Silver Bay is an ace in the Springfield College YMCA Club’s arsenal of locations for service trips. The nontraditional YMCA center, tucked away on the shores of Lake George, NY, has been around for over 100 years and has served as a site for SC trips in the past.
This year, the Y-Club participated in a new service opportunity at Silver Bay that took place from Sept. 14-16. They assisted the nonprofit organization Operation Purple by serving as staff for the weekend.
“Operation Purple is more about reuniting people that are in the military that came back from the war, reuniting with their families and trying to rebuild the bonds that might be stressed now,” junior and Y-Club member Amy Dean said.
Operation Purple was created in 2004 with an emphasis on serving the children of military members by helping them reconnect with their parents, especially the one involved in the military. It now serves approximately 45,000 military children and teens, according to the program’s website.
“Helping the families reconnect is just huge because these people are serving our country and it’s hard to see that that is affecting their home life,” Dean said.
The task of the 12 SC students who made the three-and-a-half hour trip down to Silver Bay was to staff the various activities that the 11 families in attendance participated in. Dean worked at the boathouse giving guided kayak tours because she had prior experience working at Silver Bay for the past two summers. Similarly, senior, and Y-Club treasurer, Ryan Levine served at the rock wall because of his prior time working at Silver Bay for two summers. Other stations included archery and the craft shop to name a few.
The activities were designed to help promote interactivity between the families and encourage them to spend some quality time with each other. While he worked the rock wall, Levine got to witness families growing closer together.
“A lot of the kids were really gung-ho about just going to the top, and I think that that really shows the support of the family,” Levine said. “The families were always pushing each other to go up higher.”
The trip was dominated by a lot of first and second year SC students, who Levine and Dean were happy to see get involved so early on in the school year.
“I’m so emotionally attached to Silver Bay, so I was so excited to have so many people want to go and experience it for the first time,” Dean said.
On Saturday, the SC crew worked with just the kids of the families for an extended amount of time to give the parents some alone time. It was at this time that Dean noticed some of the differences between the kids’ behaviors when they were alone versus when they were with their parents.
“I could tell some of the older boys were really stiff when the whole family was together, but when we had just the kids, they were so loose and just having fun,” Dean said.
Since the SC team played more of a supporting role at Silver Bay, they did not get to see the direct results that their service had on the families. They saw glimpses over the course of the weekend, but their time with the families was mostly limited to the time they spent with them at the stations.
“It was different, because usually when you do some type of volunteering, you see it right off the bat, but with this, you know what you’re doing is helping people and you know it’s helping them reconnect, whether you see it right in front of you or it happens when you’re gone,” Dean said. “I think any type of impact on anyone is definitely worth it, and getting a different perspective on helping people and not doing it for that gratifying feeling, doing it just because you know that it will help is part of what the Y’s about.”
Levine and Dean stressed that they would love to assist Operation Purple in the future at Silver Bay because of not only the great atmosphere of the nontraditional YMCA center, but because of the service experience it provided to new students.
“It’s just a really rewarding experience,” Dean said. “Being able to give back to people that give so much to us, even if you don’t know them at all, it’s a great experience.”