Wow, it has been a busy year for The WYldlife Fund! Busy is good, right? We like to think so! We have a lot to catch our supporters up on, and we’d like to begin by filling you in on our second summer of Inspire a Kid Camp, which was, in short, INCREDIBLE.
The WYldlife Fund was honored to partner with Little Jennie Ranch in Bondurant, WY to offer another summer session of Inspire a Kid Camp. We first offered this camp to a group of 20 boys in 2022, and this year we expanded to offer a girls camp as well!
From June 19th-24th, 20 boys from Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Jersey gathered at Little Jennie Ranch for a week of learning and outdoor recreation. From June 26th-July 1st, 15 girls from Wyoming, California, and New Jersey did the same. We partner with Chestnut Mountain Ranch in West Virginia, the First Tee Foundation in California, and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey to bring these groups of campers to Wyoming. Our in-state campers are often connected to the program through their school guidance counselors. Additionally, we work with the Wind River Indian Reservation to recruit campers as well.
To apply for IAK, prospective campers must address essay questions such as, Why is Wyoming’s wildlife important to you?, What does being a “good leader” mean to you?, and How do you hope to impact your community in the future?, among others. As we read through applications, we try to select campers who show potential to excel beyond camp with the seeds of leadership and wildlife conservation planted during camp.
The goal of Inspire a Kid Camp is to inspire the next generation of conservationists through exposure to outdoor activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, and archery; cutting edge wildlife conservation practices; and education on everything from Native American history, identification of flora and fauna, the operation of a working cattle ranch, and Wyoming’s historic ungulate migrations. “We hope to create a lasting legacy of conservation and respect for the natural world around us by passing this experience and lessons onto future generations,” said The WYldlife Fund President, Chris McBarnes.
The idea for Inspire a Kid Camp was born from the Hamlin Family, owners of Little Jennie Ranch, in 2020. The Hamlins desired to do something at the ranch for youth, so a partnership with The WYldlife Fund was established. Working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), a curriculum was designed and the camp was born, its name coined after WGFD Director Brian Nesvik’s initiative, Inspire a Kid.
“IAK Camp 2023 was a huge success again at the ranch,” said Faith Hamlin of Little Jennie Ranch. “Not only do we get to see the students grow throughout the week, but each and every person involved is touched by this important work. Adding the girls camp has only gotten us more excited for the future of IAK Camps. We are already preparing for the best year of camps yet in 2024.”
The curriculum was created in partnership with the Wyoming Migration Initiative and multiple retired biologists from WGFD and the U.S. Forest Service, ensuring campers learned the most relevant information and the latest in conservation research.
Inspire a Kid Camp is incredibly unique in that it brings together three separate entities–a private producer (Little Jennie Ranch and the Hamlin Family), a nonprofit (The WYldlife Fund), and a government organization (WGFD). What’s more, the camp hosts an impressive array of nightly speakers for fireside chats, with the conversation focusing on leadership development. This year, speakers included WGFD Director Brian Nesvik; Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon; Dan Starks, Founder of the National Military Museum; Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner Ashlee Lundvall; Mike Schmid, former Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner and CEO of SOS Well Services; John Turner, former Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Services; and Rhiannon Jakopak, research scientist at the Montieth Shop. That’s quite a roster!
It’s difficult not to overstate the immense value the campers receive from their week at Inspire a Kid Camp. Instead, we’ll let them share a bit about what the camp meant to them:
“Going to Inspire a Kid Camp has to be the highlight of my year. I was given the opportunity to meet so many intriguing people and pick their brains about all sorts of things. Doing all of the activities like horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, and more was incredible, especially because it was the first time I did pretty much any of those activities…I am extremely thankful for everyone I met and for giving me this opportunity…It was truly the best part of my year.”
-Jonathan Martinez, camper
“I have learned so much about myself and who I want to become…You have made me find my newfound peace, my independence, and a lifetime of friendships…This camp has meant so much to me that I hope every little girl or boy feels the love that I felt when I was there.”
-Kayla Palmer, camper
“As a girl who has lived in the suburbs near New York City all her life, this camp gave me the chance to explore some things I would never have thought about before. The team who made this camp possible were able to get some amazing and intelligent speakers to come and share part of their knowledge and experience with us. Although they did talk about so many different topics, they all had one thing in common: they loved nature and wildlife…I will be forever grateful for those who came and chose to spend their time with us. It truly opened my eyes to new topics and gave me a new understanding of what wildlife is and how humans interact with these animals.”
-Arielle Lopina, camper
“The camp was adventurous and I loved making friends. The activities were fun and the setting is absolutely ‘take your breath away’ beautiful!”
-Hadley Finn, camper
“The Inspire a Kid Camps create memories and relationships that go the distance. They create opportunities that our kids have never had before, and create leadership skills and work ethic. The Inspire a Kid Camps put smiles on faces and create positive memories in a life full of tragedy.”
-Bradley Clodfelter, camp volunteer from Chestnut Mountain Ranch
It’s clear that this camp is hugely influential to the youth who attend it, and The WYldlife Fund is honored to be able to offer it. We are thrilled to be a part of inspiring the next generation, and we hope to continue this camp for years to come. This would not be possible without the partnership between Little Jennie Ranch and the Hamlin Family, WGFD, and our numerous other partners–LJR Staff, Commissioner Ashlee Lundvall, Sporting Lead Free, First Hunt Foundation, Wyoming State 4H, and Chad and Samantha Haley. We are already looking forward to next summer! We encourage interested individuals to keep an eye out for the application process during the first quarter of 2024.
In the future, we hope to work with more private ranchers to spread these opportunities across the state of Wyoming. There is so much room to grow!
Want to get a closer look at Inspire a Kid Camp? Check out the below video from this summer’s boys session!
Inspire a Kid Camps are made possible in part through the generous donations from supporters like you. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, we hope you will consider making a donation to TWF to support the continued offerings of these life-changing camps. You can donate using the link at the top of this page. Thank you for your unwavering support! We can’t wait for next year!
All photos are courtesy of Della Frederickson.