Miniwanca Avail campers serve humbly

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The Avail program returned to Miniwanca this summer with a new sense of energy and direction after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Avail is a program option for youth entering grades 9 through 12. Unlike its Four Trails adventure program counterpart, Avail campers remain in camp to focus on community building and leadership through service learning. Projects can include things like mural painting, dune restoration, and community volunteer work.

Boys Camp Avail Program Coordinator Ollie Williamson said projects offer older campers the opportunity to make a difference in their community.

“The Avail program uses its leadership and service-based learning to allow these campers to find their places here at Miniwanca by becoming seriously valued members of the camp community and how it runs,” he said.

Some campers serve as Quad leaders, providing direction and leadership for the Quad teams while serving as role models for younger campers.

Avail camper Ben, 17, said he enjoyed stepping into a leadership role this summer. A large part of being an Avail camper is taking the time to teach younger campers about the traditions of Miniwanca and AYF values. “Now that I was one of the older campers, I enjoyed that the younger campers looked up to me,” he said.

In addition to empowering Avail campers to become leaders within the community, the campers also work together as a team during their service learning project. This year, Avail girls campers restored seating areas around camp and worked on restoring the Lake Michigan waterfront shed.

Avail boys campers helped renovate the Blazer building so campers could better use that space during personal time and interest groups. The also memorialized their contribution to the community by creating a new table for the Eating Lodge. This year, Avail paid homage to the Miniwanca tradition of taking Polar Bear swims in Stony Lake each morning.

“The Avail community is quite accessible because there is no standard for measuring each camper’s ability to lead or serve,” Williamson said. “The goal of the program is to empower youth to become the best version of themselves through practicing leadership and service.”