The YMCA humbly goes about accomplishing its mission in lots of ways that many of us know little about. When some of our staff heard about the work of the Sioux YMCA in Dupree, South Dakota and their initiative on helping kids thrive, planning begun for Flat Rock’s first fall mission trip. We are extremely grateful to the teen campers that joined us in the new adventure and their parents for enrolling them.
We started our journey at our camp home with some team building games after check in before hopping in the van nice and early to head west. We made a stop at the Gateway to the West Arch in St. Louis for some pictures with the remarkable architectural feat and headed over the mighty Mississippi River. We spent our first night at YMCA Camp Kitaki in Nebraska in a cozy cabin. We enjoyed a quick night hike before bed and it was fun to explore a camp in the dark. Our team decided we wanted to see Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands on Tuesday so we hit the road very early and ventured into some of the more remote areas of our great nation.
Our first real stop was in Badlands National Park and we knocked out a couple of hikes in this amazing landscape and even met some Mountain Goats along the way. We took the highway west another 1 ½ hours to Mt. Rushmore and played some presidential trivia along the way. After taking some pictures, marveling at Mr. Borglum’s realized vision, and a stop in the gift shop we headed for the Sioux YMCA in Dupree South Dakota.
The teens in our group did an awesome job of stepping up to help with cooking and cleaning after meals while we stayed at the new volunteer lodging the Sioux YMCA constructed in May. It is a great facility that fits well in the community and we would highly recommend it to any groups looking for a service learning trip. The first morning we spent time learning some of the history of the Sioux, the reservation, and the Sioux YMCA. We then toured some of the local areas and neighboring communities culminating with a trip to the Lakota Cultural Center in Eagle Butte. The afternoon saw us meeting many of the young people engaged in the Sioux YMCA programs for their after school activities and dinner feeding program. Meeting and playing with these kiddos was truly a highlight for all of us.
Thursday we broke into groups to help with a few different projects. We cleaned out the community garden operated by the YMCA and organized a storage barn that will become an indoor ice rink this winter. In addition some of our teens helped to organize some bags that will be distributed to local youth and moved lots of furniture. Afterwards we jumped into more after school programming and finished the last night there by playing tag in the dark on the two blocks surrounding the Sioux YMCA.
On Friday morning we met a local artist who taught us pouch making and shared with us the bead work that is passed down to each generation in her family. We finished the trip with one last after-school session and had a chance to say goodbye to our new friends in Dupree, SD before heading back east by way of Des Moines YMCA Camp to Flat Rock. It was a rewarding and exhausting trip that left challenged and fulfilled.
Being a volunteer means being part of a movement. Being a volunteer means being advocate for building a healthy Mind Spirit and Body. Our Fall Mission Trip teens were rewarded. We are so grateful to the teens that participated, the staff that led it, the Sioux YMCA that hosted us, and most of all the children of Dupree who welcomed us and let us participate in their community for a few days. We look forward to returning next fall!