Most campers know Hi-Y as the hill at camp where a wooden cross was erected in the late 1950’s. However, Hi-Y is much more than a scenic hillside. Hi-Y refers to the YMCA clubs that began Camp Wood YMCA’s early commitment to empowering young leaders.
In fact, the idea for a YMCA training camp in Kansas all began with the Chapman, Kansas YMCA in 1889, where Hi-Y clubs for teenage boys were first founded. The clubs were designed to build Christian character through sportsmanship, scholastic achievement and leadership training. Soon, Hi-Y clubs spread to YMCAs throughout the United States.
In Kansas, Hi-Y clubs started hosting camps each summer. The camps soon became very popular and were attended by boys from throughout the state. Young men, (and later, young women) flocked to Hi-Y camps to enjoy not only archery and canoeing, but to attend trainings and speeches on the importance of leadership and values and service. In Kansas, these Hi-Y camps were held at various locations throughout the state and even as far away as Colorado. But in 1914, Kansas Hi-Y leaders decided that a permanent location was needed.
A search committee was formed and letters were sent to every YMCA field secretary in Kansas—“Do you know of a site that might be available?” One of those letters arrived on the desk of field secretary, Clarence Wood. He shared it with his elderly father, Stephen, a retired stockman and farmer living in Elmdale, Kansas. In December 1915, the Wood Family donated 40 acres to establish the camp for “the young people of Kansas”. The camp opened its doors the following summer— welcoming its first Hi-Y campers in May of that year to begin their leadership training at Camp Wood YMCA.
The leadership legacy of Hi-Y clubs continues today with camps designed for 11-17 year-olds. Explore our 2017 leadership camps.