The Benefit of Outside Play- Parenting Corner

Remember running around outside in the summer, heart pounding, sweat running down your brow, hair soaking wet still from your play in the sprinklers, and that excited grin on your face from laughing with your friends? Those are the memories that make us who we are. Experiences like that are what the youth of today’s society lack. Researchers are calling this the “Nature Deficit Disorder,” suggesting that there is a direct link between behavioral issues and not spending enough time outside. The fact of the matter is, our youth is missing this important piece of their childhood!

“Now I see the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

Walt Whitman

Outdoor Play at School

Research has shown that kids who are involved in outside activities regularly have less behavioral/social issues than those who do not. The average attention span is 45- 60 minutes….for an adult. Yet our schools expect our youth to be focused for many hours at a time. Other countries have a better handle on understanding the importance of outdoor play. Nordic countries schools take 15 minute recesses after every 45 minutes of instruction. This has improved their test scores dramatically compared to the United States.

“For every hour that passed after a break, student performance worsened–average test score deteriorated by 0.9 per cent of a standard deviation.”
Malene Sommer Christiansen, Recess Improves Student Performance

Vitamin D, Depression, and Sunshine Remedies

Twenty percent of teens and young adults ages 15-24 experience depression and suicidal thoughts, while only 10% report spending time outside. How are those two linked, you may ask?! Well let me tell you! The sun provides our bodies with vitamin D. Studies have shown that a decrease in vitamin D levels in the blood are linked with depression! Taking vitamin D pills as a treatment for depression has shown positive results in many studies. My question for you, is why take pills when you can remedy it by playing outside?!

This Month’s Action Step:

My challenge to all parent/guardians is to get your kids outside! Involve them in Youth Odyssey! (Although I may be biased! :P) But involve them in something outdoors. Try implementing family walks before the sun goes down. Go out and play basketball or soccer! Whatever your fancy, just get your kids outside!

One Last Tip!

What do I do if they fight me on participating? Try your best to pick an activity your child will enjoy. If they are extremely stubborn, start small. Ask them to join you on a walk or help you garden something. Baby step them into outdoor activity. It will not only benefit your youth, but also you!

Youth Odyssey Runs In King’s Challenge 5k

This past weekend, we had a great time with King’s Crossing Church of Christ. They hosted their annual King’s Challenge 1k & 5k on Saturday and chose to donate a portion of the proceeds to Youth Odyssey. Everyone out there was having a great time enjoying the beautiful weather, good music and free tacos and ice cream! The day started out with the children’s 1k. Boy, those kids were fast! It was so much fun to watch them make their way through the obstacles and back across the finish line. Surprisingly, after all that running, the kids had enough energy to jump in the bounce houses in the kids zone after their run. Oh to be young and have an endless amount of energy.

Runners at the king's challenge 5k
Youth Odyssey crew at the king's challenge 5k

Once all the kids had crossed the finish line, it was time to get everyone ready for the 5k. Youth Odyssey had five participants running, four of our excellent Youth Leaders and Program Facilitator Rick. They all did an outstanding job! Anthony (one of our Youth Leaders) came in second place overall and first in his age division! After all their hard work, everyone partook in some post-race breakfast tacos and bluebell ice cream while small raffle items were awarded and we waited for the medal ceremony to start.

During the medal ceremony, the first place runner was awarded her prize, a yeti flip cooler. Everyone (especially Rick) was a little envious. What a great prize for first place?! As the medal ceremony continued on, we learned that not only Anthony, but Rick and two more of our Youth Leaders earned medals for their times in their age division! Youth Odyssey was full of winners that day. We were so proud! When all the medals were passed out and everyone had posed for their photo ops, it was time to raffle off the big ticket item! For $1 people could enter to win a Pelican Sport FLOW 106, stand up paddle board. All proceeds from the paddle board raffle went to benefit Youth Odyssey! Funny enough, the mother to one of our Youth Leaders was the winner of the paddle board. She graciously donated the paddle board to Youth Odyssey (Thanks Stephanie)! We can’t wait to work the paddle board into our programming and teach our kids a new skill.

