Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We Love Our Summer Staff, Part 4: Sava, Eve, & CiCi

We're back! Sorry for the week hiatus; I was out at two trainings that hopefully will be building an even better CFA for next year. In the interim, I had a BUNCH of our outstanding potential staff members send me their bios, so expect a few extra blog posts this week. Cool? Cool!

A fun fact about the three ladies featured today is that all of them are on deck to be new staff members for 2012! They have had some experiences out at camp and totally understand the amazing "family" feeling that is YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow. These girls bring a lot to the table and are excited to be on board for this summer!

First up is Sava, a fun San Antonio native who has been at CFA for years and years.

Sava, age 17, from San Antonio, TX

Age: 17 (18 by summer!)
College / University attending: Still in high school! Antonian College Prep.
State or country where you're living: Texas
Noteworthy Hobbies, Skills, or Talents: Knitting, baking, cartwheels, and making funny faces! 
What exciting thing(s) have you done this past year that you want campers to know about? I have joined the bowling team at my school! I’m pretty bad though… 
Favorite memory from CFA 2011: Hearing campers say that they couldn’t wait to come back next year and that they didn’t want to leave. 
Place on camp where you could most often be found last summer: Arapaho...
Favorite core value: CARING
Favorite snack time ice cream: Anything chocolate! (minus the banana ones)
Must-have items while working summer camp: WATER and patience 
Advice you'd give to summer campers: You don’t need a date to the dance!
What you're looking forward to most about this upcoming summer: Getting to spend all my time at CFA! 
Quote to live by:  "There are no great acts. Only small acts done with great love." –Mother Teresa

Next up is Eve, an outstanding young woman coming to us from beautiful Northern Ireland.

Eve, age 19, from Northern Ireland
College / University attending (and/or current job): Currently waitressing three jobs before heading to uni in September to study English Literature. Busy, but happy. 
State or country where you're living: Northern Ireland – lots of green and lots of rain!
Noteworthy Hobbies, Skills, or Talents: Horse riding!
What are you looking forward to most about this upcoming summer? Meeting lots of amazing people and making memories I will have forever!
What do you normally do with your summers? I usually work to earn some money and then travel a bit. Last year I went to Majorca with my best friends, and the summer before that I visited Dicky and MA at CFA. Previous summers have been spent surrounded by horses!!
Quotes to live by: “Do what you love, work as hard as you can, and make people happy.” “Just be happy and don’t be stupid” – Adele.

Next up is CiCi, who was a CIT last year at camp and is excited to be back for what will be her first year as a counselor.

Cilaya, or "Cici" as we know her; age 18, from Texas!
College/University attending: I am a full time student, and I am currently a High-School student but next year I will be furthering my studies at Texas Tech University by majoring in Music
Noteworthy Hobbies, Skills, or Talents: I can beat box and hum at the same time, I spend most of my time in extra curricular activities, I run cross country, I am a cheerleader, I am in Band, I am in Winter Guard, and I play Quidditch. Oh and I LOVE to dance.
What exciting thing(s) have you done this past year that you want campers to know about?: I went to Disney World for the 1st time :D
Favorite memory from CFA 2011: I loved it when I got to sit at the lunch table with Anthony and Sheeba, and they ate the table-ware like barbarians.
Place on camp where you could most often be found last summer: Honestly I was running around so much, you really had to look.
Favorite core value: Caring
Favorite snack time ice cream: Ice-cream Sandwich!!!!!
Must-have items while working summer camp: Sun-screen, band-aids, comfortable shoes, bathing supplies, a smile, bug spray, a flashlight, an appetite for smores, and a caring heart.
Advice you'd give to other counselors: Put a smile on your face, because smiles are contagious, and happiness is ALWAYS a great thing to spread around. A child's laughter is the thing that will keep you going and it makes everything a bit easier so strive for a laugh from your campers at all times!!!
Advice you'd give to summer campers: Guys have a blast!!!! When you're at camp, you are bound to have fun!
What you're looking forward to most about this upcoming summer: Meeting new people and seeing how I change campers' lives for the best.
Quote to live by: "The only person that can limit me is myself."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We Love Our Summer Staff, Part 3: Joey and Rebekah

Howdy, howdy, again, CFA! Here is yet another installment of staff interviews, from two of our most charismatic, involved, and creative summer staff members of 2011. Enjoy!

