Here at YMCA Camp Benson boys and girls have been given the opportunity to create a very special community focused on friendship, acceptance, self-discovery and independence since 1928.

Overnight summer camp gives children the chance to step away from the familiar parts of their daily routine and venture outside their comfort zones. They make new friends, lifelong memories and learn new skills in a safe, well-supervised, and “unplugged” environment. Whether you’re looking for a week-long overnight camp, an overnight summer camp for younger campers or a teen leadership program, YMCA Camp Benson has a program that’s right for you.



Entering 1st - 3rd Grade

EXPLORER Camp is a 4-day, 3-night camping experience designed to introduce our youngest campers to the overnight camping experience. Explorer campers travel together and sample camp activities in shorter, age-appropriate activity periods. Our Explorer Camp counselors are dedicated to creating a supportive environment where our youngest campers can become more independent and build new friendships.




Entering 3rd - 8th Grade

Adventure Camp is a week-long overnight camp for boys and girls focused on achievement, belonging and independence. During this week of camp campers will overcome challenges, develop self reliance, become more confident and make lifelong friends. Here, campers learn to cooperate, empathize and communicate with others in the outdoors.


Entering 3rd - 8th Grade

MEGA Camp is a 14 day overnight camp that allows our campers to more fully immerse themselves in the YMCA Camp Benson experience. Campers get the chance to try more activities, participate in the special weekend stay over and get to know their counselors and fellow MEGA campers much better. MEGA campers will leave with a greater sense of independence, belonging and accomplishment.

Click here to learn about Camp Scholarships.

* For Campers finishing these grade levels



Entering 1st - 8th Grade

MINI Camp is a condensed version of our most popular session, Adventure Camp. During this action packed 4-day camp our campers will participate in a wide range of traditional camp activities focused on skill building. This is camp session is perfect for both returning and first-time campers. Fun and memory making are maximized in MINI Camp.


Entering 7th - 12th Grade

Teen Week is a week of camp just for teenagers. This week of camp is specifically designed to meet the needs and interests of teens. TEEN Week is all about forging friendships and helping teenagers discover who they really are while giving them more freedom to choose what they actually want to do at camp.



The SDP (Staff Development) Program is a four-year leadership program for high school students that focuses on character development and service. This program is for teens who want to learn the skills necessary to transition from camper to camp staff. SDPs learn about leadership, camp counseling techniques, including how to be a positive role model for the campers, and how to facilitate camp activities. SDPs who successfully complete the four levels of this program will have a skill set that will transfer to any career path.


There are three paths our SDPs can choose to take,

  • CIT (counselor in training): This program teaches our SDPs the skills required to be a counselor. Under the supervision of our SDP Manager and an assigned Counselor, the CITs will learn how to effectively interact with campers and how to deal with common issues such as, homesickness, behavioral conflicts, and inclusiveness.  

  • PIT (program specialist in training): This program teaches SPDs the skills required to be Program Specialists. Under the supervision of our SDP Manager, Program Coordinator and an assigned Program Specialist, PITs will learn how to facilitate activities, set up and run evening programs and create their own FCAT. *this program is only available to Junior and Senior SDPs

  • KIT (kitchen in training): This program teaches our SDPs the skills required to work in the kitchen. Under the supervision of our SDP Manager, Operations Manager and the Head Cook, the KITs will learn proper food service requirements and techniques. * SDPs in this program are required to enroll as a CIT or PIT prior to enrolling as a KIT.

Freshman SDPs

First-time SDPs, typically campers entering 9th or 10th grade in the fall, are required to attend one of the Freshman SDP Training Weeks. During this week of camp, they will live with other first-time SDPs and will grow as leaders under the direction of the SDP Manager. Teenagers going into 9th or 10th grade do not need to have attended YCB before to join the program. June 14-20 July 26- August 1st Price: Member $625 Non Member $675

Sophomore SDPs

Come to camp for 1 ADVENTURE Week or 2 MINI Weeks and live with the campers and counselors serving as a role-model for the cabin. Training intensifies becoming more program specific as you will be in charge of campers at various parts for the day. You will also have a daily meeting with the camp’s Leadership Staff in which you will talk about the process and learn new skills to help you become a better SDP. Sophomores are also able to apply for the KIT program at this point. ADVENTURE Week Price: Member $525 Non Member $575 MINI* Week Price: $200 *Each MINI Week counts as half of an SDP Week

Junior SDPs

Junior SDPs are eligible to apply to CIT for up to 2 weeks and/or PIT for 2 weeks. Juniors have increased responsibility, time with campers and expectations. Camp Benson is much more selective of who progresses to this level as we will seriously begin to talk about their role as future staff members at YMCA Camp Benson. Junior SPD’s are also eligible to enroll in the KIT program at this point. Junior SDP Price: Member $425 Non Member $475 MINI* Week Price: $200 *Each MINI Week counts as half of an SDP Week

Senior SDPs

Senior SDP’s are allowed to come to camp for up to 3 weeks as a CIT and 3 weeks as a PIT. Senior SDPs will experience top level responsibility including cabin responsibilities and leadership. Senior SDPs are the largest pool of potential staff members. All seniors are granted a formal staff interview in the winter. Senior SDPs are also eligible to enroll in the KIT programs at this point. ADVENTURE Week Price: Member $100 Non Member $125 MINI* Week Price: $200 *Each MINI Week counts as half of an SDP Week



At YMCA Camp Benson, campers are able to choose which activities they want to do each day. We strongly believe in the freedom of choice and have intentionally built this into our program. Giving campers the opportunity to choose which activities they do promotes independence, builds confidence and improve decision making skills. We want our campers to participate in activities that interest them while at camp. Here are some of the activities your camper can choose from during our overnight summer camp program:

  • Zip Line

  • Archery

  • Kayaking

  • Mountain Biking

  • All Camp Field Games

  • Rock Climbing

  • Swimming

  • Gaga Ball

  • Creative Arts

  • Tubing

  • Shelter Building

  • Geocaching

  • Atlatl Throwing

  • Fire Building

  • High Ropes Course

  • Nature Hikes

  • Flying Squirrel

  • Hatchet Throwing

  • Crate Climbing

  • Outdoor Cooking

  • Evening Campfires

  • Rappelling

  • Twilight Zone (200 foot tube slide)

  • Vertical Playpen

  • Hammock Village

  • LARP (Live Action Role Playing)

“YMCA Camp Benson provides a positive alternative reality to his digital and virtual tech world.  It provides a necessary connection to the natural world and personal, meaningful face-to-face social relationships.  Also he just gets to have FUN!” - Camper Parent

YMCA Camp Benson

16355 Scenic Palisades Rd.

Mount Carroll, Illinois

Have Questions?

Please contact Gwyn “Mama G” Bemis”

Camp Director


Madison “Pawz” Vandersee

Assistant Camp Director


YMCA Camp Benson