2024 looks bright for Peak Adventure Guides

Formerly the Adventure Guides or Y-Guides, the father-child outdoor program made its big return in Oct. 2023, with plenty more adventures in the coming year.

Winter campouts, spring white-water rafting, a father-daughter dance — no matter the season, Peak Adventure Guides is set to keep the momentum going with more outdoor father-child experiences in the new year.

With the goal of fostering companionship and strengthening the relationship between kids and their dads, the program formerly known as “Adventure Guides” (among many other names) had been a longtime Mercer Island tradition, going all the way back to the 1950s.

“It used to be Y-Guides and it was huge, and when I say huge, I mean a third of all kids were in it,” said Jamie Childress, a Mercer Island father who was in the program when his kids were younger.

When Childress had heard that the program had ended during the pandemic, he took it upon himself to “resurrect” the Adventure Guides, with the help of a few others like Kevin Schaps.

“I have three kids. The two are older now, but the young one hadn’t been able to experience the Guides, so last year the other dads and I were able to put together a couple of campouts with over 60 people,” said Schaps. “And over the summer, we went to the Boys and Girls Club to see if they could take it on since the club has a lot more resources than us dads.”

Formerly run by the YMCA, Peak Adventure Guides was taken up by the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club. And though the name has changed, the program is still very much the same. It is organized into boys’ circles and girls’ circles of about 6 to 20 children in the same grade in each circle. According to Childress, every grade school on Mercer Island had a circle up until the third grade.

“Unlike Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts, where you can send your kid and there’s the den parents, it’s the dad with the child,” said Childress.

Circles now meet once a month and are formed into Explorers who are K-3rd grade, and Voyagers, who are 4th grade and up. Adventure activities in the circles include making crafts, cooking, playing games, learning knot tying skills, camping, hiking and a number of fun outdoor adventures that help strengthen the bond between father and child.

“With the hustle and bustle of life and everything going on, us dads maybe don’t have the opportunity or the ideas to do stuff with our kids, so the program helps,” said Schaps. “Especially dads and daughters, we sometimes have a hard time connecting, and so it’s an opportunity for us to not only do some activites together to build those bonds, but it forces us to be together and talk and play. It helps us build those relationships.”

According to Schaps, the program is also a great way for dads to bond with other dads.

“We’re all busy and it’s hard to make new friends, especially when your older,” he said. “It’s a good way to bond and get to know other parents since you’re together all weekend sharing cabins and sharing meals.”

Since the program’s return in October 2023, Explorers, Voyagers and their dads have enjoyed pumpkin carving and Peak’s first campout in November, where over 45 kids and dads traveled to Miracle Ranch in Port Orchard. Taking place Nov. 10-12, the Peak Adventure Guides enjoyed activities like horseback riding, paintball and archery.

As for 2024, Peak has more adventures in store, with a Father-Daughter Dance and a Cle Elum campout in February, another campout in the spring, a white-water rafting trip for Voyagers in May, a pinewood derby competition, and a walk-in campout at the Boys & Girls Club.

“We’ve been trying to build the program this year, build the calendar,” said Schaps. “We’re trying to do three campouts a year.”

Learn more

For those interested in becoming a Peak Adventure Guides circle leader or joining a circle, email Mike Williamson of the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club at miathletics@positiveplace.org.