4-H Summer Camp Opportunities Still Open

Hello this is Kari Sponaugle, 4-H Agent in Highland and Bath Counties and I’m here today to tell you more about 4-H Camp.

Highland and Bath County 4-H youth ages 9 to 18 are offered the opportunity each year for a five day 4 night overnight camping experience at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference center. For some youth in the area this is the only 4-H program they are involved in each year. it’s a great opportunity to meet new friends, attend camp with friends from school and have teen mentors and adult volunteer leaders to learn from in a safe and healthy learning environment.

The Skelton Center was formerly known and opened as the West Central 4-H Educational Center in the early 1960’s. I know a few 4-H campers that were IN that first group of campers attending the center. From a meager start with one boy and one girl dormitory along with a cafeteria/program space, the center has expanded in the last two decades to include over a dozen structures including an indoor rifle range, outdoor swimming pool, golf fee area, high ropes course and horse barn as well as 350 beds for campers and adult volunteers attending camp.

Also in times past, Highland and Bath counties have camped with different camping clusters – we’ve attended camp week with Craig, Botetourt, Franklin, Roanoke and Rockbridge counties. Currently, Highland and Bath youth camp in a five-county cluster including Augusta, Alleghany and Rockingham Counties. We have been in this grouping since 2013. As times and camp numbers change, so do camp clusters, but Highland and Bath will always be camping at the Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center.

So what happens at camp? Youth arrive on Monday via charter bus and are given a tour of the facility as well as going through a health and swim check. The day ends with a campfire where staff and teen leaders introduce themselves and campers begin to learn camp songs and traditions. Campers and teens are assigned to a “pack” – coyotes, ducks, squirrels, deer for example are pack names and all week long packs work and compete to earn points and awards towards the highly coveted Spirit Stick.

From Tuesday to Thursday, campers attend five camp classes – these classes are taught by trained camp staff, teen counselors and/or adult volunteers. Classes are chosen by campers prior to camp from a list of options like archery, riflery, swimming, horsemanship, arts and crafts, multimedia, cartooning, baking and soccer. Breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as an afternoon snack are part of the schedule. Each evening includes a program led by teen counselors and camp staff to get campers up and moving, meeting new friends and enjoying the outdoors at the Skelton 4-H Center. Programs are activities like Disney night, Disco Dance and Field Olympics. Youth have the opportunity to dress up and bring props. There is also a talent show – 2 youth per pack are chosen for the talent show, and there is usually one teen and one adult entry as well. On Friday, there is an awards ceremony and then campers head back home to family with lots of memories and new friends in tow.

Campers who attend camp are age 9 to 13. Camper registration opens April 1st for Highland and Bath. Other counties that we camp with may have a different timeline. Do you have to be a currently 4-H member to attend camp? No. Do you have to be from Highland or Bath only? No! this camping opportunity is open to youth who are interested as long as slots are open. Camp does have a fee, but financial aid is available to local though a request process. This time of year, teen applications are available for ages 13 to 18 to apply as teen counselors. 13-year olds as of January 1st and first year teens apply as counselors in training or CIT’s for short; returning teens apply as teen counselors. Each teen must submit a complete application, pay a deposit and attend an interview with the 4-H agent. THEN approved teens attend 24 hours of mandatory training prior to camp time. Community service is a part of the training so teens help serve pancakes during maple festival at either Bolar or Stonewall Ruritan Hall.

We also take adult volunteers to camp; applications, interviews and a background check are part of the process. Teens and adults who attend camp teach classes, aid in youth supervision and help campers have their Best Week of Summer while at the Skelton 4-H Center.

So how do you get involved and attend 4H Camp? Contact me, 4-H Agent Kari at 540 468 2225 or 540 839 7261 for a teen or adult application now. More information for campers will be shared April 1st but right now we are looking for teen applicants for the 2020 camping week. Teen applications are due February 3rd so get those in soon! We hope to see you this summer, July 6-10 at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center.  Don’t miss out on the Best Week of Summer because Summer isn’t Summer without 4-H Camp!

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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