By Jared Lindell
There are many summer pastimes for everyone to enjoy, from adults to kids. Baseball, golfing, barbeques, swimming, fishing, and many others keep the community busy from the first warm day in May until the last days of September. For youth specifically, there is one specific tradition that many young ones participate in every year, which is summer camp. One such camp that youth in the Chautauqua region flock to every year is the YMCA’s Camp Onyahsa.
More than just a tradition, the summer camp experience has always served as a great opportunity to teach youth new skills and learn new levels of responsibility. It is the first time, in many cases, that children and young adults are away from their parents and with a new group of individuals with whom they live and become friends with. Those who attend summer camp experience the concept of community for the first time, as they become part of their own little community. Like most summer camps, Camp Onyahsa provides all these experiences and more. The camp fosters the spiritual, mental, and physical well-being of its participants, within a very nurturing outdoor environment. Not to mention, that it provides many opportunities for fun and excitement.
To make sure that everyone has the opportunity to attend the summer camp program, Camp Onyahsa seeks to provide scholarship opportunities for families that would not otherwise be able to send their child to camp. Annually, the Camp looks to provide four scholarships to area youth from the ages of 7 – 15 and from Southern Chautauqua County. The scholarships cover a full week’s tuition for each attendee. Those who end up attending the week-long camp will have the opportunity to take advantage of conservation and outdoor education, hiking and walking, team activities, arts and crafts, swimming, and canoeing, to name a few. Overall, the week is a positive, character-building experience, that leaves the youth who attend wanting to come back for more.
With continued constraints and cutbacks all across the non-profit sector, coupled with the need to continue providing youth with an organized, caring, social environment, such as summer camp, the YMCA approached the Community Foundation for assistance with this scholarship program. For that, the Foundation awarded a Field of Interest Grant to YMCA/Camp Onyahsa to help cover the costs associated with the four scholarships for week-long tuitions. This grant will enable deserving youth to spend quality time on Chautauqua Lake, while learning about their natural surroundings, making new friends, and having fun at the same time.
There are many summer programs in Chautauqua County that offer youth the opportunity to grow and enjoy their time in the sun, such as the programs offered through Camp Onyahsa. While summer camp might only be a week long, the skills and benefits it provides to youth can have a substantial impact on their long-term development. If you have ideas that you feel can benefit area youth, the Foundation has many grant programs that can help. Please call the Foundation staff at 661-3390 to learn about these grants opportunities. If securing the community’s future means helping youth today, then the grant money is certainly well spent.
Published in the June 3 edition of The Post-Journal