By Ken Wold, Executive Director
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
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 A Health Center was constructed to replace a small, outdated facility that is now renovated into staff housing.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.
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.
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.
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.