2021 Y-Camp Success Story


It has been a long year for everyone and we’ve had to sacrifice many things to get through the pandemic, but one group that missed out on much-needed opportunities most were the children. With many activities cancelled or postponed, including 2020’s Y Camp Overnight Camp season, valuable time learning social skills, building relationships, developing a sense of independence and self-confidence, and spending time in the great outdoors were put on hold. After a long wait, though, we were able to welcome ISSDA campers back to the Des Moines Y Camp during the week of June 20 – 26.

When campers arrived for the week many were quiet, shy and trying to get a handle on what this whole “camp” thing is all about. The kids were excited to be at camp but a little awestruck with the songs, games and action of camp. Sunday night was the first opening campfire since August of 2019 and by the end of it campers were signing, laughing and already getting comfortable. By Monday morning it almost felt like it was just yesterday camp had been full and the kids didn’t miss a beat.

The week was spent conquering challenges like the climbing tower, zip line, riding horses, canoeing and more! With each new accomplishments we could see the campers stand a little taller, speak a little louder, smile more easily and let their anxieties go. When camp gathered to talk about character development at the Trail of Five Fires or camped out during Night Under the Stars the campers were engaged, focused and treasuring every moment. Y Camp staff were surprised at how few campers struggled with homesickness, especially considering the circumstances of missing a year of camp, but the kids were resilient and bought into camp.

As the week closed and campers shed tears of sadness at having to leave Y Camp, one message was made clear: children are tough. The challenges of the past 16 months have weighed on all of us, but our youth proved every day at camp that they can recover and be strong in the face of those difficulties. They’re flexible, patient, understanding and willing to learn how to adjust to a new reality in ways that adults wish we could. A week at camp changes lives and impacts kids in a way that they can, in turn, impact the world, but this year they also gave us something: hope. Hope that we are capable of more, hope that they will build a better world and hope that we can all get through this together.