Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Training Leaders of Tomorrow

While camping is usually thought of as a place to go in order for your kids to have fun and a safe environment, I believe it is that, but it is also a place where leaders are grown and mentored. This is done through meaningful programing and through random circumstances. We understand that the future needs leaders and they need to be better than we are at leading. That is the only way we will improve as a culture and a world. Everyone must also understand that they can be a leader because leaders are taught, not born.

Here at CFA we start the leadership training before they actually receive the title of Leader-In- Training. Even at age 8 they are learning the most important part of being a leader and something that takes a significant amount of time to develop -- communicating. They come in trying to be part of a community. You can't be a leader without a community and being part of that community. The best aspect about this is that the campers are acting like who they truly are. We hear it all the time, "When I am camp I am the person I want to be." The best leaders know who they are and stay true to themselves.

The next thing that happens at camp is failure. You are probably wondering why I put that on there, but it is the truth. People learn from failure (89% of moms also think it is healthy to fail). A lot of people don't want to fail or at least wave a magic wand and make it disappear, especially when it comes to children (40% of mothers would wave that magic wand). I say failure is perfectly natural and you will benefit greatly from it, especially at summer camp where there are kind, wonderful young adults there to help a child when they fail and be there when they are crying.

Are we setting your child up for failure? Nope, but we do put them in situations where they could possibly fail (climbing wall, high ropes, archery, etc...). All our cabins do low ropes, which a wonderful place where it is obvious that children learn from failure. Low ropes consists of elements that take mental and physical strength to succeed in them. Almost everyone fails at least once at low ropes and it is perfectly ok because they just get up and try again until they succeed. Society tries to shove perfection down our throats, when it is actually growth that is important because none of us are close to being perfect.

As kids get older, they are able to process better and understand what they are learning. That is why we have leadership programs called LIT (leaders-in-training) and CIT (Counselor-in-training). This is when they start doing and learning the nuts and bolts of being a leader and the type of leader they are. They start learning that leadership isn't about them and it is about the community that you serve (in our case the kids). It takes a long time to realize the world isn't about you and it is something that I am still learning and I am 26. There is more too it but it is hard to summarize a two-week or three-week intense program into a blog.

Camp fosters leaders and help them grow in wonderful human beings. Sending your kid to camp will not only help them become better people, but hopefully someday will help the world become a better place.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gold Rag

The Gold Rag begins with care and understanding of others. When I challenged the Gold Rag back in 1998, I was so excited to have reached this rag. I felt I had centered my life on this mission - to love and understand others. I felt I could challenge this rag with no problems and goals would be easy - boy was I wrong. I find daily that I am having to stop, take a deep breath and remember to try to understand others while still trying to understand myself

In the Gold Rag study card and the ceremony, the following pray emerges:

O, God, give me clean hands, clean words, and clean thoughts. Help me to stand for the hard right against the easy wrong. Save me from habits that harm. Teach me to work as hard and play as fair in Thy sight alone as if the whole world saw. Forgive me when I am unkind , and help me forgive those who are unkind to me. Keep me ready to help others at some cost to myself and send me chances to do some good every day.

Wow-just learn those words and repeat them any time you feel yourself being sucked into the void of hatred, bullying, gossip or self doubt. Know that you can rise above and be the one that is kind. Show others how to be a positive leader, strong in faith and self.

I know I struggle with negative thoughts daily and get WAY side tracked from my Ragger goals and the person I strive to be. But doing things that bring me back to center help - like writing this Rag blog each week I am reminded of who I want to be and how to get there.

So for each of you, I pray the prayer above and encourage you to learn it, repeat it, live by it.

Merry Christmas and remember to keep Christ in Christmas. It isn't all about you, the new Wii you hope to get or the clothes you might soon model. It is about birth, rejoicing, family and reflation. So gather your family near and recenter yourself this Holiday season.

In the Spirit of Camp,


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Campfire

The Campfire is a mythical being at a lot of camps, including ours. The thing about a campfire that is so gracefully beautiful is its ability to free kids from negative self consciousness. It frees them from what other people think and in turn lets them be themselves. It provides laughter and smiles. Sometimes it can even provide tears. I hear of some camps that don't do a campfire where songs, skit and stories are performed and I wonder how they set their camps culture or atmosphere.

