By Jen de Ridder, Senior Program Director YMCA Camp Hanes

Friday evenings at YMCA Camp Hanes we host a closing picnic and ceremony for our families. We serve a tasty dinner, show a slide show and spend time sharing stories from the week. Some of our families are there to visit and learn about the amazing week, some families are there for a very important tradition; the five year paddle.

YMCA Camp Hanes hand paints wooden canoe paddles as recognition for campers and staff for being part of our family for five years. Through the years these treasured awards have changed some in their look but still reflect the same wording: “YMCA Camp Hanes, 5 Year Award”. When I began working at Camp Hanes we would hand out 5-8 a week on average. Now most weeks we have 20 paddles and some weeks up to 30.

The creation of the paddles involves staff, camper’s families, and board members. The camp community comes together to provide these awards. This is a testament to me of the feeling of belonging we provide here at camp. Campers and staff love coming back to a place they consider a second home and they are supported by the camp community.

I remember receiving mine at a campfire seven years ago. It was painted by a camper parent and it sits next to my desk. It is a constant reminder of this amazing community. It creates in me a sense of pride. What a great tradition.

To me this is what it is all about, building the sense of belonging. We can have the best activities in the world, and we do have amazing activities. But the pride that comes from being an import part of our camp family camp is truly what it is all about and why we will continue to recognize folks. We look forward to presenting many more campers and staff their 5 Year Paddle at YMCA Camp Hanes.

If you want to learn more about YMCA Camp Hanes please visit us at www.camphanes.orgor call us at 336-983-3131. Registration is going on now!

Sponsored by Camp Hanes