Youth Odyssey king's challenge 5k medal winnersKing's challenge 5k tire run
King's challenge 5k youth leader participants

Five Cheers for 5k Success!

All in all the day was a great success full of perseverance, fundraising and building new partnerships! We really enjoyed working with King’s Crossing Church of Christ and hope to work with them again in the near future. Youth Odyssey is in the process of branching our programs out beyond the school system and housing authorities, and entering into religious organizations as well. Maybe a King’s Crossing after school program will soon be in the mix. Either way, we are very thankful that they chose to help support us with their 5k! It is community partnerships like this that help to continue to make Youth Odyssey successful and grow.

Meet Our New Intern: Miesha

Say hello to our newest team member, Miesha! Miesha is completing an internship with us this semester. She is really interested in learning more about the kids we work with and has a passion for helping others in need. She has been a great addition to the team and we are really excited to see her grow and learn with us. Bringing Miesha on is just one of the many ways Youth Odyssey continues to grow and expand. You might remember Kelsie mentioning this in her blog two weeks ago and we couldn’t agree more. As our team grows we are able to accomplish so much more and have a bigger impact on youth in our community.

Get to know her…

Miesha is an island girl at heart. She grew up in the U.S. virgin islands, and was raised by her loving grandmother. Miesha moved to Dallas when she was 12 in order to better her education. In high school, she gained a love for helping others, and she earned an Emergency Medical Technician certification through a dual credit program at Brookhaven Community College. After school, when there were no clinicals, she would assist the sports medicine department during practices or games. She also loved summer camp, and she would attend Young Life camps at WindyGap in North Carolina.

Miesha is now a full time student at Texas A&M Corpus Christi where she is currently studying criminal justice with a minor in social work. Her expected graduation date is December 2017. After graduation, Miesha would like to start on her pre-law coursework to prepare for law school in the near future. Miesha loves to spend her free time with her dog, Lioness. Lioness was a stray, and was only 3 weeks old when she rescued her. Miesha has a strong love for animals and nature. In her free time, she also loves to do DIY projects and cook Sunday dinners for her friends.

Miesha at carnival on the virgin islandsMiesha

Miesha is looking forward to gaining any and all knowledge she can about working with youth in the outdoors! We look forward to seeing all the great things she can bring to the table.

Proactive Parenting in Teen Relationships

Great! So your kids have started school again, are settling into a schedule and forming new relationships! Some of them have overcome the nervousness of starting a new school, while others are changing friend groups and starting fresh. While all of this is exciting and hard to keep track of, it is important that you do! Teenage years are pivotal in forming a youth’s mind set and helping them decide on what path to take for their future. It is important you have the tools to help guide your youth along the way! It is my honor to introduce to you the concept of *drum roll please* PROACTIVE PARENTING.

Ask Questions!

The best way to stay in the know with what’s going on with your child’s life is to ask them! Ask about their friends. How are they doing, and what are they like? Allow your child to invite them over so you can meet them and their parents. Establishing good parent to parent relationships is paramount to implementing healthy relationships for your youth.

Making judgement calls on who your child is around can often be a tough challenge. It is important that we keep tabs on who is catching our child’s attention whether it be romantically, friendship wise, and even with mentoring. Teenage years are the hardest years for youth because their body is physically developing. This means their hormones are at inconsistent levels which causes frequent mood changes. This can cause them to be sensitive to what people have to say and become easily aggravated. Irrational decisions tend to be made during this time period in a youth’s life. It is important as a parent that you monitor what is going on their life so that you can help them react appropriately to negative situations. Monitoring who your child spends their time with will aid you in being proactive.

