Saying Goodbye

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.

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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.

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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.

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So as summer comes to a close, this is not goodbye but good night and…

Come September

We will remember

Our camping days

And friendships true

The Sunflower Shines

 A young sunflower tracks the suns position in the sky which is called heliotropism.

A young sunflower tracks the suns position in the sky which is called heliotropism.

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.

-g.c.

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.”

 A sunflower can have over 2, 000 seeds and grows 3-18 feet tall in less than 100 days.

A sunflower can have over 2, 000 seeds and grows 3-18 feet tall in less than 100 days.

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.

 The tallest sunflower, over 25 feet tall, was grown in the Netherlands in 1986.

The tallest sunflower, over 25 feet tall, was grown in the Netherlands in 1986.

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.

Camp By The Numbers

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...

Camper Testimony - Zeke

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Name & Age – Zeke, 16

How many years have you been coming to Camp Wood YMCA? – 9 years

Whose idea was it for you to come to camp the first time? – I came with a friend of mine because we wanted to do skate camp together.

Describe what you remember from your first year at camp. – I remember that I wasn’t all that nervous.  I was ready and excited.

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What was/is your favorite part of camp? – I love meeting new people and the staff. I like seeing all the different personalities.

What made you decide to keep coming back? – I wanted to be a counselor since the first summer I came here.  I never felt judged and I have always felt like everyone cares about me just as I am.

What positive effect did your experience here have on your life outside of camp? – It made me want to help others.

Is there anything you want to add? – I made friends from the first year that I came here, and we are all still friends because of camp.  I’m looking forward to becoming a counselor one day and showing campers how to make friends and have fun.

How To Talk To Your Child About Their Camp Experience

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You’ve wondered, worried and waited all week to hear about your child’s stay at camp.  The anticipation to hear stories about friends they’ve made, activities they’ve done and experiences they’ve had is unbearable. It’s Saturday morning, their bags are back in the car and their tired little bodies are plopped in the back seat. As you head down the dirt road and the dust settles on your back window you ask, “So, how was your week at camp?” and all you get is “It was good.”  You try again. "What did you do?"  To your utter disappointment you get with baited breath, "stuff."

GOOD?! STUFF?! You know for a fact your child had first time experiences like riding a horse, swimming in a lake and camping under the stars. You watched a slide show where you saw kids singing, dancing, covered in mud and spaghetti and climbing a 50-foot tower. How could your child’s answer to what seemed like the most amazing and exhilarating week just be “fine?” Don’t worry, it was in fact, an incredible experience that they will never forget. The problem is not with their week at camp, it is with their inability to put it all into words. So, let us help you help your camper verbalize their once in a lifetime experience at camp.

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Step 1 – Give them some time. They ran all day, every day from program to program. They constantly had to step out of their comfort zone to meet new people and try new things. They stayed up late, woke up early and sweat all day.  They are exhausted. If they aren’t quite ready to talk then offer up a pillow and maybe their favorite music and let them take a nap.

Step 2 – Stop for some lunch. As soon as you walk in your front door, bags of stinky camp laundry will be looming and a bedroom full of modern-day distractions will be calling. If you have some time before you head home stop somewhere to sit down and have a nice big lunch together. This is a great time to talk about their week before going back into the “real world.”

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Step 3 – Ask camp specific questions. How do you sum up a week of camp in one word? If you are a young camper, it will mostly likely be good, fine or maybe fun. Try out some of these more camp specific questions to spark some more interesting conversation.

1.      Who were your favorite counselors?

2.      What skill builders did you sign up for?

3.      Did you see any shooting stars or hear coyotes on your campout?

4.      How messy did you get during forkless spaghetti?

5.      What was your favorite act at the talent show?

6.      Did you have a favorite camp song that you learned? And will you teach it to me?

7.      What carnival game did your cabin organize?

8.      Did you meet any new friends?

9.      What is  Meal Time Mockeries?

10.   Did you meet someone from a different country?

11.   What was the name of the horse you rode?

12.   What things do you want to try when you go back next year?

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Hopefully, these questions will spark even more great conversations between you and your camper about their experience.

Step 5 – Be patient.  If you still aren’t hearing much on the first day just give them some time.  It might take a while to process everything they have done and experienced.  Don’t be surprised if throughout the rest of the year you hear random stories about seeing whiffles or suddenly hear them yell “TOAST!” while they are making their breakfast one morning. It may not always make sense to you but to them it’s a memory of an experience they will never forget.  It’s their way of saying thank you for providing them with a treasured and life-changing opportunity.