by Susan Miller, Director of Marketing
We say it a lot – and we really mean it …. camp changes lives for the better. There are so many examples we could share, and the article below highlights a great one. It all came about when Kelsey Henry, our Teen Program Coordinator, was interviewed by the YMCA of the Rockies about her work with the BOLD & GOLD (Boys Outdoor Leadership Development & Girls Outdoor Leadership Development) program, and she shared a story from this past summer. The timing of this article is poignantly bittersweet. as Kelsey is set to leave us this week. (She’s doing freelance strategic planning projects while completing her MBA.) While we’re going to miss her – she’s been connected to camp since 2006 – we certainly wish her well in future endeavors. And the good work that she started here for teens will certainly continue! Read on for a moving story about a GOLD trip and the impact it had on a camper:
The first experience most people have in the outdoors is usually relatively tame—maybe a picnic in a city park or a short hike in a nearby forest. But Ke’Shauna Sheffield isn’t most people. The 16-year-old (above, left) got her first taste of outdoor adventure this summer on a wild and wonderful “Boots and Boats” GOLD trip via YMCA Camp Ockanickon, hiking 30 miles along a “very rocky and mountainous” segment of the Appalachian Trail in northern New Jersey, then paddling 45 miles down the Delaware River.
“On the first day, we did an icebreaker where we went around and said our favorite outdoor activity, and she said she didn’t know because she had never really done an outdoor activity before,” says one of her trip leaders, Cate Aberant. “She was so unfamiliar with everything we were doing on the trip, yet she faced it all with a positive attitude and kept an open mind throughout everything we did.”
Ke’Shauna definitely took it all in stride. “One thing I learned during the trip was that if you keep an open mind to everything, you’ll make the best of your trip,” she says. “Challenges are going to come, such as weather, but if you are open-minded you’ll get through it.”
Camp Ockanickon’s Teen Program Coordinator Kelsey Henry credits Ke’Shauna’s openness for helping her get the most out of the experience—and for being a positive influence on the rest of her GOLD tripmates. “Ke’Shauna had a fantastic attitude about everything, always!” she says. “She had very limited outdoor experience, but was so excited to give absolutely everything a shot, from outdoor cooking to filtering water to learning new canoe strokes. She always took every opportunity to try something new and learn from her experiences.”
And isn’t that what BOLD & GOLD is all about? Henry thinks so. “BOLD & GOLD provides so many amazing, organic opportunities for young people to learn and grow…often without even realizing it,” she says. “Face-to-face interaction and playing outside seem to be dying arts with the influx of technology we use on a daily basis, and getting the chance to fully unplug and immerse yourself in the outdoors doesn’t come very often. Getting our participants to take a step back and really appreciate their surroundings, including the people around them, and get in touch with their own strengths and weaknesses is a very powerful experience.”
As for Ke’Shauna, she came away from her 77-mile adventure with a new perspective—and a healthy dose of that personal growth Henry mentioned. “I think other teens should go on a trip because it challenges you for the better,” she says. “Before going on the trip I was a self-consumed person. The trip caused me to loosen up for the better and develop a new mindset that includes helping and caring for others.”
Q&A with KE’SHAUNA:
What 3 words best describe your BOLD & GOLD experience?
Three words to describe the trip are life-changing, unforgettable, and exciting.
What was your favorite food to eat during the trip?
My favorite food to eat during the trip was mac and cheese, because I never knew that could be made outside.
What is your favorite outdoor activity?
My favorite outdoor activity was cooking on the stoves. Upon going I was curious about how you’d be able to cook. Now I know!
What’s something you’ve done on a trip that you never thought you would do?
Something I did on the trip that I never thought I’d do was cook outside, sleep outside or go to the bathroom outside.
What is your favorite part of BOLD & GOLD?
My favorite part was the entire thing. Hiking, canoeing, cooking, cleaning, and filtering water.