Stories from past and present members about their experiences in the Adventure Guides/Princesses program

A New Father's Experience Terry Ayers Letter Dads book relationship time Submit Your Own Story
(Kids too!)
Rewards of Togetherness 'Y' That Binds

A New Fathers Experience
When my soon to be wife got the information on the YMCA Princess’s program, I thought, “I do not need or want to be part of it, I have too much going in my life”. I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree, planning a wedding, the upcoming holiday season, and the new family. She did not have to convince me when she reminded me that my soon to be stepdaughter needs to learn who I am, as well, I who she is. She went to the registration night and signed us up, then came home and told me, I was in charge of the first meeting, and I really got scared, not knowing what to expect or what to do.

The very first meeting of the Yavapai tribe when very well, we got together all of the things that were necessary to get started. When it was over I was overwhelmed by the commitment needed and wanted. I was very interested because I saw how the little princess was so excited to have new friends. It was not until the first camp out that I fully understood what being a father is all about.

We almost did not make the first camp out, We were married on September 28, all of the adjustments, the honeymoon, there was so much to do. I also work on Saturday’s. I was convinced to go because it was the “Induction Ceremony”. We had received camping gear for our wedding and what better way to break in the new gear, than camping with my new princess? We carpooled with another father and daughter, it gave me time to see and give the two little princesses time to get to know each other. I never realized the experience that was about to happen. I enjoyed getting to know another father, see how he handles situations with his daughter, his outlook on parenting.

The Fox tribe put on the best camping weekend I have ever been on. Looking back it seemed that the camp out went on forever, there was so much to do, see, and learn. The tribes did an outstanding job carving pumpkins. On Saturday night at the Induction Ceremony changed the way I look at children forever. The Induction walk, the pumpkins full of life, the ceremony was simply outstanding. I can remember everything like it was yesterday. The princess’s faces, they looked excited, amazed, I cannot find the other words to describe what I saw on their faces. It was a truly special feeling. I cast away my impatience on Sunday morning and have yet to get impatient with my little princess since. I learned so much, as to what it takes to be a father and a friend to my new daughter. Since the magical weekend, when she spends time with her paternal father I find myself getting almost jealous that she will not be around.

The YMCA princess program is only as good as the commitment the fathers have. The Yavapai tribe has shown and proven its commitment to the future. We are committed to being the best new tribe the YMCA has ever seen.

Big and Little Coyote
The Mighty Yavapai Tribe

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Terry Ayers Letter
Dear Terry:
As I think of things to write, appreciation of you, the Yavapai Tribe and the Princess Program are at the forefront of my thoughts Brittany and I are thankful for the welcome we have received during the short time that we have been involved in the program. You and the tribe have gone out of your way to make sure that we have been accommodated with all our needs to get up to speed with the fun and “Aims” of being an Indian Princess. I read once that part of the Indian Princess’ pledge was “… through friendly service to each other….” No doubt that the Yavapai Tribe has come through with this pledge.

I am witnessing my somewhat reserved five year old becoming more outgoing, curious with her surroundings and beaming with excitement and anticipation as she interacts with girls of all ages. The older girls in the tribe have been a wonderful insertion into Brittany’s life. Having a younger sister at home, means that Brittany is often only exposed to kids her age or younger. She looks at the older girls in the tribe with wonder and admiration. And the girls in return have been terrific while looking out for her and setting examples on how to meet and exceed the “Aims” of the Princess program.

We have made some great friends through this program. With little camping experience under my belt, it has been of great comfort to be out doors knowing that I am surrounded by experienced campers ready and willing to lend a hand with anything needed. Getting away from hustle of life to a campsite has given Brittany and I a foundation of quality time with each other. We both cherish these times together and Brittany is always inquiring about the next campout.

I am enjoying this time together. It’s truly a time that I can sit back, witness and enjoy life through the eyes of a 5 year old again. This is quality time spent together allowing me to share her uncomplicated views of the world and learn about all of the things that are important to her. Thanks for a wonderful program!

Terry Ayers

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Dads book relationship time
Y-Adventure helps to solidify father-child bond

Geri Koeppel | The Arizona Republic | Aug. 21, 2004
Soccer practices, Little League games, dance recitals and band rehearsals can make it harder for parents to get face time with their kids than a reception with the queen."Unless you're a scoutmaster or a coach in one of the sporting programs, you don't have the opportunity to do things one-on-one with your kids," said Greg Lutz. But the Chandler dad isn't letting his kids grow up without him. He spends time with each of them - daughters Ashleigh, 13, and Audra, 6, and son Aaron, 10 - throughout the year with help from the Y-Adventure program, which builds father-child relationships with planned activities twice a month.

On Sunday, the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA, 1655 W. Frye Road, Chandler, will host a Y-Adventure enrollment night and swimfest from 5 to 8 p.m. If you can't make the date, you can sign up anytime. You don't need to be a YMCA member to join, but it's free if you are. Otherwise, the cost is $25 per person for the year, plus the cost for some activities like camping, laser tag or horseback riding. The program is geared toward outdoors and nature, but each "circle" - made up of five to 10 families - decides on the activities they want to do, and volunteer dads play a big role in the program's success.

