2018 Upcoming Events
- Fall Sampler | October 18-21
- Camper Reunion | December 15
- Camper Slideshows | December 15-16
Our Fall Sampler weekend offers the opportunity to canoe, hike, play games, meet new friends, reconnect with old ones, enjoy great food and have some terrific fall fun.
October 18-21, 2018
$150 per person includes transportation ($50 is non-refundable)
Registration Deadline: October 7 or until full. Space is limited!
Financial Assistance is available, contact 651-645-6605.
Provided from the White Bear Area YMCA
Departs: 8am October 18
Returns: 2pm October 21
This past November was the 5th annual Midwest Risk Management Symposium (MRMS). YMCA Camps Widjiwagan, Menogyn, and Manito-wish started the MRMS in 2013 to provide an opportunity for outdoor educations of the Upper Midwest to collaborate and contribute to the advancement of risk management practices.
The theme of this year’s MRMS was Risk and Resilience. Through presentations, discussions, and workshops, we explored the interdependence of risk and resilience in our programs and unpacked the concept that while risk helps promote resiliency we need to also be resilient in the face of risk. Alan Ewert from Indiana University opened the 2017 MRMS with an engaging session one what research tells us about the interdependence of these two concepts. We also had presenters join us from New Vision Wilderness, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, the MN Department of Health, Wilderness Inquiry, Wilderness Water Safety, Northland College, and even a couple folks presented from YGTC! Joe Malhoit, a former Special Agent with the FBI, talked us through active shooter preparedness and survival while Tracey Knutson, an incredibly talented trial lawyer, gave us a lot to think about when it comes to protecting a program legally. Andy Leider from the Outdoor Safety Institute shared important lessons he’s learned in his work as a consultant in the field of experiential education, and Kris Henker shared her research on the emotion challenges people face when transitioning back into the front country after a powerful experience in the wilderness. As you see, a diverse array of topics were covered at this year’s MRMS and many new connections were formed.
While the presentations are always interesting and informative, it’s the time between sessions and at meals where the most important connection are made. The MRMS helps connect new people and this strengthens the whole community of outdoor, adventure, and experiential education. If you’re interested in joining the dialogue about risk management in these fields, please consider joining us next year! Visit our website at www.widji.org/mrms! -Kathleen Floberg, Wilderness Program Director
Summer 2017 marks the inaugural year of the Boys and Girls Outdoor Leadership Development Program (BOLD and GOLD) Internship. This program provides an alternative path for campers who are interested in building the wilderness skills needed to join our staff and who are interested in teaching campers the leadership skills necessary to navigate in a multicultural world. We are particularly focused on recruiting participants for this program who have participated in a BOLD or GOLD session, who identify as a person of color and/or who feel like our advanced camper program isn’t a realistic option given financial or other constraints.
Last summer, our Leader Interns spent almost a month working at Widji. Interns completed a 10-day training session, had a day off and then co-led a 10-day Intro Canoe trip or BOLD and GOLD trip with a Widji Trail Staff. Interns participating in this program learned a lot. They supported homesick campers, completed hard portages and helped cook meals. Almost uniformly, our interns reported that the experience of co-leading a trip was much harder than they imagined but also rewarding and so much fun! Congratulations to our 2017 BOLD and GOLD Interns – Eboni Koch-Simmons, David Ibarra, Paul Vang, Sophadriana Oum and Eh Nay Say! -Amy Hadow, Summer Program Director
Did you know that throwing away one egg actually wastes approximately 55 gallons of water? That's water that the chicken who lays the egg drinks and that's water that goes to grow the food that the chicken needs in order to lay an egg. And that's just one resource, water, that gets used to produce our food. Think about other resources....the land that the chickens and other animals or vegetables that we eat need. That is a huge amount of space. Then there is petroleum. Farming often requires various types of machinery which use petroleum products to run. Further, after harvesting grains and vegetables or raising animals, the whole system requires vehicles, more petroleum, lights and heat in factories for processing, butchering, packaging and distribution. Who is involved in all of this? Many, many people! Beginning with farmers, on to truckers, other drivers, factory workers and of course, cooks; all of these folks spend crazy amounts of time involved in getting our food to us! Additionally, cooks work in heated or cooled kitchens which use even more energy and electricity for refrigerators, freezers, ovens and mixers to prepare all the food we eat.
It can be interesting to think about all the resources that go into your meal....water, land, people, time, energy, electricity, petroleum, money - it isn't just the ingredients in your meal. Consequently, if you throw out food after trying just one bite, you're not really just throwing away the food - you are throwing away all those resources, too.
