HR Raggers Program

Rags & Leathers


" I would be true..."

The History of the Rag:

     In 1914, Thomas Caldwell, of the Oakland, California YMCA, was searching for a method to deal with certain discipline problems at camp in a positive, rather than negative, way. At the time, the method used by many YMCA camps was to present awards for participation in athletics and other activities. Caldwell considered this, but discarded the idea because a handicapped boy, who would be unable to win such an award, was expected to attend camp. Caldwell's aspiration evolved into the idea of rewarding positive character traits, such as good health habits, promptness, cheerfulness, morals, trust and helpfulness. To symbolize these positive qualities, Caldwell bought some very simple blue bandanas he called “Rags.” Their simplicity signified that, in and of themselves, the rags had no value--rather, they were just a symbol of positive qualities the person had demonstrated. During an evening campfire program, Caldwell called several of the boys forward. As he tied the Rag around each boy’s neck, he explained to him, and the camp, the reason for receiving it. Thus a tradition was started.  

Evolution of the Ragger’s Program:

       Sheldon Swenson, Conley Davies, and other early Raggers, proposed that the Rag should be a challenge available to every camper who sincerely accepted it and shared with a counselor its meaning in meeting his/her personal needs. So in turn, throughout its long history, the Rag as a challenging symbol of the strength of Christian character, leadership and service has been the key to the spirit of Christian fellowship at YMCA Summer Camps around the world. The concept of “award” has changed over the years, to a philosophy that Rags are challenges – not to be “given” but to be “accepted.” Various challenges have been added, so there are now seven Rag steps. A specific Rag color is used to identify each Rag step. These steps are designed to provide new challenges as one grows and matures.

The Seven Rag Steps:
  • Blue (12yo) - Loyalty to God, Country, one's best self and the Raggers' Creed.
  • Silver (13yo)- Acceptance or re-dedication to the Christian way of life or spiritual growth.
  • Brown (14yo)- Christian Service.
  • Gold (15yo)- Understanding, concern and acceptance of others.
  • Red (16yo)- Sacrifice of time, talent, and personal will.
  • Purple (18yo)- A dedication towards excellence and noble living in all Christian Service Opportunities.
  • White (21yo)- Life of Full-Time Christian Service.

Campers ages 9 to 11 may accept the challenges of the Leathers.

The three Leather steps:
  • Triangle (9yo)- To Grow in body, mind and Spirit.
  • Square (10yo)- To Grow, become a better friend and to keep good friends.
  • Circle (11yo)- To become close to God through appreciation, love and concern for the earth that He has created.

     The Ragger’s program can be as meaningful for adults as it is for youth, and continues to be an effective tool for counseling and motivation toward positive change. The program is open to all people of all religious faiths. Its symbolism is God-centered, sacred and personal.

Ceremony "Hargis Style"

      The Raggers program as it is applied here at Hargis incorporates the rich traditions and ceremonies of its history while fitting into our unique program. Campers and staff participate in the very same ceremonies that have been handed down for decades. After talking with their Ragger’s mentor, campers meet on the deck of the Dining Hall Friday after camp. A copy of their goals along with a personal letter of encouragement from their mentor is placed in a envelope to be sent back to them later in the year. (a duplicate copy of their goals will be used in the ceremony itself.) After dinner, we are off to Raggers point, a place made just for Raggers, so they can have an hour for a solemn and serious, yet encouraging time together. Of course the goals of every Ragger candidate are set by the individual along with help (if requested) of their mentor. No one aside from the author and anyone he or she decides to share with will ever know what has been written down. Participation in the program itself is encouraged but is always left completely to the individual. Once a Ragger has received his/her Rag they are encouraged to wear it to Camp on Mondays and Fridays to encourage others to also challenge themselves and accept the Raggers challenge.

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