Y-Adventure offers four groups: Guides, for dads with sons in kindergarten through fifth grade; Princesses, for dads with daughters in kindergarten through fifth grade; Trail Blazers, for dads with sons in Grades 4-6, and Trail Mates, for dads with daughters in Grades 4-6.

The program includes an activity each month plus a monthly meeting at a member's house. "They do songs, stories, crafts, snacks," said Mark Shoemaker of Ahwatukee Foothills, "kind of like Cub Scouts, except you don't just drop them off." The campouts are one of the big draws, especially for Lutz. "We've camped and seen basically the whole state of Arizona," he said.

The YMCA has organized the groups since the 1920s, and Shoemaker said he has met a number of people who were in the program when they were young. "They talk about the relationship it established with their father," he said, "and I hope when my kids are older they'll say the same thing."

Charmaine Gudgeon, executive director of the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA, said the program started back when dads were out working and moms stayed home, but now that both parents often work, it's still important for families to come together with other families to build relationships. "Even when we're not on trips," said Michael Wixom of Gilbert, "(the kids) spend the night at each other's houses. Plus, the dads get to be real friendly with each other.

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YMCA Program Guides Families to Rewards of Togetherness
By Carrie White, Tribune | August 22, 2003
A ball and glove have long been useful tools in forging a relationship between father and son.  But when it came to father and daughter, Steve Rockwell was having a hard time finding things he and his 4-year-old daughter could do together that would be fun for both and foster their relationship.

In his search, Rockwell came upon YMCA’s Adventure Guides program for children ages 5 to 10. The program includes boy-mother pairings as well as daughter-father and guardian-child.  Rockwell and his daughter Kelli have been involved with the group for four years. On Sunday, they’ll take part in a recruitment swim party at the Chandler YMCA. You don’t need to be a YMCA member to attend the party or join the Adventure Guides.

Adventure Guides features monthly home meetings and special events aimed at promoting honesty, responsibility and caring while having a good time. Those events have included pinewood derbies, father-daughter dances and community projects.

Seek an adventure
What: Swim party to introduce Adventure Guides program to children ages 5 to 10 and their parents
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Chandler YMCA, 1655 W. Frye Road
Cost: Free for event; fees to join program are $50 per parent/child, $25 for additional children
Information: (480) 899-9622

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'Y' That Binds
YMCA Program gives Parent-Child pairs special times, memories

Nancy Clark-Puffer | The Republic | November 17, 2005
In mid-October at a camp near Prescott, dozens of dads joined hands with their young daughters, took a deep breath and leaped into an unheated swimming pool at 7 a.m. After the giggling and screaming died down and everyone dried off, what remained was shared memories of doing something absolutely crazy together. This rite of passage, known as the Penguin Plunge,is part of a father-daughter induction weekend for new members of the Ahwatukee-Foothills YMCA Adventure Guides program. The program is offered at Y's around the country to bring father-daughter and father-son pairs together for quality time, much of it outdoors.
Michael Cohen of Tempe brought his daughters, Ali, 5, and Jamie, 7, to the Prescott camp. They participated in archery, boating and rock-wall climbing. They carved pumpkins and roasted S'mores over a campfire. One group even created a haunted house in their cabin.

"It's an opportunity to spend quality time with my children," Cohen said. Jamie agrees: "Adventure Princess is a fun time with my dad." Ali says she likes making new friends. All three took the Penguin Plunge, which earned them a new badge for their Adventure Guide vests.

People age 20 and older might remember this YMCA program from their childhood. It dates to 1926 and started as the Indian Guides. The program was revamped, and in 2003 the name was changed to Adventure Guides. It also has expanded over the years to provide activities for fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons and mothers and daughters.

Eugene Judson of Mesa, who has been active in the Chandler-Gilbert YMCA program for five years with his 9-year-old daughter, Emily, says they enjoy the campouts, monthly at-home get-togethers and the annual father-daughter sweetheart dance in February. But they get much more from the program than simply the events. "I like having her around all these other dads who are good to their daughters. That, in itself, is heartwarming for me," Judson said. "You present your daughters over and over again with these role models of other dads who can be kind and can be good to women. And the hope is, one day, when they're choosing their boyfriends or husbands, that this occurs to them."

Each new member goes through an induction campout weekend. Judson says the ceremony may sound sort of hokey, but can be quite touching. "When you're right there and it's nighttime and it's a forest and you have a campfire going and someone's slowly beating a drum, and you're hearing these dads promising that they will dedicate time to be with their daughters and to listen to their daughters and daughters are then promising that they will try to be respectful of their fathers, it's very moving." Judson says that because mothers and fathers often parent differently, this program gives children a chance for in-depth experiences with both parents. There's also one campout each year to which the whole family is invited. "Other members of the family, at least with the Chandler-Gilbert YMCA, they get to 'peek in the window' a little bit during the family campouts, and everybody is on their best behavior for those," Judson says.

So when a girl calls out in the middle of the night, 'Hey, Dad, do I need to brush my teeth?,' the answer is not always, 'Well, just rinse with soda!"

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