Our History

The Fowler Center for Outdoor Learning was founded by John (aka Jack) and Reta Fowler in 1957. Jack's father worked for the YMCA so, of course, Jack was presented with opportunities to attend summer camp as a child.  Later Jack realized what an impact attending camp had made in his life. “Camping provided me with the experiences of learning the art of independence and the meaning of fellowship. It helped me recognize new reverence for the quality of self-esteem and how it may best be used in the service of others.” -Jack Fowler

Jack, who had Cerebral Palsy, firmly believed in the independence and self-esteem that can be fostered by recreational experiences. He went on to earn his teaching degree from Olivet College and worked at Camp Grace Bently while attending school. In June of 1957 Jack decided that the 9 boys with cognitive impairment in his classroom deserved the same great experience he had as a child going to camp. That summer he coordinated a week of camping in the school's field that year....little did he know what was in the future.

The Fowler Center has come a long way from their first summer with only nine campers in Brighton, MI.  Expanding attendance necessitated not one but two location changes to facilitate the increasing number of campers enrolling.  Advances in education and awareness changed the focus of the organization from a purely “camping” experience to a total outdoor recreational facility.  The scope of the camp too has changed from a summer-only experience to a year-round program including respite weekends, travel adventures, equestrian programs, and group events.

In March of 2021 The Fowler Center joined Methodist Children's Home Society (MCHS), a Michigan non-profit organization who has a vision of "Building a community where every child and family has a safer and brighter future". As a part of the MCHS family The Fowler Center is poised and ready for yet another step into the future. To find out more about MCHS visit www.mchsmi.org 

“It really isn't so great a challenge when you think of all that has been accomplished over the years on behalf of disabled children, youth, and adult who constantly seek to find solace and reward in the outdoors. I have no fear or hesitation that we should embark upon or most ambition feat to date to keep the standards high and deliverance of our program top priority, We have the faith to know that our mission is sound and our purpose resolute. We have done it before and together we can do it again."  ~ Jack Fowler