Campers’ Stories

We’re proud of the many achievements of our campers and the positive impact Camp Shand has had on their lives – get to know us better through some of their exceptional stories:

Leah Hellman

Leah is the camper second from left.

Leah is the camper second from left.

This summer will be my 7th year at Camp Shand. Ever since my first week I remember walking home with my mom or dad telling them how much I wanted to be a counselor when I was 16. I’ve had many entertaining summers, filled with heartwarming memories to last a lifetime. Each summer is like a movie that you want to watch over and over again. I look forward to every summer and am sad when it ends.

Some of my favorite parts of Camp Shand are the counselors. They are helpful, compassionate, and truly unforgettable. They’ve taught me many things from how to properly use a canoe to identifying what species of plants and animals are local to the intriguing wilderness that Camp Shand is located in. No year has been a let down. Camp is like a second home to me, I truly believe your kid(s) will feel the same as I do.

-Leah Hellman, age 14

Tahvion Hamilton

Tahvion is in turquoise shirt at front.

Tahvion is in turquoise shirt at front.

It’s hard to imagine a summer at Camp Shand without Tahvion Hamilton, or Taz as he’s called by staff and fellow campers. Attending each season since he was six years old, Tahvion started out in day camp, later tried his first sleep-over with Resident Camp Lite and last year, at age 10, he spent his first full week in overnight camp. His mom Denise Bowers sends him to as many day and overnight weeks as she can afford, confident that camp will give her son adventures and opportunities she otherwise could not provide him. Thanks to Camp Shand’s financial scholarship program, Tahvion can spend not just more time at camp, but benefit from longer-term, mentoring relationships with its staff. “Tahvion hopes to become a counselor himself one day,” shares Denise, who says that the friendly and nurturing rapport that Tahvion has with his counselors is a big part of what she values in Camp Shand.

Tahvion dives right into the outdoor experiences, and Denise says with a laugh, “he often comes home covered in mud or with a creature in his pocket!” He’s particularly fond of water activities like canoeing and fishing, and is proud of an award he received one week for the catching the most fish! Tahvion is also motivated by goal-setting opportunities such as reaching a mountain summit or completing a challenging hike. With every story that he shares, Denise feels confident that Tahvion’s Camp Shand experience is time well-spent, keeping him active and engaged during school breaks and imparting life lessons he’ll carry with him far beyond the end of summer.

Lily Close

Lily Close & Family RoundedWhen asked about her Camp Shand experience, eleven-year-old Lily Close exclaims: “In a word, Camp Shand is awesome! I spent six weeks there this past summer and loved the many different experiences I had – from live action role playing in theater club to learning to canoe and kayak in the lake.  While I was there I felt as though I could be myself and not try to be someone else. I was able to express myself with no worries about being popular. The counselors and my fellow campers were down to earth and open and I made many new friends. During my stay-over weekends, I gained some independence, while also realizing I could actually miss my Mom and Dad!”

From a parent’s point of view, Robert Close and Gina Hart share: “We watched Lily transform in various ways throughout the summer. As time moved along she became more self-aware and mature. She is a happy person, which brings us excitement, fulfillment and pride! It was truly a joy to experience her growth and to hear her stories about the different things she learned and how much fun she was having. And like many parents, it also touched our hearts to see her rush out to greet us when camp was over; thrilled about her time at Camp Shand and also eager to reconnect with us and bring some of the magic of her experience back home.”

Aidan Smith

Aidan Smith roundedA few years ago, my son Aidan (now nine years old) came home from school excited about a flyer for Creepy Camp at YMCA Camp Shand. I’d always hoped he could enjoy the camp experience, but since Aidan has autism, I had some concerns about how his special needs would be met. With the encouragement of his teachers at the Janus School, we decided to give Camp Shand a try. Aidan had a great time at this Halloween-themed weekend camp and we soon signed him up for two sessions of overnight camp that summer.

So much about camp was different than his normal day to day routine, and Aidan flourished in this new setting. He was excited to explore the woods, make new friends and sleep away from home. Most meaningful to me, was the independence that the Camp Shand staff fostered in Aidan – he felt proud that he could take on responsibilities and do things for himself, just like his fellow campers.

When occasional issues arose related to Aidan’s autism, Scott Mailen and the camp staff always worked with me to find solutions. And by fostering teamwork and mutual respect among the campers, they taught the kids to problem solve and make choices that were good for everyone. Two weeks turned into eight weeks that first summer, and Aidan loved it all. He’s returned for other year-round programs and can’t wait for another summer at Camp Shand this year!

~Jennifer Moyer, Camp Shand parent

Virgil Slaymaker

Virgil Slaymaker roundedI have been going to Camp Shand for several years now; not only is it the highlight of my year, it has taught me many important lessons such as being independent, something I will definitely use when I go to boarding school next year. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that camp has changed me for the better. And it was possibly one of the biggest things that set me apart from everyone else at the schools I applied to this year and really helped me get in.

You might be wondering what makes Camp Shand different from any other camp? Well, Camp Shand if nothing else has character. They actually care about you and want the best for you and from you. You’re not just some other kid who will be gone in a week and who they’ll never see again or even bother to learn their name. At Camp Shand, everyone will bother to learn your name and make sure you’re having a good time. I cannot recommend this place enough and I think that if you even have the slightest interest in sending your kid or going to camp this summer you should look into Camp Shand.

virgil completing passport 2014P.S.: During the Summer 2014 season, Virgil completed his Passport to Adventure, having successfully completing over years as a camper, activities focused on character development, exploration, skill development, stewardship, adventure, camp spirit, camp games and others challenges. Congratulations, Virgil!

