Friday, April 20, 2018 at 5:00 PM EDT
Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT

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YMCA Camp Thunderbird 
1 Thunderbird Lane
Lake Wylie, SC 29710

Driving Directions 


Laurie Nappier
Carolinas Kiwanis Key Leader Event Chair
(919) 622-5405

Brittany Love
Carolinas Kiwanis Key Leader Site Coordinator
(803) 389-6101



Carolinas Key Leader 2018

Camp Thunderbird, Lake Wylie, SC   April 20 - 22, 2018

The experience of a lifetime achieved by over 35,000 students since 2005!

Leadership Development

Life-Changing Experiences

Lifetime Friends

Find us on social media by searching for #carolinaskeyleader18

The Key Leader program is built on five essential principles. These principles reflect our mission to inspire young people to achieve their personal best through service leadership:

  • Personal Integrity: Doing the right thing
  • Personal Growth: Developing in mind, body, and spirit
  • Respect: Showing consideration for self, others, and property
  • Building Community: Developing relationships to achieve positive goals
  • Pursuit of Excellence: Expecting and achieving the best

What is Key Leader?

Key Leader is Kiwanis International's leadership education program for students ages 14-18.  The Key Leader mission is to provide a life-changing experience that inspires young people to achieve their personal best through service leadership. This youth leadership program is gold-seal sanctioned by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the United States Army.

Who can attend a Key Leader Event?

Events are open to all students ages 14 to 18, regardless of whether or not they are already part of a Kiwanis service leadership program. There is no limit on the number of participants from the same school; however, we do have an overall limit of 70 registrants.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Students will arrive for registration from 4 pm to 6 pm Friday and depart after 11 am on Sunday.  All lodging, meals, and activities are at the event site during that time.  Check out the Key Leader sample weekend agenda here.

What happens at a Key Leader weekend?

Students engage in large and small group activities, with a combination of lectures, discussion, low ropes course, team building, and interactive activities. The weekend will offer a lot of fun with new friends!

Which adults will be present during the weekend?

A professional Key Leader facilitator will lead the event. This facilitator brings to the program excellent experience working with young people and has successfully completed a nationally recognized training course on the curriculum. This year, the Carolinas are thrilled to welcome Dr. Kim Ramsey-White as our lead facilitator. In addition to our lead facilitator, Kiwanis provides trained adult volunteers to coordinate the logistics and supervise students.  Kiwanis requires a comprehensive background check for all of the adults who will be present for the weekend. Additional chaperones may attend at the cost of $150 per adult, plus $25 background check fee (if there is not a Kiwanis approved background check on file within the last 2 years).

Are there student leadership opportunities during the event?

Students who have attended a Key Leader event previously may apply to be student facilitators. Fill out this application. The fee for student facilitators is $100 upon approved application.  Students will be notified within one week of completing application with confirmation. If a student is not able to participate as a student facilitator, they are still welcome and able to register for the camp at the approved rate for the time when they submitted their facilitator application. Please do not complete a standard registration form for a student applying as a facilitator until after they have been notified of their status.

How much does it cost?


The Carolinas Key Leader program is a value of $225 per student. Through the generosity of the Kiwanis International Children's Fund, scholarships are being offered to supplement the costs of the first 40 students to register for the weekend. The first 31 students to register as general participants will receive $100 scholarships, allowing us to offer the early bird registration at a cost of $125 per student. The 9 remaining KI Children's Fund scholarships in the amount of $125 each will be reserved for approved student facilitators, to make the cost for student facilitators only $100.

The Carolinas District Kiwanis Foundation has graciously agreed to match the scholarships being offered by Kiwanis International based on the schedule of registration deadlines above. General student participants registering after the first 31 students on or before March 21st will receive a $100 scholarship towards registration. Registrations received between March 22nd and April 2nd will receive a $75 scholarship, and registrations received after April 2nd will receive a $50 scholarship based on the number of registration spots remaining. If more than 9 student facilitators are required and approved, these scholarships will allow the cost for student facilitators to remain $100.

Where can I found more information about Key Leader?

Go to key-leader.org to learn more about the program and see videos from events held around the world.

