Happy 2018!

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It’s that time of year again when we all set new resolutions. We look for ways that we can change and improve ourselves, or find something better that we could be doing, or in some cases stop doing (I need to stop eating the sugar cookies at Casey’s – they’re delicious). 

Camp Wood YMCA is not immune to setting goals for the New Year.  2017 was a pretty incredible one for us at camp.  We had record numbers of kids, ran some new programs, and continued to grow.  But we are not ones to sit back on our current successes because we believe in never settling.  We always want to be better.  We know there are more children, families, schools and groups who could benefit from camp.  We know those that do utilize us can continue to have a great experience, and we want to find ways to improve upon those experiences.  So how do we do that?  Well, that is what we as a camp team are digging into. 

So, as we go into the New Year, here are a few of Camp Wood YMCA’s resolutions:

Service – We are looking at every aspect of our camping experience and finding ways were we can better serve all campers and guests.  How do we make registration easier? Where are areas of camp we can make more comfortable for our guests? We want to make sure that none of our campers, guests, or families have to sweat (metaphorically speaking).

Program Development – We want to be running the best possible programs in the country.  How do we do that?  In our view it is by focusing on four elements. 

     Magic - The extra effort to create a unique and memorable experience.

     Skill Development - Creating a safe environment where participants can gain confidence      and competence in any given area.

     Values Based - All programs based on role modeling the ideas of Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility and I’m Third.

     Community - A feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Everything we do as we approach this summer will be focused on consistently following these virtues. As we strive for excellence in all aspects of Camp and as we consider the many families and groups that we serve, we remember that the reason we strive at all is because of you. We wouldn’t be dreaming of doing more without you and the love & support you have for camp. This last year has been amazing for Camp Wood YMCA, but we are excited to see what 2018 has for us and everyone that experiences camp throughout this next year.

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Meet Stubby: the Camp Wood barn cat

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Hi, Stubby the Camp Wood barn cat here. I've heard that some campers are missing camp, which is obviously code for missing ME. So, I thought I'd ask one of my minions (otherwise known as the year-round staff) to share this little note with my loyal followers on the internet. Word is that cats pretty much rule the internet, so I figured I'd add my story to the record. So here it goes...

I am one of 6 or 7 siblings. It's hard to remember since I couldn’t see for the first weeks of my young my life. But they've moved on and now, I consider myself a lone wolf, errr...cat. I am the sole, full-time tenant of the Koger Horse Pavilion here at Camp Wood YMCA. Sure, there are horses who live here and a few humans that fill my bowl with water, but we all know I'm the only one that matters. And in my few years of life here at the barn. I've learned a few important things I'd like to share with you.

The first and most important thing I've learned, is that despite what the staff will tell you, I, Stubby the barn cat, am the real reason campers come to the Koger Horse Pavillion. May I suggest we change the name to the Koger Cat Pavillion? Anyway, I'm telling you, the horses are merely a side show to my main stage. No matter the season, when kids or adults alike enter the barn, they come to me first. Not to the horses, not to the staff, but directly to ME. They pet me, they hold me, they raise their voices to this really high pitch (which is strangely soothing) to ask if I’m a good kitty.

I never knew I would become so popular. In fact, when I lost most of my tail in that accident years ago--I thought maybe I'd lost some of my charm. But no, I think the knobby tail makes them love me even more. What can I say...I'm irresistible. However, the only confusing thing is that after about 10 minutes, they all get on horses and they disappear. I’m still trying to figure out what they are doing out there on the prairie.

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And that brings me to my second point--there is no reason to ever leave the barn. I mean, it's so windy out there and the grass is so tall! What's the appeal? The horses say the views are beautiful--something about a rare Tallgrass ecosystem. Whatever. Horses know nothing. There is NO REASON to leave this gorgeous barn. The humans come to me, my job chasing mice keeps me busy, and I NEVER worry about getting wet in the barn. Granted, sometimes I'll venture out onto the patio to get some sun, but there are plenty of things to keep me busy inside. Plus, if I wandered outside, I might miss the next time people visit and miss being petted. Now THAT would be a tragedy.