Rebekah (on the right) - age 19 - living in San Antonio, TX
University attending and current job: Full Sail University and barista at Barnes & Noble Cafe 
Noteworthy Hobbies, Skills, or Talents: I'm not quite fluent, but very articulate in French.
What exciting thing have you done this past year that you want campers to know about?: I got accepted into the school of my dreams!
Favorite memory from CFA 2011: During Operation Purple week, Eskimo and Farrow had sort of a friendly rivalry going, but one night we had a joint embers. It got really deep, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, and it made everybody come together and realize that maybe we're not all that different.
Place on camp where you could most often be found last summer: High ropes course all day everyday, baby!
Favorite core value: Respect - respect yourself and others, and people will respect you back.
Favorite snack time ice cream: FUDGE BARS
Must-have items while working summer camp: Water bottle and a good attitude :)
Advice you'd give to other counselors: SAVE THE DRAMA FO' YO MAMA. The main focus at camp should be the children, not whatever's going on between the counselors. You can't have that on your mind (or other stressors outside of camp for that matter) and be able to give it your all to your campers, and they're what's most important.
Advice you'd give to summer campers: Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to be yourself, don't be afraid of heights, don't be afraid of trying new foods or meeting new friends or doing things you haven't done before. You will change in the best way possible if you just let go of all your fears, and you're in the perfect place to do that.
What you're looking forward to most about this upcoming summer: Being an even better counselor than last year and changing even more lives for the better :)
Quote to live by: "No, it's not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is earth."
Joey (in the middle!) - age 23 - studying in Muncie, Indiana
University/Job: Ball State University, Marketing intern at ACE
Noteworthy skills/hobbies/talents: I really enjoy taking photos of awkward moments making it into art. Photography has been a hobby of mine for 3 years and it is what makes me happy. Now, most people say that singing is a talent of mine but I just love to do it because it makes others happy. Other skills I'm known for are my abilities to sew, draw, edit, write and do computer programming.
Exciting things you've done this year: This year, I spent New Year's Eve for the first time in NYC. Amazing! Also, I am a registered reading partner where I volunteer at elementary schools and tutor kids in reading. I recently just participated in Photo Week DC where I take pictures on my iPhone of art around the city.
Favorite memory of CFA 2011: My favorite memory of camp was during operation purple week. Watching the transformation of my campers in Ottawa go from silent to crazy, wild and amazing was the best feeling ever. What I can remember most is watching Luke become a better person. They would go running early in the morning to mount vesper singing Mulan "We are Men". Loved these guys.
Place on camp you could always be found last year: You can always find me in the craft shed, singing loudly and scaring the horses. Haha.
Favorite core value: Faith. I challenged myself to face several fears of minds including horseback riding and high ropes. All I had to lean on was faith in myself.
Favorite snack: Orange and Cream Bar. Yum. I used to beg everyone for their bar.
Must-have items for working at summer camp: Water, Water and Water. Comfy shoes, swimwear, sun screen, boots for Thursday and did I say water?
Advice you'd give to counselors: Challenge yourself, be relatable, and be crazy fun. You are there to find yourself, make the best experience ever for the campers and be what you always wanted to be. Think like a kid, act like a kid, be the kid. This is a tool to motivate yourself and the campers. Have a blast!
Advice you'd give to the campers:  Be a kid and go crazy, but be respectful. Challenge yourself through Raggers and make a difference. Be a part of the LIT and CIT program.
Looking forward to: Being on Ad Staff and seeing the old and new campers.
Quote to live by: "Being different isn't a mistake or judgement. Its having a gift to express to others" — me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Love Our Summer Staff, Part 2: Taylor & Gemma

It's been a week, and you guys have asked for more staff bios— so here's two ladies you will remember from last summer and the summer before! Both of these young women plan on being Ad Staff members in 2012, and we are lucky to have them back again. So, without further ado, here's Taylor and Gemma!

