“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
– Barry Finlay
As we are halfway through the summer months, our second Camp Greenheart has officially come and gone, but the journey still continues!
Thanks to our official partnership with Chicago Voyagers, a local non-for-profit organization committed to empowering youth through outdoor initiatives, we enjoyed a very remarkable four day excursion at Devil’s Lake in Sauk County, Wisconsin with students from Mikva Challenge, an organization that offers civic activism and leadership opportunities for Chicago’s youth.
After a full four days of belaying down cliffs, crawling through caves, pitching tents and sharing bonfire stories, we reflect on some pretty great memories from our outdoor exploration.
Meet some of the counselors by reading up on their adventures below and find out about the ultimate peak of their trip! Photos from their Camp Greenheart experience can be found on our Facebook page.
Get to know Zoey
“Getting out into the wilderness reminds me that we live in a vast, inexplicably beautiful world and that we have a responsibility to protect it for every generation. I love watching for wildlife when I’m hiking, camping, kayaking, or rock climbing,” says Zoey. “Some of my favorite wildlife sightings have included muskrats, mountain goats, tarantulas, elk, moose, river otters, rattlesnakes, manatees, and lots and lots of alligators.”
Zoey’s Camp Greenheart experience
“Everyone had such a positive attitude throughout our entire camp. We spent a lot of time kicking around a soccer ball and having informal conversations about leadership,” says Zoey. “My favorite memory is a conversation that happened between two of our campers, Donnell and Emanuel, during a hiking expedition on the last day of camp. They were talking about how their peer group sometimes used offensive language to describe different ethnic groups and genders. Donnell shared that he personally felt uncomfortable when racial slurs or derogatory remarks were made and he was committed to standing up against those kind of comments.”
Zoey explains, “Emanuel had more of a postmodern approach, and pointed out that certain words were considered acceptable among some groups, but not others. That led them to a much larger discussion about whether a leader accepts things as they are, or actively works to change them, and how to do that best when engaging with other cultures right here in Chicago.”
Zoey says, “The coolest thing about that conversation was that they initiated it and led it themselves, with a great deal of respectful engagement and actively listening throughout. You could see how they were integrating what they were learning at camp with the ‘real world’ they lived in. There’s no doubt that they’ll return to their communities better prepared to think through leadership and intercultural relationships in their day-to-day life. I’m so excited to see them continue to grow with Greenheart.”
Get to know Audrey
“Growing up, my summer vacations consisted of taking 1-2 week camping trips with my family. Though at times it was a bit overwhelming to spend so much time in a small tent, I am overall so grateful for these experiences,” says Audrey. “Over the years spent on these camping trips I have learned to disconnect from technology, get a little dirty, and truly appreciate the nature around me. Because of this I am so excited to take a few days off to go outside of my comfort zone and take my outdoor adventures to the next level – literally!”
Audrey’s Camp Greenheart experience
“My favorite moment of Camp Greenheart was seeing the campers go above and beyond to help each other throughout our four days together.” Audrey explains, “I witnessed one camper exceeding his assigned job duty of making sure everyone was sufficiently hydrated throughout the trip. One camper took it upon himself to consistently provide a supportive hand to those challenged with hiking down the slippery rocks. Another picked up on their fellow camper’s uncertainty with making s’mores and made an extra s’more just for him. Whether these acts of kindness our campers displayed were big or small, each one of them was surely noticed and surely made an impact!”
Get to know Kara
“I’ve never been much of an outdoorsy person, but have grown to love camping, rock climbing and hiking in the past 10 years. Living in Chicago without a car doesn’t give me many opportunities to pursue these activities as often as I’d like, but when I do get to go, it’s amazing to disconnect from my phone for a few days and enjoy nature,” says Kara. “I’ve been to Devil’s Lake to camp and rock climb close to 20 times so I don’t really have a favorite trip since I love them all!”
Kara’s Camp Greenheart experience
“One camper was scared of heights and had some physical issues with the hike we were doing, which was pretty intense. However, one camper in particular, Julian, did not leave his side on the way up the hike or on the way down to make sure he had a companion and to make sure he was doing the hike safely,” Kara explains. “We would rotate who was walking with the two of them to make sure everyone was doing well. Seeing such compassion from an age group that stereotypically is very self-oriented was really, really great. We had such an amazing group of campers!”
Get to know Maggie
“Some of the best times I’ve spent outside has been with my Uncle Eric, who is an ecologist,” says Maggie. “When I was younger I loved to spend time helping him with projects like setting up birdhouses in local metro-parks, hunting for frogs and turtles in a nearby lake and learning about the differences between local and invasive species in Northwest Ohio. The time I spent with my uncle sparked my natural curiosity about the world around me and taught me to value it and preserve it.”
Maggie’s Camp Greenheart experience
“My favorite memory from Camp was a moment sitting around the campfire when a camper took the initiative to lead a simple reflection with the group. He asked the group to close their eyes and focus on a sound in the natural environment we were in. Then, he asked us to think of what we were proud of or something we were appreciating in that moment,” says Maggie. “It was a totally spontaneous moment and resulted in some profound reflection from both campers and facilitators. Watching a 15 year old kid step into that kind of mindful leadership role so naturally was truly inspiring.”