The third and final thing I have learned in my first of nine lives, is that you can nap anywhere if you try hard enough. I hear campers chatting about all the fun things they're doing and all the games they play in the evenings and it all sounds so...exhausting. I mean, I am usually up all night keeping mice and other curious critters away from the barn, so I need my time to rest during the day. While the cement floor under the basketball hoop is my normal spot, I like to move around to keep things interesting. I have tried sleeping in the riding arena (which is frankly dangerous with all those campers on horseback cantering around), in the tack room on some old saddle pads, and on the balcony. But my absolute favorite spot to lay is on tables, especially when they are all set up for activities. I get the feeling this annoys the staff who like things organized and, I don't know, without cat footprints all over. But, what can I say, I just like to be a part of the action, even while I am sleeping. Plus, shooing me off the table is no way to treat one of Camp Wood's main attractions. These kids come back year after year to see me. The least the staff can do is let me lounge wherever I want. 

So yeah, life up at the barn is pretty great overall. There are people to pet me, great spots to nap and the horses aren't TOO big of a nuisance. For the most part, they're nice to me and never step on me or chase me. I just REALLY wish that they would learn to only use the restroom outside. How uncivilized of them! This is my HOUSE, afterall.

Oh, and before I forget, anyone who wants to come visit their buddy, Stubby, should register for Winter Camp. By that time it should be good and cold up here and I'd love a few visitors. You can register for Winter Camp (and petting me) here. I hope to see you then.

Your loyal barn guardian,

Stubby

Meet Emily Walden, Outdoor Education and Events Director

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Help us welcome Emily Walden to Camp Wood YMCA. Emily began as our Events and Outdoor Education Director in September and has been working hard to meet the needs of our special groups, schools and visitors this fall. Learn a little more about Emily below.

What are your experiences with Camp Wood YMCA so far? What made you want to join the Camp Wood family after having attended and worked at Iowa’s YMCA Camp Foster?

The staff at Camp Wood has been very friendly and very willing to help me feel at home here. Camp Wood puts a lot of effort into making sure everyone--campers, guest and staff alike--are all receiving the best experience they can while at camp.

(Regarding YMCA Camp Foster…) I wanted to get out of my comfort zone both in proximity to home and the type of summer programming that I am used to. Camp Wood seemed like a good fit for where I was in my life.

What impact has the outdoors and camping made on your life?

Summer camp gave me the confidence to be the person I never thought I could be. My passion, my drive, and my sense of humor is all thanks to the experience I got while attending camp as a child.

What experience with outdoor education and events do you bring to Camp Wood YMCA? How will this help you in your new position as Outdoor Education and Events Director here?

I went to school to be a teacher and have spent the past six summers in the camping world. I know that my love for camp and wanting to spread my passion to others will help me serve our groups here at Camp Wood. Also, I am someone that is open to new experiences and always thinking of ways to make things better for everyone involved.

Why is outdoor education important for kids today?

In outdoor education, we have the opportunity to educate kids in a way they are not used to. Taking kids out of the classroom and letting them experience nature hands-on is so important. I feel like kids learn more when they are having fun and don’t realize that they are learning. At camp, we have the ability to show kids how amazing the outdoors is, and in turn, hopefully inspire them to help to take care of where we live.

How does the group season and the experiences Camp Wood offers support our mission?

We have the opportunity to bring in not only kids, but adults and families, from all different organizations and places and provide them with programming within our values. Our group season is a great way to provide programming for both those in our surrounding community and those beyond it.

When not working, what are some of your hobbies or interests?

My family is very important to me, so traveling to visit them or just catching up with them is important to me. I also enjoy exploring towns around me. Every place you are, there are always hidden treasures, and I love finding them. Also, I grew up as an avid runner and I still enjoy doing that.

We asked Emily for some of her favorite quotes and says she believes we can learn a lot about ourselves from passages or quotes or poems. Explore a few of her favorites below.

Thanks, Emily! We're so excited to have you as a part of the Camp Wood YMCA family. If you'd like to talk with Emily about Camp Wood's outdoor education or event needs, give her a call at (620) 273-8641 or email her at events@campwood.org.

Summer 2017 is one for the record books!

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What a great summer at Camp Wood YMCA! As we say goodbye to summer and gear up for our fall outdoor education season, enjoy this reflection by BJ Murray, our Senior Operations Director, on all the ways 2017 was a special year at Camp Wood YMCA.

This summer was certainly one for the books. In just Traditional Camp sessions alone, we grew by over 100 campers since last summer! If you include weeks like Camp Corral and special groups that joined us this summer, we served 260 more campers. In fact, a quick look at our camper numbers shows 2017 may have been Camp Wood YMCA’s best year in history.

It felt great to be so busy and welcome so many new and returning faces. We had waiting lists for every session this summer but one and if we thought this summer was a great one, next summer is already showing signs that it will be an even bigger year. At this point, we have more than twice the pre-registrations we had last year—with nearly 300 families who have already reserved their child’s spot for 2018. If you haven’t pre-registered your child yet, we strongly encourage you to do so by October 1, 2017. Learn more about the benefits of pre-registration.

