Detroit Public Schools’ Camp Burt Shurly receives $100,000 donation in honor of late Businessman and Philanthropist Joseph Handleman

Funds will support the continued modernization and improvement of the District’s 240-acre camp facility located in Gregory, MI. 

Camp Burt Shurly, Detroit Public Schools’ signature 240-acre camp located in Gregory, Michigan, has received a gift of $100,000 by the Mueller Family, trustees of the Joseph Handleman and the Nommontu Foundations. The donation is in honor of Joseph Handleman, a Detroit native, business man, philanthropist and long-time supporter of the Detroit community.

“Joe Handleman was born into extreme poverty but he became a leading pioneer in merchandising and marketing throughout the western world,” said Joyce Mueller, Josesph Handleman’s daughter. “Yet, my father was a humble, compassionate human being and he always said ‘money is a tool to do good.’ We are honored to support Camp Burt Shurly and the children of Detroit with this gift.”

The unrestricted gift will help support a variety of future improvements to the camp, including modernized bathhouse facilities, the addition of heating to four cabins, a new outdoor learning gazebo, a butterfly garden, a nature pond and more.

“Detroit Public Schools is thankful for the Mueller family, who see the critical role that outdoor experiences have in the instructional landscape we offer our students,” said Alycia Meriweather, Executive Director of the DPS Office of Science. “We are grateful for the improvements that their donation will allow us to make, many of which could not have been considered otherwise. They should know that the camper experience will be greatly enhanced because of their generosity!”

Camp Burt Shurly, which has been owned and operated by DPS for more than 50 years, provides an 8-week licensed residential summer camp for DPS Title I eligible students between the ages of 8-12, school groups, marching bands, athletic teams, mentor programs and weekend private groups. Amenities include lake frontage and beach, forests and walking trails, camp fire area, fishing pond, eight cabins and a main lodge.

“United Way for Southeastern Michigan, a long-time educational partner with DPS, provided the investment opportunity to the Mueller family because of their interest in giving children a greater number of alternative learning experiences aimed at enriching their lives and well-being,” said Denise Fleckenstein, Director of Gift Planning and Endowment, United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

The recent donation provided an early infusion of funds to the Camp Burt Shurly Capital Campaign that was announced earlier this year by the District and the DPS Foundation to raise $4.5 million to fund high-impact improvements to the camp such as zip lines, high and low rope courses, a tree house, a nature play area, a greenhouse and more.

Already this year, the District was able to purchase a climbing wall, water trampoline, books for cabin libraries and build a GaGa Pit as a result of funds raised.

Meriweather explained that there is extensive research regarding the positive impact of learning in outdoor spaces, and the important lessons that can be gained about the interconnectedness and value of life, and understanding our role in the world. “We are so excited for DPS students to take advantage of the exciting improvements at their camp.”

In 2014, Camp Burt Shurly welcomed roughly 110 students per week to the STEM-based camp grounds. This year, the total number of students served through the entire camp season was 1,527. Additionally, this contribution is a part of a larger effort to revitalize the camp and turn it into a full cross-curricular learning environment for all students to experience.

For more information about Camp Burt Shurly, contact the DPS Office of Science Education at 313-873-1488.


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