Our History

John (Jack) Fowler, founder of The Fowler Center, enjoyed summer camp as a child and as an adult realized what a profound impact his ability to attend camp had made in his life.

“Camping provided me with the experiences of learning the art of independence and the meaning of fellowship.”

Jack had cerebral palsy and firmly believed that his independence and self-esteem were fostered by these recreational experiences. In June of 1957, while teaching at a school in Brighton, Michigan, he coordinated a week-long camping experience for the nine boys in his classroom, nine boys with cognitive impairments whom Jack believed deserved the same great experiences he had had as a child.

The Fowler Center has come a long way from that first summer, with Jack and his wife Reta leading the way. Over the years, expanding attendance necessitated not one but two location changes, and expanding awareness and the need for more outdoor educational opportunities have pivoted the focus of the organization from a purely “camping” experience to a total outdoor recreational and educational facility. With that has also come a change in our scope from a summer-only experience to a commitment to year-round programs including respite weekends, travel adventures, equestrian programs and group events.

The Fowler Center has been in its current location on 200 acres of land in Mayville, Michigan since 1977. With waterfront property on Lake Harmon, woodsy trails, hills and pastures, it is an idyllic setting for camp, equestrian activities and all of our other outdoor programs, group and community events.

In March of 2021, The Fowler Center joined MCHS Family of Services, a Michigan-based non-profit organization which has provided much needed services to the communities in Southeast Michigan since 1917. MCHS has been expanding its programs for several years, and the opportunity to extend its reach into the Thumb area while adding a program as unique as The Fowler Center was too good to pass up! And as part of the MCHS family The Fowler Center is poised and ready for yet another step forward as the Plum of the Thumb! As Jack once said,

“I have no fear or hesitation that we should embark upon our most ambitious feat to date, to keep the standards high and deliverance of our program top priority. We have faith to know that our mission is sound and our purpose resolute. We have done it before and together we can do it again.”

To learn more about The Fowler Center’s MCHS family visit www.mchsmi.org.