Proactive Parenting is a Necessity

There is a movie called Thirteen that came out in 2003 about a single mother and daughter’s journey through her teenage years. In the movie the girl develops bad relationships that influence her to engage in poor decisions. Throughout the movie, the mother ignored many signs of the daughter’s behavior. At the end of the movie the mother realizes she should have been more proactive. Ignoring your youth’s behavior and hoping for the best is often the route elected for modern parents. Why? Because monitoring kids who are mini versions of ourselves is hard work! It may surprise you to learn that most kids actually like rules! Studies show that children feel safer and more loved when they have set rules to follow. I suggest a few helpful rules to exercise proactive parenting.

Proactive Parenting Rules!

(See what I did there?)

  • A curfew
  • Set a time frame each day they have to spend on homework
  • Give them daily chores they must complete prior to free time
  • Do not let your child stay at anyone’s house unless you have met and trust the other child’s parents

This Month’s Call to Action:

Having set boundaries and consequences to rules when they are broken, teaches kids responsibility and also keeps them safe. I challenge every parent to start engaging with other parents. Get involved in your kids social life. You need to know who your child is spending their time with because life experiences is the biggest mold for a child’s future.

Kelsie’s Odyssey; A Legacy of Empowerment

Hello blog followers! My name is Kelsie Leopold and I am a former Youth Odyssey employee. I worked there from September 2015 to April of 2017. The decision to leave was a hard one but necessary. I had gotten engaged, and my fiancé lived six hours away. I resigned so we could live in the same town. With all of these transitions, it got me thinking of how everyone has come so far through the years.

When I started at Youth Odyssey, I was their third employee. My title was Program Facilitator. I had a general idea of what the job would require of me, and I felt prepared for it because of my background in outdoor education and working with various youth. For the most part, my expectations were correct. However, there was a definite learning curve when I came into my first program. The behavior was different than what I was used to, and there was the occasional use of choice words that I wasn’t used to hearing out of 12 year olds mouths. It was definitely a wakeup call, and it allowed me to see the need for Youth Odyssey programs in these areas.

Kelsie with her dog on a hike
Kelsie doing some nature photography

The youth in the programs weren’t used to so many rules. I was told I was mean or strict constantly when, in reality, I was being as fair and consistent as I could be. I would try to anticipate possible drama from developing (keeping the focus on activities). Sometimes I was successful, other times less so. But over the course of the programs, I was seeing growth in the participants. There were less language issues, better respect and listening, and more youth were being invited to camping trips and ropes courses. Youth Odyssey was making a difference, and I felt I was making a difference too.

It’s amazing when you can see an angry or uninterested youth finally start to put all of the concepts together. It warms my heart when I can see those who struggled in the beginning of my programs become so strong that they are promoted to Youth Leaders. That happened more than a few times during my time at Youth Odyssey. It’s those kids that make the long hours, stress, come-to-Jesus meetings, talks with parents, countless outreach and fundraising all worth it. It’s those kids that made it a hard job to leave. I mean, here I am still writing a blog for Youth Odyssey and having staff meetings about how to make our summer camps even better because I can’t just drop it. If I do, I’ll feel like I’ve left a job unfinished and, those who know me know it’s all or nothing.

Kelsie on a camping trip with a program
Kelsie on the Youth Leader spring break trip

So, why am I still here writing blogs and having staff meetings? The answer is a combination of things. First, I’ve got to say that I (a little bit) blame the Youth Leaders for my inability to “let go” of Youth Odyssey. I’ve seen them grow so much since I joined the team, and have connected with them in so many ways. I feel like they are a part of me, part of my legacy. It’s like they are my little brothers and sisters, and I need to help guide them into being the best they can be. When I announced I was leaving Youth Odyssey to our Youth Leaders, there wasn’t a dry eye around the campfire. It was bittersweet. They understood why I was leaving and were happy for me, but they (and I) were sad to see me go.

Another aspect is that I’m a huge control freak. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I took this job. I feel that I need to help these amazing young adults through the transition to amazing adults all by my onesie. Since leaving Youth Odyssey, I’ve been forced into taking a huge step back, but I know that we have hired some pretty great staff. I have seen the way they have bonded with the youth (and vice versa) so I think that (just maybe) these Youth Leaders are in good hands.

