YMCA’s Camp Hyde shows off its new look

It was hard to tell whose eyes were wider at the dedication of extensive renovations at YMCA’s Camp Hyde on Saturday afternoon – the children’s or the parents’.

J.C. Delamore, 7, didn’t bother to hide the big grin on his face as he toured the camp on a sunny, windy day. He will be enjoying the camp’s additions and enhancements in a matter of days.

“I think I’m going to have to call in sick” so she can come, too, his mother, Ann, told him.

It may be time to switch roles for a day, said his father, Scott. His son can go to his job for a day and he’ll come to the camp instead.

Summer can’t get here fast enough for the children who will go to the camp, which showed off $3 million in renovations Saturday.

“It’s not a facelift,” said Steve Clark, president of the Metropolitan Board of Directors of the Greater Wichita YMCA. “It’s more like an ‘Extreme Makeover.’”

The new equestrian center doubles the number of horses available for riders to 40 and eliminates a long waiting list of families eager to have their children ride.

The camp’s lake tripled in size last year and now has a large deck, a larger sand beach and a 100-foot slide.

There’s a new, larger swimming pool to replace an old, leaky pool. Children will be able to play volleyball and basketball in the pool.

The Cessna Nature Center is a Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified safe room, which means the camp can increase the number of children who can be at the camp by 50 percent, to 450 a day.

Koell Collins’ 10-year-old son, John Michael, had galloped off somewhere to the left, and her 7-year-old daughter, Piper, was trying to drag her off to the right – and she didn’t mind a bit.

“This has just been the best investment for my kids,” Collins said.

Time spent at Camp Hyde has been rich, rewarding and educational for them, she said.

“They come home exhausted, but they’re so happy,” Collins said. “They spend the next half-hour telling you about everything they did” and the friends they made.

“You don’t get that” with other activities such as soccer, she said.

It’s been particularly gratifying for her to see her son fall in love with horses, relishing something she enjoyed as a child growing up in western Kansas.

On the ride out to the camp — on 71st Street South in Viola — on Saturday, John Michael was a chatterbox, wondering what the new equestrian center would be like and whether there’d be new and more kayaks to ride in the expanded lake.

Former employees who came out to look at the improvements said so much has been added or enhanced that they could hardly recognize the place.

The renovations had a central theme, camp director Dennis Schoenebeck said — there’s plenty to do for every child, whether they’re 7 or 12.

“It’s a real jewel,” he said.

Summer Day Camps at YMCA Camp Hyde and 10 other locations begin May 29. Parents can download the 2012 YMCA Summer Day Camp Guide at and contact any Greater Wichita YMCA location to sign up.