'Back Home:' A former Kanata camper is now leading the YMCA camp in Wake Forest
Posted June 2, 2019 8:45 p.m. EDT
Wake Forest, N.C. — Ryan Eves has spent most of his life - professional and otherwise - involved in the YMCA. He's been a camper, a counselor and a full-time employee at YMCA of the Triangle locations across the region.
Now, Eves is "back home" as executive director of the YMCA's Camp Kanata in Wake Forest. It's the first overnight camp Eves ever attended 24 years ago and, in fact, the place where he proposed to his wife, Katie, of nearly a decade.
"I am super excited to step into this role and lead camp into the future," he tells me.
As Eves, a father of two girls, prepares for his first summer season leading day camps and overnight camps at Kanata, I checked in to learn more about him, Kanata and how to get kids ready for a week away from home.
Go Ask Mom: You recently became executive director of the YMCA of the Triangle's Camp Kanata, but your history at Kanata goes way back. Tell us about that.
Ryan Eves: I started as a camper at Kanata in 1995 (Cabin 10!). It was my first time at an overnight camp, and I quickly fell in love with the people and the place. My parents were recently divorced, so my family was changing while I also struggled to find my place in school. Kanata was and continues to be an accepting place where I could be the truest, best version of myself.
I stayed at camp for 15 summers as a staff trainee, lifeguard, counselor, unit leader, head counselor and then into full-time work.
GAM: What about those early experiences at Kanata were so formative for you?
RE: Every night at camp our cabins participate in devotions, which provides a time for reflection on the day and what we are learning. I was deeply impacted by a devotion one of my counselors, Corby, led when I was 12 or 13 years old.
Corby played a song (which I’ve forgotten) that talked about how we live with masks on and don’t often show our true selves. He went on to talk about how important it was to take your mask off and show people who you really are, especially while you’re at camp. That lesson is one I carry around everywhere I go.
GAM: What's the biggest worry you hear from parents about sending their kids to sleepover camp, and what's your response to them?
RE: When I talk to parents, they are often concerned about the separation, often for the first time, that they and their kids will experience while at camp.
I always tell parents that it’s often harder for us, as parents, to let go than for our kids. I also tell them that our staff go through a great deal of training before the kids ever arrive that prepares them to look for signs that a camper is missing home and how we can get them involved in activities and, most importantly, connected to other campers in their cabin.
Cultivating caring relationships is so important to us and this starts as soon as the campers arrive.
GAM: What are the biggest worries for kids, and how are camps like yours prepared to help them? I imagine those first couple of nights can be tricky for some kids.
RE: Kids worries often center around their basic needs: When and where will I eat? Where do I go to the bathroom? Do I take a bath or a shower? Where will I sleep? What kinds of activities can I do?
Some of our campers miss home the first night or so and our counselors are ready with a listening ear to find out what might help them feel more at home while they are at camp.
GAM: What's the best way for parents and kids to prepare for a week or more at camp?
RE: The best way for parents and kids to prepare for their time at camp is to talk about the feelings and thoughts they have. Kids will feel better when they can verbalize both their excitement and their fears. Parents may have to share a little less about their fears, but they can help by encouraging and affirming that their camper will have a great time!
GAM: As you lead a new group of kids through camp this summer, what's your hope for them? What do you hope they'll take away from the experience?
RE: This summer my hope for every camper is that they have the opportunity to be the best version of themselves while learning how to live alongside others.
Our motto at camp is to Be Well and Do Good, for ourselves, our friends and our community. My hope is that every camper leaves with greater confidence and independence, strong friendships and role models, and a desire to give back to their communities large and small.
Go Ask Mom features local moms on Mondays. But in June, for Father's Day, we're talking to local dads.