The Benefits of Nature
YMCA Camping was created to assist in developing youth. In 1885 Sumner Dudley took 7 boys for a week of camping at Orange Lake, N.J. and with the mission of developing these boys into young men. By its very nature camping develops those who participate. Groups must work together to set up camp, gather firewood, cook meals, play games, sing songs and put on skits. Just about anything and everything has the group working as a team to complete a task or project.
The campers at Camp Wakonda, range in age from 8-18, also gain a sense of independence not easily reproduced in today’s society. “An indoor (or backseat) childhood does reduce some dangers to children. But other risks are heightened, including risks to physical and psychological health, risk to children’s concept and perception of community, risk to self-confidence and the ability to discern true danger,” said author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”. Away home, campers overcome apprehensions of being without parental oversight, getting their first taste of independence. Learning how to make friends, learn new skills, have adventures, like sleeping out under the stars, are all incredibly important to youth development.
Take a minute to think about the last time you learned a new skill… How did it make you feel? How about the last time you made a friend who you knew liked you because of who you really were? Both of these experiences make campers feel incredibly good about themselves which builds their self-confidence and esteem, allowing them to have the confidence to try new things, step out of their comfort zone, learn about themselves, the natural world and God.
Our summer campers are not the only beneficiaries of a Camp Wakonda experience. Camp hosts numerous youth and adult retreats as well as providing an experiential educational program to 400 fourth graders from Springfield Public Schools. Participants in these programs grow substantially from their participation. As summed up by one of the 4th graders : “I want to tell you all of the fun stuff I did; I went creek walking, fishing, fire making, canoeing and I got to do more fun things in the woods.” Experiences this camper would likely never have had a chance to encounter otherwise.
So the next time you are thinking that children spend too much time watching TV or playing video games ask yourself, what should they be doing? How about fishing, canoeing, archery, outdoor arts and crafts, outdoor sports, hiking or enjoying a campfire? They should be exploring the outdoors, and what better place than at YMCA Camp Wakonda!