Centre maintains strong connections with Center for Courageous Kids
August 18, 2011 By Elizabeth Trollinger
Courageous Kids this summer: Meredith Ranney '12 (front row,
far left), Sara Small '12, Jennifer Griffith '12, Cody Cook '14
(middle row, far left), Sam Williams '11, Richard Sturgeon '10,
Mark Klasson '14 (back row, far left), Drew White '10, Wes
Young '07 and Will Keyer '12.
White participates in Messy Games night at the Center for
Courageous Kids this summer.
Summer is coming to a close, and many Centre students are returning home from various camps. Quite a few of those Centre students spent their summers at the Center for Courageous Kids (CCK) — and alumni Drew White ’10 and Wes Young ’07 work there full-time.
The Center, located on 168 acres in Scottsville, Ky., is a world-class medical camping facility that provides cost-free, safe and fun camping experiences for seriously ill and physically challenged children and their families. CCK opened its doors in early 2008, and immediately, Centre students got involved.
“When CCK first opened, I was attending EKU, getting a master’s in music theory and composition, and I was enthralled to know that something I was passionate about was only going to be a few hours away,” says Young, who is now the program area coordinator for the camp. “I became involved with CCK on its first family weekend in February 2008.”
White, a native of Scottsville, began working at CCK the same weekend as Young, and never looked back.
“I volunteered for weekend retreats and during the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, beginning as a den counselor in 2008 and progressing to a lodge leader in 2009 and 2010,” he says. “At the end of summer 2010, shortly after graduating, I was asked to join the year-round team as the staff recruiting and residential life coordinator.”
Both Centre alums agree that while a day’s work at CCK can be exhausting, it’s always worth it.
“A typical day at camp is about as fulfilling and tiring as it comes,” Young says. “Each day starts around 7 a.m. as the kids begin to wake up, and the day does not stop — save for an hour-and-a-half siesta in the afternoon — until 9:30 at night.”
Children with illnesses including cancer, Down syndrome, kidney and heart diseases and spina bifida spend their days at CCK participating in activities as varied as archery, boating and fishing, bowling, woodworking, cooking, photography and riding horses.
“Campers are given the freedom to create their own camp experience based on their likes and dislikes as well as their comfort levels,” White explains.
Evening activities, such as messy games night — which White calls "a food fight that rivals all childrens’ adolescent cafeteria dreams" — and weekly carnivals and dances give campers the opportunity to interact with each other and continue to have fun. Seeing the campers forget their illnesses in the midst of activities and entertainment has meant a lot to Young.
“I’ll never know what camp truly means to each camper, but I know that CCK has brought laughter and happiness to thousands of children. I know that, each day, I am giving all that I can to children who need an experience of life-changing proportions,” he says. “The most meaningful part of camp is knowing that I am not living life for myself.”
As CCK continues to grow in size and renown, Centre students also continue to volunteer there in steady numbers.
“Each year, we’ve had at least nine Centre staff members employed during the summer,” White says, noting that ten Centre students worked at CCK for summer 2011. “We’ve also had countless volunteers from Centre who have donated over 5,000 hours [of service] in the last three years.”
For both campers and staff members like White and Young, the Center for Courageous Kids is a meaningful organization and part of their lives.
“People often ask me, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ My response is, ‘Why not?’ I enjoy being part of something bigger than myself. It’s humbling to work for an organization that provides a service for children who otherwise would not have the ability to attend camp anywhere else due to their illnesses,” White says. “From the moment our campers arrive, they are no longer defined by their illnesses, but as the children they were always meant to be. And that is the world I help to create.”
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 24th among all the nation's colleges and universities and has named Centre No. 1 among all institutions of higher education in the South for two years in a row. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, click here.