A camp's culture can be established on that campfire night, which is opening night for us. The campers have basically done three things since arriving at camp: check-in, swim/health checks and dinner. They really haven't been able to shake off that outside world rust yet. Some are still insecure about themselves and don't really know what to think of the people around them. The announcement of announcements is made after dinner, "Sign up for campfire with Ryne outside." I stand outside waiting for people to come sign up. Of course counselors come, they are the wily ol' vets of the opening campfire. They have their go to songs and skits. They are ready for campfire at moment in time. The kids that come and sign up usually have their head down and tell me what they want to do in a soft voice. I ask them to look up and tell me because I can't hear them, their eyes catch mine and they say, "I have been thinking about this for a year. I hope I don't screw up." Little do they know it doesn't matter if they screw up or not, they will still be awesome for just being up there.

Once we are at campfire we do introductions. The counselors always take a long time to answer the get to know you question but they laugh and smile the whole time, which trickles down to the kids. The campers' faces have smiles for the rest of the time. After that, rules and our no-bullying policy are given, but then the fun stuff starts. Songs and skits commence and it starts with this one:

That sets the tone for the rest of the songs and skits. Campers do come up and screw up but that is ok. We cheer for them and help them through it. It takes tons of guts to get in front of 100 people and sing a song or perform a skit. Here is a sample of a random talent a CIT and an Ad Staff member did in the summer of 2009:

At the end of campfire is when we really set the culture of camp. We give a speech about I.I.L. (Is It Loving) and I tell a story about when I was a counselor at a different camp. It is a story about a young camper who struggles at a hiking camp because he doesn't have balance (he is deaf). The main theme of the story is that the love of people at camp and the love that he has inside get him to the tops of mountains. Some people cry, some disregard the story and some really think about it. After that we do flag and go to embers (our devotion).

All of this is done to get the kids to laugh, think and cry. As Jimmy Valvano (a former college basketball coach) said at a speech right before he died of cancer, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."


Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuff I Learned at Summer Camp

Whether we like it or not, when Christmas shows up, the end of the year is close at hand. Summer camp seems incredibly far away, and it really is, if you count the months— just about as far away as you could be. I don't know about you, but all of the love and togetherness of Christmas makes me miss camp and all of the CFA folks we love the most— even while I'm enjoying my family and out-of-camp friends.

Yet it seems like a wildly appropriate time to remember All The Good Stuff from summer. The lessons you learn, whether you're a counselor, camper, or even a parent on the sidelines at Closing Day, mean just as much when we sit down with friends, family, or even on your own at the holidays.

In case you've forgotten, some of those lessons include—

#1 — A good friend will always help you with your safety gear.

#2 — Take every opportunity to be a little silly in the name of fun.

#3 — Have some faith in yourself to try something new.

#4 — Love your brothers and sisters. If you don't have brothers and sisters, love the people you're with like they're family.

#5 — Music comes in many forms. It is powerful stuff, especially around a campfire.

#6 — You can make anything you want out of lanyard, beads, Popsicle sticks, and paint.

#7 — Caring about people means lending a shoulder of support whenever they need it.

#8 — Be respectful of other people, but don't be afraid to dance like nobody's watching.

#9 — Responsibility means seeking ways to take care of everyone, not just yourself.

#10— Find happiness in the simple stuff.

Happy Christmas. Happy Holidays.
Love, MaryAshley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Brown Rag

The Brown Rag begins with service to others. Can you see the pattern emerging in the Rag process? While it starts as a reflective journey, setting goals for your self, God and country; with each rag, things really move from self to God to others. The Rag process teaches you to think outside yourself and think of how you can impact the world around you.

What a perfect time of year to discuss service to others. Here we are about to embark on the joyous day of celebration for Jesus' birth, Christmas. While there is so much distraction with lights, tinsel, presents and more, it can be hard to remember the true reason for the season, the birth of Christ and then what he sacrificed for us. It is a GREAT time to step outside and help a neighbor, help a friend or help a stranger. The season should be about family and giving, not cookies and presents.

Here is a great story about putting others before self:

Reggie’s brother gave him an automobile as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve Reggie came out of his office, and saw a street urchin admiring his shiny new car. "Is this your car, Mister?" he asked.

Reggie nodded in affirmation, "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was surprised. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you anything? Boy, I wish..." He hesitated. Reggie knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like the one Reggie has. But what the lad said was far beyond Reggie’s expectation. "I wish," the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."

