“EFY Marks 30 Years, Looks Ahead,” Ensign, July 2006, 78–79
This year 50,000 youth from all over the world will take part in the 30th year of the Especially for Youth summer program. This summer 100 sessions are taking place, the most ever and in more places than ever before.
The program has become a phenomenon over the last 30 years, as youth return for an atmosphere that program director Greg Tanner says changes their hearts.
“They come back because the Spirit is here,” he says. “It comes down to the strength of the youth.”
In the weeklong gathering, teens ages 14 to 18 kneel in prayer together, get to know each other, and bear their testimonies to peers they have never met before. Between dances and variety shows, sharing meals and living quarters, and in-depth doctrinal study and firesides, the youth, who were strangers at the beginning of the week, find it difficult to part.
Brother Tanner’s recent questions to youth in Mexico sum it up: “How many of you have two friends your age who are members?” Almost all the hands go up.
“How many of you have five?” A few hands go down.
“Ten?” Few hands are left.
“Well, at EFY you have 600!”
Or more. Attendance at the largest-ever session held at Brigham Young University in July 2004 boasted 1,400 participants—far more than the first EFY in 1976. That year 172 participants and 15 counselors gathered in Helaman Halls dormitories at BYU. The following year 863 attended, an increase of 500 percent.
The Provo location is not necessarily the best, adds assistant EFY director Pete Kadish. Many of the regional sessions may be more financially feasible. At the six EFY sessions in Virginia this summer, more than 2,000 participants are expected to attend.
Dan Heaton, a director of the Virginia conference, has attended EFY as a participant, a counselor, and now a liaison for the regional programs as he studies law in Washington, D.C. “I’ve felt the impact, and I want to give something back to the youth,” Brother Heaton says.
EFY recruits worthy, enthusiastic, young single adults as counselors for the youth, a choice Brother Tanner says makes a powerful connection. “The youth look up to them,” he says. “They see these young adults—they’ve made it and they are happy and energetic—they absolutely love that,” Brother Tanner says.
The response is overwhelming, as EFY has expanded to 34 of the 50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. A “Best of EFY” program takes the sessions’ best speakers on tours to stakes by request, and participants have come from more than 15 countries, including Australia, China, and Uganda, to name a few.
“Our goal is to reach as many youth as we possibly can,” says Brother Tanner, looking to the future. “Wherever they may be.”