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"Random Tales"

by Derek Bycraft


I’ve been involved with YMCA Storer Camps since the summer of 2011.  Roles have included being an Explorer counselor, Sports Specialist, Outdoor Education Educator, Grill Master and now the Alumni Director. There’s a bunch of stories that could be told from then to now, so why limit it to just one?  Here are a few of my favorite memories from my time here at Storer:


Everyone remembers their first time being assigned as a counselor in a cabin.  The excitement, the nervousness, the unexpected.  My first cabin consisted of only two boys.  The boys were twins and, just like me, had never been to Storer before.  Immediately upon meeting me, they grabbed my arms and called me their “camper buddy.”

Those boys and I were inseparable throughout the entire week.  This may sound nice, but it was not the most fun experience for me at first.  The reason we were inseparable was because the boys would never let go of me. 

Anywhere we went, they were grabbing my arms and pulling me down to speak to them at face-level.   They needed most basic things done for them such as tying their shoes, having food served to them, choosing activities to participate in, getting boondoggles started, drying off from swimming.   We didn’t sleep much at night because they always asked questions about what would be happening the next day.  I didn’t know what to expect as a first-time counselor, but it definitely wasn’t this.

On Wednesday, I was beat.  My director was kind enough to take the boys off my hands (literally) for a few minutes before we went off for skill clinics in the morning.  I went to my cabin to relax for a few minutes.  When I got back, one of the twins had disappeared.  None of the other staff had seen him wander off.

I ran track in high school.  My times then would’ve been blown out of the water by how fast I was running around camp looking for him.  He ended up being in one of the girls cabins.  The counselor in that cabin told Keith she’d make a boondoggle for him after breakfast, so he decided to go there and wait for her to make it. 

My immediate reaction was to yell at him for doing something like this.  Then it hit me that this was a kid just being a kid, and he needed a “camper buddy,” not a disciplinarian.  We went back to the group, my arm being tugged down by him, and got his boondoggle made.

The rest of the week continued much the same, but with a much better attitude by me about working with the boys.  When their dad picked them up at the end of the week, they each gave me a big hug.  Strangely, I didn’t want them to let go for once when they left.

The next week, their dad wrote me a letter thanking me for the great week I provided for his kids.  He noted how they wouldn’t stop talking about their “camper buddy” and that he’d never seen them so proud of something they’d made (he was referring to the boondoggles they made Wednesday morning).  It was a really good lesson that all the hard work at Storer is always worth it.


Just spend a day at Camp Catch-A-Rainbow, and you can probably pick out three things that will be memories for the rest of your life.   Picking out a “favorite” moment can be difficult, but picking out the most powerful is easy.

Each year at the closing campfire, there is a moment where we honor those who are no longer with us.  We encourage those who would like to throw sugar into the campfire as a memorial for whoever they would like.  The sugar creates a strong flame momentarily when catching fire.

During the campfire, a quick rain shower had passed by.  It didn’t affect the campfire and everything continued on fine.  However, as soon as the memorial portion of the fire ended, a complete rainbow formed over the lake.  The timing could not have been better, and very few eyes remained dry during the singing of “Every Long Journey,” the traditional last song of closing campfires for Camp Catch-A-Rainbow.


The 100th anniversary celebration last year was a gathering of Storer celebrities.  Just for me, it was very neat to see people whose names have been mentioned as great contributors to camp.

It was even neater for one of our current campers.  There are historians of many different subjects, and this girl is definitely on her way to being the expert historian of YMCA Storer Camps.  To even come to the 100th, her parents asked her to read the entire “YMCA Storer Camps: Doc Miller’s Living Legacy” book, AND SHE DID.  As the Alumni Director, I haven’t even been that committed.    

While at the 100th event, she went around to the “celebrities” and asked them to sign pages in her book that they were featured in, wrote or had their picture in.  Her collection that day was quite impressive, and she wasn’t shy about telling folks everything she read about them in the book. 

I was so amazed to see just how important Storer is to her at such a young age.  Her passion for Storer is so strong and serves as a great testament to the impact we continue to make on kids. 


Here are a few other random things that have happened at Storer that I enjoy:

  • I met my fiancée at camp, like so many others before me.

  • During the 2014 World Cup, I was cheering for Germany. The day the US and Germany played, I was wearing a German flag and uniform.  During morning flag raising, I accidently dropped the American flag on the ground and was called a traitor to my country for the rest of the week.

  • One week, a fellow counselor in the Explorer village wore the same shirt as me three days in a row unintentionally. We then told the kids in the village that the two of us were brothers separated at birth due to our parents’ divorce.  We weren’t told about our long-lost siblings until we graduated high school and were using this summer as a chance to get to know each other.

  • A week-long Food Waste skit in Outdoor Education saw two actors wanting to be pirates join a crew of pirates. One of the actors went insane and caused a mutiny where he forced the captain to walk the plank and killed the first mate (who turned out to be the other actor’s dad).  Before passing, the first mate told the actor to “find him in the woods.”  The good actor fled the ship and went to the forest of a nearby island.  His father had been resurrected as the “Forest Dancer” and taught his son the ways of dance – the only way to turn the bad actor good again.  In a final confrontation, the good actor used sweet dance moves to turn the bad actor’s heart good again.  The Forest Dancer reappeared along with the captain, and the four sailed away happily.  It was even weirder to perform than to type this story.


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