Fire in the Flint Hills

Every spring, Camp Wood YMCA sets as much of our land on fire as possible. And yes, it's on purpose. This spring tradition of burning is vital to the health and preservation of the Tallgrass Prairie that covers camp's property in the Flint Hills. Our Outdoor Education and Events Director, Katey, created this short video to show what a prairie burn looks like. (Note: We don't usually burn at night unless it's absolutely necessary, but when a night burn happens, it's especially impressive to watch the flames move across the hills!)

The video does a great job illustrating that though fire seems like a harsh treatment of the land, it actually sets the stage for improved spring growth of native grasses and flowers. The fire also kills invasive woody species, like cedars. You can see the extent of the burning at camp in the aerial photos below, taken by board member, Ivan Moore.

From the hill to your left as you drive into camp, to the land beyond the horse barn and surrounding the new Preston Outdoor Education Station, to the hill across the lake where you can still see the names of campers' towns put there in stone early in camp's history--we burn a lot of camp's property. The areas closest to most of our buildings are not burned (for obvious reasons) but we do mow those areas.

From the hill to your left as you drive into camp, to the land beyond the horse barn and surrounding the new Preston Outdoor Education Station, to the hill across the lake where you can still see the names of campers' towns put there in stone early in camp's history--we burn a lot of camp's property. The areas closest to most of our buildings are not burned (for obvious reasons) but we do mow those areas.

From this angle, you can see the hillsides facing the lake that were burned, revealing the rocky underlayment that the Flint Hills are known for.

From this angle, you can see the hillsides facing the lake that were burned, revealing the rocky underlayment that the Flint Hills are known for.

Want to learn more about how the Tallgrass Prairie landscape and the forces that shape it affect the camper experience? Read about the Tallgrass Prairie and Camp Wood YMCA.

Food allergies at summer camp

My daughter, Lizzie, had a wonderful experience at Camp Wood YMCA and can’t wait to go back! My husband and I were initially concerned about sending her. We knew she’d have a good time and make new friends…but Lizzie has food allergies.
— Joanna O'Malley, mother to camper, Lizzie, who has a peanut allergy
Lizzie, second from right, getting into the songs at opening campfire during Mini-Camp in 2016.

Lizzie, second from right, getting into the songs at opening campfire during Mini-Camp in 2016.

For many families of a child with food allergies, new environments can be a source of anxiety. Summer camp can be especially worrisome since your child is eating meals and living with others—often far from home. How do you balance the need to keep your child with allergies safe while still allowing them to be independent and experience the joys of summer camp?    

Our staff have prepared the following information for parents of children with food allergies as they consider sending their child to Camp Wood YMCA for the first time.

How do I make camp aware of my child’s food allergies?

The first step to notifying camp about food allergies is to complete the medical form required for registration. This information is reviewed each week and information about dietary needs is communicated to Cheryl, our Dining Services Director, who then plans meals accordingly. Cheryl takes her duties to protect children very seriously and reads every ingredient label for every food item. If there is any question about an ingredient and how it may affect an allergic camper, she opts not to use it.

Food allergy information is also communicated to our registered camp nurse, who oversees the medical care and treatment of all campers. Our nurse is on camp 24 hours a day and carries any medicines necessary to treat children experiencing allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock. Please feel free to visit with the nurse during check-in about any remaining concerns you may have about your child’s allergies.

In addition to completing the medical form and visiting with the camp nurse, feel free to share information about your child’s allergies with his or her cabin counselors during check-in. Since children eat together with their cabin in the dining hall, cabin counselors should be aware of any food allergies and know the symptoms your child exhibits during an allergic reaction. Many of our counselors are returning staff members and will have cared for children with food allergies in prior summers.

What safeguards does camp take to protect children with food allergies?

Camp Wood YMCA takes the safety of children with food allergies very seriously. In addition to the precautions mentioned above, all food consumption is restricted to the dining hall with the exception of campout night, when food is prepared in the dining hall and then eaten at the campsites. Camp meals are not allowed to contain peanuts or peanut products and when an ingredient states it may have come from a facility containing peanut products, alternative ingredients are used for allergic children. No food is allowed in the cabins and, with the exception of the outdoor cooking skillbuilder, food is also prohibited in all programs areas.

