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Camp Wildwood–A Ten Year Program

Camp Wildwood–A Ten Year Program

A camp session at Wildwood lasts just 5 days, but we often talk about Camp Wildwood being a 10-year program.

Why? We focus on having campers come back each year because the research shows increased benefits for campers each year they return, culminating in long-term benefits that will impact campers into adulthood.

What are these benefits? We’re glad you asked!

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Welcome, Americorps VISTAs!

Welcome, Americorps VISTAs!

This year, Wildwood has been lucky to welcome two excellent Americorps VISTA members, Shannon and Katie! Shannon and Katie will be with Wildwood for the next 12 months, increasing Wildwood’s fundraising, volunteering, programming, and camp recruitment and retention capacity.

More specifically, Shannon will be building new camp programs, leveling up our staff training, and planning new ways to recruit and retain camp staff and campers. Katie will be re-building Wildwood’s volunteer program, supporting individual fundraising through community events, and crafting new PR strategy for Wildwood.

They are both making a huge difference at Wildwood already, and we are so excited to have them on board! Welcome to the team!

(You can send a digital welcome to Shannon and Katie here: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/fMYnTOzu)

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Welcome to the Team, Kevin!

Welcome to the Team, Kevin!

In 2021, Wildwood began the search for a new Camp Director. After months of searching, Kevin Anderson joined the team in February 2022, and he is already making a huge difference for Wildwood.

But it won’t be his first summer at Wildwood! Kevin worked as a counselor and seasonal staff at Wildwood for several years in the mid-2000s.

What are some of your early experiences in the outdoors? How did you get interested?

I was extremely fortunate to spend many weekends wandering my grandpa’s farm in western Kansas with my cousins or fishing and camping with my dad at the local lake. 

There was something special about the feeling of being out at these places and just interacting with the world around me, and I look forward to enabling youth from our community to have similar experiences at camp this summer.

How did you first find Wildwood? What was that experience like? 

I first heard about Wildwood from friends at college who had worked here as camp counselors, and I joined them as a counselor myself.

The experience was a blast!  I had an unforgettable summer, and it certainly changed my life for the better. Within a few months of leaving WIldwood, I was signed up to come back not only for the next summer, but also live on site and work the spring and fall outdoor school programs.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

For the last few years I have been pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling from MidAmerica Nazarene University, and I worked at Kids TLC in Olathe for the last six years. 

I am beyond excited to be returning to Wildwood!  I cannot wait to do my part for Wildwood to continue offering the transformative summertime experiences. that meant so much to me when I first got to be part of Wildwood as a counselor over ten years ago!

What are some of your passions outside work? 

When not working, I love to camp, hike a trail, play disc golf with friends, or play a song on the mandolin (badly).

What are you most looking forward to in this position? 

A couple of things come to mind: first, I am most looking forward to seeing camp full of kids having fun playing games, catching fish, and splashing around in canoes.  I am also very excited to begin the community-building process that starts when our fantastic counselors arrive for their first day of staff training.

The Results Are In–2021 Camper Outcomes

campers said they liked friends, high ropes, swimming, and getting outside

You might already know that we ask campers to take surveys while they’re at camp. But you might not know why.

We ask campers to take surveys for two reasons: so we can improve camp, and so we can make camp as impactful as possible. We want campers to leave Wildwood with a new enjoyment of being outside, enthusiasm for science, and social and emotional skills gained through cabin life.

Here are a few highlights:

At the end of camp,

85% of campers enjoyed the freedom of the outdoors more.
83% of campers felt more comfortable outdoors
79% of campers reported strong decision making skills
80% of campers enjoyed being in nature more
80% of campers reported strong social awareness
78% of campers reported strong self-management skills

88% of campers felt more connected to nature
76% of campers reported strong relationship skills

Other Insights

In addition to what campers learn, it’s incredibly important to us that campers AND parents are happy with the camp experience.

Last year, our parents and older campers (age 12+) also let us know how we can make camp better. Here’s what we learned:

campers said they liked friends, high ropes, swimming, and getting outside
Kids said we can improve number of overall activities and having more time with friends from other cabins
parents said they liked high quality programs, fun, inclusiveness, and friendship
Parents said we can improve pre-camp communication and quantity of camper photos and videos.
Campers asked for clocks, so we're adding clocks to the cabins and dining hall.
Parents asked for more pre-camp communication, so we're adding a pre-camp email series through our camp software.
Parents asked for more camper photos and videos, so we're seeking a volunteer photographer for this summer.

