Former-Ontonagon all-star now a counselor at camp

BIG BAY – Thanks to Seth Rowles, Bay Cliff Health Camp director Tim Bennett has found a new source for counselors at the summer youth therapeutic camp in Big Bay.

Rowles was an Upper Peninsula All-Star Football player from Ontonagon just one year ago. Now he’s one of the first-year counselors at the youth theraputic camp.

“Whatever path you’re on, there’s always opportunities to work with these kids,” Bennett said in an introductory talk with the all-stars on Thursday.

All it took for Rowles was a few hours visit to Bay Cliff as part of the week-long activities leading up the all-star game that convinced him he wanted to be here.

“It’s so cool that I’ve gotten a chance to come back,” said Rowles, 19, who just completed his freshman year at Michigan State University. He’s been at Bay Cliff for three weeks, including a week of orientation.

His eyes were opened just from that short visit a year ago.

“I sat down at dinner and realized being a counselor is something I’d really like to do,” Rowles said. “It’s the most rewarding experience of my life. Everyone here has such a positive attitude.

“You look at all the challenges and impairments some of the campers might have, but they’re the happiest people I’ve ever met.”

He added that a large part of it is that these children are fully accepted at Bay Cliff.

“Back at their schools, there might not be any other kids like them,” Rowles said. “Here, they have friends they won’t see all year, but as soon as they get back (to Bay Cliff), they’re best friends.”

The psychology major doesn’t know if this experience will help him in his studies, but he’s not worried about that.

“It’s stressful, but it’s also so rewarding,” Rowles said. “The hardest part is that I’ve never worked with kids before. I just have to think back to when I was 10 (years old).”

He said his Unit II cabin has four boys ages 10 and 11, and he thinks the key to being a good counselor is not defining them by their disability.

He feels a bit of kinship with the campers, having to overcome a small build – 5-foot-6, 150 pounds – to become a lineman for the Gladiators in high school.

“But I look at the problems I have, and it puts it in perspective watching what these kids are working to overcome,” Rowles said.

He also admits he gets constantly peppered with questions once a camper finds out he was a U.P. All-Star.