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JBER youth centers host summer camps

By Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez | JBER Public Affairs | July 27, 2016

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Charred marshmallows are sandwiched between graham crackers near the glow of a crackling campfire, and the hum of ghost stories being told beneath the moonlight – it’s a summer camping trip.

Substitute the glare of the sun for the moonlight, and the overnight camp excursion is not too far removed from what Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson youth center members get to experience at the JBER Youth Center Summer Camps.

Summer camps are known by some for providing an urban escape, allowing participants to be close with nature – something which may not be so readily available in the lower 48.

“People may think we are glorified babysitters,” said Andrew Curts, Two Rivers Youth Center instructional youth program and community coordinator. “But, that’s not what we do here. We try to make sure these kids leave here with the knowledge, tools, and life skills that will ensure their journey into adult hood starts at the right place.”

The 2016 Youth Center Summer Camps kicked-off with archery camp May 23. Almost every subsequent week, another camp began – another opportunity for youth center members to learn a skill or participate in group-led activities.

“Any time you’re working with others and working with an adult, and building relationships, you’re building character,” said Kandis Kile, Two Rivers Youth Center recreation specialist.

All camps are presented with the intent of building relationships and inspiring life-long learning, she said.

“Moving from all my friends and coming into a new environment was difficult,” said Elizabeth Etheridge, 17. “I remember seeing the youth center and wanting to be a part of it. I knew that this was something I would want to do. … I see [the camps] as a way to get connected with other kids.”

This year’s specialty camps consisted of cooking, basketball, kayaking, backpacking, hiking, paintball, and photography – with theater and music camps bringing an end to the 2016 season.

No prior experience is necessary when participating in the camps, Kile said.

“During the first week [of sewing camp] we learn the basics,” Kile said. “The second week, we learn to give back. … We try to learn something and give back to our community.”

In 2015, more than 300 pillow cases were donated to foster children, and both veterans and non-veterans at a Palmer senior center by youth center sewing aficionados, she said.

“These kids are beautiful about giving back,” Kile said. “They have the heart and passion for it.”

As the summer camps come to a close, the Missoula Children’s Theater is scheduled to host a production of Aladdin at the Talkeetna Theater August 8 to 13, Curts said.

“It’s a free, centrally funded camp where participants don’t have to be youth center members in order to attend,” he said.

Aspiring JBER actors from ages 6 to 18 can audition for this year’s production of Aladdin on August 8, he said. Auditions begin at 10 a.m.

For more information about the youth center summer camps, contact Two Rivers Youth Center at 384-1508
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