Over the past six weeks, a team of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) members have been hard at work making improvements all around Camp Wood. Their primary task has been clearing the hillside by the lake to help restore the native tallgrasses. They have also stained and sealed the camp’s twelve True Blue cabins. Read on to learn about their stories and the things they love most about Camp Wood!

Aygul “Goo” Brown – Team Leader
Hometown: Yazoo City, Mississippi


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Originally from Kazakhstan, Goo was adopted in the States and grew up on a farm in Mississippi. She attended Mississippi State, where she played ultimate frisbee and earned her Bachelor’s degree in computer science. During a previous term of service with AmeriCorps, she served at a girl scout camp called Camp Four Echos. Reflecting on her service at both Camp Four Echos and Camp Wood YMCA, Goo says that she has gained “a larger appreciation and understanding of the camp community. Both of these opportunities have better informed me of the importance of youth development through outdoor experiences and adventures.” 

Goo’s favorite place at Camp Wood is the overlook next to Ritchie Lodge. She shares that the view “is absolutely breathtaking and stretches out for miles into the prairie. From there, [she] can feel the strong Kansas winds, see the horses grazing on the hills, stand eye-level with the birds that fly low to hunt or dive into the lake, and witness the prairie change throughout the various seasons.” Goo would like to express her appreciation for the Camp Wood YMCA staff, who have welcomed the team into the camp community and shared their love of the tallgrass prairie.

 

Audrey “Rey” Chin – Corps Member
Hometown: San Francisco, California


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A rising sophomore in college with a love of literature, hiking, and teaching, Rey is thrilled to be serving at Camp Wood YMCA. To her, the tallgrass prairie offers a serene and inspiring environment, with big blue and little blue and switchgrass extending out to the horizon. Rey loves venturing out to the wooden platform nestled amongst the prairie grasses and sitting quietly, feeling the Kansas winds fly past. 

As a hiking enthusiast and a lover of all things nature, Rey admires Camp Wood’s commitment to bringing kids out into the prairie ecosystem. She is motivated by the work her team is doing to restore the tallgrasses and has enjoyed felling trees and clearing brush for this purpose. Indeed, her favorite memory is probably the very first tree she cut down with a chainsaw, which fell to the earth with a satisfying “thunk.” Stargazing is another favorite Camp Wood pastime of hers and as a city girl, Rey has rarely seen skies so clear of light pollution. Rey would like to thank Mark, Ryne, and all the Camp Wood staff who have welcomed the team with open arms and made this project such an enriching and rewarding service experience.

 

Cassandra “Cas” DiOrazio
Hometown: Eerie, Pennsylvania


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Cas is currently in her first year of college, studying early childhood development. Her dream is to become a second grade teacher. Cas loves animals and has three pets back home — a cat named Paris, a ferret named Yogi Bear, and a hamster named Nimbus. Although she swam at a YMCA gym growing up, Camp Wood is the first Y camp Cas has ever visited.

At Camp Wood, Cas’ favorite place to go is out in the prairie. In her own words, “there is something amazing about sitting in silence in such a beautiful landscape.” She remembers fondly the first time she got to walk the camp’s nature trail, taking a pause to admire the prairie and to pet the horses. Cas is very appreciative of the opportunity to live and serve at Camp Wood and is excited to come back and visit in the future!

 

Andrew “Andy” Webster – Corps Member
Hometown: Seattle, Washington


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Andy is a recent high school graduate with a passion for the environment and a penchant for backyard inventions. Having spent time in the wilderness and working on trails, Andy is no stranger to the great outdoors. These prior experiences have prepared him for his time at Camp Wood and helped him to fully “appreciate the natural setting and the beauty of the region that we are in.” 

Andy enjoys spending time in the barn with the cat Patch, whom he describes as excellent company. His favorite Camp Wood memory is a hike through the open prairie, where he got to experience the unparalleled beauty of the tallgrasses. Andy has greatly enjoyed his time serving at camp. In summary, he shares, “Camp Wood is an incredible location with amazing staff and a unique setting.”

 

Tegan Bradley – Corps Member
Hometown: Bridgton, Maine


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Tegan recently graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in creative writing. Growing up, she attended and later worked at a Girl Scout camp. This experience has shaped her Camp Wood experience, bringing the camp closer to her heart.

The first day the AmeriCorps team arrived at Camp Wood, Tegan recalls, she took off on her own to explore. Walking off by herself down the dirt road and around the Camp Wood property, she saw nothing but prairie. This first exposure to the expansive wilderness of the tallgrass prairie remains Tegan’s favorite experience from her time at Camp Wood. She has also discovered a favorite place at Camp Wood, a little section of path between the barn and the amphitheater. In the morning, she says, “when I would walk in the frost to feed the horses, watching the sunrise crest the horizon was the most magical part of my day.”

Alex Tran – Corps Member
Hometown: Camden, Delaware


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Alex is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware with a passion for language learning and fencing. Growing up, Alex’ grandfather would take him to his local YMCA for swimming classes. Looking back, Alex recalls, it was at the YMCA where he first learned to swim! Serving at Camp Wood, however, is his first exposure to a Y camp; it has shown him the many other ways that the YMCA serves its community and really illuminated what the Y has to offer to the next generation. 

Alex’ favorite Camp Wood memory is stargazing and roasting s’mores as a team. He also loves walking out to the hills of the tallgrass prairie. The tallgrass prairie, he says, “is gorgeous and calming. Going there gives me a chance to reflect and find inner peace.” He wants to encourage others to visit Camp Wood and explore the tallgrasses — there is so much to learn!

 

Allie Frei – Corps Member
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois


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After earning her Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, Allie spent the last year teaching abroad in Thailand. Growing up, she spent many summers as a camper and camp counselor at a camp in Michigan and is familiar with the rich, nurturing environment that summer camps provide to youth. She is happy to be serving at Camp Wood, helping to ensure that kids in Kansas can have just as great of a camp experience as she did when she was younger. 

Allie’s favorite place at Camp Wood is Hi-Y because of the “great panoramic view of the prairie,” which is perfect for watching the sunset. She also loves stargazing and searching for constellations, sharing “it is amazing how many stars you can see.”

 

Dillon Franca – Corps Member
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee


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Dillon is the only member of the AmeriCorps team who has previously worked at a YMCA Camp. He spent prior summers as a counselor at Camp Widjiwagan down in Tennessee. Throughout his time at Camp Wood, Dillon has enjoyed learning more about the unique operations and offerings of different Y camps. 

Of Dillon’s favorite memories at Camp Wood, most involve the barn cat Patch. In particular, Dillon recalls an especially memorable hike he took around camp with Patch as his constant companion. Dillon loves exploring the tallgrass prairie—hiking and taking in the spectacular views. He wants others to know that Camp Wood is one of the best places to experience the natural beauty of Kansas.

 

Rosa Cruz – Corps Member
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida


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While Camp Wood is Rosa’s first time engaging with the YMCA, her time here at Camp Wood has given her a new appreciation of the outdoors. She enjoys the “vast amounts of space and the sounds of coyotes howling at night.” At the end of the work day, Rosa climbs the Candy Mountain steps and takes in the beautiful view of the lakeside where the team has been working. This is her favorite place at camp.

Camp Wood is a place of belonging for Rosa. She finds joy in her daily routine of grilled cheese making and leads wellness activities for the team, taking advantage of the incredible facilities and natural landscapes that Camp Wood has to offer. Upon inquiry, Rosa recalls her favorite wellness activity, a campfire night where the team roasted s’mores and went stargazing. It was a perfect night.