“If you don’t create change, change will create you” – Unknown

The Real Life Yellow Brick Road

Written by an ICAN Youth Staff

An I.C.A.N youth staff went on the yellow brick road to Camp Lee Canyon. The journey was long and worth it. The first time the youth staff went to camp, they all defeated the east witch of all that was evil, lame and stupid. It was so wonderful there. People had so many colors, all sorts of colors. Blues and reds, pinks and purples not a gray in sight.

At camp there are three witches of greatness, the awesome witch of the west Jamie, the princess witch of the north Jessica, and the Yoda witch of the south Mary. All three witches helped the other youth staff and munchkins of the camp through whatever their troubles were. 

The youth staff walked along the yellow brick dirt covered road she looked to her left then to her right and behind her to see if any friends were behind her. She kept on walking forward thinking of all the greatness to come up at camp. She stopped and heard a faint noise and looked to her left again a young boy sat crying quite scared and confused, all his color had gone he was gray. The youth staff walked over and used her super care bear skills to comfort the crying boy.

 “Now now, why are you crying?” asked the youth staff.

“Well, I’ve lost my way. I’ve done bad things and I don’t know how to stop from doing them again. I have to want just not the support or tools. I need help and I need it now.”

“I see, what is your name?” the youth staff held his hand.

“Fred, my name is Fred.”

“What have you done Fred to put you in such pain?”

“I did drugs and lost all that I love. My real friends won’t talk to me, my mom can’t look at me, my grade are falling and I can’t control my self, it’s like I’ve lost my mind.”

The youth staff gave him a hug as he began to cry again. “It’s ok. Come with me Fred. I have friends who can help you find your way.”

“But I’ve done such horrible things, they won’t like me.”

“My friends will not judge you just help you, come with me I know this will work.”

Fred stood up with the youth staff and they continued their walk towards camp hand in hand. No words came out of their mouth. The wind rushed past them. They got quite far until a squeak hit the ears of the youth staff. She stopped dead.

“What’s wrong?” Fred looked around.

“Don’t you hear that?” the youth staff searched for the maker of the squeak. “There!” she pointed to a pale white girl. The youth staff and Fred walk over to this mysterious girl and knelt down to where she was sitting.

“hello” the youth staff touched the girl’s shoulder. The girl replied by attacking the youth staff with a hug. Fred stepped back unaware what was happening. “What’s wrong?”

“I-I” the girl stuttered, “Sometimes I just feel so alone. When people pick on me and call me names because I’m bigger, or I’m smarter, because I’m not cool enough, or sometimes for no reason at all. I used to wear bright col-colors and fun clothes. But the bullying was too much” the girl held onto the youth staff. “I used to like my self, and now I feel alone and like nobody likes me. It’s like they’re all heart less.”

“What’s your name” the youth staff rubbed her back.


“That’s a beautiful name.”

“Thank you”

“It’s nothing to thank, I’m simply stating the truth. I think you should come with us.”

“Where?” Galinda looked up into the youth staff’s eyes.

“A place that can help you love your self and not feel so alone.” The youth staff stood up. Galinda and Fred followed. They all held hands, Galinda in the youth staffs right hand and Fred in the left.  Again they walked in silence; there was no need to talk. Galinda and Fred were hesitant to keep going up the large hill but the combination of the youth staff’s care bear powers and belief in her camp kept them going. They could she camp’s cabins all lined up.

“It’s just over there” the youth staff smiled and squeezed the Fred and Galinda’s hands.

“Excuse me,” a small voice called from behind them. They stopped and turned around to see an extremely tall boy with a washed out grey color.

“Yes, how can we help you?” asked the youth staff with a wide smile over taking her whole face.

“Well, I don’t believe in myself and I can’t stand up to other people or do what I want. In need some courage and some friends. I was walking when I heard you talking to the boy,” he looked at Fred, “and the girl,” he looked a Galinda. He looked back at the youth staff “I heard you say there was a place where the people don’t judge you and you can get your color back, is that true?”

The youth staff let go of Fred and Galinda “it is, would you like to come with us?” she held out her hand for the boy. He took it in his. “Let’s go the, shall we?”

The four of them held hands all the rest of the way up the hill. When they arrived the three witches stood at the opening of the camp.

“Who did you bring?” asked Jamie the witch of awesome.

“A few friends who need some help. This is Galinda,” Galinda gave a slight smile. “This is Fred,” Fred waved to the witches. “And this is-” the youth staff stopped, she didn’t know his name.

“My name is Justin” the boy said

“Hello to all of you!” the princess almost yelled with a smile.

“Awesome you will all become,” said the witch of Yoda.

“Come on in,” The witch of awesome gestured.

That week Fred, Galinda, and Justin all made you friends and got what they needed to help them thorought live, in camp, and back down the hill. When the youth staff saw them later that week all three had their color back. Fred a bright purple. Galinda a rainbow. Justin a bright blue. They gave the youth staff a death griping hug and whispered to her “ you saved my life.”

“It made a difference for that one.” – Loren Eiseley

Unconditional Love.

It certainly exists. Every year I witness it en mass and yet when it happens on an individual basis I am surprised and truthfully a little confused.

