The Canyon is different. Not just because of its beauty, but because of the way you can't bring the whole world into it.
"From the onset, it tells you that you're leaving your digital world behind," says Armen Babajanian, the Chief Operations Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, "and your focus is on people."
In September, Armen came with Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Frio Canyon, participating for the first time in their annual campout at Windsong.
“It was rainy the entire time, but it really brought us together in a different way,” Armen says. “We still played games inside when it was pouring. We still did the activities.”
Cooking s’mores, fishing, hiking, playing games, even swimming at Blue Hole—the rain didn't slow them down at all.
Big Brothers Big Sisters left with muddied cars (inside and out) and good memories of another year at H. E. Butt Foundation Camp. The organization has a long history with Foundation Camp, going back to 1983 according to this video on their YouTube channel.
"The Bigs and the Littles still bonded,” Armen says. “The atmosphere wasn’t one of frustration; they made the best of the experience, and because of that, it’s gonna go down as memorable.”
The day after the program, the group emailed Ann Jack and booked their stay for next September.
"In this age of technology, our focus is on the one-to-one relationships in person," Armen says. "and [the Canyon] compels people to interact with each other."
Armen says that for kids who come in with low self-esteem, extremely reserved, or hiding behind their Bigs, direct interactions without phones or technology builds up their self-esteem and positivity. He even sees a similar effect in the mentors.
“The simple idea of crossing that gate into camp and your cell phone not working—that subscribes to what our mission is: one-to-one interaction, in person.”
For decades, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been coming to the Canyon, and the organization still works tirelessly to improve the lives of children facing adversity. The annual campout is an important event each year, even when it means trading phone service for muddy shoes.
“It was a very positive, very joyful experience for everyone,” says Armen.
And we hope that next year is just as good—with clear skies, of course.