Community Youth in Action (CYA) Idaho Falls embarked on an 11-day service trip from July 22- August 1, 2021. Some often ask why travel with all those teens and spend the time and money to do a trip like that when you can serve at home. We tell them if you could experience the growth and changes in the youth that we see, you would do the same. One participant whose family has had it tough with substance abuse issues expressed how he wants to live a better life than his family and wants to be able to travel, be successful, and be somebody, and that CYA is helping him to get to that point. There is something about building a lasting memory on a trip that cannot be duplicated at home, besides service is something we do together at home weekly so why not do it for others in their community and make a difference in the lives of people we do not know, all while gaining new lifelong memories and having a bunch of fun along the way.
In order to go on the trip, the teens started raising funds about 5 months prior by hosting a car wash, asking for sponsors, doing yard work and other paid tasks in the community, and some even paying out of their own pocket to fund the $600 each it would require to go. The team traveled in 3 RV’s and a shuttle vehicle with 21 teens, 5 children, and 9 adult chaperones on a 2,300-mile loop from Idaho Falls Idaho up interstate 15 to northern Idaho and then on to the Washington and Oregon Coast to Eugene, and Ontario and back through southern Idaho. The group stayed in all sorts of facilities from a church, a high-class summer camp, RV parks, a military base, a YMCA, a High school hallway, and a couple of luxury Hotels. Some of the teens had never been out of Idaho or on any type of extended road trip and expressed excitement over experiencing a lot of new things like seeing the ocean, staying in a nice hotel, being in extremely rural areas with zero cell phone reception, eating in fancy restaurants and some backcountry not so fancy ones, visiting an aquarium, engaging in a high ropes course, playing in a theme park, rafting on a river, and working on positive conflict resolution skills with their peers. These are things some people may take for granted but many who were on the trip expressed gratitude for the opportunity. They were able to find joy in the journey while working together to help serve others and managing their own personal struggles all at the same time.
Some of the service projects they participated in include clearing debris from trails or people’s homes to help with fire danger, clearing unwanted prickly wild blackberry bushes, sorting donated items at a local charity, cleaning and cleaning the outdoor space for children at women’s shelter, helping build a community park, helping other nonprofits with their fundraisers, and doing a community assessment of the impact of marijuana legalization.
Although there were many exciting moments and memories created like a random ocean playtime on a beach that felt like having a private beach due to no one else being around, a rafting trip, a theme park, some cuts and bruises from service activities, and lots of great food, none of the days were quite as exciting as the 2nd day which participants described as a day much like a game of Jumanji or real-life story out of National Lampoons vacation where nothing seemed to go right. The day included some RV brake trouble, a baby having to go to a hospital from a respiratory illness, and an evacuation from the theme park due to a large lumber mill fire starting across the street. Despite all the excitement of the week, normal daily drama, and eventfulness of the trip, nothing deterred the teens and adults from having a good time, laughing hard at themselves and their mistakes, growing stronger as individuals, experiencing self-reflection, and making the best of each day.