Do you have kids? Grandkids? Nieces, nephews, siblings, neighbor kids ages 12 - 15? If you do, let me tell you about THE BEST summer experience you can give them . . . Birch Creek Service Ranch. This is something that we LOVE and that has had a huge impact on generations of young people.
Birch Creek Service Ranch (BCSR) is a summer camp unlike any other. It is based off of the Bennion Teton Boys Ranch (BTBR), which was started by Lowell Bennion back in 1963 in Victor Idaho. Lowell started the ranch in an effort to give his city born sons the same opportunities to learn to do hard physical work that he had had growing up on a farm. He felt learning to work hard with your hands, and to do service, are crucial aspects to a young person's character formation. His program was not a reform, or punitive program, but something to help good kids become even better. Birch Creek Service Ranch was founded in 2003 by Eric Peterson, and Adam Batemen. Both men had grown up going to the BTBR and working as counselors as they got older, and they decided there was a need for more programs like BTBR. Only two years after BCSR began, the Bennion Boy's Ranch shut down, leaving BCSR the surviving branch of Lowell's amazing vision.
The basic structure is that the kids come for three weeks and every morning spend 4-5 hours doing physical work. This work is 75% - 80% service for people in the local farming community. The jobs range from bucking bales (bringing in a crop of hay for you non-farmers), putting up fence, cleaning out an old barn, weeding a garden, to chopping down thistles or clearing trail for the local forest service. Over the year 100,000's of service hours have been given freely by many many hands. After lunch, the campers participate in a variety of afternoon activities like swimming at a lake, mountain biking, rock climbing, arts and crafts, horse back riding, etc. Evenings are filled with guest speakers, philosophical debates, talent shows, songs around a campfire and other enriching experiences. Each weekend the counselors lead the campers on overnight backpacking trips into local mountains, and canyons learning back country skills and increasing their love of the outdoors. They work hard, play hard, make deep friendships, connect with nature, experience the joy of service, read, discuss, and much more.
To see LOTS more photos check out BCSR Facebook Page
I became involved that first year as the cook, and continued working for 9 consecutive summers. Pretty quickly I realized that this is something that needed to be offered you young girls, not just boys, and I started the BCSR girl's session in 2006. In addition, I pursued a Master's Degree in Youth and Family Recreation, and for my thesis conducted a qualitative study on the perceived outcomes of attending the ranch from both parent and camper perspectives. My findings were unanimous. It was the work, not all the fun activities, that made this such a meaningful activity for these kids. Campers talked about how learning that they could accomplish difficult tasks using their own two hands gave them an efficacy that translated to many other aspects of their life after the ranch (like schoolwork, a hard job, etc.). They talked about how after spending three weeks in constant service they started to recognize more opportunities in their own neighborhoods and felt empowered to do something about the needs they saw. The parents commented on the change in attitude they observed as their kids came home and no longer complained about emptying the dishwasher (that's way easier than cleaning out a chicken coop for four hours!), and had new patience and appreciation for siblings.
What I love most about the ranch is it is a space where young people get to develop in pivotal ways at a pivotal age. The kids don't have cell phones, computers, tablets, or other technology for the three week (although of course they can call home). There is no T.V. or game counsel at the ranch. Instead they learn to work hard, to serve continually, to communicate (we talk a LOT during work crew, long hikes, van rides, meals), to commune with nature, to be quiet, and to PLAY. Without all the distractions and fear of rejection they let loose and really become kids again. They get dirty and don't care, they are silly, thoughtful, sensitive, they are themselves. It's a loving, family like community, and everyone finds a place there.
So if you have a boy or girl ages 12 - 15 in your life that you think would enjoy/benefit from Birch Creek Service Ranch, please visit their website where you can fill out the application. You can also direct message me with more questions.
THE 2015 DATES ARE:
Session 1: Boys (12-15 year old boys): June 15 - July 8 The cost is $1,500 per session.
Session 2: Boys (12-15 year old boys): July 13 - August 5 The cost is $1,500 per session.
Session 3: Girls (12-15 year old girls): August 7 - August 16 The cost is $750