Part sport, part adventure and all fun, the Henry the Sports Bug Camp at Paws Up seamlessly fits into our guest experience. Along with the popular Kids Corps of Discovery, this new kids’ program includes lots of nurture with plenty of nature, compliments of Montana’s great outdoors.
Henry, the hero of a series of books and videos created by former collegiate and professional tennis player Melissa Detwiler. Detwiler uses her background in sports, Henry the adult-size buggy mascot and local athletes to help kids develop a love of sports and good sportsmanship. Henry the Sports Bug Camp teaches everything from soccer and tennis to golf and basketball, as well as how to build self-confidence and make healthy lifestyle choices. We sat down with Detwiler to find out more about her background, passions, amazing charity efforts and more.
How did you come up with Henry the Sports Bug?
Henry the Sports Bug is a creation stemming from my childhood being a tennis prodigy. I started playing at seven years old, and—quite quickly—tennis became my life. With all of that came a ton of pressure and not a lot of fun. I missed out on developing a love and passion for tennis. It became a part of me. It’s what I did and what I was known for. However, I didn’t have balance in my life. As I got older I realized how important balance is and loving what you do. I started teaching tennis when I moved to Los Angeles in 1992 and my main goal was for children to have fun playing the sport. I gained so many positive things from playing a sport growing up that I wanted to be able to pass that along to all kids. Henry the Sports Bug was my creative outlet to do that. No matter what sport you play, you get the same benefits of being healthy, being disciplined, developing confidence, showing good sportsmanship and learning how to win and how to lose. Sports give you the tools to become a leader in life and sets you up for success in the adult world. I am motivated to have Henry the Sports Bug reach kids everywhere, because I know how sports can change your life in a positive way.
How did your tennis career inspire you to work with children?
I did not want anything to do with tennis after my career ended. I was burnt out and had a lot of bitterness toward it. When I moved to Los Angeles, I needed a job, so I went to a local tennis club and they hired me on the spot. I started working with kids, and this inspired me. I absolutely love to see kids happy, laughing and having fun while getting better at tennis. Henry the Sports Bug inspires a positive change in kids’ lives. Henry the Sports Bug has healed me and is the best result of my tennis career.
Tell us more about your charity efforts.
From the very first thought of Henry the Sports Bug, I knew I wanted a nonprofit side to it. I want to be able to reach kids everywhere who have never held a ball or sports equipment. I want to be able to donate sports equipment, sport clothes, books, food and toys to kids around the world. Last year I formed the Henry the Sports Bug Foundation. So far, I have been fortunate to be able to donate tennis rackets and my books to schools in need. In 2013, before I formed the charity side, I went to 40 different elementary schools in 9 different states to put on assemblies where I read to the students, taught them tennis strokes, got them running through Henry’s obstacle course and donated my books. It was an amazing experience and further confirmed that kids, parents and teachers love Henry the Sports Bug and need him. I got so many letters from kids across the country asking me what sports Henry was going to play next and that he inspired them to try a sport. I can’t wait for the day I can travel everywhere donating to schools that have lost their PE programs, communities that have no sports, children that need sponsors to play in their chosen sports and countries where kids have never even seen a tennis ball or soccer ball. That’s when I’ll feel like I have accomplished something.
How many books do you have and what are the differences in each of them?
Currently I have eight books available on Amazon. The first five books set up Henry’s world. He is kind of like a Clark Kent/Superman-type figure. He has his Henry the Bug life, living in the bog dealing with all-too common kid problems, and then he has his superhero life as Henry the Sports Bug, going on missions to help kids in need in the sports world. The first two books incorporate tennis because it’s my background. Henry teaches a little girl tennis and gives her the confidence to make friends with the other kids who play tennis. She was shy and scared at first, but after Henry’s encouragement she could come out of her shell, make friends and play tennis. Books 3 and 4 set up how Henry becomes Henry the Sports Bug. Tito the Magic Turtle gives him a magic mirror to be able to see his next mission. Henry can jump through it to his mode of transportation, Cabo and Lily, the Flying Wonder Dogs! Book 5 is where he goes on his first mission to help a soccer team that is struggling with their confidence and morale. Book 6 is about miniature golf—the Masters of Miniature Golf. Henry the Sports Bug goes to help a boy who wants to play but is lacking focus and confidence. Book 7 is about a football team and community that loves football, but everyone is eating so unhealthy that they have no energy to play or cheer their team on. Henry brings in his nutritionist friend Mo the Morselist to help him change their eating habits and have balance. The eighth book is a little departure from the series. It is for the younger Henry fans who haven’t learned their ABCs yet. Henry hasn’t become Henry the Sports Bug yet; he is just Henry the Bug. He is having a hard time focusing on his schoolwork because all he thinks about is sports. Mrs. Centipede, his teacher, has the great idea of having Henry come up with a sport for every letter of the alphabet. It’s cute and makes learning fun.
What’s your favorite thing about Paws Up so far?
Paws Up is fantastic. I got to experience the Fourth of July festivities at The Resort. Besides the celebration in my hometown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this beats anything I have ever experienced. I also love the scenery and the animals. My goal by the end of the summer is to get a cow to let me hug it! Louis the Sheep and I already have a special bond though!
What’s been your favorite activity at Paws Up?
So far I have only experienced the ATVs and sporting clays shooting. My goal is to be more proficient at both by the end of summer, and I hope to be able to experience many more of the fun and exciting activities offered here.
What is one thing you would like children to take away from attending your sports camp?
With my camps, I want children to walk away with a big smile on their faces, telling their parents how much fun they had and how much they love playing sports. The life lessons from playing a sport will come naturally and they won’t feel like it’s a “lesson” because they are having fun!