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YMCA Programs Help Kids, Families Connect with Nature

Most people are familiar with the YMCA's role in youth development through popular programs such as swim lessons, youth sports, afterschool care and summer day camp. But for over 100 years, the Y has also played an active role in helping kids and families connect with nature.

The YMCA of Austin, which serves Travis, Hays and Bastrop Counties, provides memberships and programs to more than 65,000 members and another 60,000 nonmember program participants. The Austin Y offers many different nature-oriented opportunities for kids and families, including:

Adventure Guides:

A nationwide YMCA parent/child program designed for kids age 4-16 and their parents. The experience enables parents and kids to have fun while sharing new, healthy, learning adventures. Spending quality one-on-one time as a family will help build a strong bond of trust and memories that will last a lifetime.

Programs are offered at TownLake Y, Hays Communities Y, Northwest Family Y and Southwest Y. This exciting program offers fun and creative activities, including campouts at Bastrop State Park, Enchanted Rock and McKinney Falls, mini-Indy car building, bowling, scavenger hunts and more. Programs run in the fall and spring at each branch. For more details, visit www.austinymca.org/programs/adventure-guides.

Summer Camps:

While the Y offers a wide array of summer day camp experiences for kids starting at age 4, kids age 11-14 who want to connect with nature can attend Adventure Camp for a summer full of hiking, tubing, exploring, climbing and more. Each week consists of three field trips and two days of swimming. Highlights include spelunking (caving) deep inside a Central Texas cave, hiking Austin-area trails, rock-climbing along the Barton Creek Greenbelt, rafting the Blanco River, and a trek to Enchanted Rock. Arguably, the highlight is an overnight camping trip to YMCA Camp Cypress along Onion Creek. For details, visit http://www.austinymca.org/camp/summer-day-camp.

YMCA Camp Cypress:

The latest addition to the Austin Y’s nature-oriented programming revolves around YMCA Camp Cypress, a wooded 85-acre nature preserve located along Onion Creek just off Old San Antonio Road in Buda, Texas. Camp Cypress has quickly become a popular destination for Adventure Guide campouts and Adventure Camp excursions, plus an array of seasonal activities such as photo safaris, trail runs, service projects, fishing (catch & release), interpretive hikes and even a “Haunted Hayride” in October. The Y’s long-term goal is to create a regional day camp, overnight camp and retreat center on the property. But in the meantime, kids and families can find a variety of ways to experience a piece of the wild close to home. For more information on Camp Cypress, contact Bret Kiester at the Hays Communities YMCA at (512) 523-0099 or www.austinymca.org/branches/ymca-camp-cypress.