Not many 100-year-olds in our community can boast of as much robust health, energy, resilience and community service as the Youngstown YMCA’s Camp Fitch. As such, this year’s centennial of the campgrounds offers all a golden opportunity to celebrate its proud past, vibrant present and promising future.
Sharing fond memories of Camp Fitch took center stage last weekend when several hundred alumni of the North Springfield, Pa., campgrounds on the shores of Lake Erie gathered at the Tyler History Center in downtown Youngstown.
Folks who attended camp as far back as the 1930s and 1940s reflected on the long-lasting impact and defining moments it had on their lives. Some, such as Camp Fitch veterans Lisa and Joe Amerson, recounted how they met and fell in love there as counselors in the 1990s. All share a common bond: pride in the 450 acres of camp land bordering a one-mile stretch of Lake Erie with its forests, fields, streams that have long served as one of the Youngstown YMCA’s greatest yet understated gems.
Today, as in the past, Camp Fitch serves the needs of tens of thousands of Mahoning Valley children, adults and families of all backgrounds and income levels. Specifically, it works in unison with the larger Y mission of character building through strengthening the body, the mind and the spirit.
Its impressive facilities have grown by leaps and bounds. A partial menu of program options there includes rock climbing on a 40-foot tower, horseback riding along miles of trails, swimming in a 25-meter outdoor pool, and sailing or paddle boarding along beautiful Lake Erie. Other activities abound as well, such as crafts, archery, riflery, hiking, field sports, campfire programs and numerous entertainment options.
In short, Camp Fitch pitches a potpourri of positive opportunities for those smart enough to latch onto them.
Even at 100 years young, the campground is still growing strong.
Additions and expansions have been and continue to be watchwords there. Take, for example, the seven modern and well-equipped dormitory lodges that can accommodate up to 300 people in 21st century style. Although many traditional tent-building camp activities endure, in many respects, the spacious outdoor facility most certainly is no longer your granddaddy’s Camp Fitch.
NOT FOR KIDS ONLY
In addition, Camp Fitch no longer is for kids only. Family retreats are encouraged there as well as corporate getaways. More and more businesses are finding the campgrounds a perfect setting for corporate planning, training and team building. The future likely promises more growth in the scope of its uses and in its outreach to those of all ages, race, religions and backgrounds.
For the immediate future, Camp Fitch leaders are busy gathering contacts and stories from its tens of thousands of alumni toward a mammoth centennial celebration at the camp Aug. 8-10. It will include a campfire program in the new Friend Circle amphitheater, a candlelight service, a live camp auction and much more. Those interested in attending should call the YMCA or visit its website for reservations.
As it enters its second century, Camp Fitch remains a stalwart cornerstone of the Youngstown YMCA, one of the Mahoning Valley’s proudest and most vital community-service institutions. As such, we wish Camp Fitch and its leaders a happy 100th birthday — with a prognosis of many more years of healthy growth ahead.