Camp Kum-Ba-Yah

summer camp

Celebrates 65 Years and Provides Natural Fun

Originally opened to benefit local children who didn’t have an option to attend summer camp, Camp Kum-Ba-Yah is still growing and this year celebrates its 65th year of helping kids learn to love the great outdoors.

Camp Director Pat Haley is passionate about Camp KBY’s mission to provide quality recreation and education to the children of the Lynchburg community.

“It’s an outdoor environment space for children to come and connect with nature and with people, and to experience their world from a different lens than they are now currently used to,” Haley said.

The History

In 1950, Lynchburg local Bev Cosby stood in a community that was undergoing many changes—some better, some worse. According to Haley, what Cosby knew for certain was that the children in his area needed a safe place to simply have fun and engage with nature. His family’s farm was a good starting point for Camp KBY’s inception.

Cosby understood “the importance of community and fellowship,” Haley said.

Cosby’s ideals were unique for the time.

He sought to give children the opportunity to recognize their own value and uniqueness. He did this all while reaching across social, economic and racial lines. In fact, while the wider community was opposed to the idea of racial integration—even in something as simple as a swimming pool—Camp KBY was home to the area’s only integrated swimming pool.

Haley cites inclusiveness among the core values of Camp KBY, from its beginnings, to this day.
“Cosby made a promise, and we kept the promise for 65 years, that any child who wants to come to camp will be able to come to camp, no matter financial circumstances,” Haley said.

The Highlights

While great programs and fun activities are staples of summer camp, Camp KBY could not operate without kids to enjoy them. Continuing the tradition of inclusiveness, Haley says that about 45 percent of campers are able to attend camp thanks to scholarships that Camp KBY provides.

According to Haley, each summer more than 600 children attend camp, which translates to about 90 kids per week to round out a nine-week session.

Aside from exploration, kids enjoy archery, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, yoga, a lake zip-line—for younger children—and a larger zip-line that connects to Camp KBY’s landmark three-story tree house.

“It’s a place for children to join and explore and have fun,” Haley said.

What’s New & What’s Coming

Camp KBY currently has several developments to increase education and enjoyment for campers. Education is another element among the core values of Camp KBY.

Haley recognizes that hands-on learning and basic outdoor exposure is essential to child development.
He describes Camp KBY’s program mentality as a “teaching and learning earth community,” where children are encouraged to open up their senses to experience nature.

Campers are able to do this by participating in Camp KBY’s nature program led by Environmental Education Coordinator Leigh Huyett.

While the program is not new, it is being given a greater focus, especially as Camp KBY garners contracts with local schools to be an additional learning resource to children.

“We would like to consider ourselves their outdoor learning lab,” Huyett said.

A variety of opportunities are available to campers to enrich their understanding and appreciation of nature including stream and pond ecology, animal habitats and a teaching garden.

The majority of the programs are run by local volunteers who are considered master naturalists and master gardeners.

“Living in a world of technology, sometimes we forget the basic development that happens in nature,” Huyett said.

Additionally, Huyett mentioned that an enclosed play space is in development for kids ages seven and younger. The planned space will allow children the freedom to explore and create independently while safely supervised by parents. Proposed activities include a mud kitchen, a bamboo building station and a “dig to China” station complete with dinosaur fossils to discover.

Campers will even have the opportunity to experience nature in their camp diets. Camp KBY’s meals are 100 percent vegetarian and are prepared at each campsite by campers and counselors.

Those are just a few examples of ways Haley suggests kids are “living nature in a natural way.”

Community Collaborations

Camp KBY utilizes several local resources to ensure fun and education for all their campers. Many of their programs are run by volunteers and many of the counselors have been campers themselves.

“So much of the work that is done here is done through the sweat equities of our great volunteers in Lynchburg,” Haley said.

KBY partners with several other camps and organizations to emphasize different aspects of their mission. A few partners include: Jubilee Family Development Center, Amazement Square, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg, Girl Scouts of America and Camp Sacagawea.

Another notable collaboration is with Randolph College. For a third year, Camp KBY will host a summer session for kids in Randolph’s Camp Wildcat theater program.

Joining the Fun

The range of opportunities at Camp KBY is vast and will certainly draw much attention—especially with their new focus on getting preschool age children outside earlier. That means spots will fill up quickly at registration. Registration for kids eight to 13-years-old is available online at www.campkumbayah.org.


By Jeremy Angione

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