The Ultimate Survivor

Using the teeter totter we were able to re-create the survivor challenge where participants build a fire in a bucket on one side and then race to fill a bucket with water on the other side, thereby lifting the fire bucket into the air to burn a rope that is stretched ten feet above.

To make the challenge safe, we bolted the bucket into place, only allowed one team to compete at a time, and the team had to be separated into water and fire, which controls running around the entire structure. We had an area below the fire bucket that was a no-stand zone, along with extra staff supervision to add to the safety.

There were also challenges that were not so elaborate, but involved the camp itself: Canoe relays, flag hunts, all-camp relays, orienteering challenges, climbing, swimming, and so on.

In one challenge, a canoe, paddles, and life jackets were hidden all over camp. The campers had to find each item and the portages them to the lake and then compete in a floating buoy obstacle course.

Reward challenges were created as to motivate the campers and to amaze them. Outback Steakhouse donated a free dinner to the winning tribe at the restaurant, and Max and Erma’s donated an all-you-can-eat sundae bar for the winning tribe at the restaurant, to name a couple.

My favorite reward challenge was a simple one… The Survivors had to spend the evening making bracelets. In the morning they had to sell the bracelets to the youngest campers in camp (who were supplied with Survivor Dollars). The raised Survivor Dollars was then used for a dessert auction.

Throughout the week video footage was shot at all points. The video was edited and used to create a program DVD that was shown at the parent program and then given to every camper at the end of the program. It was amazing to see the parent’s reaction when they were able to see the entire experience of their campers.

The success of the program has been huge. We had only planned on running the program one week, but we were forced to run two based on the number of people wanting in.

This summer we plan on running our Ultimate Character Survivor program again, along with our evening big games based on Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings, and will now be launching a Great Quest Program based on popular themes from: Indiana Jones, Treasure hunting shows and The Amazing Race television show.

Again, we are looking at ways of taking these popular identities and converting them into fun, magical, character-building programs for the campers.

This theme-based program building is not only a lot of work, but also a lot of fun for the staff. It allows opportunity to involve their ideas into program and builds a stronger staff team at the end. Good luck with your program.

Jeff Merhige is the executive director of YMCA Camp Kern, Dayton YMCA, Dayton, Ohio.

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  1. Hi-Ho Silver…
  2. Out in Front
  3. Orient Before Orientation
  4. Signs of Life & Warning Signs
  5. Flow & Tell

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