By Irene Ear, 2019 Leadership Development Camp Director
Last summer, 94 American Red Cross youth volunteers trekked through the mountains of Yucaipa for a life-changing week. What were they attending? The 71st Annual Red Cross Los Angeles Region Leadership Development Camp (LDC), hosted each year by the regional youth program.
For a week, they learned about leadership topics through workshops, learned first aid and CPR and participated in team building activities to further develop their leadership skills.
Youth volunteers returned home at the end of the week feeling empowered and sentimental about the experience.
“I love LDC, because it is a friendly, welcoming environment and an unforgettable experience,” said Vincent, a 2019 youth delegate. “It helped me grow to be a more motivated and outgoing person.”
His favorite workshop focused on diversity, because it introduced him to many different people’s experiences.
“I felt like I belonged,” he said.
Then 2020 arrived and with it, the COVID-19 pandemic.
How could LDC continue to foster that special feeling of belonging as the event went virtual?
COVID-19 has challenged everyone in their day-to-day lives but has also shown our ability to adapt and find new ways stay connected. I saw this firsthand as we planned our first–ever virtual Leadership Development Camp (LDVC), which concludes today, August 7.
This year, it is important to maintain the feeling of connection that makes LDC special, and make sure the growth and mentorship of our youth does not stop, especially during these difficult, uncertain times.
Part of me is saddened that LDC was virtual-only this year. However, I trust that our staff members revised the curriculum and activities of our camp to adapt to the platform. I am confident that delegates who complete the program today not only learned leadership skills, but also created bonds with fellow campers that will continue long after the online curriculum ends.
Even when we had camp in person, what kept everyone so close afterwards was our online connection. Through social media, group chats and video chats, our delegates and staff from previous years stayed connected and their bond only grew, which makes me hopeful that this year will be no different.
Each year, alumni return to speak to current campers about their experiences at camp, in college and beyond. As the generations of LDC come and go, the alumni continue to hold onto the magic of friendships and carry on those connections through reunions and mentorship.
Though we do not know what the next year will bring, that community and shared fondness for LDC, year after year, is not going anywhere.