Community Feature Camp Hyde – A Place for Adventure and Growth
About five miles west of the small community of Clonmel, Kan., in the Ninnescah Valley, just downstream from where the North and South Forks of the river join and nestled alongside Clearwater Creek, is Camp Hyde. This peaceful haven is just a stone’s throw (only 25 miles) from downtown Wichita. Operated by the Greater Wichita YMCA, it’s a place where kids can be kids – and enjoy the great outdoors.
Leaving a Lasting Legacy
The camp’s namesake, Albert Alexander “A.A.” Hyde was an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Although he had many successes in business, he’s most known for inventing Mentholatum Ointment – an elixir of menthol, camphor, and petrolatum – in his Wichita kitchen. According to a family member, he believed strongly that if you died with inherited wealth, you would die disgraced. With that determination to use his success for good, he helped build the Wichita community, and though you may not realize it, his generosity is evident throughout the area even today.
A mark of his legacy, Hyde spearheaded Wichita’s Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), which was founded in 1885. In 1924, he would donate 19 acres along the Little Arkansas River in Wichita for a local YMCA camp. By the ‘50s, the city had encroached on the campgrounds, and it was relocated to its current site at 26201 W. 71st St. S., Viola, Kan., to give the kids a more authentic camp experience.
Throughout its nearly 100-year history, Camp Hyde has helped thousands of children develop strong character, make lasting memories and friendships, and enjoy the outdoors. Value-based programming including honesty, respect, and responsibility is facilitated by caring staff in this fun and safe environment.
Over the years, the YMCA has expanded and used the resources within its 125 acres, including enlarging the existing pond from 1-1/2 acres to 3 acres in 2012. Campers can zip down the 100-foot water slide into the pond, fish off its dock, or glide through the water on a canoe or kayak. The camp also features a pool where they offer swimming lessons at an additional fee in July and August.
The games and sports possibilities are truly unlimited and fresh – including Gaga Ball, a fast-paced, high energy sport played with a soft foam ball in an octagonal pit – dubbed a kinder, gentler version of dodge ball. Kids and teens like to conquer the low ropes course and are rewarded with expansive views after making it to the top of the 50-foot climbing tower. Campers spend time learning about the environment and animals in the nature center and then explore the camp’s many trails on foot and by mountain bike.
Exploring New Activities
Other popular activities include bouncing on the Kangaroo Jumper bouncy pillow, going down the tube slides, outdoor laser tag, basketball, archery, arts and crafts, and horseback riding. As if that weren’t enough, campers are able to choose from one of the following “clubs” to spend time on each morning: Chess, Hike, Theater, Yoga, Sports, Archery, Book, Science, or Boat.
Fostering a Care & Respect for Horses
Frontier Horse Camp is the most popular program at Camp Hyde. Designed for ages 7-12, campers learn about grooming, saddling, and riding horses. Trail rides and horse lessons – including care and respect for horses and others – are daily features. This program offers camp rodeos on the last Fridays in June and July to allow campers to showcase their new equestrian skills to their parents. In addition, when students have attended Frontier Horse Camp for 2-3 years, and reach the age of 13, they can be considered for a Wrangler in Training position where they learn how to teach lessons, assist with daily care of horses, and receive training to be considered for a future camp employee.
Growing Up at Camp
As one of Wichita’s best summer camp destinations, Camp Hyde is for children ages 6-16 and this year’s season runs from June 1 through August 6. Enrollment was suspended in April, due to COVID-19 concerns, but resumed on May 13 will all existing registrations honored. Camps are structured by age groups, and enrollment will continue through July 27 or as slots fill up. Options include Traditional Camp with weekly themes, Sports Camp that combines sports-filled days with more traditional camp activities, Frontier Horse Camp which is based on Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) standards, and Teen Camp that combines camp fun with a focus on maturity, social responsibility, and leadership. The programming at Camp Hyde is designed to allow campers to start their summer experience at age 6 and continue each year by advancing to different program areas, based on age. Teen camp add-ons include Counselor-in-Training (CIT), Leader-in-Training (LIT), and Wrangler-in-Training (WIT).
A Rewarding Experience
Jon McReynolds, Senior Program Director who has worked with the Wichita YMCA and Camp Hyde for 20 years, says, “I love working for the YMCA. I love watching children experience new activities for the first time and create memories with friends. Camp provides an opportunity for students to have a safe place to spend summers, surrounded by caring adults, and friendships are created with different social/economic status and backgrounds where they learn about caring for each other as human beings. Then, to watch students return each year and continue to grow emotionally, socially, and mentally each year – until one day they are our staff is very rewarding.”
Overcoming New Obstacles
Camp Hyde is licensed for 500 campers weekly, and prior to the COVID-19 threat, an average of 325 campers were hosted daily; so far this year, Camp Hyde’s enrollment has been reduced by 50 percent because of the pandemic shutdowns. In recent years, an average of 1,300 different campers have attended annually, with an average of 40 staff serving during the summer. As always, campers can be dropped off directly at Camp Hyde or ride a bus from several drop-off/pick-up locations in Wichita and the surrounding areas.
Adapting to Stay Healthy
For this summer, camp programming has been adjusted to accommodate social distancing and to maintain guidelines offered by the KDHE and local authorities – while still providing a wonderful camp experience. Staff are now assigned to a group of 15 children for the week and conduct wellness checks daily to ensure they are safe to be working at camp. Parents and children are given wellness checks to ensure other campers are safe. Cleaning and disinfecting occur more frequently during camp, versus at the end of the day, with two staff members assigned to constant cleaning and disinfecting while students are attending camp. Frequent handwashing and sanitizing are incorporated into daily schedules. Full days at camp include breakfast and a healthy afternoon snack; kids bring their own lunches and a water bottle.
Serving the Community
The overall mission of the YMCA, a non-profit organization, is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that promote healthy lifestyles, strong families, and positive youth development to build healthy spirit, mind and body for all, regardless of ability to pay. Following these principles, financial assistance is available for families, based on a sliding fee scale and household income, through the YMCA Strong Community Campaign. The YMCA can scholarship up to 50 percent of program fees for a camper on a weekly basis. Typically, about 20-25 percent of the students attending Camp Hyde receive YMCA scholarship assistance. The YMCA also partners with DCF (Kansas Department for Children and Families) to provide additional assistance.
Offering More than Summer Camps
Besides fabulous summer-camp programs, Camp Hyde offers rental opportunities for school groups during the fall and spring – team-building on the low ropes course and climbing tower, outdoor education through canoeing, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and nature programming. Camp Hyde is also available for company picnics, family reunions, church outings, weddings, and more.
Camp Hyde is located within SKT’s service area and is honored to be their internet and Wi-Fi provider; their SKT phone service is vitally important for parents to contact the camp during the summer months.
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