For just a few hours a day, local children can escape their normal lives and immerse themselves in a different landscape.
Tucked behind the wooded areas of Maple Valley where wildlife meets creativity, kids 6 to 12 years old attend Camp Cedar River at the Renton Lions Youth Camp to fulfill their summer wishes. The retreat is a combination of day camps and interaction with Boy and Girl scouts.
The day camps started at the Cedar River 10 years ago. each week is packed with an array of activities. The goal of the camp is to promote knowledge and respect for wildlife, while also having a great time under the sun.
“We want them to be able to enjoy the outdoor activities and to be able to also learn the mission of the YMCA, which is to build spirit, mind and body, and to recognize the four core values of the YMCA, which are honesty, respect, responsibility and caring,” YMCA Program Executive Dave Mayer said. “We want them to be able to learn that mission and those values while doing fun outdoor activities.”
The 10-acre Renton Lions Youth Camp started a joint partnership with the Lake Heights YMCA in 2000 to bring day camps to the area. The additions provide families with a number of options to keep their kids busy over the summer.
The property is owned by the Renton Lions Club, which was given the property by a local banker in the late 1940s. Following the sale, the Lions gave the YMCA, Boy and Girl Scout troops the opportunity to use the property for summer activities.
“It’s a cool relationship that we have with the community, the Lions and with the other community organizations,” Mayer said.
Activities include archery, arts and crafts, camp songs, hiking, swimming and a climbing wall. Occasionally, campers come together to build fires at the fire bowl and are also treated with a field trip based on their age group. The camp is structured as an overnight facility in the woods, which allows campers to utilize the facility rather than attend day camps at schools and parks.
“The biggest thing is that we are able to be in an overnight camp setting even though it is a day camp,” Mayer said. “Instead of having the day camp in a park or school, we have the ability to have this beautiful 10-acre facility that has a climbing wall, archery range, arts and crafts, outdoor cooking and all those kind of fun things.”
A large portion of the campers love archery the most, while not showing too much interest in the long hikes on hot June afternoons. Nonetheless, the young campers have a blast at the getaway from home, thanks in part to the Renton Rotary Club.
The Renton Rotary helped fund the archery range and climbing wall to expand the reach of the camp and give children more alternatives for physical activity. The archery range and climbing wall are now two of the most popular choices for activities at the camp.
“It’s kind of fun to actually get to know how you can shoot the arrow,” camper Devin Scudder said. “Lots of people don’t really get to do that regularly, but at this camp you can.”
David Pritchard is spending a second summer at the camp this year and loves archery and building forts, another popular choice among the local kids. Campers Ashley Bowar, Taylor Lenton and Malia Fuller are each spend-ing their first summers at the camp, and the reception is positive so far.
“I like this camp so far,” Lenton said. “When I got the activity sheet and I started looking at it, I knew I would have fun.”
Camper Trevor Agee has been attending the camp for four years and enjoys all of the games and activities, but finds solace at the camp by simply surrounding himself with friends. Agee’s favorite activity is “Spider-Ball,” where one person throws the ball at another person below the head to eliminate from the field of play. The game follows nearly the same exact rules as dodgeball, but “Spider-Ball” sounds much cooler.
“What I like to do the most is just be able to spend time with my friends here and be able to build forts and stuff like that, because it’s really fun,” Agee said.
The camp also functions as a summer volunteer experience for counselors and elder scouts aiming to gain valuable time with children. Counselors construct weekly routines and split between each group of children to lead the way. Campers learn the ins and outs of forest survival and preservation, which also benefits counselors and scout leaders in their familiarity with the subject.
“With all of the outdoor living stuff, I learn from that too,” first-time counselor Monica Nevi said. “It also opens your eyes to different experiences and different ways of life and makes you more aware of your surroundings, I definitely appreciate that.”
The camp has a special relationship with the Boy and Girl Scouts, which intertwines with the campers’ experience during the summer programs. Josh Kutterer, a member of the Boy Scouts, runs a scout skills station at the camp to help educate children about their surroundings. The scouts engage in fire building, constructing tents, working with compasses and “Leave No Trace,” a program to keep the forest clean and free of litter.
“It’s going to be nice just getting the boys especially introduced into Boy Scouts, and hopefully get them excited for it,” Kutterer said.
Camp Cedar River
Camp Cedar River is open from Monday through Friday and conducts in week-long sessions for 10 weeks. The YMCA camp opened for the summer on June 23 and runs through late August. Each week-long session costs $185. The program also offers YMCA scholarships. Parents can sign their kids up for the program by calling the YMCA at 425-644-8417, or online at lakeheightsymca.org.