The San Juan Islands have been in David Affolter’s heart since he was six months old, and now he is able to call Orcas Island home.
As YMCA Camp Orkila’s new executive director, he is overseeing a place he first experienced as a child and then as a staff member.
“Orkila was my second home, and an amazing place to be my authentic self,” he said. “I fell in love with this place in a different way as an adult.”
Affolter says he was born and raised in Seattle “and partially in the islands – a lot of pivotal moments happened to me here.” His parents co-own a house on Lopez Island with several other Seattle families, and he started visiting the island as a baby. When he was seven, he began attending Camp Orkila, which has been educating and inspiring thousands of off-island and local children for more than 100 years.
In college, Affolter led kayak trips at Orkila, which transitioned into being an expedition program leader and then working at the YMCA in Seattle. Orkila is also where he met his wife Tobin Rotchford, a post-partum doula, a decade ago. The two were married in Moran State Park five years ago. Their daughter Dalton is three years old and attends Orcas Montessori School. The couple is expecting their second child at the end of October. Rotchford has family members who live on Lopez.
In 2009, Affolter was hired to handle summer programs at the Orcas camp and work in the Seattle office for the rest of the year. He was promoted to an associate executive director role at YMCA, and when the ED position opened at Orkila, Affolter eagerly submitted his name and he was hired in an interim capacity in March 2019. His position was made official in September. Affolter and his family will continue to live in the executive director housing on the camp’s property. He is replacing Dimitri Stankevich, who held the position for 14 years.
“I feel grateful for working with such an amazing, motivated and dynamic team,” Affolter said. “I’m really fortunate to come into a place with such a long and rich tradition. We are thrilled to be here. We are excited to continue to serve a place that we believe in wholeheartedly.”
Affolter’s goals as director include listening to stories about how the camp has impacted people; running safe and high-quality programs; and continuing to meet the camp’s mission and values of respect, responsibility, honesty and caring every day and be a community partner and asset. He encourages anyone interested in touring the camp’s 280-acre waterfront property to visit the main office. In addition, kids and adults are invited to a free afternoon of fun on Sunday, Oct. 27, 1:30-5:30 p.m. during the Fall Festival. There will be games, archery, climbing wall, zip line, cider pressing, yummy food, music and animals. A Super Spooky Haunted Hayride is on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 7-8:45 p.m.
“We have a variety of community events, and I hope people will join us. Our door is always open,” Affolter said.
For fun, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports like ultimate frisbee and soccer and being outdoors. Affolter has been “floored” by the warm welcome from islanders. Many community members have called him to offer well wishes in his new position.
“I’ve been surprised at how comfortable and easy the transition has been,” he said. “People have bent over backward to make that happen.”