Crossroads for Youth in rural, northern Oakland County provides at-risk children ages 7-17 a safe environment for them to receive counseling, therapy, educational aid and support.
Fondly remembered as Camp Oakland, the facility has been a part of the Oxford community for more than 65 years. Crossroads for Youth maintains 320 acres, which the nonprofit utilizes in emotional and psychological healing programs for their residents, many of whom are affected by neglect and/or abuse.
The goal of Crossroads for Youth is to empower at-risk youth to evaluate their own behavior and actions and make thoughtful decisions throughout their lives. Abused and troubled youth come to Crossroads for Youth through referrals from the Department of Health and Human Services and the juvenile justice program. Children come from all across the state and stay for various lengths of time, depending on individual situations. In 2015, 197 at-risk children came to Crossroads for Youth.
Crossroads for Youth maintains separate lodging for boys and girls and has dedicated facilities to accommodate specialized directives including a Learning Center, the Achievement Center Program, Boys Center, Summit House and the Oxford Crossroads Alternative School.
“For many of these kids, it just takes one person to believe in them for them to believe in themselves,” said Chris Veihl, clinical director for Crossroads for Youth. Veihl supervises all clinical operations of the facility, develops programs in response to specific needs and oversees a staff of five therapists. He estimates he has worked with more than 5,500 youth since coming to Crossroads for Youth in 1996.
Crossroads for Youth was founded in 1951 as Camp Oakland by a group of civic-minded leaders whose goal was to create a positive environment for children - an environment where education, positive thinking, respect for others, a strong work-ethic and discipline would be promoted to encourage their growth. The beautiful grounds and natural environment were a core element of providing a healthy environment to the young people involved. From this innovative approach to aiding youths, the inspiration for Camp Oakland was born.
Judge Arthur E. Moore began to draft his vision of Camp Oakland and “The New Justice.” “Courts must do more for children than the serving of judgments, decrees and mandates. They must step down from the bench to the small hand of the child and turned shoulder of the parent and find a new start for the parent-child relationship.”
Bearing this philosophy in mind, Judge Moore, Walter Gehrke, President of First Federal Savings who was to become Camp Oakland’s first president; and James Hunt, Director of Children’s Services of Oakland County, set out to create the plans and programs of Camp Oakland and secure the funding for its construction. After much searching for a site, they found what they were looking for: 320 acres of farmland in Oxford, Michigan, near Lake Handsome. Not only was it ideal in terms of location and size, but for $118,000 it came with the former owner’s dog, thirty cows, and two prize bulls.
Additional funding was acquired through fundraisers and donations from many Oakland County citizens, families, and organizations. With their generous assistance, we succeeded in building the facilities known as Boys’ Ranch, Girls’ Ranch, Summer Camp, Work Education Program, and Family Camp Clinic.
Our programs proved so successful that by 1998 we had completely outgrown our facilities. In February 1999, we announced that two new buildings - an academic building and a Life Preparation Center - would be added thanks to wide-spread community backing in support of a $2 million capital campaign. The year 1999 also saw the adoption of a new name “Crossroads for Youth” to reflect that we are much more than a camp.
In over fifty years of operation, we have seen our fair share of success stories in the youths that have passed through our doors. Through work education, scholarships, and mentoring, many of these youths have found their way to successful lives. But despite the changes accompanying years of expansion and development, our basic philosophy remains the same: “EVERY CHILD DESERVES A CHANCE.”