An oasis where thousands of West Volusians have spent countless days and nights learning, swimming and making memories is celebrating its 100th year.
Camp Winona, run by the Volusia Flagler Family YMCA, invites people to celebrate the camp’s centennial, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, with a fun-filled day.
Located on the shore of Lake Winona in DeLeon Springs, the camp has operated since 1919 as a place for children from YMCA locations around the county to have outdoor camping experiences. Initially a boys-only camp, it became coed in the 1960s.
“It’s one of the significant outlets for kids in the community,” YMCA marketing director Jenifer Kresge said, noting the camp’s wide variety of programs.
In addition to traditional summertime sleep-away camps, Camp Winona offers day camps, holiday camps, and an upcoming Christmas camp.
Activities for visitors Nov. 23 will include opportunities to test your skills on the camp’s rifle (using BB guns) range and archery course, along with sailing and kayaking, and jumping on “the blob.”
“Basically, it’s an enormous air-filled contraption that floats in the water, and you actually climb up onto the platform and jump onto the blob,” Kresge said. “If you’re sitting on the blob, you will get launched into the air.”
Camp director Alex Kinney said she’s proud the camp has been around for so long.
“Our country is so young in general, so anything that’s been 100 years or more is rare,” she said.
While the Nov. 23 event will also serve as the YMCA’s annual meeting, she stressed that the 100th-anniversary celebration is open for all to enjoy.
The camp’s waterfront will be open for swimming, sliding and “blobbing,” but if temperatures are too cool, Kinney said, there will be plenty of other activities, like paintball and traditional camp games.
And, of course, the day will end as any day at camp should.
“We’ll have a campfire — if people have lasted that long — with s’mores,” Kinney said.
The camp’s activities are a way for kids to disconnect from the digital world in a device-filled age. Kinney said she’s read at least one study that showed children who take time away from their mobile devices are happier and less stressed-out.
“I’m a huge advocate of getting outdoors and kind of unplugging and connecting with people,” she said.
The proceeds from the celebration will go toward funding improvements at the camp, as well as offering scholarships for less-fortunate kids to attend its programs.
Kinney said Camp Winona’s summer camp programs alone serve about 1,000 kids each year. In all, the camp serves around 5,000 children and adults each year, including through rentals of its facilities.
“We have different church groups, Girl and Boy Scouts, different organizations, and corporate businesses that do team-building here,” she said.
Tickets to the 100th-anniversary celebration cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids age 12 and under.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.campwinona.org/annual-meeting, or call 386-738-9622.