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Red Cross Summer Camps Offer Life Skills Training and a Whole Lot of Fun

“At camp I found I really like the Red Cross—what it does for the country and how it helps people,” says 14-year-old Laura Newsom. “I never knew much about the Red Cross before this summer.”

Newsom will be in the eighth grade this fall, and is a babysitter. This summer she attended the week-long Babysitting Camp offered by the Gateway Area Chapter in Clinton, Iowa, and honed her child care skills.

Babysitting Camp

Youngsters age 11–15 attending one of the Red Cross Babysitting Camps gained the knowledge and confidence needed to care for infants and school-age children, including CPR and First Aid. They practiced diapering and feeding and other skills to care for a child. But they also learned what to do if there is a fire, or a severe storm, and how to call 9-1-1.

“Babysitting Camp has been a very good addition for the community,” says Gateway Area Chapter executive Amber Wood. “Students learn what to do if there is a power outage or a broken bone.”

Babysitting Camp was developed three years ago when the chapter’s group of work study students included several education majors. The 2011 classes are also taught by a work study student, Kathy Krogmann, an elementary education major at Ashford University.

She says Babysitting Camp is a “great program.” Krogmann says that usually on the first day, students expect the week to be boring; then the end of the week comes and they can’t believe it is Friday already.

Krogmann is new to the Red Cross, but now plans to become a volunteer after she graduates from college. “The American Red Cross is a very worthwhile organization,” she says, “People would be in dire straights if it didn’t exist.”

Summer Leadership Conference

Brian Landry of Chatham, New Jersey, attended the Colonial Crossroads Chapter Summer Leadership Conference for Youth. Brian says that at first he went because his mother made him, despite his better wishes.

But Brian’s opinion changed during the week. “In the end, I was glad I did it,” he says. “I feel the skills I learned (leadership, first aid, CPR) will help me in the future.”

At camp, high school age students get a behind the scenes view of how a non-profit operates, along with some intense training in team building and goal achievement.

During the week, students become certified in First Aid and CPR. They get an introduction to Red Cross programs and services provided in their community, including disaster response, armed forces emergency services and blood services.

With a jam-packed schedule and opportunities to have fun and make new friends, it is no surprise that the program grows every year. “Teens discover their leadership potential, gain confidence in decision-making and experience the rewards that come with serving the community,” says chapter volunteer manager Marisa Hottat.

Disaster Camp

“Be Prepared to Help Your Community in a Disaster” invites the flyer for the Disaster Camp for Teens offered by the Bradenton office of Florida’s West Coast Region.

The hands-on camp is designed for high school age students interested in learning how the community responds to a disaster and who want to help others should a disaster strike. Participants learn to prepare for a disaster, open a shelter and distribute food and emergency supplies.

“Participants learn how to help the next time a disaster hits the west coast of Florida, and they have a lot of fun,” says Tracy Yarrow, who shares responsibility for the Disaster Camp for Teens at Florida’s West Coast Region headquartered in Sarasota.

Camp’s final day is a real life disaster drill during which students put everything they have learned over the week into action as their “disaster” occurs. Playing the roles of Red Cross workers and of Red Cross clients affected by the catastrophic event, camp participants open a shelter, activate a disaster phone bank and set up a volunteer reception center.

Following camp, participants often decide to stay on with the Red Cross as volunteers. Should a disaster strike their community, these trained youth volunteers help as phone operators, runners, kitchen helpers, and other disaster support positions.

Disaster Camp for Teens is run by Red Cross volunteer Debbie Tapp. Tapp developed the camp curriculum, leads each camp session and reaches out to community resources such as the County Emergency Operations and 911 Call Center that provides a tour for every group of students. Tapp also volunteers as the chapter’s youth coordinator.

Red Cross Youth Opportunities

Nearly a third of all American Red Cross volunteers are under the age of 25. Many chapters offer formal and informal activities for youth, including camps, youth clubs, and training in skills such as swimming, lifeguarding, CPR, babysitting and wilderness and remote first aid.

Contact your local Red Cross to learn about opportunities for young volunteers in your community.