Our Mission

Whether it’s in the small conversations around campfires and little moments like a shared smile or the big accomplishments of conquering a fear of heights and the incredible gratitude of finding a home, we take pride in our mission and the impact Y Camp makes on the world. The Valley is for all and has an infinite capacity to welcome new campers, families and individuals to the Camp Family.

Our Mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body For ALL.

We are founded on the idea laid out in Proverbs 22:6, which tells us that if we show children a path to follow, when they grow up they will stay true to it. In other words, we are planting seeds. We plant seeds of independence, confidence, character, faith, love, environmental stewardship and friendship. Our programs build stronger people, families and communities.

“My daughter was thrilled and it exceeded her expectations. She learned to be away from home and make friends on her own, as well as learn about character.” -2018 Parent

“Fabulously well run camp that has been a very special place for my children for many years! Friendships, experiences, learning and memories that they will cherish for their whole lives.” -2018 Parent

Connect with us, ask questions and take time to learn more about the Des Moines Y Camp. Finding a camp, whether for a group, a school or your child, is a big decision and we encourage you to research everything. We believe that connecting with a camp is extremely valuable, regardless of which camp. We invite you to be our guest and come experience the Closest Place to Heaven on Earth at the Des Moines Y Camp.

Program Goals and Outcomes

Y Camp is committed to developing successful youth and responsible members of the community. We are committed to bringing out the best in people. We do this by placing a focus on character and balanced health, based in the core values of honest, caring, respect and responsibility through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. Y Camp has three program departments: Group Camping and Retreats, School Programs and Summer Camps. Our largest department is the Summer Camps, made up of Overnight Camp, Day Camp and Family Camps.

In order to bring out the best in every camper we:
  • Encourage independence and self-confidence

  • Build healthy, positive relationships

  • Invest in social-emotional learning

  • Introduce campers to and immerse campers in the natural world

  • Disconnect with the stresses and distractions of life outside of camp

  • Provide positive adult role-models in the form of Y Camp staff

  • Build resiliency in campers and staff through camp programs

  • Teach the value of strong character

The “Five Points” shared with most parents when discussing the Summer Camps:
  • We aim to build our campers sense of self and independence. By giving them a space away from home that is distinctly theirs we see them take pride and ownership in their camp experience. They feel the weight of expectations lift and find that they can truly be themselves, something that allows them to discover who they are and find confidence in that. Those are benefits that will help them as they grow and will lead to successful and happy lives as adults.

  • We help them disconnect from the distractions and stresses of life. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have phones, computers or video games in their hands to take them out of the moment they’re in, and sometimes it’s because camp can feel isolated from the many worries and fears at school and home, but in all situations camp provides a form of escape. We encourage face-to-face, hands-on learning. We teach the importance of simply being in the moment and remembering that fun doesn’t always need a power cord.

  • We provide positive adult role models. Research indicates there is a lot of value in role models to developing children, especially those who lay outside of the family. In many cases those are untouchable figures like Michael Jordan or Taylor Swift, but at camp kids get an opportunity to meet someone who was once in their shoes and has grown to be a confident, mature, positive and encouraging Leader. Our staff are a source of pride and it is a badge of honor to be counted as a Y Camp Leader. With over 100 years of history, our staff know the impact they make on their campers and put energy into making sure every day at camp is full of powerful, fun, uplifting and educational moments.

  • We build character. The Y is founded in the core values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility and we work to instill them in every camper. Based on our Christian heritage, but found through many religions and beliefs, the core values help shape campers into good family members, friends, neighbors and leaders. We use engaging evening programs, well-trained staff and intentional discussions to emphasize the importance of character in our campers’ lives. Our greatest joy is knowing that they have returned home practicing good character and pass it on to their friends and neighbors.

  • We invest in our campers’ growth. Sometimes the biggest step is the first one outside the front door, but overcoming fears and trying new things build resiliency and self-esteem. At camp, kids get to try many things they likely wouldn’t have a chance to at home, whether it’s climbing a climbing tower, riding a horse, shooting archery, going canoeing, going fishing, sleeping out under the stars or taking a ride down the zip line. Campers stretch and move outside of their comfort zone, but that’s where the biggest growth happens. After a week at camp, participants replace their hesitation with confidence and come home believing in themselves and their ability. Those skills prove invaluable as they develop into young adults and tackle the biggest challenges of their lives, and always do so with the confidence that they can do it.

Our Equity Statement

The Y is made up of people of all ages and from every walk of life working side by side to strengthen communities. Together, we work to ensure that everyone—of all abilities, ages, cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, ideologies, incomes, nationalities, origins, races, or sexual orientations—are treated equitably.

We do this by building inclusive and joyful environments where all people can reach goals, make friends, and connect to a cause greater than themselves.


Des Moines Y Camp is now KultureCity Sensory Inclusive™ Certified to promote an accommodating, positive experience for all guests with a sensory sensitives. The latest US Census data shows that one in six people have a sensory need or an invisible disability. People with invisible disabilities tend to react differently and get overwhelmed more easily than neurotypical individuals due to various sensory sensitivities. With this in mind, Y Camp has partnered with KultureCity and are now certified and equipped with special tools and spaces to help better serve our guests with sensory needs. 

Sensory bags are available in three locations around camp and are designed for both adults and children with sensory needs. Sensory bags are filled with items that can help lessen sensory overload, including fidget items and noise-reducing headphones. These tools, along with proper training can help Y Camp provide a more inclusive and joyful environment for all.