Vicenza High School students Kaitlyn Martin (left) and Justin Allen take a break from snowboarding in the Austrian Alps on New Year's Eve afternoon during the Club Beyond Winter Blitz trip.

INNSBRUCK, Austria- Thirty-seven Vicenza High School students rang in the New Year with fireworks in the Austrian Alps while attending a weeklong Military Communities Youth Ministries-sponsored camp, Winter Blitz 2012-2013, at the Olympia Hotel in Innsbruck, Austria.

About 350 Air Force, Navy and Army teenagers attended along with Club Beyond staff and volunteers. Club Beyond Vicenza was represented by its largest number of participants ever, a turn out due at least in part to 30 students receiving scholarship support through MCYM donors.

"What the scholarship did here locally was allow kids who couldn't afford it to go," said Tyler Hoffman, Vicenza Club Beyond community leader. "It created a buzz around school and it gave us a platform to sell that camp. Rather than saying it was $700, it was only $69."

"You should go," said VHS sophomore Adrian Guerrero. "That's what I told some of my friends here. I said [they're] going to be bored stuck in Vicenza while we're out there in a different country having fun."

The mission of Winter Blitz is to give teenagers the opportunity to grow in their faith while having fun and adventure. Students were able to experience Olympic class skiing and snowboarding, basketball training, a 3-kilometer sled run, an indoor waterpark featuring the first double-loop water slide in the world, and the city of Innsbruck.

For many students this trip was their first time learning to ski or snowboard.

"When I first snowboarded I got hurt," said ninth-grader Justin Allen. "This girl kicked off her ski and I tripped over it and flipped five times, landing on my face. It was a good memory because my first injury was the best injury."

This time out Allen learned to snowboard and enjoyed the nighttime meetings in which students met to sing songs and listen to the camp speaker, Pete Johnson.

"My favorite memory was when Mr. Pete was talking about our life and how everything is difficult, and how we're all perfect the way we are and how we do not have to change for anyone," Allen said.

In the past, support for the Winter Blitz program has come from nonprofits, churches and individuals, said MCYM Club Beyond International director Phil Alfrey. This year, $55,000 was designated for Winter Blitz scholarships. Vicenza students received support in the amount of $400 for financial aid and an additional$600 if one of their parents has been or will be deployed this year.

Each student who received a scholarship wrote a thank you note to the donors during the bus ride home.

"The improvement and the change that you see in the student from the application to the thank you note is incredible," Alfrey said. "It feels like in the application kids express hope, fear and loneliness. Then in the thank you letter those words are reversed."

The program focuses on building strong relationships and bonds, said Hoffman. One technique is taking away students' electronic devises and cell phones.

"They don't realize it but without their technology they have to interact with each other and the activities ," Hoffman said. "Every kid that went to this camp will remember it for the rest of their lives, and I look forward to taking more kids next year."

Page last updated Fri February 22nd, 2013 at 00:00