Due to these food restrictions, summer camp is in many ways a safer environment for children with food allergies than most public places where food is nearly always present.

We wanted to be sure Lizzie would be safe eating away from home. After visiting with Camp Wood and learning the lengths they go for their campers’ safety, we felt comfortable. Lizzie was able to experience camp and make wonderful memories!
Lizzie, far left, getting to know her cabin counselor and new friends.

Lizzie, far left, getting to know her cabin counselor and new friends.

 We hope sharing a little about Camp Wood YMCA’s precautions and procedures concerning food allergies has helped ease your anxiety about sending your child to summer camp. But we know that there are many types of allergies and that you may still have some concerns. If you have further questions about summer camp and your child’s food allergies, please feel free to contact our Summer Program Director, Melissa, at (620) 273-8641 or via email at summer@campwood.org. She’ll be happy to visit with you about your child’s needs!

 

Caring for camp horses

Horses are a big part of the Camp Wood YMCA experience. For many campers, their first time on a horse is at camp--and what a beautiful place to ride (and be) a horse! The wide open spaces of the Tallgrass Prairie are ideal for exploring on horseback and we make it a priority for each camper to get at least one horseback ride per week. Participants in our popular Horse Camps get even more time with our herd of horses--learning how to care for and safely maneuver these beautiful creatures on trail rides and in our indoor and outdoor riding arenas. Since our horses do so much for our campers, we take their care very seriously and work hard to keep them happy and healthy year-round.

Enjoy this fun video that Katey created of our loveable horses as they receive a visit from the vet and the farrier. You can also learn more about our Horse Camp programs. They are usually the first camps to fill up every summer!

 

 

The more things change... (an update for Camp Wood YMCA alumni)

By Ken Wold, Executive Director

Executive Director, Ken Wold, has worked for 20 years to be a good steward of Camp Wood YMCA for current and future generations.

Executive Director, Ken Wold, has worked for 20 years to be a good steward of Camp Wood YMCA for current and future generations.

I recently spoke at a YMCA conference. The session centered around camping and the impact that camping has on kids. In the room was a group of CEOs of small to mid-Size YMCAs in the United States. Within that group, sat the CEO of Frost Valley YMCA (one of the largest YMCA camping facilities in the country) and the CEO of the Sioux YMCAs in South Dakota that serve reservation communities. The Sioux YMCA operates the Leslie Marrowbone Memorial YMCA camp, probably the smallest YMCA camp in the country. And, of course, Camp Wood YMCA was representing a mid-sized camp. I wanted to emphasize that the impact of camping has nothing to do with the size of the Y or the bells and whistles found at any camp. The impact has to do with campers experiencing:

  • growth in independence,

  • increased self-esteem through learned skills,

  • an increase in tolerance and acceptance of others, and

  • relationship-building. 

These are the common goal of any camp and, if achieved, it is successful camp. These remain the goals of Camp Wood YMCA and we hope that as alumni, many of you can attest to these impacts in your own lives as a result of attending or working at camp.

If you were able to join us last May for our Centennial Celebration, you may have noticed that the Camp Wood you were familiar with has undergone many physical changes. Many of them were needed for safety and good stewardship of the property and many were done for the pure enjoyment of having the ability to offer programming to all in a comfortable atmosphere. With these grounds and facility changes, Camp Wood YMCA is now ready to serve campers (many of them children and grandchildren of our alumni) for another 100 years. Here are a few of the changes camp has undergone over the past 14 years. Come on out and see them sometime.

Updating camp facilities for future generations

In 2003, it was decided to conduct a capital campaign for several projects, including the goal to get the barn out of the sweltering heat below the dam. A new facility with indoor riding arena (the Koger Horse Pavilion) was built at the highest point on camp and now catches a very nice breeze. A Health Center was constructed to replace a small, outdated facility that is now renovated into staff housing. With five failing leach lines for sewage, a new, camp-wide sewer system was created. Because we were at capacity for a couple weeks in the summer, new cabins were built (the Jones Village). This eventually would allow us to replace the red cabins. (You can read more about the red cabins here.) And because the campaign was going well, we were able to move forward with a new lodge and administration center (the Ritchie Lodge).  A total of $6.8 million was raised during that first campaign. With these first improvements, the camper experience was greatly improved and camper fees could be directed towards program improvements instead of towards maintenance and repairs to aging camp infrastructure.

