AYF President Anna Kay Vorsteg reflects on summer 2021

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After a long year of wait and worry, the bells of Miniwanca and Merrowvista finally rang once again this summer. They signaled much more than a return – each intonation was an invitation. Campers and staff responded to the call of these loud, glorious clangs to accomplish the remarkable and, at times, the ridiculous. Life at our campuses this summer was hard-earned good. It was fun, different, difficult, heavy on logistics, and it was life shaping.

Our AYF participants and staff reaffirmed that when we act with shared purpose – in song, play, problem solving, and sweaty, challenging service – we are healthier and happier. When we set our sights high and dare to aspire nobly (giving of self for the greater good), adventure daringly (bravely pushing beyond the known and comfortable), and serve humbly (using our capacities to improve the condition of others, not for praise from them, but in praise of them), we become more alive. The pursuit of best self builds spirits and save lives. It is the good medicine so many now need.

These difficult times have taken a toll on each of us, and our youth and young adults need special tending. Too many arrived at our gates more fragile than before, overpacked with worry and undercharged with hope. Far too many could not attend at all. All youth deserve to be more excited about their futures, and we intend to expand our 2022 program offerings to enable that. We must all remain dogged in our efforts to contain and eradicate the coronavirus, and we must be equally committed to improving our physical, spiritual, social, and mental health as individuals and communities. Thanks for understanding this and supporting the AYF as we worked to do our part this season.

With your help, we were able to offer hundreds of participants safe and beautiful places to laugh, stretch, and grow in the company of their peers. Those who attended our programs, as well as a bold few who dared a self-designed growth experience, got out of their houses, off their screens, and into adventures that allowed them to draw meaning from the past year. Some of their accomplishments and learnings are shared in the 2021 Founder Fire. I hope these stories give you needed fuel for your own inner fire as winter sets in.

Finally, I want to give a mighty “Hear! Hear!” to our staff and volunteers for their heroics in a season that asked so much of them. Thanks, too, to our AYF board and committee members, as well as our medical advisory team, for the long hours spent in the name of prevention. We did it, Team AYF. We kept the lights on, we kept the virus out, we kept the bells ringing, and above all, we introduced youth to the best within them.

And now, with newfound gratitude for the privilege, we begin again.

Anna Kay Vorsteg
AYF President