SOUTHSIDE, W.Va. — Once the Mason County school year wraps up for the year, youth involved with 4-H head out for a week filled with fun and learning at 4-H camp.
4-H camp typically kicks off the week after school releases for summer vacation. The older group camps first, youth in grades seven up to age 21. The following week the younger group camps, youth age 9 up to sixth grade.
Lorrie Wright, extension agent, shared many do not understand how much work goes into putting camp together each year. The Camp Committee begins the planning process each year in January. An “enormous” amount of support comes from volunteers each year who dedicate several hours of their time prepping for camp.
Along with the volunteers, community support is crucial for camp each year as well.
When youth attend 4-H camp, they spend their week with their designated tribe being either Cherokee, Delaware, Mingo, or Seneca.
Campers participate in several activities while at 4-H Camp, a typical day at camp consists of tribal meetings, tribal duties, sports activities, full group assemblies, classroom instruction, council circles, and evening programs.
Campers play games and have fun, but they also attend classes that consist of everything from archery to crafts, wood shop, air rifles, photography, slate painting, fairy gardening, leather crafting, balancing a check book, learning how to act in emergency situations, and more.
Rockin’ Reggie also comes out every year to DJ for both the older and younger campers during evening programs.
This year at younger camp, the youth had special lessons on Native American culture and American flag etiquette.
Chloe Patrick, an 11 year old who is about to go into sixth grade at Roosevelt Elementary, shared she joined 4-H because she wanted to work in the community, make new friends, and show animals at the fair.
“When I was little, I walked around the fair and looked at the animals. I also watched kids show their animals. I thought 4-H seemed amazing and I wanted to do it,” said Patrick. “4-H camp, to me, is the best week of summer. I get to see friends from the year before and make new friends. I get to participate in a lot of fun activities…my favorite part about camp is council circle because each tribe works together to create songs and skits. I am a Cherokee and we have a lot of fun, we have council circle every night and it is awesome.”
Wright commented both of the camps this year went very well even though it was rainy for the younger camp. The youth were all agreeable and had great attitudes. Older camp was actually one of the best Wright has experienced and for the younger camp none of the new campers went home because of homesickness.
Camp is a place where local youth, even if they are in different school districts, can come together and form a bond. 4-Hers work together towards common goals at camp and form a strong camaraderie with their fellow campers.
Katherine Deem, a 20 year old college student at West Virginia University for secondary English education, shared she has been involved with 4-H for several years, beginning as a clover bud as a young child.
“4-H has become like a second home for me, I could write books about what camp means to me,” said Deem. “So many laughs have been had there, priceless memories made, and truly lifelong friendships formed. My 4-H friends are my forever friends and every year I look forward to reuniting with those I don’t get to see as often, we pick up right where we left off like we never left. The people are truly what make 4-H camp the best it can be, I adore my Mingo tribe.”
At older camp, explained Wright, before the campers go home they always have a candle lighting ceremony and the campers come up and talk about what 4-H camp means to them.
“To me, camp means leadership,” said Karli Stewart, a 16 year old who is getting ready to go into her 11th grade year at Wahama High School. “I get to serve as a leader to younger kids each year when I attend the Mason County younger camp as a junior counselor. It is a great feeling knowing that these young 4-Hers look up to me. My favorite part about 4-H camp is getting to reunite with my friends throughout the county that I’ve made over the years.”
Erin (Perkins) Johnson is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.