In 2011 it was decided to move ahead with a second campaign. This one would be much smaller but had some very important projects. Probably the most important project was the water system. (Many alumni may remember the tea-colored water that was standard here or when the water would run out during evening showers or inclement weather.) Since 2001, camp had been hooked up to the Elmdale water system. It had become clear that Elmdale’s system could fail at any moment and there were no funds to fix it. If this had happened during camp, we would have had to close camp for the summer. With a few years of negotiations, camp came to an agreement with Elmdale and the state to build a separate water plant with a new well that would act as a backup for Elmdale’s aging system. While we were planning a system we planned for backup power, holding tanks and additional lines on camp for future growth. Campers can now flush toilets and take showers during a power outage.

Ken speaks with visitors during Hutch Hall's renovation. The old wooden backstage was removed and the original views to the hills beyond was restored.

Ken speaks with visitors during Hutch Hall's renovation. The old wooden backstage was removed and the original views to the hills beyond was restored.

In addition to the water system, Hutch Hall had a face lift. The Arts and Crafts building was renovated into the Trussler Arts Center. The old canteen/staff hut was transformed into a family living unit for staff. The tennis courts were redone. A new skatepark was constructed.  The Preston Outdoor Education Station was created.  We also purchased 238 acres to the south of camp. And yes, the red cabins and bathhouse (the Kastle) were replaced. We also have new signage and stone steps from the waterfront. These steps are a great place to catch a glimpse of collared lizards basking in the sun.

Beyond buildings

Now that camp grounds and facilities have been restored and improved, we’ve now entered into a third campaign—an Endowment Fund--with the goal of ensuring Camp Wood YMCA will be able to serve children for another 100 years to come. As many alumni know, Camp Wood YMCA has seen ups and downs, much like any camp, and to protect it from the hard times, we are raising money for an endowment that will serve as a very important tool. In the good times, the endowment will allow us to build new programs, improve facilities, and serve more kids. In the down times, it will allow camp to properly maintain facilities and provide quality programs. We are currently half way to our $2 million goal and are very hopeful that the goal will be met. For me, this type of fundraising is the most rewarding. Many of the people who give to an endowment have a story to tell concerning camp.  Whether it is Camp Wood YMCA or another camp experience, these donors understand the importance of a camp experience and want to ensure it is available to as many kids as possible for as long as possible.

Campers enjoying their last evening together at closing campfire. It's still just as hard to say goodbye to camp friends at the end of a week.

Campers enjoying their last evening together at closing campfire. It's still just as hard to say goodbye to camp friends at the end of a week.

All for the benefit of our campers

Improvements to camp have been a good thing, but the best thing about any camp is its ability to create relationships that last, improve self-esteem among its campers, foster independence and encourage tolerance and care for others. Facilities are just a tool. An endowment is just a tool. But these tools allow for the important work of camp to take place.

If you’re interested in visiting camp and seeing what has changed (and what has stayed the same), we hope you’ll join us for our free Open House on May 6, 2017 from 1-5 p.m. New and returning campers will be visiting with staff and trying out popular summer activities like archery and arts and crafts. We hope our alumni and their friends and family will join us as well. Call us at (620) 273-8641 with any questions.

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Baade

With 15 summers spent at Camp Wood over the years, Sarah Baade became a familiar face to many camper and staff alumni. Read about what Sarah is up to now and about some of her favorite memories from her time spent at camp.

Sarah and her brother were sad to leave after a great week spent at camp. nice tie-dye shirt, sarah!

Sarah and her brother were sad to leave after a great week spent at camp. nice tie-dye shirt, sarah!

How old were you when you first came to camp?

I was eight years old when I first attended camp. I recall being nervous because I was an extremely shy kid. However, camp has a way of bringing you out of your shell and I ended up having the time of my life. I cried when my parents came to pick me up and, as the story goes, I told my parents I would stay there all summer long when they were no longer the boss of me. (NOTE: Sarah kept her promise to her parents and would go on to spend nine summers as a camper, two summers as a volunteer and four summers as a staff member.)

Tell us about some of your favorite camp memories and people over the years.  

With 15 summers under my belt it is really difficult to choose just one memory or just one person to reflect on. In my very early years, we would do a midnight chapel service on the last night of your week at camp. There are tons of memories from those nights. Later on, Matt Bayer was my hero when I nearly fell off a horse on a trail ride. Once old enough to participate, I recall Julie (Frank) White guiding us through the Raggers program. As a volunteer, there were games of Dead Fish led by Ryan Wright. During family camp canoe trips, Anne (Haake) Winter and I demonstrated exactly how strong tiny women are by hauling canoes up a very muddy hill without any slips or falls. When working at the Alpine Tower, I would laugh so hard with Travis Cooper that Edouard Djiba and Amber Carlson could hear me from the water front.

Sarah and fellow staff members, Jessica and jill, flex their muscles for the camera in jones lodge.

Sarah and fellow staff members, Jessica and jill, flex their muscles for the camera in jones lodge.

Do you still keep in touch with friends that you met at camp?

The friendships I made at camp are some of the most precious I have ever made. Over the years, they have provided support during life transitions (both happy and challenging). They have given me reasons to travel and seek adventure. They have taught me lessons about the world I likely wouldn’t have otherwise learned. I absolutely still keep in touch with friends I met at camp – both as a camper and as a staff member.

When you were a camper, what impact did camp have on you?

As a young person, camp staff encouraged me to push beyond my comfort zone in safe ways. They also had a way of celebrating traits that made me uniquely me. This probably helped me develop more self-confidence than just about anything else in life. I began seeing myself as capable and outgoing. I became better at making friends and was more willing to try new activities outside of camp.

What about now, as an adult? 

My life continues to be impacted by my time at camp and probably always will be. I am not only willing to try new activities, I happily seek them out. My leadership and interpersonal skills also would not be what they are today if I hadn’t attended camp. I feel like camp also helped to prepare me for parenthood. I have a better understanding of child development; I have coping skills in challenging moments and I have silly songs to entertain with.

Sarah with her husband, josh, and their new daughter, Eleanor.

Sarah with her husband, josh, and their new daughter, Eleanor.

What have you been up to since camp? 

Over the years I have moved around to different corners of the country and have traveled to a handful of other countries around the world. I am currently living in San Antonio with my husband, Josh, and we welcomed our daughter, Eleanor, into the world in November 2016. Over the past five years I have worked as an audiologist at the VA hospital here in town. As a family, we stay busy with church activities and exploring local restaurants. I also spend free time baking and working out (to make up for all the baked goods).

Sarah Baade spent 15 summers at Camp Wood YMCA--as a camper, volunteer and later, as a staff member.

Sarah Baade spent 15 summers at Camp Wood YMCA--as a camper, volunteer and later, as a staff member.

Is Camp Wood still a part of your life?

Friendships are the biggest way Camp Wood continues to be a regular part of my life. However, memories also tend to sneak in at the most random moments of my day to day. I love sharing camp with my family and explaining its impact on my life. I have brought my husband out to camp and anticipate bringing our daughter in the future. Living 700+ miles away may limit the likelihood of our daughter attending as a camper but I will absolutely encourage her to try a Y camp closer to home if we can’t accommodate getting her up to Camp Wood.

What advice would you give today's campers and staff?

Embrace every moment. Be present in the joys and accept the challenging moments for the valuable lessons you are learning. Also, WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN!

Anything else you'd like to share about your Camp Wood experience?

I think one of the greatest things Camp Wood has done over the years is accept and embrace everyone for who they are. Camp is one of the first places I learned about diversity of race, religion, socioeconomic status. It is such a gift that this early exposure provided a positive outlook and demonstrated equality for all.

Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your experience with us! In future editions of the Alumni Newsletter, we’ll be featuring additional camper and staff alumni members. If you’d like to be featured or have ideas about other news you’d like to see in the newsletter, let us know with the Alumni Contact Form.