There are always a few children who love Audubon so much that they can’t stay away. There is something about what happens at Audubon camp that draws them, year after year.

I understand. Camp is fun. Kids take nets and dip in ponds. They build forts. Games are played and adventures taken. Audubon is a place to make friends that may rarely be seen outside of the Nature Center. It is a place where you can be yourself, without pressure from parents, siblings, or classmates.

It is also one of the few places at Audubon where we get to see kids grow up. They come in as preschoolers, some barreling around and others clinging to legs in fear. As they grow, they ditch parents and grandparents at the door and scramble for their headquarters to hang out with new-found friends and find out what will be happening for the day.

Audubon camps may be officially about nature and play, but there is a strong undercurrent of helping children understand what their limits are and how to stretch those limits. It is exciting to watch the child who was awkward in kindergarten become a leader in fifth grade.

It is even more exciting to watch those children become more active at Audubon as they age. Some become camp helpers. Others help at festivals and big events. Still others do scout projects at Audubon or find bigger, meatier ways to contribute.

Ty was one of those kids that fell in love with Audubon. He would arrive at camp 45 minutes early, excited to be a part of things. We always knew to have some things for him to do or help with when he was coming. Sometimes he was even waiting in the parking lot when camp staff arrived at Audubon in the morning.

Audubon takes teens out to explore amazing local places, like Zoar Valley. One long-time Audubon camper, Ty Mead, demonstrates how to ride a waterfall.

Through the years, he developed confidence, a quirky sense of humor, and started volunteering at Audubon. He would help with the younger children at camp. Sometimes he would take a snake or turtle to an outreach event and help other people realize why Audubon is so amazing. For the last several years, Ty has been coming on Teen Treks program. He was the first to try out something that was a little bit past people’s comfort zones. He helped push them past their normal lives into something that either made them squeal with delight or proud for accomplishing something they would not have otherwise done.

This was Ty’s last year coming to camp. He was old enough to drive himself and entering his final year of high school. It was truly a pleasure to watch him grow from an overly enthusiastic preschooler to an enthusiastic adult. I would like to think that the play, learning, and fun he had at Audubon was a part of that.

It’s been said that friends come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I think Audubon Community Nature Center is the same way. Some people only come as children or when their children come to Audubon. Some find a cause at Audubon that they can champion and disappear when they have done a ton of good for the community. Others find a home at Audubon, where they volunteer and form bonds as tight as family. There are still more for whom Audubon is a vital part of their life, for their whole life.

Audubon Community Nature Center is truly a community, full of families and individuals who come regularly for the peace, playfulness, or usefulness they find.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.