YMCA Camp Ernst
Since 1928, thousands of youth from throughout the region and around the world come to the beautiful, sprawling, park-like setting of YMCA Camp Ernst where they strengthen their skills and make diverse friendships in an environment that stresses positive character values. This summer, on their way to check-in, campers will see an all new Welcome and Health Center under construction. Funded with a lead gift from the Schiff Foundation, the new Center is part of the first phase of what is the camp’s first major multi-million dollar renovation since the 1970s.
Also included in the first phase of the expansion and renovation are two new bath houses. Other future projects to be completed as funding is secured, include: dining hall and kitchen upgrades; and a new Valley swimming pool, E-Team longhouse for teens, camper cabin, horse barn, and an arts center that will have an art studio, dance room and performance area.
The ‘For the Love of Camp Ernst’ capital campaign is three-quarters of the way to its final goal of raising $4M for all of the renovations. That is thanks to co-chairs Frank Henson and Jennifer Shockey, other volunteers, alumni, parents and board members.
“This broad base of support has demonstrated just how important Camp Ernst is to this community and how much everyone is committed to seeing it continue for generations to come,” said Sandy Berlin Walker, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.
It was a beautiful spring day recently that Elizabeth Cochran, YMCA Camp Ernst director, and I sat down with Mark Hansel of the Kentucky Enquirer to talk about the improvements.
“It’s very rewarding to see the growth of all the kids who come here and find their voice,” said Eli told him. “I love the connection with the young people over the course of the summer.”
About YMCA Camp Ernst
Accredited by the American Camping Association, YMCA Camp Ernst welcomes more than 850 teens and 2,200 children including 20 international counselors. (Thanks to caring donors over 300 kids attend on scholarship annually.) Featured camp activities include: horseback riding, five high ropes course elements, 100 ft. waterslide, banana boat rides, swimming, hiking, archery, biking, campfires and capture-the-flag. Unique to Camp Ernst is the fine arts program that features music, drama, dance and visual arts. An important component of all camp activities and programs is leadership development which is delivered as an age-appropriate, phased program that helps pre-teens and teens hone skills that will serve them well as they enter adulthood and seek to establish careers. The Leader-In-Training program focuses on grooming campers to become counselors. In fact, 75% of the current counselors were once campers and 87% of the summer staff was part of camp the previous year.
When you talk about organizations working together to strengthen young lives, this is a great example. This summer the Housing Authority of Covington partnered with YMCA Camp Ernst to offer urban kids an opportunity to grow in truly amazing ways. In doing PR work for the YMCA, I got to see it firsthand.
For 7 weeks, children in Covington public housing learned new skills, gained confidence, got to know kids from completely different backgrounds, strengthened their academics, and of course participated all of the fun activities offered at YMCA Camp Ernst.
The program was for 25 children between the ages of 6-13 and included an intensive therapeutic group experience with educational specialists, mentors, community leaders and peers in a safe, supportive environment.
Each camp day began with academics focusing on reading and math skills because statistically urban kids fall behind in the summer time. There were also five paid high-school juniors and seniors to provide one-on-one mentoring.
The story got picked up by the Associated Press. To see the story from USA Today, click here. YMCA Camp Ernst – Housing Authority of Covington AP story
To read the article from the Kentucky Enquirer, please click here. YMCA Camp Ernst – Housing Authority of Covington Kentucky Enquirer story
Working with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, I am so fortunate to be continually inspired by the actions of those with whom I work and get to know. Lois Fischer is the office manager of the Clippard Family YMCA. She is someone with a huge heart and a passion for kids.
You can imagine the devastation for her – and her family – about five years ago when they tragically lost Andrew far too soon. Still in high school, Andrew loved life. He loved to learn and to share, to explore and to experience. All of those things he did through camp…
And so, through camp, Lois and her family want to carry on Andrew’s legacy. They created Andrew’s Kids Scholarship Fund to give kids in their area whose families otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, those life changing moments at YMCA Camp Ernst. This year with the help of the YMCA, family and friends, they raised enough to provide 14 children with scholarships. I was there on the night that Lois handed on the certificates.
Below is a group photo (of those who could be there) and a video I created about it.
The beauty of the human spirit, its ability to heal and its ability to touch others, is a wonderful thing. I think the older I get and the more life experiences I am exposed to, the more I appreciate that.
Many of you may know I do a lot of work for the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. There have been so many days I’ve been uplifted by the people who I’ve met, those who have reached out to make a difference in the lives of others and those whose lives have been positively impacted by their generosity.
The Fischer’s are one in many examples. It was about three years ago when the most unthinkable of tragedies struck home for them. In a split instant, their world was turned upside down. Andrew, adventure seeking son to Lois and Wayne and brother to Amanda and Alan, was killed in an accident.
I sat in a room at the Clippard Family YMCA as Lois stood before other parents and guardians with their children, sharing her story that just four years ago she would never have imagined she’d be telling.
It was the story of a young man completely engulfed in life. Andrew was an Eagle Scout who loved exploring, challenging himself and others while learning about giving back and making a difference. Some of his greatest pleasures were times spent at summer camps rock climbing, caving, swimming, fishing and growing through friendships.
It was in Andrew’s senior year at Colerain High School that his life was tragically taken from those who loved him, but the Fischer’s are keeping his memory and passion alive through the hearts of other young people.
Andrew’s Scholarship Fund was set up to give elementary students in the Northwest School District whose families otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, full scholarships for a week at the YMCA Camp Ernst. In its first year, the Fischer’s collected enough to allow 8 kids the opportunity to go to camp. Last year 11 kids received scholarships. And in 2009, Lois looked out into a room of 16 kids, many of whom have never been to camp before. Lois’ friend, MaryAnn Herbster; sister, Kathy Jacob; and Clippard Family YMCA staff helped raise the money.
“We really wanted to do something to honor Andrew and this is a perfect way,” said Lois, who has been office manager of the Clippard Family YMCA since 1999. “The volunteers and staff at the Y have been so supportive in helping to raise funds so that we can send more kids to camp. It’s a good feeling to know Andrew’s memory is making a positive impact on the lives of other young people.”