YMCA Camp Kitaki

What Kids Tell Us About Camp

What Kids Tell Us About Camp

     When you think of Kitaki images of Horseback Riding, climbing our new Tango Tower, or spending an evening huddled on benches singing songs near a roaring fire might come to mind.  However, when we ask kids what the best thing about camp is, the answer might surprise you.  It isn't the pool, or the lake, or even the zip line.  At the end of the day, what kids tell us is the most valuable part of camp is a way more difficult concept to understand than fun under the sun.
     To tell that story we have to talk about the three factors that influence what kids love about Camp Kitaki.  The first factor is opportunity.  When kids come to camp they leave all of the trappings of their daily life behind.  Suddenly finding themselves in a new world without their usual companions (friends, pets, family, technology, and more) a kid finds the room to stretch who they are and what they want to be.  Without preconceived notions, children can be who they think they are, a rare and unique opportunity.  This opportunity can only be capitalized on IF and only if they feel comfortable, which is the second factor.
     Feeling safe and secure are key factors for a child to be willing to share the wonderful personality, skills and talents that she/he possesses.  That feeling starts with the culture of a place, and the culture of Kitaki is one that we work extra hard to ensure provides a sense of comfort.  We start from a position that every child has a place at our camp.  This is accomplished through little things like insisting that camp is a place where we don’t “boo”, to harder things like playing games and processing activities that teach kids social skills, build friendships, and increase comfort.  Most important of all is utilizing the values of the YMCA to ensure that campers and staff provide the caring and respect for one another that allows someone to be secure and willing to share the innermost parts of their self.
     The third factor that contributes to what kids say is most valuable about Camp Kitaki is independent success.  Having an opportunity to be true to themselves, and an environment that supports that from peers and authority alike, a camper’s positive sense of self is buoyed by success at camp.  The feeling that a child went to a new place without his or her parents, made friends, and felt immediately successful in that journey is tremendous.  In fact, it reinforces what a kid hopes to learn:  “I am me, and I can be successful just as I am”.
     This brings us to the thing that kids tell us is the best part of Kitaki.  Over and over again in conversation, and on evaluations, the thing that campers say is the best part of camp is that “Kitaki is a place I can be myself”.  We know when we hear that phrase that what we are really learning is that campers are discovering that being WHO they are as individuals is a great thing to be.  That growth in self confidence is the most magical thing to have the privilege to watch happen. 

Jason Smith
Executive Director

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