by Mo Bond— Adventure Trip Lead 2018
What is it about Kidder Creek Camp that brings campers and staff back summer after summer? What draws these kids, students, and young adults to return to this small town in California?
One week at Kidder during this past summer, I got to work with Camp Hope High Adventure. Camp Hope is a camping and mentoring organization for children exposed to trauma in the United States, so all of the kids they bring to camp have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. Working with Camp Hope campers can present its own challenges as some of these traumas the children have experienced may be further exacerbated by the adventure activities they take part in, whitewater rafting, ropes courses, and cliff jumping to name a few.
Our third day of camp is spent rafting a section of the Klamath river called Rattlesnake. This involves class III rapids and cliff jumping before the campers head back to Kidder Creek for the duration of their week of camp. I had one camper in my raft named Bethany* who was suggested by her counselor to be in the front left seat in the raft, the seat that controls the pace of the entire boat’s paddling. Bethany impressed me from the start with her willingness to jump in and be a leader in the water, a place I could tell she wasn’t particularly comfortable. By the second day of rafting with the five girls and two counselors in my boat, they had perfected their synchronization and quickly become one of the most efficient and fun boats I had guided all summer.
Halfway through the day, Bethany and another girl in our boat, both the two most afraid of the water and rapids, decided to get out of the boat and float a class II rapid. I could tell they had experienced some fear in doing so, but both were glad they had tried it. Bethany repeatedly surprised me by facing her fear of water, but I had no expectations for what the would experience cliff jumping.
As we approached Lion’s Head, our jump rock for the day, I could feel Bethany’s nervousness. Last year, on this same rock, she had such anxiety over jumping that it led to a panic attack, and she had to be lowered using a pulley system off of the cliff. This was not a small hurdle for Bethany to overcome.
We arrived at Lion’s Head, I introduced the rules and directions of jumping off our two cliffs, Simba and Mufasa, and we began helping the kids up the rock. Bethany made it up to Simba. She stood next to me and said, “I told myself I’d jump this year. I’ve gotta jump.” She watched a couple more people and creeped over to the edge of the cliff. She turned around and looked at me with trepidation in her eyes and the panic rising in her chest.
I grabbed Bethany’s hand and said, “Would you like me to jump with you? I’ll hold your hand the whole way down.” She responded, “And you won’t let go? You’ll be there with me in the water and make sure I come back up?” I assured her I’d be there every second. She wasn’t scared of the height or the fall; she was scared of the water coming up over her head and not coming back up. I found out later that she didn’t know how to swim.
A couple minutes of deliberation and calming of her anxiety later, Bethany pleaded, “Lord protect me!” I responded quickly and with excitement that He would always protect her and keep her from harm, and then she was ready! We counted down one more time, and Bethany took the leap into her biggest fear.
The bigger surprise was that she said, “Can I jump again?? Will you hold my hand again??”
Later, in the boat, she was talking to her cabin mates and counselors and said with confidence, “I feel like I can do anything now! I never thought I’d actually jump! But I did! I can overcome my fears!”
So, what is it about Kidder Creek Camp that brings campers and staff back summer after summer? What draws these kids, students, and young adults to return to this small town in California?
Moments like these.
Moments where you witness first-hand a young woman feel totally changed by, empowered by and proud of something so seemingly small, something many take for granted.
Moments where a child conquers a fear like jumping off a rock or riding a zip line or climbing 30 feet off the ground, and they’re now inspired to approach all their fears in the same way.
Moments that they may look back on in a decade and remember the very first time they overcame one of their biggest fears.
Moments that we see a child’s eyes opened to God and the joy, hope, and protection He provides.
Moments where we sit around a fire singing of the Lord’s Reckless Love, and we go silent as we are overwhelmed by the tender and sweet sound of children praising our savior.
We get to witness these moments, we get to be a part of them, and we get to be inspired by them.
Thank you Lord for places like Kidder Creek!