For a few seconds words failed Reggie and then he impulsively added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?" "Oh yes, I'd love that."

After a short ride, the boy turned towards Reggie. His eyes were glowing and he said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?" Reggie smiled a little. He thought he understood what the lad wanted. He wanted to show it off to his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Reggie was wrong again.

"Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked. He ran up the steps. In a little while Reggie heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little brother who was physically challenged. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. "There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. And some day I'm going to give you one just like it...then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."

Reggie got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. His brother whose eyes were gleaming with joy climbed in beside him and the three of them embarked on a memorable holiday ride.

That Christmas Eve, Reggie learned what Jesus meant when he said: "It is more blessed to give..."

I challenge you to find a way to serve others this season - through time, through love. You pick your passion, round up the family and get out there to serve others. There are many places such as local YMCA's, churches, Salvation Army, etc that help families and need volunteers to serve in various ways. Once you start to serve, it is easy - just get out there and put others first.

Youth Empowerment Retreat was AWESOME! Be on the look out for next years dates - we are going to make it a Youth Empowerment / Ragger Retreat weekend. It will be an amazing time to reflect, grow and create.

In the Spirit of Camp,


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Silver Rag

The Silver Rag begins with a commitment to the Christian way of life. For many, this Rag presents a struggle. What does this mean? Do I have to read the Bible in full? Am I not already a Christian? What do I do? I know this Rag presented me with most of these when I tied my Silver Rag in 1996.

As I have grown in the YMCA, I realize that the "Christian way of life" is a broad term defined differently by many people. I feel that is living with courage and character, doing your best at all times and seeking to help others is being a good Christian. That is why I love the YMCA core values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith. If I work to live a life full of the values, than I am living a "Christian way of life".

When I attend Silver Rag ceremonies, I like to read the following poem, "A Tandem Ride With God." It helps me visualize God, Jesus and me; how we can work together and how I need to trust Him.

I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn't know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!" I was worried and anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn't answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I'd say, "I'm scared", He'd lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord's and mine. And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight." So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I'm sure I just can't do any more, He just smiles and says... "Pedal."

(Author unknown)

For me, this allowed me to explore my fears of being Christian and the thought that I would somehow be judged "not enough." I wouldn't know the Bible well enough, I wouldn't go to church enough, I wouldn't be able to speak about God/Jesus smart enough, etc, etc, etc. As I have learned, being a Christian is so much more than all those things. It is trusting in oneself, listening to your heart, taking time to be quiet and listen to God, and to see the beauty He gives us each day. I still have my days and moments when I feel not enough, but I just have to push those aside and "Pedal."

So I challenge you to take some time this Holiday season to still your mind and allow your soul to listen to the voices around you, with in you. When you don't think you can, just shush up and pedal. Let Him do the rest, because he "knows bike secrets".

Remember-Youth Empowerment Retreat is coming up FRIDAY, December 10, 2010! Sign up today and take this time to renew your Rag goals at camp. It is not too late to sign up for the retreat - call us! 800-765-9622

Hey Hey CFA-register today!

In the Spirit of Camp

Y 182?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Empowerment and.. Gardening?

If you could create a new activity at CFA, totally regardless of cost, what would it be?

I have to say that I would love to see a gardening club. I know, I know.. Doesn't sound like the most scintillating choice of hobbies, but the values of a great garden and the skills it takes to produce produce are neat tools for life and perfectly representative of the core value of responsibility. Would it not be cool to eat meals planned by our new-for-summer-2011 Cooking Club with all of the ingredients grown via the hands of a Camp Gardeners Club? Maybe that's just me being geeky, but it excites me to think about youth taking that kind of control over their summer camp experience.

Which, of course, is the whole concept behind the Youth Empowerment Retreat. Not the vegetables, necessarily.. It is an important lesson to teach our campers about core values and living a purposeful life, but sometimes us "grown up" people (hard to envision myself as such, but at least as far as years go, I am!) have difficulty handing the reins over to our younger people. The retreat will focus on finding ways for campers to further their leadership skills not only at camp, but at home, as well. We want to help match the kids to the resources, allowing them to pursue an empowered life of service and giving to others.

So.. you should come!

- created via the BlogPress app for iPhone.