Kelsie with the youth leaders on the spring break trip
Kelsie talking to kids at the ropes course

I also blame all of the exciting new happenings at Youth Odyssey on my failure to leave the nest. As previously mentioned, when I started at Youth Odyssey the staff consisted of three people; myself, a Program Director and our Executive Director. Now, that number has jumped to five full-time employees and an intern! Youth Odyssey is now on the Day of Giving for the Coastal Bend Community Foundation, and have gained more Board members. We were also the recipients of the Charity League’s generosity to help us build a new building at our ropes course. During my time at Youth Odyssey, we created new partnerships with like-minded organizations to build better programs. We also expanded our fundraising and social media outlets to tell more people about Youth Odyssey.

There have been so many amazing opportunities for Youth Odyssey that I was able to witness and be a part of. Now, I just want to be there for all of it! Especially for the completion of our ropes course expansion! This goes back to me not wanting to leave a job unfinished (and being a control freak). I want to finish what I helped start. Knowing I can’t do all of that saddens me some, but it’s mostly for the selfish satisfaction of being there when it all comes together. What doesn’t sadden me is the legacy I’m leaving behind. I was able to create two additional summer camps that focused on empowering young men and women. They were so successful, it was a no-brainer to continue them next summer.

Kelsie with the Girl's Empowerment campers
Kelsie being silly at the ropes course

In the time that I worked for Youth Odyssey I grew a lot more than I expected. I have become a better teacher, leader and listener and feel somewhat wiser from the experiences I’ve had. Whether it be through camps or ropes courses, kayaking days, or long van rides out of state to explore, I can’t really say. But the combination of it all has given me a more loving heart and a more open mind. It’s easy to love those who show you affection and respect, but it’s the loving those who don’t necessarily show it back that has grown in me.

Not every youth jived with me right off the bat, but every youth warmed up to me in the end. I saw this quote on Facebook, “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.” When I read that I just thought “YES!” and flashbacked to some of my programs with Youth Odyssey. Some of our current Youth Leaders were those kids in the programs that started off with bad attitudes. We stuck it out and supported their growth. That opened the door for them and allowed them to prosper within Youth Odyssey.

Moving Forward…

I know I still have some more stepping back to do when it comes to my involvement with Youth Odyssey. Knowing that there’s a little piece of me in everyone I encountered makes it a little easier. Knowing that I have helped someone become more confident and respectful in themselves (and others) and let them feel comfortable with who they are, is what made the job worth it. It’s also what will help silence my inner control freak when it comes to new and exciting things for Youth Odyssey. It’s knowing that Youth Odyssey will be just fine without me as they continue to grow and build as an organization that I am still coming to terms with. I am grateful for my time with Youth Odyssey. It has given me more knowledge in my professional life (and some pretty marketable skills), but it also gave me the chance to make an impact in young lives. Not to mention, leaving behind a sweet legacy of awesome young adults and two summer camps.

Youth Odyssey will always have a big place in my heart ,and I plan to continue to support them any way I can. Thanks for all of the memories and allowing me to create a legacy of empowerment!

Kelsie and her fiance Robert

Gone Fishing- Outside Scoop

Over the summer Youth Odyssey had many opportunities to go fishing, and the youth were natural anglers. Fishing is a great art to learn because it can do several things for you. First, in a survival situation knowing how to fish can help you find food. Second, fishing teaches you patience. Third, fishing is a great activity to do with others or by yourself. Furthermore, fishing can allow us to simply just enjoy nature and all the beauty it brings. Catching a fish, however, is the best part and it’s a great feeling. Also, don’t forget your camera!

The Squad
Casting like a pro

Grab a pole, we are going fishing!

If you have never gone fishing it might be intimidating to try it out for the first time. Fish can be slimy and gross. Yet, you can’t really avoid getting dirty and messy playing around outside either. We love to get our hands dirty in Youth Odyssey! The first thing you need to do is figure out where you can go fish or where you would like to go fish. Then you need to research the rules and regulations of your state or region. For Texas, check out the Outdoor Annual. Now it is time for you to get some gear and become an angler!

