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HomeArticlesThe Unexpected Benefits of Overnight Summer Camp

The Unexpected Benefits of Overnight Summer Camp

Often, the things we remember most from our childhood are the things that scared us, excited us, and helped us grow. For me, overnight summer camp checks all those boxes. Every summer between nine and thirteen, I went to overnight camp at the Triangle YMCA Ranch Camp & Retreat Center in the Catalina Mountains of Oracle, Arizona.

This camp has been enchanting the childhoods of Arizona children since 1949. My parents were campers, my siblings and I were campers, and now my children and nieces are campers. In fact, among the many benefits of an overnight camp, my new favorite is the nostalgia I felt as I checked my children into their cabins.

There are many other profound benefits of overnight camps; some are more obvious than others.

  • Independence: Kids are not only away from their parents but also from electronics. They are away from their bed, bathroom, and comfort zone. It is scary but in all the best ways.
  • Confidence: Kids learn just how quickly they can make new friends. They transform from solo camper to part of a cabin family in under twenty minutes. Many camps give counselors and campers “camp names.” She may be Jane at home, but at camp, she’s “Nala,” and she’s learning to master her inner lioness.
  • Adventure: Trying new things can be scary, but at camp, kids are encouraged to try new things, even just once. Some adventures may not be a long-term fit, but some become lifelong hobbies. Some favorites from the Triangle Y Ranch Camp include: Rifle Range, Archery Range, Zip Line, Ropes Course, Horseback Riding, Arts and Crafts, Swimming, Dancing, Hiking, and Camp Fire Songs.
  • Self-Soothing: If your kids are like mine, they call out to me when they need help. While this is everything my mama heart wants, they also need small doses of learning to comfort and trust themselves. My first memory of self-soothing came at TriY Camp when I was ten. On the third night of camp, I was a little homesick and could not sleep. The counselor encouraged me to repeat, “I am safe; I am loved.” I repeated that to myself, and in a few minutes, I fell asleep. That night has been a lasting core memory for me and is a skill set I have kept with me for life.
  • Leadership: Chances are high that there will be at least one event during overnight camp where each camper is a leader, by choice or chance. Sometimes, it is a team-building game, having the leading role at skit night, or walking a friend to the nurse when they have a skinned knee. The leadership experience will help foster growth for your child in their classroom, home, and future jobs.
  • Job Opportunities: One of the benefits of loving overnight camp is the opportunity to become a counselor. The summer staff experience fosters life-long friendships, adventure, and skills that can make a young person’s job first job one of their best memories.

Thirty years after my camper days, I am an active Board Member of the Triangle Y Ranch Camp. While there are many choices for camps, I can personally vouch for the quality of the staff, facilities, board, and counselors.

Tri Y Camp, under the ownership and operation of the YMCA of Southern Arizona, is a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing various scholarship opportunities through an application process.

These opportunities are made possible through continuous community donations, which are accepted throughout the year. If you wish to contribute, enabling a child to attend camp—an opportunity they might not otherwise have—please visit for further details or email

Melissa Leon
Melissa Leon
Melissa Leon is a Tucson native, NAU graduate, and Mesa resident. She co-owns Two Sense Consulting, a bookkeeping and fractional CFO firm dedicated to helping small business owners learn to read and make decisions based on financial statements. Melissa is also a mother of three children.



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