PHOTO: Walking into the main lodge at Camp Courageous, the smell of delicious fruitcakes filled the air. The camp’s annual fruitcake sales will start in early November.
PHOTO: It takes many volunteers to bake 5,000 fruitcakes at Camp Courageous. The two and a half day baking extravaganza included about 30 volunteers from all over the state.
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Fruitcakes 25 years in the making.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Camp Courageous of Iowa fruitcake sales!
What started out as 200 homemade fruitcakes has now turned into 5,000.
The story begins with the late Leigh Clark, a longtime board member for Camp Courageous. Clark wanted to try and make a fruitcake recipe that everyone would enjoy. He studied and tried several variations and recipes over the course of three to four years, until one day, he finally had a couple of cakes that he was pleased with.
Clark made the fruitcake recipe to accommodate for larger quantities and gave them away to friends and family members during the holiday season. People enjoyed them so much that they then wanted to give these wonderful fruitcakes away as gifts as well.
So, Clark took his secret recipe and, along with his friend Lyman Perkins, thought it might make a great fundraising idea for Camp Courageous. Staff and board members sampled a few different recipes to see if this was something they might want to do, and in no time, the board approved to go into full fruitcake production!
The first year for the fundraiser was in 1988. Clark and several volunteers baked 200 fruitcakes to sell to the public. At an open house at Camp Courageous that year, they completely sold out in just an hour.
Since then, the production has increased dramatically. The next year, they made and sold 2,000 fruitcakes. Now, 25 years later, 5,000 cakes are made, baked, packaged and stored in the freezer for sale in November. Production went from five days down to just two and a half days, with over 30 volunteers from all over the State of Iowa: Monticello, Cascade, Clarence, Marion, Cedar Rapids and more.
While 5,000 fruitcakes may seem like a lot, organizer Pam Mayo, administrative assistant at Camp Courageous, said sales at one time peaked at 10,000.
“We bake 1,920 fruitcakes in one day,” she explained.
Walking into the main lodge at the camp, the smell of fresh-baked fruitcakes fills the air. There are many volunteers busying themselves in the kitchen, each one with his or her own job in the fruitcake assembly line. Once they are baked, they’re set out for cooling, packaged individually and frozen till November for sales.
So why bake fruitcakes so early in the year? Mayo explained that the timing just works out between camper seasons.
“It’s the end of the summer season and it’s a good time for volunteers to be around,” she said.
One of those volunteers is Sherri Lampe from southeast Iowa. This is her third year volunteering at the camp, her second year volunteering for the fruitcake sales. She said this fundraiser is such a great event because all of the proceeds go directly toward Camp Courageous.
“The camp benefits one way or another,” said Lampe. “Everything stays right here.”
The volunteers all agreed that the time and effort put into the preparation for the fruitcake sales is “a good time.”
Orders and requests for these special recipe fruitcakes come from all over the country. Mayo said they’ve had orders from Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Washington state and California. This year, volunteer Shirley Geadelmann said she will be taking a fruitcake to Gov. Terry Branstad, as she is attending an event yet this month where he will be present.
With 6,500 campers at Camp Courageous, the sales from the fruitcakes will help fund their stay at the camp. Visit the camp’s website at