YMCA Expands Outdoor Opportunities for Youth in Pierce and Kitsap Counties

January 30, 2019 Jonny Eberle Comments (3)

The YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties and Camp Fire of the Central Puget Sound have partnered to transition Camp Niwana in Port Orchard to YMCA Camp Lake Helena, now owned and operated by the Y.

The 134-acre camp property located at 11606 Ranch Drive SW in Port Orchard has served thousands of youth during its 64-year history under the leadership of Camp Fire. With a shared commitment to our community’s youth, the Y will continue its 114-year tradition of creating access to nature through meaningful outdoor experiences serving as regional day camp site for youth throughout Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

“The YMCA is committed to providing youth with the opportunity to get away from daily distractions, unplug and enjoy nature.” said Charlie Davis, president and CEO of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties.

Camp Niwana was owned and operated by Camp Fire since 1954 and has a long history of serving youth in Kitsap County.

“It was important to Camp Fire that we find a partner who was committed to continuing to use the property for the benefit and education of Kitsap Peninsula youth.” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director of Camp Fire Central Puget Sound.

The Y will kick off programming at its new camp this summer offering eight one-week sessions. YMCA camp programs offer youth fun and unique experiences with an opportunity to explore the outdoors, meet new friends, discover new interests and create memories that last a lifetime. To ensure that all youth have the chance to experience camp, the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties offers financial assistance to those in need.

Moving forward, local youth can continue to participate in Camp Fire programs at any of our 18 day camps across the Puget Sound, our group programming tailored to engage the entire family or at Camp Sealth, our overnight camp located on Vashon Island.

YMCA Camp Lake Helena will host an open house on May 18 from 1-4 p.m. where community members can tour the facility, speak with camp staff and sign up for summer programs.

For more information, visit ymcacamplakehelena.org.

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About the Y

The Y is the nation’s leading nonprofit committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We provide $4.2 million in financial assistance and program subsidy annually, enabling 42,000 people in need to access YMCA programs. The Y has been enriching Pierce and Kitsap communities for 125 years.

About Camp Fire

Camp Fire has been an innovative leader in youth development since 1910. Its proven programs give kids the life skills they need now so they can succeed and thrive. Last year, Camp Fire’s 53 councils served more than 184,000 youth and families across 1,341 program sites, in 25 states and in D.C. All Camp Fire programs are based on cutting-edge research and founded on the pillars of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), delivered through Out-of- School-Time (OST) programs, environmental education and camp, and teen service and leadership development. Because youth shape the world, Camp Fire’s focus is on giving youth and teens the opportunity to find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are.


  • Yay for more YMCA camps!
    Posted Mar 24, 2019, by Tanya Lewis
  • I am very pleased that children will continue to have the opportunity to enjoy camp at this special place. I was a camper, RCA, counselor, unit leader and assistant camp director at Niwana from from 1964-1985. I met my dearest friends there, and we have continued our friendships to this day. My son spent his first and fourth summers of his life at Camp Niwana. My Niwana experiences have shaped my life as both a parent and an educator and gave me the confidence to take on many leadership roles. I hope this continues to be the case for others in the future. Blessings on continuing to encourage and empower those who come to this sacred space.
    Posted Feb 2, 2019, by Cindy Tuisku
  • I am excited that there are new stewards to revitalize the camp. I attended Camp Niwana each summer from 1975 until 1985 and I am still in regular contact with my counselors. My best friend’s family was quite involved and there is a tree that was planted on the property in honor of her father when he passed away. The first year I attended camp the camp director met each of us at the dining room door. I thought then, “Some day I will do that.” I did, when Niwana closed as a resident camp I went on to work for Girl Scouts from 1986-1999 and was honored to direct camp in the late 90s. My son has attended day camp at Niwana for the last two years. He will attend again this summer and is very sad that he will not be able to be a CIT there when he is old enough. I am encouraging him to attend this summer, not only during the final Camp Fire day camp but also through the Y during your inaugural year. If the Y would like to continue any of the traditions maybe Aunt Emily will stay. Aunt Emily has lived there for many years, she is a squirrel who lives in the tallest tree. Campers would write letters to her and she would write them back. I was blessed to have spent many summers at Camp Niwana and am excited that the Y has invested in the property and that many more youth will be able to experience the joy of summer camp on Lake Helena. Good luck in your new endeavor!
    Posted Feb 2, 2019, by Melinda Hughes

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