Send questions and comments to Laurie Nappier, Key Leader Chair or Brittany Love, Site Coordinator:  carolinaskeyleader@gmail.com.

Look for us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @CarolinasKeyLeader!

Earlybird Rate


Through March 21, 2018

Regular Rate


March 22, 2018 – April 2, 2018

Late Rate


After April 2nd upon availability




Student Facilitators


Upon approved application

Fears, Forms, & Frequently Asked Questions

  • I'm not sure if my personality is right for Key Leader. All personalities are right for Key Leader as long as you have a heart for service! The Key Leader program and curriculum is specifically designed to help you discover the best version of yourself, whether you are naturally shy, outgoing, quiet, confident, reserved, athletic, a bookworm, or a little mix of everything. We need all types of students to learn how we can all use our strengths to make this event successful.
  • Exactly how "outdoorsy" is this event? Brittany has already asked about bears, bugs, snakes, spiders, and literally anything else that could potentially be more hazardous than getting out of bed in the morning. You should bring comfortable, closed-toed, lace-up shoes to wear throughout the weekend that you don't mind getting a little muddy. The cabins are all air conditioned and sleep 14-18 on bunkbeds with recently remodeled, single-stall bathrooms. There are plenty of electrical sockets for your various gadgets and appliances. There is plenty of storage space, but you will have to carry your belongings from the main building to the cabins, so pack efficiently. There will be limited wifi access throughout the weekend.
  • Wait. Closed-toed shoes, bunk beds, limited wifi... what do I all need to bring? And what's prohibited? We're so glad you asked! It is definitely different from your average weekend at home. Here is an awesome packing list to follow. Major items to note: you have to bring all your own bedding, whether that's a couple of blankets and a pillow or a sleeping bag. You also need to bring all toiletries and a towel. Please remember a poncho or rain gear if the weather is looking a little frumpy. No alcohol, smoking devices (vaping included), or tobacco products are allowed at Camp Thunderbird. 
  • I'm afraid of heights. I can't do the ropes course. That's cool; we're technically only doing a low ropes course, which is more about skill, teamwork, and strategy than physical abilities. We do work together to get over a wooden wall, but many of our adult leaders in the past have made it over, and if they can, you can.
  • I don't know anyone else who is going. Am I going to fit in? Your student facilitators will be meeting almost all of you for the first time, and they loved it so much with a group of strangers, that they're coming back for a second year to meet even more strangers! Laurie and Brittany can both attest that they have K-Family friends for life that they met at events like Key Leader when they were in high school.
  • I have special dietary needs! No problem! Camp Thunderbird makes it work for thousands of participants each year. Just make sure we know in advance on your registration form how we can prepare for you to have a safe, healthy, and awesome weekend!
  • I need help with transportation. Let us know where you're coming from before you register if you can't find a ride, and we will try to place you with another driver from your part of the Carolinas.
  • I'm lost! I'm running late! I can't find the right building! Call your site coordinator, Brittany, for last minute logistical issues: (803) 389-6101.
  • I feel like I'm still missing some information. We will send out a packet of information approximately two weeks out from the date of the event, once we have confirmed all of our registrations. The packet will have all the forms that you and your parents need to sign and more specifics about the event. If you have general Key Leader questions, please check out www.key-leader.org for more or shoot us an email.




Due to our liability insurance and the program guidelines, the only adults that will be allowed to remain at Camp Thunderbird after student drop-off on Friday must be registered chaperones with a Kiwanis-approved background check. Chaperones should go through the same registration procedure as student attendees and contact us via email if you need to obtain the background check for the first time or if your background check will expire before the Key Leader weekend. Please note that it may take up to one month for a background check to be approved.

All chaperones are expected to participate in the entire schedule of events and will most likely be sharing rooming accomodations with students in the cabins. Chaperones must follow the same guidelines and expectations for the weekend as the students. No alcohol use, smoking, vaping, or tobacco products are allowed at Camp Thunderbird. 

All chaperones must be registered no later than April 6th and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the number of student attendees we have registered. We will have a waitlist if we have more chaperone requests than are necessary. The cost for all chaperones through all registration deadlines is $150.


If you are selected as a student facilitator, we will notify you and provide you with the discount code for you to register at the reduced rate at that time.