What outdoor programs and activities are most popular among members?
BH: At the Akron Area YMCA, we are fortunate to have an outdoor facility within easy driving distance for our members. At Camp Y-Noah, our year-round equestrian lesson and summer camp programs are the most popular. We have seen growth in both of these programs over the past few years, and the riding lesson program in particular has dramatically increased in popularity.
How do these programs benefit members?
BH: One only has to watch an equestrian student canter during a lesson for the first time, or a group of nine-year-olds work together to clean their cabin, to gain an appreciation for what our members take away from programs at camp. Our participants become more confident in their abilities, work to problem-solve and learn to fail gracefully in a safe environment.
What challenges do you encounter in running outdoor programs?
BH: Maintaining such a large facility quite literally takes a village. Our camp has over 30 buildings utilized all year, and every staff member has a role in keeping camp beautiful and safe. The same staff members who facilitate archery for Girl Scouts and team building for doctors also clean the bathrooms and assist with landscaping projects. Finding the individuals who can learn to do both to a high standard is something many camps struggle with. We are extremely fortunate at Camp Y-Noah to have an incredibly passionate team of both full-time and seasonal employees who work every day to make camp better.
What advice could you offer other community rec professionals on engaging members through outdoor programming?
BH: Though recreation professionals see the extraordinary value of outdoor programs, sometimes families view them as extra rather than necessary. Sharing your program’s story is vital, just like running a quality program is vital. The members who are passionate about your program will be eager for the opportunity to share their good experiences if given a platform to do so. Engaging a passionate group of people outside the program is an amazing way to educate your community on the value of quality outdoor programs that compete with so many other things for our members’ time.