Skip to content

If you belong to a YMCA camp, then you have most likely heard of the ragger program! Do you know the origin of the rag program? We like to tell this story at campfire to introduce the ragger program to campers especially those campers who might want to start the process of getting their blue rag.

History of the YMCA Rag

In 1914, 38-year old Thomas Caldwell, boys’ secretary of the Oakland, California YMCA was searching for a method to positively reinforce program participants. 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, Charles Von Konnigsburg, would be unable to win such an award, and 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 kerchiefs which he called “Rags ” for 10 cents each from the Williamson’s County Store in Pescadero. 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.

How to tell the story

Feel free to add your narration to the summary above. We like to start this story by talking about awards that other campers used to get at camp – say, a gold medal for swimming the fastest at camp or getting a bulls eye during archery. Then, we introduce Charles and mention how he was not able to get these medals yet always came to camp and each camp game with a positive attitude and cheered on his camp mates.

Back To Top