Camp Wood YMCA is located on over 800 acres of picturesque Tallgrass Prairie in the heart of the Flint Hills. This unique landscape provides visitors to camp with a front row seat to explore an ecosystem that has been molded to perfection over millions of years. From glaciers to cowboys, each rock and grass is painted with a rich history that tells a story of those that came before us. But beyond the scientific discoveries and historical markers, the Flint Hills continues to breath life into all those that embrace its beauty. In its vastness, each wave of tallgrass and expanse of endless sky provides perspective and peace to all that find themselves there. For Camp Wood YMCA, we take pride in knowing that this exceptional place is our home and whether you are a camper, student or retreat participant it thrills us to be able to share our little piece of the prairie with all who visit.
Our Playground is Educational…
Between Meadowlarks and Collard Lizards, taking a walk through the prairie creates a hands-on Earth Science classroom. Finding fossils and seeing layers of flint and shale tells a history that dates to the time of dinosaurs. The quiet breeze of synchronized tallgrass produces an environment ripe for creativity and discovery.
Our Playground Builds Relationships…
With miles of unobstructed scenery, the prairie offers a place to disconnect from the business of the rest of the world and opportunity to engage in a relationship with nature, others and self. Whether its bonding with friends and family over a lakeside campfire or taking a moment to self-reflect in the breeze of the prairie wind, Camp Wood YMCA brings together what is so often frayed and neglected in a hectic world.
Our Playground is Fun…
Lastly, our little piece of the Flint Hills is chalk full of fun and exciting programs. Get a birds-eye view of the prairie from the top of our Alpine Tower or release your inner cowboy on a horse-back ride through the tall-grass. Scour the fossil pit for hidden relics of a time long ago or explore trails and creeks for critters big and small.
So, whether you find yourself at Camp Wood YMCA for a retreat, school group or summer camp, we hope our little piece of the prairie brings you a connection to nature, self and others like nothing else.
It’s Friday night and 200 campers and counselors are gathered around a blazing campfire. Silly songs, chants and skits have filled the evening with laughter and excitement. Then with a slow strum of a guitar string the crowd is settled down and a sudden realization that camp is coming to an end sweeps through like a wave. This is it. It’s time to say goodbye and as campers start to drop their heads and wrap their arms around each other, we start to listen for the tears.
Oddly enough, that sound of noses being wiped and cries being unsuccessfully controlled is music to our ears. Its in those wails that we can be assured that we did a job well done because we know what those tears really mean.
Sure, camp is fun. If it weren’t it wouldn’t exist in the first place. There are so many exciting things to experience and try for the first time. But, anyone that has ever been to camp will tell you that it’s so much more than fun things to do. Camp is meeting new friends from around the world. Camp is stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new and discovering who you are in the process. Camp is being accepted and loved during that discovery. It’s tons of laughter, yelling, goofiness and messes. In a week’s time campers can find comradery in the comfort of others as they face their fears with confidence and encouragement. They cry because they know this is the only place in world where their vulnerability becomes their strength and where being themselves is not only accepted but it is cherished.
So, it may seem strange that our counselors consider it an accomplishment when most of their campers find themselves in tears during closing campfire. But, their pride comes from knowing they contributed to life-long relationships being built, confidence being gained, and independence being discovered.
Saying goodbye is hard and we really would love to linger here with all our campers and counselors the entire year but it’s the fleeting time of our seasonal visits that helps create the magic. Even after the boats are taken out of the water, the archery targets are stored away, and the saddles are cleaned, campers and counselors all over the world will be thinking of camp and the impact it had on each one of them. Pieces of braided thread will remind them they can be a friend to anyone, anywhere. A plate of spaghetti tells them to laugh when things get messy. And the next time they must face something new and challenging they will be reminded that it’s not only possible but that they are capable.
So as summer comes to a close, this is not goodbye but good night and…
We will remember
Our camping days
And friendships true
May I grow so tall and bright,
So free and wild,
So brave and vibrant,
That when you see me standing
You think I am a Sunflower.
Some people see tree leaves change color and fall to the ground, as a sign that summer is ending and the rush of the school year in gearing up. Here in the Flint Hills, it’s the glow of the towering sunflower that prepares us for the changing season ahead.
The Tallgrass Prairie displays a wealth of sunflower varieties and there are over 50 different species that have grown throughout all of Kansas giving it its appropriate title “The Sunflower State.”
While seemingly a simple flower, the sunflower is made up of many flowers arranged in precise symmetrical patterns. The head consists of florets, closely clumped together that will eventually mature into what many call sunflower seeds. The plant’s true seeds are located inside the husks of the fruits.
Over 3000 years ago, the sunflower was essential and valuable to Native American tribes. It was ground into flours for making breads and soups and the ground seeds were boiled to extract the oil. Its oil was used to soften leather, as a salve for wounds and as a hair conditioner.
Today, sunflower seeds provide the third most common source of cooking oil and it can also be converted into biofuel. Bees and butterflies enjoy the nectar and pollen as they pollinate the flowers. The large seed heads serve the winter food needs of goldfinches, sparrows and many small mammals. Yellow dye can be extracted from the flowers and purple-black dye from the seed. In addition, sunflowers tolerate high levels of soil toxins and are used to remove lead, arsenic, and radioactive isotopes from contaminated soil.
So just like with so many things in the Flint Hills, the sunflowers remind us not just of the changing seasons but of the deep history that once roamed this prairie and the abundance of resources it has provided for thousands of years. At Camp Wood YMCA, we are blessed to be encompassed by so much natural education and endless beauty.
"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what the sunflowers do" - Helen Keller.
Summer of 2018 has been another record-breaking year. Camp Wood YMCA has been honored to serve well over 1000 campers this summer. But for us, camp represents even more than camper numbers. Here are just a few stats that make those campers come back year after year.
And last but definitely not least...