Third annual skilled trades camps in Sunrise with HDTV guest Kayleen McCabe

Kayleen McCabe, the dynamic television host for HDTV and her own show Rescue Renovation visited Platte County and set up a mass-build with elementary students to share her passion. She will be a guest counselor this summer for the annual skilled trades camps run by Guernsey-Sunrise High School industrial arts teacher, Troy Reichert.

GUERNSEY - The old YMCA in Sunrise is the oldest YMCA in Wyoming and when the town of Sunrise became a ghost town in 1984, all the buildings, including the YMCA built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1917 became dilapidated and in need of major upgrades and repair.

In the past few years, Guernsey-Sunrise industrial arts teacher had a vision to bring students together to teach them basics of life, character of community and pride of ownership through laboring to remodel and build with their own two hands.

Chosen this last year as SkillsUSA regional adviser of the year, Reichert seems to be tireless in his quest to take on projects that his students can feel proud of. He has also instituted Skills Trades camp where kids from all over the United States can come and be a part history in the building that they restore.

The second annual Skilled Trades Camps was concluded in Sunrise last summer with 4 camps taking place from July 10-Aug. 12.  The mission of the camps is to provide students from across the nation the ability to improve their work skills in a variety of skilled trades while renovating the oldest YMCA in the state of Wyoming.  

This year the Sunrise Skilled Trades Camps are fast approaching, and after a successful first two years, year three appears to be bigger and better.  Camp director Troy Reichert never envisioned the camp becoming a yearly occurrence, or joining with so many new business and industry partners, but it's hard to stop something that has had such an impact on kids in a short amount of time.

"Word has definitely gotten out nationally about our camps now, and both camps are near capacity,” Reichert said. “I seriously thought this would be a one or two-year thing, but the kids keep going home after camp and bring more friends with them the next year."

The July 16-22 camp will also have a special guest that week.  Kayleen McCabe, who did an elementary activity in April with students from Wheatland and Guernsey, will be a counselor at the camp and share her insight and knowledge with the campers. 

McCabe, who runs her own construction business while also traveling the nation speaking on behalf of the skilled trades, will join four other counselors that week from Wyoming, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  An open house is also planned for Thursday afternoon, July 20, so that parents, local and state officials, and business/industry leaders can see the impact the camps have on kids in helping them find a career in the skilled trades.

McCabe, the dynamic host of many remodeling and renovation shows on HDTV is one of the women who actually does her own work and is a working part of all projects produced. She is a Colorado native who said that she was and only child growing up in a very happy childhood.

“Dad wanted a boy,” she said. “That’s why I learned how to rebuild Studebakers. I’ve been doing construction all my life. My father was a welder, mom was in nursing so we would always be working on projects around the house. I didn’t actually start doing this as a career until I started as a production specialist on the show ‘Trading Spaces,’ and then realized that I could do that for a living.”

McCabe is proud of the fact that she is a contractor and that she doesn’t just provide the feminine fluff on television.

“I wanted to be hands-on,” she said. “I’m not an actress and I’m not a model, I am a framer. I wanted to show that actually this is what a framer looks like. Being hands on for me was critical.”

The goal of the event in Guernsey according to McCabe was to pass on her passion for construction by teaching second and third graders a little bit about construction.

During the week, campers work on a variety of projects in Sunrise.  In the first 2 years, campers fixed or rebuilt doors and windows, and tried their hand at landscaping.  Kids learn how to use several tools, cut and glaze glass, problem solve, and much more.  This summer there are more doors and windows to continue working on, but other projects such as insulating, furring out walls and ceilings, repairing floors, concrete, and welding projects will also take place.

“John Voight, who owns the town of Sunrise, was kind enough to transfer ownership of the YMCA to the Sunrise Historic and Prehistoric Preservation Society (SHAPPS),” Reichert said. “Along with Voight, George and Geri Zeimens have been key partners in helping the camps get off the ground and running smooth.  John, George, and Geri are the people that made this all possible. They're great people doing great things out there in Sunrise, and I'm so glad that they're passionate about letting young people learn in such an incredible environment.”

Campers are kept busy in the evenings with tours of the town and archaeological dig site across from the YMCA.  They also float the river, explore Register Cliff and the Oregon Trail Ruts, as well as eat an evening meal at Miners and Stockmen’s Steakhouse in Hartville.  During the first 2 years, campers also went to see the University of Wyoming on Friday and Saturday, but Reichert has a new twist up his sleeve this summer. 

"Several of our campers have toured the UW campus already,” Reichert said, "I'm looking at a fun community service project this year that the kids will enjoy instead".

The camps continue to be free to kids going into grades 10-12 thanks to large contributions from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, The Daniels Fund, 5R Construction, Reiman Corporation, and Associated General Contractors of Wyoming (AGC). 

"The kids just need to pay their airfare and travel expenses,” Reichert said. "Once we pick the kids up in Denver or meet them in Sunrise, they don't pay a thing to attend camp.  We're just happy they're here and hope that the out of state campers come back to Wyoming after graduation and join our workforce.”

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