Our Mission

The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

History of YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood


Written in 1976

Once upon a time, a spring of clear 55-degree pure water broke through the limestone sub-surface in the trout pond area. How long ago, we don't know. Indians must have used it; people still find arrowheads. Early settlers in the valley probably ate the watercress and drank the water.

In 1910, a man named August Lauth, who had come from Paris, France with the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, developed trout hatcheries here. He diverted the spring creek into breeding ponds and troughs, used the water wheel previously developed for power to operate a saw mill, raised rainbow trout, packed them in ice, sent them by wagon and train to St. Louis to be served in fancy hotels and restaurants.

In 1926, a group of St. Louis families bought land at the trout ponds, used the water wheel for electricity, built a club house (West Hall), eight log cabins, cabins A & B and a swimming pool. Some of those men were YMCA board members, and in 1946 the property was all sold to the YMCA. It became a small conference center for 75 people and was appropriately named Trout Lodge.

Bunker Hill School (Cabin 22), and Bunker Hill Baptist Church were still in use. There were families along the Fourché Renault River. Some of those families are buried in the two cemeteries, the older one below the dam dating before the Civil War, and a later one, now inside the log rail fence. Lead mining developed by the French helped support the families. The Y has filled in 13 mine shafts on the east side of the Lake.

Meanwhile, YMCA Camp Taconic on the Meramec River near Eureka was worn out and overcrowded, so plans were made to move the camp to this area. The spring measured 3,000,000 gallons of water per day (it still does) for an inexhaustible water supply. The river would allow a play area.

Mr. Joseph Sunnen, a self-made and generous man, who developed Sunnen Products Company and Emko Company, offered to buy land and build a small 35-acre lake. Mr. Sunnen personally supervised the construction of a one-mile dam to impound the Fourché Renault River to form, not a small lake, but a 360- acre lake, one-mile long with a five-mile shoreline. He purchased earth-moving equipment and a portable electric plant to enable men to work around the clock to finish the lake in 1948 and have it ready for operation of a new boys' camp in the summer of 1949. This camp was in the area of cabins 9 to 16. Its dining hall was Center Hall.

Mr. Sunnen later developed the Sunnen Employee Recreation Area on the south end of the lake. Company employees used that area free of charge. He also assisted the Cahokia Council Boy Scouts (Granite City, IL) in building a summer camp adjacent to his property. The Sunnen Foundation assisted in purchasing land and developing the present Camp Lakewood. It continues support of the development of the total area, having contributed over $1,000,000 in land, roads, and buildings. One of the latest gifts was $250,000 for the new dining hall in Trout Lodge (This became Lakewood Dining Hall in 1986 when a new Trout Lodge was built.)

Roy Congdon supervised the development of the area since 1950. Many individuals and foundations have donated buildings, equipment, and services to the camp here. The property has grown from 167 to 1000 acres and from 11 to over 100 buildings.

Development includes:
1946: Purchase of log cabin area.
1948: Completion of dam.
1949: Opening of original Camp Lakewood.
1955: Closing of public lake road & building of new road from Highway 8 to Trout Lodge.
1956-57: Construction of a new Camp Lakewood.
1957: William H. Danforth Chapel dedicated.
1962: Completion of Indian Guide Tepee (gift of Indian Guides of U.S. as a tribute to Harold Kelter, St. Louis executive who, with Ojibway Indian Joe Friday, founded the movement in 1926). Over 7.5 million people have participated in Indian Guides in 50 years.
1965: New lake front dining room opened for Trout Lodge.

Camp Lakewood, adjacent to Trout Lodge, is operated from June to August as a separate camp. It is for boys and girls, age nine through sixteen. It has space for 240 campers, plus a staff of 70 people, and it offers a variety of programs. In addition to the main camp activities, it has special camps for riding, tripping, a work camp, and two leadership training programs, L.I.T. and C.I.T.

There are six 9-day sessions at Lakewood, with a couple days in between sessions. Campers come largely from the metropolitan St. Louis area. The counseling staff is largely college students from the midwest. Lakewood meets the high qualifications of the standards for the YMCA and the American Camping Association. The Director is DeWitt Smith, and this is his third session.

