Monday, July 10, 2017

Month 7 of 48: Friends of Camp Colton

I (Jacki) recently hopped on the “PodSave America” bandwagon. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s a podcast from former Obama speechwriters that started right before the Trump inauguration. I’m listening from the beginning, and it’s like repeatedly ripping a band-aid off of a wound you thought had healed. So, not only am I getting the horrific news of today, I’m also reliving the horrific news of the past several months. Send help. And wine.

But, the point of 48 Months is not to wallow in the depressing news, but to find inspiration to make our community a better place, regardless of who resides at 1600 Penn. What is more inspiring than kids…our next generation of leaders, inventors, and community builders?  It is organizations like Friends of Camp Colton (FCC) that are helping instill the foundation these kids will need to lead us into the future.

Camp Colton is a Flagstaff rite of passage. Many of us had experiences like Camp Colton in the communities we grew up in... that 6th grade coming-of-age, overnight school trip. However, most of us didn’t get to do it in the heart of the San Francisco Peaks in arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the state.

If you ask anyone who grew up in Flagstaff, chances are that they have a Camp Colton memory.  FCC is working to ensure that this magical place keeps generating memories for future middle school students for years to come. While all Flagstaff Unified School District 6th graders have automatic access to Camp Colton, FCC is committed to expanding that access to other students and fostering the sustainability of the programs and infrastructure.

FCC Executive Director Ari Wilder shared that “education is the best way to make a change in the world,” which is the cornerstone of the Camp Colton experience. Through a grant secured by FCC, educators implemented a new curriculum in Fall 2016 focused around the concepts of climate science with STEM integration and increased scientific rigor. Traditional survival skills and orienteering lessons remain a part of the curriculum as well.

Camp Colton serves about 750 students each year, with approximately 100 coming from non-FUSD schools. For many of these students, this is their first experience with camping or sleeping away from home. In order to increase access to Camp Colton, FCC offers a scholarship program for non-FUSD, low-income students throughout northern Arizona.

FCC is also focused on the long-term vision for Camp Colton, led by the organization’s master plan for the 33-acre site. The current execution of this plan has FCC replacing all of the canvas tents with cabins to make the season longer (parents probably don’t want to send their kids tent camping when it’s below freezing), and to make the accommodations more accessible.

Camp Colton is a shared community experience that truly defines growing up in Flagstaff. For those who have been there, or those who have kids who will attend, here are some ways that YOU can help FCC:

Volunteer Day: The annual Camp Colton Volunteer Day is on Saturday, August 5 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Volunteer time outdoors in the heart of the San Francisco Peaks? Sign. Us. Up. Activities will include painting, weed-whacking, trail maintenance, and split log bench construction. FCC will even provide drinks, snacks, and dessert. All you need to bring is a lunch and a great attitude. RSVP to Ari Wilder at if you would like to participate.

Events: FCC’s primary fundraiser is the Gore-Tex Kahtoola Uphill Race at Arizona Snowbowl on February 10, 2018. Yes, that’s not for quite some time. But, if you’re going to get in shape to run up the ski hill at Snowbowl, you should probably start training now.! Or, you can go the easy route and sponsor or volunteer at the event. Email Ari for more details –

Cash: FCC is always seeking donations to help further their program goals and the items in the master plan. The most immediate need for cash donations is for the completion of the first two handicap-accessible cabins. Construction is underway and more community support is needed to complete this project. Visit to donate today!

Donations: The biggest donation that FCC needs is TIME. Especially from people with expertise in construction, graphic design, and website design. If you have those talents and want to give back to your community, email Ari at  

Awareness:  Be sure to "like" the Friends of Camp Colton Facebook page to keep up on all the happenings. Also, Ari is hoping to collect and archive stories and memories from past Camp Colton students.  Have a story? Comment here, on Facebook or email Ari at so she can include your experience as part of the organization's history!

Don't live in Flagstaff? Find an experiential camp in your community that is doing awesome things for pre-teens. Show 'em some love.
-Jacki Lenners

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