... as a vision by members of the Brethren Church, who bought the Virgil Camp farm and apple orchard between Beach City and Brewster, Ohio for $8,500 in 1943. The farm included 80 acres, a house, a barn, a shed, and a small swimming pool. The property was paid for in April 1944. The first summer program at Wanake was held in 1945.
Rev. Dr. B.S. Arnold was the first camp-related occupant of the big white house, as Conference Superintendent. Rev. Mel Moody was named Director of Christian Education and Camping, and the grand opening of the camp was in 1946. A contest was held to name the new camp, and Jeanie Jacobs of nearby Navarre, Ohio won $20 by suggesting WA-NA-KE, the first syllables of three Native American words meaning "a beautiful, spiritual place among the hills."
Under Rev. Moody, who later went on to head the camping program for the entire United Methodist denomination, Wanake was the first church camp in the nation to employ "small group decentralized camping" on a large scale. This form of camping involves placing campers in "family groups" of up to 12 campers with adult counselors. These groups function as a family for the camp period, setting their own schedule, and learning about God through interacting with each other and God's creation.
In addition to the many who have found God at Camp Wanake, the camp has inspired many of its young adult campers and counselors to serve God through their profession. Many have become full-time camping professionals, teachers or ministers at camps, schools and churches across the country.
Over the years, the original site has been expanded to include 250 acres.
We're camping at Wanake
We're campers brave and true
Recreation, fellowship, and worship all day through
Oh yes, we're enjoying every moment
Up among the wooded hills
For we are camping at Wanake.