Saltwater vs. Freshwater

There are poles designed for saltwater, and for freshwater. If you will be doing any kind of saltwater fishing, you probably should invest in a saltwater pole. A saltwater pole is essential because saltwater contains bigger species of fish, and is more corrosive to the pole. The saltwater poles are typically more expensive as well. Therefore, I wouldn’t suggest spending the extra buck on a saltwater pole if your focus is freshwater. At Youth Odyssey we mainly fish at freshwater sources located at State Parks, so we have freshwater poles for now. We plan on exploring the saltwater eventually, mostly so we can catch some really big fish and be even more legit anglers!

Waiting for the fish to bite
Anglers at Martin Dies Jr.

Anglers toys

Once we obtained our poles, we needed to get our tackle box filled and ready. There are certain things you have to obtain in order to start fishing, but it’s always a good idea to get more if you can. What we recommend are hooks, sinkers, bobbers, extra line, gloves (helps with the yucky slimy stuff), pliers, scisscors, measuring tape, filet knife, net, fish handbook, and lures. There are many other items you could need, and I would recommend researching what else to bring for your trip.

Knot to worry again!

Now we have our fishing poles and all our gear, but now we need to get everything set up to be true anglers. In order to fish, one important thing to know is how to tie a good fishing knot. At Youth Odyssey we primarily use the Uni-Knot and the Half-Blood Knot. Both of these knots are easy to tie, and are very secure. Any fishing knot will be do the trick. Also tying an overhand safety knot is something I suggest to give your knot more security, although it isn’t necessary.

Hook in the water, Pole in your hand

Throughout the summer the kids loved going fishing. It was even more fun for us to see them turn into awesome anglers. We love to take the kids fishing because it helps connect them with the outdoors. Our goal is for youth to broaden their horizons, experience the outdoors, and learn more about themselves. Often times the kids find new passions within our program, and it is amazing to see their transformation over the years. We encourage you to grab your pole, and go be one with nature. Go catch a fish!

Thank You Summer Camp Sponsors!

Wow! Our summer season is officially complete. It was a crazy yet successful summer full of new experiences for both campers and staff. We went canoeing, backpacking, kayaking, scuba diving, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, and so much more. With that said, none of this could have been possible without the support of our amazing sponsors and donors.

Our Sponsors

  • Gourley Contracting
  • Whataburger
  • Majesty Outdoors
  • Coastal Bend Community Foundation
  • GROW Local South Texas
  • Food Bank of Corpus Christi
  • Texas Parks & Wildlife
  • Navy Army Community Credit Union
  • United Healthcare
  • HEB Tournament of Champions
Sponsors Thank you!

Thank you to our sponsors and donors who made summer camp a reality for so many youth. In addition, because of the amazing support from our community, we were able to add 2 brand new camps, Girl’s Empowerment Camp & OutdoorsMEN Camp. This allowed us to spread our reach, and offer more room for youth in our summer camps.

Sponsors helped her SCUBA

We also want to say thank you to our awesome partners who also helped make this summer a reality. At our Adventure Delta Camp we camped at the Nueces Delta Preserve. During this camp James Gourley gave us a Scuba Diving Lesson and taught CPR & First Aide. The kids had a blast learning new things and they were grateful for the experience! Delta Camp wasn’t the only week we spent at the Nueces Delta Preserve. Our Girl’s Empowerment and OutdoorsMEN camp also called the Delta “home” for a week. We are so thankful to have been allowed to camp there. It’s a beautiful property with some great facilities! Our kids love spending the week out there (a big factor is the fantastic wind there)!

Another great partner of ours is GROW Local South Texas. We worked with them to create our new pilot Farm to Fork program. The kiddos in this program spent every Tuesday for a month out at the learning garden! They learned a lot pollinators, three-sisters farming, and edible plants. At the end of the month the kids got to cook a meal for their families with ingredients from local farms. GROW Local also partnered with us for our living local summer camp. They took us out to a local farm, showed us around the downtown farmers market and taught us some new things in the learning garden. We love teaching our kids the importance of supporting their local community with GROW Local!

