Although we haven’t had volunteers on site in the last year or so, we are so so grateful for their work and support. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’d like to highlight the experience one of our dedicated volunteers, David, had working with campers in 2019.
“My name is David. I work at Cerner. In 2019, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a counselor for a week of camp at Wildwood.
How I Got Involved
You might wonder how I came to spend a week with campers at Wildwood.
I first learned about Wildwood in March 2018 when I was searching for volunteer opportunities. I stumbled across a listing for Wildwood’s fundraiser, Take A Wild Guess, at Boulevard Brewery. Between my background as an Eagle Scout and my fondness for local beer, I knew that this was the perfect volunteer opportunity for me. I volunteered at the event–manning a game station for guests–but I immediately felt I had more I could offer Wildwood than a donation or a few hours of my time.
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.
For many parents–maybe even you–this fall will include some degree of homeschooling. Whether it’s full virtual school, a part virtual schedule, or parents leading full homeschool lessons, being tasked with managing a student’s needs can be daunting and stressful.
So, while we might not be able to stay at home with your child, we’d like to offer a few camp tricks to make homeschooling just a little easier.
As a kid, I made “quicksand” out of dirt and hose water; I picked dandelions and made houses for roly-polies; I played “spy” with my brother and two neighbor boys. Little of this play was directly supervised, and none of it was directed by adults.
As an adult however, un-planned play time with kids leaves me with a deep anxiety. I worry that they will be bored. I’m terrified that they will be hurt. I hear myself reflexively cry out “Be careful!” and watch their every step.
I think, “I must be doing this wrong. Don’t kids need structure?”
But they probably need less regiment than I think. Despite my anxiety, kids thrive on unstructured play.
Folks tell me this when I meet someone new and tell them where I work. High schoolers and adults alike remember spending time at Wildwood with their sixth grade class or at summer camp. In fact, we estimate that 160,000 Kansas Citians have visited Wildwood at some point.
What’s wilder is that Wildwood is turning 40 this year!
We created a new 40th anniversary logo, and we think it’s time to re-tell the Wildwood story.
This month, Marcus Kain, one of our most dedicated volunteers reached 100 hours of service for Wildwood.
Marcus is a very active human. He is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, trail runner, and public speaker with a passion for mentoring youth. He regularly speaks to Kansas City area middle and high school students about business and ethics, and is currently writing a philosophy book.
Last week, I spent a cold afternoon placing colored LED lights in trees with a volunteer and fellow Wildwood staffer, preparing for the first Electric Night Hike. I grumbled. My fingers were numb, and I couldn’t imagine the lights looking good, much less magical.
As the sun went down though, I relaxed. The lights began showing through the trees, a line of green and yellow and red lights lighting up the path around the pond. It was indeed magical.
I stopped for a moment, breathing in chilled November air and gazing skyward. I was amazed how many stars were visible. Twinkling light that had traveled at least eight years to get to me, to camp.
My cold fingers and wind-burnt cheeks didn’t bother me any more. I remembered why this year’s fundraising campaign, Light Up Wildwood, matters.
What do electronic dance music, outlaw country music, and summer camp have in common? They all happen on the same 150 acres we call Wildwood Outdoor Education Center.
In 2019, we embarked on our second year of a contract with a local music festival company, Borda Productions. The company puts on two multi-day music festivals at Wildwood, bringing thousands of visitors to the Wildwood property each year.
The festivals, as you might imagine, are loud and different and, at the beginning of September, sweaty. Festival goers love Wildwood for its natural beauty, great camping areas, and convenient Miami County location.
When you think about summer camp, reading probably doesn’t spring to mind. You probably think about canoeing, fishing, archery, swimming, campfires, and new friends.
But reading has become an integral part of camp at Wildwood. In 2017, thanks to a generous grant from the Harry L. and Helen M. Rust Charitable Foundation at Commerce Bank, we were able to build the Wildwood library and adopt the “Explore 30” Camp Reading Program–a program that encourages everyone (campers and counselors) to read for at least thirty minutes each day.