstide Lake to celebrate 90 years of Camp Widjiwagan! Some drove up from the Twin Cities, others made Widji a stop in their cross-country summer road trip, others flew in from the East and West Coast, along with a variety of other paths that brought folks together.

While the event occurred July 12-14, planning had begun almost a year earlier. Widji alums Sara Mairs and Mark Holloway graciously agreed to co-chair the 90th Reunion Planning Committee. Sara and Mark pulled together a core group of additional committee members with a good representation from different eras, to brainstorm, plan, and execute Widji’s 90th birthday party. Additional volunteers contributed to help with everything from program input to schedule design and housing logistics. It was incredible to see the energy and passion of people working together for this event.

After almost a year of meetings, emails, and phone calls, we were ready. The weather also cooperated with a nearly perfectly warm and sunny blue-sky weekend. If there were any concerns about the weekend, they quickly vanished as people arrived to check in at the Sigurd Olson Center. Hugs, pictures, and nametag coloring kept everyone excited and busy in settling back into a place so special. Joe Smith even provided a little fiddle background music to add to the charm.

Once folks were checked in the festivities began. On Saturday night there was a Barn Dance in Kirby Dining Hall along with a campfire happening in Burntside Circle. Saturday morning allowed the chance to explore camp, take a canoe out for a paddle, or a hike in the woods. Bruce Casselton also worked extensively on a “Pop Up Museum” in the Trail Building capturing the unique history of Widjiwagan.

By lunch on Saturday, we hit our maximum attendance at about 240 people! During lunch, we recognized Lois Eyink, the first female Voyageur Trail Counselor from 1956, along with Bonnie Mairs, a Widji alum who had been inducted in the YMCA Hall of Fame.

Saturday afternoon was focused on the dedication of 2 BN Morris canoes that were originally owned by Joe Seliga’s family. These canoes had been donated to Widji years ago and had been in pretty rough shape. Widji worked with Alex Comb at Stewart River Boatworks and Tim Eaton at Urban Boat Builders to restore these two canoes. They were dedicated back to Widji to recognize the history and legacy of Joe and Norah Seliga as well as adding two more canoes to the fleet for Widji campers to paddle. Representatives from the Seliga family attended the event making it even more special.

The restoration of these canoes also aligned well with the release of Canoeman Joe, a children’s book written by Robin Radcliffe and illustrated by Consie Powell. This book chronicles Joe Seliga’s journey as a canoe builder and references the 2 BN Morris canoes as part of his early work and inspiration. Robin and Consie were on site for a book reading and signing. Proceeds from the sale of the book are generously going towards the Seliga Wood Canvas Canoe Endowment. Saturday night many gathered on rocks in Burntside Circle for a sing-a-long led by Widji alum, Phil Bratnober. Saunas under the northern sky concluded the full day of activities.

On Sunday morning we gathered at Chapel Point for a beautiful Reflection Service coordinated by Phil Bratnober and facilitated by Katie Lawson. Readings and reflections were shared that made us all think of the experiences and friendships we’ve made at Widji, while also acknowledging loss in our lives. A reading of the names of those who have passed help expand our circle a little wider that morning.

It was an incredible weekend that reminded us all how powerful the experiences at Widji can be generation after generation. Conversations could have lingered well into the afternoon, but as we were all reminded, campers were packing up in preparation for their Widji experience to start that next Monday.

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2020 Closing Celebrations

posted on Wed, Dec 11 2019 1:42 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

The term “banquet” has become synonymous with the completion and celebration of a Widji camper’s trip.  However, it was not that long ago that this event primarily involved just the campers. Over time, family and friends have wanted to come to camp to help celebrate the return of their camper. For the past number of years this has involved the banquet meal in Kirby Dining Hall, along with time to connect with the campers and trail group, a tour of camp, and the Closing Campfire. These events have become a special part of the experience and serve as small mini-reunions for those that have a history with Widji.

One challenge with this program has been a growing interest of people wanting to attend the Closing Celebration, but a limited amount of seating for the meal in Kirby Dining Hall. We have also been challenged in trying to communicate that while the “banquet meal” is full, people are still welcome to attend and participate in the rest of the activities of the Closing Celebration. This seating capacity has led to people feeling excluded and unable to fully participate in the experience.

