Camp Wildcat's lifelong friendship between alumni and students
When he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, Rich Shogren started a non-profit student organization to provide camping trips and other fun opportunities for the Tucson community’s underserved and at-risk youth.
That was in 1965. Today, Camp Wildcat is still run by UA students with the same mission to encourage young people to develop interpersonal skills, build self-esteem and pursue college and personal success.
“Somewhere around 2004, a few Camp Wildcat alumni came up with the idea of forming Friends of Camp Wildcat as an alumni group for Camp Wildcat to provide support,” said alumnus Jim McGeorge, chair of Friends of Camp Wildcat. “A group of us wrote a constitution and set it up so that Friends of Camp Wildcat is a subset of Camp Wildcat.”
Two years later, Camp Wildcat’s board approved their constitution and the alumni association was born.
McGeorge, who had previously worked as a camp counselor, joined Camp Wildcat during his freshman year in the spring of 1965 after reading about it in the Daily Wildcat.
“In June 1965, the first camp was held,” McGeorge said. “It was a week-long camp. I was one of the 12 counselor students that participated in the first Camp Wildcat camp. It was a success, we took 72 kids to camp that year.”
He mentioned that when they came back in the fall, Shogren formed the idea of having another camp the following spring.
He mentioned that Camp Wildcat has not only encouraged students to think about college, but also exposed them to the outdoors. He had noticed it has helped them make friends with UA students and other kids who might go to their same school.
“The thing that warms my heart is that it’s still going on 65 years later,” McGeorge said.
One of the goals of Friends of Camp Wildcat was to recognize Shogren for his work, and they did so by making a plaque in his honor.
“It’s called ‘The Power of One’ because he was one guy who started this organization,” said Barbara McIntyre, the donations director for Friends of Camp Wildcat.
The 1971 alumna joined Camp Wildcat in her freshman year after she learned about them at an information table during freshman orientation.
“I was an education major. I got my degree in elementary education, so I thought, ‘That’s a perfect fit, I’ll be working with children,’” McIntyre said.
During her time with Camp Wildcat, McIntyre became an activity director and later became the reunion’s director. She coordinated the reunions with the campers they had during the summer, which she mentioned were about 80 or more children reuniting with their friends and counselors.
ccording to McIntyre, she made lifelong friends at Camp Wildcat.
“When Friends of Camp Wildcat came back together, I got back in touch with friends. Wendy in Colorado, she and I actually roomed together for our junior and senior year,” McIntyre said. “You come together and it’s like you never were apart.”
Wendy Shattil, a member of the Friends of Camp Wildcat board, was also a Camp Wildcat member during her undergraduate years. She graduated in 1971 with a double major in anthropology and psychology and a double minor in scientific illustration and math.
“I was really interested in the camping process and I knew how rich it was for my own experience as a camper,” Shattil said. “So when I saw that there was an organization on campus that took inner city kids out of the city and introduced them to outdoor experiences, it resonated with me.”
She mentioned that she met McIntyre at a Camp Wildcat retreat and found that she shared the same values and goals as the other members. Shattil and McIntyre both stayed together at Camp Wildcat for four years.
“It is really easy to make a connection with these people and it just continues to be a rich and rewarding experience,” Shattil said.
Shattil mentioned that she did not hesitate to join Friends of Camp Wildcat when she was approached. For her, joining was like going back to college without having to attend classes. Shattil mentioned that the fun part was working with the same people she used to work with when she was a member.
“If Camp Wildcat could’ve been my major, that would’ve been my major,” Shatill said.
Friends of Camp Wildcat have started an endowment with the UA Foundation, which will allow them to fund low-income students who want to pursue a higher education. Once the endowment reaches $25,000, they will be able to begin awarding scholarships to students.
Visit their website for more information on joining or about their scholarship.
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