President Anna Kay Vorsteg looks back on 2022

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For most of my adult life, I have kept a small paperweight on my desk that reads, “Every wall is a door.”  We all need reminders that, when faced with obstacles, we should look for opportunities that serve as doorways into new learning, new possibilities, and what’s next.

Team AYF began the year excited to make more programs happen than we could in 2021.

And yet, it seemed nearly every door we previously walked through was now a wall: the struggle to rent vans, supply chain delays and price increases, difficulty recruiting seasonal staff, more children dealing with emotional health needs.

Bringing a new program season into motion is never easy, but this year, walls rose at every turn.

And then, those we serve – the campers, the staff, the participants, the alumni – arrived, and doors appeared.

Once they crossed the thresholds of Miniwanca and Merrowvista, campers and participants discovered new strengths in themselves and others. Staff and volunteers found the joy and pride that results from overcoming challenges. We all saw what can be accomplished when we bring our best to the task at hand.

Volunteers appeared when hands were short. Campers adjusted to changes in trip itineraries, menus, and activities. Service-learning projects greatly enhanced what was once weary.

In the footprint of the beloved Assembly building, the National Leadership Conference community constructed a stage with curtains and lights.

Odyssey ascended Mt. Katahdin, and Voyageurs descended Mississippi River headwaters. So many charged through doors of possibility to make good things happen.

In summer 2021, the AYF saw a short season that served a population of youth more fragile than I had ever experienced.

This year, I witnessed improved physical, mental, social, and spiritual health in all, especially our younger campers. They made the rich discovery that we all need the positive presence of others to do great things and to keep us happy and healthy.

Much credit for this positive outlook goes to our new Care Teams, who focused on supporting the mental, emotional, and social health of our campers and staff. The extra love and support they provided was the most important enhancement made to our summer program communities.

This season demonstrated the power AYF programs have against the now well-documented youth mental health crisis. Our programs teach children that if a door is not obvious, they can find or build one with the best in them and the help of others.

We will continue the important work of getting people outdoors so they can discover the in-doors to all the promise and possibilities ahead.

Your support allows us to offer life-changing outdoor experiences that inspire young people grappling with the limitations and challenges of so many closed doors in their lives.

Thanks for ensuring we keep moving forward at a time when too many give up when faced with walls. Together, we can unleash a generation who hear the call and know they have the resources and resilience to build and open doors.

Anna Kay Vorsteg
AYF President

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