EAGLE COUNTY — More than 100 local high schoolers were in Minnesota last week, off on “the best week of their lives.”
The teens are all participants in Vail Valley Young Life, the local chapter of a national organization of Christian youth groups. That organization is a big one, and runs 22 camps for kids around the world. Last week, the Eagle County kids were at Castaway Club, at Detroit Lakes in eastern Minnesota. The camp has resort amenities that include parasailing, wakeboarding and summer beach sports — the camp’s website makes it look like it fills the Young Life promise.
“It’s awesome — it really is the best week of your life. Straight up,” camper Amie Hixon said. Hixon, who in August will begin her junior year at Eagle Valley High School, is on her second Castaway trip this year. She also convinced friend Montana Gubrud to go.
That’s part of the reason this year’s Castaway caravan is more than double the size of the group that went last year. In all, nearly 110 kids piled into two charter buses for the 19-hour ride.
Most of those kids raised most of the money to pay for the trip, too. Most of the kids in June participated in a fund-raising ride from the top of Vail Pass to Eagle. Venture Sports supplied many of the bikes for the trip, and kids asked for per-mile pledges from friends, neighbors and relatives. Many of the kids worked at the Thrifty Shops in Edwards and Eagle. Some baby-sat for Young Life adult volunteers.
Those volunteers are the heart of Young Life. The group has a paid director, Ben Dodds, who coordinates the groups in the area’s high schools. For Dodds, it’s his 14th summer of going to Young Life Camp.
Justin Brandt has been to camp nine times, including when he was in high school. Now a teacher at Eagle Valley High School, Brandt is obviously convinced of the value of taking kids to camp.
“It’s just cool to get the kids out of their hometowns,” Brandt said. While he spends a lot of his work and off-hours with kids, Brandt said that contact with kids is why he became a teacher.
And, Dodds said, the impact Young Life can have on kids is impressive.
“Kids’ lives are changed on these trips,” he said.