How Camp Made Me a Better Father: A Camp Wyoming Story
Most everyone who has experienced a week away at summer camp knows about the incredible bond that forms—a bond between campers and counselors, between friends, between individuals and the camp itself. Even as campers grow up, move away, start careers, and have families, the memories and experiences from their days at camp are constantly shaping them and giving them a framework for who they are. After all, how would they ever know that they love to canoe if it weren’t for that time at camp that they paddled down a river together with friends? Or how would they know they have the gift of leadership if it weren’t for that time that they led their group through several elements in the challenge course. Sure, these are things that you might learn somewhere else along the way in life, but it is at camp that so many of these new experiences and opportunities begin to awaken our potential and tell us who we can be.
Bill grew up in Winfield, Iowa and attended a small church growing up. The summer after he finished 4th grade, he came to Camp Wyoming for the first time. “This was an exciting experience for me, as my brother Brent had attended camp for many years and I was finally old enough to attend on my own. I went to camp each summer and was able to experience the many different facets of camp – cabins, tents, large, small, and even Night Owls. I eventually became an LIT and spent 2 summers on staff. To this day, I still consider my camp colleagues among my closest friends, and their posts and photos dominate my Facebook page.”
For Bill, it was the people he met at camp and the community he experienced that really made a difference in his life. “The most meaningful experiences for me involved small groups and the powerful connections and conversations which can occur.” Bill described the Pioneer camp working together to make a meal together over a fire, the Night Owls group swimming in the early hours of the morning while everyone else is still asleep, or the LIT campers sharing stories around a campfire. These were the places and times where he learned to connect and share his faith on his own terms. Growing up in a small congregation, he was often around the same people for most of his childhood, but when he came to camp, his world was expanded. “Within the environment of Camp Wyoming, this ability to learn and grow in a trusting environment was much more comfortable. Leaders and counselors facilitated amazing conversations and experiences, and events like the Christwalk sealed the deal.”
These experiences as a child compelled Bill to serve on summer staff at Camp Wyoming. He wanted to give other kids the chance to experience the same wonderful things that he did at camp. Today, Bill lives in Victoria, Minnesota with his wife Jill, their children Luke (6) and Kate (4), and the newest addition to the family: 2 fish. Bill looks back on his time at summer camp and says that even today, it shapes who he is as a husband and as a father. “As a parent, I still carry this same fire to provide these experiences for my children – looking for ways to allow them to learn, create, and grow beyond the walls of our church.” It was at camp that faith became more than just a Sunday morning experience for Bill, and he wants to make sure that his kids understand the same thing. It was because of his experience at Camp Wyoming that he knew, as a father, this was a message that could not be neglected. Faith is part of who you are every day.