The Treasure Valley YMCA, or the Y as it’s known in the Boise, Idaho, community, believes that camp is the best way to change a child’s life. Dan McGinnis-Welsh was one such child who was profoundly impacted by attending Y Camp. When he first came to camp at only 9 years old, he had already experienced a lot of upheaval in his short life. “My father had just passed away, my biological mother was a severe drug addict, I was in an unstable home with her and had been bounced around the country from home, to home, to home. I was really on the down and outs, even for being a young child,” says Dan.
Dan’s grandfather brought him to Boise for a week of camp, and Dan recalls the feelings of safety, acceptance and love he experienced there. He attended every summer until he was 18. Though his life was still a struggle at home, Dan had something to look forward to each summer. In his ninth year of camp, he decided to become a counselor so he could mentor the next generation of campers.
Soon afterward, Dan was accepted into the United States Air Force Academy, which meant that he would be unable to attend camp while he completed his studies and training. During that first summer, Dan’s Basic Cadet Training included camping in a self-made structure and enduring physically grueling field training. One day, just outside of his shelter entrance, he saw a stick lying on the ground. Dan picked it up and put it in his backpack for safekeeping.
There is a tradition at Y Camp where every camper throws a stick into the closing campfire and reflects about the week. Those campfire ashes are collected and added to the opening fire the next week, including storing ashes every fall to add to the next summer’s first fire. In this way, once someone attends Y Camp, he or she is forever part of every campfire thereafter. Dan carried the stick he found during Basic Training in his backpack for the next two years, a reminder that, “I was always coming back. Camp is what gave me the foundation to leap forward.”
Captain Daniel McGinnis-Welsh graduated in the top 15 of his class from the United States Air Force Academy in 2012 and returned to Y Camp to place his stick once again in the campfire. Dan says of his transformation, “Camp gave me the ability to start building in other areas of my life. Before that, I didn’t really have any future visions or goals for myself, anything at all. By seeing that I could be loved, that gave me the first of those needs met so I could start looking ahead.” Dan’s bright future and his dedication to our country are evidence of the great strides forward he has taken in his life.
The Murdock Trust is proud to partner with the Y in providing opportunities to make a difference and to change a young person’s life. A Trust grant in 2012 supported the construction of a new dining hall and staff housing at the Y’s Horsethief Reservoir Camp, helping ensure that young people can attend camp and experience life change for many years to come.