About Camp Ohiyesa graphic

A great escape without an ‘are-we-there-yet?’

Since 1918, youth, families, schools and retreat groups have turned to Camp Ohiyesa to explore, play and grow. Situated on 300 acres of land overlooking Fish Lake in western Oakland County, Ohiyesa offers a great nearby escape. Our day camp and transportation options attract campers from across Oakland, Livingston, and Washtenaw counties and our Sunday to Saturday summer resident camps attract youth from around the metro region.

In the Dakota language, Ohiyesa means “always wins” and although our camp has always held that name, the man that it was named after did not. Born originally as Hakada or “pitiful last”, Dr. Charles A. Eastman grew up to be a Sioux leader, physician, author, and founder of many YMCAs. It wasn’t until adolescence, to mark a life passage from boyhood, that he was renamed the more complimentary, Ohiyesa. Early campers of Ohiyesa saw the man himself walk the shore, swim the lake, and teach on and about the 300 acres of land and forest. It is with this same spirit, that Camp Ohiyesa, part of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, continues today.

We focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility,serving youth, families and groups. We’re accredited by the American Camp Association, for which we meet over 300 standards for health, safety, and program quality.

Today, Camp Ohiyesa consists of 300 acres with cabins to house 260 campers and counselors.

About Our Staff

Ryan Mertz

Ryan Mertz
Executive Director

Ryan Mertz holds over 16 years of experience at the YMCA. Ryan has served in full-time leadership roles at two YMCA camps in Michigan, starting his career at Camp Nissokone. A graduate of Lake Superior State University with a degree in Sports and Recreation Management, he brings an enthusiasm for camping and connecting others to the outdoors. Ryan and his wife, Hannah, welcomed their first child, a baby girl, in May 2014. A former all-American soccer player from Oscoda, Ryan now enjoys coaching, skiing, sailing and mountain biking. Ryan’s extensive program experience includes aquatics, environmental education, high adventure facilitation, and teen leadership development. Ryan is most passionate about teaching and inspiring his staff to create safe ‘best summer of a lifetime’ experiences for campers.

Billy Holmes

Billy Holmes
Resident Manager

Billy keeps everything running here at Camp Ohiyesa. Billy hails from Harrisville, MI, and has been with camp for 11 years. He lives at camp with his wife, Cindy, and their three children, Bailey, Brooke and Will. When Billy is not at camp working, he enjoys time with his family, coaching baseball or attending choir concerts. His favorite place at camp is the Council Ring, where he has watched all of his kids do many skits and sing songs.

Matt Smith

Matt Smith
Program Director

Matt has worked in leadership roles at Camp Ohiyesa since 2013. He studied Biochemistry at Hope College, spent a year conducting medical research on a liver disease and earned his teaching degree from Indiana University before camp completely changed his life. He loves to go rock climbing and fishing in his free time. One of his favorite camp memories is actually when a camper put an entire baby carrot on his hook and threw it into the water as a joke. Sure enough, about two minutes later he caught a 13 inch bass (every once in a while Matt still tries carrot bait out on Fish Lake, but with no success.) Matt quickly realized the importance of camp to campers, staff and families. It’s a safe place away from the distraction of electronics where everyone can learn how to be a good person. Winning and losing with grace, meeting and learning from diverse friends from around the world, and conquering new and intimidating challenges. Matt’s most looking forward to continuing to help Ohiyesa campers grow while having crazy, challenging, fun, memorable and safe experiences. He’s always happy to chat about anything camp-related!

Abigail Billau

Abigail Billau
Business Office Manager

Abby has spent each of the past summers working at camp in leadership roles. Abby earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Eastern Michigan University with a focus in Non-Profit Administration and played soccer at a competitive level for many years. She grew up in a small town just outside of Ann Arbor, but her family also spent much time up north near the Au Sable River. Growing up in a small town helped grow her curiosity of the world at large, leading to an affinity for travel. Abby’s hobbies are traveling, hiking and advocating for children’s education. She’s had the privilege of studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, skiing in Colorado, hiking in Arizona, and seeing beautiful sites in between.