Taylor, age 20,  studying in San Marcos, TX
University/Job: Texas State University at San Marcos, Site Director for YMCA of Austin Afterschool
State: Texas
Noteworthy skills/hobbies/talents: Singing, improv, planning & programming
Exciting things you've done this year: Moved into my first apartment!
Favorite memory of CFA 2011: All of my awesome cabins and Raggers!
Place on camp you could always be found last year: Ragger's Point
Favorite core value: Honesty
Favorite snack: Neopolitan ice cream sandwich
Must have items for working at summer camp: Chacos, sunglasses, CamelBak, sunscreen, deodorant and bobby pins!
Advice you'd give to counselors: Sleep on your 24s!
Advice you'd give to counselors: Stick it out and become and LIT, CIT and counselor!
Looking forward to: Being on Ad Staff!!!!
Quote to live by: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Gemma, age 24, from England
University attending (and current job): Studying Access to Higher Education at Warwickshire College and working as a Gym Instructor
Country I'm living in: ENGLAND!!! :)
Hobbies, skills, talents: Random skill=Touching my nose with my tongue, Hobby=LOVE working out in the gym and Talent=Being amused by the simplest things...EVER
What exciting things have I done in the past year? Been offered a place on a degree to study Sport & Fitness Management starting on my return from Texas 2012 AND being asked to be a bridesmaid with my sister at my Mum's wedding in May 
Favourite memory from CFA 2011? Leaving the humming bird feeder full of yummy food on the tree outside the cabins and getting super excited with the campers when we spotted one out there (and giving the humming birds we saw their own names...can't remember the names now though)
Place I could most often be found? In the crows nest out at high ropes (once I'd got over the height issue), ORRR....making loads of lanyards down at the arts and craft shed
Favourite core value: Caring, I think that all of the core values can fit into this one, a kind word, thought or action can have a huge impact on somebody or in a situation.
Favourite snack time ice-cream: Ice cream sandwich!!!
Must have items when working at summer camp: Got to be a smile, a camera, and a waer bottle!
Advice I'd give to other counselors: Remember the reason that you are there, be the best that you can be and be somebody that you yourself would be proud to know...and enjoy every second of it - even when you are tired!!! (summer camp goes far too quickly but the memories last forever!!!) :)
Advice I'd give to the summer campers: Don't be afraid to be true to yourself, make the most of the time that you are at camp because all of the friends that you make will be like family, and the experiences and memories that come with camp will last long after you're heading back home.
What I'm looking forward to about this summer: Meeting new and old friends, having a great time with all of the campers and attempting to break my previous photo taking record!
Quote to live by: Be the change that you want to see in the world. —Ghandi

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Note from Angel

The following is a message sent from our 2011 Male Village Leader, Angel, to our new Summer Program Director. Bif had asked his returning staff members what he needed to know about CFA. Below is Angel's response.

Many of you know Angel and have gotten to appreciate his sage words of advice before. If you haven't, we suspect you will be surprised and moved by his eloquence.

Angel, at the BB Range. Summer 2011.

