Raggers Program | YMCA of Honolulu | Honolulu, Hawai‘i | www.ymcahonolulu.org

Atherton Branch

K to 12 Programs

Raggers Program

The YMCA is looking forward to hosting RAGGERS this summer, July 16 to July 17, 2022. Spaces will be limited due to continued safety practices. More information to come.

Continue to check back for updates, or follow us on Instagram at @AthertonYMCA, or email us at studentboard@ymcahonolulu.org to be added to our email list.

The History of the 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.

What is a Rag?


  • A symbol
  • A reminder
  • A challenge for growth
  • A responsibility
  • A "push" forward
  • A personal decision
  • A life long reminder to be one's best
  • A personal calling to humility
  • An encouragement to help others


  • A requirement
  • A decoration
  • An award for achievement
  • A reward or prize
  • A "pat " on the back
  • Measuring myself by others
  • Self-centered
  • A status symbol
  • Religious, unless a camper chooses it to be

The Rag is not a prize for completing goals, but rather a physical reminder of what goals a camper is currently working on. Campers receive a Rag the week they set the goal, not when they achieve a goal. The color of a Rag indicates what type of goals the individual is working on physical, mental, spiritual, community, and more.

How do you become a Ragger?

Once someone decides to participate in Raggers, they meet with a mentor of their choice to set goals in areas associated with their level of Rag. A mentor can be anyone who has also taken on the challenge of the rag. At camp, a mentor may be a camper and staff. Once the goals have been determined, Raggers write themselves a letter about their goals and then participate in a ceremony to receive their Rag. The time of this ceremony depends on the level of Rag but usually take place at night. Raggers may sometimes choose to receive their Rag rather than participate in that night's camp activity.


I would be true, for there are those who trust me.
I would be pure for there are those who care.
I would be strong for there is much to suffer.
I would be brave for there is much to dare.

I would be a friend to all the foe - the friendless.
I would be giving and forget the gift.
I would be humble for I know my weakness.
I would look up - and laugh - and love - and lift.