Camp Wakonda to open for season

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer camp offers traditional, overnight experience since 1914

With summer around the corner, Camp Wakonda is setting up camp to give youngsters a great camping experience this summer, which it has been offering since 1914.

"We celebrated our 100-year anniversary," said Steve Maynard, YMCA camp director. "We were founded in Forsyth on the banks of the White River. When they built the dam, we had to move. We moved to our current site near Halltown in 1953, and have been there since."

The YMCA, which the camp is affiliated with, offers day camp experiences, but Camp Wakonda offers a traditional, away-from-home camping experience.

"The difference is, our campers stay overnight," Maynard said. "They arrive on Sunday afternoon, and leave the following Saturday. It's six full days. Because of that added time, the impact we have is just that much greater on the campers."

Campers come together for a week from Missouri and surrounding states like Oklahoma, Illinois and Texas.

"What happens is a family that went to camp here now lives in another state, but wants their child to come here to enjoy camp, too, like they did," Maynard said. "The majority of our campers come in from Springfield, but our second largest group comes from Monett."

Six, one-week sessions are offered over the summer to choose from, beginning June 19 through July 31, for entering grades 3 to 5 (Trailblazers) and entering grades 6 to 10 (Outback). Each week has a different theme. Counselor-in-training week for entering grades 11-12 runs July 10-16.

Campers are grouped by age and offered activities appropriate for their development level. Each day, they participate in three skill clinics in the morning, then enjoy fun adventures and activities with their cabin group.

For parents who worry about their child becoming homesick, Maynard said campers stay so busy, they don't have much time to think about it.

"By the time we're done with our activities during the day, they fall fast asleep," he said.

Parents can also write to their child while they're at camp, or send them a message via the camp's website, which they can read in between activities.

And, oh, the activities.

"We do traditional camping actives like arts and crafts, archery, cheer and dance, high ropes and rock-climbing," Maynard said. "We just expanded our one-acre pond into a five-acre lake, and it is stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation. We go fishing, swimming, and there's a water trampoline."

There is also a nature center, farm animals, a ropes course, hiking, basketball, games and campfires.

In addition to traditional camping activities, besides bringing home great memories, campers bring home new friendships forged, and new self-esteem and confidence from learning new skills.

In conjunction with the YMCA's mission, the camp promotes the organization's four core values - Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility, has a chapel service every morning, devotions every night, and says grace at each meal.

"We hire great Christian role models for staff who are college-age, more than half are lifeguards, and all are certified in CPR and first-aid," Maynard said. "We do stress those four values and how those blend with all the activities. For instance, we're not just teaching archery, but using archery to help grow that camper in self-esteem and confidence. On Monday, they're trying to figure out how to put an arrow in the bow, but by Friday, they're putting all five arrows on the target, and it gets even better when the counselor, who they look up to says, 'Great job.' That is just so transformational for kids."

Payment options include three tiers of rates: Rate A is $460, Rate B is $370 and Rate C is $265.

"We understand families have different abilities to pay," Maynard said. "If the first rate causes a hardship for a family to pay, we ask them to look at the next rate. If that rate causes a hardship, look at the next; and there's no difference in program. We don't know at camp who pays what fee, and we don't care. Beyond Rate C, there is financial assistance for up to 90 percent off, so a camper could come for only $46, based on need.

"We also give out scholarships to schools," Maynard said. "Cassville got certificates to come to camp for free. We give out about 70 scholarships. It's just something we want to give out to the communities we're in. We're looking for good kids who otherwise wouldn't have the financial need to come to camp.

Maynard has been involved with YMCA camping activities for 25 years.

An Open House will be held May 28 from 1-5 p.m. to ask questions, meet the director, and tour the camp. The camp is located at 22237 Lawrence 2080 in Ash Grove, near Halltown, between Highway N and Highway O.

For more information, or to get registered, people may call 417-235-8213, or visit the website at: www.campwakonda.org.

Deadlines for each week are the Thursday before each session starts. Parents can also stop by the Cassville or Monett YMCA to apply.

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