Our very own Retreats Program Director, Michelle Wiersig shares an account that demonstrates the importance of the positive impacts that the YMCA Camp Wapsie has:
Every year, over 1,000 youth participate in Outdoor Education or team building programs at YMCA Camp Wapsie. This is in addition to the 1,800 regular summer campers. As the Retreats Director, most of my individual interactions with youth happen at the climbing tower where feelings, whether excitement or fear, are at a high. In 2017, we hosted a 6th grade class who had the opportunity to zip line off the climbing tower. One young man in particular was more nervous than the rest of his classmates but he had a great, positive attitude. Once he made it to the top of the tower and was seated on the edge ready to zip, his fear took over. I could see the young man trying to work through this in his head. He decided he was not ready and wanted to watch a friend go first. He sat on the edge a second time ready to go but he was still struggling with fear and voiced, “I’m just too into my head, aren’t I?”. My answer was yes. He asked to watch one more peer go before him. On his third try, this young man was seated on the edge again and was mustering up the courage. I asked him to focus on me, not the ground. We took a couple of deep breaths and talked about fear. How fear is a good thing because it keeps us from doing unsafe and stupid things. This wasn’t unsafe or stupid. We talked about how it’s okay to be scared but we don’t want that fear to keep us from doing the things we want. You want to do it! All you have to do is let go! We counted back from 10 and off he went.
Altogether, he spent about 10 to 15 minutes at the top of the tower and was so happy with his accomplishment. I did not think anything about this experience until a chaperone said something to me later. It was only then that I realized the impact. This is why we do what we do. This is how Camp transforms lives for youth and adults. We provide a safe place to acknowledge their fear and other emotions. We provide practice for using critical thinking skills. We empower them with confidence and tools to overcome their fears. It’s okay to be afraid, but fear doesn’t have to limit you.