Roy Congdon,
Executive Director
YMCA of the Ozarks


Written in 1999

In the early 1980's the YMCA of the Ozarks Board began its most ambitious expansion and reconstruction in its entire history. As a result of the first long-range Master Plan ever, this facility made the transition from seasonal to year-round and positioned itself for the new Millennium. Where Camp Lakewood is now located was once the YMCA Trout Lodge and family cabins. At that time, Camp Lakewood was located south of the Danforth Chapel. Some of the projects achieved are:

  • All of the infrastructure, water, sewers, electric, telephones and roads were upgraded or rebuilt.
  • Camp Lakewood was abandoned and took over the Trout Lodge cabins.
  • The Trout Lodge dining hall became the new Lakewood dining hall, later to be air-conditioned and completely remodeled.
  • An entirely new set of Trout Lodge cabins were built further south on the lake.
  • A new 80-room lodge and dining facility, Trout Lodge (The Sunnen Center), was built in 1986, along with a new entrance road and parking facilities.
  • The old Camp Lakewood cabins were moved across the lake to form a new area called East Camp. These cabins were repaired and grouped around a new pavilion, which included showers and restrooms.
  • A new horse-riding arena was built.
  • Two new equestrian barns, a tack shop, and ranch office were built.
  • Several new horse trails as well as pedestrian hiking trails were built and mapped for user convenience.
  • At the same time, about 3,000 additional acres of surrounding land were purchased, bringing the total acreage in the reservation to over 5,000 acres.
  • A new nine-hole golf course was built and opened to serve YMCA guests and citizens of Washington County.
  • The Fourché Valley Charitable Trust was founded to manage the golf course and provide support for the YMCA and Washington County.
  • Sunnen Lake was dredged to deepen the entire upper half, removing 164,000 cubic yards of dirt.
  • A four-wheel drive fire truck was purchased to establish on-site protection.
  • New multi-group Camp Lakewood cabins were added to enhance Camp Lakewood.
  • The Chapel was completely renovated and a kitchen and restrooms were added, as well as a new H.V.A.C. to make it a year-round facility.
  • All boat docks, bridges and ramps were replaced with new ones built on site. · Sunnen Lake dam was modified to meet the latest standards and is now a federally licensed facility.
  • A new multi-purpose recreational building was constructed, complete with full-sized basketball court.
  • New tennis courts, boathouse, swimming area, athletic field and miniature golf course were completed, along with a children’s lakefront playground.

All of the above items were accomplished between 1984 and 1999 because of the dedication and vision of both the volunteers and staff of the YMCA of the Ozarks, as well as the incredible support of Bob Sunnen, the Sunnen Foundation, and many other companies and friends throughout the community.

Jim Berthold,
Board Member
YMCA of the Ozarks


Written in April 2010

Throughout the past 11 years, YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood has seen a tremendous increase in the number of guests, campers and programs offered. While the majority of guests and campers still come from the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan area, many family reunions and a host of diverse group from across the country converge at the YMCA each year. In a typical summer, Camp Lakewood will hire 30-40 international camp counselors who bring spice to the summer camp experience and help foster international understanding.

In 2002, the Summit Course was constructed for recreation and teambuilding programs. It remains one of the largest high ropes courses in the Midwest.

In the summer of 2003, an industrious project was begun to reconstruct and revitalize the original log cabin Pioneer Village area by the trout ponds into an educational program area for children and adults. This project spanned six years with many individuals and groups of volunteers having a hand in seeing the project to fruition.

In the end three cabins were painstaking restored to reflect the era before the advent of electricity and the combustion engine:

Cabin 1 is a learning site for the home arts of cooking on a wood stove, weaving, candle making and the use of an apple press.

Cabin 2 focuses on the industrial arts of rope making, shingle making and woodworking.

Cabin 3 is set up as a period homestead with space for storytelling.

In late 2004 & 2005 a rustic Blacksmith Shop was built, complete with a working forge and a log structure storage area from the turn of the century. A Brush Arbor was later added to the area to round out the program site. The YMCA is deeply grateful to the many benefactors who donated period pieces to make the area authentic.

Thanks to a very generous donation from a family with long-time connections to the YMCA, major renovations were begun inside Trout Lodge. Meeting rooms, public lobbies, and most of the guest rooms were updated with wainscoting, fresh paint, new furniture and accessories. The third floor family activity room was dedicated to the Burke Family in July 2004.