... I've never worked at any other camps so I dont really know if it differs but this place is pretty special. It has a soul. You can see it in the kids faces, hear it their laughter, or hear it at night in the winds rustling the treetops around campfire.
It is honestly a place of healing. The world outside may have told the kids and even members of staff that they weren't good enough or left them broken and hurt. But Camp Flaming Arrow aims to be the one place where someone can always help you regain your confidence or find it anew. It has this ability, a sort of magnetism that retains the good and repels the bad.
It may seem that I'm beating around the bush as to what you should be looking forward to, but I cant think of just one thing.
For some people it may be hard to understand something which they have never, seen, touched, heard, experienced so this may not make sense to them or even seem real but once you experience it and feel the spirit of this place you are faced with the unrelenting reality that you have stumbled upon a sanctuary for the willing, the broken, the sad, the happy, the talkative and everyone in between.
So in an attempt to encapsulate this thought into answer I should say that you should look forward to the experience that you'll be a part of for so many kids and staff.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

We Love Our Summer Staff, Part 1: Donncha & Sarah

Howdy, howdy, CFA friends & families. Us professional staff members are enjoying the unseasonable lack of cold weather here in the Hill Country. (Bill is biking and running hundreds of miles— literally! Allison is planning her garden and tending to her chickens. Stephanie is out walking with her dogs. Becky is beginning to clean up the camp trails for the Rock-Y 5K next month. Bif is getting to know his new Texas home. And me? I'm riding, of course!) But we are also spending a lot of time planning and preparing for this upcoming summer— and that means talking with new and former staff members to create eight great weeks at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow

So today starts the first in a series of posts focusing on former camp staff who are making plans to come back for Summer 2012. These guys could potentially be your counselors and ad staff in 2012!

Donncha, age 19, from Ireland
University attending: Limerick I.T - studying Business with Sports Management
Noteworthy Hobbies, Skills, or Talents: Love to play hurling and soccer and discovering new music. 
What exciting thing(s) have you done this past year that you want campers to know about? I have completed one of my ragger goals and I went to England over the Christmas to visit some of the amazing friends I made at camp during the summer.
Favorite memory from CFA 2011: The amazing things that happen in Carabineer club where the campers conquer their fears. 
Place on camp where you could most often be found last summer: Definitely High Ropes.
Favorite Core Value: Respect because everyone loves when their thoughts are listened to and appreciated.
Favorite snack time ice cream: Has to be the Ice-cream sandwich.
Must-have items while working summer camp: A water bottle, sun cream (especially for me) and a HUGE smile on your face every day.
Advice you'd give to other counselors: Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated and reflect on each and every good moment over the summer because time flies when you are having a great time.
Advice you'd give to summer campers: Arrive at camp with a smile on your face, lots of energy and be ready to have lots of fun because you are there for an awesome time that flies by.
What you're looking forward to most about this upcoming summer: Has to be renewing old friendships and gaining new ones and seeing how each and every camper has grown into a better person because of their experiences at camp.
Quote to live by: Be the best you can be!

Sarah, age 20, living in Missouri

University attending & job: University of Missouri. I teach hip hop classes and I'm Mizzou's American Eagle Campus Rep 
Noteworthy Hobbies, Skills, or Talents: Been dancing since I was 4.
What exciting thing(s) have you done this past year that you want campers to know about? I have been working with organizations such as Mizzou Relay for Life and Mizzou for Movember to raise money for cancer research and cancer awareness. 
Favorite memory from CFA 2010: Since I wasn't able to make it back last year I'm using CFA 2010. My favorite memory has to be my first trip up to Mount Vesper. Seeing that site made me realize how lucky I was to get to spend the summer at CFA. 
Place on camp where you could most often be found: I tended to be down by the water activities as much as possible. 
Favorite core value: Caring 
Favorite snack time ice cream: Drumsticks 
Must-have items while working summer camp: Water bottle 
Advice you'd give to other counselors: Even when we are tired and its been a long day, remember the reason we are there: to make the kids have a great time. 
Advice you'd give to summer campers: Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. The people you will meet here will be long term friends. 
What you're looking forward to most about this upcoming summer: Getting to see old friends and campers from 2010. I miss everything about camp right now! 
Quote to live by: Life's too short to be anything but happy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Summer Camper = Better College Student?

