Salvation Army Summer Youth Programs Make for Happy Campers
“Summer afternoon -- to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” British author Henry James once wrote. More than 100 years after that sentiment was penned, kids of all ages across the metro and beyond couldn’t agree more. Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in The Salvation Army’s summertime youth programs.
Western Plains Camp
This summer is the first time the new Western Plains Camp in South Sioux City is fully operational, opening for seven weeks of divisional camps and hosting kids from the Omaha metro, as well as from across greater Nebraska and Iowa.
Salvation Army Western Divisional leaders recently held a press conference on the grounds of the camp to unveil the four newly renovated sleeping cabins, a new meeting and events space, the refurbished swimming pool, an archery range and other building projects – including a 15-room lodge, a nurse’s station and a boathouse – that are underway as part of the $10.8 million capital campaign to modernize the camp’s facilities.
“This refreshed, updated, revitalized Western Plains Camp will ultimately enhance the quality of life for people all around the area,” said Maj. Poppy Thompson at the June 15 event. “We are grateful that just three years after our beloved Gene Eppley Camp was lost to the flood, and during a pandemic and all that that has entailed, we have a beautiful new camp, and we are seeing new life, new activities and new memories rising up in it.”
First-time camper Brooklyn, 10, of Lincoln, enjoyed dance, cheerleading, hiking, swimming and sleeping in the brand-new bunkhouse during her week at Junior Sports Camp.
“I like camp because you meet a lot of new people, you do a lot of fun things, and you do a lot of new things,” she said. “You have fun overall.”
Brooklyn’s new friends, Hannah, age 6, of Boone, Iowa, and Maria, age 9, of Lincoln, agree.
“I never went in a pool by myself before,” said Hannah. “And now I can even go into the middle.”
“My favorite thing about camp is doing cannonballs in the pool,” added Maria. “Well, that, and sleeping in a bunk bed.”
Camp Kroc and “The Sal” Summer Camp
In Omaha, dozens of kids are also enjoying summer day camp at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center’s Camp Kroc and The Sal’s summer camp at North Corps.
At Camp Kroc each week, 70 kids ages 6-13 are engaged in art and science projects, library and park visits, sports and activities like making homemade ice cream, plus swimming and field trips to places like the zipline and ropes course at Mahoney State park.
“It’s beautiful to watch the kids develop their social skills as they interact with one another,” said Capt. Carolina Yanez of the Kroc Center. “They are truly enjoying their time together.”
At North Corps, Lts. Johnny Miller and Marsha Williams Miller are introducing their 20 campers to brand-new experiences, from making fun, healthy foods like banana pudding with fruit to constructing and learning how to fly their own kites.
“We are doing some of the traditional activities that kids expect from summer camp, like swimming and sports, but we are also being intentional about integrating as many new, hands-on experiences as possible,” said. Lt. Marsha.
No matter what activities they are engaged in, campers from South Sioux City to Omaha agree with Brooklyn’s assessment of summer camp. “I love it all,” she said. “I think camp is perfect.”