Outdoor Adventure Camp Changes Kids’ Lives

New friends, time in nature away from screens and just plain fun are a few of the reasons the Orthman Community YMCA’s Great Outdoors Adventure Camp is so popular.

This is the fourth year of the four-day/three-night overnight camp, and 29 campers attended.

For the past two years, the camp took place at Camp Arrowhead near Lexington. Youth learned how to set up a tent, went fishing, played games, swam in the lake and engaged their creativity with arts and crafts. They also learned important skills like responsibility, and they met new friends.

Amanda Farrell signed up two children (Jordan, 9, and Quintin,10) for the camp.

“They love going to camp and always have so much fun,” Amanda said. “They said when Mr. Gruntorad (the YMCA CEO) is there, he is the best!”

Amanda said her children benefit by learning outdoor skills at the camp, and she hopes to see the camp continue for many more years.

Jesse and Brittany Meyers also signed up two children for the camp this year, Jacoby, 6, and Lilian, 9. This was Jacob’s first year of camp and Lily’s third year.

“We registered them so they could get a chance to spend some time out in nature, disconnected from TV and electronics,” Brittany said. “And we know how much Lily has enjoyed camp in the past, so we wanted Jacoby to get the experience as well.”

Brittany said both kids really enjoyed the swimming this year since the temperatures were so hot.

Both children talked about the camp competition and how they enjoyed cheering for their teams to earn points.

“We like hearing about how much fun they have outdoors, and how it teaches them teamwork, and how their actions contribute to an overall longer-term goal with the team scores,” Brittany said. “We also like how they’re responsible for their own possessions. We make them pack all of their own things and keep track of it before the camp.  And it’s fun to hear how well they do at being organized and responsible while we aren’t there to guide them.”

Many YMCA staff members volunteer their time to make this camp possible, including several younger staff members.

Carly Holbrook, who is currently a college student studying to be a middle school teacher, enjoyed attending summer camps since elementary school.

“This is part of what led me to want to be a counselor for Y camp,” Carly said.

Her first year of helping with the camp was in 2020.

“It was amazing to be able to give the children something to look forward to in a time of confusion,” she said. “I have helped every summer since.”

Carly said her favorite part of being a camp counselor is watching the kids come out of their shells.

“It amazes me how a group of kids can go from strangers to best friends in a matter of hours,” she said. “Over the years, I have seen children age out of being able to attend camp. On the last day, they always seem sad, wishing they could attend another year or saying they want to come back to help when they’re older. Those statements are a testament to how this camp impacts their lives.”

Noah Converse, who is also a college student majoring in education, said his favorite part of the Y summer camp experience is the relationships he builds with kids.

“A couple of weeks ago at the store a kid stopped me and said, ‘You were a counselor at Y camp right.’ And I said, ‘yep.’ He told me that camp was his favorite part of summer. Those moments are my favorite thing about Y camp.”

Noah said working at this camp has impacted his life by showing him that it’s the little moments that matter in life.

“Not any big planned events, but rather the conversations you have while playing cards are the best memories,” he said.

Makayla Adams is a high-school senior who also volunteered as a summer camp counselor.

“I wanted to work as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA because I have always connected well with children,” Makayla said. “I love being able to go to camp and build new relationships with kids I have never met. Each kid has their own personality, and I love when I get the opportunity to see them grow, meet new people and try new things.”

Makayla plans to attend college this fall and major in education.

“Being a camp counselor has prepared me for my future career of being an elementary teacher,” she said. “Having the opportunity to interact with kids more for longer periods of time has helped me prepare to work with kids in the classroom.”

She said the kids seem to most enjoy the swimming, but they also enjoy participating in activities they have never done before.

“The kids always love when they get the chance to ride the horses because some of them haven’t ever seen a horse or ridden one,” she said. “The YMCA has provided these kids with so many opportunities like this one that changes these kids’ lives forever and makes lasting memories.”

Makayla said the YMCA management team works hard behind the scenes to prepare for Adventure Camp.

“I just want to say thank you for all the work they put in to make this camp memorable for the kids and staff,” she said.

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