February 28, 2012
People know the Y best for swimming, water safety and fitness, but that's just part of what we do. The Y of Metro Chicago develops and nurtures the potential of more than half a million people each year. To recognize the work being done across the city and suburbs, in 2012 we will profile some of the Y’s many mentors across our 25 member centers, five camps and hundreds of programs.
At age seven, Danielle Green made her first trip to Camp Duncan. Camp provided her an opportunity to experience new things and meet new people. Twenty years later, Danielle is still an active member of the Camp Duncan family, serving in a number of different roles over the years.
As a camper, Danielle remembers looking up to her counselors, Camp Duncan’s staff came from all over the world – Europe, Australia, Africa – and gave her a chance to learn about different cultures. She saw these counselors and staff members as her role models, and they helped her make goals and shape the idea of what she wanted to accomplish as she grew up.
“We asked Danielle to take on the role of a counselor because of her passion for working at camp and working with children,” said Rona Roffey, camp director at YMCA’s Camp Duncan. “Danielle was mature, loved the camp, loved working with children and wanted to give back to camp what she had received for so many years as a camper.”
When asked if she would be interested in transitioning to a counselor role, being able to spend a summer at camp was a no brainer! As a counselor, Danielle worked to make sure her campers always felt like they were included and belonged in this place that had been so important to her growing up.
“I always tried to make sure everyone was included, that there was no ‘cool’ versus ‘un-cool’ cliques,” said Danielle. “That’s not what camp is about – camp is a place to work together and respect each other, no matter how different you may be.”
She recalls one session where there was one camper in particular that she worried about being the “odd man out.” The girl had asthma, and didn’t have all the new clothes and cabin supplies like the other girls. Although she went out of her way to set a good example for her campers – she was proud of the way that all the girls got along, and accepted each other. One day, when they were on a walk as a cabin, the girl had an asthma attack and the other campers stopped with her while she used her inhaler, waited until she was ready to walk again and were genuinely concerned about her well-being.
“They were really role models to me,” said Danielle. “A reminder to me of how important lessons learned at camp can be in all aspects of life.”
Camp leadership recognized that Danielle was conscientious about her campers’ experience. It was evident to all those who worked with Danielle that her goal was to be sure that each of her campers not only left camp learning a new skill or two, but that they would also leave camp recognizing the importance of values – like caring, honesty, respect and responsibility – and practicing those in their day-to-day life.
Today, Danielle has returned to Camp Duncan for the past two summers as a volunteer in a new role – student nurse. She’ll graduate from Northern Illinois University School of Nursing in May.
“Camp is my ‘happy place’ and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my vacation time during the summer,” said Danielle. “Taking on more of an adult role at camp has been different, but great, nursing is another skill set I can offer to campers and counselors alike.”
A different experience than being a camper or counselor, Danielle offers her experience, insight and professional skills to the current counselors and staff at camp.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without camp – it gave me a chance to be part of something special,” said Danielle. “The people at Camp Duncan who I’ve met and worked with over the years are really an extension of my family.”