Children at Camp Tyler are learning to come into their own as they explore nature and learn to trust themselves.

For the counselors at Camp Tyler, the quintessential childhood experience is an opportunity for them to instill confidence and a sense of independence in their campers.

Diana “Sunny” Koop has been working with campers for the past five years, allowing a nice change of pace from her day job as a school counselor in the Tyler Independent School District. The camp lets her work with campers as they get to learn new things about themselves.

“I love it. I love to see the growth in the kids,” she said. “Most of these kids are stuck on electronics, they don’t have a lot of self confidence and independence. They’re different kids by the end of the week.”

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Koop and the other counselors challenge the campers with a variety of activities designed to encourage them to work together, problem solve and strategize.

Whether it’s shimmying across wires relying on a partner for balance or playing a balance game that requires their entire cabin to work together, the campers never stop exploring.

“I would say (to parents) it’s adventure camp because everything we do is an adventure,” Koop said.

Even if the challenge is just to keep your water bottle full, the campers tackle the task with gusto. Koop said that task has gotten easier as the importance of staying hydrated has seeped into the public consciousness.

As students work together, Koop said they begin to see leadership qualities emerge. The counselors create tasks that allow everyone a chance to step up.

Children who return after being a camper the previous summer often act as mentors, encouraging new campers to take risks.

“I want them to know they can tackle the toughest challenges and each one has the ability to do it,” Koop said.

At the end of the week, campers take on the “Warrior Challenge” where they’re placed on a team based on their areas of strength and weakness. They learn to trust their instincts and each other.

“Almost every time, it’s a team that we weren’t expecting to win,” Koop said. “It’s so cool to watch the teammates come together and really support each other.”


Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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