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placeholder CYO camp lets
kids disconnect
from electronics,
get into nature

Program looks for
students aspiring
to be scholars

SJND program
sizzles for youths

Even younger
pupils have summer
options at Saint
Mary's College High

Summer school
program at St. Leo

Catholic educators
benefit from summer
training too

St. Edward School
honored for service

Diocese celebrates
annual scouting
event with awards

DSPT honors
5 Bay Area sisters
with Alemany Award

Day of the Sick
Mass honors
Our Lady of Lourdes

Bringing the Divine
Mercy message
to diocese

Chrism Mass
is March 14

Catholic Charities
seeks volunteers
to help out at
Oakland A's games

Program brings
conclave to the

Day of service
supports schools

How to save
financial information before a disaster

St. Mary Magdalen
honors marriage
supports schools

Thanksgiving dinner
supports schools

4 churches named
as local sites for indulgences in
Year of Faith
supports schools

placeholder March 4, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
CYO camp lets kids disconnect
from electronics, get into nature

The emphasis is on building community — in a picturesque setting in the redwoods — at CYO Camp in Occidental. Campers are assigned to villages by age groups, and participate in a variety of outdoor activities, including archery, canoeing and swimming. Nightly campfires bring home the spirit of camaraderie.
Courtesy photo

If you're looking for the place to detach children from all devices digital and electronic and let them embrace nature and take part in traditional summer camp activities, the CYO Camp in Occidental, 60 miles north of San Francisco, may be just the ticket.

For more than 65 years, the camp, part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has offered a summer program of outdoor adventure, sports and arts and crafts.

Which is not to say, of course, that there aren't some new activities under the redwoods. One of the popular activities is Ga-ga Ball, which is something like dodge ball played in a circular, fenced area on a surface of dirt and sand that has been wetted down. "The kids love it," said Jim Willford, executive director of the camp.

CYO Camp Occidental

Open House
April 6, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
RSVP: summercamp@cccyo.org or 707-874-0200.
They love capture the flag, too, Willford said.

Among the traditional favorites are the nightly campfire, and the closing ceremony, where each camper shares what the week has meant to them. There's a memorable prayer service before departure for home.

Camp alumni are responsible for the renovation of the camp chapel 18 months ago, Willford said. Alumni and staff from the '50s through the '90s gathered for a project that included rebuilding the chapel's altar and replacing benches.

The alumni also put in steps down the hill, on what had once been a dirt path. "The steps are a great addition," Willford said.

The camp, founded in 1946, has been known by four names — it's the CYO Camp and Retreat Center. In the past, it has been Our Lady of the Redwoods, the McGucken Center and Camp Armstrong.

"We have our six weeks of residential camp, three weeks of residential teen camp and seven weeks of day camp," Willford said. Counselor-in-training camps are also available.

CYO camp provides "a program full of community building," Willford said, allowing campers to "step out of their shell, make new friends and build self-confidence."

For teen campers, there's an overnight trek to explore the Sonoma coast and the chance to sleep under the stars.

Campers fill their days with canoeing, swimming, archery, nature hikes, arts and crafts and sports such as volleyball and basketball.

Mealtime offers another opportunity for community building, Willford said. Dining is in Hagan Hall, the main lodge. Meals, created by an experienced camp chef, are served family style, with students seated by villages and cabins.

Campers sleep in cabins, 24 of them, with a dozen beds per cabin. Each cabin has two counselors. Each session has about 230 campers, who are divided into villages by age group: Freestone for third- through fifth-graders; Middle Earth for fifth- through seventh-graders; Wildwood for seventh- through ninth-graders; and Miwok Village for ninth- through 11th-graders.

"We want the kids to disconnect from electronics," Willford said. "There are no pop machines, no cell phones, no computers, no hair dryers."

Those two weeks before campers arrive are crucial for training the camp staff. Counselors, who are college students, are recruited from around the world, Willford said. Training focuses on the correct ways to interact with children, the discipline policy, and understanding of safety, fire and health regulations, the director said.

Camp personnel complete Shield the Vulnerable training, as well as the LiveScan fingerprinting process, Willford said.

The camp, which is certified by the American Camp Association, has a registered nurse on site, as well as three health officers, trained in CPR and advanced first aid, he said.

CYO camp hosts an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 6, which gives families a chance to visit the camp, have a free barbecue lunch and sample the activities.

Applications are available online. Camperships are available through the Guardsmen. Camp alumni and Caritas Creek, an environmental education program many families with middle school children may be familiar with, also offer scholarships. The camp receives funding from the annual CYO Golf Day in San Francisco. Willford said the event, which will be May 6, is the longest-running charity golf tournament in San Francisco. Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers football team, is the honorary chairman of the event this year.

The picturesque venue has quite the effect on campers. "I feel like a kid all year long," Willford said. He said he hopes the camp experience allows the young people to "let loose, be themselves, and have a great opportunity of growth and connection."

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