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Making New Friends Every Summer

August 28, 2023

Getting Out of His Shell

Day Camp has been a blast here at the Ascension St. Vincent YMCA in Westfield. As the summer came to a close, we sat down with a group of four boys. We soon learned that for some, there's much to overcome in a new situation. And Summer Day Camp at the Y is just the place to conquer your fears!

From a fiery game of Uno to sports huddles that look more like tangled group hugs, you didn’t have to watch the YMCA campers long to know they had become a tight-knit group.

The oldest of the four boys, Jonathan, is nine (and has a lot of grown-up teeth, he would add). Jonathan is a veteran of Camp – a charter member, if you will – having attended last summer during the first year that the Ascension St. Vincent YMCA in Westfield offered the program. But he wasn't always so at home at the Y.

“I didn’t know what to expect," he said, referring to his experience last year. "And I was kinda scared.”

When asked what happened to relieve his nerves, Jonathan said that he talked to counselors and did activities with them. One counselor in particular really got Jonathan out of his shell. That counselor is Kyle Barbour.

Kyle was the Day Camp Site Director. Kyle is a student at Marian University, Indianapolis, entering his junior year studying Secondary Education and Math. This summer was Kyle’s third year with YMCA Day Camps, and his second with the Ascension St. Vincent YMCA in Westfield specifically. At this location, he took more of a leadership role.

Building Friendships

“Jonathan’s easily one of my best campers,” smiled Kyle, as Jonathan and the three other boys played nearby. “He does everything you ask the first time you ask.”

When Kyle and Jonathan first met over a year ago, Jonathan was really shy and didn’t tend to reach out to the other boys. It would seem all the new people made for an intimidating atmosphere.

Kyle repeatedly approached Jonathan and helped him engage in activities, and then got other kids involved. Eventually, Jonathan started to build friendships. This year he was one of the most liked kids at camp.

“All the kids are always around him, they love him,” Kyle said. “They look up to him... He’s also one of the older campers, so a lot of kids see him as a role model. And I’m always telling him that: ‘You’re the model for these other kids,’ as they’re growing up in the camp as well.”

When asked what his favorite thing about camp is now, Jonathan said, “Just being here. Just making new friends every year.”



Tariq, age 5, looked up from an etch-a-sketch to say that his favorite thing about Day Camp is swimming.

“Tariq came in from another state,” Kyle shared. “[His mom] was a little worried at first, hesitant, knowing Tariq would be a little shy coming, not knowing anybody...”

This summer the Y saw almost half of the same students that came last year. These campers had a leg up when it came to feeling at home, an advantage Tariq didn’t have.

“He’s hit it off really well,” Kyle observed. “Made a lot of great friends, Daniel being one of them. The two of them are inseparable. They do everything together.”

Tariq and Daniel are close to the same age, with Daniel being of the slightly older and wiser age of six.

Kyle said, “I think ultimately, it’s been good for them because they’ve thrived more with other kids now that they two have that relationship.”

Daniel said that his favorite thing about Day Camp is playing catch. Daniel also said he went to another camp and liked the YMCA Day Camp better. He liked that at the Westfield facility, there’s “a lot of space to do crafts.” What did Daniel like about the counselors? “The walkie-talkies,” he said.


Sticking with the Y

The fourth boy, Azubuike said his favorite activity at camp was playing “Trash,” a card game that another counselor, Miss Katie, taught him and his fellow day campers.

“Azubuike was here for about two weeks or three weeks last summer as well,” Kyle remembered. “He’s a great kid, got a great heart, and I love having him.”

This summer Azubuike went to a few camps before attending the YMCA Day Camp again this summer. His family chose to stick with the Y.

The campers aren’t the only ones who expressed their favorite things about Day Camp. Jonathan’s mother Natasha said, “The counselors have been very receptive to Jonathan, and he really has felt comfortable attending over the last two years… I think that the YMCA does a great job with the programming. And the retention of return counselors is great also because they get to know and understand the kids.”

Just take it from Jonathan: “They’re nice and funny,” he said of his counselors.

You wouldn't have had to be at Day Camp for long to learn that, because of the experience, creativity and connecting skills of counselors like Kyle, the campers overcame their fears. They're already looking forward to coming back to camp next summer to make new friends!

Azubuike & Daniel

The Fun's Not Over!

We’re sad to see another fun summer come to an end, but happy that we still offer youth programming! Maybe it’s time for little brother or sister to have some fun? Beginning Sept. 9 we’re offering a Tumbling Tots clinic for those ages 2-6 years (sign up here). Keep a lookout as well for our special holiday kids' events!


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