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Camp Grizzly bonds, unites Nevada Guard youth

Harryck House, sails down the zip-line during the Nevada Guard Family Programs summer youth camp at Grizzly Creek Ranch, July 1, House was one of 62 campers to attend the youth camp this year. Special visitor Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, seen in the background, participated in the day’s events.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Getten, NV Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

Harryck House, sails down the zip-line during the Nevada Guard Family Programs summer youth camp at Grizzly Creek Ranch, July 1, House was one of 62 campers to attend the youth camp this year. Special visitor Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, seen in the background, participated in the day’s events. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Getten, NV Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

PORTOLA, Calif. -- Cheers from several dozen campers and counselors - including special visitor Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Bill Burks - interrupted the usual unbroken silence of the tranquil pine forest here during a confidence course session at Grizzly Creek Ranch on July 1. The remote ranch was the site of this year's annual Nevada Guard Family Programs summer youth camp.
This year's camp, nicknamed Camp Grizzly this year because of the host site, welcomed a record 62 children ages 11-17 from every region of the state. The camp was free for attendees, who were predominantly dependents of Nevada Guard Soldiers and Airmen.

"Camp attendance has nearly doubled in three years," said Delana Cardenas, the southern Nevada Guard Child and Youth Coordinator. "We hope to see the attendance continue to grow at least 10-15 percent every year. Eventually, I would like to see over 200 children attend."

"We generally get started in October looking for a location which can meet our needs and budget," said Capt. Marissa Wesley, the state family programs manager. "Each year we flip the location, north or south, so one group is not always traveling."

The Nevada Guard Family Programs summer youth camp rotates locations annually. Last year's camp was held at Big Bear, Calif.

According to Wesley, the goal of the summer youth camp was to provide an opportunity for children of Guardsmen to meet and interact with other military youth in a relaxed and extremely fun atmosphere.

"This camp gives kids the chance to hang-out with other military kids," Wesley said. "Often times, children of Guardsmen may not have the opportunity to share about struggles that accompany being a 'Guard kid,' such as time away from parents due to deployments and training. This camp brings the kids together in more than just close proximity; it unites them through team building while simultaneously improving their leadership skills."

Camp staff included nine Airmen and Soldiers who volunteered a week of their time to assist and chaperone the campers.

Volunteer counselor Spc. Arturo Diaz-Ramirez from the 1864th Transportation Company said he welcomed a week assisting the young participants.

"This is amazing. It's a privilege for me to participate with all of these wonderful kids," Diaz-Ramirez said."My son is only seven but I am going to help staff the youth camp as often as I can. I want it to still be in place for him when he is old enough to attend."

In addition to the nine Nevada Guard volunteers, four full time Family Programs employees also supervised the campers. Grizzly Creek Ranch staffers from the host site provided the personnel for the confidence, team and leadership building challenges.

Camp funding is provided through the National Guard Bureau from the Department of Defense. Cardenas said about half the campers were attending summer youth camp for the first time and half were returnees.

Seconds after finishing a zip-line ride through tall pine trees, Jordyn Erquiaga-Davis, 13, said she was keen on returning to camp for years to come.

"This is great!" Erquiaga-Davis said. "I am going to keep coming back as long as my parents say it's OK."

"I'm really having a good time," said Harryck House, 15, a returning alumnus in his third season of camping. "I've made new friends every time and I've reunited with some friends from the past years, too. The program is exciting and challenging, which I really like."

For information on the 2015 camping season, call (775) 384-5805.