In 2004, a major storm and subsequent flooding destroyed the Camp Lakewood waterfront docks. They were replaced with state-of-the-art recycled plastic docks that can withstand the weather extremes of both winter and summer. The Pannebecker Fire Ring at Camp Lakewood was dedicated to the memory of young camper Jamie Snow Pannebecker. The Mayer Butterfly Garden near the Sunnen Center was dedicated to the memory of Jessica, Nikki and Krista Mayer.

In 2005, the docks at Trout Lodge were replaced with the same materials as the new docks at Camp Lakewood. The nearby fire circle was dedicated as the Coker Family Fire Circle in recognition of the accomplishments of the former Executive Director. The new East Camp bathhouse opened in time for summer camp, thanks to the drive and financial support of several Board Members.

Meanwhile, in 2005 a select group of Board Members and staff met for three days with a group of camp and landscape architects to walk the entire property to firmly establish a long-term facility plan in preparation for a major Capital Campaign to be undertaken by the Association.

The Master Plan identified in 2005 was a close image of the 1980’s plan for Camp Lakewood. Over $10.5M in much-needed improvements throughout property was identified, mainly at Camp Lakewood, focusing on accessibility issues, improved safety and enhancing the camper experience. Due to the tremendous cost, it was decided to embark on Phase I with a goal of raising $5M, tackling the most urgent projects first.

The YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood Board Members, staff, loyal supporters and community leaders warmly embraced the 2006 Capital Campaign. As of this writing, $6.1M has been raised or pledged and many major projects have already been completed or are under construction.

  • Family Program Pavilion, complete with fireplace, providing shelter from rain and heat and ample storage area for program supplies
  • Trout Lodge New Roof & Fire Escapes also meeting new code requirements
  • All-Terrain/Lake Accessible Wheelchair
  • Trout Lodge carpeting was replaced in lounges, dining hall & other public areas
  • New 2,000 sq. ft. Nature Center by the trout ponds, built in the footprint of the original Cabin 17 (aka Sleepy Hollow). The camp Trading Post relocated to the newly vacated space inside Lakewood Lodge.
  • Camp Lakewood Explorer Village 2-Story Camper Cabin (56 beds) completed in time for summer camp 2009 built to universal design specs and handicap accessible.
  • Trout Lodge Archery Range was renovated
  • Shotgun Range for Trap & Skeet was constructed
  • AC installed in Hillcrest Hall
  • Camp Lakewood three new Raptor Village Camper Cabins scheduled to open summer 2010 will be constructed to universal design and handicap accessible.
  • Camp Lakewood Ceremonial Area in an amphitheater style tying together Lakewood Lodge and the waterfront area. This space will be completed in time for summer camp 2010 and the flag raising area inaugurated with a US Flag flown over the state capital and donated by Camp Lakewood Alum.

In 2009 the activity field at Camp Lakewood was improved, and a higher “band tower” was built to accommodate the many marching bands who come during the Outdoor Education season to practice uninterrupted and coalesce as a group. Thanks to the Lindbergh School Band Boosters, lighting was also added.

Program offerings have expanded as well to include: astronomy, rocket building & launching, geocaching, orienteering, Frisbee golf, rock polishing, Alpine Swing, Moonlight Zip, Summit Zip, a new Pines Peak, Boat Float and an expanded Fitness Room. The number of Arts & Crafts projects offered has more than doubled. Elderhostel programs (changed to Exploritas in Sept. 2009) have grown in strength and numbers and now welcome any participants over the age of 21.

Financial Development at the YMCA continues to be a mainstay to help augment program fees and services. The Strong Community Campaign and Annual Charity Golf Tournament help to assist more than 8,000 people annually with financial assistance totaling more than $400K.

Since it’s charter in 1972, the YMCA Lamplighter Society has grown with extraordinary individuals who have a long-term vision to leave a lasting legacy to support the YMCA after they are no longer with us.

YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood has one of the largest endowment funds in the Association with a cash value of close to $3M. Proceeds from investments are utilized to maintain buildings, purchase new equipment and to provide scholarships.

The Sunnen Family (third generation) and the Sunnen Foundation remain strong supporters of YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood. The gazebo overlooking the lake spillway was dedicated to the Sunnen Family in July 2000 in recognition of their 50+ years of personal commitment and service to the YMCA.

Dedicated Board Members, Alumni, volunteers, staff and community leaders also continue to help the YMCA prosper and expand services to meet the growing needs of the community.

Renée N. Godinez
Director of Development
YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood