The Camp Wood YMCA Experience: A Teen's Perspective

"Rainbow" (Tyce) gets a lift from some campers this summer.

"Rainbow" (Tyce) gets a lift from some campers this summer.

Meet Tyce, otherwise known by campers as Rainbow (such colorful hair!). Tyce was 17 years-old this last summer and served as a Volunteer, but he has been attending Camp Wood each summer for the past 8 years. We asked him to share how camp has had an impact on the teenager and leader he is today.

When I first came to Camp Wood I was nine years old. I had never heard of Camp Wood before and I had never been to any camp at all. My first time going to camp, I was really nervous and shy inside and outside of camp. But after a few days of my first week at camp, I began to come out of my shell and I soon realized camp was a place that I could be myself without being judged.

A little less than a year later, I realized that being able to go back to camp was an option and it was the best news ever. Growing up being lucky enough to go to camp was amazing. Being a camper at Camp Wood has been a life-changing experience. The friendships that I have made and the lessons that I have learned at camp will stay with me for the rest of my life. Camp is the only place on earth that I know where I feel more at home than my actual home. I love camp more than anybody that I know. Camp Wood is so important to me, and my life would not be anywhere near the same without it.

Making sure each camper feels welcomed and comfortable at camp is important to long-time camper and current Volunteer, Tyce (known by campers as "Rainbow").

Making sure each camper feels welcomed and comfortable at camp is important to long-time camper and current Volunteer, Tyce (known by campers as "Rainbow").

The reason I kept coming back to camp as a kid was because I always felt like I was safe to be who I really am and not be judged for it. But the reason I keep coming back now as a staff and a volunteer is completely different. The reason I come back now is so that I can make sure that all the kids at camp have as good of a camp experience as I had, if not better. When I see the kids smile and hear them laugh it’s the best feeling in the world and it makes everything I do even better. The reason I keep coming back is for the kids.

Thanks for sharing your story, Tyce! Having a place to belong is so important for teens. We love that Tyce’s Camp Wood experience helped him feel comfortable and confident enough to discover the joy of serving others and a desire to give incoming campers a similarly empowering experience at camp.

If you’re looking for a fun, caring environment for your teen to build confidence, make new friends and discover their talents, consider our fall Teen Adventure Camp from Sept. 30-October 2. For just $95, it’s a great way to try Camp Wood YMCA for the first time or give your returning teen camper a boost in confidence as they continue school this fall. Learn more about Teen Adventure Camp and register today.

Reflections on Summer 2016

By BJ Murray, Senior Operations Director

As we near the middle of September, fall is upon us. School has started. The grasses are taking on their autumn colors. The nights are cooler and the days are shorter. And though we’re looking forward to exciting events at camp this fall, we can’t help but reflect a little on this past summer. Enjoy these thoughts from BJ Murray, Senior Operations Director.

To reflect on the summer of 2016 is a difficult task.  It was filled with so much good, so many friends and so much fun that it is difficult to put into words. But really, that is the whole point of camp on so many levels. It’s a spirit, a feeling, a place to be yourself. And unless you have experienced it first-hand, it is something you just keep talking and/or writing about until everyone around you gets sick of hearing about it.   

Often I am asked, and sometimes even ask the staff, “What is it that keeps you coming back to camp?”. Ninety-nine percent of the time they, and myself, will answer “the people.” They love the other counselors they work with, they love their supervisors, and mostly, they love the kids. That’s what they are here for. But I think it becomes more than just loving the people at camp.

I think it’s the feeling that they get from serving other people. I think when you are living out the “I’m Third” motto (God first, others second, I’m third), caring for others and serving are what truly gives you that special feeling that you cannot quite explain. It is easy to talk about archery – you nock an arrow, straighten your hand with the bow, pull back the string (one finger on top, two below), line up your shot, and straighten your fingers. Easy. But how do you explain what happens around a campfire? How do you talk about the depth of conversation, the bonding, the laughter? Sure you can say it was a beautiful fire, but you just can’t give someone the feeling of the flames’ heat. Similarly, you can talk about being in the beauty of nature, but a picture can’t quite capture the pure beauty of a Flint Hills starry sky. It’s the same with camp. It’s hard to explain.

I say all this because as I think about this summer, it is those difficult to describe things, those friendships and connections, that I think about. I think about the spirit of camp that so many children and staff went home with in their hearts. I think about the tears (so much crying!) on Friday nights as campers said their goodbyes to the counselors and other campers. Those tears tell me that we got it right this summer. We did what camp was supposed to do. We gave campers a place to belong, a place to call a second home, a place to be themselves without worrying about judgement, a place to be a kid. It’s a hard thing to say good-bye to a place like that. 

This summer was my first of what I hope to be many, many, many summers at Camp Wood YMCA. And this first one is going to be awfully hard to top. On the last day of camp before we even started this fall season, we were already 20% full for next summer and we have over 20 staff committed to returning (that is a big number for a camp and I would guess 75% of our staff from this summer will be coming back). I feel confident that Camp Wood YMCA will continue to grow not just in its numbers, but more importantly, in the impact we have on our campers and visitors. It is a very exciting time at camp. 

It was a great honor for myself and for the rest of the staff to serve so many campers this past summer. I look forward to doing so again next summer. Have a great fall, everyone but I’ve already started my countdown to next summer.

Happy Adventures,

BJ Murray, Senior Operations Director

As you start the countdown to Summer 2017, be sure to Pre-register online. With so many campers already signed up to return, sessions will fill up fast. Click below to reserve your spot for Summer 2017. It takes less than 5 minutes and you'll receive a new camp t-shirt in the mail this fall!

There's still time!

Did June get away from you? Don’t worry, there’s still space in many of our July and August sessions. Browse open sessions by date below!

Or maybe your child attended camp earlier this summer and was begging you to come back? Make their dreams come true and sign them up for a second session this summer! The best part? All your forms are already submitted, so it’s just a matter of making your deposit! Limited space is available in the remaining sessions. Sign up soon!

Open sessions:

Staying in touch while giving them space.

For many parents, the week that their child is away at camp can be a challenge. Parents are used to monitoring what and how their children are doing throughout the day and often check in with them frequently via cell phone when they’re not at home. While there are no cell phones or similar electronics allowed at camp, you can still touch base with your son or daughter. Here are a few ways that campers and parents can ease their separation this summer.

Plan ahead.

Colorful paper and some fun new pens might entice your child to write to you from camp. Don’t forget to pack stamps and an envelope, too! Or maybe your child prefers to draw? Ask them to draw pictures in a sketchbook throughout the week and then share them with you when they return home.

Nothing beats a simple care package.

A deck of cards, a bag of suckers to share, and a nice note telling them how you hope they’re having a good time—what could be better? Just be sure to include enough treats for the whole cabin and avoid any foods with peanut products (to protect our campers with allergies) and gum (it’s no fun to clean up). Address your care packages and letters to: Camper Name, Cabin #, Camp Wood YMCA, 1101 Camp Wood Road, Elmdale, KS 66850

NEW THIS YEAR! Send them a one-way email.

What’s a one-way email? Well, it’s just a regular email that you send to your child. The one-way part means that they will not be able to email you back (they’re too busy making new friends and having fun to sit inside on a computer!). Send your message to You MUST include your child’s full name and cabin number or we will be unable to deliver your message. Emails are printed daily at 11 a.m. and anything received afterward will be distributed the next day.

Spy on them.

Well, not really. But you can browse through the daily photos we post on Facebook and Flickr. We can’t guarantee a photo of every child—but more than likely you’ll get at least one glimpse of them during the week. And don’t worry if they’re wearing mismatched clothes or their hair’s a mess—that’s part of the fun of camp! No one cares what you’re wearing as long as you’re having fun and being safe. We hope these daily pictures capture the newfound independence and confidence of your children as they learn new skills and make new friends. Enjoy them!

We hope these tips help you to keep in touch while your child is at camp. Often, it’s harder for the parents than it is for children since we keep campers busy throughout the day. At night, they’re often so tired from the day’s adventures that there’s not much room for homesickness. This is a good thing! All children need opportunities to grow in confidence and independence—and summer camp is the ideal place to do so.

Thanks for sharing your child with us this summer! If you have any further questions about keeping in touch, give us a call at (620) 273-8641 or email us at

Meet Katey: Outdoor Education and Events Director

We are excited to introduce Katey Noel, our new Outdoor Education and Events Director, to the Camp Wood YMCA family. She joined our team in late March and jumped right in to ensure that schools and other special use groups enjoyed their experiences at camp this spring. Many of you may have met Katey during registration at the Centennial Celebration in May. She helped ensure that the day ran smoothly and enjoyed the chance to be a part of such a special milestone for Camp Wood. We are thrilled that she and her family have joined us and we look forward to welcoming them during their first summer on the Kansas prairie. Get to know Katey better in the interview below! 

What are your first impressions of Camp Wood?

I am very impressed with the values-driven mission of Camp Wood. Also, the staff was a primary factor in my decision to move to Kansas and join this team. I have been welcomed and feel like part of the team already. I am really enjoying watching the seasons change on the Tallgrass prairie. When I arrived at the end of March, very little was in bloom. Now, after the burn, I’ve been astonished at how quickly the land has turned green. I’m learning a great deal about the Flint Hills and Tallgrass prairie which is quite fun and very different from Oregon’s old growth forests.

What experiences do you bring to Camp Wood's Outdoor Education program?

I have been involved in camping since I was a teenager. Summer camps lead me to pursue a teaching degree. I taught elementary school initially and then began teaching Adult Basic Skills & GED Preparation classes. I think my experience with education and non-traditional learners will help me as I support our Camp Wood instructors and the teachers who bring their students here for Outdoor Education.

What impact has camping made in your life?

People often say that camp has impacted or changed their life whether it was just one week as a camper or several seasons on staff. I too can say that. I began working at camp as a volunteer when I was in high school and met my (future) husband at that time. Camp has taught me self-awareness, leadership skills, and helped me develop a heart for service. My husband and I have been fortunate to raise our children in a camping environment by working at camp in the summer seasons. Many parenting conversations are made easier by referring to the YMCA values (and only invoke a little bit of eye-rolling from my children).

Speaking of your children, tell us a little about your family.

My husband's name is Errol. My daughter is Makenna (16) and my boys are Beckett (11) and Thatcher (9). My dog is Dixie.

Errol and I met at camp 30 years ago. It has always been a dream of ours to live and work year-round on camp. Our kids have grown up going to seasonal summer camp but have not yet had the full-year experience. Right now, they are excited to see a new state (Kansas is very different than Oregon!) and a new camp. My daughter, Makenna, is looking forward to horseback riding and meeting new camp friends. Beckett is excited about swimming in the lake, playing in the creek and hunting for reptiles. And Thatcher is ready for horseback riding, swimming and hopes to help wash dishes or do maintenance this summer.

You'll direct Camp Wood's outdoor education program year-round. Why do you feel time outdoors is so important for today's families?

In recent years due to a number of factors, children (and adults) are spending a very small amount of time outdoors. Research is showing that we gain problem-solving skills, gain attention spans, and increase our ability to focus just by regularly being outside. The role of a child is really to ask, “why?” Being in the outdoors naturally provides children that opportunity.

Besides working at camp, what are some other activities you enjoy?

Most of my friends would say that camp is my hobby. But, beyond that, I enjoy being with my family, especially when we can be outdoors exploring. I love going to the beach, hiking, and relaxing. I’m an avid reader and rarely am without a book. I enjoy baking and recently have started doing jigsaw puzzles.

Anything else you want to share with the Camp Wood YMCA family?

Thank you for making me feel so welcome!

Is your school, youth group, scouting troop or family looking for a place to gather this fall or winter? Give Katey a call at (620) 273-8641 or email her at She can help you plan your group's outing--from outdoor education activities to meals to lodging needs. For more information, visit our Schools and Rentals pages.