My Day at Camp: Camp Sky-Y

Camp Sky-Y, Prescott, Arizona, overnight camp, summer camp
Campers are excited to begin their week-long adventures at Camp Sky-Y in Prescott. Photo by Sheri Smith.

Upon entering the grounds at Camp Sky-Y, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had stepped back in time. From the fresh scent of pine trees to the tiny log cabins, I felt instantly at home in a world where every detail appeared exactly the way I had always imagined summer camp to be.

It was incredibly invigorating, like I was a kid again—ready to play tag, climb trees and tell ghost stories ’round a campfire.

Camp Sky-Y, Prescott, Arizona, overnight camp, summer camp
RAK writer Sheri Smith joins in a game of Ga Ga ball, a favorite tradition at Camp Sky-Y. Photo by Nick Kramer.

This is exactly the response Dave Fermoile, senior executive director at Camp Sky-Y for the past 10 years—the YMCA Camp located in Prescott, Ariz.—is hoping to achieve. Fermoile and the rest of the staff at Camp Sky-Y have dedicated themselves to providing kids a place to experience all the benefits that traditional camp entails.

Part of Arizona history

Camp Sky-Y was founded in 1938 with the help of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and has been an Arizona mainstay ever since. Parents and even grandparents now bring their children and grandchildren to the place where their own childhood memories were made.

From the Opening Jamboree to the end-of-week Pinecone Dedication Ceremony—where campers’ memories can rise with the smoke and stay in the pines forever—there is a spirit of community and nostalgia intertwined in this place.

If your childhood was deprived of summer camp adventures the way mine was, you might not realize just how impactful those memories can be.

Camp Sky-Y, Prescott, Arizona, overnight camp, summer camp
Camp Sky-Y, founded in 1938, offers a traditional summer camp experience. Photo by Sheri Smith.

Life-changing experiences

Michelle Zimmermann can attest to the difference a summer camp like Camp Sky-Y can make in a child’s life.

Zimmermann began attending Camp Sky-Y when she was 6 years old. (She is now 21 and a senior at Arizona State University.) After spending several years as a camper, Zimmermann worked her way up through the Camp Sky-Y ranks—from counselor to village leader to head female counselor to her current role as staff and cabin-life director.

Camp Sky-Y, Prescott, Arizona, overnight camp, summer camp
Camp Sky-Y’s Dave Fermoile and Michelle Zimmermann want campers to have a positive experience. Photo by Sheri Smith.

Zimmermann explains that Camp Sky-Y has a special place in her heart, and working here gives her a chance to “give back to a place that has given so much to me.”

Zimmermann describes with fondness her childhood memories from Camp Sky-Y and even talks about how it helped her through some tough times she experienced growing up.

The summer her parents were getting a divorce, Zimmermann says she was able to find some much needed time away at Camp Sky-Y. One year, Zimmermann’s father passed away while she was at camp.

“Everything that I am is because of the people that helped raise me while I was here,” says Zimmermann.

Zimmermann is now engaged to a fellow staff member she met at Camp Sky-Y, and she is passionate about providing kids with the same positive, life-changing experiences that she had as a camper.

What those experiences will be is unique to each camper, but it’s nice to know there’s a place where the values of childhood are timeless and can be accessed through a short drive into the pines of Prescott.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in our 2016 series of stories from writers and staff members who spend a day at summer camp. See more “My Day at Camp” stories.

Related: Still looking for summer camps? Here’s the ultimate guide.