My Y Story: Amber
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“The importance of community and belief in the value of serving others was planted in me at Camp Weona.”
Amber fell in love with horses at a young age. By the time she was 13-years-old, she had bought her own horse by working various babysitting and house cleaning jobs as well as teaching her own riding lessons. Her mother worked at the Ken-Ton Family YMCA and encouraged Amber to apply to work in one of the stables at YMCA Camp Weona. “My sister had attended camp there many years ago, but I had not,” Amber says. “I told my mother that I could not afford to work at the camp as I was saving for college and travel, and I did fairly well financially in my many other jobs. When I began to talk about applying for the Peace Corps, my mother pointed out that I would need to build my resume with volunteer experience. This convinced me to volunteer at Weona for two weeks. This decision proved to change my life.”
From building important friendships to making lifelong memories, Amber says Camp Weona impacted her life in ways she could have never imagined. After two weeks at camp, she decided to volunteer the entire summer. “Camp Weona is one of the most beautiful places on earth that I know,” she says. “I have traveled to all but three of our states and many of our national parks and nothing fills my heart like ‘the place where only good prevails.’”
Amber returned to Camp Weona several times over the next ten years to work in many different positions, including leading the horse stable. “Ever the practical one, I thought this was just a recreation that I would have to have a job to support, and yet I felt a true calling,” she says. “The YMCA taught me how to teach important core values such as respect, responsibility, caring, and honesty through horsemanship and this was the lens that I saw the world through.”
Amber’s time at Camp Weona shaped her future and who she is today. “When I said that I could not afford to work there, it turned out that I could not have afforded not to,” she says. I really don’t know who I would be today if it were not for my experiences there.”
Amber now has a career working with horses. She built an Equine Facilitated Therapy Program in central Illinois at a residential treatment facility for children and adolescents with severe mental health challenges. She also added a component in which children with Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, and other disorders can ride horses. “The importance of community and belief in the value of serving others was planted in me at Camp Weona. I feel so blessed in my job and thankful to have the privilege to be a blessing to others. And yet given the chance to take a summer leave from my job and return to Weona – I would in a heartbeat!”
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