GLENDALE—The campfire is out, the snack shop is empty and only the sounds of birds chirping at AYF Camp Big Pines remain. The 2018 AYF Summer Camp season has come to an end leaving behind the most successful season to date. In the span of eight weeks, over 1200 campers and staff from all over California and beyond participated in the AYF Summer Camp program where they were able to see old friends and make new ones while participating in classic AYF Camp activities.
Over the course of a week, campers participated in a wide array of activities and educationals, developed interpersonal skills and created lasting memories. “The best part of AYF Camp is that you are able to make friends while working together to accomplish goals and participate in the competitions. You really turn into a family over the week at camp,” says Edik Kermenikian, 14, Houston, Texas.
In addition to the traditional camp activities of canoeing, arts and crafts and Red-Blue-Orange group competitions, campers participated in daily educationals focusing on a diverse range of topics. Former camper and counselor Berj Parseghian, owner and chief instructor at Jeff Speakman’s Kenpo 5.0 and 5th Degree Black Belt, led campers through a series of fun and exciting training exercises and spoke about the importance of health, fitness and self-defense.
“AYF camp committee worked alongside Beads for Battle, a nonprofit cancer support organization that aims to spread hope and positivity to everyone affected by cancer. The majority of the board and volunteers of Beads for Battle are AYF members who dedicated their time to educate young campers about cancer awareness. They had the opportunity to write encouraging letters and make bracelets which will be delivered to cancer patients and hospitals worldwide.”
Some campers were lucky enough to learn a variety of traditional Armenian dances from Patille and Cynthia Albarian, instructors at Patille Dance Studio in Pasadena, while others learned about traditional Armenian instruments and music from Arick Gevorkian. Deeown Shaverdian, an AYF member, presented the campers with information on the recent Velvet Revolution in Armenia.
“My experience with the youth of our nation was, as always, more of a learning experience for me than it was for them. The intelligent questions, the curious stares, the engaging discussions and, most importantly, the eagerness to enact change and take action were the most inspiring to me,” says Shaverdian. He adds that, “It is important now more than ever to instill in them a sense of responsibility to take ownership of their country and culture and to pave the way for its progression into a new era of unprecedented advancement. Through educationals about current events, history and culture, we can cement the creation of young patriotic Armenians who, through their education, activism and work, will proudly carry the torch of the Armenian culture into the next generation.”
These topics, along with educationals by the Armenian Youth Federation and Armenian National Committee of America, engaged campers of all ages providing them with information on Armenian history, culture and topics relevant in both our diaspora and Homeland today.
AYF Camp is an integral part of the summer for many by providing a fun and safe environment for children to learn and grow as individuals. “My favorite parts about AYF Camp are staying connected with the Armenian culture and making friends,” says Anjelique Alexander, 17, Laguna Beach, CA. “I’ve been coming to AYF Camp since I was 10 years old and it’s interesting to come back each year and see the same campers and meet new campers to embark on this journey together. I’m very excited to begin the next step and return as a counselor for the first time next summer.”
The AYF Camp Management Board and Summer Camp Committee expressed its gratitude to the directors, counselors, medical staff and educational speakers for volunteering their time and ensuring each week was a success, as well as to its community members without whose unwavering support the AYF Summer Camp program wouldn’t be what it is today.
Since 1977, AYF Camp has offered a genuinely rewarding experience, by serving as a place for Armenian youth to make new friends and memories for 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 for our newsletter to receive news and updates on programs and events.