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Camp re-energizes youth, gives a solid base

For Tony Kliment, a mental health counselor in Seattle and 2015 senior high aqua camp co-director, having a “quiet” week at camp was a sign that campers were thriving and doing well in their lives, as well as at camp.


Senior high campers dance in the pavilion.     Photo courtesy of Elliott Jensen

The youth got along and the weather was not too hot, cold or rainy.  Smoke from the region’s wildfires settled in after their camp, but there were no campfires all summer because of the fire danger. This camp used a light and handprints cut from paper the colors of flames.

In counseling, he sees anxious and hurting sides of people, so camp is re-energizing.

“It was great to see the energy and enthusiasm these youth have for life and each other,” he said.

“As we go through the curriculum, crafts, music and activities, we seek to help the campers when they are not at camp have peaceful memories they can use to reflect on and to help them through day-to-day stresses of life,” Tony said.

Directors and counselors seek to help the youth discover, define and make sense of their spirituality, said Tony, who has been a counselor or director of senior high camps for 11 years, twice as director.

He plans to co-direct the 2016 camp with Sheila Thieme.

“Without adults stepping up to be directors and counselors, there would be no camps.  The adults play an important role in providing guidance and safety for campers,” he said.

He is always using his counseling skills at camps in listening to campers and helping them reflect back on what they are learning.  He has also found his skills handy when there is a crisis situation.

“It’s important for youth to know they have a safe place, a place they can always come back to when they need a time out.  Camp is not just a place.  It’s also a community that’s there to support them, so they know they are not alone in the world when they face challenges,” he said.  “After a great camp experience, the question is how to bring it back to their lives and school year.  It’s more than a week.”

Since the early 1990s, Tony has been a mental health counselor on and off for 25 years.  He began working with youth at the Union Church in Hinsdale, Ill.  When his children were young, they went to the Tower Hill UCC camp in Michigan.   

He did a work camp with youth, bringing his skills from his career as a carpenter, doing woodworking and remodeling, to building and fixing houses.

“I found in conversations with youth, I connected with them.  I realized I could make a difference, and a good education might help.”

While living in the hills of Helena, Mont., and building houses, he completed a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1994 at Carroll College.  After moving to Spokane in 1995, he earned a master’s in social work in 1997.  Three years ago, he moved to live near Ballard, Wash., in Seattle.

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Copyright © September/October 2015 - Pacific Northwest UCC Conference News


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