At Widjiwagan's Outdoor Learning Program, we begin each week by discussing this idea with our school groups and then ask them to challenge themselves to have low amounts of food waste for the week. We brainstorm strategies for doing this - take small portions and then go back for second helpings, try to finish the food that you serve yourself, etc. Then, for each meal we eat, we weigh our collective amount of food waste and record it on a chart. By the week's end, we hope to have a downward trend showing on our food waste chart. Often we have success and many times we have meals where our entire group has zero food waste. It is a great lesson for all of us to practice Widji's mission of respect for others and also for environment. We have even had classes go home and begin food waste programs at their schools. -Karen Pick, Outdoor Learning Program Director
This past summer Widji Staff and Campers had to resist the temptation to go running through the lush green grass that was growing in to fill in Widji’s newly refurbished Athletic Field. For years the “A-Field” was a slightly hazardous open space for Staff and Campers to play large open field games. Originally a cedar swamp, the A-Field always had drainage issues which resulted in a mix of puddles and gravel. It was often a site of too many incidents with overly ambitious play and poor field conditions.
All that changed this past summer. With a generous gift from Jim and Julia Adams in memory of their son James, the A-Field has undergone a dramatic and necessary improvement. James Adams spent five summers playing games and learning leadership skills on the A-Field before each of his wilderness trips. After completing a Voyageur trip in 2014 James started school at Carlton College and joined the Ultimate Frisbee team. On February 24, 2014 James’s life was cut way too short when he died in a tragic automobile accident while traveling with his team to Stanford College for an invitational tournament. The refurbishment of Widji’s A-Field is a way to honor and keep James’s memory alive.
The refurbishment of the field started with “crowning” the field to help with water drainage. Work was then done to improve the culverts and drainage rock around the field. Seed and straw was then laid down in early June. As luck would have it, a torrential downpour of rain occurred the night after the seed was planted. However, with the good work of Joe Smith and the contractors from Ely, much of the field was saved. Then came the long work of literally watching the grass grow.
This past October at the Widji Board & Staff retreat we officially opened the Athletic Field. We had a moment of recognition of James and the Adams family and then brought down the orange fencing. The first official game that occurred on the new field was the 100 Yard Scream! Kids, staff, and board members all enthusiastically participated!
The A-Field is currently under a thin blanket of snow. It will serve to help kids learn to cross country ski and snowshoe. Come spring we’ll welcome the green grass back and look forward to being back on the A-Field! There will also be a plaque mounted on a rock near the Field that will read:
“Time goes by quickly… live each day to the fullest – No regrets.”
James Patrick Adams
-Matt Poppleton, Executive Director
Planning is critical to any wilderness adventure. Widji campers and students learn this whether they are planning for their first overnight canoe trip, a month long expedition in the Arctic, or a week with the Outdoor Learning Program. It’s important to start by setting goals both personally and as a group. Then select a route or week of activities that support those goals. Finally make sure the team has the necessary equipment and resources to succeed. For anyone who’s ventured into the wilderness planning the trip can be almost as fun as the trip itself. It’s the time to dream big and imagine what might be possible.
I started in my position as Widjiwagan’s Director this past April. I had about 5 weeks to familiarize myself with the full time staff, board, and committees, and then it was a quick move up to Camp for the summer. I felt very fortunate to step into such a high quality program. I was impressed with the commitment and intentionality of all the Widji staff. Meeting over 800 campers this summer was also a highlight along with many familiar alumni and friends. It would have been easy to say that things are good at Widji and ride the course. However like any good adventure planning the path forward is critical.
The Widji staff and board had been operating with direction from the 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. With the sunset of that plan and a new Director, the timing was perfect to start work on the next strategic plan. We were fortunate that Anne Hoyt Taff, who is a current board member and Director of Community Impact with The Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations, volunteered to help facilitate a series of strategic roadmap exercises that will help Widji chart the way forward for the next four years.
We kicked off our planning this past October at Widji during our annual board and staff retreat. Though it was hard to stay focused with it being one of the prettiest fall days on Burntside Lake, we stayed focused on trying to answer the question “Where is Widji right now?” We looked at emerging ideas like how do we make Widji more diverse and inclusive as well as fading aspects like judging the success of a trip in just miles paddled or hiked. It was good work that captured our current state.
Phase 2 of our planning occurred in November in Minneapolis. In addition to our board and staff we invited campers from Widji Leaders, recent Trail Counselors, past board members, and teachers who have been bringing their groups up to Widji for the Outdoor Learning Program. With the current state of Widji identified we tackled the bigger question “How will the Widji board serve the mission of Widji for the next four years?” Through individual reflection, small group discussion, and large group consensus building we started to see major themes emerge. The work is still in a bit of a raw state, but some of the major themes that started to emerge were around diversity and inclusion across all aspects of Widji, maintaining and growing alumni connections, refining our fundraising processes and seeking new innovative strategies, and ensuring that our operations have the same standard of quality across all aspects of a Widji experience. The board will now take this work to polish up into our Strategic Roadmap for 2018-2021.
Like any new adventure there is a mixture of nerves and excitement. It’s that journey into the unknown that makes this work so exciting. We’re dreaming big and imagining what might be possible. I look forward to sharing this work and examples of our success and learnings along the way with the greater Widji community. -Matt Poppleton, Executive Director