Reno camp closes after 50 years

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Reno camp closes after 50 years

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Over the years, the "Thisisit" Ranch Day Camp has become a local tradition in Reno, known for its philosophy of combining competitive sports with larger life lessons like teamwork and leadership. KUNR's Michelle Bliss reports that after fifty summers, the gates to the ranch are closing. 

A dozen kids are soaking in the final day of camp, jumping off the diving board, plunging down the slide, and churning the swimming pool water with their noodle races.

Along with the pool, the sprawling camp grounds include ranges for bb gun shooting and archery, fields for soccer and volleyball, and a line of trampolines.

It's a kids' paradise, one usually filled with deep belly laughs. Lately, there have been tears.

"More than one counselor has been in tears. There have been a lot of hugs. We just feel really like a family here, so to think that we won't be able to be together every day of the summer ever again has been weighing heavy on us."

Laura Jordan has managed the organization for the past decade. Campers are 5-12 years old and camp runs for seven themed-weeks, like pirate week and rodeo week.

Back in 1964, Laura's father Rusty built the camp from the ground up.

"When we started the camp, we had basically nothing. I had like $5,000 to invest. I put that into making a basketball court. The kids at that time helped build camp. They wanted a volleyball court, so they dug the holes and we mixed the cement. We made everything."

In addition to its amenities, Laura Jordan says the major distinction of Thisisit has been its counselors, who are all adults, bringing experience from the classroom to the playing field.

"Over the years, we've really learned that hiring education professionals, it allows our campers to experience role models as their counselors."

Brad McClellan is one of these educators. He says camp is filled with fun and games, of course, but the real goal is not to make kids better athletes.

It's to make them better people.

"Life is much better when you are loving, when you are taking care of people. It's just more rich that way. And I think the kids, especially if they've been here-my son, for example, he's been here for six years, I see him looking for ways to help other kids, especially the younger ones. So that's what I hope they take away from this camp."

At the end of every game, counselors like Brad conduct a "sportsmanship debrief" to move beyond the score and talk about how the kids are treating one another.

On the last day of camp, Brad's 10-year-old son Tristan didn't hesitate to speak up.

"When we were playing capture the flag, I was running to go get the person because they had the flag and they were about to win, so I run and this girl hit my elbow. So, after the game I came and apologized to her, which is what I've been doing since I've been coming here."

In tandem with teaching the core values Tristan is modeling, there's a healthy dose of competition to prepare kids for the real world.

The final week of camp culminated on Friday with an Olympic ceremony where some kids earned gold, silver, and bronze medals. But there were other opportunities to shine as well.

"Alright, only two more in the history of the Thisisit Ranch Day Camp...our next dress up award goes to Jack! Here he comes; he's wearing the Cubs outfit."

The camp is closing because founder Rusty Crook is 80 years old. He had a stroke a few years ago and can't maintain the business.

Even though it'll be much quieter next year, generations of Reno campers will remember the summers they spent at the Thisisit ranch over the past half century.