When Traci Humphrey first arrived at the NRA Whittington Center’s Adventure Camp in 2011, she was a shy 15-year-old hoping for a chance to hone her trapshooting skills. What she experienced, however, not only exceeded her expectations, it literally changed her life.
“It was so much more,” Humphrey, of Mount Airy, Maryland, says of her first season as a camper. Now 19 and a college freshman, she recalls being surprised at the variety of shooting opportunities available, along with a host of other activities.
“We shot muzzleloader, archery, pistol, rifle and shotgun,” she says. “It was exciting, because I’d never gotten to try some of these disciplines before. Plus, there were a lot of non-shooting aspects such as survival class, cooking, camping and compass reading. I loved it.”
An avid trapshooter and hunter, Humphrey also enjoyed getting to meet youths from across the U.S. who shared her love of shooting sports.
“The biggest surprise was all the friends I made,” she says. “It was incredible.”
Nested in the wild, high desert foothills of the San de Cristo Mountains near Raton, New Mexico, Whittington Adventure Camp was created in 1988 to foster outdoor skills in youths age 13 to 17. It has since blossomed into the most comprehensive shooting and hunting camp in the nation.
In June and July each summer, groups of 56 youths per session enjoy two-week stays at Whittington. Each will fire more than 1,200 rounds under the tutelage of veteran shooting instructors, and receive world-class training on safety, shooting fundamentals, firearm care, ballistics and more. The curriculum also includes leadership, ethics, cooperation, team spirit and ethics.
Humphrey was so taken by the experience, she wasted little time signing up for a second trip to Adventure Camp.
“As soon as I got home, I had my mom sign me up for the next year,” she says. “There was already a waiting list, but I was lucky and it worked out that I got to go.”
Her second visit to camp proved even more special.
“I was so happy to be back and see all my friends from the year before, it felt like being home,” she recalls.
Time sped quickly, and soon Humphrey was back home in Maryland, planning another return trip to Whittington.
“But this time, I went as a counselor in training, or CIT,” she says. In that role, she assisted veteran counselors in shepherding the campers throughout their daily routines. “It was even more amazing than being a camper,” she says. “All the counselors and CITs work together like a family, making sure the campers have a great experience.”
In 2014, Humphrey returned to Whittington Adventure Camp as a full-blown counselor and enjoyed another stellar summer in New Mexico. She savored the increased responsibility, along with the ability to make a difference in the campers’ lives. So when administrators called to offer her a promotion to program director for the 2015 season, she jumped at the chance.
“I was shocked when I got the call,” she says, noting that her new role will include a host of additional duties. “My job will be to maintain relations between counselors and instructors, inspect the ranges, supervise classes, host staff meetings and handle a variety of other responsibilities. I’m so excited, I can’t wait.”
Humphrey’s journey at Whittington Adventure Camp has also fostered positive changes in her personal life. “My first summer, I didn’t really have goals or know what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “But the experiences taught me to be a better person, helped me grow up, and made me want to make a difference. I definitely want to work in a field related to firearms, and would like to be involved with protecting people and their Second Amendment rights.”
Along with fueling dreams for her future, Humphrey says her stays at Whittington Adventure Camp blessed her with friendships that will last a lifetime. “Camp helped me create an amazing bond with so many people,” she says. “I’m so thankful for my time there. I just wish that more people had the opportunity to go.”
Toward that end, Humphrey encourages any young shooters and hunters considering the camp to take the plunge. “I recommend it 100 percent,” she says. “It’s a great experience that will definitely change you in ways you can’t imagine.”
For more information on the NRA Whittington Center Adventure Camp, visit http://www.nrawc.org.