In ICAN we teach and mentor our kids with the idea that they are worthy of love; love from their family, friends, and most importantly themselves. We love them, unconditionally, from the moment they get off that bus because we know they are taking the risk to allow us to help them change their lives. Yet there are times when I don’t think we as the adults realize that everyday they are saving our lives.  That the love, hugs, smiles, jokes, etc they give us in return have such a profound impact on our lives, our souls.

The most humbling is when the tables are turned. When one of them knows you’ve had a rough day and calls you or they witness you about to cry, so tired and so beat down, they simple give you a hug. It’s the text message saying “I love you” in the middle of the day, the funny video on your Facebook, or the phone call yelling at you to go to sleep. As my friend Mary is fond of saying “Sometime your starfish…they’ll save you back.”

“First rule of leadership: everything is your fault.” ~ A Bug’s Life

I recently spent a weekend in Chicago with 215 incoming Women’s Council of REALTORS(R) Local Chapter President-Elects. All of us eager to learn and grow as we prepare to lead our chapters into 2011. It was an amazing experience and not just because I met so many wonderful new people, but because of the feelings of synergy and camaraderie.

Most of all, the weekend made me think of the many leadership influences in my life.

I grew up with one of the most charismatic women I have ever met for a mother and with two very successful and dynamic women as her best friends. I learned many of the basics from them. They showed me that a leader doesn’t ask someone to do something that they themselves isn’t prepared to do, that a leader takes all of the blame and none of the credit, and that a leader cannot dictate, they must simply facilitate.

Five years ago, I was brought into to help a group of people with an idea, form a nonprofit. The group was led by one of my best friends from high school. Over that time, I have watched her struggle with the line between friend and leader, watched as she has time and time again let things just roll right off her back. The battle to not take things personally, to leave personal feelings and friendships out of the decision making process is not an easy one, but it must be done for the good of the organization.

About a year and a half ago, I joined a real estate team as a buyer’s agent. My team leader has shown me servant leadership. He truly leads from behind; bringing up, supporting, and sometimes carrying those he leads. Not a meeting or a phone conversation goes by without him asking what I have come to know as the magic phrase “How can I support you?”.

Reflecting on these influences, I have to ask myself one simple question…What kind of a leader do I plan to be?

The answer is simple, I hope to be the best parts of them all. A leader who is charismatic and successful, humble and a facilitator. One who keeps personal feelings out of the mix and does what’s good for the organization. And most importantly, one who is a servant to those she leads.

Of course, it’s easy to say this is who I want to be, the execution is what’s difficult. But that’s the learning process.

The leader never stops learning and growing.

“Lasagna!” – Kaylee Kinter

It’s amazing how one week can change your life…or at least mine. Every year I am fortunate enough to be able to spend eight days with some of the most amazing people ever and every year I come back just a little bit different. Up on the mountain I am one of the best versions of myself and I feel like I bring more and more of that Jessica home. This year was absolutely amazing. I had the best cabin I have ever had; 14 of the funniest girls you will ever meet. They were not only extremely well-behaved, but kept me entertained with their shenanigans.

This year I had the opportunity to show more of what I can do. It seems every year, I get to do this a little bit more. This is a gift to me because I often feel like I have so much in me to give and having an outlet like camp, allows me to do so. Some things are quite successful, while others fall shorter than I would like; regardless I am in a safe environment where I can learn and grow along with the kids. It seems every year there is one kid who stands out. One who teaches me more about myself then I realize. This year was no exception. She gave me the opportunity to see myself from the youth’s perspective and for that I am forever grateful.

This year’s theme was “take love with you”; meaning the only thing you can take when you leave this earth is love.  I definitely felt like we each brought that love down the mountain with us. The key will be to pass it on. What can we do in our everyday lives to continue the theme of camp? Something as simple as making sure you hug someone everyday; or smiling at the gas station attendant. Minor things we don’t even think about can bring that feeling back. In the mean time, I leave you with this year’s camp song.

“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Just tie your fuzzy to a hug. There’s nothing you can say, just do energizers throughout the day. They’re easy. There’s not a friend up here who can’t be made. No one you can saved who can’t be saved. Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time. YOU CAN CRY.

All you need is love. All you need is camp. All you need is love and camp. This is all you need.

Love, love, love (camp, camp, camp)

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known. Nothing you can see that isn’t shown. Nowhere you can’t be, this is where you need to be. Be on time.

All you need is love. All you need is camp. All you need is love and camp. This is all you need.

Food is all you need. Water is all you need. Shower everyday. Please don’t lick a tree. A buddy is all you need. Keep your cabins clean. Love is all you need. This is all you need.

All you need is love and camp. This is all you need.”

Leadership Camp 2010

Registration is now open for Leadership Camp 2010.

We have a lot of exciting, unique activities planned for this year.  We’re looking forward to meeting new participants and reconnecting with old ones, watching the campers of yesterday become our Youth Staff leaders of today, and engaging them in an experience that our youth will carry with them for the rest of their lives.  We would love for you and your child to be a part of making those memories.

This year’s camp will be held earlier than previous years, from June 20th to June 26th.  A typical day at camp involves youth-led activities, guest speakers, fun games, and great food, along with campfires, a dance, and a talent show.  All the information you need is attached.  After we receive your application, we will send you a list of everything your child will need for camp as well as pick-up and drop-off information.  Camp applications will be accepted through April 15th.

Download the application now!