GLENDALE—Every year at AYF Camp, participants from all over the United States gather at AYF Camp Big Pines to explore the outdoors, meet new friends, reunite with old ones, discover new interests, and create bonds and memories that last a lifetime. This summer, the seven weeks spent at camp created moments that echoed beyond Wrightwood, across Armenia, into Artsakh, and through every AYF camper’s heart.
The summer camp agenda has not changed much over the years. Campers and counselors still engage in the classic AYF Camp activities such as Steal the Bacon, Arts and Crafts, Wacky Olympics, and the ever so popular Talent Show. But this year, the educationals and song competitions were some of the highlights. Centered around the theme of the summer, “From the hills of Wrightwood to the mountains of Artsakh”, directors, counselors, and campers made it a priority to remember, respect, and honor the soldiers who have been serving and protecting our homeland. Everyone listened intently to Unger Berj Parseghian while he educated them about current events in Artsakh and Armenia, and sang along with Unger Arick Gevorkian as he passionately played various international instruments while explaining the origins behind them. Emotions ran high during song competitions when the Red, Blue, and Orange groups sang songs like Pit Pashtpanem and Kharabagh Eem. AYF Camp also worked with the AYF’s “With Our Soldiers” campaign providing all campers with the opportunity to write a letter to a soldier or family of a fallen soldier. Each week, the campers wrote heartfelt letters and placed them into a mailbox designated specifically for this project. These letters were collected weekly and at the end of the summer over 900 letters are ready to be mailed to Armenia into the hands of soldiers and their families. The special theme made this summer one of the most unforgettable experiences for each and every one of the participants.
In line with the theme for this year, all participants took home a shirt, water bottle, and songbook dedicated to our homeland, each in accordance with the theme for this year, with displays of Armenia and Artsakh on each of these items. The t-shirt design outlines Armenia with the tricolor blending into the Artsakh flag. The water bottle and cover of the songbook displays a map of Armenia and Artsakh as one silhouette, showcasing all the cities and regions by geographical location. The back cover of the songbook displays all the unforgotten cities and regions of Greater Armenia with high hopes of restorations and reparations.
AYF Camp also introduced a new menu this year which had everyone raving about the quality and options of meals provided. From new items such as a breakfast crunch wrap to grilled chicken kebab and Armenian salad, the campers and staff alike all enjoyed three great meals every day.
Not only were precious memories and lifelong friendships created this past summer, this year AYF Camp shattered previous registration records with two of the seven weeks selling out within 24 hours and four more selling out shortly after. The weeks were also changed from numbers to letters, being called Weeks A through G, with Week B as the five-day “Intro to AYF Camp” session for campers aged 7-12, proving once again to be a highly anticipated and successful option. With over 1,000 participants, the summer 2016 program had the largest recorded number of campers and counselors in AYF Camp history.
Since 1977, AYF Camp has offered a genuinely rewarding experience, by serving as a place for Armenian youth to make new friends and memories of a lifetime. AYF Camp is the largest and oldest Summer Camp program in the Western United States, focusing on Armenian culture and heritage. Visit AYFCamp.org for more information and sign up as a “Friend of AYF Camp” to receive news and updates on programs and events.