Great Escape: Glenhagen Farm Retreat


Glenhagen Farm Retreat offers youth and adults a rich camp experience right here in Illinois

This summer, it will be a full family affair for the Kupisches at Glenhagen Farm Retreat. Kup will continue to serve as the primary director, and his son, Andrew Kupisch, will be joining the directorial staff as well. Kup’s daughter, Megan Klucharik, will continue her administrative role for the camp, and his wife, Cathy, is sure to be around volunteering, too.

Glenhagen Farm Retreat is located in Princeton, Illinois (a 100-minute drive from Downers Grove or a two-hour train ride from Chicago) on the 65 acres of recreational land owned by the camp’s founders, longtime Downers Grove residents Andy Tecson and Nancy Hagen. Opened in 2018, the camp’s name is in homage to Hagen’s late father, Glen Hagen, who – along with her late mother – believed “opportunities should exist for everyone, and the outdoors should be preserved,” Hagen explained.

Accordingly, the camp’s theme is “Care for the Earth,” Hagen said, and it operates as a nonprofit organization, offering grants to groups serving those without resources to pay. These financial subsidies cover transportation, food, and other costs associated with attending the camp.

However, the camp welcomes groups with the means to pay their own way as well. When not need-based, organizations visiting Glenhagen Farm Retreat will work with the camp to appropriately identify fees on a sliding scale, Tecson explained.
Opened May through October, the camp typically serves groups of 10-40 for up to four-day stays. Only one group attends the camp at a time, so it is a very private experience, and they can set the itinerary that best serves their needs. “It’s very a la carte, choose your own adventure,” Klucharik explained.

As for supplies, most items are provided by the camp, including tents and thick sleeping pads. When a group of middle school boys from Catalyst Circle Rock Academy on the west side of Chicago attended the camp last summer, setting up the tents was one of their favorite activities.

“It was a real bonding moment,” said the group’s leader, Charles Myers.

Myers also noted that, living in the city, where there is typically a lot of street noise, the Catalyst Circle Rock group also “benefited from it being completely quiet” at the camp. His students appreciated the nature and wildlife, “fresh air, and great sleep they got” while at camp, and “it was so great,” Myers said, students keep asking to go again this year and stay longer.

The camp has a creek running through it, and participants enjoy exploring that, hiking, birdwatching (“there are at least 50 different species of birds,” Hagen said), and learning about sustainable energy in action (the camp has solar panels to produce its own electricity, a geothermal unit on the farm, and wind turbines are visible in the distance).

“It is intentional that we don’t have archery, canoeing, [or the like],” Tecson said. “The whole point if you go camping is to get in touch with nature. To decompress.”

That said, despite the camp’s relative simplicity, there are plenty of opportunities for fun. The camp features trails to navigate, a fire pit, volleyball court, and there are plans to add a basketball court.

There is truly something for everyone at the camp, and – as Kup described – the experience is “transforming.”

“We want it to be used!” Tecson said of the Glenhagen Farm Retreat and its amenities, encouraging anyone who knows of a group (school group, religious organization, youth group, after school program, grief group, sorority or fraternity, research group, or other nonprofit organizations) that might be interested in attending the camp to reach out. While “our sweet spot is middle school through college,” Tecson noted, the camp is not age-restricted.

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