YMCA Campbell Summer Camp

Young Explorers' Trust

The summer of 2018, spent at YMCA Camp Campbell was unequivocally the best summer I have experienced to date. The sheer magic, development and damn right fun – cast an enchantment over me that I never knew existed. Furthermore it is one that will stick with me for life.

As the Young Peoples’ representative on the Young Explorers’ Trust’s (YET) national council, I sought ways to encompass my role and to better extend the YET’s aims and mission further than we already do in Britain. With this I decided to approach Mike Cross, the Chairman, with plans to inject YET funding into the camp. Appreciatively Mike retorted with a cheque of $1,000 from the YET grant fund to add to the organisation’s scholarship programme which sends disadvantaged American youngsters to camp.

As you will read in the innards of this report, the lives that are transformed from this small gesture are utterly remarkable. It costs the scholarship fund $250 to send a youngster to camp for one week, which truly does change their lives.  Moreover the money contributed by the YET donor has enabled YMCA Campbell to send four kids to camp for a week next summer. This is truly remarkable.

Additionally, I thought that I could give more than what I already had. Therefore I decided to run my own marathon from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk back to camp, totalling some twenty six miles, up 3,000ft of incline though the mountains, in 90 degree heat and on my day of! This small enterprise took off extremely well raising a further $700 for the camp’s scholarship fund. This was also combined with the staff auction, whereby I was awarded 500 free raffle tickets in acknowledgment of the YET’s donation to which I attained four prizes to my name, to then on behalf of the YET resubmit as a final live auction to raise a final $400 for the camp. This takes the YET’s unmitigated total for YMCA Campbell to $2100. This astonishing amount raised will now send ten kids to camp for one week. That is ten young lives that did not have a chance, to now having the chance. This is something that the YET and myself are incredibly proud of.

Campbell is set in the picturesque Red Woods of Silicon Valley California and its mission is to strengthen the community by improving the quality of life and inspiring individuals and families to develop their fullest potential in spirit, mind and body, along with their four values, honesty, respect, caring and responsibility. These values are injected into camp life through out all of their programmes.  Summer programming comprised of Trail Blazers – 7-10, Trekkers – 10-12, Teens – 13-16yrs, Teen Adventure Camp, Teen Councillors in training and Teen leaders in training – attribute to Teens. I however was assigned to TAC, whereby; myself and four other members of staff had a cabin of teens at the camp itself and then combining the whole of the TAC unit together to lead them on adventures outside the camp setting. These ventures consisted of: White Water Rafting on the South Fork American River with Beyond Limits, an extremely professional and undoubtedly the best activity vendor I have used, Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Kayaking on the Tahoe Lake, surfing on the pacific ocean and hiking on the Skyline to Sea Trail. Typically the youngsters that are part of TAC have come through camp from the start, and have looked up at TAC as being the ‘super cool’ part of camp.

I found out how extraordinary this programme was when I saw youngsters that have never been out on a bag-packing trip come around the hill to see the sea knowing they have just hiked thirty miles. This may be water of a ducks back for us, but for kids that have never walked for more than five miles, this is something extraordinary. This sheer power to inspire a younger generation stretched through out the programme and camp cohesively. From watching a ten-year-old jump from a trapeze and making their first ever clay pot and learning that they just can, to a teen camper hurling down class four rapids on the South Fork American and hitting their first wave on the board, of course instantly falling of but never the less picking themselves up again, and again to progress themselves through the challenges that Campbell presents to them. Children should have a space that is safe to learn, discover, uncover, develop, grow and realise that they just can in the outdoors. Campbell provides just that in abundance.

We worked predominantly with American children, sometimes Spanish and Chinese youngsters. Additionally I would like to see this international programme extended through the YET so that British children can be immersed in a culture and programme that will serve them with the enrichment and categorical make up of being a child like I witnessed this summer.  I can most certainly say that the Americans have developed what they have here to the pinnacle of success they have now, which leaves me wishing that I had experienced the same in my childhood.

You can see from the cohesion between campers to staff that the magic this establishment enriches on young people is world class. It is an outdoor school for all ages, whereby we are all put on a frantic roller coaster to learn how life really works outside of a fabricated classroom. Furthermore this camp embodies the soul fabrication of life’s foundations in their children, who of course are their future, besides the fact that children that started their camp life when they where just eleven years old as a Trekker to now being twenty six and the director of marketing and the camps official resident photographer is all inspiring. This can be seeing throughout the institution with youngsters coming back as a CIT – counsellor in training and others saying ‘this had been the best summer I have ever had, I am coming back as a CIT to give children what I had’ And ‘If only I could reverse time’, is hard evidence that the tactile structure this paradise serves young people has an ever-lasting impact on their lives. Moreover I can say that the YET’s investment has been invested into what I see as the future, and I hope that the YET remains a partner with this camp and caries on to support the magic and social development of young people. Every young person in the United Kingdom and USA should have access to outdoor adventurous opportunities. Period.

Young people at the brink of adult life and what they experience, understand and do empowers them as stronger, more active citizens than would be the case without these ventures.

Major General Sir Michael Palmer KCVO, Patron of the Dorset Expeditionary Society