YMCA breaks ground on Camp Moody

High winds whistling through trees at the future site of YMCA’s Camp Moody near Buda was practically music to the ears of Dell Children’s Hospital employee Krista Gregory. 

Amid excitement surrounding Saturday’s official groundbreaking for the 85-acre day and overnight camp located along Onion Creek, Gregory, founder of the Center for Children Resiliency, urged revelers to pause and envision what the sounds and smells of spring could mean for generations of children to come. 

Offering an all-inclusive experience that allows children to escape the digital world and immerse themselves in nature is the goal for Gregory and many others.   

“This day will carry us into a day of hope for future happiness,” Gregory said. 

Turning of the dirt Saturday marked a special day for many, including YMCA of Austin CEO James Finck. Camp Moody, formerly known as Camp Cypress, is expected to be a multi-use site for camps, group events and retreats. 

The first phase of the project will include construction of a dining hall, bunk cabin village that can hold up to 220 campers and a pair of 700-foot zip lines. Other amenities include a climbing wall, archery range, ropes course and accessible trails. The site also calls for a 15,000-foot enclosed natatorium, or aquatics center, that will be partially funded by Hays CISD. 

Roughly $16 million has so far been fundraised by the YMCA to make the camp a reality. That includes a receiving a $6.25 million gift from The Moody Foundation in 2018. YMCA officials said they will continue efforts to fundraise the $18 million needed for the first phase of the camp. 

“Camp Moody is about bringing kids and families into nature to learn, grow and thrive,” Finck said in a statement. Finck said camps help teach children soft skills, such as teamwork and communication, as well as improving personal development traits. 

Saturday’s groundbreaking also capped off a nearly 20-year quest by the Y to create Camp Moody, which was originally the brainchild of philanthropists George and Peggy Yonge. In 1999, the Yonge family donated 100-acres of land near Onion Creek to the YMCA of Austin for the purpose of creating an all-inclusive camp for kids. 

Wes Yonge, member of the Yonge Family Foundation and George and Peggy’s son, said George was “moved to tears of joy” when he had the chance to tour the site prior to his death. Wes said he realized the camp’s potential impact when his own son said the site was “way better than my iPad.” 

Hays CISD trustee Vanessa Petrea said the partnership between the Y and Hays CISD is a “win-win” for both organizations. In 2017, HCISD trustees approved a $5 million pledge toward the natatorium, which will be owned and operated by the Y. 

Petrea cited the ability for the district to further expand its high school swim program, while also giving elementary students important life-saving swim lessons in the future. Petrea said an added benefit is the facility possibly employing Hays CISD students as lifeguards and camp counselors. 

Many lauded the camp’s promise to cater to all children of any ability, while also being affordable and cost-effective for their parents. 

Jackie Cox, a parent of a child with autism, said Camp Moody fills the void of a camp experience that meets the safety needs necessary for children with disabilities. 

Measures included a sensory room and low-sound toilets. 

“These are simple tweaks that can make it difficult on the front end of a project like this,” Cox said. “I’m very excited and hopeful my children can attend this camp.” 

Paul Hoffman, Camp Moody fundraising campaign co-chair, lauded what Camp Moody could offer. Hoffman said camp is an experience that can change the lives of children. 

“There is no place like camp that can create character in kids,” Hoffman said. 

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