News: Volunteers make a difference at Youth Camp
Story by Master Sgt. Rich Kemp
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — Volunteers are the backbone of any service organization. It is especially true for the Minnesota National Guard Youth Camp. More than 100 volunteers helped make a difference in the lives of children during the camps held at Camp Ripley in central Minnesota, July 22-Aug. 4, 2012.
"Everybody pitched in," said Doug Wortham, the camp director for the second week of Youth Camp. "We had a great group of volunteers."
The volunteers are current and retired members of the Minnesota National Guard, along with spouses and children of Guard members. They came from all over the state of Minnesota and one retired Guard member came from Washington to volunteer for a week.
“I do it for the kids,” said Judy Fernaays, a volunteer who retired from the 133rd Air Wing. “It is also very rewarding for me.” Fernaays came from Silverdale, Wash., to volunteer during the first week of Youth Camp.
“It is my favorite time of the summer,” said Abigail Federico, a volunteer from St. Cloud, Minn. “It is awesome watching the kids learn and grow throughout the week.”
The volunteers serve as camp counselors, bus drivers, medics, activities staff, logistical support and admin support. Activities at the camp include biking, hiking, canoeing, swimming, arts and crafts, riflery, archery, rappelling and sports. Patriotism is also a big part of the camps. The U.S. and Youth Camp flags are raised and lowered by the campers each day. Patriotic songs sung throughout the camp and a ceremony is held to show the children how to properly dispose of the U.S. Flag. The children are taught how to march and also sleep in the same barracks that their parents have while training at Camp Ripley.
There are two camps during each week. Youth Camp is for 10- to 12-year-old children and Teen Camp is for 13- to 15-year-olds. There is also a junior counselor (JCs) program for 16-18- year- olds. Junior Counselors are an integral part of camp as they bridge the age gap between campers and adult counselors. They are expected to demonstrate leadership, motivation, creativity, and maturity; and to be present for and participate in all Youth Camp activities throughout the week.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Sam Loidolt, a JC from Brooklyn Park, Minn. “It means a lot to be able to help kids who are going through the same things that I have experienced.” Loidolt has experienced life as a child of a military member. His dad, Brig. Gen. Neal Loidolt, has been a member of the Minnesota National Guard for more than 25 years and deployed to Iraq two times.
“It was rewarding to be able to help the campers and I definitely want to come back as a JC next year,” said Loidolt.
The volunteers put in long days and are exhausted by the end of the week, but they say it is all worth it to make a difference in a child’s life.
“The word of the day for Wednesday was ‘Selflessness’ which really defines our volunteers,” said Wortham.