Over the last three years I’ve had the amazing opportunity to visit with our TVRC Camp Families around the country on our annual “Round-Up Tour”. We visit cities from New York to L.A., From Greenwich, CT to Seattle, WA. The Round-Up event usually consists of some energetic reconnections of returning Campers, and visiting with and welcoming potential new Campers and their families. We also present a slideshow to share information and some stunning photos of our extraordinary Wyoming landscapes. At the end of the slideshow I always show two slides titled, “Why Camp”, and “Why TVRC”.

As I reflect on the summer of 2018 and think about the world-out-there I can’t help but return to the question of “Why Camp?” once again. Having worked in the Summer Camp world for the last 26 years, 18 of which I have been a camp director, I am obviously an enthusiastic advocate for the institution. At the same time, the reasons for my dedication to this tradition have evolved over the years. My answer to the question, “why send your child to Summer Camp” has taken on a far deeper social-emotional significance with the advent of technology and social-media, as well as the rise of violent events around our country, and the world. Our children need safe places where they spend time connected to nature and have the opportunity to practice the skills and the work of childhood. Our kids need a place away from home where they can challenge themselves. Where they can try, and fail, and try again at some meaningful task. Climbing a mountain, riding a horse, developing friendships, discovering our strengths, building our identity, applying our values to real world circumstances, these are all part of the reason Camp is important.

“Why TVRC?” is an easy question for me. As we look at creating positively impactful experiences for your child we know that the first steps are in building a community based on the values of Safety, Respect, and Friendship. When our Campers arrive we work from the first moments to demonstrate to them that they’re safe and welcomed, and that their needs will be met. We focus on this goal throughout day-1, finishing the day with a conversation circle in every cabin that focuses our campers on the question of, “what does it mean to be a really good friend?”. In the first few days of the program the campers get the clear sense that they are safe at TVRC, and they’ve had Counselors guiding their experience into opportunities for forming friendships. Fun & games, conversations at meals, shared chores, these all work toward creating connections within the cabins and around the Ranch.

At that point our Western Heritage and Western Adventure really kick in high gear. The Barn is a place where each Camper is engaged at their level of skill and experience and offered the chance to rise. Through applying themselves and seeing the results in the arena they build a strong feeling of accomplishment. On our backcountry trips the metaphor is obvious. Our Campers literally build a feeling of prestige and personal accomplishment with every meal they cook, every tent they pitch, every trail they hike, and ultimately with every summit they achieve!

When you ask parents what they want for their children the first answer is almost always, “I want my children to be happy”. when you dig below the surface of that answer you quickly deepen the discussion to, “I want my children to be resilient, to be people of high character, people who ultimately have a contribution to make to the world and, in so doing are fulfilled in achieving their potential.” This is called Self-Actualization. I believe the experiences at Teton Valley Ranch Camp have the ultimate goal of pointing your children on this journey. There’s a quote I love that is attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Perhaps it could be said that, at TVRC we help young people fall in Love with wild places, both in the world, and in themselves. Perhaps it could be said that through their striving on the ranch and on the trail our Campers develop a longing for the endless immensity of their own potential. We know that generations of Campers and Staff look back at their time at TVRC with reflections about how something special happened there…something good began on the ranch, and continues to help them fulfill their dreams and potential to this day.

It’s clear that something special has developed in the 80 years since our Founder, Wendel “Weenie” Wilson, invited a group of boys to join him back in him 1939 for a summer of adventure and hard work in the heart of the American West. 80 years of young men and women forging friendships, building independence, and striving toward their best-self. We at TVRC are looking forward to the coming years where we will continue on that path. We are truly excited about our future and grateful for our past!

Yours in TVRC Spirit,


Matthew Cook, MSW

Executive Director

TVRC Education Foundation