During our living local summer camp, we had the amazing opportunity to go horseback riding! Independence Equine Center in Woodsboro let us come out to their barn for an entire day! They showed us how to ride, rope and wrangle. The kids had an amazing time getting know the horses and learning some barn skills. Everyone enjoyed their day at the Independence Equine Center and we look forward to returning at our next living local camp.

Sponsors helped them learn about local farming

Get in on the action

We had a fantastic summer with new experiences and new camps! All made possible by you! Community sponsorships and partnerships make a big difference in the impact we are able to have on youth in our area. If you want to be part of the impact, you should consider being a member of our Trailblazers Team! Our team of Trailblazers is a collaboration of some of our strongest supporters. They provide monthly gifts to support a single child in our programs and it’s a really special way to give back.

Be A Trailblazer

This month, we are launching our new Trailblazer Team! The Trailblazers will be an integral part of our growth here at Youth Odyssey and the impact that we are able to have. Our Trailblazers Team will be like an exclusive club made up of some of our strongest supporters (that’s you, right?)!

Trailblazer Mailer Front
Trailblazer Mailer Back

What is monthly giving and where does my money go?

Great questions! Being a member of our Trailblazers Team, means your monthly donation will help a child right here in your community. Your monthly gift directly impacts an individual child, which is a pretty special way to give back. There are different levels at which you can donate and each amount covers a different aspect of our programming for a youth. Here are some suggested amounts…

  • $20=After school sessions for one youth
    $25=Ropes Course for one youth
    $150=Camping trip for one youth
  • $246=Full after school program for one youth
    $400=Summer camp for one youth

So, if you wanted to make sure a child had the opportunity to attend a 3 day camping trip every month, you’d opt for the $150 monthly donation in order to send them there. Pretty cool, right? Any amount is appreciated and will help us combat risk factors like high school dropouts, teen pregnancy, gang involvement and juvenile crime. Now, you might be saying to yourself, “I’d love to help out but, what cool perks do Trailblazers get?”. Well, the answer is LOTS! You’ll be making a direct difference in the lives of youth in your community and that is priceless. As Youth Odyssey grows, we will also be giving out YO swag to our lovely Trailblazers. This will allow you to brag to all your friends about the great work you’re doing for your community in the Coastal Bend.

Where do I sign up?

If you like what you’ve heard and you’re interested in becoming a Trailblazer, all thats left to do is sign up! Follow this link, select the amount you’d like to donate monthly, fill in a bit of information about yourself and voila! You are now a Trailblazer. It’s that simple. If you have problems or questions you can always contact us for assistance.

I’m not sure I can commit to monthly donations, but I’d still like to help. What can I do?

If you are unable to give monthly head to the Trailblazers Team page and select a different option under frequency. You can make quarterly or annual donations as well.  Another way you can give back is by donating equipment we need to keep our programs running. You can find a list of items needed on this page of our website! And finally, we are always on the lookout for great volunteers who can be positive role models for our youth. Volunteers also have the ability to help out around our office or help us write grants if the outdoors isn’t your scene. There are lots of ways to be involved in Youth Odyssey and we greatly appreciate any way you can give back!

Summer Leadership Camp: OutdoorsMen Camp 2017

OutdoorsMen!! Assemble!!!

The OutdoorsMen Camp is one of our brand new Summer Leadership Camps! We held the camp at the Nueces Delta Preserve. Our OutdoorsMen Camp is designed to empower young men as they are entering a prime time in their life when decisions matter. The young men shared their stories during the week, and along the way we saw tremendous growth. They turned into leaders, and left as empowered young men.

