Following a five-decade tradition in Northern Arizona, UniSource is supporting Camp Colton’s mission to provide natural experiences to children regardless of their financial circumstances.
Camp Colton immerses children in nature at an off-grid outdoor environmental education center on 33 acres on the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. The camp’s signature Fellowship Program allows sixth graders to go on four-day, three-night trips. The next round of trips is scheduled for May.
Last year, UniSource donated $5,000 to Friends of Camp Colton, the nonprofit group that supports the camp. We also secured an additional $5,000 matching donation through CoBank’s Sharing Success Program. Together, those donations cover the costs for 30 children to go to camp.
“Support from UniSource helps make the Camp Colton experience possible for children that schools identify as having a financial need,” said Ari Wilder, Executive Director of Friends of Camp Colton. “One of our goals is to eliminate financial barriers. We never want to turn away a school or a kid because they don’t have ability to pay.”
“It is such a neat way to give back to our community and our surroundings. The lessons that the children learn will last their lifetimes,” said Martin Anaya, Director of UniSource Gas. “To us, that is pretty impactful and quite humbling.”
Since 2015, the Fellowship Program has sent more than 1,100 children to camp from 18 schools, including some within the Flagstaff Unified School District and other public and charter schools from surrounding areas. In all, more than 46,000 children have attended Camp Colton programs. The camp aims to serve a diverse mix of children who are representative of the community.
In a hands-on setting, children explore local environmental issues related to ecology, forest health, wildfire ecology, hydrology, and geology, including lessons on climate change and wildfires. Recreational activities include archery, arts and crafts and campfires to develop leadership and interpersonal skills. An underlying emphasis is that different experiences and views are valued.
Because the camp is located in an area considered sacred by more than 14 Indigenous tribes, the camp invites Indigenous experts to speak at the campfire each week to explain the history, ecology and cultural significance of the land, Wilder said.
“This is information that some students wouldn’t encounter otherwise,” Wilder said. “Indigenous students often share that they appreciate seeing their culture represented at Camp Colton and students who are not Indigenous tell us how much they appreciate learning about local cultures different from their own.”
From April to June, UniSource focuses its donations and volunteer activities on environmental stewardship. Last year, UniSource contributed more than $55,000 to such efforts to groups that included:
- Arizona Trail Association
- Veterans Sportsman Alliance
- Friends of the Santa Cruz River
- Arizona Peace Trail