The term Risk is often associated with being a bad thing, but there is another side to risk, a healthy side. Taking a healthy risk is really a way that individuals empower themselves and move forward in life. In the Compass Mark youth program, Future Generations, taking healthy risks is key, especially during Kids Kamp, the week-long overnight component to the program. These youth, often coming from challenging situations, are encouraged to push themselves to do something that they haven’t done before and to re-imagine and rethink aspects of their lives in a creative, inspired, and innovative way. For many, this proves to be life changing and allows them to think past their current situations to the future and what may be possible for them. Even if a healthy risk doesn’t reach the ideal outcome, every healthy risk is still a learning experience and something the youth should be proud of, as they may have pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone.

Every day at camp, the youth are asked what healthy risk they took or if they have done anything that they haven’t previously done in their lives.

For many of the youth involved, just being in a camping situation may be a totally new concept. I will never forget the first evening at camp this year when we were sitting around the camp fire and the question that the kids got so used to hearing was asked, “So, what healthy risk did you take today or what did you do today that you have never done?” We heard answers ranging from opening up to a new friend to mountain biking down a rocky and terrifying trail to tie-dyeing a pool towel; but what stuck out to me was when one of our fifth graders raised his hand and said, very matter of factly, “This is my first camp fire……… and it’s awesome.” Experiencing a camp fire is something that I am sure many of us had taken for granted. Growing up with fire pits and roasting marshmallows, I had unwisely not really considered that this might in fact be some of the kids’ first camp fire experiences and how significant that may be. I started to think, it’s really not even about the burning of the wood and the roasting of the marshmallows, it’s about the teamwork it took to collect the wood and set up the benches and then the good talks, singing, and comradery that happens as the fire ensues.

The days at camp are packed with activities from 8 am to 9 pm, but this end of the day camp fire ended up being many of the kid’s favorite part.

It was a place for them to process what the day had brought, as well as joke and share their thoughts and feelings with their new-found friends and mentors; an important process for any adolescent. The unfortunate truth is that for whatever reason or circumstance, many in the program’s lives may not allow for some of the typical and needed processes important for maturing and growing to one’s full potential. The hope is that Future Generations will give some of these youth opportunities that they may be missing and with the help of their families do everything possible to help these amazing youth reach their full potential and become successful, happy, and contributing adults. Kids Kamp brought me a lot of joy and learning, but one thing is for sure, I will never underappreciate a camp fire ever again! For more information on Future Generations and its Kids Kamp component, visit https://www.compassmark.orgprogram_skills.html. To check out more photos of Kids Kamp as well as other happenings at Compass Mark, visit