YMCA Camp Onyahsa

Horrigan, Goodell Tour Camp Onyahsa, Discuss Programming

Jul 13, 2017 | Posted in News

DEWITTVILLE — A pair of Chautauqua County’s top political representatives spent some time touring a “gem” in the local community.

County Executive Vince Horrigan and state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell visited with campers and staff at Camp Onyahsa on Wednesday. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti

On Wednesday, County Executive Vince Horrigan and state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell visited Camp Onyahsa on Chautauqua Lake to meet with campers and staff members and discuss the myriad of projects and year-round programming available to students both domestic and abroad.

Now in the midst of celebrating its 119th summer since its establishment in 1898, Camp Onyahsa remains unwavering in the pursuit of its mission to promote excellence in youth development through quality camp programs that place a premium on participants’ safety, health and happiness in an active outdoor environment. Currently hosting a full roster of nearly 150 campers and utilizing a staff of more than 50, the camp welcomes its visitors to experience organized summer residential and day camp sessions, off-site horseback riding, teen activities, leadership development and more.

Following his visit, Horrigan lauded the camp for its commitment to quality programming and the practicality of its educational component for campers year in and year out.

“Camp Onyahsa has such a wide and great reputation; it’s one of the real gems and jewels that we have, especially for our youth, in both Chautauqua County and the region,” he said. “It’s a wonderful resource and very well run, and it’s been very good to come out and see the camp because it helps to renew our interest in this great institution.”

Horrigan also praised the variety of applications and services the camp offers, including programming to assist military veterans suffering PTSD symptoms as well as children with disabilities with The Resource Center.

Goodell, who himself attended the camp as a high-schooler, noted the growth that the camp’s infrastructure and programming has undergone through the decades.

“The camp is seeing tremendous improvements, and it’s been really exciting to see it moving forward with a $1.5 million capital campaign to improve the facilities,” he said. “Speaking from a personal perspective, what’s really special about the camp are the memories that the kids make when they come here.

“Obviously they learn great life skills, whether it’s swimming or working in a group or the various activities that they do, but the memories are lasting. It’s a great asset to the community, and one that I hope to see continue to grow.”

Jon O’Brian, camp director, said Camp Onyahsa is one of the oldest remaining YMCA-affiliated camps in the country, and credited the longevity to the symbiotic support that the camp has offered to, and received from, the surrounding community.

County Executive Vince Horrigan and state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell visited with campers and staff at Camp Onyahsa on Wednesday. P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti

“We’re a relatively small camp, but we’re fairly intimate and we really focus on developing spiritual, intellectual and physical well-being, as well as a sense of community,” O’Brian said. “We want to be a premier, year-round camp facility for the youth, their families and the nonprofit organizations of our community.”

The camp staff is comprised of experienced teachers and college and high school students; many of whom were former Onyahsa campers. All of these committed and competent adults are carefully screened, chosen and trained by the YMCA. The camp director has served in his role for 30 years.

Onyahsa — which is accredited by the American Camp Association, and licensed by the NYS Department of Health — also provides programs throughout the school year. Group use and rental opportunities are offered from September through early June, and charitable contributions for small or large gifts are always welcome.