Director, 1938-1972

Elmer Ott was the longest-serving director of Camp Manito-wish YMCA, and during his tenure was instrumental in guiding the camp through many program expansions and initiatives. Elmer had worked at camp in college, returning for several summers as program director. By the time he was appointed camp director, he had developed a keen appreciation for the Manito-wish mission.

Ott’s directorship was defined by his unique ability to articulate the Manito-wish philosophy. He consistently applied his spirit, passion, experience, toughness and tolerance of individual differences to all aspects of camp life. His warm smile and tireless enthusiasm earned him a network of loyal Manito-wish supporters.

Ott was a great advocate for Manito-wish, both the place and the practice. He encouraged building maintenance and construction of new facilities. He helped with the acquisition of campsite land for wilderness tripping. Ott guided the camp through war years and advanced the concept of camper scholarships, or “camperships” as they’re known today. He was the steward of the first Girl’s Camp sessions, and stretched the Manito-wish spirit across the Atlantic, organizing the first “camping” trips to post-war Germany, establishing a “sister-city” relationship with Bad Muender, and beginning a tradition of friendship and youth exchanges.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Ott established a key component of what has become Manito-wish’s guiding philosophy: Encouraging youth to adopt the practice of self development, by setting their own goals and challenging and judging themselves.

“What is the Manito-wish way? It is you — not what you say but how you live — it is truly the concept of brotherhood in action.”


Every day he and his trip mates worked through challenges together. Every day they got closer….It was one of the best, and most formative, experiences he’s ever had.
O. G.