So we’re going to try something new! Starting in 2020 we will not limit registration for the Closing Celebration by the capacity of seats in Kirby. Instead, anyone will be able to attend, but we will not be offering the “banquet meal” for family and friends. The campers will have their banquet meal with their trail group and family and friends will then join them for dessert and songs. Below is the schedule that we will be using this coming summer:

Closing Celebration Schedule for Visitors

Closing Celebration Day:

5:30 - 6:00 p.m. - Welcome at the Sigurd Olson Center

6:15 - 6:45 p.m. - Dessert and Songs at the Kirby Dining Hall

6:45 - 7:30 p.m. - Social Time and Camp Tour

7:30 p.m. - Closing Campfire

We will still be offering a breakfast for families picking up their camper on the last day of the session.

*Closing Celebrations for Voyageur and Mountaineer groups will continue to include the banquet meal for family and friends as those are the only groups in camp at that time.

Our hope is that we can allow more people to attend the Closing Celebrations without the stress and concern of the banquet being full or not. There are plenty of options for meals in the town of Ely as well as picnic options in the surrounding area. We will still ask folks to register for the Closing Celebration and breakfast so we can plan accordingly.

More information will be shared in our summer communication, but as our lottery deadline approaches, we wanted to alert families to the change. We look forward to seeing even more of you at Widji this summer.

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The Widjiwagan Lottery: Tips and Tricks for Landing a Spot in your Dream Trip!

posted on Wed, Dec 11 2019 1:38 pm by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

The holidays are here which means that summer is just around the corner in the Widji office. Summer registration starts with a Lottery. The deadline for entering the 2020 lottery is January 7th. Shortly after January 7th, the Widji team will take all of the registrations that we have received, sort them randomly using a random number generator and assign sessions and subsequent waitlist positions in that order. We will start by assigning sessions to those camper who didn’t receive any of their choices last year, followed by campers who received an advanced camper invitation, then returning campers and finally new campers.

Every year, I hear from families who wonder what their chances are of getting into the session of their choice. In the 2019 lottery, 79% of campers received their first choice of session in the lottery, 10% received their second choice in the lottery, 5% received their third choice in the lottery and 5% were placed on the waitlist for all of the sessions that they were interested in. The summer camper lottery serves the most important purpose for Bighorns and Rocky Mountain Backpacking campers. These sessions are quite popular but we are limited in the number of trips that we can offer by the number of permit days afforded to us by the governing bodies of the wilderness areas that we travel to. Backpacking campers made up the majority of the campers who found themselves exclusively on the waitlist for summer 2019.

Looking for some tips on navigating the 2020 lottery to get into the trip of your dreams?

  1. Register before the lottery deadline of January 7th, 2020.

Unquestionably, folks who participate in the lottery have the best chance of getting into their first choice trip. Our lottery is designed to give all campers who have registered before the deadline an equal opportunity at participating in there top choice. Many of our backpacking trips will be full by the time the lottery is over.

  1. Communicate.

If you make a mistake when you register or it’s important for your two camper’s sessions overlap, reach out to us at and we will do our best to support you. It is easier for us to accommodate such requests if we know about them before we complete the lottery. All lottery results will be communicated by email on January 17th. Campers who receive their 2nd or 3rd choice or who are placed on the waitlist will receive a follow up phone call. We hope to support as many campers as possible to enroll in a trip that works with their schedule.

  1. Be available for three Widjiwagan sessions and list them all in your registration.

Campers who list more choices will have a better opportunity to get into a choice that works for them. If you don’t get into your first choice, you still have a better chance at getting into your second choice than campers who register after January 28th, during Open Enrollment.

  1. Campers who have their hearts set on backpacking but who want to ensure that they come to Widji this summer should make themselves available for both of the backpacking sessions that fit their age group and provide a canoe trip as a third choice.

 Widji has very close relationships with the Superior National Forest and Quetico Provincial Park, the entities that grant permits for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. These relationships give us more space for campers in canoe trips and, sometimes, more flexibility to expand our canoeing sessions to meet demand. We don’t have the same flexibility and capacity in the wilderness areas where we travel out west.

  1. Be flexible and make any trip your dream trip!

After all, Widji trips are really about learning to cook macaroni and cheese, respectfully resolving conflict with a group mate and letting it bring you closer, laughing with and then helping someone after they find themselves stuck in the mud and discussing origins of the inexplicable smell of your tent on day ten. Whether you paddle or walk, see mountains or lakes, you will learn about yourself and build relationships and that’s what matters!

More about the Summer 2020 Lottery

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Calendar of Events

posted on Sun, Jan 27 2019 11:30 am by YMCA YMCA Camp Widjiwagan

Upcoming Events

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