Alexa and Max Olree

Alex and Max Hovenden photo combo

Above Left: Alexa is third in from the left, wearing red rag around her neck; Above Right: Max is the boy at front left, in grey shirt and arms crossed.

My experiences at Camp Shand have only been positive.  My children Alexa and Max have been going for many years.  The camp is such a great escape from their busy lives.  The kids love the relationships they have established at Camp Shand.

Alexa has established a continuing friendship with a lovely girl she met two years ago.  Alexa and her friend coordinate their weeks at Camp Shand now each year and both look forward to the yearly “catch up.”  Alexa plans on training for Camp Counselor next year. Max enjoys his escape from the video games which occupy too much of his time at home.  He develops camaraderie with each group every year and also always comes home with numerous email addresses and phone numbers to keep in touch with new friends.

The leaders of Camp Shand, Chris and Scott, are personable and very professional.  My kids look forward to reconnecting each year with Chris and Scott. Alexa and Max respect them as adults but also feel a unique friendship.  Chris and Scott have seen my children growing up year by year.  It’s a special relationship.  They make each camper feel unique and at ease away from home.

Both my kids love the simplicity of the camp especially the fun evenings chatting around the bonfire. I will be encouraging both children to continue their yearly visits to Camp Shand.  I hope they both will be able to become camp counselors in upcoming years. The only downside to Camp Shand is the dirty and smelly laundry generated by the end of each week!

~Dr. Susan Hovenden, Camp Shand parent

Dani Yan

At the end of each summer, our campers leave Camp Shand a bit different from when they came. Through new experiences and lessons learned, they broaden their horizons as they grow to reach their full potential.

This summer, camper Dani Yan (wearing the red t-shirt in back row) learned the lesson of what it means to “set the baby blackbird free.” Click here to read his story and the impact his fourth year at Camp Shand made on his life.

Chris Roe

My son Chris has been attending YMCA Camp Shand since he was 6 years old. He was bullied very badly in kindergarten and the counselors at Camp Shand  just worked wonders with him. He was so very much better and almost back to the Chris I sent off to school by the time the summer was over. The place is like Cheers. Every time Chris goes, they all remember him and he gets rounds of “Hey Chris!” from everyone there. My daughter Maggie went to camp for the first time this year and LOVED it as well. The camp operates on a ‘Me Third’ policy: God first, everyone else second and yourself third. If everyone follows that policy, then everyone will have their needs met.

The camp has a swimming pool, lake, and the best counselors around! Chris has endless fun when he’s there and really, honestly hates to leave. He wants to just stay all summer. We have a difficult time finding a good camp for Chris because he requires more supervision and a much lower staff to camper ratio than many other camps offer. The cabins sleep up to 8-9 campers – so that’s the typical max ratio. Many of the counselors have been going to Camp Shand for years and years. Camp Shand also has a Teen Extreme program and a Service Camp where they help out at camp as well as at some local non-profits. They also totally work with Chris’s gluten free diet (really the only camp around that will). Our family highly recommends Camp Shand – tell them Chris and Maggie sent you.

~Kim Roe, Camp Shand parent  

Spencer Shambaugh

Spencer is wearing the bright green T-shirt in the back row.

My Camp Shand story started when program director Scott Mailen hired me at the age of 19 to be a cabin counselor. I never expected that I would still be working at camp six years later or imagined all that this experience would give me.

My main reason for working at camp is to have an impact on campers that will allow them to develop in a more rounded and holistic way. It brings me great joy, a sense of purpose, and a very rewarding feeling when I see a shy camper gain confidence, make friends and grow as a person within just one week at camp. Camp Shand is a special place where campers and staff alike feel safe to let their guard down and form real, lasting relationships. While working at camp, I have gained lifelong friends that feel like family – about two years ago, I was best man in the wedding of my best friend who I met at camp.

Working at Camp Shand has allowed me to develop professionally in working with children, has helped me build leadership skills, make lifelong connections, and most importantly, it has allowed me to make a difference in many children’s lives. I would implore anyone thinking about working at a camp to do so, since the bonds formed there and the positive impact it has on yourself and on others, will stick with you for a lifetime.

Ty-tiana Taylor-Buchko

Ty-tiana Taylor-Buchko has been a camper at Camp Shand for six years, beginning as a Bamford Camper in 2008. She has returned to Camp Shand each summer, working her way through the various programs.

In 2012, she spent a week in Resident Extreme Camp and a week in Teen Service Camp. Camp Shand’s “I’m Third” program, which states faith first, others second and self third, has helped Ty grow as a person. She is always there to lend a helping hand and go the extra mile when needed for her friends. Ty states that the camp has helped her find who she is and wants to be; “the main reason [to go to camp] is to have fun and to be you.” She has learned that her faith and family are the most important things in life. Ty creates a positive energy and is a positive role-model at Camp Shand.

Ty was named the 2013 Lancaster Family YMCA Youth of the Year.

J.D. Peters

J.D. has been attending Camp Shand for nine years and was the first camper to complete the Camp Shand Passport to Adventure. The Passport to Adventure is a way for campers to track the programs, activities and milestones they have accomplished at camp.

It contains pages on character development, exploration, skill development, stewardship, adventure, camp spirit, camp games and others challenges. J.D. completed every item over the course of his nine years at camp.

J.D. made the journey from a young camper to a mentor and role model for other youth. Watching his development through the years has been inspirational and the Y is honored and grateful to have been an important part of his life.

J.D. Peters was named the 2012 Lancaster Family YMCA Youth of the Year.

View a video about J.D. Peters