There are so many wonders in this world. However, sometimes when we have them constantly before our eyes, we take them for granted. We look, but we don’t really see; we hear, but we don’t really listen…To marvel at the wonders of the gospel is a sign of faith. It is to recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives and in everything around us.
– Bishop Gérald Caussé
A new adventure camp, nestled in the beautiful Idaho mountains, hopes to combine the power of the outdoors with positive, team-building activities and gospel principles.
Outdoors For Youth (OFY) was founded by Latter-day Saints who believe in the wonder of God’s creation and want to help LDS teens discover their divine potential, grow closer to Jesus Christ, and become confident through challenge and adventure.
Located just outside Rexburg, Idaho, the camp serves youth ages 14-18 and draws on experiential education and the power of the outdoors to strengthen character and testimony.
“These principles are so effective but rarely used to teach the Gospel,” said OFY President and Camp Director Emily Johansson. Johansson graduated in recreational management from Brigham Young University-Idaho and worked for three summers at a similar outdoor program run by Brigham Young University-Idaho, Adventures for Youth (AFY). When the program was discontinued, she felt prompted to fill the void.
“I want to continue to use these principles and improve upon a program that I had become familiar with.”
Gabby Polidori was one of Johansson’s participants at AFY before it shut down. According to Polidori, the type of activities provided in an outdoor adventure program taught her a “limitless amount of crucial lessons.”
“First, no matter how many times the world tries to drag me down and make me feel bad, whether it’s for being a Mormon or even for just being me, I know I have infinite worth and potential,” said Polidori. “Being away from society and social media for 5 days really puts that into perspective.”
“Secondly, life throws you into situations with people you are not always going to vibe well with, and they may be unkind to you. One year, I was put into a group that very much did not want to be there and unfortunately, made sure people knew it. We did not exactly get along very well. However, on the last day, we had some serious heart to hearts with one another and as awkward as it was, we stared into each other’s eyes for a series of increments. We were asked to do so with the perspective of Christ looking into the eyes of a child of God. Almost immediately I felt humbled and an overwhelming love for my group members. I learned how to truly love those that are hardest to love.”
Johansson is joined by Daniel Mahler and Christopher Gomm to bring similar powerful experiences to LDS youth at OFY.
Over the course of five days, teens at OFY will participate in multiple high and low ropes courses, white water rafting, a giant slip-n-slide, a dance, archery tag, and an escape room alongside daily scripture study, devotionals, and firesides. The activities offered by OFY are not just about having fun. The OFY team believes every activity is an opportunity to teach and apply gospel principles. Each activity has a purpose of building faith and testimony.
“It’s crazy to me how we can all have so much fun and still the spirit is so strong,” said Polidori. “I believe that I have become so close with my groups over the years, because not only are we bonding on an emotional level, but also a physical level, having to rely on them to literally catch you when you fall. If I absolutely had to choose what my favorite activity is, it would probably be the giant slip-n-slide. You may get soap in your eyes, but I promise, it’s tons of fun.”
OFY is located on the slopes of the Big Hole Mountains, about 30 minutes outside of Rexburg. The camp is co-ed, which means both girls and boys attend the camp at the same time. Eight boys and eight girls form a camp unit in which all activities, team games, and campfire devotionals are done.
For Summer 2018, the OFY Theme is Look Up and is based on Doctrine & Covenants 6:36:
“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
“We have chosen this theme to enhance the experience at Outdoors for Youth for each participant. If you accept the challenge of learning, studying, and applying this theme, we promise you will have a life-changing summer. The only requirement is an open heart with the willingness to become something more,” says Johansson and her team.