Lessons from camp

Lindsay Dacuan and a horse from Camp Don Bosco's CYO horse camp. Photo Stephen Brashear Lindsay Dacuan and a horse from Camp Don Bosco's CYO horse camp. Photo Stephen Brashear

For Lindsay Dacuan, CYO camping’s effect lasts long after summer has faded

The summer that Lindsay Dacuan was a lodge leader at Camp Don Bosco she led a group of about 30 third-grade girls on an overnight trip into the camp’s woods. This was a daunting prospect to many of the campers, but Dacuan had a way to reassure them. In careful detail, she told the story of St. Michael the Archangel fighting the devil, protecting God’s people and emerging victorious. She asked her campers questions about St. Michael and reminded them that they’re never alone.

“We would talk a lot about how he’s with us tonight when we’re all sleeping in the forest,” Dacuan said. “So even though it’s a bit uncomfortable and pretty scary, because a lot of them had never done it, there’s someone watching over us at all times.”

The chance to work with kids in a faith setting like Camp Don Bosco, part of the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Catholic Youth Organization camping program, has had a lasting effect on Dacuan, a 23-year-old Seattle native who has been a summer camp staffer since graduating from high school. For one thing, Dacuan hadn’t really worked with children prior to camp. Once there, she said, she loved it, especially being paired with younger campers who see their counselor as “their parent and their best friend and their sibling all rolled into one.”

Dacuan relished campers’ excitement to do things like go to confession or volunteer to be an altar server at Mass. “I met a lot of kids who wanted to talk about religion and God and they wanted to pray at night,” she said. “I thought it was so cool, that there were these kids that were passionate about their faith.”

Youth group inspiration

While she was raised Catholic, Dacuan says she wasn’t that on fire for Catholicism until a seventh-grade friend invited her to join the youth group at St. Anthony Parish in Renton. It was there that she first really felt welcomed and felt the power of God and being Catholic.

“I think youth group really made me start living my faith,” Dacuan said. Besides attending weekly meetings and regular activities, she went on two youth group mission trips to Mexico that got her thinking about wanting “to pursue service-based careers and activities.”

One of Dacuan’s youth ministers, Fil Tribble, remembers her as a natural trailblazer in the group, “not showboating but incredibly creative, not pushy but a good leader.” It was through Tribble (a CYO camp alumnus himself) and one of Dacuan’s friends that she became a camp counselor.

“I told them that camp was kind of like youth group all the time, all day long,” Tribble said. “Camp is a place where young people can express their joy and love in this really great framework of service and catechism that serves to multiply your joy and your love.”

Dacuan decided to try it out. She loved it so much that she returned to work at Camp Don Bosco each summer during and after college, first as a cabin leader, then as a lodge leader, and then as a resident camp assistant director.

Lindsay Dacuan with campersLindsay Dacuan, second from left, and several fourth- to seventh-grade campers participate in a “Heart Attacks” activity — making paper hearts with compliments on them to share with camp staffers and fellow campers — at CYO’s Camp Don Bosco last summer. Photo: Courtesy CYO Camping

The CYO influence

Some of her closest friends are fellow CYO staffers, and Dacuan can back up the camp motto of “the circle of family, friendship and support” with a string of her own memories. Like the time a homesick camper was cheered up by the chance to give a CYO horse camp horse a bath, even though the boy wasn’t enrolled in that program. Or when the 5- to 7-year-old girls in her cabin enthusiastically requested bedtime stories from a children’s Bible night after night.

There was the one-on-one prayer time with kids, the kitchen raids, the nature hikes, the scavenger hunt ending in brownies for all. And the night Dacuan chatted so long with an older CYO camp alumnus about his camp memories that she had to be called away at curfew time.

CYO alumni often see camp as a spiritual home, Dacuan says, and they look forward to continuing the tradition of sending their own kids and grandkids there.

Camp also made Dacuan realize she enjoyed project management, something she found herself doing at camp before she knew there was a term for it. As a result, Dacuan would like to find a public health job that involves working with children, hopefully back in the Seattle area and very possibly with a faith-based organization.

“I’ve always had such a good environment working with CYO that I couldn’t see how I wouldn’t be happy working in a faith-based environment,” Dacuan said.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, San Diego, in 2014 and is now pursuing her master’s in public health with a focus in behavioral science and health education at Emory University in Atlanta.

