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Progressive Summer Camp Badges YMCA Camp Kitaki

In 2015 we debuted a new structure for our summer camp programs. We had always had a progression, but our biggest program was just called “Summer Camp” and went from 9-14 years of age. As campers grew older their options would change but we didn’t do a great job of explaining to parents or campers how they changed and what to be excited for next. After an intense process where we reexamined the goals of each program and the progression of activities we came up with a whole new camp program system where we rebranded our camps. “Juniors” became Discoverers, “Seniors” became Trailblazers and “Summer Camp” became three separate programs Explorers, Pathfinders and Navigators, each for different age ranges and with more explicit progressions, goals and activities.

Along with the rebrand we knew that counselors, campers and parents might have a hard time learning and navigating the new language, and so we discussed how to make the identity of each of these programs stand alone with unique traditions. One way we decided to help create this identity is by creating a unique logo for each program. We would then turn these logos into patches that would be available in the camp store and ONLY available to the kids who were in that program. The patches resemble expedition badges and have symbolism that reference the activities they do, and tie the whole graphic system together into the whole. For instance each “type” of camp share a shape. Patches where there is a progression within a particular program (Summer Camp (Explorers, Pathfinders, and Navigators) and Ranch Camp (Ranch, Advanced, Challenge) have an element that is repeated on each badge in increasing quantity (arrows, or horse shoes), Patches for younger kids feature a rising sun, and as the age of the program increases the sun rises, sets, and transitions to the waxing moon, full moon, and waning moon for our oldest campers. Our Ranch Camp patches have a horse gait pattern shown, a walk for the lowest level, trot for the middle and canter for the highest level. A lantern appears on the badges of the programs that participate in the special closing campfire “Lantern Leaders” program. The mascots of our big end of summer color war holiday appear on 4 of the badges (Bird, Otter, Deer, Wolf) and even the constellations appearing in the sky have meaning.

The Unit Leaders at Kitaki have these badges and give them to a staff member when they are assigned to work in that program. Campers can purchase them in the camp store, but only if they are in that program so it has a feeling of “collecting the whole set”. We ordered the badges through outfit your logo and they were very helpful in helping us work on the art and the colors to create an image that would show up well in an embroidered format. They even helped us create a custom bandana with places for the badges to be ironed on, that kids could get their cabin mates to sign.

We have had the badges for two years and they are becoming part of our culture, and part of the pride and sense of accomplishment that kids have when experiencing our programs and getting excited for programs they will experience in the future!

I have attached a few items. One is a graphic progression chart showing how our camps fit together. The other is a picture of our badges. The third was sent to me by a staff member who affixed her badges to a sweatshirt. 

Thanks so much!

Jason Smith, Executive Director
YMCA Camp Kitaki


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