A group of young moms got a little break in the Williams area recently thanks to the Young Lives program, an offshoot of the Young Life Ministry. The moms were treated to a weeklong excursion at Young Life's Lost Canyon camp. The camp, located south of Williams, is situated on over 42 acres of property and bordered by national forest property.
Girls in the Young Lives program came from all over the United States, including Hawaii, Texas, Colorado and other locations. Over 90 caregivers took part in the Young Lives camp at Lost Canyon, while close to 120 other volunteers were also on hand to take care of the young moms.
Young Lives Southern Divisional Coordinator Lindsey Patchell, from San Antonio, Texas, brought 15 girls from her area.
"I brought a group of young moms from San Antonio, from the high school, where we do Young Lives," said Patchell. "We brought 15 girls and they each brought their babies, except we brought some girls that are pregnant - that haven't had their babies. Camp is just one of the things that we offer them. We're with them year-round."
The program offers mentors for the young moms, Patchell said, who often stay with the girls throughout their pregnancy and beyond. Many of the mentors attended camp with the girls.
"The mentors come with the girls (and) go back home with them also. Our youngest is about 14 and our oldest is 19," Patchell said. "I think that pretty much is what the spectrum is nationally. We meet year-round with them. They each get a mentor, which is an adult woman that lives life with them, helps them with things that are going on. A lot of our mentors will be in the delivery room with them when they have their babies. A lot of these girls don't have any family support. The dad of the baby, a lot of the times, is not in the picture or they're on and off."
She said the camp offered a great way for the young moms to relax and let their guard down, which is rare sight for some of the young women who attended the camp.
"We have a schedule that we follow," Patchell said. "At night, usually every night, we have a thing called 'Club'. They go in there and there are some guys and they're on Young Life staff also. They're really funny. They make the girls laugh. They play games. They sing songs. A lot of these girls come from really, really hard homes. There's a lot of abuse a lot of times. There's neglect, there's drugs, there's just a lot of hard things, which is very common in teen moms. To be able to go in there and laugh really helps break down walls."
The young moms enjoyed their stay at Lost Canyon immensely, Patchell said. In particular she said they loved the zip line, taking their babies swimming and the hot tub among many other amenities - all of which are located at the camp.
"I like it," said camper Marcela Carranza. "I'm trying to take advantage of everything here, except for one thing - this rain. In San Antonio, we have nothing like this. There's a zip line. It's the best thing ever."
"We get a break from kids," said fellow camper Yvette De Hoyos. "There's a lot of relief, so we won't be all frustrated. It's a nice break. It's beautiful here."
Lost Canyon Camp Manager Josh Smiley said there are over 20 properties across the country that are similar to the one in Williams that the Young Life Ministry utilizes.
"Lost Canyon is one of the properties that Young Life maintains in order to use it as a tool for their ministry to get kids away from all the craziness of life and have the best week of their life," Smiley said. "There are about 20-plus camps all around the country. Young life really is the ministry to the kids. It's in the schools (and) it's in their lives. The properties are just a small component of that."
Smiley said the ministry is not affiliated with one particular faith.
"Young Life is a non-denominational Para-church ministry, so it's not affiliated with any church," Smiley said. " Kind of their big goal is to meet the youth of today, in whatever capacity, and share with them God's love and what kinds of interests he has for them."
The Young Lives program, he explained, is only portion of the Young Life ministry.
"It's kind of a sub-ministry under Young Life," Smiley said. "Young Life primarily focuses on senior high, then we have a couple other ministries. Junior high is Wild Life, (while) Young Lives is a ministry to young teen moms."
Smiley added that volunteers come from, not only Williams, but also other Arizona cities and from other countries as well.
"We have our summer staff, which are our college-age kids that come up here to help," Smiley said. "They'll work in the kitchen or run the ropes course or the zip line. We have some folks that volunteer from Germany and Japan."
Smiley said that a number of Williams youth will help out at Lost Canyon when the need arises.
"They end up getting called to help out on work crews and things like that because they're nearby," he said.
Water for the property, Smiley continued, comes from a number of different sources, including other parcels owned by Young Life near the 42-acre camp.
"We have some land out front too, but most of it is national forest. We have a couple of other parcels around the water tower," Smiley said. "We have a well that pumps water up to there. We also pull water out of the pond and we'll get water from the city from time to time - for drinking water and things like that."