Branching Out

Once hired, most new counselors are required to go to Staff Training Week, about 10-12 days before the campers arrive for the summer. At the training, counselors are certified for the activities they’ll be leading and other required certifications.

This is where hitting the road pays big dividends and why Kanakuk Kamps travel cross-country to find the cream of the crop where their counselors are concerned.

“Another thing that we’ve learned is that in order to get the quality of people we want, we have to go to a lot of different cities. We can’t just concentrate on Texas and Oklahoma,” says Goodwin.

With Kanakuk on the road this past winter, the camp is on a roll for this coming summer.

Day by Day

The popularity of the camps has brought with it a need to expand. What began as a simple camp in 1932 has blossomed into ten camps that are all a variation of the original theme.

Building actually began on manmade Taneycomo Lake (just down the road from Table Rock) in 1906. But it was “Uncle Bill” Lantz, who provided the foundation in 1932 and envisioned a Christian camp that would provide city dwellers an experience in the country.

The camp is now under the leadership of Joe and Debbie-Jo White, who continued the legacy of his father, “Spike” and mother, Darnell, in 1971.

Joe White, president, is a nationally known author and speaker, frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program and host of Life on the Edge, a radio teen talk show. He has also spoken at men’s Promise Keeper rallies across the nation.

Continuing to build on the vision, Kanakuk Kamps encompasses K-West for 12-14 year olds; K1 for 8-13 year olds; K2 for 13-18 year olds; K-Kountry for 8-11 year olds; K7, an adventure camp for 8-11 year olds; K-Klassic for 7-18 year olds; three non-profit camps for inner-city kids called Kids Across America; and K-Colorado, Kanakuk’s latest addition with Colorado-style adventure, near Durango.

“When the waiting lists get long enough, when we have the ability to recruit more staff and when it’s financially possible, we look into building a new camp,” says Goodwin. “We experimented with K-Colorado on a small scale. We used another camp’s facilities, took 10 guys and 10 girls for a couple of terms, and it became so popular that we decided to build K-Kolorado.”

An equally important consideration for expansion is the feedback Kanakuk receives from campers, parents and staff. For example, that feedback led to K-Klassic, which addressed the fact that many parents were sending their kids to four different camps with four different closing ceremonies, hence the need to develop a camp for children ages 7-18.

Camp length has also been addressed over the years as camper and staff schedules have changed to include all the extracurricular activities that are now on everyone’s plates.

Prior to the 1970s Kanakuk ran eight-week sessions. Now the longest sessions are four weeks, with those being the last to fill in favor of the one-week camps, which Goodwin says fill up quickly.

Kanakuk gets a lot of its feedback from extensive evaluations that are circulated among campers, directors and counselors. For campers, these written evaluations gauge such things as food, the overall program, the clinic and other camp components with a four-tiered selection of responses — excellent, good, fair and poor. The evaluations ask why they responded that way and what they would change or add to the camp.

Counselors fill out evaluations on their leadership team, co-counselors and camp experience. Directors are also required to do an evaluation on their respective camps.

The combination of evaluations and the sheer years of experience Kanakuk has, brings an insightful perspective of where kids are coming from at various ages and what they want from camp.

“If you’re working with middle-school kids, for example, you need to know what they’re like, what they’re dealing with, what they like and dislike on the whole, and the kind of activities that are exciting for them — that’s a big part of our program,” says Goodwin. “So when I’m reviewing a piece of equipment someone wants us to buy, I have the background I need to figure out if a sixth-grader’s going to like it or not.”

With the kids divided into boys (Kanakuk) and girls (Kanakomo), it’s necessary to know when and how often to mix them.

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