CHARACTER TALK TUESDAY–WILLOW HAYWOOD

I hear you’re a native of Peakview.

Yeah, born and raised. I grew up going to Peakview Elementary and Mountain High School, both about a mile from my current residence.

Tell us about your business.

My husband, Ryan, and I own Peak Adventure Camp. It’s a camp for disadvantaged kids. We get grants to paly for their stay. Lots of foster kids, kids who’ve been in trouble with law, or have behavioral issues. Most of them are from the Denver area. It gives them the chance to get away and have fun in the outdoors for a week. They ride horses, hike, fish and other age appropriate activities. We have kiddos as young as five and all the way up to eighteen.

Are you open year round?

Pretty much. We started out as a summer camp, but there was so much need. We got a grant and hired Penny Walker to work for us as camp manager, full time. That gave us the ability to do weekends throughout the year. It’s amazing. We’ve been able to add skiing and sledding in the winter. It’s so fun to see these city kids fall in love with the mountains. Our son, River, is almost a year and a half now. He loves all the kids and activity. It’s a great place for him to grow up.

Do you have other staff?

We have teenagers who live at the ranch fill time during the summer months. In the winter, we cut back. Some kids drive up from college in Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder to help out on weekends. Penny has a baby at home now too, so we try and give her a break every once in a while.

Do you keep in touch with the campers and track if you’ve made a difference in their lives?

Sometimes. Some kids we never hear from again. You always wonder if you had a positive impact. Others come back year after year, or are able to keep in touch through social media. We love those who do. Melanie and Hank’s daughter, Marissa, was a camper of ours. She was in a horrible foster situation at the time. Through meeting her while she was at camp, Melanie was able to become her foster mom, and later she and hank adopted her. She’s a great child. That’s definitely a success story. She even wants to come work at the camp when she’d older.

What’s the most important thing kids take away for Peak Adventures?

We’re all about positivity. We teach them to believe in themselves, to never give up, to be kind to other people and animals, and that they are in charge of their own destiny. I hope that take some of that home with them. That and we’re always here for them, if they need us.

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