Catching a fish, jumping off a pontoon boat, or seeing a deer – it’s these little things on camping trips that bring joy to Ranch participants and can have big impacts on their development.
This past summer, many of our programs went to various campsites across the province to make positive memories, get creative, and build relationships with one another and the staff.
Like any child, there had been a couple of youth who were a little less enthusiastic about the great outdoors. But with patience and relationship building, they overcame their worries and got to have a great time.
“One of the boys didn’t really know how to react at first because he had never been camping before,” said Ryan Wingert, the unit manager at Appleton House. “But as he got comfortable, he was out chopping wood and taking care of the dog. He had never been on a boat, and it was relaxing and calming.”
Mark Roberts, a youth care leader at Hilsden House, described a similar experience. He explained one of the youth was extremely scared of bugs.
Throughout the trip, Roberts and the staff would always remind the boy that the bugs wouldn’t hurt him and to breathe. Other kids would role model and show how the bugs weren’t hurting them.
“Near the end, it was a bit better. He’s still a little scared of bugs, but that relationship we built is the crux of what we do,” Mark said. “This trust and understanding were built.”
These bonds carried forward to the home after the trip.
“A lot more trust is there. It’s pretty evident,” Mark said. “Just simply making them realize they are fine and to take a breath can help.”
Ryan also noticed those relationships translate back at the home after the camp. He explained the trip laid the groundwork to restart Appleton House.
“It’s stronger now,” he said. “The camp trip was really about people coming together.”
These relationships that were built are core to Ranch Ehrlo’s CARE principles. As part of CARE, staff plan these trips to enhance the youth’s skills and their development, while also being informed of the trauma they have from the past.
Most importantly, the trips build excitement and let kids be kids in a safe space.
“We had one boy who was less afraid of bugs and many who thrived the whole time and were able to play,” Mark said. “Camping is well worth the time and effort, and it’s vital for the relationship building that we do.”