Camp Scholarship Recipient Gives So Others Can Grow

Dr. Tracy Crosswhite Roberts was 11 years old when she got to go to Camp Wakonda for the first time. Until that summer, the 6th grader could only listen to the stories her older brother, Kenny, told about the wonders of camp. But that summer, things would be different. Thanks to a scholarship from the West Side Optimist Club, Tracy would no longer have to just listen to stories of friendships and comradely; campfires and sing-a-longs; she was going to get to experience them for herself. That year, Tracy too, would get to know the fun of camp; to run and jump and play outside, to do all the fun outdoor activities her brothers’ spoke so fondly of; to roast marshmallows; and sleep under the stars. What 11 year-old Tracy didn’t know was she was about to embark on what would become a life-long love of camp and the outdoors, and discover a career path she hadn’t previously imagined. After spending three fun-filled summers as a Camp Wakonda camper, Tracy was encouraged to join the Y’s Counselor in Training (CIT) program. CIT enables youth to develop the skills that Camp Wakonda seeks in its counselors such as how to organize and lead group activities, foster positive relationships between other campers and serve as a positive role model for the Y’s core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility. It was during the program that the camp director made a remark that changed Tracy’s life. “The camp director told me they thought I would be good at medicine,” said Tracy. “I hadn’t thought of that as a possibility for myself. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t thought of life outside of Springfield. But here was this person who saw something in me, saw how I was growing in the program and the skills I was developing, and wanted to help me realize my full potential by helping me expand how I saw myself and what I was capable of. So I began to think about the possibility of having a career in medicine. Eventually that interest grew and led to my volunteering in a physical therapy program which in turn, led to my going away to medical school and becoming a doctor.”

When Tracy returned to Springfield in 1999, her own daughter became a Camp Wakonda camper. “And when she got to high school, she became a CIT and camp counselor just like I did,” said Tracy smiling. Laughing she adds, “Now we’re into our third generation of campers. Pretty much everyone in my family – my children, my brothers, nieces and nephews have all gone to camp.” As a busy professional and single mother, Tracy has had to say “no” to a lot of volunteer opportunities but the one thing she couldn’t say “no” too was a chance to serve on the Camp Wakonda Board of Directors. “I’ve served for five years now and I still love it. I serve with people I went to camp with, people who believe like I do that camp is such an enriching place for kids and that it helps keep kids on the right path. A lot of affirmation happens at camp and the experiences and activities and relationships are geared to help kids see the possibilities and opportunities in life. For example, this year we have some camp counselors from South Africa and Australia. Kids will actually get to learn and interact with people from other parts of the world. That’s exciting!” Tracy is also a loyal donor to the Camp Wakonda Annual Campaign which raises money to send kids to camp. “If it wasn’t for the scholarship I received as a child from the West Side Optimist Club, I wouldn’t have gone to camp. I would have missed out on the life-long relationships and all those wonderful camp experiences. Camp has been close to my heart and my family’s heart for three generations. I want to make sure that as many children as possible can say the same thing so that’s why I support the Y’s Camp Wakonda Annual Campaign and encourage others to.” “Camp is such a positive experience, a life-changing experience,” says Tracy. “It’s everything – making friends, experiencing nature, trying new things, building skills, helping others – I just fell in love with it. It gave me a chance to experience the world outside my neighborhood and see that it’s a place full of opportunity and promise. Camp Wakonda has been a part of my life for 44 years and I still love it. We just celebrated its 100th birthday and I want to see it continue on for another 100 years!”

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