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Of course, record camper numbers are exciting because it means we’re sharing the magic of summer camp with more kids. But this summer was impressive in ways beyond mere numbers. Our amazing staff worked really hard to make a bigger-than-ever impact on the lives of our campers through well-designed programs and supportive relationships. And every week at closing campfire, the fruits of our labor were on display. We’ve added a “hug circle” to the closing ceremony during which the staff take a moment to hug each camper and tell them how special they are.  It’s a nice chance to cement the confidence and friendships gained through the week, but it also serves as a very visible measure of the impact we had on each camper. The emotions and tears on display show us whether or not we reached this particular group of campers. Most Friday night hug circles were drenched in tears and the faces of campers revealed how much they’d gained during the camp experience. Good-byes between campers and counselors on Saturdays were similarly emotional. These staff and campers changed one another’s lives and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.

Some may assume that the impressive numbers and emotional good-byes were all due to some incredible new program or amazing facilities that we built here at camp. But, the truth is, it came from focusing on something less glamourous and expensive, it came from a commitment to foster good, old-fashioned friendships. We committed to teaching our campers how to make and keep authentic, supportive relationships with other kids. It’s a skill often left behind in today’s ironically social media-focused world. It is these friendships that formed the foundation for this summer’s success. This focus on friendships is a long-term goal here at camp and one we hope to make gains towards each summer. I’m happy to report that virtually every 2017 camper reported on their evaluations that they made new friends.

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In addition to the new and stronger friendships our campers built together, they also shared some really important insights into why camp is a special place for so many of them. Comments like “I can be my true self” or “At school, I often get bullied--but at camp I have people that care for me” surfaced on camper surveys again and again. For the kids in our program this summer, camp offered a model for how the world should be. It showed that character and caring for one another is more important than race, creed, financial status, grades, athletic abilities, artistic talent or any other label. What a lovely seed to plant in the hearts of these young people as they look to create a future for us all.

With the impressive growth we experienced this summer, we now face a new challenge. How do we continue to grow, yet maintain the small and intimate summer camp experience that Camp Wood YMCA is known for? This is one of the first questions we are tackling this fall. Of course, we will continue to focus on friendship building in the years to come. We will also continue to develop our programming so that no matter how many campers join us each week, they’ll have fun, learn new skills and build character. It’s an exciting challenge and one we’re thankful to have as we begin our second century of camping. Indeed, the 2017 summer season was a great one, but it is just the beginning for Camp Wood YMCA and the children and families we serve. Thank you so much for sharing in this adventure with us and making 2017 such a banner year. We look forward to many more to come. 

A re-vamped camp store!

We are excited to announce the launch of our re-vamped Camp Wood Store! Our mission is to provide a choice of merchandise and snacks for campers and families to purchase while staying with us. We want to support children in learning to manage funds and make positive choices when purchasing items.

Campers will be able to visit the store at several times during the day. The store will typically be open before lunch (Brunch Crunch) and before dinner (Grub Club). Also, campers may visit the store with their cabin groups during the afternoon activity period.

Our snack choices are in line with the YMCA mission of healthy living. Typical choices are: 100% juice boxes, string cheese, pretzels, fruit snacks, and goldfish crackers. We also want to offer some special treats so most afternoons will have an additional offering such as popcorn or sno-cones. Snack prices vary from $0.25 to $1.00. We suggest $5-$15 for the week for snacks.

Our merchandise includes Camp Wood YMCA swag such as shirts, sweatshirts, Nalgene water bottles and pennants. We also carry an assortment of items useful to have at camp such as flashlights, toothbrushes, journals, stuffed animals, hacky sacks and sunglasses. Most merchandise ranges from $3.00-$10.00. Camp shirts and sweatshirts range in price from $15-$30.  If you would like your child to purchase merchandise while they are here, we suggest placing $15-$30 on your child’s account.

At check in on Sunday you may place funds on your camper’s account. Money not spent will not be returned but will be rolled over to future 2017 weeks. Any unspent funds at the end of the summer will be donated to our scholarship account, which helps kids attend camp who could otherwise not afford to go. The camp store will be open during check out on so you may use the remaining funds on your child’s account at that point. Campers may not carry cash with them while at camp.

If you have questions about the camp store, please feel free to contact us at (620) 273-8641 or summer@campwood.org.