This summer, she’ll spend part of her time in Atlanta working with autistic children at the Marcus Autism Institute and in wound infection control operative services at Emory University Hospital. The other half of the time, she’s looking forward to her Camp Don Bosco program director job, where she’ll work on the camp’s faith curriculum and help kids who might be struggling to adjust to camp.

“I really like that because I feel like it’s very influential growth for them when they have so many people who want them to succeed for a week,” Dacuan said.

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A service mentality

All of Dacuan’s exposure to CYO camp started when she was a teen — she never got the chance to be a camper herself. Raised in Seattle’s Skyway neighborhood, Dacuan attended St. Paul Parish with her parents and two brothers. She was baptized and received her first Communion at St. Paul’s, and the kids went to public school. Finances were tight after Dacuan’s father had a bout with cancer that left him on permanent disability.

To help cover her own spending money and college application expenses, Dacuan started working as a waitress and coaching tennis in high school, experiences she credits with building her strong work ethic. A self-described overachiever in school, she participated in high school student government, orchestra, color guard, Key Club, and the swim and tennis teams.

Because of her leadership, academic and service involvement, Dacuan won a Gates Millennium Scholar award, which covers the cost of a scholar’s undergraduate and graduate education. She chose to attend UC San Diego, at first thinking she was interested in biomedical engineering, but later switching to anthropology with a minor in health care.

While there, Dacuan became very active in the school’s Alternative Breaks program, which organizes student service trips. Her senior year, Dacuan became one of two student coordinators for the entire program, overseeing 16 trips involving about 300 students.

While Alternative Breaks is not faith-based, its focus on service connected with the social justice aspect of Lindsay’s Catholic beliefs, said Ryan Crawford, its staff advisor. “The program’s purpose is to build active citizens, and Lindsay is really the epitome of that,” he said.

Dacuan’s fellow student coordinator agreed. “It wasn’t just about world peace or fighting injustice for Lindsay,” said Diode de Dios. “She believed that it was God’s will to be a public servant. That’s why her career goals and what she wants to do are what they are.”

Lindsay DacuanLindsay Dacuan. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Being a young adult Catholic

But like many young adult Catholics, Dacuan says it wasn’t always easy to remain a connected Catholic in college. It didn’t help that UC San Diego’s Newman Center was off campus. She remembers feeling the same disconnect when studying abroad in Japan and volunteering in Indonesia, both countries where it was hard to find a church for Sunday Mass. “It made me feel like something was missing the whole time,” Dacuan said. “I think that’s part of what made me realize how much a Catholic community means to me.”

As a graduate student, however, Dacuan has found her Catholic niche. She attends Sunday Mass at St. Thomas More Parish in Decatur and attends a weekly young adult group and monthly eucharistic adoration and social hour at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. She has found a new circle of Catholic friends. Her faith, Dacuan says, is both a calming spiritual balance to school stress and a social outlet.

On visits back home in Seattle, Dacuan’s Catholic network has been helping her connect with potential post-grad professional opportunities. She wishes more young adults would reach out in faith, realizing that the Catholic Church can “extend to every part of your life, really supporting you and being by your side, professionally, personally, academically.”

Registration for camp is now open at www.seattlearchdiocese.org/camping.

Lindsay Dacuan talks to campers
Lindsay Dacuan speaks to CYO’s Camp Don Bosco campers as part of her resident camp assistant director role there last summer. To her left is David Charboneau, Don Bosco’s 2014 camp director. Photo: Courtesy CYO Camping

CYO Facts

There were 1,574 campers who participated in 27 different Catholic Youth Organization Camp Services programs in summer 2014, including overnight, day, mini and family camps.

CYO camping began in the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1950. The camps are open to kindergarteners through high schoolers and are run by the archdiocese’s Office for Youth and Young Adult Evangelization, which also oversees CYO Athletics. Camp Don Bosco in Carnation and Camp Hamilton in Monroe are CYO’s two residential camping facilities. Learn more at www.seattlearchdiocese.org/camping.

Camp Don Bosco to open new aquatic center

CYO’s Camp Don Bosco will have a new place to keep cool this summer. The Leo and Katherine Gallagher Aquatic Center will feature a heated pool, splash park, water slide, diving board, handicap accessibility and a remodeled shower house. Funds from the sale of the closed CYO Camp Gallagher helped cover the cost of the new facility.

Northwest Catholic - April 2015

Anna Weaver

Anna Weaver was the multimedia, online and social media editor, and writer for Northwest Catholic from 2013-2018.

Website: annapweaver.com