By Alexia Helmer
“Unplug and connect with nature.” This statement seen on the cover of the Western Illinois Youth Camp’s program has been the mantra of the camp since it was first established in 1948. Once known as a 4-H Club, the camp is now operated independently by those within the community that didn’t want to see its doors close. Kori Daniels, the camp director, gave me a tour of the beautiful camp grounds as she explained to me how the 4-H camp became Western Illinois Youth Camp. “Back in the early 2000s, 4-H camp nights were just dwindling. But a group of concerned citizens didn’t want to see the facility just sit idle. So they created the independent board group and now we have day camps and overnights and other activities,” Daniels shared as we made our way to the Craft Hall, where the campers have their homeroom and take part in various indoor activities.
The Western Illinois Youth Camp is currently undergoing some renovations near the lake and in other areas before the summer camps start. A beautifully natural and isolated landscape located on Lake Jacksonville, with its own melodies consisting of sounds within nature, the environment and location of the camp grounds makes you feel as if you’re in another world far away from Jacksonville. From fishing on the lake to swimming to hiking on the trails, there are numerous activities for the campers to take part in. One of the new additions to the camp is the mobile chicken coop. The coop houses six hens, which the kids are allowed to visit, feed and give names to. Aside from these activities, Daniels shared with me a new reading program for the campers that will be put into effect this summer, called “Turn-paging Tuesdays.” The camp is mostly staffed by school teachers, who chaperone campers ranging from ages 7 to 14. For those children with parents that have to work early, West Central Mass Transit will bus the kids out to the camp. With ten weeks of camp to invest in, including Day Camps and Overnight Camps, the children will have a summer that will keep both their minds and their bodies active.
“I’m glad to have found a camp job once again,” Daniels shared with me at the end of my tour. She is used to running camps like this one and has currently been working as director of Western Illinois Youth Camp for one year and one month. Having majored in Recreation Management, she has lived in places such as New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, and she has even travelled to South Africa where she was able to work and experience the way that various camps are run. Daniels, who considers herself a “country girl,” told me of her love for cooking, knitting, gardening, and reading. Her face was elated as she continued to discuss with me this summer’s plans and the renovations taking place to make the camp a better experience for the campers.
Visit wiyc.net for more information on this summer’s camps.