In a recent Psychology Today blog, Steve Baskin, the Camp Director at a beautiful private camp in Marble Falls, Texas, wrote the following article suggesting that being a summer camper has advantages much later in life than early childhood. Here's a sampling from Summer Camp - Creating Advantage in College:

Camp helps students adjust to being away-from-home by giving them practice being away-from-home. Campers coming to camp (often as young as Kindergarten or 1st grade) get to experience being separated from home successfully. Certainly, most campers have some homesickness, but the supportive camp community and the fun activities help ease them through this initial challenge. Homesickness is natural. Children will miss their parents.
Further, we live in a society that sometimes suggests to children that they are only safe within eyeshot of their parents. Yet, we parents want our children to grow in confidence and independence so that they can live productive, fulfilling and joyous lives. Camp enables children to experience successful independence. Like college, they are away-from-home. Unlike college, they are in a community committed to their physical and emotional safety.

What are your thoughts? I only spent one summer (two weeks, actually) of my childhood at a traditional, overnight summer camp, so I'm not sure how good my perspective is. By most measures, I was a successful college student from my first semester onward. Can some of those coping mechanisms be attached to even just a short week or two in a traditional camp setting?

It's true— camp is all about community. Specifically, a community that is not part of the traditional family unit. A standard camp cabin, with two "parents" or head counselors, and a handful of children functioning together to keep spaces clean and eat meals and have fun together definitely resembles a family. And it takes a whole lot of cooperation, compromise, and compassion to function well. So does a successful week of camp teach those lessons in the long-haul?

I can't be certain,  but I think Mr. Baskin makes some great points.

— MaryAshley

Will having a camp family like this one make for a better college student later on?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Erin's Dream Lanyards Update

Hey, hey, campers,

Remember that beaded lanyard you made last summer, probably with the help of your counselor (or fearless Craft Guy Joey?)

Those have gone to good use!

The Erin's Dream Lanyard Project is going strong. While we don't have a total count of the number of lanyards produced by CFA in the summer of 2011, we can estimate that it was well over five hundred— which is incredible! Tons of them sold in the camp store to parents and families who stopped by on closing day. I spoke to one mom who had bought six to give to her friends at work. Since the message of Erin's project was fastened to every lanyard made here at CFA, the tenacity and love that their namesake possessed in her short eleven years on earth has been multiplied over and over.. Thanks in part to all of you guys, campers!

As we get close to the holidays —most of us here at CFA are celebrating Christmas, but we know there's plenty of other holidays to remember this season— start brainstorming ways you can put your energy, creativity, or talent into helping others. After our third annual Youth Empowerment Retreat, I find myself realizing again just how great a resource our camp family is. Take a look at these charities that were founded by people well under the age of 20. Consider donating to these charities this winter— or, even greater, consider starting a charity of your own. All of these organizations started very small and very locally, and were started by kids who saw a need. Is there a cause that really moves you? Your CFA family can help! Get in touch with us if you need help getting started.

The Ladybug Foundation was created by a girl of 8, named Hannah, who saw a homeless man eating out of a dumpster. She was determined that no human should have to go to such measures to find a meal, so she started a change drive that has since grown to reach all of Canada and parts of the US.

Free the Children was the dream of a 12-year-old boy back in 1995. It has since grown to a massive, global organization that works to eliminate child labor from the world.

Alex's Lemonade Stand  was created by a 4-year-old cancer patient, Alexandra, in her front yard. Alex was a childhood cancer patient, much like Erin, whose lanyards we made this summer at camp. Though Alex has sadly passed away because of the disease she rallied to fight, the organization she founded has now raised over $50,000,000 (that's fifty million bucks!) for childhood cancer research. That's amazing.

Check out those organizations over your winter break and brainstorm what you could do to better your community, country, and planet!

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.  
— Anne Frank