P.S. If you’d like to volunteer as a photographer this summer, please let us know! Email Jane at jane@wildwoodctr.org or text at (913)738-9067. 🙂


A Note About Our Survey Data

In 2021, Wildwood capped overnight camp at half capacity to reduce COVID-19 risks, and served a total of 337 campers. Of those, 66 campers’ surveys could not be matched from pre- to post-, and were excluded from the data. 

The remaining 271 surveys were analyzed for camper growth in five areas: environmental literacy (particularly wanting to be outside and feeling connected to nature); responsible decision-making; self-management (being aware of and processing one’s emotions in a healthy way); relationship skills (conflict resolution, feeling connected to others); and social awareness (empathizing with others and reacting accordingly).

Volunteer Spotlight: Justin and Matt

Volunteer Spotlight: Justin and Matt
New wall at the main campfire, designed and constructed by Justin and Matt Dreier

This summer, we were lucky enough to have father-son duo Justin and Matt Dreier create a new outdoor wall for Wildwood. Justin serves on the Wildwood Board of Directors, and Robyn, Wildwood’s executive director, approached him about the project.

Another volunteer–Kyle–had created an indoor wall for Wildwood, complete with led lights, and a fabric-covered logo. (Pictured below)

We loved the piece so much that Robyn asked Justin if he would be willing to take a shot at creating a weather durable version for the main campfire.

Justin and son, Matt took on the project, undeterred by the challenge.

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The Wild Robot in the Woods

The Wild Robot in the Woods

Wildwood loves summer reading. Research says that kids who read during the summer retain more school-year learning and enjoy reading more.

At camp, kids read everywhere–on rules for fishing, in directions for sunblock and insect repellant, on signs in the cabins.

Reading at camp is more fun and engaging when we add a sense of community to our reading program. That’s why we are so excited to introduce a common read this year, The Wild Robot written by Peter Brown.

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How To Leverage Wildwood Staff Experience Into Your Next Job

How To Leverage Wildwood Staff Experience Into Your Next Job

Potential camp staff have a lot to consider when taking a job at Wildwood. Whether the candidate likes kids, where camp is located, how much the job pays, and skills to be gained rank among the chief concerns.

In a seasonal job, we know that it’s also important for candidates to be able to leverage their experience to snag a new job or internship.

We want to make sure the experience is meaningful, fun, and useful as staff move into their future careers. To that end, we’ve included a few tips below for Wildwood camp staff (past, present, and future!) to add to their resume.

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Black History Month: Celebrating Leaders in the Outdoors

This February, we’re honoring Black History Month by celebrating Black individuals and organizations that make a difference in the outdoors. These leaders include scientists, rock climbers, ultra-runners, cowboys, and more. Check out the leaders below!


1. John Francis, Planetwalker

John Francis “Planetwalker” is an environmentalist and author.

In 1971, he watched oil spill into the San Francisco Bay, and was so disconcerted that he swore off all motorized transportation. For the next 22 years, Francis walked everywhere, raising awareness about the importance of the environment. This earned him the nickname “Planetwalker.”

Francis got frustrated when his words didn’t make enough difference, so he also took a vow of silence for 17 years!

He ended his vow of silence in 1990 on Earth Day, and also earned a PhD in land management.

A year later, Francis was named UN Environmental Program Goodwill Ambassador, and in 2008, National Geographic published his memoir, Planetwalker

Today, Francis continues his work as an advocate for the environment.

Learn More: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/9-pioneering-african-american-outdoorspeople

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Outdoor Mindfulness Activities

mindfulness activity: nature art

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed just existing in the world. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s critical that we take care of both our mental and physical wellbeing. Keeping mentally healthy during this time is particularly important for kids, whose brains are still growing and developing.

At Wildwood, one of our favorite strategies to keep kids’ (and adults’) minds healthy is by engaging in mindfulness. Not only are mindfulness practices usually quick and simple, but they can have an impressive positive effect on mood.

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What’s In A Friendship Bracelet?

What’s In A Friendship Bracelet?

Making friends is a huge feature of the camp experience. It’s easy to bond in five short days. Campers eat, sleep, and try new activities together. They participate in unique traditions and are encouraged to be their most authentic selves. 

As much as we’d like to believe that the most salient parts of camp are the carefully thought out, academically rich activities we construct, it’s the new friends with whom campers complete these activities that they remember most. 

So when a pandemic came knocking on our door, we decided to do something to keep friendships bright. Specifically, we decided to create a friendship bracelet kit designed to increase campers’ social-emotional learning, and feelings of connection.

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