OutdoorsMen Camp Last Day
“I learned about what it means to have self-respect at The OutdoorsMen Camp, and I thought it really helped me.” 14 Year Old Camper
Devon giving speech to our OutdoorsMEN
“Now is a prime time in your life. Seek out all the resources at your disposal, and make great choices.”Devon Grant

Devon

OutdoorsMen Camp started off with a pair of guest speakers! Our first speaker was Devon Grant! He was actually apart of the Youth Odyssey Adventure Challenge Program when he was a kid! Devon spoke to us about making good choices, and surrounding ourselves with people who will influence us positively. He had a rough childhood, but learned from his mistakes. Devon wanted to become a diesel mechanic after high school. His mistakes might have slowed him down, but they didn’t stop him. Devon became determined and focused, and is now in school to become a diesel mechanic. He is also a proud father, and loves his family more than anything.

Brett

Our second speaker at the OutdoorsMen Camp was Brett Wardwell! Brett talked to us also about making good choices. He had a rough childhood, grew up in a broken home, and struggled with many challenges and obstacles in his life. Even through those tough times Brett bent, but he never broke. Brett took ownership of his life, and became more determined than ever. He became a very successful restaurant store manager, and to this day is still in the food industry. Brett’s testimony was very powerful and motivating to all of us.

Brett giving speech to our OutdoorsMEN
“Youth Odyssey is a cool program, and I would have loved it as a kid. It would have helped put me in a positive environment.”Brett Wardwell
OutdoorsMEN working on River of Life
“I liked being able to express ourselves and talk about our past.”13 Year Old Camper

River of Life

After Devon and Brett gave their testimonies, we went into our River of Life activity. The River of Life activity illustrated things of our past. This activity was very emotional for all of us because it brought up some of the difficult things we have dealt with in our past. The kids poured their hearts into the activity, and we all learned more about each other. It was awesome to see the vulnerability from the kids as we presented our River of Life to each other. We all had to open up and come out of our shells, but this activity helped build the foundation for the week.

True Colors and Ropes

The following day of the OutdoorsMen Camp was ropes course day! Before we headed to the ropes course we did the True Colors Personality Test. With this test we better understood each others personality types. This helped us communicate and work as a team better. At the ropes course we challenged ourselves, gained self-confidence, and molded as a team. Our goal was to get out of our comfort zone, and explore things we don’t normally experience everyday. We had to use communication, trust, and teamwork to make it through several challenges, but it helped us learn to never give up and persevere. It was lots of fun making our way through the ropes course, and we felt more empowered afterwards!

OutdoorsMEN Ziplining
“I learned about having self-confidence.”12 Year Old Camper
Terry giving speech to our OutdoorsMEN
“Life is like a game of chess. It’s about making good decisions and choices to help you have success in the future.”Terry Ray

Chess and Cheese Balls

The next day of the OutdoorsMen Camp we had our third speaker, Terry Ray! Terry Ray is the CEO of Majesty Outdoors. He led us in a fun game composed of dizziness, silliness, candy, shaving cream, and cheese balls! We loved the game, and Terry told us why we played it. During the game we came face to face with challenges, literally! However, we all persevered. Terry wanted us to look at life the same way. He explained how the choices we make will determine our future. Terry told us a story of a wise man who asked him if he wanted to learn how to play chess. The wise man explained to Terry later, he wasn’t just teaching him how to play chess, but how to make good choices. We were all inspired by Terry’s story, and learned how important choices can be, especially at a young age.

Legacy

After the fun cheese ball game and listening to Terry’s wisdom, we went into our Legacy Activity. Previously we talked about our past during the River of Life activity, and what has shaped us into who we are today, but now we wanted to look into the future. Everyone was given a puzzle piece to draw their legacy. Our legacies consisted of our passions, goals, and aspirations as we take a look into the our future. It was awesome to hear and see each others passions, goals, and aspirations. The kids had some really big goals, and we are super excited and pumped to see them achieve their goals.

“I learned to support others, and have fun at the same time”14 Year Old Camper
OutdoorsMEN after Cheese Ball game
OutdoorsMEN with all of our Puzzles
“I learned a lot about different life struggles people have gone through. I think it will help me in life.”15 Year Old Camper

Pieced Together

At the conclusion of our Legacy activity, we pieced all of our puzzle pieces together to symbolize how even though we are all different it is important to realize more can be achieved if we work together as a team. To continue this topic of respect and teamwork, we watched the movie Coach Carter in the evening. It was a blast eating cookie cake, thanks to Terry, and eating popcorn while watching the movie. We were all inspired by the adversity Coach Carter and his team overcame. Many of us have gone through adversity in life, but we aren’t going to let it stop us from reaching our goals and defining our Legacy!

Lake Corpus Christi

On our last full day of OutdoorsMen Camp we went to Lake Corpus Christi! It was a free day at the Lake. The day was spent playing in the water, throwing a football and frisbee, fishing, splashing each other, and having a cookout. We didn’t catch any fish, but we did catch some sun rays. The weather was perfect at the lake, and it was great to be able to relax by the water.

OutdoorsMEN fishing
“I learned how tie a Uni Knot for fishing!”15 Year Old Camper
OutdoorsMEN Graduation Silliness

Graduation!

Our last day is Graduation day at OutdoorsMen Camp! It has been a great week, and we were super excited to see the growth from everyone. We were also very sad because the fun week was coming to a close. There were many hard goodbyes, but we made the most of our final moments together. Awards were given out to all the young men for completing the OutdoorsMen Camp! We reflected with the parents about our experiences and achievements throughout the week together. Becky, our awesome Executive Director, made us delicious burgers for lunch! We had our final “camp meal” together, and then had to say goodbye..for now.

Until We Meet Again OutdoorsMen..

This camp was full of tears of joy. Many walls and barriers were torn down, and this camp was a total success. We are going to have the OutdoorsMen Camp again next year! Also more exciting news, we are discussing plans to have a retreat this winter for the young men on this camp. The hope is to come together again to renew or re-energize everyone as they pursue their goals, dreams, and aspirations. We also want to give the young men a chance to reunite with their friends.

All OutdoorsMEN puzzles together
“I will miss you all”12 Year Old Camper

Communication for Dinner- Parenting Corner

As the school year comes upon us, I want to focus on maintaining positive communication with your youth. Each school year brings new challenges and development in our kids, so we need to constantly remain approachable. Let me put it to you this way, would you rather your child stay at a party where there are illegal substances and wined up being peer pressured to partake in them, or, would you rather your youth feel comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call you to come get them?

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
A group of youth practicing communication skills while making dinner.

How do we open up the lines of communication?

Simple! Start by incorporating family dinners into the week. But what about working parents? Never fear! If you can incorporate them at the very minimum of once a week, you will still reap a huge benefit! Youth need reassurance that their parents care about what is going on in their lives. Establishing certain days (if not every day) to sit down as a family, share a meal, and talk, is a huge way to show you care. It gives the family a scheduled time to spend together.

Two youth practicing communication with two of our staff.
“Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience.”
Anne Fishel, Ph.D, The Family Dinner Project

Give Me a High and Give Me a Low

Talking to your kids over dinner can change their whole day. If you have trouble finding ways to open the conversation or “lines of communication,” there are a myriad of topics to discuss! Start by asking about their day. I like to start with a high low method. That means, give me one “high” or good thing that happened that day and one “low” which is if something negative happened that day. After they give you their high and low for the day, expand on their response. The idea is to listen to your kids and really understand what is going on in their lives. Also, talking about YOUR day makes them feel like you let them in on your life as well. An open line of communication is a two way street. It’s all about reciprocation.

“All great change in America starts at the dinner table.”Ronald Reagan

This Month’s Action Step:

As kids get older, they have more questions and face more temptation to do wrong. Maintaining open communication with them will allow them to feel comfortable coming to you with their issues. The hard questions are the ones that need to be answered the most. They are what helps define your youth. I challenge all parents and guardians to start the tradition of eating dinner with your kids at least three times a week! It is a simple yet powerful step in mending a strained relationship in a pivotal developmental time!